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University of Minnesota

U advocacy on display

February 7, 2012

Liz Giorgi, Kevin Werner, Eric Kaler, and Karen Kaler look at an iPad.

Eric and Karen Kaler, right, follow the latest #UMNproud tweets as Liz Giorgi, who presented on Twitter, and Kevin Werner look on.

Photo: David Mendolia

Record crowd at U’s annual Legislative Briefing does #UMNproud

By Rick Moore

Each year, the U’s Legislative Briefing offers supporters from around the state a chance to hear about the University’s priorities at the Capitol just as the legislative session is firing up.

If attendance at this year’s briefing is any indication, advocates for the U are fired up. A record crowd of some 550 attendees packed the McNamara Alumni Center on February 1 to hear President Eric Kaler talk about the U’s request for this session, and about another 100 tuned in to a webcast of the event.

The focus was on the critical importance of each person sharing their stories of how the University of Minnesota has shaped their lives.

“Each of us has a story about how this university has affected our life, changed our life, and made a difference in our life,” Kaler said. He recounted his own story of coming to the U in fall 1978 for graduate school in the best chemical engineering program in the country, studying under some of the world’s leading experts.

“That was my first encounter with the excellence of this university and the mission and public support that made it accessible to me,” Kaler said. “I received my Ph.D. here, and I received a transformational experience here.”

Anthony Schuster holds up a postcard.Tweeting brings instant gratification, but Anthony Schuster shows that a persuasive postcard works, too. Photo: Patrick O'Leary

He encouraged everyone in attendance to share their own stories about why the U matters and to “aggressively communicate with our legislators and our governor about the importance of our capital request this session.”

But, he added, “This gathering tonight is about much more than one year’s request or a few months of challenging committee hearings. [It’s] about building a community of advocates—a community that is committed to the long-term future and success of this great university.”

Storytelling, 140 characters at a time

The last portion of the Legislative Briefing offered a “how to” on advocating for the U on the spot, with a nod to current communication trends.

“As an engineer I know this,” Kaler said. “For every action in the 21st century, there are at least two things. There’s a reaction … and a tweet.”

Attendees were then briefed on the importance of the social media tool Twitter and encouraged to start tweeting their stories about the U, using the newly created hashtag #UMNproud. A couple of dozen student experts walked around the room with iPads to help those who hadn’t yet sampled the world of 140-character messages.

A student assists an attendee at the Legislative Briefing.Scores of U students offered their Twitter expertise at the Legislative Briefing. Photo: Patrick O'Leary

Those who preferred good old-fashioned handwriting jotted postcards with messages for their individual legislators and for Governor Dayton.

What happens when a few hundred people are all a-twitter about a new method of advocacy? On the evening of February 1, it meant that the hashtag #UMNproud was trending.

And if you don’t know what “trending” is, you just need to spend a little more time on Twitter. (Hint: Among trends in Minneapolis on Monday afternoon, February 6, were the Super Bowl, Kevin Love, and Happy Birthday Bob Marley.)

While you’re there, perhaps you can share a short story and display some #UMNproud.

“We are the University of Minnesota, but we need to tell everyone we know and everyone with influence, that this university is Minnesota,” Kaler said. “Our future is driven by our history, and our history is filled with your stories.”

2012 Capital Request at a glance

The University of Minnesota’s 2012 Capital Request totals $202.9 million, of which $169.5 million would come from the State of Minnesota.

Feed for thought

To read personal stories about the U and to follow the Twitter feed attached to #UMNproud, visit Share Your Story.

The largest item ($90 million) is for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Renovation (HEAPR), which covers necessary renewals and renovations to buildings all around the U’s five campuses. As Kaler notes, HEAPR is “not a very poetic name, but very necessary.”

Other projects in the request are a combined heat and power plant ($54 million in state funding) on the Twin Cities campus; the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories ($4.1 million state funding); Eddy Hall and space optimization ($14 million state funding) on the Twin Cities campus; and the American Indian Learning Resource Center ($7.4 million state funding) at Duluth.

To learn more about advocating for the U and about the U’s 2012 Capital Request, visit Support the U

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