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President Bruininks talking with an audience member after the State of the U address Feb. 24, 2005.

President Bruininks talks with an audience member after the State of the U address.

State of the U highlights access, support, and innovation

By Gayla Marty

From Brief, March 2, 2005

A new scholarship will fill the gap between aid packages and the cost of tuition and fees now faced by low-income undergraduates, President Bob Bruininks announced February 24. It will be phased in beginning this fall and within three years will support more than 8,000 students on all the U campuses.

"The Founders Opportunity Scholarship is a commitment to keep the doors to this university... open to talented students from all walks of life," Bruininks said. It is named "in honor of the opportunity and access valued by the University's founders."

To be eligible, students must be Minnesota residents, receive a federal Pell grant, be admitted as a first-year student at any U campus for their first undergraduate degree, and be a full-time student.

The scholarship announcement was the centerpiece of the President's third State of the University speech, presented this year for the first time as part of Founders Day activities. Bruininks spoke to an audience of about 250 faculty and staff members, students, and several regents in the Coffman Theater on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis, with interactive television connections in St. Paul, Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester.

"The Founders Opportunity Scholarship is a commitment to keep the doors to this university...open to talented students from all walks of life," Bruininks said. It is named "in honor of the opportunity and access valued by the University's founders."

Bruininks described the University as being in an almost unprecedented state of peril due to shrinking support from both the state and federal governments. His voice rose passionately several times during the speech as he urged the University community to advocate for the U at the state legislature.

President urges support for the U
View a clip of President Bruininks answering a question from the Morris campus student association president from the PageLink(State of the U video).

Strategic positioning process information
You can offer ideas to the two task forces on the strategic positioning Web site.

The President's remarks set the stage to introduce the next phase in the strategic positioning process begun last summer, which sets forth the goal of making the University one of the top three public research universities in the world within the next decade.

"Is this an elitist goal? Does it separate us from the interests of Minnesotans, a notoriously humble people?" Bruininks rhetorically asked about the top-three goal. "I believe it is not and does not."

Two task forces, one for academics and one for operations, are working on recommendations to forward to the President on how the University can position itself to meet this goal. (See box, left.)

Only excellence will attract the talent and funding required to support Minnesota, he said. The goal applies an equivalent standard of excellence to all the campuses--each with "its unique mission, strong signature, and reputation"--and to the U's network of research centers and extension offices.

He outlined specific actions the University is taking to realign itself with its land-grant legacy while striving to be a world-class institution:

After the address, Bruininks answered questions from the audience.

"I like a lot of what you said, but it seems to me [the goal of being one the top three research universities in the world] is both insufficiently ambitious and insufficiently taking advantage of resources we actually have," said Naomi Scheman, professor of philosophy and women's studies on the Twin Cities campus. "Where is the recognition of synergies and a claim to transform, not just to be good at the old thing?"

"I don't think this strategic plan is at all focused on doing the old thing--I think it's focused on doing the new thing," Bruininks responded. "This is all about rethinking the future of higher education, rethinking how it's organized, how it operates, what it addresses, how it connects itself to the needs of our communities and our world. And we ought to be willing to step back and think the unthinkable for a moment. Think about how we can restructure the academic relationships and resources of this university."

Bruininks also addressed questions from the student body presidents on the Twin Cities and Morris campuses, the chief executive officer at Crookston, and the mayor of Rochester.

Bruininks dedicated the address to former governor Elmer Anderson, longtime University advocate, who died November 15 at the age of 95.

More information about the Founders Opportunity Scholarship can be found on the State of the University Web page.

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