UMN St. Paul vision considers campus’ long-term goals

The plan, once completed, will look 30 years into the future.

by Helen Sabrowsky

The University of Minnesota is in the early stages of a plan to revamp the St. Paul campus. 

The institution began collecting data on how students feel about the St. Paul campus earlier this month for the St. Paul facility plan — an academic-centered plan that identifies general areas in need of improvement — which President Eric Kaler initiated last year. The plan looks 30 years into the future, and information from the plan will be made available to the public next fall.

After collecting data from the survey and colleges, the project’s steering committee will look at St. Paul campus’ long-term goals and how to reach them.

The strategic plan is focused on academic, financial and physical planning, said Mike Berthelsen, vice president of University Services. As the University considers capital investments on the St. Paul campus, the plan will ensure an academic vision leads those decisions, he said.

The team is considering input from deans, senior faculty members and St. Paul student groups and boards to create a cohesive plan, Berthelsen said.

“St. Paul is an integral piece of the Twin Cities campus, and there is room for the entire campus to be engaged in the planning,” he said.  

The CFANS Undergraduate Student Board wants the plan to include St. Paul Student Center renovations, Bailey Hall improvements, campus safety measures and bus transportation, said Kenzie Barth, a Minnesota Student Association representative from the CFANS Undergraduate Student Board. 

“We have started to reach out to students to get their opinions and ideas on what the St. Paul campus is, what it can be and what it should be,” Barth said. 

While the student board hasn’t met with the steering committee yet, they have started gathering feedback from students who spend time on the St. Paul campus, she said. 

CFANS, which occupies about three-quarters of the space on the St. Paul campus, has also played a large role in the strategic plan’s development, said CFANS Dean Brian Buhr. 

“From the beginning, we have had a conversation with University leadership on how we can re-envision the St. Paul campus for 21st century research,” he said.

Additionally, CFANS wants to increase student diversity, which has been a focus of the college in recent years. In the planning for the St. Paul campus, this focus means ensuring all buildings are physically accessible, looking at the needs of LGBT students and emphasizing mental health by creating quiet spaces around campus, Buhr said.

CFANS is also looking at ways they can increase public outreach. The college wants St. Paul campus to be inviting and engaging to all Minnesotans, Buhr said. The Bell Museum is an example of this type of gateway because it’s a place where the public can learn but also has a research component, he said.

Though the plan will inform all capital projects on the St. Paul campus, it will not include specific dates for projects, Berthelsen said.

“It’s more of a time horizon rather than short term tactical decisions,” Berthelsen said. “It helps people focus on long-term direction and trends.”