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U of M faculty giving gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner a crash course on university’s role

Independent Tom Horner is the first gubernatorial candidate to meet with faculty at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Today’s tour includes the new Science Teaching + Student Services building.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner today will receive a 90-minute crash course of sorts from faculty members on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The topic: the U’s role in Minnesota.

Horner will tour the new Science Teaching + Student Services building, which includes “collaborative classrooms,” and hear how students are taught to think like scientists and to collaborate, said Caroline Hayes, a professor of mechanical engineering and faculty legislative liaison.

Hmm. Is anyone else thinking that politicians of all stripes might want to spend some time in these collaborative classrooms? 

Horner is the first gubernatorial candidate this season to accept an invitation from faculty members at the U of M, Hayes said. Republican Tom Emmer also has been invited and schedulers are working on a convenient time. The winner of the DFL primary next week also will be invited.

The faculty meetings with gubernatorial candidates are a tradition at the U of M, she said.

“We view it as really important … because the state, the Legislature and the university … really need to have a good working relationship and they need to understand each other,” she said.

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Particularly since state budget deficits have resulted in cuts to public higher education, the meet-and-greets offer faculty an “on-the-ground” opportunity to explain to candidates how they and the U play a “critical role” in the economy, she said.   

“The university was started back in the 1800s for economic reasons,” she said. “The state saw it as critical for economic development and growth to have homegrown education … in our backyard. Somehow we have to find a way to go forward and keep the quality of the university while getting through this economic crisis. It’s (the university) going to be our way out” of the crisis.

What can Horner expect to hear today?  

“Here’s some of the research done at the U,” she said. “Here’s the role of the U in the economy and the well being of the state. … It’s not just about starting companies (and training smart workforces) but also … figuring out ways to facilitate community and strengthening the quality of life in Minnesota. We’ll give examples of various research projects and how they accomplish those things.”

Visits are tailored to the candidates’ interests. Horner wanted to “learn about the university as a whole,” she said. “We can’t show the university as a whole. We had to pick one or two things that were possible to show him. The recently completed building seemed a nice showpiece.”