University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Up Front

Up Front

Stories from around the U of M

Weisman Names Next Director

Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez recently assumed her new role as director of the U of M’s Weisman Art Museum. Peña-Gutiérrez was formerly the executive director of Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico and served as deputy director general of artistic heritage in Mexico City’s Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. 

In her new role, she will set strategy and artistic direction for the museum, as well as serve as chief administrator. She succeeds Lyndel King, who retired in 2020 after serving as director of the museum for four decades.

Name, Image, Likeness

Heavyweight wrestler Gable Steveson has secured a NIL sponsor.

LAST JULY, the NCAA implemented a new interim policy to allow student-athletes to profit from the use of their name, image, and likeness—known as NIL. That’s a big shift from the college sports organization’s longstanding policy, which previously designated college athletes as amateurs—a policy that the Supreme Court ultimately deemed illegal and unconstitutional in a 9-0 vote. As a result, athletes at the U of M and elsewhere will now be able to make money on anything from social media posts and podcasts to commercial appearances, product endorsements, and even autograph sessions. 

“We think it’s awesome,” says Mark Coyle, the U of M’s director of athletics. 

The University put together a working group last year to come up with a user-friendly interim policy for student athletes (Minnesota does not yet have a state law governing NIL, and the U of M’s Athletic Department cannot create deals for student-athletes). In addition to partnering with Opendorse, a company that helps student-athletes with their branding, the University also works with Team Altemus, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm that guides athletes to develop life skills, financial literacy, and an understanding of possible unintended consequences that can arise from for-profit ventures. 

NIL relationships are arranged by the sponsor and the student-athlete, and then approved by the University. U of M student-athletes are not allowed to secure compensation for activities or products related to adult entertainment, gambling, alcoholic beverages, weapons, tobacco products, or any substances banned by the NCAA. In addition, student athletes may not add logos or any kind of endorsement images to their Gopher practice or competition uniforms. NIL incentives also cannot be used to recruit student athletes to enroll at the U of M. 

Several Gophers already have secured NIL deals, including heavyweight wrestler Gable Steveson (pictured), who has 245,000 Instagram followers—more than any other Big Ten athlete. He has an endorsement deal with the delivery service Gopuff. Gopher football quarterback Tanner Morgan also announced in June that he’s now on Cameo, a platform where users can request a personalized message from a famous person.

Two New Hires Increase Community Safety, Engagement

Nick Juarez

As part of the U of M’s focus on finding innovative ways to improve safety and engagement with communities on and near campus, two new roles have been added to existing staffing. 

Luke Sloan

Luke Sloan has joined the U of M Police Department (UMPD) as a social worker, and Nick Juarez is serving as a community engagement liaison to build stronger relationships with community members. 

Sloan (M.S.W. ’18) is a senior social worker with Hennepin County, and now will serve as a social worker embedded in the UMPD. He has worked in an inpatient residential treatment setting, in child protection, at the Hennepin County jail, and for two other police departments in Hennepin County. He’ll be the first person to hold this role within UMPD and will focus on helping individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues who have previously interacted with law enforcement. 

Juarez joined the University’s Department of Public Safety after spending 13 years as a crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department. He is a civilian liaison, not a police officer, and his duties include engaging the community both on and off campus around issues of safety.

For more information, visit safe-campus.

Credit Where It’s Due for Transfer Students

Under the U of M's MPact 2025 plan, a primary commitment is focusing on student success and reaching “students where they are.” That also involves working with other entities across the state. 

At the September meeting of the Mission Fulfillment Committee of the U of M Board of Regents, Provost Rachel Croson and Vice Provost Robert McMaster briefed members on the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC), a program that since 2002 has ensured public educational institutes accept general education credits from one another, including at the U of M System campuses. 

Under MnTC, up to 40 credits of general education credits in 10 different areas such as communications or critical thinking are guaranteed to transfer to other two- or four-year colleges and universities in the state. Roughly 4,000 students a year transfer between the U of M and other state colleges and universities. In fall 2020, 402 transfer students arrived at the Twin Cities campus using the MnTC credit transfer program, which represented 23 percent of all U of M transfer students. 

The original framework for such credit acceptance dates back to 1994. 

U of M Opens Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain

LAST MONTH the U of M opened the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB). The institute brings together research, education, community, and clinical expertise for neurodevelopmental disorders, and focuses on how young brains develop. 

Damien Fair, Redleaf Endowed Director of MIDB and a professor at the medical school and the College of Education and Human Development, says, “Our bold aspiration is that our curious, inspired, and strategic collaboration will allow us to better understand how to provide an optimal environment for all of our youth to maximize brain health so that every child is set up for success.” 

MIDB intends to lead research and innovation to understand how a child’s rapidly developing brain grows and thrives and to provide opportunities for researchers across disciplines. 

Michael Georgieff, codirector of MIDB, professor at the U of M Medical School and College of Education and Human Development, and a neonatologist at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital, says “MIDB is unique in that it is not dedicated to any one neurobehavioral disorder as most other centers are, but instead seeks to discover basic processes by which the brain develops. Through that approach, we can understand the root causes of many neurobehavioral disorders that affect our state’s children.” 

Located on the East River Parkway near the University’s Twin Cities campus, the 10.2-acre property includes a research center, clinic, and support area, as well as a community center and an attached parking lot. The single location allows MIDB to connect experts across the disciplines of neuroscience, brain imaging, bioengineering, genomics, pediatrics, psychology, psychiatry, disabilities, child health care policy, and developmental brain health across the lifespan. 

MIDB was made possible by a $35 million gift from Minnesota Masonic Charities, $15 million from the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation (which also gave $6.5 million to initiatives in psychiatry and child development), and investments by the Otto Bremer Trust, Blythe Brenden-Mann Foundation, and Drs. Gail A. Bernstein and Thomas J. Davis Trust.

New Regent Bo Thao-Urabe

After the death of Regent Kao Ly Ilean Her (J.D. ‘94) this past May, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz appointed Bo Thao-Urabe (B.S. ‘94) as an at-large member of the U of M Regent Board. She is the second Hmong leader to serve in this position, after Her. 

Thao-Urabe, who lives in Eagan, Minnesota, is the executive and network director at the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) and a small business entrepreneur and partner at RedGreenRivers and Sage Farm Market. Thao-Urabe has built and led local, national, and global efforts and previously served in senior executive roles in local and national nonprofits. 

Thao-Urabe serves on the boards of Propel Nonprofits, Drake Bank, and the Minneapolis Foundation and was named a Distinguished Alumni by the U of M’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) in 2017 and a Bush Fellow in 2019. She received her undergraduate degree in family social science from the U of M Twin Cities campus. 

Since Thao-Urabe was appointed in 2021 outside of the usual legislative process, her term will expire when the legislature elects a replacement, or in 2025, whichever occurs first.

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