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 Response Page - Donovan / Herman  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Maura Donovan / Brian Herman Interview of


University of Minnesota must be a key player in the effort to improve state competitiveness


Having a strong research university is a key component of bringing talent to a region, according to Brian Herman of the University of Minnesota (U of M). He says the University is "open for business" and believes the U of M should work in a proactive way with both nonprofit and business partners in the area of economic development.

The University's Maura Donovan says the private sector wants some return on its investments in partnerships with the U of M. She says that, in addition to partnering with business, the University is very interested in partnering with government agencies and economic development organizations around the state and the region. Herman adds that the University is trying to find some commonality of vision, approach and thought on economic development among different groups working in that field.

Herman notes that the U of M is working with its industry partners to understand the kind of workforce they need in the future and to incorporate that into how it teaches its students. Donovan points out that the University, often considered to be focused on Minnesota, is also global in its abilities and partnerships. She describes an increasing focus at the U of M on translational research, which spans different disciplines and helps make basic science useful for improving human health and wellbeing.

For the complete interview summary see:  Donovan/Herman interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree):

1. Topic is of value. (7.9 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (7.0 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Research university attracts talent. (9.1 average response) Having a strong research university is a key component of attracting exceptional talent to a region.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. (7.9 average response) The U of M should adjust faculty hiring, research efforts and undergraduate curricula to meet the needs of Minnesota employers.

5. Add regional economics position. (7.2 average response) The U of M should establish a faculty position devoted to the study of regional economics.

6. Lead competitiveness efforts. (7.5 average response) The U of M should provide leadership in efforts to improve Minnesota’s competitiveness, not merely react to business, nonprofit and governmental agency initiatives.

7. Take action on achievement gap. (6.5 average response) The U of M should take a more active role in eliminating the achievement gap between the state’s majority and minority students.

8. Stress translational research. (8.7 average response) The U of M should stress translational research, which cuts across multiple departments and disciplines, seeks to make findings from basic science useful for improving human wellbeing and encourages partnerships with both business and social organizations.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.







2. Further study warranted.







3. Research university attracts talent.







4. Adjust to meet employer needs.







5. Add regional economics position.







6. Lead competitiveness efforts.







7. Take action on achievement gap.







8. Stress translational research.







Individual Responses:

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

Rob Shumer  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. The relationship of the development of the University of California system to the internet and Stanford to Silicon Valley should tell people how important university collaborations are to economic development.

3. Research university attracts talent. Businesses need to know they have a strong partner that can help support exceptional talent in all areas of development and research.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. Meeting needs of employers is only one role of the university.

7. Take action on achievement gap. And the School of Education should work to better connect education with workforce and civic engagement.

8. Stress translational research. Real life problems are interdisciplinary by nature.  We need multiple departments to address issues.

Kevin Edberg  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (5)  (5)  (2.5)  (5)  (10)

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. As a constitutionally created and independent body created to foster education, we should be very thoughtful, even careful, about language that implies that the University is "open for business", and "for sale" to the private forces with many resources that want an "ROI" on their investment.  I didn't get a sense from this interview that a right balance is known or articulated.

5. Add regional economics position. Do not the departments have capacity to do that already?  I can identify many professors who have excelled in studying the economics of our region, though none had an endowed position to do so.

7. Take action on achievement gap. The University should focus on having uniformly high quality applicants and admitted students, regardless of whether they are majority or minority.

8. Stress translational research. This makes sense, and is consistent with both a Land Grant mission, the U's service tradition, and speaks to the needs for "generalists" to translate knowledge from one discipline to applications in other disciplines.

Brigid Tuck  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)

5. Add regional economics position. Yes.  In the Department of Applied Economics.   Extension has a team of people working in the field of Community Economics. See: A regional economist could only enhance the effectiveness of the team.

8. Stress translational research. Yes, and it is already done in Extension.

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. They mentioned many areas of study and collaboration. I hope that most of these get beyond the discussion and committee stage which academics are infamous for.

2. Further study warranted. I would like to hear specific projects in many of the major departments of the University.

3. Research university attracts talent. This is true especially when there is outreach and collaboration.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. This is an area for improvement. Training takes too long because it is based on the old four-year academic basis.

5. Add regional economics position. I'm conflicted on this because I have seen the university grow with hundreds of administrators and vice presidents. Each has to be officed and serviced with an administrative assistant and technology. Then they hold committee meetings and tie up each other's time. This becomes tremendously expensive. These are all good people but little productive output results.

7. Take action on achievement gap. The University has had decades to help with this, with weak results. I think it is the ivory tower effect along with the publish-to-advance [pressure] taking up all the one's time.

8. Stress translational research. This would be great to continue and expand upon.

David Dillon  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. Without neglecting the needs of the rest of the State.

David Durenberger  (5)  (0)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Topic is of value. I learned about “Minnovators” and a couple other efforts.  But nothing that caused me to say something like, "Wow, finally somebody gets it!"  What Minnesota has needed for a very long time is a handful of people in key leadership positions who will engage a national research firm to help them understand the world as it is likely to be in the near term future and Minnesota's strengths and weaknesses in shaping our institutions, private and public to be a forceful part of that future.  For example, we cannot start the money ball rolling to make Rochester the medical destination of the world without determining (a) whether medical destinations are a part of the future of the world; (b) what will it cost over ten to twenty years to achieve the goal; and what role is there for other strong medical institutions in this state who depend on public funding for medical research, education, and clinical care dollars to play in this project.  Just one high profile, high cost, decision, and I didn't notice the UofMN involved in the decision.  The issue raised has been critical to resolve since the Dayton brothers went into retirement and left us with a Target on our backs.

2. Further study warranted. Unless you can get Mark Dayton, Eric Kahler, Tom Bakk, Paul Thissen, Mike Opat, Richard Anderson (Delta); and three of the brightest, wealthiest young business leaders in Minnesota together in a room for two days.  And listen to someone whose done this somewhere else.  Last one I saw is old by now:  University of Indiana, Indiana business leaders, and Eli Lilly’s millions.

3. Research university attracts talent. The key in a state like Minnesota is one strong research university that attracts and admits only the best and the brightest students so research and teaching faculty are attracted from around the country and the world. That idea died back when Ken Keller and Curt Carlson tried and failed.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. Assuming you and the UofMN can prove that the largest employers have invested here because they expect to benefit from the proximity of a world class research institution.

5. Add regional economics position. Why not?  Let's assume however that Cargill, Carlson, 3M, General Mills, UHG, Best Buy are interested in funding a chair and the work that goes into making it effective.

6. Lead competitiveness efforts. Leadership comes from big business and big politics; the U can show them the way but it's hard to even imagine a public university like ours being able to be "the leader."  Not even in California or Texas is that the case.

7. Take action on achievement gap. Now you guys are talking.  But you need to commit to eliminating the achievement gap between Minnesota and other states for all students.  Figure that out and then figure out how more ethnic, religious, income minorities can feel the imperative of inclusivity.

DeWayne Townsend  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. It seems like a no-brainer.  Knowledge breeds creativity both from the problem solving and problem recognition.

2. Further study warranted. It sort of seems non-controversial.

3. Research university attracts talent. I agree completely.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. The U of M needs to educate to current knowledge of subject.  Specialization should be for graduate or intern training.

5. Add regional economics position. I don't think our region is much different than other regions.

6. Lead competitiveness efforts. Absolutely.

7. Take action on achievement gap. Everyone needs a good education, and the U of M should work hard to figure out how to do that.

8. Stress translational research. Solutions to complex problems come from complex education and thinking.

Dave Broden  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)

1. Topic is of value. The interview was lacking in content and anything that would show that the U of M is seriously addressing Economic Development with a strong focused effort.

2. Further study warranted. Further interviews are needed but recommend that the interviews be with industry/business and with Itasca etc. with the purpose of reaching to understand how the U departments and [the university] overall are enabling new and growth business in any unique or aggressive manner. Another U source would [likely] be weak also.

3. Research university attracts talent. A research university does attract talent, but the output must be to retain that talent in Minnesota. This interview did little if anything to discuss and confirm this link. Bringing students to the U is only one leg of the puzzle.

4. Adjust to meet employer needs. True, but this interview showed little of this link. From the other side the U should be a catalyst to trigger new industries or growth and to protect and evolve those that are here. Interview did not address [this]. This needs to be communicated to all of Minnesota and [it] seems like it was not.

5. Add regional economics position. The regional economic position seems to be a valid objective but there must be more than one more study position. The need is to translate the work of such a position to an impact and action. The Upper Mid West Council produced results 50 years ago. Can we do it or [something] similar again?

6. Lead competitiveness efforts. The U of M should be central to a core Minnesota and Regional leadership team building the economy, but this is not present and there seems to [be] too …timid [an] approach focused only on meeting with various groups but not moving forward.

7. Take action on achievement gap. Good purpose but is [this] the role of the U or must this really focus at pre-K through 12?

8. Stress translational research. Cross collaboration has been central to good research and value-added product development for at least the past two decades. Business and industries [that] show growth and initiatives in innovation win because of this. If the U is just now joining the parade, catching up will be very difficult and limited to only selected topics.

Chuck Lutz   (8)  (9)  (10)  (9)  (9)  (10)  (9)  (8)

Mina Harrigan   (7)  (5)  (10)  (7)  (4)  (8)  (5)  (8)

Tom Spitznagle  (7)  (4)  (7)  (8)  (5)  (3)  (3)  (3)

The ideas for addressing various social, environmental and economic concerns sound good, but the U should maintain a sharp focus on top quality (and affordable) education for its students above all else.

For example, Control Data was once the world’s most advanced computer technology company before it broadened into numerous other businesses intended to address a wide range of social, environmental and business issues.  It all sounded good at the time but this diffusion of resources away from CDC’s core business burned up a lot of cash and the end result was the failure or sell-off of most of its business units.

As a graduate of the Carlson School’s MBA program, I was very disappointed to experience a situation just a few years back in which a U of M assistant professor was engaged by a non-profit group to help it do a research survey on the public’s recreational priorities in the Arrowhead Region. The survey results were improperly manipulated by the group to support its political agenda. This violation of integrity was made public and it was a black mark on the U of M. So, if the U desires to directly involve itself in various areas of public policy then it will inevitably be injecting itself into the associated politics.  This is not a good place for the U of M to be and could alienate many of its supporters.

Roger A. Wacek   (na)  (na)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (0)  (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf   (6)  (7)  (9)  (7)  (9)  (9)  (9)  (8)

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (10)  (10)  (8)  (5)  (5)  (10)  (10)

Relative roles of UMN and MnSCU?


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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