University, MnSCU lobby for more state bonding

by Megan Boldt

State legislators and University officials began Wednesday morning the first step in a difficult process to decide how much the state’s higher-education institutions will receive in bonding this year.
Members of the Senate higher-education committee listened to presentations given by officials from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and from the University of Minnesota about the academic work being done on campuses across the state. The University won’t know if its hard work paid off until the end of April.
“The purpose of this showcase was to see what is going on in the two systems,” said Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, the committee chairman.
The forum was organized to educate people about the priorities of the colleges, Stumpf said.
“It’s necessary to get the message out,” he added.
Christine Maziar, University vice president of research and dean of graduate schools, introduced several University students and faculty members to the committee.
“With the limited time we have, I can’t give you the breadth and depth of all our programs,” Maziar said to the committee.
She invited legislators to visit the University to get a firsthand look at what the campuses have to offer.
After Maziar spoke, a student from each University campus talked to the senators.
Derek Barraza, a freshman in the Carlson School of Management, said he chose the Twin Cities campus because of the business school’s good reputation.
He also said the cultural centers help Hispanic students like him adapt to a new state and meet new people.
“I am certain I will continue to enrich myself at the University,” Barraza said.
Faculty members also highlighted two important ongoing projects at the University.
Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, from the Center for Distributed Robotics, demonstrated the abilities of the robot “Scout,” which was produced by the efforts of a team of 15 students and faculty members.
“We can use these robots to go to places we don’t want humans to go,” said Papanikolopoulos.
Larry Wackett, a professor in the Biological Process Technology Institute, also told the committee about his research, which could aid in the cleanup of industrial chemicals and waste.
Stumpf said it is nice to see the practical applications of these various projects and how the state’s investments could pay off.
The Senate now needs to look at the funding for both the University and MnSCU and make some decisions.
“The next big project for us will be looking at the bonding requests,” Stumpf said.
He added the University and MnSCU have important projects that need continued funding.

Megan Boldt covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She also can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.