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Awards, appointments, & other announcements

Compiled by Adam Overland

Pam Wheelock 165
Pamela Wheelock brings more than 25 years of leadership experience spanning the city, state, and federal levels of government.

June 20

To submit U of M staff or faculty for consideration in People, contact the Brief editor. For more information, see award & appointment submission guidelines.

Pamela Wheelock named VP for U Services

Pamela Wheelock will be the University’s new vice president for University Services, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.

Wheelock, who will assume her new role Aug. 15, brings more than 25 years of leadership experience and accomplishments in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors—spanning the city, state, and federal levels of government, including economic development, the Governor’s cabinet, and the state finance commission.

The VP for University Services is the chief operations officer for the University and is a key member of the president’s senior leadership team. Current vice president Kathleen O’Brien announced her retirement in February after 10 years at the helm. She will step down on June 30. During the six-week period before Wheelock begins her post, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter will serve as the interim vice president for University Services.

As deputy mayor under former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman from 1994–96, Wheelock led negotiations on the lease that secured the return of NHL hockey to Minnesota and the construction of the Xcel Energy Center. Beginning in 2002, she went on to spend seven years in senior leadership roles for Minnesota Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Minnesota Wild. While there she held the positions of senior vice president and executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Most recently, Wheelock served as interim president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, where she also serves as board chair. From 2009 to 2011, she worked for the Bush Foundation as vice president for leadership and community engagement.

In addition to serving as deputy mayor for the City of St. Paul, Wheelock was director of planning and economic development from 1996–99, and budget director from 1992–94. She also spent four years as the state finance commissioner for Governor Jesse Ventura, six years as the state executive budget officer, and was a legislative assistant to Congressman Tim Penny when he represented Minnesota’s 1st District.

A native of Waseca, Minn., Wheelock received her bachelor of arts degree in history from St. Catherine University, then known as the College of St. Catherine. She went on to earn her master’s degree in applied economics from Marquette University.

Former chair of the College of St. Catherine Board of Trustees, Wheelock has also served as chair of the Minnesota Wild Foundation and has been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the university’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs since 2004.

For more information, see the news release.

2012 Minnesota Futures Grants award recipients

The University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research has announced the recipients of the 2012 Minnesota Futures grants. The award covers expenses of up to $250,000 over two years and is supported by technology commercialization revenue.

Emad Ebbini, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dual-mode Ultrasound Array System for Noninvasive, Image-guided Targeted Drug Delivery In Vivo.

The goal of this new collaboration is to establish the feasibility of image-guided targeted drug delivery (IGTDD) in vitro and in vivo small-animal model. Members of Ebbini’s team are at the leading edge in their respective research areas related to IGTDD, from clinical practice to molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of liver cancer.

The project brings together two cutting-edge, enabling technologies to establish a new paradigm in IGTDD that could offer the highest possible level of safety and efficacy to liver cancer treatments.


  • Efie Kokkoli, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
  • Erik Cressman, Radiology
  • Raj Aravalli, Radiology

Lawrence Wackett, 
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics

Defining and Mitigating Against Environmental Impacts of Oil and Gas Fracking.

Wackett’s team will comprehensively study the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking is a method of gas and oil extraction from shale layers—and it’s among the most important energy and environmental issues facing society today. 

Six scholars from different disciplines will study the fate of, and risk from, fracking chemicals and develop new bioremediation technologies for cleaning the polluted waters.


  • Alptekin Aksan, Mechanical Engineering
  • Jeffrey Bielicki, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Lynda Ellis, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
  • Steve Heilman, Biotechnology Institute
  • Elizabeth Wattenberg, Environmental Health Sciences

Modeled after the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, the Minnesota Futures program supports extraordinary research by nurturing interdisciplinary ideas. The goal is to develop new ideas to a point where they are competitive for external funding.

Since 2008, the grant has supported research by faculty who go on to win substantial grants and whose innovations reach the market to potentially improve the lives of millions. For more information, including past recipients, see Minnesota Futures.

U in the News: A selection of U faculty in the news

In Defense of Genetically Modified Crops
Genetically modified Bt crops get a pretty bad rap. The pest-killing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria protein these plants are bioengineered to make has been accused of harming monarch butterflies, honey bees, rats, and showing up in the blood of pregnant women. "Maintaining the biological control agents we already have is one of the cornerstones of integrated pest management," says William Hutchinson, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota. Mother Jones.

The Reward for Donating a Kidney: No Insurance
When Erika Royer’s lupus led to kidney failure four years ago, her father, Radburn, was able to give her an extraordinary gift: a kidney. More sophisticated kidney function testing would have made this clear, said Dr. Hassan N. Ibrahim, chairman of nephrology at University of Minnesota and director of the kidney transplant program, who has written extensively about the long-term health outcomes of kidney donation. The New York Times.

Money Doesn't Make Neurotics Happy
Getting more money -- such as a pay raise -- may not make one happier, especially if the recipient is neurotic, British and U.S. researchers say. Dr. Eugenio Proto of the University of Warwick and Aldo Rustichini of the University of Minnesota said the results of their study suggested some see money more as a device to measure successes or failures rather than as a means to achieve more comfort. CNBC.

Having Trouble with Self-Control? It's All In Your Head!
When your best intentions go south, new research suggests that it wasn't the devil that made you do it. It was your brain. The study, to be published January 2013 in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, suggests that self-control is not a muscle that grows stronger with exercise, but is more like a finite pool. And while the study found no significant gender differences, the study's co-author Kathleen Vohs, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, wrote "men and women often do adopt different goals they do so in similar ways." Huffington Post.

University of Minnesota calculates the full cost of educating a student
Leaders of the University of Minnesota got answers Thursday to a question they've been posing for years: How much does it cost to educate a student? The short answer: $12,055 in 2009-10, on average, for an undergraduate. But the full cost of instruction -- including everything from faculty salaries to electricity -- varies by college, campus and level of study. For undergrads, tuition rarely covered the full cost. The new analysis is the most precise accounting the university has ever done and will fuel debate between the Board of Regents and President Eric Kaler about where and how to become more efficient as state funding falls. Star Tribune.

U of M Launches College-Readiness Program
A program to help students start planning for college years in advance is moving from small-scale to statewide. In the coming school year, 41 middle and high schools will participate in Ramp-Up to Readiness, a program aimed at increasing the share of students who go to college. The expanded program, developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota, was officially launched Monday at the St. Paul campus. Star Tribune.

June 6

To submit U of M staff or faculty for consideration in People, contact the Brief editor. For more information, see award & appointment submission guidelines.

Fred Wood named chancellor of UMC

Fred E. Wood 165Fred Wood has been named chancellor of UMC. He will begin the position July 2, pending approval by the U’s Board of Regents.Fred Wood has been named chancellor of the University of Minnesota’s campus in Crookston. He will begin the position July 2, pending approval by the university’s Board of Regents.

Wood comes to the University of Minnesota from the University of California, Davis, where he has been vice chancellor of student affairs and has held other leadership roles for 26 years.

As UMC chancellor, Wood will be the chief academic and executive officer for the Crookston campus, responsible for leveraging its unique strengths in undergraduate education, applied research and public engagement within the broader mission of the University of Minnesota. One of five U of M campuses, UMC is a public baccalaureate institution in Northwestern Minnesota enrolling 1,600 students.

A first-generation college student, Wood earned a B.S. in chemistry in 1980 and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry in 1984, both from UC Davis, a public land-grant research university within the University of California system. He spent two years as a tenured faculty member at a small community college in northern Idaho before returning to UC Davis in 1986 as vice chair of its chemistry department, responsible for coordinating curricular and co-curricular experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.

From 1991 to 2004 he was associate dean of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science. In 2004, he was named interim vice provost for undergraduate studies, a position he held until becoming vice chancellor of student affairs in 2007.

Wood, who was recommended by a systemwide search committee, succeeds Charles H. Casey, who is retiring after seven years as UMC chancellor and 26 years in other top University leadership roles. For more information, see the news release.

Leon Assael named dean of School of Dentistry

Leon Assael has been named dean of the University’s School of Dentistry by Provost Karen Hanson. His appointment as the next dean of the School of Dentistry is pending approval by the University’s Board of Regents, which is expected to act at its June 8 meeting. Assael succeeds interim dean Judith Buchanan and will begin Aug. 1.

Currently Assael is professor and chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Dentistry, where he also serves as medical director of Hospital Dental Services and director of the residency program in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

The announcement concludes an extensive national search, which yielded four finalists. Assael has an accomplished reputation in research, surgery and teaching, as well as previous experience as a dean.

Assael is a graduate of Columbia University and earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine from Harvard University, School of Dental Medicine, as well as a Certificate in Medical Management from the University of Kentucky, Gatton School of Business. He completed his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Vanderbilt University. Assael served as dean to the College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky until 2003, when he was appointed professor and chairman of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health & Science University.

He is the past editor-in-chief of the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the past chairman of the Council on Dental Education and Licensure of the American Dental Association, and a diplomate to the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In 2001, President George W. Bush awarded Assael the America’s Promise Award for advancements in oral health in Appalachia achieved by the University of Kentucky faculty. In 2010, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons awarded Assael the Board of Trustees special recognition award. Included among the professional societies on which he serves are the American Dental Association and the Hispanic Dental Association. Assael’s primary clinical interest is in the area of facial injuries, facial pain and maxillofacial nerve injuries, and he is a nationally known lecturer on a variety of issues. For more information, see the news release.

Board of Regents executive director Ann Cieslak to retire

University of Minnesota Board of Regents executive director and corporate secretary Ann Cieslak will retire June 17. Cieslak served seven Board of Regents chairs, three U of M presidents; and staffed two presidential searches.

Cieslak held the position for nearly 13 years, serving with seven Board of Regents chairs and three University presidents (Mark Yudof, Robert Bruininks, and Eric Kaler). In addition, she oriented new Regents to the University’s governance function and staffed two presidential searches, including the one that resulted in bringing current President Kaler to the University.

During her tenure, Cieslak helped the Board and administration navigate immense change at the state’s only public land grant research university.

Cieslak describes the Board of Regents as the most distinguished public board in the state of Minnesota. “Being a Regent is the ultimate volunteer appointment and the opportunity to serve as Board Secretary is a distinct honor,” she said.

In addition to her leadership role at the University of Minnesota, Cieslak served on the Board Professional Leadership Group (BPLG) of the Association of Governing Boards, a national organization that represents university regents and trustees. She chaired BPLG in 2009-2010. She also frequently presented at the association’s national workshops and co-authored The Role of the Board Professional, which has become the standard text and guide for those who work for higher education boards.

Cieslak will be recognized at the September Board of Regents meeting. A Board announcement outlining plans to fill the Executive Director and Corporate Secretary position will be forthcoming. For more information, see the news release.

U in the News: A selection of U faculty in the news

Forget large sodas, how about banning French fries?
Smart policies are essential to America's "war on obesity." The latest idea in that fight is a curious proposal from Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. He's planning to ban the sale of sugary drinks 16 ounces or larger in public venues such as restaurants and movie theaters. Mark A. Pereira is an associate professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. CNN.

Taking a bite out of summer
Bzzzzzzzz. Slap. Bzzzzzzzzz. Slap. Ahh, the soothing sounds of summer. Or in this case, a dread-filled realization that as nice as winter was, summer is starting early. And that means an influx of our warm-weather frenemies—creepy, crawly, stinging, buzzing, flying insects."How many bugs we see in the spring is a lot more complicated than a mild winter," said Jeff Hahn, an extension entomologist at the University of Minnesota. Star Tribune.

On campus beat: Meet U campus' next leader
Fred Wood was being driven through the center of the University of Minnesota, Crookston, campus when three young women approached -- on horseback. "Oh, this is home," he remembers thinking. "I have found home." Wood is set to become the next chancellor of the rural campus in northwest Minnesota in July. Star Tribune.

Why lions want to eat your kids
You might like to watch videos of cute-looking animals on YouTube, but be advised: Some of these animals would like to eat your children…Craig Packer of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota noted that while "some of the lions look quite playful in their attempts ... sometimes lions and cheetah will spend several minutes playing with wildebeest calves or gazelle fawns before finally chomping them." Star Tribune.

It's Time to Tax Happiness
As the presidential campaign kicks off, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are looking for popular ways to reduce a still-ballooning deficit…Based on studies of twins, professors David Lykken and Auke Tellegen of the University of Minnesota conclude that 80 percent of the differences in happiness-poll answers offered by respondents is due to permanent features of personal character. Bloomberg Businessweek.

Presidential Pay Is Still a Potent Political Target
In a long-simmering national fight over compensation for public-college presidents, the State of California emerged this year as the primary battleground…Eric W. Kaler, Mr. Bruininks’s successor, has said the payouts “hurt the public’s trust,” and the board is now considering a policy change that would limit payments administrators could receive on leave. Chronicle of Higher Education.

Minnesota apple crop survives frost with less damage than feared but some orchards struggle
The sudden cold snap that interrupted Minnesota's warm spring five weeks ago doesn't appear to have been as big a disaster for the state's apple crop as first feared, but it still has left some growers hurting and worried…The people I'm talking to are saying this isn't as bad as we thought," University of Minnesota apple breeder David Bedford said. Star Tribune.

Families Pay Average of $20K A Year in Health Care Costs
It's a record number in health care costs that no one is happy to hear about…Steve Parente analyzes health care costs for the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. KSTP-TV.