New University regents sworn in

The regents also talked about student retention rates and the rec center.

by Anna Weggel

The Board of Regents swore in and welcomed two new and two returning regents at its monthly meeting Thursday.

In the ceremony, returning Regents Dallas Bohnsack and Anthony Baraga, along with newly elected Regents Steven Hunter and David Larson, said they promised to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office of regent of the University of Minnesota to the best of (his) judgment and ability.”

While the appointments were one significant part of the day’s business, another discussion relied on an apparent connection between student retention and the use of recreational sports on campus.

According to data presented to the regents, students who use recreational sports facilities are more likely to remain at the University beyond their first year.

Jim Turman, assistant vice provost for student affairs and director of the department of recreational sports, presented the report.

According to the data, first-year students who never attended the center in 2002 had an

82.1 percent first-year retention rate, whereas first-year students who attended the center between 20 and 39 times in a school year had 91.4 percent.

Turman said that along with improving retention rates, the center is a good recruiting tool.

“It’s a major criterion for college choice,” he said.

During the meeting, Nathan Wanderman, a student representative to the board, said space issues at the center dissatisfied him.

Wanderman said the racquetball courts are often taken and the basketball courts are very limited.

He said the University put more effort into solving space problems so more students could participate in recreational activities.

“It should be a priority of University capital planning efforts,” he said.

According to 2001 Twin Cities campus Student Interest Survey results, students rated the University’s recreation center as their second-best experience, behind the academic experience.

Students rated recreational sports higher than the overall University experience, student organizations and activities, student health service and the student union.

In other regents news

Eugene Allen, associate vice president for international programs, presented learning abroad issues to the board’s Educational Planning and Policy Committee.

Allen said the University is working toward a goal of a 50 percent participation rate for learning abroad for undergraduate students.

The goal is higher than those of other large research institutions with officially stated goals.

Allen said institutions with higher rates of participation are generally small, private liberal arts colleges.

There are limitations to studying abroad that can often hinder a student from participating in the program, Allen said.

He called these limitations “the five F’s,” which include financing, fit into curriculum, family and friends, faculty and fear.

Allen said the minimum grade point average for students who want to study abroad is 2.5, and first-year students are not encouraged to participate.

Regent Patricia Simmons said she thinks that for some, studying abroad would not serve well.

“I’m glad we’re not looking at increasing (the percentage),” she said. “I don’t know if 50 is the right number.”

Regent David Larson said he spent a year abroad in Mexico as a college sophomore.

He said his institution was on a quarter system, and so many people came abroad to the school for short periods of time it became a “first-class party school.”

“The experience wasn’t the same,” he said. “A semester is much more valuable than a couple of weeks.”