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University of Minnesota Retirees Association
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Retiree Activities

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Synopsis of UMRA Activities
Photo Club
Book Club
President's Column

Synopsis of UMRA Activities

At monthly luncheons throughout the academic year, members renew long-standing friendships with former colleagues, make new acquaintances, and strengthen a sense of connection with the university community. Each month speakers from within and outside the university address a variety of scholarly, informative, and entertaining topics. Luncheons are currently held on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Campus Club.

At a general luncheon meeting each spring, members elect association officers and conduct other business. Each year, UMRA invites new faculty and staff retirees to join the organization and seeks ways to encourage existing members to participate in association activities. Membership Form (Word document).

In addition to this website, UMRA publishes a monthly newsletter reporting on association activities and providing information on health care issues, alumni activities, Regents’ decisions, and other matters of interest to the membership.

UMRA actively promotes improvements in faculty and staff retirement benefits. UMRA also tracks discussions of and seeks improvements in health insurance coverage for retirees. Additional descriptions of UMRA activites are given in the section called Member Benefits and How to Join Back

 

Photo Club meets on third Fridays in 2014-15

WAG - Weisman Art Gallery

The Photo Club will be meeting this fall on the third Friday of each month. Most meetings are at the Hennepin County St. Anthony Public Library (2941 Pentagon Dr., N.E., St. Anthony) from 1 to 3 p.m.

All are welcome. The agenda for most meetings is sharing photos, photo tips, and ideas, and a large dose of good fellowship. Sometimes we gather at a Twin Cities location for a photo shoot.

Please contact Craig Swan, swan@umn.edu, or Jean Kinsey, jkinsey@umn.edu so we will know to expect you and can add your name to the contact list for updated information. See you at our next meeting for fun, fellowship and fotos..

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Book Club

The UMRA Book Club was founded in March of 2011. It meets on the third Friday of every month at 2 p.m. at the 1666 Coffman Building near the St. Paul campus.

In July and August of 2014, we read and discussed a nonfiction book by Peter Godwin about Zimbabwe named WHEN A CROCODILE EATS THE SUN and a novel by Jamie Ford named HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.

Upcoming books include BEWARE OF PITY by Stefan Zweig for September, BLACK, WHITE, BLUE by William Swanson for October, and DEAFENING by Canadian author, Frances Itani, for November. So far we’ve had an interesting mix of fiction and non- fiction books chosen by each of us members who then act as discussion leader for their book.

Our 2015 book list will be created at our November meeting with no meeting planned for December.  We happily welcome new members. 

--Contact Pat Tollefson, p-toll@umn.edu, for more information. Back

President's Column, October 2014

The September issue of The Atlantic carried an article by Graeme Wood titled “Is College Doomed?” The introductory description reads, “Traditional college—expensive, arguably inefficient, slow to change—is widely seen as ripe for dissolution.” Wood goes on to describe some of the competition to the traditional institution.

Some years ago, I served on an American Council of Education task force studying how to manage the impending entry of for-profit institutions into the higher education arena. After long discussions, we concluded that regional accreditation associations would be the gatekeepers to such entries. That was before the North Central Association accredited Phoenix University, an institution with few regular full-time faculty members, and no campus. That opened the door to dozens of other for-profit institutions with similar credentials.

But the insurgents aren’t all for-profit colleges. some of them are being birthed and nourished by traditional universities and colleges.

Best known of these is the MOOC movement. MOOC stands for Mass Open Online Course. These courses are offered free by some of America’s most prestigious universities: MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Duke, Yale, and Carnegie Mellon.

In a website called “MOOCs: Top Open Sites for Free Education,” the claim is made: “Although there has been access to free online courses on the Internet for years, the quality and quantity has changed. Access to free courses has allowed students to obtain a level of education that many only could dream of in the past. This has changed the face of education.”

Hundreds of thousands of students have registered in these courses. For example, The Atlantic reported that, in a recent survey done at the University of Pennsylvania of these students, 1.8 million registrants took 36 MOOCs. The Harvard course, “The Ancient Greek Hero” recently enrolled over 31,000 students; and Stanford’s MOOC course on artificial intelligence enrolled more than 160,000. Huge as these numbers are, the MOOC dropout rates are high. For example, only 5 percent of the students in the Penn study completed the average MOOC course and received a certificate.

Even though the dropout rate for MOOC courses is high, some traditional institutions are beginning to adopt frOMthEprEsIDENt and adapt the courses into their curricula and are giving their credits for them. Nathan Heller, in a New Yorker article entitled “Laptop U,” reported, “Following a trial run at San Jose State University, which yielded higher-than-usual pass rates, 11 schools in the California State University system moved to incorporate MOOCs into their curricula.”

The temptation to import MOOC courses, developed by leading institutions’ teaching stars and offered free, into an engineering program at a second tier college is, at this time, economically seductive. But this might be a fatal embrace to some of those programs, as it may well lead to cutting down their own resident faculty and turning others into course assistants for the MOOC. And at what point will the MOOCs begin to cost the users?

Facing public concerns about rising tuition costs, student debts, and declining legislative support, the traditional universities are turning to adjunct instruction and the Internet to expand their audience to working adults who want the credential of a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Some of them have simply expanded their own offerings to attract the audience that MOOCs were designed to serve. For instance, Western Governors University is a consortium of public universities in those states, offering online degrees for courses provided by their members. Arizona State University recently announced the availability of more than 70 online degree programs. They have also announced a partnership with Starbucks Coffee to form the Starbucks Ccollege Achievement Plan, helping baristas and others to complete their “journey in higher education.”

The University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education has been serving this population for years. At our October luncheon, Dean Mary Nichols will describe recent initiatives that Minnesota has been taking to address these developments.

Most of us who have spent our careers here might look at these developments and dire predictions, remembering Mark Twain’s remark that “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” It was, but it was eventually true. Let’s hope that the University of Minnesota can make the adaptations needed to thrive in this changing and dynamic higher education scene.

— Hal Miller, UMRA President miller@umn.edu

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Group lunch.