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Students working in the UMR library.

Information Commons, a.k.a. the library. The Rochester campus doesn't have a traditional library. Instead, it has an electronic resource librarian and 24 computers with access to the University of Minnesota Libraries' collections, which includes 6.2 million print volumes and nearly 37,000 publications.

Downtown digs: new Rochester campus

By Pauline Oo

October 23, 2007; updated November 5

After four decades of planning, the University of Minnesota finally left the place it shared with three other colleges for its very own digs in the heart of downtown Rochester. The grand opening, complete with tours, door prizes, and refreshments, was held October 25. The University of Minnesota, Rochester (UMR) was designated as an official campus of the University last fall--bringing to five the number of U campuses (along with Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and the Twin Cities). UMR occupies the third and fourth floors of University Square, formerly the Galleria Mall.

If you asked a student or University of Minnesota employee to comment about the new campus location, chances are you'll get a lot of "I know who goes to the U now." Not surprising, since U students previously had to share classrooms and common spaces with students from Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC), Winona State University, and St. Mary's University.

"I like the new campus," says Miranda Edel, UMR assistant professor graphic design. "It is nice to walk through the building and know that every person is involved with our campus rather than not knowing whether people were part of RCTC or Winona State. We are building an identity."

Although a myriad of stores mark the first two floors of University Square, there's no mistaking that the building is also home of a University of Minnesota campus. The trademark "M" and maroon and gold banners on the outside of the building are dead giveaways. And once you step inside, the giant "M" on the ceiling of the atrium is another obvious sign. (Later this year, University Bookstores will open shop on the ground level.) The U has a five-year lease on the top two levels--previously a food court and long-idle movie theaters. The move marks UMR's most significant accomplishment since the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $5 million for each of the next three years to help it develop programs in the fields of biogenomics, health sciences, and business.

"I think that [by physically separating ourselves from the other schools], we are able to show the community that we do exist and may be able to develop more relationships with programs and individuals in the downtown area," adds Edel. "[For example], I hope that a graphic design program in the downtown location will expand the design possibilities in Rochester--more students to do internships, to do freelance work, to create good design in the Rochester area.... the possibilities are endless."

The Rochester campus at University Square, a converted shopping mall.
The Rochester campus at University Square, a converted shopping mall.

Video icon. Watch a short video about the new Rochester campus.

Listen to University President Bob Bruninks remarks about the City of Rochester's financial support for UMR at the April 5 State of the University address.

The University of Minnesota has had a presence in the third-largest city in Minnesota and the southeastern region since 1966. It now offers 35 baccalaureate, master's, doctoral, and licensure and certificate programs focused on health science, technology, and business--a direct response to the needs of the business community in that part of the state, a community hungry for advanced university programs to feed such well-known employers as the Mayo Clinic and IBM.

Classes are taught or cotaught by faculty based on the Rochester campus or faculty from the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses. Students learn in wireless, semi-traditional settings. All classrooms, save for the nursing lab, have whiteboards, furniture on wheels, and a variety of multimedia equipment; for instance, large-screen monitors, cameras, and overhead microphones.

"Our classrooms were designed for the future," says Jay Hesley, UMR communications director. "They are ITV-equipped so we can send and receive live audio and video television signals from one location to another. But the rooms can also become traditional classrooms because they have whiteboards. Everything is also on wheels because we don't know how faculty--as our faculty grows and our programs grow--will use the space."

UMR has 400 students, and it plans to admit more students and deliver lower-division courses as well in the next five to six years, says UMR chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle. "At this point, we're a growing fledgling campus... The decisions we need to make are where we're going to grow and how we're going to grow."

In the works are 10 new academic programs, including two doctoral programs and three master's programs, one of which is a master of health care administration program for working professionals.

One of the ITV-equipped classrooms at UMR.
One of the ITV-equipped classrooms at UMR.

Lehmkuhle says the University's move to downtown Rochester was necessary, not only because it was outgrowing the previous venue, but because the University wanted to attract a different student base--namely, working professionals--and to be closer to its partners. Mayo Clinic, for instance, is now a stone's throw away. In fact, Lehmkuhle's floor-to-ceiling windows look out toward the clinic's award-winning Gonda Building.

"The landscape of higher education is changing and institutions can't do it all alone," he says. "How successful we are depends on our ability to partner, and location is critical."

FURTHER READING The first chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Rochester, arrived on campus September 10 with a background in visual neuroscience and university leadership. Stephen Lehmkuhle talks about the rare opportunity to help build a new campus in an exceptional location. Read "Connect and commit."

University of Minnesota announces enhancements in Rochester (November 2006)