University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note: Back at the U

Photo Credit: Scott Streble

MY FIRST BRUSH WITH THE U—although I certainly didn’t know it at the time—was as a child growing up on a farm in far southwestern Minnesota. I was in 4-H, a program ably run by the U of M Extension service to provide sometimes-isolated farm kids with both a social outlet and a way to learn contemporary ag techniques. I’m proud to report that despite a particularly obstinate young heifer calf named Daisy, who dragged me willy-nilly about the show ring at my local county fair, I still possess a sympathy blue ribbon for my program efforts.

The second time I encountered the U and the first time I stepped foot on the Twin Cities campus was during the summer of 1980, just prior to my senior year of high school. I had been invited to attend a journalism boot camp designed for incoming editors of high school newspapers. The camp offered me and my fellow editors-in-training a chance to stay in the U dorms for a few days while we traipsed around campus goggling at both the buildings and “the city.” It also gave us an opportunity to hear from a variety of journalism school professors about how we might best wield a pen in service of our respective audiences.

Some of my memories of that stay are absolutely crystalline: We visited the old James Ford Bell Museum near University and Church to poke around among the dioramas, then stayed to watch the terrible but cult classic movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. I also remember walking in a laughing, hungry horde over to Sammy D’s restaurant to meet the legendary Mama D for a little coddling and red-sauce-rich spaghetti. Perhaps my most vivid recollection is hopping onto the back of a cute boy’s motorcycle in a parking lot behind my dorm and pressing the inside of my shorts-clad leg firmly against the screaming-hot muffler. (That particular move is, unfortunately, burned into my memory.) As a sort of shy, bookish, longing-to-be writer, the few days I spent here at the U many years ago gave me my first chance to meet others who also hoped to someday make a living telling stories.

In both subtle and not so subtle ways, the U has played a unique role in shaping who I became as an adult, as it has for so many people, even those who are not part of the traditional student experience.

And now, I’m grateful to be here, sitting in the editor’s chair, looking forward to sharing meaningful, important stories with you.

It’s good to be back.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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