University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Longing for Football

Although the delta variant could conceivably alter fall activities, the U of M hopes fans will once again be able to fill stands to see the Golden Gophers take the field.

Fans cheer for Gopher football in fall 2019, pre-pandemic. As of early August, the U of M still planned to welcome spectators for fall sports. University administration highly recommends students, faculty, and others take advantage of vaccinations and the U of M is closely monitoring all guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, the CDC, and the University’s own public health experts.

This has been a long time coming.

Although the coronavirus and its evolving variants remain a serious concern throughout the world, vaccinations, vigilance, and a carefully prepared game plan have begun to restore some normalcy in Minnesota.

After a year and a half of remote learning, remote work, and socially distanced lives, the U of M campus is once again open. The lines have returned to Coffman. Students are napping in the fall sun on Northrop Mall. Even the Campus Connector is operating again.

After 18 months of being essentially mothballed—except for a valiant skeleton crew who kept the University’s research labs functioning and the buildings in good shape—the Twin Cities campus has now welcomed 7,500 incoming freshmen, an all-time high, and a 14 percent increase over the fall of 2020—as well as returning students who spent last year learning online.

And as students return, many U of M attractions, museums, and art centers are also reopening in person on varied schedules, while maintaining some of the distance learning innovations that proved helpful during the worst of the pandemic.

—Elizabeth Foy Larsen

Fall Sports

Athletes who spent the past 18 months contending with quarantines, testing protocols, and cancelled games—not to mention cardboard cheering sections and canned soundtracks—are eager to once again have real live fans in the stands.

“[The pandemic months were] difficult because we were practicing, but we didn’t know if we were going to get to play,” says volleyball setter Melani Shaffmaster (above right). Shaffmaster decided to attend the U of M in eighth grade, only to have Covid-19 derail her freshman year. When 2020 volleyball was cancelled, she was deeply disappointed.

Shaffmaster says the return of fans this month to Maturi Pavillion would be a literal game-changer. “Seeing how invested all the fans are, just in each play, watching you every single second—it’s really cool how Minnesota supports the volleyball program,” she says. “I know the first game, I’ll be really, really nervous, but I think it’ll be more from being excited.”

Women’s volleyball home games plan to kick off September 1. Besides volleyball, other fall sports hoping to welcome back fans include swimming, diving, and soccer. Learn more at

And of course, for many fans, fall means football! Circumstances willing, the Homecoming Parade will make its way down University Avenue on Friday, September 24 at 6:30 p.m., followed by a live concert at Coffman Front Plaza. Then it’s on to the big game against Bowling Green at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, September 25. Other events include a Bob Ross paint night September 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the St. Paul Student Center, and Drag Bingo at Coffman on September 22. Learn more at And for discounts on fall sports tickets, visit Ski-U-Mah!

From "Minnesota Water Stories" at the Bell Musuem

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

When it reopened for car tours only on May 1, 2020, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum became a much-needed respite from the pandemic. Now this beloved gem is open and welcoming visitors back to its 1,200 acres of trails that wind through professional gardens and protected natural areas. The Arboretum staff discovered during the pandemic that reservations help ease parking and traffic congestion and will keep using them to make the experience more pleasant for every visitor. Make your reservations at

Fall highlights include the Arb Glass Pumpkin Patch, featuring eight award-winning, professional glass artists from the Midwest and California displaying and selling over 2,000 glass pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There will also be glass-blowing demonstrations and classes. Proceeds support both the artisans and the Arboretum. Public viewing is available from noon to 4 p.m. September 9 (note that there are sales during the public viewing). You can also visit the patch from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. September 10 and 11, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 12.

There’s also the popular Autumn Yoga Retreat at the Arboretum, which takes place on September 18. Participants can sample classes and enjoy walks and quiet contemplation in the Arboretum gardens. (Other yoga classes are widely available all through the fall.)

Need something more aerobic? The Fall Color Run goes from October 9-17 and gives runners and joggers an opportunity to pick a course and take in the fall colors while getting a workout.

If your tastes run more to indoor pursuits, “A Reflection on Being” is an exhibit of local artist Teo Nguyen’s large-scale photo-realistic paintings, some of which are taken directly from the Arboretum landscape. The show runs from September 9 to November 29 in the Reedy Gallery.

Louie McGee, a junior student worker who is blind, and Jamee Yung, the museum’s director of education, are both excited to unveil the Weisman's new adapted offerings for visitors who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or low vision. This sculpture, by artist Amy Toscani for the Molecular and Cellular Biology Building, is part of the public art tour

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)

The galleries may have been closed to the public during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t important developments taking place behind the scenes at this award-winning museum on the Mississippi. With support from a CARES Act Grant for Museums and Libraries, the staff used this time to develop new tools to facilitate a more meaningful experience for visitors who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or low vision.

“Before Covid-19, we were not a super digital-savvy museum staff,” says Jamee Yung (M.Ed. ’03), the museum’s director of education. “We didn’t really have digital programming.”

Creating online content—including audio descriptions of art for people who are sight-impaired—proved that there’s a hunger for museum experiences not just for people who have been isolated by the pandemic, but for those who weren’t previously able to enjoy a traditional museum experience. “The University is difficult to navigate, the museum is hard to get into,” says Yung. “We learned we can utilize this digital world as a way to eliminate some of those barriers.”

The Weisman will also expand its new offerings into other areas in the future, including online tours for people in memory care facilities. Other changes include having American Sign Language interpreters at museum-sponsored programs, and 3-D printed objects that will mimic the original artwork and be available for visitors to touch.

“A prop that might be designed to help a blind person understand an art piece better might also help a sighted person understand the art piece better,” explains Louie McGee, a junior student worker who is blind. “We’re one big community.”

That’s just the start of a more expansive re-envisioning of the museum that also includes rethinking the kinds of exhibitions and artists that are showcased. The Weisman staff believes these changes will improve the museum experience for all visitors.

“The fact that [the Weisman] has hired a blind student is already an indicator of change,” says McGee. “There’s a whole advisory committee of people involved, in the blind community and the deaf community, that is bringing in the voices that are being impacted by this change.”

Audio tours for the public art col - lection and the permanent collection are available on the CloudGuide app, which you can download for free from the app store or Google Play.

The Weisman will also be leading in-person guided tours of the public art on campus for individuals who are interested. Information on requesting an in-person tour is available at

Hello, You

Navigating a Return to an In-person World

During the lockdown and the work from home mandate, did you ever turn off the video function on a Zoom call so your coworkers didn’t see you folding laundry during a meeting? Does the idea of needing to share an elevator with others leave you feeling anxious?

If you’re like most people who were asked to work from home at the start of the pandemic, you may have developed a few habits that need readjustment as we start to head back into public.

Whatever form it takes, returning will not be a return to “normal,” says Catherine Squires, an associate dean at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Squires is part of a group of U of M staff, faculty, students, and alumni who have worked together to thoughtfully address bringing people back to campus who may be still processing a public health crisis and a racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd. “Return is going to be in negotiation,” she said in mid-June at a Zoom seminar entitled Social Somatics: The Alchemy of Returning to Embodied Campus Co-existence. “Return is going to be an experiment.”

Drawing on both somatic (which means related to the body, especially as distinct from the mind) and anti-racist research on health, work, and well-being, Squires recommends that workplaces and employees make an effort to thoughtfully and gently reengage with the in-person world, emphasizing flexible work schedules and a more empathetic awareness of how traumatic events may impact colleagues. With some forethought, she suggests, we can provide space and time to practice being together after spending so much time apart —especially if we see this not as the “end” of the pandemic, but as the next stage.

“If every outing that you’ve been on in the last year has mostly been to the grocery store with a mask on, being on a campus with a ton of people . . . is going to feel weird,” she says. “[These] are things that are going to keep happening, small and large interactions that will be triggering or be uncomfortable. So we need to prepare for it.”

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