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The Rochester campus has a new home


By Pauline Oo and Gayla Marty

Stephen Lehmkule sits gesturing at a table, with coffee nearby.
Stephen Lehmkuhle, trained as an experimental psychologist, is UMR's new chancellor.

From M, winter 2008

After four decades of planning, the University of Minnesota finally left the building it shared with three other colleges for its very own digs in the heart of Rochester. It now occupies the third and fourth floors of University Square, formerly the Galleria Mall. Later this year, University Bookstores will open on the ground level. Now an official campus of the University of Minnesota, the move marks UMR's most significant accomplishment since the Minnesota Legislature appropriated $5 million for each of the next three years to help it develop programs in the fields of biogenomics, health sciences, and business. Four hundred students learn in wireless, semi-traditional settings and UMR plans to admit more. In the works are 10 new academic programs, including two doctoral programs and three master's programs. UMR chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle (LEM-cool) says the University's move to downtown Rochester was necessary, not only because it was outgrowing the previous location, but because the University wanted to attract a different student base-namely, working professionals-and to be closer to its partners. The Mayo Clinic, for instance, is now a stone's throw away. In fact, Lehmkuhle's floor-to-ceiling windows look out toward the clinic's award-winning Gonda Building. "The landscape of higher education is changing and institutions can't do it all alone," he says. "How successful we are depends on our ability to partner, and location is critical."

A talk with the new chancellor

Stephen Lehmkuhle, formerly the senior vice president of academic affairs for the four-campus University of Missouri system, has a doctorate in experimental psychology from Vanderbilt University. His research and teaching focused on visual neuroscience, and the work of his research teams resulted in better understanding of conditions such as dyslexia, visual losses in the elderly, and visual attention processes. He spoke with us about Rochester, the emerging University campus, and what lies ahead. What drew you to the University of Minnesota-Rochester? Lehmkuhle: This is a new venture-that's what attracted me to the position. How many opportunities do you get in this nation to be part of starting a new university? What makes Rochester the place for a new University of Minnesota campus? Lehmkuhle: When you look at the assets in the Rochester area-with Mayo, IBM, and all of the other associated high-growth industries-a critical ingredient that needs to be part of that cluster is a research university. It's a good, strategic investment that the state is making to raise the quality of life for all of Minnesota. The people of Rochester truly value education as a public good, and they understand the importance to the long-term economic vitality of the region of growing and developing the presence of the University of Minnesota. Their commitment is-I've been using the word "contagious." How do you see UMR's role in the University as a whole? Lehmkuhle: The excitement about UMR is that, being new, we really are free to explore different ways, different pedagogies, different approaches, and we're going to take advantage of that. I see UMR serving in some ways as a test bed for the rest of the University to explore new avenues--particularly in the learning paradigms-and see if they are more effective and more efficient. One of our roles is to be Rochester's front door to the entire University of Minnesota system. There's no need to recreate existing degree programs, but to create access to them. We provide the local support to make those programs successful, and we provide support to Rochester students.

And we need to be involved in economic development issues for Rochester, southeast Minnesota, and even the state. I particularly would like to explore ways to develop entrepreneurship programs [and keep people here.] We really want the full economic impact of our new knowledge to reside here in Minnesota. Outside of your work, what do you do for enjoyment? I have two ways to relax--I run and I golf. When I run, I think about problems--my best ideas I get when I'm running. I enjoy golf for the exact opposite reason--you cannot think of anything but hitting a golf ball, so it's a break from everything else.