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

New bicycle advocacy group aims at students, protected bikeways

From improving existing bike lanes to giving city officials suggestions on upcoming projects, a new advocacy group at the University of Minnesota is working to address cyclists’ concerns.The group is a collaboration between members of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and the Minneapolis Public Interest Research Group. It aims to formulate plans for improving campus-area infrastructure and raise people’s awareness of bicyclists’ issues.“Our goal is to have bike infrastructure that works for students and connects them to the rest of the city,” said Daniel Lubben, an urban studies junior and co-leader of the group.He said the group is focusing on several bike projects that city officials are pushing forward in the coming years, including the Oak Street Southeast Bikeway — a city-funded project that will begin construction this year. The project will create a bike path along the west side of the street. According to a city report, the road carries more than 1,100 bicyclists a day.The group met earlier this month to discuss the new bikeway and examine its potential problems.“It is important to get the earliest generations of bike lanes correct,” said Steve Sanders, the University’s alternative transportation manager.Sanders suggested the group discuss challenges the new bike lane could pose at the busy intersection of Washington Avenue and Oak Street.Lubben said members of the bike coalition asked him and Bailey Shatz-Akin, an environmental science policy and management junior, to lead the bike advocacy group.Shatz-Akin said the group will also focus on proposing updates to the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, a plan aimed at improving bicyclists’ safety and increasing the amount of them in the city.She said the group will analyze the plan and offer suggestions to city officials.About 30 students and bike advocates showed up for the group’s first meeting on March 12. Laura Kling, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s community organizer, said the turnout represents the high amount of involvement people have in cyclists’ issues on campus.Among those who attended the meeting was Rob DeHoff, owner of Varsity Bike and Transit in Dinkytown.DeHoff said he hopes the group can expand on existing bike projects in the University’s area, like the 15th Avenue Southeast bike lane.Chris Stanley, a neuroscience sophomore and member of the group, said the group’s goals will ultimately benefit everyone traveling in the campus area.“We’re a community of people who want to improve the way our street systems work by making it friendly for both cars and bikes,” he said.[See original post here: http://mndaily.com/news/campus/2015/04/08/new-group-rides-student-bicyclists] Continue Reading

Nursing to stop taking transfers

Come fall 2017, transfer students won’t be accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. The School of Nursing is phasing out transfer enrollment for the BSN program in an effort to improve graduation rates. Though the decision has been in the works for three years, nursing students are concerned the new strategy could be a blow to the program’s diversity and limit access to the program to a group of students who tend to switch out of the program. The school will admit fewer transfers, including those from inside the University, and more incoming freshmen over the next two years, said School of Nursing Associate Dean for Academic Programs Christine Mueller. Faculty members who made the change didn’t ask for student input, she said. By fall 2017, the entire incoming BSN class at the Twin Cities campus is expected to consist of 104 freshmen admits.  The University’s Rochester campus will still accept transfers, who do the same coursework as those on the school’s flagship campus.  Administrators want to provide students with the best resources possible to ensure they graduate in four years, Mueller said, adding that students who directly enroll in the BSN program are more likely to graduate on time.  Nursing senior Karen Maldonado drafted a petition to rescind the program change and organized a public forum last week where students could air their concerns to the school’s dean, Connie Delaney. “This policy as it stands now is not helpful to the School of Nursing, the future students or the nursing profession,” she said. “But I think with the right adjustments, it can help bring down the over-four-year graduation rate and the cost of attending nursing school.” About 20 people attended the forum, mostly sophomores and juniors in the BSN program, Maldonado said. Students largely took issue with the potential for a decline in student diversity as a result of the freshman nursing guarantee. They also voiced concerns about the lack of rigor in the freshman application process compared to the transfer one.  Despite student concerns, Mueller said, the new program is still on track for implementation. Twin Cities campus instructors give lessons to BSN students on the Rochester campus via television screens, which Maldonado said is troubling to some students because it limits teacher-to-student interaction. Maldonado’s petition, which has been in circulation for about two weeks, had garnered more than 270 signatures by Wednesday. Most of the names on the petition belong to sophomores and juniors in the BSN program. One of the petition’s signers is nursing sophomore Irina Galyayeva, who transferred into the BSN program last spring. When Galyayeva first learned of the change, she didn’t think it was real. “I don’t get why they’re doing this because they can gain a lot from those transfer students,” she said. Continue Reading

Bill could boost funding for Somali youth

The funds would go to a partnership between the U and a nonprofit group. State lawmakers want to lend additional support to Somali youth in Minnesota who may be at risk of gang violence, drug abuse and radicalization.A bill introduced this session would appropriate state money to Ka Joog, a nonprofit that focuses on reducing adverse experiences and increasing educational opportunities for Somali youth.The legislation would expand the afterschool program the Takeoff 4H STEAM Club, which Ka Joog runs in partnership with the University of Minnesota. In addition, the bill would allocate funding for Ka Joog to start a pilot program that would create internship opportunities and job readiness training for youth.“It’s all about getting youth engaged and involved and giving them the skills to be productive adults,” said Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, author of the bill.The bill, which has already passed two legislative committees, would provide $1.9 million over the next biennium to expand the partnership program between Ka Joog and the University to other cities in Minnesota.Mohamed Farah, executive director of Ka Joog, said the proposed state funds would allow the program to reach other parts of Minnesota with large Somali populations, like Willmar, Rochester and St. Cloud.“We’ve had a lot of success in the Twin Cities, so we’re trying to take that where you have a high population of Somalis,” he said.Farah said Ka Joog was created in 2007 when a group of Somali youth met and discussed the problems their community was facing.“They wanted to create a foundation that does two things: One, get young people away from all negative influences, and two, put them in the right direction, which was and still is education,” Farah said.Jennifer Skuza, an assistant dean of the University’s Extension office, which helps run the program with Ka Joog, said the organizations partnered in 2014 to start the after-school program with funds from private and federal grants.The program allows kids to meet daily and work on projects related to science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, she said.“On a given day, they’ll be working on an engineering project. They’ll be working on a performance arts project, so you’ll see a content focus to it, but also there’s time for young people to have some tutoring as well as some homework help,” she said.The program, which currently exists in Eden Prairie, enrolled 25 members, but there are many more on a waiting list, Skuza said.With current funding sources, Skuza said the University and Ka Joog will bring the after-school program to schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis starting this summer.Farah said the organization also wants to establish more of an international presence, and it’s currently opening locations in East Africa.“It’s not just in Minnesota, but it’s also working with the international community to make sure that young people are thriving everywhere,” Farah said. Continue Reading

Student fees set for an increase

If the fees committee’s initial recommendations stick, student fees will increase by more than $30 each semester.Next year, University of Minnesota students may have to dish out $467 each semester in student services fees — an increase of more than $30 from the current charge.The Student Services Fees Committee on Tuesday released its initial funding recommendations, fulfilling most of about $35.7 million in requests from campus organizations. If those initial recommendations stick, fees for full-time students will increase next school year.“The quantity of requests this year was very high,” said student groups committee Chair Achintya Saurabh, adding that the amount of funding requested was similar to last year. Two separate committees —one for student groups and one for administrative units — allocate funding each year to University campus organizations. The committee responded to administrative units’ requests, which are often larger, on Monday.Though 91 student groups requested funding, the committee only recommended funding 78 groups with nearly $2.5 million.Last year, the committee approved funding for 77 student groups with about $2.1 million.Saurabh said when recommending funds, the committee examined how the groups benefit the wider student community and whether their finances are sound.“We looked at specifically how each student group impacted all students on campus,” he said, “and what is the breadth of the services they provided.”Although worries that some student groups had mishandled funds popped up last year, Saurabh said there wasn’t much concern this year.“As a whole, there was nothing big,” he said.Eight student cultural centers requested a combined total of about $464,000 in funds this year but were recommended only about $324,000.One of these organizations, the Disabled Student Cultural Center, was recommended only $18,751 of its nearly $37,400 request because many of the group’s budget items were unclear, according to SSFC documents.In a trend continued from last year’s fees process, some faith-based student groups didn’t receive their full requests.One example of this was Catholic Students United’s $83,645 request, for which the committee’s initial recommendations offered $32,570. The group received $3,450 in fees last year.Organizations will be able to appeal funding recommendations in public forums Wednesday and Friday. Final funding allocations are due out in spring. [See original article here: http://www.mndaily.com/news/campus/2015/02/24/student-fees-set-increase] Continue Reading

U rightly shifts stance on alerts

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it will modify its crime alert policy after more than a year of scrutiny for how the messages can perpetuate racism and stereotyping, particularly harming young black men.Under the change, Vice President for University Services Pam Wheelock and the police chief will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether there’s enough information to include a suspect description when a crime alert is sent.This change is just one of many steps the University must take to make all its students feel comfortable on campus. But effective reform takes time, so we are pleased to see the University finally take this action.The Minnesota Daily’s newsroom uses a similar policy to the University’s new one when reporting on crime. As evident in the Daily’s pages and those of other major newspapers, suspect descriptions are almost always too vague to be helpful.Sufficiently broad policies allowing for case-by-case decisions can be effective, but they require great care.In a crime alert sent Monday, the University listed a suspect as having spoken “with an accent” without any indication as to what that manner of speaking may have been. This exemplifies a detail that does more harm than good in keeping the community safe — the opposite effect the alerts should have.As the University continues with its new, improved policy, we urge officials to err on the side of not using suspect descriptions unless they could clearly benefit to campus safety. [For original article click here: http://www.mndaily.com/opinion/editorials/2015/02/25/u-rightly-shifts-stance-alerts] Continue Reading

Demands by Whose Diversity? aren’t new

[See original post here: http://www.mndaily.com/opinion/letters-editor/2015/02/23/demands-whose-diversity-aren%E2%80%99t-new]It’s clear. Many in this administration are out of touch with the weight of the equity and diversity issues they extol. In a speech to the North Hennepin Area Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 13, 2014, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler stated, “I want to speak about serious matters — from student debt to how we seek to tackle some of the state’s and world’s grand challenges — from widespread hunger to the inexcusable achievement gap in our schools. But I do need to put first things first … Continue Reading