I was recently given the honor of speaking before the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate Higher Education Committees as well as the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee on behalf of the University of Minnesota, to offer a student perspective on the University’s 2016 legislative requests. I was pleased with the positive reaction the legislators had to our request, and I look forward to their support this year. In that spirit I wanted to share a bit about myself, what the university has done for me and my fellow students, and what the U’s requests mean for students.
I’m a junior, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science on the University’s Twin Cities campus. My hometown is Greenbush, Minnesota, in Roseau County, population approximately 700. As I grew up in Greenbush, the U of M was a common topic in our community. I come from a family farm and the University of Minnesota Crookston was at the forefront of agriculture research in our area. The variety trial research on spring wheat, soybeans and various developing crop varieties made my farm and those of many farms in Northwest Minnesota more successful. Soil fertility and insect pressure research have also had a significantly positive impact.
The influence the U had on my childhood and high school years did not end with the Crookston campus. Many of my older friends went on to study at the University of Minnesota Morris and Duluth; my sister graduated from the Carlson School on the Twin Cities Campus. I knew, watching all of these loved ones go off to new and exciting futures, that I wanted my journey to start with the U as well. During my time studying at the U I’ve gained and enhanced my critical thinking skills, learned about diverse cultures, discovered practical applications for ethics, advocacy, and representation, among much more.
As the executive director of the Association of Big Ten Students I am an elected representative serving a half million students nationwide. As the executive director of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition I am an elected representative serving 63,000 Minnesota students across all five U campuses. The resounding concern I hear from my peers is the costly and ever-rising price of education. And that’s why I’m so thankful to the Legislature for partnering with President Eric Kaler in freezing tuition two years ago and, so, minimizing debt for so many of our students.
Almost all of the items in the university’s request will deeply impact the student experience —in particular, the Washington Avenue pedestrian enclosure renewal. The bridge, of course, is one of the more iconic structures on the Twin Cities campus; I and thousands of other students walk across it at least four times a week, give or take. I recently walked across it with a friend of mine and we noticed numerous cracks, holes, rusty doors and walls. Many question whether the structure is fully sound. Believe me, it is in need of significant repair.
I also know how important the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science Building is to my fellow students on our Duluth campus. They’ve told me that the existing chemistry building is lacking in efficient space and up-to-date equipment. The building is nearly 70 years old and is not a modern chemistry facility. As a student in the College of Liberal Arts, the largest college at the university and the hub of critical thinking, I can attest that the rebirth of Pillsbury Hall will be a powerful statement about the importance of the humanities to all of our students.
In the U’s supplemental request, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of upgrading cybersecurity across the system for all of our students on all of our campuses. Our work, research and records cannot be subject to hackers and other mischief.
What’s before the Legislature are — officially — called the University’s Capital Request and Supplemental Budget Request. But these are, fundamentally Student Experience Requests. Their investments are all about supporting and advancing the quality of the experience students receive every day on our Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses. Even more important, their investments will enhance the experience of thousands more students from places like Greenbush in the years and decades to come.
Nick Wilson is a member of the U of M Class of 2017.
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