Best of Neighborhood News 1/2: University of Minnesota names its first female president

University of Minnesota names its first female president

The Board of Regents voted to confirm Joan Gabel with a five-year contract as the next president of the university. Gabel visited all five campuses during the interview process and answered questions about her vision of higher education. When asked about student debt, Gabel said, “We really need to be thinking about clever ways to make sure students can afford education and I think it’s very clear that we are starting to inch up on what the marked can bear, even for students who don’t have fiscal constraints.”

While she ultimately earned high praise from stakeholders, the appointment process was not without controversy, as she was named as the sole finalist, which has drawn criticism in terms of transparency. In addition to the process, there were questions about her non-traditional background; Gabel has a JD not a PhD and she was a dean of a business school. Find out more at MNDaily. Continue Reading

Her dream came true: Meet Husna Ibrahim

When Husna Ibrahim stuck her hand inside the envelope and pulled out her acceptance letter for the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, her life’s dream came true. “Every day just being able to say that you go to the University of Minnesota and walking up and saying ‘oh my gosh, I’m a college student.’ That’s a huge deal,” Ibrahim said.  
Ibrahim is currently a sophomore student at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and is an alumnus of Project SUCCESS, a program that showed her college was possible.  
Ibrahim was originally born and raised in South Africa. Growing up, her mother wanted her and her four sisters to be independent and educated. Continue Reading

Higher ed committee approves omnibus bill ignoring U of M increase request

The House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee approved an omnibus higher education bill Wednesday that would increase spending by $53.4 million —to $2.95 billion — over the next biennium.But absent from HF845 are funds that would have covered a tuition freeze for students at public four-year universities, much to the dismay of University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler.In light of a $1.9 billion budget surplus, “I believe a zero-percent increase is not an acceptable outcome,” Kaler told committee members Wednesday. The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.Kaler said that inflationary increases, much needed technology upgrades and the university’s commitment to recruiting and retaining a world-class roster of faculty and staff are major factors in its request for $148 million in increased funding over the next biennium.About $65 million of that requested increase would be allocated to freezing tuition for students at all five of its campuses through 2017. Instead, under provisions of the bill, undergraduate students at the U of M would see a 3 percent increase in tuition and graduate students can expect a 3.5 percent increase, Kaler said.While DFLers expressed disappointment in the bill’s failure cover a tuition freeze, several Republican legislators grilled the president about the university’s professed inability to find more funds anywhere else but in the form of tuition increases.Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom) asked Kaler why the university hasn’t considered increasing the price of tuition for non-resident students, which was lowered in recent years in an effort to attract more out-of-state students..“If we just correct that situation there is millions of dollars available at your disposal,” Barrett said. “Would it cover (the) total amount (needed to offset a tuition freeze)? Probably not. Continue Reading

U, tribe aim to improve Native diets

Health problems tied to poor diets and nutrition have persistently plagued Native American communities across the country.  To help alleviate this issue, the University of Minnesota is partnering with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in its $5 million “Seeds of Native Health” campaign to improve the health and nutrition of indigenous people nationwide. Research has shown that poor nutrition has led to increased rates of obesity, diabetes and chronic health problems in Native communities. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. The campaign will address these issues by improving health programs that are already in place and funding new research to identify what types of programs could be createdto alleviate the health disparities, said SMSC secretary and treasurer Lori Watso, who championed the idea for the campaign. She said she hopes individual Native communities will then use the programs and apply them to their specific health needs. Watso said her background in public health and education, along with the work she’s done related to healthy food in her community, has given her an insight into the health issues Native communities are facing, especially regarding their diets. “Through all of that work, I’ve seen firsthand the detrimental effects of poor nutrition,” she said. “I’ve really come to believe that our nutrition is the foundation for everything.” Lori Watso said SMSC selected the University as a partner because of the school’s work in related research and ability to better understand issues at a national level. College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences Dean Brian Buhr said the college has worked with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in the past. The school has also done nutrition-related research and programming across diverse populations, and Buhr said he hopes CFANS can use that research as a starting point in the partnership. He said the University’s role in the campaign will likely be to research strategies to improve Native nutrition and assist in planning a series of annual conferences on the topic. Though Buhr said the partnership’s specifics are yet to be defined, he said the  University has started identifying and uniting people who are doing similar research.  “[Change] does require true partnership,” Buhr said. “I think that’s the exciting part — is to have that opportunity to think about how we can really work together to create some solutions to this.” In addition to partnering with the University, SMSC is working with nonprofit organizations First Nations Development Institute and the Notah Begay III Foundation. Both have a history of working to solve nationwide Native health issues. First Nations Development Institute President Michael Roberts said his Colorado-based organization has a large portfolio in food systems initiatives and a history of research and policymaking. In 2012, the nonprofit gave out $905,000 in grants to organizations aimed at improving health in Native communities. SMSC secretary and treasurer Watso said she’s hopeful that the campaign will finally begin to address some of the issues that have been present in Native communities for many years. “Native people are so disproportionately affected in all health and socio-economic indicators,” she said. Continue Reading