Rybak to teach U classes

After his mayoral term ends, R.T. Rybak will teach three semesters at the University.

by Jessica Lee

After more than a decade at City Hall, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is going back to school.

Rybak will begin teaching courses next semester at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School and the College of Design, the University announced Wednesday.

The outgoing mayor will teach “Mayor 101” this spring and lead an urban case studies class in CDES next fall, said Humphrey School Dean Eric Schwartz.

Rybak has served as Minneapolis’ mayor since 2001. His successor will be chosen Nov. 5 when 35 mayoral candidates — eight with active campaigns — will be listed on the ballot.

Rybak announced Wednesday that he will also serve as the executive director of Generation Next beginning in January. Founded in 2012, the group works to close the city’s achievement gap and is co-chaired by University President Eric Kaler.

The outgoing mayor will hold a unique position at the University, Schwartz said.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done this,” he said. “I think it’s really a unique, exciting opportunity for our students in both programs.”

Because programs from the two colleges often intersect, Schwartz said, it was natural for the two to partner for Rybak’s joint appointment.

The classes will be open to undergraduate and graduate students, and CDES Dean Tom Fisher said he would like students from across the University to have access.

“Given light to Mayor Rybak’s public life and public policy, the Humphrey appointment made all of the sense in the world,” Schwartz said. “By the same token, given Mayor Rybak’s engagement in issues in urban design, the association with the College of Design also seemed like a very logical one.”

The new class being offered this spring will address problems that actual cities or neighborhoods face.

“The course will focus on four core themes that Mayor Rybak believes are absolutely critical,” Schwartz said.

He will explain to students how to grow a city, invest in the city’s people and the common good, and create a safe “place to call home,” Schwartz said.

Humphrey School Dean Advisory Council member Roger Parkinson met with Rybak last winter, and Schwartz and Fisher were involved in the conversation shortly thereafter, to discuss what the mayor would pursue once his tenure came to a close.

“I began talking to Mayor Rybak many months ago,” Schwartz said. “I thought that it was an extraordinary opportunity for us to take advantage of a wealth of experience that Mayor Rybak has had as mayor, for well over a decade, in one of the most dynamic urban areas in the country.”

With Metropolitan Design Center Director Ignacio San Martín resigning soon, CDES will be in need of an instructor, Fisher said.

“We thought that R.T. would be a great person to do that because of his involvement in and his knowledge of how urban places get designed and built,” he said.

San Martín said Rybak would offer a fresh perspective for students because they often learn about the nuts and bolts of design but rarely learn about the challenges cities face while implementing the plans.

“I think that R.T. is going to bring a very unique ability to understand the realities and the politics of being mayor and implementing how to bring the city forward,” San Martín said.

He said Rybak will be able to give students a comprehensive and “realistic understanding” of what it takes to build a city.

The course enrollment caps have not been identified, but Schwartz said they will not be “huge” classes.

The position is supported by private funds from University gifts, according to a University press release.

During his time at the University, Rybak will also lead a conference about the challenges cities face and will teach a course next spring that has not yet been identified.

“My goal is to blend my practical experience as mayor with the intelligence, curiosity and idealism of the U’s great students, in order to help them become the next generation of leaders and visionaries for our cities,” Rybak said in a University statement.