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Commentary: U of M is committed to achieving excellence

By Dean Johnson

Vice Chair, Board of Regeants, University of Minnesota

Whether I am in downtown Willmar at my favorite café, at church, or attending a Gopher athletic event, I hear the same thing. Minnesotans want a strong public university that uses its limited resources wisely. I assure them that the University of Minnesota is committed to achieving excellence in all that we do — including adoption of operational best practices that are driving more resources into activities that directly benefit students.

 From day one, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler has partnered with the Board of Regents to change the U’s operating culture.

 Achieving significant administrative cost savings means reinvestment in the people and work that make our university great. This money will improve education for students, hold down the cost of tuition, enhance research to bolster state industry and move Minnesota forward.

 In two years, the U has realized ongoing annual savings of $32 million, plus $2 million in one-time savings. This is a great start, but we are not stopping there. From this foundation, we will cut $90 million in administrative costs by 2020.

 With more than 68,000 students on five campuses, plus research and outreach centers, area health education centers, and Extension offices across the state, the University of Minnesota touches every Minnesotan in a meaningful way. We offer a top-notch academic experience and have more than doubled four-year graduation rates in the past 10 years. Each year the university system awards more than 15,000 degrees — including 100 percent of the pharmacy, dentistry, and veterinary medicine degrees. In fact, the U trains nearly 70 percent of the state’s health care work force.

 Moreover, the university is now eighth among U.S. public research universities based on research and development expenditures. That means that we are on the cutting edge of discoveries that propel our economy and improve our quality of life. The latest example is the new $36 million Minnesota Discovery, Research, and Innovation Economy (MnDRIVE) partnership with the state. We are using this investment to make breakthroughs in food safety, brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, pollution remediation, and robotics.

 President Kaler has set forth an ambitious plan to improve the U. Together with his administration, we will continue working to ensure excellence and affordability at the state’s only public research land grant university. This will benefit people in Willmar and all across the state.

 Dean E. Johnson is vice chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.