Category Archives: From the Dean

Monday Minute, June 1, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

We have received more precise information about our budget for next year, and it isn't good. Earlier this year, the University asked each college to model a 5% and an 8% cut to its budget. For us, getting out of our structural deficit of $1.2 million meant cutting our budget 5%, and we argued that any further reduction would be very painful and too much to do all in one year. Nevertheless, we did as the University requested and showed in our compact what an 8% cut might look like.

On Thursday, the University notified us that they would reduce our central allocation by $1.1 million on top of the $1.2 million deficit we already planned to cut, with the two numbers together comprising roughly 10% of our collegiate budget. We also heard that the provost's office remained open to the possibility of covering at least some of this cut with economic-stimulus funding for one year in order to give us time to generate revenue to fill the financial hole.

The deans and department heads will meet tomorrow morning to discuss options, and I will meet immediately afterward with the provost to advocate for as much bridge funding as possible to reduce the severity of these reductions and to give us time to bring in additional funds. I will let you know how these discussions go. I also plan to do a virtual presentation, which you can watch online and respond by e-mail, to provide you with more details about our situation and our options. I would greatly value your input once you see the presentation and I promise that this one will be shorter than the last!

Tom

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Monday Minute, May 26, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

Mark Twain once said, “Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.” One action the college has taken has certainly registered with the University.

Our leadership group — Associate Deans Kate Solomonson and Marilyn DeLong, Assistant Dean Kate Maple, Chief of Staff Kathy Witherow, and I — may be the only college deans at the U taking a 10 percent reduction in our appointments next academic year in order to help balance our budget. That reduction equals 26 days without pay, which some of us will spread out across the year and others will take mostly during the summer. I commend my four colleagues for joining me in this voluntary reduction; such an action does not happen nearly as often as I think it should among the leaders of organizations in times like these.

That voluntary reduction has brought attention to the budget dilemmas we face as a college. The provost’s office has appointed a three-person task force — Lincoln Kallsen from the budget office, Joe Kelly from human resources, and John Ziegenhagen representing the provost — to work with us to find a sustainable solution to our budget challenges. I meet with them later this week.

We hope that we can secure some bridge funding from the University to provide start-up money for our most promising new revenue-generating ideas. While some of that revenue may come from existing University students, I think the real opportunity lies in serving the needs of non-traditional students in non-traditional ways, through weekend, summer, and on-line learning. So far, the discussion about this has been mostly words, but we hope to convert that to action very soon, and as often as possible.

Tom

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Monday Minute, May 18, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

My heartfelt thanks to all who helped with and participated in our graduating student exhibition and party, and our graduation ceremony and reception this past Friday and Saturday. Rapson Hall sparkled with energy, the student work on display looked great, and the sense of elation among the graduating students and their families and friends pervaded the place. Regent Cohen and Vice Provost McMaster, both of whom had attended several commencements, remarked to me how smoothly ours went compared to others, and that had a lot to do with the exceptional planning and preparation that went on beforehand and behind the scenes. So, again, my thanks to all who had a part to play for a job very well done.

Events at the capitol have moved quickly, some of which affect us. You may have seen that the governor line item vetoed the Bell Museum again this year. President Bruininks has said that if it didn't get funded, that the University would take the Bell off of its list of priorities, so I will start having conversations with the University about a Plan B for us. I want to thank everyone who wrote letters or attended legislative hearings regarding the Bell. Eventually a new Bell Museum will be built, but it may not be in a timeframe that works for us. Also, if the governor decides not to call a special session and instead "unallots" higher education, we will likely have to cut more than already anticipated. We heard that we might be getting our letter this week from Central about our contribution to the current budget deficit, and once we know more, I will let you know. Until then, all I can say is that we have a lot of rough seas still ahead of us.

Tom

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Monday Minute, May 11, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

The college's advisory board met on Friday, May 8, 2009 and offered valuable perspective on the constraints and opportunities we face. Representing a range of disciplines and types of practices, members of the board very much supported our revenue-generating strategy, while urging us to focus, first, on those ideas that build on our strengths and on what we already are doing. Delivering some courses online, offering summer programs for non-traditional students, seeking sponsored research-oriented studios, and fully filling our existing classes were among the tactics the board thought would have the greatest chance of success.

Steven Goldstein, president of the University of Minnesota Foundation, also addressed the advisory board, observing that our college was the only one that has a role in all five areas that the foundation has identified as possible themes for the next campaign: a healthy environment, human health beyond medicine, regional economic development, community-based learning, and internationalization. How effectively we communicate our work in those areas and clarify our uniqueness among other design colleges remains central to our success, said several board members. I couldn't agree more. The more we do what we already excel at, the more people will beat a path to our door.

Tom

PS. Don't forget to come to our Graduating Student Exhibition party from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. this Friday, May 15, 2009 in Rapson Hall, and to our commencement at 3 p.m. this Saturday, May 16, 2009 in Northrop Auditorium.

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