UMR students get involved in university development

A growing student body has spurred changes in UMR programs.

Luke Feuerherm

Selecting a university mascot is not a momentous task for most students, but for those at the University of Minnesota-Rochester, the opportunity is yet another indication of their involvement in the schoolâÄôs development. While the student body sorts out its new mascot this summer, administrators are working with students to tweak the fledgling Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program before it enters its second year. Students can submit mascot recommendations by text, e-mail or Facebook post until May 31. The field will then be narrowed to five mascot choices in June, and once again to a top three before a winner is selected. The new mascot will be revealed Sept. 2 at the First Music and Market Festival. âÄúItâÄôs a great point of community engagement for us because we donâÄôt have anything to identify with,âÄù said spokeswoman Sarah Kelling. Last year was the first time UMR admitted first-year students. Previously, UMR students were primarily enrolled at other coordinate campuses. The BSHS program is experimental in design and is being built one year at a time as the first class develops. âÄúYou kind of learn as you go along,âÄù Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle said. âÄúItâÄôs not that weâÄôre starting from scratch, but you learn from your experiences. YouâÄôre doing it with a smaller group of students so that you can make sure that the students are supported, and then you have a much better idea of what youâÄôre doing the next year.âÄù Last year the program admitted 57 first-year students. âÄúI think itâÄôs great,âÄù sophomore Ellie Linscheid said. âÄúWe are the seniors every year.âÄù UMR developed a first-year program and all students who enrolled took the same classes, with the lone difference being enrollment in calculus or pre-calculus. Now, last yearâÄôs students become the schoolâÄôs first sophomore class, requiring the University to develop a curriculum and hire professors for year two of the BSHS. âÄúLast year we brought in the faculty to bring in the first year experience,âÄù Lehmkuhle said. âÄúThis past year we now hired the faculty who will come in to do the sophomore experience âĦ We will be hiring anywhere from 10 to 12 faculty each year.âÄù This innovative development is coinciding with that of student life on the small campus. The development Gov. Tim Pawlenty established the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee in 2005. In December of the following year, UMR became a University of Minnesota coordinate campus, joining Duluth, Morris and Crookston. Earlier this year, the Rochester City Council announced that part of the cityâÄôs sales tax will be allocated for the expansion of the UMR campus in downtown Rochester. UMR also recently elected Evan Doyle, its first representative to serve on the UniversityâÄôs student senate. The election came after student government leaders from the other campuses traveled to Rochester in March to establish a new student government there. Challenges RochesterâÄôs narrow focus and small student body afford the school greater flexibility and increased communication between students and administrators, but the student body is quickly growing. Next year, the school will bring in between 100 and 125 students, potentially double the previous yearâÄôs enrollment of 57, Lehmkuhle said. The school will continue to expand each freshman class until that number reaches 250, capping total enrollment at 1,000. Aside from size, the BSHS also faces another dilemma: The program attracts more females than males. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot less males than females,âÄù Linscheid said. âÄúIt is definitely something we notice.âÄù Last year Rochester admitted 40 women and 17 men. Lehmkuhle said that it isnâÄôt something the school is concerned with. Administrators have decided to let the market dictate who applies, he said. Solidifying an identity Whether the mascot is a rumored favorite like the labbies or the healers, the choice gives the new campus an identity. âÄúWhatever mascot we select, that mascot needs to represent our core values and our mission,âÄù Lehmkuhle said, when asked if he had a favorite in the voting. At this point he would only rule out a couple suggestions. âÄúWe are not the Gophers,âÄù he said. âÄúThe Gophers are already taken.âÄù Current University of Minnesota mascots include the Gophers (Twin Cities), Bulldogs (Duluth), Cougars (Morris) and Eagles (Crookston).