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Patricia Simmons gestures from behind the podium at the U' 2008 Legislative Briefing.

Patricia Simmons, chair of the Board of Regents, spoke to about 300 U supporters on January 23 at the annual Legislative Briefing. The event provided an overview of the University's capital request and encouraged attendees to share with legislators their story of how the U affects their lives.

Capitol priorities

U takes 2008 Capital Request to legislature

By Rick Moore

From M, winter 2008; updated February 12, 2008

The University of Minnesota has developed an ambitious plan to establish itself as a world leader. But the U's ability to carry out its mission--let alone fulfill its goal of becoming one of the top three public research universities--will be compromised without sustained and strategic investment in buildings and infrastructure.

That's why the University is taking its 2008 Capital Request, which totals $288.3 million, to the Minnesota State Legislature, whose 2008 session began on February 12. The request contains funding for buildings and basic infrastructure improvements all around the U's campuses.

"Our buildings support all aspects of our academic mission," President Bob Bruininks said. "Each project in the 2008 Capital Request is aligned with our strategic goal and priorities, and reflects pressing needs, prime opportunities, and sound financial and facilities management."

As is typically the case, the largest portion of the 2008 Capital Request ($100 million) is for what's known as "HEAPR"--Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement--which goes toward basic needs like roofs, windows, elevators, and mechanical systems. HEAPR funds will be used system-wide to extend the life of the U's physical plant.

"... It is important that the projects in this year's request not be viewed as isolated or disconnected," Bruininks said. "Rather, we should approach them as the continuation of a long-term vision that will secure and enhance the future of the U for the citizens of Minnesota."

The U is seeking $72.5 million for a new Science Teaching and Student Services Building, which would replace the outdated and aesthetically challenged Science Classroom Building on the Twin Cities campus at the east end of the Washington Avenue Bridge. The new building would contain innovative classroom space for teaching basic sciences, and would also house student services including academic and career counseling and registration.

Other major projects on the Twin Cities campus included in the capital request are a new Bell Museum of Natural History ($36 million), which would be built in St. Paul, and a renovation to the interior of historic Folwell Hall ($39 million). The Folwell renovation would support the U's new Writing Initiative, and allow for the building to become a hub for the study and research of languages, literature, and writing.

For the Duluth campus, the capital request contains $15 million for instructional and laboratory space adjoining Voss-Kovach Hall for a new civil engineering program at UMD. The proposed new program would fill a need for engineering professionals across northern Minnesota.

The request also includes $7.5 million for a new Gateway Center at the University of Minnesota, Morris. The Gateway/Community Services building, in the Morris Historical District, will be the first point of entry to the campus for many visitors and prospective students.

In addition, the request contains $3 million for classroom improvements, $10 million for laboratory renovations, and $5 million for the U's Research and Outreach Centers (ROCs).

Join the network

Alumni and supporters of the U are encouraged to join the Legislative Network. By joining the network, volunteers learn how they can encourage legislators to support the U's capital request. To join the Legislative Network, visit the Network.

The University is also advancing a proposal for a Minnesota Biosciences Research Program, an idea it first proposed two years ago. If approved, the program would allow the U to construct four new biomedical research buildings in the next five years. Each building, in turn, would allow the University to house 40 new faculty researchers and 120 research assistants, attracting $20 million in new research dollars each year.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has already announced his recommendations for the state's bonding bill, which include $129.3 million in state funding for University projects. Pawlenty's plan does not include funding for the Bell Museum, classroom improvements and laboratory renovations, or research and outreach centers, and it only funds 40 percent of the U's HEAPR request.

The University's goal will be to get all of its budget items included in the legislature's final bonding bill.

"The state has a responsibility to preserve and protect its investment in public education, research, and outreach--and it is important that the projects in this year's request not be viewed as isolated or disconnected," Bruininks said. "Rather, we should approach them as the continuation of a long-term vision that will secure and enhance the future of the U for the citizens of Minnesota."

To learn more about the U's capital request and see videos describing each of the items, visit the Office of Government and Community Relations Web site.