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Last week I welcomed members of the Minnesota House committees that oversee higher education funding and capital investment.

They came to campus to tour the facilities we hope to renovate, expand or replace with the $206 million we requested in state funding for a variety of University projects.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to greet them in the newly renovated Jones Hall ‘ home to our new Freshman Admissions Welcome Center ‘ which was made possible with funding from the Minnesota Legislature.

The grand opening last fall of this historic building ‘ the University’s new front door for students ‘ is just one example of how we’re working to transform the University from top to bottom.

Add Nicholson Hall, another historic structure, and you can see momentum is on our side to preserve and enhance everything that makes the University such a great place.

At last, our emerging humanities district, also including Folwell, Nolte, Pillsbury and Scott halls, is taking shape. And our students and alumni are taking notice.

“I think it’s great to see our historic buildings adapted to house new programs at the University,” Benjamin Beery, a junior in the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, wrote in a letter to me. “With the Jones Hall rehabilitation, these two buildings create a wonderful historic district and opportunity for students and faculty to appreciate the value of our history.”

But we have a lot more work to do. The 2006 session of the Minnesota Legislature begins today, and we need your help in supporting our request.

Our top priority is for what is known as higher education asset preservation and replacement for several systemwide improvements ‘ from replacing roofs and windows to installing heating systems. Thatis important work in restoring the oldest inventory of public buildings in Minnesota.

Also very important is $41.3 million for demolishing the existing Science Classroom Building at the head of the Washington Avenue Bridge and replacing it with a new and improved science building. The existing building was never finished, is outdated and impractical for teaching modern science and is arguably the ugliest building at the University ‘ hardly fitting for such a prime location. The new facility will serve more than 8,000 students each day.

Other requests in this year’s state bonding bill include:

> $26.6 million for constructing a new building alongside the Carlson School of Management so it can enroll 50 percent more undergraduate students by 2008. Currently, the school is able to serve only 12 percent of its applicants, and 42 percent of those not accepted ‘ some of the state’s best and brightest ‘ leave the state.

> $15.3 million for constructing a new building for Duluth’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics to serve its growing number of students. Enrollment has increased 65 percent over the past decade.

> $40 million for constructing a new medical biosciences building in Minneapolis to accommodate a growing number of world-class University researchers. This new facility will enhance the University’s medical research and biomedical engineering capabilities, which already have helped create thousands of jobs in Minnesota.

> $2.8 million for constructing new housing at Cedar Creek Natural History Area, remodeling the administration building, adding classrooms at the Cloquet Forestry Center and building a living laboratory for renewable energy and sustainable building design at the West Central Regional Outreach Center near Morris.

In January more than 400 people packed the great room in the McNamara Center to learn more about the University’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

It was a record turnout; I think due in part to the enthusiasm across the entire University system for transforming every facet. Momentum is building to make this very good University a great one.

But we still need your help and support. Please consider supporting the University’s legislative priorities by joining our Legislative Network at With your help, we can ensure Minnesota lawmakers understand that investing in the University is one of the best investments they can make ‘ for the state, the nation and the world.

As Winston Churchill once said, “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.”

Bob Bruininks is the president of the University. Please send comments to [email protected]