More than 80 percent of students on the Morris campus voted in the last election.
Engaged and engaging
Morris students bring culture and controversy to campus
By Judy Riley
Oct. 17, 2006
(Editor's note: UMM is having a food drive on Oct. 18. Please see sidebar for details.)
It's no accident that in 1997 Mother Jones magazine ranked the University of Minnesota, Morris, as the fourth most activist campus in the nation, or that 2004 commencement speaker and actor Peter Coyote declared that UMM students are "engaged."
To feed and inspire that engagement and activism, students regularly coordinate events that bring performing artists, theater productions and gallery exhibitions to campus and the west central Minnesota region.
"We don't have a lot of poetry readings or art galleries in close proximity like universities in large urban areas would, so we have to make an effort to bring those things here," says Kim Ukura, a junior from Lino Lakes and managing editor of The Counterweight, a student publication that takes a conservative position on issues. "I think it's cool when the campus can bring events that the community likes as well. [This weekend], I saw as many community members as students enjoying "Othello."
Set a world record, make a local
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, UMM faculty, staff, students and Morris community residents will attempt to break a Guinness Book of World Records record for the most food collected by a non-charitable organization in a 24-hour period. Two efforts will join together to try for the record: the national Cans Across America drive and the Morris tradition, Trick-or-Can. UMM will donate all food to the Stevens County Food Shelf.
Cans Across America
Bring non-perishable food items to Willie's Super Valu, Coborn's or UMM Food Services building lobby or loading dock on Wednesday between noon and 11:59 p.m.
Items especially needed are beef stew, canned meats, jellies, sugar, flour, vegetable oil, chili, soups, canned fruit, vegetables and canned juices.
In a long-standing UMM tradition, students will meet in the front of Independence Hall at 5 p.m. to form teams that will travel throughout the city of Morris from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to collect canned food.
A brief appreciation event will be held from 4:45-7 p.m., also on Oct. 18, in the Food Services dining area to thank those who volunteer at the local food shelf.
Volunteers are needed to help with this food drive, especially from 6 p.m.-11:59 p.m. to record the collected items. Contact Carol McCannon, (320) 589-6083.
Students also work with the Office of Student Activities to invite prominent, controversial and diverse guests to campus, like radio show host and "Saturday Night Live" personality Al Franken (October 6) and criminology professor, columnist and conservative Mike Adams (October 26). Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist, environmentalist, economist and writer, has been a convocation speaker at UMM more than once and Arctic explorer Will Steger spoke at UMM last year about global warming and Minnesota's energy future.
"Most students are very politically engaged," says Rebekah Deutl, a junior from Anoka who is secretary for the Student DFL at UMM. "Students volunteer, attend events and help in a variety of ways." The campus also has a high voter turnout, adds Deutl: "Well over 80 percent of the students voted in the last election. We're a draw for politicians who want to get to know the rural area."
"Even when we disagree with the stances of the speaker, I know that people are interested in hearing different points of view and using those points to think about their own opinions," says Ukura. "Usually, both The University Register and The Counterweight contain follow-up editorials that respond to the speakers and UMM students listen and engage with speakers, both during question-and-answer sessions and after the speakers leave."
"Our top students, in particular, understand the crucial role that speakers and other non-classroom events play in the liberal arts experience," says junior Eagan Heath, editor-in-chief of UMM's The University Register. "With 1,700 students and strong support for student involvement, we intend to make our time here as productive and learning-intensive as possible. Inviting quality speakers is one obvious way to do just that."
"The Morris campus is dedicated to the liberal arts in ways that the other campuses are not," Heath says. "There is nothing 'semi-activist' about the truly involved students here."