Biomed funds top U agenda

Nina Petersen-Perlman

University President Bob Bruininks proposed long-term funding for new biomedical science research facilities Thursday in his annual State of the University address.

To compete with other states that are making enormous research investments, Bruininks said, the University must add about five state-of-the-art buildings and about 50 researchers over the next decade.

The $330 million request will go before the Minnesota Legislature this session, adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars already in University bonding requests.

“Does that mean we’re decreasing our commitment to other vital areas of research? Absolutely not.” Bruininks said. “But the biomedical sciences comprise more than $300 million annually, more than one half of the University’s proposal.”

University Regent Patricia Simmons, who also works for the Mayo Clinic, said the University should be a leader in biotechnology and medicine, a major area in which to attract federal grants.

“It’s in the state’s interest,” Simmons said. “You’ve got to have the resources.”

Sarah Youngerman, associate director of the Academic Health Center, said the request wasn’t just an investment for the University, but one for the state.

“We have to make critical infrastructure requests today to accomplish that goal,” Youngerman said.

University realignment

Bruininks revealed the proposed names of two new colleges reorganized as part of the University’s goal to become one of the top three public research institutions in the world: The College of Design and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

The Board of Regents will consider the names at next week’s meetings.

The College of Design will incorporate the department of design, housing and apparel from the College of Human Ecology with the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences will merge the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences with the College of Natural Resources and departments from the College of Human Ecology.

“It is time to begin to move this process from one centered around dozens of task forces with hundreds of members to one that pervades the culture of the University,” Bruininks said.

Bruininks also announced a systemwide Institute on the Environment.

“It would improve recruitment and retention of new talent at the ‘U,’ and the presentation of coherent priorities to funding agencies, enabling us to better respond to ‘big science’ research opportunities,” Bruininks said.

Morris

Bruininks gave the State of the University speech from the Morris campus – the first time it was delivered outside the Twin Cities.

Part of the speech commemorated retiring Morris chancellor Sam Schuman, who has led the institution since 2000.

Schuman said he was glad the campus would get some attention.

“All of us on the coordinate campuses feel we’re marginalized a bit,” Schuman said. “I think it’s an important affirmation of the fact that the University of Minnesota includes all the campuses.”

Dan Moore, vice president for finance and operations for the Morris Campus Student Association, said students have been lobbying Bruininks to speak at Morris for a year and a half.

“We’ve always felt it was important for Morris to be heard on a University level,” Moore said. “Being three hours removed and out in the prairie, we feel removed. We thought it would be nice for them to reciprocate on that, if the Cities came to us once in a while.”