Rochester campus expansion aims to reach area businesses

The campus will offer new degrees and the opportunity to make business connections.

Courtney Blanchard

With the Mayo Clinic and IBM, Rochester long has been a haven for science, technology and business. Now the University is making the small southeastern Minnesota city in a haven for ambitious students.

This fall, the University of Minnesota-Rochester will offer five new degree programs, hire new faculty members and offer students and faculty members business connections through its new Center for Technology Commercialization.

University Regent David Metzen, who serves on the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee and has worked to expand the Rochester campus, considered the program a logical expansion.

“The University should have a greater presence in Rochester,” he said.

Created in 1999, the Rochester campus offers specific degrees at the doctoral and master’s levels, Rochester Provost David Carl said.

The degrees are awarded from the Twin Cities or Duluth campuses, and the faculty usually is made up of professors at those universities – taught on-site or through two-way television.

Carl said the plan is not to change how degrees are awarded, but to offer more in-depth programs in health sciences and biotechnology and bring full-time faculty members into Rochester. Students also will be able to connect to institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and IBM.

“A student can earn a (University) degree while doing their clinical at Mayo or practicum at IBM,” Carl said.

Kent Spaulding, business relationship manager for the Center for Technology Commercialization, said the center’s goal is to connect businesses with students and faculty members at Rochester.

For example, a business can request that students and faculty members work on developing a new product or researching new technology.

After four months on the job, Spaulding said the biggest results come from businesses reaching out to the campus.

He added that student placement is a big part of what the center does, along with creating student ties to industry around Rochester.

Patricia Simmons, a University regent and professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic, said the city has wanted more higher education opportunities for years.

“It’s a growing community with no presence of a four-year University,” she said.

Last year the state Legislature authorized $3.2 million for the project to get under way. It will be a slow process, however, because the satellite campus needs new buildings and funding on a schedule of “incremental growth,” Simmons said.

“It’s kind of an expansion of the Twin Cities campus,” Metzen said.

However, he said, University President Bob Bruininks stressed that any funding for the expansion will not take away from the Twin Cities campus or the rest of the University system.

Metzen said the Legislature set up a system of incremental funding for the expansion over time, and the city of Rochester has contributed a significant amount of private and public money for the project.

“Anytime you have an expansion Ö it revolves around having great people working for us,” Metzen said.