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Robert Jones signing an agreement.

Robert Jones, U senior vice president for systemwide academic administration, signed the agreement with Hennepin County.

Clearing the way to collaborate

New Hennepin County-U agreement strengthens partnership

By Sara Bielawski

Brief, Sept. 19, 2007

The University of Minnesota has been working closely with Minnesota's largest county for years. Half of the Twin Cities campus sits in Hennepin County, which encompasses the city of Minneapolis and several suburbs, home to 1.1 million people--22 percent of the state's population. In 2004, the Hennepin-University Partnership (HUP) was established to collaborate more strategically.

In a ceremony at Coffman Memorial Union Aug. 24, the partners strengthened their relationship by signing a historic master cooperative agreement that will streamline joint research projects.

"This [will] catalyze new connections and help break down the bureaucratic barriers and red tape that have traditionally held up collaborative projects," said University senior vice president for systemwide academic administration Robert Jones. The agreement extends to the entire University system.

Recent projects

The new master cooperative agreement will streamline processes to carry out projects such as the these already completed or under way through HUP.

* Multi-year transportation research is learning more about how the introduction of major transit ways, such as the Hiawatha Light Rail Line, impacts the surrounding community.

* The dean of the College of Design has been working with a county commissioner to provide expertise and student involvement on the Homeless Connect project and coordinate the U's role in helping to end homelessness.

* Evaluative research was conducted in mid-2006 by the College of Education and Human Development in conjunction with Hennepin County Libraries to determine the effectiveness of an innovative reading program for boys and recommend ways to increase their interest in reading.

* The county's public health division will work with U researchers to analyze high quality data gathered in the SHAPE survey to measure community health.

The master cooperative agreement will save University and Hennepin County staff weeks and even months by eliminating the need to renegotiate contract terms for each and every collaborative project. Now work can be outlined and approved with a simple work order. A template will be online with clear instructions for paperwork.

"This agreement completes the circuit that enables us to effectively partner and collaborate with the university," said Hennepin County commissioner Linda Koblick, the county's lead in establishing the partnership. "We citizens and taxpayers all benefit, and it paves the way for others to emulate this partnership."

HUP projects to date have included research on transportation, literacy, public health, and work to end homelessness, to name a few. (See box, right.) In addition to sharing expertise among academics and practitioners and supporting research on issues of mutual interest, HUP provides students field experience and helps to prepare a stronger work force. It also allows the partners to share knowledge and best practices related to running large institutions. All of those components will become easier under the new master cooperative agreement.

Signing with Jones for the University Aug. 24 were Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research, and Richard Pfutzenreuter, chief financial officer. Signing for Hennepin County were commissioner Gail Dorfman, vice chair of the Hennepin County Board, and county administrator Richard Johnson.

Hennepin County Board chair Randy Johnson said the unusual partnership is making important connections between Hennepin County managers and University faculty members.

"This cooperative approach is connecting the scholarship and research of the University with the local, hands-on laboratory that is Hennepin County," said Johnson.

For more information about the master cooperative agreement, contact Sponsored Projects Administration at 612-624-5599. For more information about the partnership and recent Hennepin-University collaborations, contact Hennepin-University liaison Kathie Doty at 612-625-4383 or

Sara Bielawski is a master of education student in youth development and leadership and a research assistant for the Hennepin-University Partnership.