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Minnesota State Capitol

The Minnesota State Capitol was built in 1905--almost 50 years after Minnesota became the nation's 32nd state.

Happy birthday, Minnesota!

U hosts series to engage public discussion of Minnesota's past, present, and future

By Pauline Oo

April 2, 2008

In 2001, the University of Minnesota celebrated its 150th birthday. This month, the U is commemorating another sesquicentennial--its home state. Minnesota, a.k.a "Land of 10,000 Lakes," became the 32nd state of the United States of America on May 11, 1858.

The University is hosting a series of Thursday evening discussions around the theme of "Commemorating Discovery: Our Past and Our Future." The first event will kick off 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (April 3) at the Campus Club on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. Provost Thomas Sullivan will serve as host, with faculty members John Archer, cultural studies; Kate Solomonson, College of Design; and Becky Yust, Design, Housing, and Apparel, as well as Robert Bruegmann, a professor of art history, architecture, and urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago, offering their thoughts about "The Arts and the Built Environment: Changes in Suburban Life."

The other conversation topics are "Agriculture and Forestry in the Natural World," April 10; "Changing Demographics: Snapshots of a New Minnesota and a New America," April 17; "A Changing World: Past and Present Threats to the Public's Health," April 24. "The theme seemed an appropriate way to honor Minnesota research and innovation," says Ann Pflaum, cochair of the University sesquicentennial committee. "The four [topics] exemplify the range of scholarship and exploration here at the University. We considered other [topics], but these seemed timely and of interest to the public."

Pflaum, who is also the University's historian, is heading up the committee with Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Design. Fisher will be moderating the April 3 event.

"The main impetus for the events was the Office of the President--prompted by the realization of how much the University owes the state of Minnesota as well as the reciprocal of how much higher education has contributed to our state and the country as a whole," says Pflaum. "The American higher education institutions are widely admired throughout the world, and Minnesota institutions are among the most diverse and academically respected in the United States."

Did you know?

The state's birthday song, "Shines for All to See," was written by Dean Sorenson, the U's director of jazz studies. It debuted Jan. 12 at the Roseville Visitors Association's winter jazz festival and has been called "a good sing-along song." It will be performed May 11 on the Minnesota State Capitol steps as part of the state's sesquicentennial celebration.

To listen to the song, see birthday song.

There are currently 178 public and private institutions in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The University of Minnesota, with its five campuses, is the largest college in Minnesota. It is also both the state's land-grant university and primary research university. The University of Minnesota functioned as a preparatory school for a number of years after it received its charter in 1851.

Pflaum says she hopes that people who attend the discussion series "will be better informed and carry away with them some sources, which they can continue to look to in the future."

Admission is free, but registration is required. All discussions start at 6:30 p.m., with a 5:30 p.m. social hour (refreshments and cash bar) at the Campus Club located on the fourth floor of Coffman Memorial Union. To register and for more information, including panel speakers for each event, see Minnesota's 150th birthday. To learn more about the Minnesota Sesquicentennial and upcoming events, see 150 years of statehood. (The State Sesquicentennial Commission was created by legislation in 2005. There are eight legislators and nine members-at-large, people from across the state were appointed by the Governor in 2006. Work began in earnest in 2007).

To listen to Ann Pflaum talk about Minnesota 150th birthday and the U's part in helping to celebrate it, listen to a recording by University of Minnesota News Service.