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Stories from around the U

"Smart Birds." Over the past decade, wild turkeys have become a familiar sight on campus. Facilities Management says up to 100 birds have been seen around the Fulton Triangle at various times. There have even been reports of turkeys seeming to observe crosswalk boundaries when crossing campus streets, sometimes with their young in tow
Photo Credit: Eric Miller

The Power of PAWS

Photo Credit: @boyntonpaws on Instagram

Finding new ways to help students and others at the U of M manage stress has long been a priority at the University. One of the more novel—and popular—efforts is known as PAWS (Pet Away Worry & Stress).

With PAWS, individuals can sign up to spend time with registered therapy animal teams—including dogs, bunnies, cats, guinea pigs, miniature horses, and chickens—for a little animal interaction and companionship. The program is administered through the University’s Boynton Health clinic.

According to Tanya Bailey (Ph.D. ’20), animal-assisted interactions program coordinator for PAWS, the group started in as a once-a-week program in 2013 and uses a public health approach to student mental health.

By the 2016-17 school year, the program began operating four days a week throughout the campus and once a month during the summer months of June, July, and August. A monthly evening event was started in 2018-19.

All animals are registered therapy animals and have, along with their human partner, completed extensive training and evaluation in order to be part of PAWS. The program now averages around 100 teams.

Pre-Covid, combined regular weekly PAWS sessions averaged over 11,000 visits, Bailey says.

On average, students stay for around 30 minutes, and close to 10 percent attend PAWS gatherings more than 10 times a year.

More than 70 percent of students believe attending PAWS helps them relieve stress.

U of M Studies Alzheimer’s and Dementia Risks

The University of Minnesota recently received $14.2 million in new funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to better understand how early-life conditions and experiences shape later-life risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The funding will build on an ongoing $28.4 million High School & Beyond cohort study, which started with a $500,000 pilot study funded by the Alzheimer’s Association in 2020.

The NIA-funded project, based at the U of M’s Minnesota Population Center (MPC), brings together an interdisciplinary team to understand the biological pathways through which health inequities in cognitive impairment form.

U of M Students Receive Scholarships in Honor of George Floyd

Photo Credit: Liz Banfield

When Rayna Taylor, left, a student at the Twin Cities campus, heard about George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, she was shocked and frustrated—but not surprised. “How many times do we have to see this? How many times do we have to go through this as a community?” says Taylor, the first recipient of the University of Minnesota Scholarship in Honor of George Floyd. “But it hit harder this time because it was in the place I call home.”

Taylor says the scholarship gives her hope as she begins the next chapter of her life. “It means a lot to me that people are willing to invest in the future of this up-and-coming generation—especially in the Black community, where sometimes we feel unheard or left out,” she says. “They’re opening up a new door of opportunity for me, and for others in the Black community.” Krysjahn Johnson, a UMN-Rochester student, also received a U of M scholarship in honor of George Floyd. As of March 5, 442 donors had contributed $100,634 to the scholarships.

Promise Plus Program Offers Free Tuition

The University of Minnesota’s new Promise Plus Free Tuition Program makes a U of M education possible for low-income Minnesota resident students across the University’s five campuses.

Promise Plus ensures that families making less than $50,000 will have their student’s tuition covered by federal, state, and University grants or scholarships.

The program provides the remaining funds needed to cover the full cost of tuition but does not include cost of attendance such as housing, fees, or books. Incoming freshmen are eligible to receive eight consecutive semesters (four years) of free tuition as long as they meet eligibility requirements.

The Promise Plus program will be offered to incoming students (new freshman) who enroll in the fall 2021 semester. It complements the University U Promise Scholarship, which supports students with family income levels up to $120,000.

If a student is admitted to the University and has completed the FAFSA, he or she will automatically be reviewed for both the U Promise Scholarship and the Promise Plus Free Tuition program.

U of M Joins Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity

In mid-March, the University of Minnesota joined nearly 40 institutions to launch the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity, an effort to find new ways to support students.

The group plans to address challenges caused by the pandemic, income inequality, the changing nature of work, and levels of unemployment among recent college graduates, which are nearly double those seen in the 2008 recession. The Taskforce brings together leaders from across American higher education, including public, private, two-year, and four-year institutions, that represent 2.5 million students nationwide.

Members are focused on ensuring student success, despite the worst recession since World War II, by partnering with local communities and reimagining how higher education is delivered.

Schools will address new goals set every six months. The first round of initiatives deals with preparing 2021-2023 graduates to succeed in the post-pandemic economy. As a first step, the University is enhancing its U of M Employer Survey, which helps improve student job readiness by clarifying employer and industry expectations.

“As a result of this [survey], we know whether the academic and cocurricular experience we offer aligns with employer and industry expectations—specifically, those elements most and least important to our employers, which include the most per capita Fortune 500 companies in the nation,” says President Joan Gabel. “The uniqueness of this survey represents a new concept; higher education just doesn’t have this feedback.”

New Regents Elected

Four new regents—Ruth Johnson, Doug Huebsch, James Farnsworth, and Kodi Verhalen—were selected by the Legislature in March. The 12 volunteer members of the Board of Regents each serve a six-year term. Eight members each represent one of the state’s congressional districts, and four are at-large members.

Ruth Johnson (upper left), elected from the 1st Congressional District, is from Rochester, Minnesota. She is a physician at the Mayo Clinic and served on the board of trustees at Augsburg University for 17 years.

Doug Huebsch (B.S. ‘85) (upper right), a former chair of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, was elected to the7th District seat, representing northwestern Minnesota. Huebsch is a farmer and small business owner in Perham, Minnesota.

James Farnsworth (lower left), from St. Paul, represents the 4th District seat on the board. He is a fourth-year student, and has served in the Minnesota Student Association and on University Senate committees.

Kodi Verhalen (B.S.C.E. ‘04) (lower right) from Elk River, Minnesota, represents the 6th District seat. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and works as an engineer and attorney.

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