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Parent Email–December 4, 2012

  • CSE Illumination
  • CDes Students Partner with Habitat for Humanity
  • Service Learning Trip for Families
  • CFANS Tree Sale
  • School of Nursing Scholarship Benefit
  • Athletics on the Road
  • Adopt A Family Update
  • Recreational Sports Winter Outdoor Gear Sale
  • Exam Preparation
  • Finals Care Packages
  • Extreme Makeover: Major Edition!
  • Miscellaneous (and a secret) 

Among the goals of the U of M Parent Program are helping family members to

  • Understand that parents are part of the University community as prime supporters of their students, and
  • Participate in campus events; support and encourage all students as they learn, perform, lead, or serve through campus and community activities.

These goals extend beyond the boundaries of campus to celebrate students' accomplishments as they represent the University and serve the greater community. During the next few weeks, there will be several opportunities to support your own student and others, noted below. We've also included information about several events that make holiday shopping more convenient for students. When students can do their gift shopping on campus, and do something to help others at the same time, life can seem less stressful and more gratifying.

CSE Illumination

Some of our College of Science and Engineering wizards have been busy for several months, planning a special wintertime show for the campus community. They are lighting up the Civil Engineering Building's plaza with 100,000 LED lights in the second-ever Winter Light Show, which will premiere at 5:30 p.m., Friday, December 7. Following the premiere, shows will be presented multiple times until December 20, depending on weather. See the schedule here.

It's a collaborative effort—the 20-minute show has been produced by the Tesla Works student organization with support from the University's student-run radio station, Radio K, and sponsorship by CenterPoint Energy and the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. And because students have big hearts, the Science and Engineering Student Board (SESB) is hosting a "Freezin' for a Reason" 5K Run right before the premiere of the light show. For more information about the run, visit All proceeds from the 5K Run will be donated to the Amplatz Children's Hospital.

CDes Students Partner with Habitat for Humanity

Next semester, students from two programs in the College of Design (CDes) plan to collaborate with Habitat for Humanity on designs for new multifamily housing units in Fridley, MN. Architecture and Housing Studies students will receive hands-on experience addressing the basic human need for safe, affordable, accessible housing. For this to happen, though, CDes needs to raise $10,000 by this Friday, December 7. Contributions will help cover the cost of materials for the students, lightening their financial burden. For information or to make a donation, even a small one, please see the CDes website. You might also suggest that your student could make a donation to the project in your name as a holiday gift.

The College of Design will also have a holiday sale of items produced in the Surface Design studio from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday, December 11 and 12, in the McNeal Hall Atrium, St. Paul campus. Items to be featured include posters, journals, cards, t-shirts, and decorations.

Service Learning Trip for Families

There is still availability for the University Parent Program's Student-Parent Service Learning trip to Guatemala, scheduled for Spring Break, March 16-23, 2013. The trip is a collaboration between the Parent Program, a St. Paul-based non-profit organization, Common Hope, and the University's Learning Abroad Center.

In May of 2012, the U of M Parent Program team that went to Guatemala built a new house for the family of Mrs. María Lucía Turuy Pirir. Common Hope recently visited the family to see how they have settled into their new house, how their lives have changed, and what their next goals are as a family. The team spent three days at the construction site building the house and getting to know the family that is featured in the video linked above. By joining the 2013 Vision Team, you will have the opportunity to build a home for another family, bring activities to children in schools, and make a difference in the lives of Guatemalan families.

Family participation need not include a parent and child--we have had siblings attend together, parents without their own student, and students without their own parents. For information or to register for the Spring Break trip, please contact or call Chelsea Petree at 612-626-8770.

CFANS Tree Sale

The Forestry Club in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences (CFANS) has Christmas trees for sale at the Les Bolstad Golf Course near the St. Paul campus from now until December 24 (unless they run out of trees sooner). CFANS also offers cheese, meat, and honey for sale. The honey sale, sponsored by Frenatae, the Entomology Graduate Student  Association, includes sales of beeswax candles, calendars, cards, and scarves created with insect dye. See the CFANS website for details on the tree sale and other options.

School of Nursing Scholarship Benefit

For 20 years, the School of Nursing has hosted a holiday season Jewelry Sale to support their scholarship program. It makes for a convenient shopping trip for students to find gifts for friends and family. The selection usually includes vintage, craft, and art jewelry. The sale will be from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, December 5, in Moos Tower, 2nd Floor, near Java City coffee shop.

Athletics on the Road

The Gophers football team will be playing Texas Tech in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on December 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. If you're thinking of buying a ticket, or if your student is considering a trip to the game, please order tickets through The Athletic Department would love to build a big fan section for the game. Moreover, the number of tickets sold through will be taken into consideration when the Gophers qualify for future bowl games. The selection of Minnesota for the Meineke Car Care Bowl was just confirmed on Sunday, so details are still being worked out for official fan trips. Watch the website for updated information during the next few days. And Texas families: consider attending the game to cheer for the Gophers!

The Women's volleyball team has earned a spot in the Sweet 16 and will play Purdue at 6 p.m., Friday, December 7, in the West Lafayette Regional, hosted by Purdue. Match tickets can be purchased through the Gopher Ticket Office (612) 624-8080 (Metro Area) 1-800-U-GOPHER (1-800-846-7437). Creative Charters has organized a bus trip for the tournament, with a departure on Friday morning, December 7. The price is dependent on the number of fans traveling; the cost includes all transportation as well as a one-night hotel stay in West Lafayette, Ind. For more information, visit the Creative Charters link. Any families living near Lafayette are especially encouraged to support the Gophers.

Adopt A Family Update

In our last email newsletter, we asked parents to consider adopting a student-parent family for the holidays. These are the families of U of M students who have children and who are working to complete a college degree while raising a family of their own. All families in the adopt-a-family program are in financial need, as determined by their FAFSA applications.

We are delighted, amazed, and humbled to report that all 80 families have been adopted--more student-parents and their children will be helped this year than ever before. Great thanks to all who agreed to participate in this program. While we can't put donors in direct contact with the students they are assisting, I can verify that when the gifts are delivered to student-parents, the impact is overwhelming. Students and staff alike share tears of gratitude and joy.

For those who may still wish to take part, we hope to give grocery gift cards to each family to help provide a holiday dinner. Please see the "Alternate Sponsorship" information on the Adopt-A-Family webpage. Those who have adopted a family: instructions for package delivery are on the same webpage. And again, thank you. Your contributions make an incredible difference to students who work hard at home, at school, and at jobs to provide a better life for their children.

Recreational Sports Winter Outdoor Gear Sale

Recreational sports will be selling some of its winter rental equipment as well as hosting an event for others to sell and purchase equipment. The Winter Outdoor Gear Sale takes place from noon to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, December 5 and 6.

Exam Preparation

Final exams for Fall Semester begin December 14 and continue through December 20. One day, December 13, is set aside as a study day between the end of fall classes and the beginning of exams. Students are feeling the pressure, and they have received information about the kinds of help available to them. These include the following:

  • Review Workshops: For students in 1000-level math and chemistry classes, Review Workshops will be offered Friday, December 7, Saturday, December 8, and Monday, December 10.
  • Exam Jam: Tutoring will be available all day Saturday, December 8, with morning sessions in 140 Appleby Hall and afternoon hours in 204 Walter Library.
  • Extended library hours: Wilson (West Bank), Walter, and Bio-Med Libraries (East Bank) are open 24 hours/day from December 5 - 20. Mcgrath Library (St. Paul) also has extended late night hours. Other libraries are located throughout the University.
  • Study spaces: Students who find it difficult to study in the residence hall or in their apartment can find plenty of study spaces throughout campus. In addition to the many libraries, General Purpose Study spaces (GPS) are available in buildings on the West Bank, East Bank, and St. Paul campuses.

Finals Care Packages

Apparently, it is all but impossible to study for finals without having snacks close at hand. I asked the students who work in our office if they need snacks when they study, and they said, "It definitely helps." They went on to explain that sweet foods and salty snacks are best; they prefer food they can eat with one hand so they can continue to use the laptop keyboard while they munch; and fruit generally is too messy. They said. "If you're going to have fruit or something that requires two hands to eat it, you have to take a study break." Several years ago, one of our former students said her favorite study food was a mixture of nuts, M&Ms, raisins, and coffee beans. Caffeine is also essential, whether in cold liquid, hot liquid, or straight bean form.

The good people at Gopher Express have obviously consulted with students to come up with two Gopher Care Packages specific to this time of year--the Finals Finale Care Package and Let It Snow. Additional Care Packages are available as well.

Extreme Makeover: Major Edition!

Students have plenty to think about right now, with exams, winter break, and holidays coming up, but it's rather common during the time off between semesters for students to fret about their major. In some cases, they will be considering that their grades indicate they need a new option. For other students, fall semester might have inspired new possibilities or provided evidence that their original major choice is just not what they want to do.

If you learn that your student is thinking about changing majors, or if he or she has not been able to decide on a major, a day-long workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, January 17, in 330 Science Teaching and Student Services (STSS) on the East Bank, might be precisely what's needed. The program will include exploration of personal interests, values, and strengths; discussion with advisers and other students about possible U of M majors and careers; and introduction to tools and resources that can help students narrow the options. The cost of the day-long program is $15, which includes lunch, event materials, and the opportunity to take the Strong Interest Inventory and a StrengthsQuest assessment.

Students can register online.


Throughout the month of December, there are numerous activities, arts events, and programs celebrating the season. If you're coming to campus, please check the University Calendar of Events to see what's happening while you're here. And if your student seems stressed, encourage her or him to take a study break and attend a concert or musical recital or take advantage of the variety of options available this month, then go back to studying with a fresh and creative outlook. 

Each month, we post a question for parents on our University Parent webpage. Last month we asked, "To your knowledge, how much money does your student spend each month on non-academic expenses (e.g., clothing, eating out, entertainment)?" About a third of parents said their student spends less than $100, and the next most common answer, about 15%, was $101 to $150 per month. Please respond to the December Parent Question of the Month.

Although there is no snow on the ground, the Northrop Mall snow fence has made its winter appearance and will stay in place for the next several months. For those not familiar with northern winters, you can see the fence via the webcam maintained by the College of Science and Engineering. On a snowy, blowy day, the fence does its work by slowing the drifting snow. Families from the northland know this, but we point it out because some warm weather parents haven't encountered it before and have asked why we now have a fence across the mall. Interestingly, Wikipedia describes snow fences by comparing them to sand fences; and they describe sand fences by comparing them to snow fences.

A couple more shopping suggestions—and a secret: It really is hard for students to think about holiday gifts and shopping when they're preparing for and taking finals. Still, they want to show their appreciation for their family. We were not entirely kidding when we warned parents during orientation that they might be getting Gopher gear as presents over the next four years. If your student is likely to "shop local," you might want to provide some hints for yourself or for other family members. The University Bookstores currently have 25% off on caps and mittens (through Saturday), 30% off on general books (December 5, 6 and 7—but this does not include textbooks!), and special t-shirts for the Meineke Car Care Bowl game. There is also a Secret Sale coming up on Friday that no one knows about yet. You can't tell anyone how you found out about this, but from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, there will be Gopher sweat pants and sweat shirts on sale for $9.99 each. (In-store sales only. You can't order them online.)