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Awards, appointments, and other news

Compiled by Adam Overland




May 21

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


CFANS names Brian Buhr as dean

Brian Buhr has been named dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.

Buhr has been interim dean and director since August 2013. As dean of CFANS, Buhr will oversee the college's administration and academics and will work to advance the college as one of the world's premier research and educational centers dedicated to agricultural and food productivity, biodiversity, forestry, and the preservation of natural resources.

As director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, he will oversee funding for researchers in five U of M colleges focused on cross-disciplinary problem solving to help improve the lives of Minnesotans.

Buhr is a professor of applied economics who joined the University's faculty in 1992 and became head of the applied economics department in 2008. His expertise is in commodity marketing, with an emphasis on livestock markets. He has worked extensively with commodity groups and industry on risk management, value-added marketing and the economic impacts of policy and technology. An Iowa native, Buhr earned his Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University.

As interim dean for the last nine months, he has been engaged in public and legislative advocacy for the college and University. Working with college and U of M leaders, he successfully advocated for legislative support of key laboratory renovations on the St. Paul campus as well as funding for a new Terrestrial Invasive Species Research Center. He's also a co-leader of the University's MnDRIVE global food initiative, and recently renewed a partnership with Brazilian agricultural leaders to advance global food and natural resource research exchanges.

Buhr will be the second dean of CFANS since the college was created in 2006. His appointment is effective June 16, pending approval by the University's Board of Regents.

Doris Duke Impact Award

Professor Michael Sommers (theatre arts & dance) is among the first-ever recipients of the Doris Duke Impact Award (PDF), which is $80,000. The award, from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, is part of a special, ten-year initiative of the foundation to empower, invest in and celebrate artists by offering flexible, multi-year funding in response to financial challenges that are specific to the performing arts.

Innovative ideas in interdisciplinary graduate education

The Graduate School has recognized five innovative ideas in interdisciplinary graduate education in its Call for Innovative Ideas competition. Each of the winners will receive a modest award from the Graduate School to help launch the projects.

Funded Proposals:

The Case for Quality: Creating training tools to integrate quality assurance (QA) into academic research programs.

Rebecca L. Davies, Veterinary Medicine (College of Veterinary Medicine)

Stream Restoration Science and Engineering

Karen Gran, Geological Sciences (Swenson College of Science and Engineering, Duluth); Vaughan Voller, Civil Engineering (College of Science and Engineering)

Food Studies Field Guide

Tracey Deutsch, History (College of Liberal Arts); Emily Hoover, Horticultural Science (College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences); Rachel Schurman, Sociology (College of Liberal Arts)

Emerging Technologies Workshop

Graduate student members of the Center for Cognitive Sciences: Caitlin Cole (Doctoral candidate, Child Psychology, College of Education and Human Development), Marc Pisansky (Doctoral candidate, Neuroscience, Medical School), Nicole Scott (Doctoral candidate, Cognitive Science, College of Liberal Arts), Elizabeth Stephens (Doctoral student, Child Psychology, College of Education and Human Development), and Scott Warren (Doctoral candidate, Neuroscience, Medical School) 

Graduate Research Groups

CLA (College of Liberal Arts) Committee on the Humanistic Commons: Michael Kobialka (Theater Arts & Dance), Timothy Brennan (Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature), Juliette Cherbuliez (French and Italian), Ana Paula Ferreira (Spanish & Portuguese), Nanette Hanks (Associate Dean for Curriculum), Jason McGrath (Asian Languages & Literatures), Paula Rabinowitz (English), J.B. Shank (History)

Excellence in HR Practices Award

OHR's Employee Engagement Program recently received the Midwest Region Excellence in HR Practices Award, the top award given by the Midwest region of College and University Professionals Association for Human Resources (CUPA). As a result, OHR is now a nominee for the CUPA's national Excellence in HR Practices Award.

The engagement program, launched in 2013, was recognized for improving the quality of programs through effective human resource administrative practices, creative application of human resource principles, strong leadership, and recognition within the institution as providing an outstanding HR program.

The University's employee engagement program is among the most robust in higher education, with an annual survey that received a 57 percent response rate, the highest ever at the U of M. OHR is supporting colleges and units as they make small changes based on local results to maintain and increase engagement with communities of practice and resources.


U in the News: A selection of U faculty and staff in the news as appearing daily in Today's News.

Sidewalk work blamed for toppling 3,000 Minneapolis trees last summer
Sidewalk repairs doomed more than 3,000 trees that were toppled by strong winds and storms last June, prompting recommendations to prevent such a massive treefall during future storms. U of M College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences' Gary Johnson comments. Star Tribune.

A professor, tree care consultant, and city forester weigh in on Emerald Ash Borer
To the horror of neighboring residents, the city of St. Paul recently removed ash trees up and down Lexington Parkway. It's a decision that rests fine with forest insect specialist Brian Aukema, a professor with the University of Minnesota's Department of Entomology. Pioneer Press.

Gophers coach Jerry Kill starts foundation for epilepsy awareness
University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill announced a new fund Thursday morning to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation. Coach Kill has suffered several high-profile seizures at Gophers football games, and now he wants to help others with epilepsy. KSTP TV.

'White privilege' survey sparks debate in St. Paul Public Schools
It's part of a larger racial equity training program, but there are some employees at the St. Paul Public School District who are not crazy about an optional survey called "White Privilege." U of M African American and African Studies' Keith Mayes comments. KSTP.

Brooklyn director asks 'Do I Sound Gay?' in new documentary
Not only is David Thorpe gay, but he also sounds gay. This fact so consumed the 45-year-old Brooklyn resident that he spent his past three years talking to more than 100 people in four countries about sounding gay. U of M speech-language-hearing professor Benjamin Munson comments. LA Daily News.

When Wal-Mart leaves, there go the shops in the neighborhood
As more anchors of malls close or change hands--such as 18 Rainbow grocery stores whose sale was announced earlier this month--communities are dealing with the ups and downs of the "big box" halo effect. U of M Carlson School of Management's Mark Bergen comments. Pioneer Press.

Precision agriculture becomes mainstream in Minnesota
As Marty Amundson and hundreds of other corn farmers began tilling, fertilizing and planting last week, an increasing number are turning to technology to optimize their crop. U of M College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences' David Mulla comments. Star Tribune.

The effects of ACA in the doctor's office
The White House has said 8 million people signed up by mid-April for private health insurance through the new exchanges. It's not clear how many of them are newly insured, but primary care providers around the nation are reportedly seeing more patients through the doors as a result of the Affordable Care Act. U of M Medical School's Jon Hallberg comments. MPR.

Why isn't dental work covered under most health plans?
Anyone who has had an infected tooth, a root canal or their wisdom teeth pulled might have wondered: Why isn't dental work covered under most health care plans? U of M Carlson School of Management's Stephen Parente comments. WCCO TV.

Bill Clinton to speak at U next month on civil rights, accept award
Former President Bill Clinton will speak at the University of Minnesota next month about the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs dean Eric Schwartz comments. Star Tribune.

The boffins and the bees
When the University of Minnesota put out the Honeycrisp apple in the early nineties, they quickly realized they were onto something. People, even kids, were choosing this apple as a snack over candy, over chips, over fries. Today, that idea continues to drive professor of Horticultural Science James Luby's research. MinnPost.

Dating in the digital age
Singles can choose online dating, singles exchanges or old-fashioned luck while looking for their soul mates. U of M College of Education and Human Development's Tai Mendenhall comments. KARE 11.

Minnesota poised to be 1st state to ban soap chemical triclosan
Minnesota appears likely to become the first state to ban triclosan, a chemical commonly found in hand soaps that scientists say hurts waterways. U of M College of Science and Engineering's Bill Arnold's research is cited. Bring Me The News.

Critics come with territory for U climate change prof
Paul Bolstad, a professor in the University of Minnesota's Forest Resources Department, was one of the many authors of the National Climate Assessment released last week and discusses its findings. Star Tribune.

Schools see free breakfast as key to better learning
St. Paul schools and other districts across the state have found ways to ensure that more students eat a good breakfast--and the results are showing up in the classroom. U of M Medical School's Chrisa Arcan comments. MPR.

7 ways pets improve your health
When you come home to a purr or wagging tail at the end of a stressful day, the sudden wave of calm you feel isn't just your imagination. Research suggests that your fluffy friend truly is good for your physical and mental health. U of M Boynton Health Service's Gary Christenson comments. Time.


May 14

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


DOE Early Career Research Award

University of Minnesota physics and astronomy assistant professor Rafael Fernandes is one of only 35 scientists from across the nation selected by the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science to receive significant funding for research as part of DOE's Early Career Research Program.

Fernandes received his Ph.D. in physics from State University of Campinas in Brazil in 2008 and joined the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor in 2012. Before coming to Minnesota, he was a postdoctoral researcher at Ames Laboratory and a joint postdoctoral research at Columbia University/Los Alamos National Lab. His main research activities are in theoretical condensed matter physics.

The DOE's Early Career Research Program, now in its fifth year, is designed to bolster the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

Under the program, university-based researchers will receive at least $150,000 per year to cover summer salary and research expenses. The research grants are planned for five years. For more information, see the announcement.


U in the News: A selection of U faculty and staff in the news as appearing daily in Today's News.

The power of pets
Having a pet improves both your mental and physical health, even having something as small as a guinea pig. U of M Boynton Health Service's Gary Christenson comments. Sunday World.

Food fight intensifies with 'Fed Up' documentary
America's ongoing food fight intensified Friday with the premiere of "Fed Up," a searing indictment of the role that food manufacturers, agribusiness and Washington play in the obesity epidemic. U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication's Marco Yzer comments. Star Tribune.

Behind the music: Children's Hospital's 'Brave' cover
From the moment the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital's nurses and patients unveiled their version of Sara Bareilles' song 'Brave,' it was sure to go viral. But U of M Children's Hospital nurses Brittany Bloemke and Natalie Snyder never knew it would be this big. WCCO TV.

The workplace flexibility experiment
A controlled experiment about flexible work schedules aims to bring scientific rigor to the debate. For six months, researchers from the University of Minnesota followed hundreds of employees at a Fortune 500 IT company to see what happened when some workers were permitted to determine when and where they worked. U of M College of Liberal Arts' Erin Kelly discusses her research. Wall Street Journal.

U of M study finds Iraq, Afghan vets struggle with access to food
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are far more likely to have trouble getting enough food to eat than the average U.S. citizen. U of M School of Public Health's Rachel Widome comments on her study's findings. Star Tribune.

University of Minnesota budget freezes tuition again
The University of Minnesota plans to freeze resident undergraduate tuition, hire more faculty and continue trimming administrative positions next academic year. U of M Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter comments. Pioneer Press.

Blazing research trails at 'U' Children's Hospital
When you send your child to a hospital that specializes in children's care, you expect to have the best doctors and nurses working on the case. You may not expect teams of researchers to be working on more than 200 different grants and contracts. U of M Medical School's Jakub Tolar comments. WCCO TV.

Early fitness can improve the middle-age brain
The more physically active you are in your 20s, the better your thinking tends to be when you reach middle age, according to a large-scale new study. But it's never too late to improve the health of your brain. U of M School of Public Health's David Jacobs comments. New York Times.

How cities can be designed to help - or hinder - sharing
City-dwellers are more likely than others to share housing, transit and knowledge. Creating a new urban economy depends on valuing this interaction over individual consumption. U of M College of Design Dean Tom Fisher comments. San Diego Free Press.

Understanding post traumatic stress disorder
U of M Brain Sciences Center's Brian Engdahl talks about the reality of PTSD and how those suffering from the disorder can get effective help. NBC New York.

Plain clothes, special care at Children's Hospital
U of M Children's Hospital's Sarah Wiebler and Aimee Nelson discuss their role working with patients. WCCO TV.

The University's No. 1 ambassador
Karen Kaler, wife to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, wields her role at the helm of the University's leadership as one of the institution's most hardworking unpaid advocates — a constant embodiment of Gopher pride. The Minnesota Daily.

Unwanted parrots find sanctuary in St. Paul
Midwest Avian Adoption & Rescue Services is an organization that for the last five years has operated a facility in St. Paul that functions as a sort of home for wayward parrots. U of M College of Veterinary Medicine's Julia Ponder comments. Pioneer Press.


May 7

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


U receives $900,000 to support Chinese studies

Two projects at the University of Minnesota have received significant funding to support Chinese studies. The Department of Asian Languages and Literatures (ALL) is receiving a two-year, $600,000 grant from The Language Flagship—an initiative of the National Security Education Program within the Department of Defense—to develop a Chinese Language Flagship program, which will provide Chinese language instruction to the professional-level. The Institute for Global Studies has received a four-year, $300,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to form a coalition of arts scholars from area colleges to use the arts as a starting point for the study of cultural transitions. For more information, see the news release.

Natural Capital Project to add research positions

The Natural Capital Project, a core program of the Institute on the Environment, will add three full-time research positions: a lead scientist, an ecologist, and an economist. The growing NatCap presence at IonE will enhance the program's ability to meet increasing demand for data and tools that quantify the values of natural capital.

The Natural Capital Project is a partnership of Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. The goal of the partnership is to bring together leading natural scientists and economists to develop user-friendly tools and approaches that could inform conservation and development decisions worldwide. Since its founding in 2006, NatCap has informed decisions in more than 20 global projects—guiding investments in water security in Latin America, in coastal protection in the Gulf of Mexico, in food security and economic diversification in Belize, and in conservation and land-use planning in China.

Librarian/Media Specialists of Merit award

Mary Schoenborn and Lynn Skupeko from University Libraries were awarded the 2014 "Librarian/Media Specialists of Merit" May 3 at the State History Day award ceremony. History Day is sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota.


U in the News: A selection of U faculty and staff in the news as appearing daily in Today's News.

7 ways pets improve your health
When you come home to a purr or wagging tail at the end of a stressful day, the sudden wave of calm you feel isn't just your imagination. Research suggests that your fluffy friend truly is good for your physical and mental health. U of M Boynton Health Service's Gary Christenson comments. ABC News.

Researchers aim to make the U a major Parkinson's research center
Under the leadership of Dr. Jerrold Vitek, a world-renowned researcher and neurologist, the University of Minnesota has been building an interdisciplinary team to study Parkinson’s from the molecular level through clinical treatments. U of M neurophysiologist Colum MacKinnon comments. Star Tribune.

Decoding Jeff Jonas
Decoding Jeff Jonas, wizard of big data. U of M College of Science and Engineering's James Cortada comments. National Geographic.

Are teen jobs becoming a luxury good?
As recently as 2000, 45 percent of Americans age 16-19 worked in some capacity in an average month. These days, only about a quarter do, the lowest rate since just after World War II. U of M College of Liberal Arts' Jeylan Mortimer comments. The Boston Globe.

Planned Minnesota mine pits jobs against environment
Plans for a mine in Minnesota's Iron Range could mean lots of jobs—and lots of environmental headaches. U of M Duluth geologist Jim Miller comments. Businessweek.

Minnesota farm numbers decline 8 percent
The number of farms in Minnesota fell 8 percent from 2007 to 2012 and the biggest farms in the state got bigger, according to new federal data released Friday. U of M Extension's Dale Nordquist comments. Pioneer Press.

Coach Reeve challenges media to include Lynx among 'big' local teams
Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve discusses media coverage of women's teams and their comparison to "Big 4" sports. U of M School of Kinesiology's Nicole LaVoi comments. MinnPost.

More local Somalis head home
An ongoing University of Minnesota research project from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs is collecting stories from immigrant Somalis in the Twin Cities to find out why many are returning home. U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs' Ryan Allen comments on his research. The Minnesota Daily.

U research pushes for agriculture drones
Amid the raging national debate over drones infringing on privacy, some University of Minnesota professors are pushing for heavier use of the technology to advance agricultural research. U of M Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Lab Director Brian Taylor comments. The Minnesota Daily.

Congress takes up food labeling fight
Some states require labels disclosing use of genetically modified ingredients, but Minnesota’s big foodmakers oppose such initiatives. U of M Veterinary Population Medicine's William Hueston comments. StarTribune.

3 surprising ways your office shapes your success
Whether you know it or not, your workspace changes the way you work. U of M Carlson School of Management's Joan Meyers-Levy comments. Yahoo! News.