U poised to lead Rochester higher-ed

The University’s Rochester branch will be central in propelling health sciences.

Lora Pabst

University President Bob Bruininks said he is prepared to lead the expansion of higher education in Rochester in cooperation with Rochester community mainstays IBM and Mayo Clinic.

The University will partner with them to increase higher education programs in the fields of health sciences and technology.

Bruininks made the announcement Friday to the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee, which was commissioned by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the state Legislature to evaluate possible higher education options for the Rochester area.

The University already has a branch in Rochester that will play a role in the first step, a health sciences center for Allied Health Programs.

Rochester Provost David Carl said the center would expand the Rochester campus’ doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate programs in health sciences and technology as well as conduct research.

“We’re providing the opportunity for students to receive a U of M degree while doing their clinical work at Mayo Clinic, and the same applies for technology with IBM,” he said.

Eventually the center would become part of a statewide Minnesota School for the Allied Health Professions, in which higher education institutions from around the state could get involved in some of the programming.

Bruininks also recommended creating an office of academic and corporate relations that would maintain connections between the University and local businesses.

The University’s Rochester campus will not become a four-year, liberal arts campus but will continue focusing on health sciences and technology in an expanded capacity.

“University of Minnesota-Rochester is very much involved in the strategic planning as part of the University’s (strategic positioning) plan,” Carl said.

Marilyn Stewart, chairwoman for the Higher Education Committee, said the committee has been waiting to secure support from the University.

“We had to hear if the University wanted us as much as we want them,” she said.

The issue of higher education expansion in Rochester has been ongoing for decades, but this year Pawlenty proposed “that we create a university here in Rochester” during his State of the State speech.

The committee has met with Rochester community leaders since July to determine which higher education institution would lead the expansion.

“We’ve heard from Mayo Clinic and IBM, and what they want is an expanded U of M-Rochester,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the committee wanted to secure the University’s leadership because of the University’s role as a research institution.

“It’s unanimous in our committee that it’s the University of Minnesota that we need as our higher education institution in Rochester,” she said.

Now that the University is willing to lead the development, the committee can begin to make logistical decisions, such as facilities, funding and programming, Stewart said.

The Legislature originally gave $3.2 million to the committee to begin planning and implementing the expansion.

In a written statement Bruininks suggested that $2 million of that money could be used toward the health sciences center and $350,000 could fund the proposed office of academic and corporate relations.

Their funding requests will be outlined in the committee’s final report to the Legislature, which is due in January, Stewart said.

“This has to be new money,” she said. “The governor and Legislature gave us $3 million that we can start with but we’re gonna need a special appropriation from the Legislature. We cannot take away anything from any other University of Minnesota branch or the main campus.”