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Board of Regents meeting summary, February 2012

The six-year capital plan, a report on risk, & public perception survey results were all part of the board's February agenda

By Adam Overland

Board of Regents

Feb. 13, 2012

At the February Board of Regents meeting, the board reviewed the U's six-year capital plan, heard a presentation on the recalibration of risk in the research enterprise, and received the report of the president. President Kaler also presented results of the 2011 public perception and attitude survey, and the board heard about the continued progress and success of the U's Wellness Program for faculty and staff.

Six-Year Capital Plan

The $1.3 billion, six-year capital plan calls for projects that will help ensure student success and access, contribute to the University's research infrastructure, and ensure more efficient use of space while protecting the assets of the U's campuses. Seventy-five percent of the amount, or about $987 million, is a request to the state, with the U paying one-third.

Each year, vice presidents, chancellors, and deans identify their most important programs and priorities and the facility improvements necessary to support those academic programs. Facilities Management also evaluates building and infrastructure conditions, and the capital planning process merges the academic priorities with facility needs.

The University of Minnesota is home to more than 850 buildings covering nearly 28 million square feet throughout the state—including the oldest inventory of public buildings in Minnesota. Twenty-five percent of Twin Cities campus buildings are more than 70 years old.

Among the many projects included in the plan is the renovation of Pillsbury Hall, which will house the English Department once Earth Sciences can be moved into another building on the project list—Tate Lab, the renovation of which must wait until the Physics and Nanotechnology building, currently underway, is completed.

Other projects include active learning classrooms on the UMD campus, and a new recreational facility at UMC, where a growing student population is creating a demand for a larger wellness facility. The Briggs Library on the UMM campus, also part of the plan, will transform the building into a contemporary digital information center and learning commons.

Decommissioning and demolition of obsolete buildings, a key part of the space optimization component of the plan, calls for a reorganization of Eddy Hall, which is currently not in use, and decommissioning of Williamson Hall and Fraser Hall on the UMTC's east bank.

The U's current capital request includes five projects for the 2012 legislative session.

University Risk Recalibration

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), Tim Mulcahy and staff, presented to the board a report on risk recalibration in the research enterprise.

Established by the OVPR in January 2011, the risk recalibration initiative is an essential step toward achieving operational excellence. This effort takes a more strategic approach to managing risks in all aspects of University operations.

In January 2012, President Kaler asked the U's senior leadership team to implement the risk recalibration effort in their respective areas of responsibility. Mulcahy said the goal is to make the U more nimble and more entrepreneurial.

The approach will lead to more informed decision-making, with a focus on enhancing innovation, creativity, productivity, and overall performance. The initiative could also provide relief from some of the financial, personnel, and systems costs associated with the U's regulated culture.

Strategic elements of the risk recalibration initiative:

  • High tolerance for risks in the pursuit of innovative research, scholarship, and public engagement
  • High tolerance for strategic risk-taking that enhances instructional quality
  • High tolerance for strategic risk-taking that promotes productivity, creativity, and reputation
  • Moderate tolerance for rewarding financial risk
  • Low tolerance for risks arising from inappropriate discharge of fiduciary responsibilities
  • Low tolerance for risks that undermine actual safety, or the perception of safety, on campuses

President's Report

President Kaler told the board that he has recently made his first two appearances before the legislature in support of the U's biennial capital budget request.

In one appearance he presented to the Senate Higher Education Committee with UMD Chancellor Black, who spoke specifically about the U's request for the American Indian Learning Resource Center

in Duluth. President Kaler told the board that there is strong support among Duluth's business community for the center, although the center is not part of Governor Dayton's proposed bonding bill.

Kaler also highlighted the U's recent Legislative Briefing, which broke attendance records this year.

Lastly, he gave the board information regarding the U's statewide Public Perception and Attitude Research survey, which measures attitudes and opinions regarding the U among the general public and opinion leaders.

Among the findings:

  • Sixty-three percent of our citizens think the U is a major contributor to the state's economy, an increase of 7 percentage points over 2010, Kaler said.
  • The strongest connections people have to the U are through health care delivery and athletics.
  • Perceptions in the metro area and in Greater Minnesota were similar, although metro area residents feel more connected to the U than do respondents from Greater Minnesota.
  • Most respondents believe a university education should be equally funded by state taxes and student tuition.

U Wellness Program

The Faculty, Staff, and Student Affairs committee heard a report on the U's wellness program from Human Resources leadership. Not only is the overall health of the University population improving, but the U's comprehensive approach to wellness is one factor that is helping to hold down the overall increase in the cost of health care—for the University and for employees who pay a portion of the cost of their medical coverage, the board heard.

Nationally, health care costs are rising at a rate of 7.8 percent per year. In contrast, the University, which is self-insured and pays the bills for 18,300 enrollees in the UPlan Medical Program, has seen its expenditures rise at the slower rate of 5 percent.

While the wellness program is beginning to demonstrate cost savings for the U, an analysis of 13 common health risk factors (such as smoking, weight, stress, exercise habits, nutrition) shows the health risks of U employees have gone down 11.6 percent since the program began in 2006. In short, employees are taking advantage of incentives to live healthier lives. According to preliminary findings from School of Public Health researchers, the UPlan has seen a reduction in health care and absenteeism costs of $1.09 for every $1 invested in the program. Total expenses for the Wellness Program over the three years of the study were $7.8 million, versus a return of $8.5 million.

Other Board News

The president introduced the U's new senior vice president and provost, Karen Hanson.

The board received a report from Chancellor Black on the strategic vision of the UMD campus. The strategic plan includes a refined vision focusing on students learning and growing through experience, critical inquiry, and interaction with other learners. More details are available at UMD Strategic Plan.

The Regents discussed a possible conflict of interest issue with Regent Steve Sviggum's recent acceptance of a position with the Minnesota Senate GOP Caucus. Chair Cohen stated that an independent attorney has been hired to look at the matter. A decision on whether a conflict exists could be made during or before the March Regents meeting, said Cohen. For more information, see Board Chair Linda Cohen's statement.

For more information, see the docket materials.