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Parent Email–March 19, 2012

  • Transitioning Buildings from Heating to Cooling
  • Spring Road Construction
  • Major Choices
  • Career Paths for Liberal Arts Majors
  • Health Insurance Coverage for Students
  • Finances
  • Safety
  • Tough Discussions
  • GradFest and Commencement
  • Parent Survey: Did We Mention the Prizes?
  • May Session Immersion Course: Information Session
  • Miscellaneous

A number of offices around campus have asked us to pass along messages to parents this week, making this one of our longer emails of the year. While you may not want to read everything, please at least skim this message and take note of what is likely to affect your student.

Somehow this year's Spring Break evolved into summer. Students who traveled to a warm weather destination will be harder to identify by their glowing tans, since even those who stayed in Minneapolis had plenty of chances to sunbathe. That leads us to a couple of notes that pertain to the early warm-weather season.

Transitioning Buildings from Heating to Cooling

A message from Mike Berthelsen, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management:

"This March heat wave may cause some of our building temperatures to become uncomfortable as we make the transition from heating-to-cooling season. Unlike at your home, the conversion process is not as simple as flipping a switch on an air conditioning unit. We first drain antifreeze from the system. Next we clean and test both pipes and pumps. Finally, cooling towers and coils are filled with water. The towers and coils can't be filled too early because they can crack if night time temperatures (outdoors) dip below 29 degrees. If a coil breaks, it must be custom ordered and can leave an area without cooling for up to six weeks. We also still use window air conditioning units in some of our buildings which are installed on an individual basis. We have begun the heating to cooling transition early this year and should have (it) completed by mid-April."

Students living in residence halls are especially likely to notice the temperature variations between mid-day and late-night/early-morning warming and cooling. While the conversion is being done, students in the residence halls are asked to open and close windows as needed, being sure that ground-level windows are secured for safety, and use extra blankets at night if the temperature becomes uncomfortably cool.

Spring Road Construction

The pace of construction on the new Central Corridor light rail line is picking up again and promises to be even more challenging than last year. Road closures and restrictions, bus rerouting, and heavy construction will be common through the heart of campus, from the West Bank to Stadium Village and beyond. For the most updated details for construction projects and traffic changes, see the Central Corridor project website and the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 Traveler Information website.

Major Choices

The pressure is building for students approaching the end of their sophomore year who have not yet declared a major. Similarly, those who are rethinking their chosen major may be struggling to identify a new choice of study. The University's Center for Academic Planning & Exploration (CAPE) is presenting a series of workshops that can help. Students will be able to learn about themselves, discover tools and resources to help explore majors and careers, find ways to get involved outside of class, and develop an action plan to stay on track with their goals. The series begins Thursday, March 22, and includes five workshops, with topics including "All About U: Exploring Your Interests and Values," "What's in a Major? Exploring Academics and Resources," "More Than Just a Job: Connecting Majors to Careers," "Do What Matters! How to Get Involved On and Around Campus," and "Get Started on Your Journey: Goal Setting and Creating an Action Plan."

Students can attend all five workshops or choose only the ones they need right now. For each workshop a student attends, his or her name will be entered into a drawing for a gift card. Students can email capeinfo@umn.edu to RSVP (appreciated, but not required). All workshops take place in 518/520 STSS. Details, including time and date for each workshop, can be found at http://cape.umn.edu/work.html.

Career Paths for Liberal Arts Majors

CLA students are invited to attend a half-day program to help them begin thinking about and planning for using their liberal arts degree in a career search. "Secrets from CLA Alumni: How They Got Great Jobs," is scheduled from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 30, at the McNamara Alumni Center. A guest presenter, Teresa Thomas-Carroll, Director at Women in Networking (WIN), will talk about the power of networking, and the afternoon will include an alumni panel and information about resources at the U of M to help with the transition from college to career. Students will be invited to ask questions of panelists to find out how the alumni have used their CLA degree in their career journey. Registration ($5) is required; students can register through the "Career Events" section of GoldPASS, the University's online career and job listing site.

Health Insurance Coverage for Students

The University of Minnesota requires all students who are 1) admitted to a degree program, and 2) registered for six or more credits per semester (or three or more credits during summer term) to have health plan coverage. Students who do not have health coverage through a family plan, an employee plan, or an individual health insurance plan will be enrolled in the University's Student Health Benefit plan.

Students recently received notice that as of Fall semester 2012, the process for students to waive enrollment in the University-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan has changed. Instead of providing coverage information each registration term, students will be required to provide verification of comparable coverage to receive a two-year waiver. For details, please refer to the following weblink: http://www.shb.umn.edu/waiver/index.htm

Questions about health care coverage may be addressed to the Student Health Insurance office, phone: (612) 624-0627 or 1-800-232-9017, or email: umshbo@umn.

Finances

If you've finished your taxes, please be sure your student updates--or files--her/his FAFSA information. Even if you're convinced your student will not qualify for financial aid, it is helpful to have FAFSA information on file. Many families discover their student does qualify for aid. The priority deadline for returning U of M students is April 15. Steps for filing for financial aid are on the OneStop website.

The third billing statement, for students who have an outstanding account, was emailed to students March 17. The final payment is due April 11. Billing and payment information is on the OneStop payment webpage.

Safety

Nice weather tends to create a false sense of security. At this time of year, students come to think of the University as "home," and they may be less cautious about safety issues. Campus feels comfortable, and students tend to trust anyone who looks like they belong on campus. A spring safety campaign is in effect, reminding students about bike and pedestrian safety, the importance of looking out for friends, responsible (and legal) alcohol consumption, and sexual assault prevention.

We sometimes hear parents say their students don't listen when mom or dad advises them to "be careful out there," and they ask the University to deliver those messages. We know, though, that students don't always listen when the University urges safe practices. If parents, the university, and students' friends are all delivering consistent safety messages, however, we have a better chance those messages will get through.

Please remind your student to wear a helmet while biking; be alert to traffic while walking, biking, and driving; secure rooms or apartments; don't walk alone at night; don't leave belongings unattended; and have an exit plan in mind at parties. In addition, fire safety precautions are critical in saving lives.

Tough Discussions

Parents know their children best, and often parents are the first to sense that a student may be under great stress. It can be difficult to talk about sensitive issues with a college student who is seeking independence and trying to work things out alone, but family members make all the difference in seeing a student through hard times. Some suggestions for raising a sensitive issue or dealing with a difficult conversation are posted on the University Parent website.

GradFest and Commencement

Graduating seniors and their parents will be attending GradFest, the University's one-stop shop for graduation, on Wednesday and Thursday this week at Coffman Memorial Union's Great Hall. At GradFest, graduating seniors can order a cap and gown, conduct a financial aid exit interview, have their resumes reviewed, order graduation announcements, and much more. Details for this free event are on the University Bookstore website.

Each college at the University of Minnesota holds its own commencement ceremony. This year, because Northrop Auditorium is being renovated, most ceremonies will be held at Mariucci Arena. Basic commencement information is posted on the University's Commencement events calendar, and students can receive detailed information on their ceremony from their college's student services office.

Parent Survey: Did We Mention the Prizes?

As noted in previous emails, the University Parent Program is currently conducting its biennial Parent Survey. We need your feedback on the University's communications, events, and services for parents of U of M students. If you have not yet filled out the survey, please do.

The information you provide is confidential, but we have one last question on the survey that allows you to sign up for a drawing for several swell prizes. Prizes include care packages for your student, gift cards from the University Bookstore, lunch at the University's Campus Club, Campus Club centennial cookbooks, and a two-night stay at the Holiday Inn Minneapolis Metrodome.

Survey results will help us improve our services and communications to U of M parents. Your feedback is shared with offices around campus, with the parents of new and returning students, and with other colleges and universities across the country that are reviewing their own parent services. Thank you for helping us out!

May Session Immersion Course: Information Session

A May Session course taught in the Twin Cities will give students the immersion experience of a learning abroad program, right next to the University. Students can learn about the class, ID 3960: Global Leadership and Social Change: A May Session Cedar Riverside Immersion, during an information session from 3 to 4 p.m., Wednesday, March 21, in Appleby 269. The instructor for the course will provide an overview of the course.

This three-credit May session class in the Cedar Riverside community will examine questions of leadership, power, cultural diversity, and social change through a blend of community engagement, neighborhood excursions, readings, and discussions. In the community, students will learn from organizers, social justice activists, businesses leaders, elected officials, and community residents. The course includes an overnight residential component, a neighborhood theater performance, and meals at local restaurants.

Miscellaneous

Check the University of Minnesota Parent Program Facebook page over the next few weeks. We have lined up students to take campus photos for our Facebook page. (To join the U of M Parent Program Facebook page, sign into your Facebook account, link to the page, and become a fan.)

Here it is: Parents' favorite U of M website, the Northrop Mall webcam. And thank you to the College of Science and Engineering for providing the camera and the window from which family members view the University.

If you haven't responded to our Parent Question of the Month, please do! We really appreciate your insights.