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Feature

Linda Thrane

Linda Thrane, new vice president for University Relations

Spreading the word

New University Relations VP Linda Thrane shapes the view of the U

By Jamie Proulx

Published on January 18, 2005

She's from the heartland, loves to cook, and is as warm and welcoming as she looks. She also lifts weights in her free time and is a self-described jock who is ready to take on the challenges of the University of Minnesota.

Linda Thrane joined the U at the beginning of the month as the new vice president for University Relations, the central communications office of the University. Most recently she was the executive director for the Council for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C., which had her commuting back and forth to Minnesota. When her tenure in that position was coming to an end she stumbled upon the possibility of working at the University. She couldn't be more pleased with the serendipity.

"...after having sampled so many other aspects of professional life, it seemed to me it was time to think about how I could put all this experience to work on doing something fundamentally important for this state," says Thrane. "The University of Minnesota fit the bill."

"I am very excited to have this opportunity at the University of Minnesota. I feel like my whole career has been moving towards this moment," Thrane says. "When I looked up and thought about what I wanted to do next, I saw public service in my future--so I feel like I was meant to be here."

Throughout her 30-year career in communications, her positions have allowed her to immerse herself in issues relevant to the University, including agriculture and biotechnology for both private and nonprofit organizations. She felt her background suited her for this job and would help her hit the ground running.

"I don't know if it's part of the Minnesota ethos or what, but I guess after having sampled so many other aspects of professional life, it seemed to me it was time to think about how I could put all this experience to work on doing something fundamentally important for this state," she says. "The University of Minnesota fit the bill."

Thrane is walking into the University at a challenging time. On her second day on the job, the 2005 legislative session convened in St. Paul, a session in which legislators will consider the University's biennial budget request, capital request, and a possible Gopher stadium bill. Luckily, Thrane is no stranger to the Capitol. Early in her career, she was a reporter for United Press International and had the opportunity to cover the Minnesota Legislature.

"I'm sure a lot of the names and faces have changed," Thrane says. "But the chemistry of the place--the politics of the place--I don't think changes that much over the years."

In talking with Thrane, you sense she has energy in abundance, which she'll need for her new role. Her early vision of what she hopes to accomplish is ambitious.

"I think, in a way, I'm coming in at the right time," she says. "I would have loved to have played a role in setting some of the objectives that the University has in front of it, such as the budget request, but with much of those already in full swing, I look forward to helping see them through to success."

And then there's the long-term vision for the University. President Bob Bruininks has initiated an exploration--called the "strategic positioning process"--of how the U can reach its next level of quality and strength. Thrane will play a major part in that process and in formulating the subsequent plan to move the University forward in the decades ahead.

"This will be something that will mark the University's future," says Thrane. "Those of us who are here right now, and are charged with trying to flesh out that plan and implement it, are playing a fundamental role in how this University will look and succeed in the next few decades."

Thrane spent many years as an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and feels that gives her insight into what it takes to be a collaborator in and a spokesperson for a large organization, both of which she'll be doing in her new job.

"As an editorial writer for the Star Tribune, I got to see the news business from another side--the opinion side," she says. "As a trained journalist it was very hard for me to express my own opinions, but I learned if you report-report-report a story and interview-interview-interview people, pretty soon the right opinion and the right point of view starts to take shape in you. That has driven me ever since. If you talk to enough people and if you get enough information the right path appears." Thrane expects to use that same process to help her in her work as a University leader.

A Minnesotan most of her life, Thrane has always been aware of the University. But working on the inside has given her a renewed appreciation for the institution and the people who work here.

"I see a common cause and commitment in the people I've had the opportunity to work with. So many people are really committed to making this place--which is already good--even better," Thrane says. "When you look at this much talent and intellect, you have the feeling that if you can maintain that sense of united purpose, very exciting things are going to get done."

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