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One of the biggest things people from other cities tend to notice about Minneapolis is all the bikes.

"Jeez," they say, "why does everyone bike so much?" (Or at least that's what I imagine they say.)

Minneapolis is one of the best cities in the nation for biking - we often trade back and forth with Portland, OR, for first and second place every few years - and it pioneered NiceRide, which is often seen as the best public bike sharing program in the nation and was the model for New York's CitiBike. Minneapolis has 92 miles of on-street bike lanes and 85 miles of off-street trails.

I didn't have a bike on campus my freshman year. I lived in a residence hall that was right in the heart of campus, so whatever I needed was always close at hand. For my second year though, I moved a bit farther off campus and I needed something to help cut down travel time.

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Now, I bike every day. I bike to work, to the grocery store, to concerts, and to friends' houses. It's a great way to get around quickly, it's more flexible than bus schedules, a LOT cheaper than taking a taxi or driving, and a good way to get some exercise.

For an extra incentive, the University even has a program that gives rewards for biking to faculty, staff, and students. For faculty and staff, the rewards are tied to health insurance, but students have "sweeter" rewards - gift cards for coffee, groceries, and frozen yogurt.

It works by having a small ZAP tag installed on your front wheel. Whenever you ride by one of the ZAP readers - which are located all around campus - you log a "zap" for the day. If you zap 12 days in a month, you are entered into the drawing for gift cards.

There's still work going on to make Minneapolis and the U of M even more bike friendly though. The Dinkytown Greenway opened on August 4, 2013, and will provide a direct, bicycle-only route all the way from East Bank to the St. Paul campus.

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Hello again!

I hope you're enjoying your summer so far - I've had a great start to mine. I wanted to share some of what I've been up to, and give you a preview of some of the great attractions and events that the Twin Cities has to offer!

A Weekend With Friends

I hosted visitors two weekends in a row - the first weekend two old friends came up from my hometown in Illinois to stay with me and enjoy the Twin Cities. My friends - Dave and Andrew - and I grew up and attended school together for nine years. Even though we attended different high schools, we have stayed in touch our whole lives. It was great to see them for a weekend and to reconnect.

They both have spent quite a bit of time in Chicago, so I knew they had high expectations for a fun weekend in the city. We started off with dinner at a delicious Minnesotan pizzeria, Pizza Luce. After that we went bowling at Bryant-Lake Bowl, a vintage bowling alley, restaurant, and cabaret theater.

On Saturday we had a cookout with some of my friends from Admissions Ambassadors, a student group on campus that helps with tours for visiting prospective students, and then went to a concert at First Avenue. It was great to see them, and we definitely stayed busy with all that Minneapolis had to offer.

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A Weekend With Family

The next weekend I hosted my parents and my younger siblings! I planned on the weekend well ahead of time and had a full itinerary prepared - my family doesn't travel to Minneapolis often, so I knew this would be the only chance I had for a while to show my siblings what the Twin Cities have to offer.

They arrived Friday evening and we started off with dinner at Buca di Beppo, a great family-style Italian restaurant located near downtown Minneapolis. After that we headed to a mini-golf course at the Walker Art Museum, featuring artist-designed courses and installations. The best part was I could use our mini-golf tickets for free admission to the Walker Museum for up to a week afterwards, giving me a chance to bring other friends with me to see some great exhibits.

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We spent all day Saturday at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, a quick 20-minute drive from Minneapolis. After grabbing some ice cream on our way back, we headed to Brunswick Zone XL just north of Minneapolis in Brooklyn Park for some laser tag and the arcade.

On Sunday, my family headed out after we grabbed breakfast at the delicious Keys Cafe and Bakery downtown, which is famous for its brunch menu.

It was a very busy and fun couple of weekends, and if you're looking for tips on what to do in the Twin Cities check out Minneapolis's visitor website! For information on the University of Minnesota's great location, see the Office of Admissions website.


Photo credits: Drew Coveyou

Hello, and thanks for stopping by our blog! My name is Drew Coveyou, and I'm a junior at the U of M from Ottawa, Illinois. I am majoring in Journalism, focusing on Strategic Communication and Advertising in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the College of Liberal Arts.

My path the University started when my older sister came to visit campus her junior year of high school. I was only a freshman but I got dragged along for the college visit with the rest of my family. Even though college wasn't something I was really thinking about, I fell in love with the Twin Cities campus right away and it was always on the top of the list of colleges I was considering.

During my senior year of high school I visited campus another two times and confirmed what I already knew - that the University of Minnesota was the place for me. I knew I wanted the traditional feel of a Big 10 campus, but at the same time I didn't want to give up attending school in a major metropolitan area; I knew that I wanted to have access to the arts/music scene and professional opportunities that a major city could offer me. The Twin Cities campus was the one place where I found both the Big 10 campus and the major metropolitan area.

I attended my first-year orientation session in the middle of June with my dad tagging along for a parent orientation session. There, I met some of my best friends to date. Looking back, orientation was the time when I really acknowledged that this place would be "Home" for the next four years, and I couldn't have been happier.

(Here's a video from my Welcome Week in Fall 2011!)

I lived in a Living and Learning Community my first year - the American Indian Cultural House. There, I met other American Indian students and was put into contact with many different resources on campus, including the Circle of Indigenous Nations, the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE), and many students groups such as the American Indian Student Cultural Center (AISCC) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

I got my first job on campus through these connections at one of the above student groups, the AISCC. I had such an awesome experience working with the group to run our Center and plan events that I ran for the governing board the next year. After two election wins, I am now entering my second term as the group's Treasurer. My responsibilities include creating a budget, applying for grants, and general accounting of finances for the group.

Although I live off campus now, the sense of community I built that first year hasn't left, and now I am getting even more involved in my academic program and other on-campus jobs. I'm sure I'll have more to share about my experiences and plans in future posts - thanks for reading!

It's officially the week of Spring Jam! Spring Jam is an annual three-day music festival on campus, which includes live performances, competitions, free food, and other special events all in the celebration of the coming of spring and the end of the school year. The entirety of Spring Jam is completely planned and put together by a committee U of M students. (A great opportunity four our students to build event-planning experience!) 

There are always amazing artists - both big names and local bands - that perform during Spring Jam. The big headliners last year were New Boyz, The Cataracs, and Prof. Jessie James (my favorite artist at Spring Jam last year) made an appearance at an afternoon concert too! This year's headliners are Greg Bates, The Kicks, and Mat Kearney. I wouldn't call myself an avid music and concert fan, but nothing beats fist-pumping, dancing, belting out lyrics at the top of your lungs at outdoor concerts with thousands of other fellow Gophers. Did I mention that all Spring Jam events are completely FREE for U of M students?

Spring Jam isn't only about the concerts, though. The days are also filled with many other fun, free events. For example, this year's events include free yoga classes, blood drives, dance competitions, a Battle of the Bands competition between U of M bands, outdoor film screenings of Silver Linings Playbook, and more! Take a look at the Spring Jam schedule to see a complete list of this year's special events.

I love the U of M not only for its great academics, but also for all the awesome opportunities to have FUN, like Spring Jam! So, Future Gophers...imagine yourself as a current U of M student counting down the days until you get to experience three straight days of celebration at Spring Jam festivities. Sounds enticing doesn't it?

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Photo credits: http://springjam.umn.edu/

Guest blog written by Sara Straskowski, a current student in the Carlson School of Management

Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF) is a student group that was started by four freshmen students at the University of Minnesota in 2003. With the mission to "reveal leadership through service, relationships, and action," STLF engages students from all over the country through its Pay It Forward Tours. A Pay It Forward Tour is a community service road trip that travels from city to city doing various service projects. For college students, "the Tour" is scheduled each year during spring break; there are also tours available for high school students at various times throughout the year.

This spring break, I participated in my third college Pay It Forward Tour. The experience never ceases to amaze me! My freshman year, I travelled to Memphis; my sophomore year I went to Dallas; this year, the destination city was Atlanta, Georgia. For the last two years, I was a participant on the Tour, but this year I took a leadership position in STLF, and planned the Tour along with four other students who soon became my best friends. 

We left from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities on March 15. Our first stop was Kansas City, Missouri, and our first service project was landscaping for the Gillis Center, a home for boys in the area that helps at-risk children and families. We even got to play a game of dodge ball with the boys who lived there! Next, we stopped in St. Louis, Missouri, where we were able to do some tourism at The Gateway Arch and the City Museum. We helped the St. Louis community by cleaning up the streets around the city and writing letters to soldiers overseas. The third city on our adventure was Bowling Green, Kentucky, where we volunteered at Community Action of Southern Kentucky (a nonprofit agency that provides a wide range of human services to the residents of the area). We made event decorations for them as well as cleaned up the office space they use every day. After Bowling Green, we stopped for tourism in Nashville, Tennessee. It has been my dream to visit the Music City forever, and I can't believe I was finally able to be there! Our next stop was in Merryville, Tennessee, where we painted and did gardening work at the Boys & Girls Club of Blount County, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of boys and girls in a safe and caring environment. On our way to our last stop, we toured the city of Gatlinberg in the Smoky Mountains. The area was absolutely beautiful! Last but not least, we stopped in Charlotte, North Carolina to serve at Samaritan's Feet; we readied the shoes that will soon be sent across the U.S. and the world to those who can't afford to buy their own. After our service project, we went to the U.S. National Whitewater Center to go zip-lining and rock climbing--one of the most memorable highlights of our trip!

We finally made our way to Atlanta, where we met four other buses of students that had each had an amazing Tour as well. We did one final service project together; the 140 students served at the Mary Scott Nature Park doing a variety of jobs such as creating a children's "forest play" area and removing invasive species throughout the park. After the service project, we were able to do some tourism in Atlanta and see the city. I was sad that the trip was nearly over, but I had a fantastic time exploring Atlanta with my new friends!

The memories I made on this trip are unforgettable, and the 43 friends I made throughout the nine-day experience will be held close to my heart for years to come. Every single one of the participants on my bus amazed me more each day; they are the most compassionate people I know! I encourage you all to check out the great opportunities that are offered to you every day, such as the STLF Pay It Forward Tour. It changed my life forever, and I will always be proud of my decision to get involved at the U of M with Student's Today, Leaders Forever.


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Do you have a dream to someday write and publish your own book? Perhaps you are a fan of local authors? The First Books Reading and Discussion may be an event for you!

On Thursday, March 14, three MFA alumnae of U of M's Creative Writing Program will be speaking at the Weisman Art Museum on campus, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Here's the best part: all three of them have recently published their own books! At the First Books Reading and Discussion, the three alumnae will be reading excerpts of their books as well as speaking about their paths to publication. 

The event is free and completely open to the public, so bring some friends! Since you'll already be here, you can even schedule a campus visit, or just explore on your own to get a feel of what campus life at the U of M is like.

This is just one of many cool events offered on the U of M campus that cater to students' diverse interests. Click here to learn more about this exciting event and to read bios of the authors who will be there.


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The winter weather and snow make the University of Minnesota campus more and more beautiful each day this holiday season! In a winter tradition that began last year, students in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) celebrate the winter season with a dazzling light show: "Illumination." The students cover the entire Civil Engineering Building Plaza with lights, which are accompanied by music that is composed and performed by U of M students. This year, the show uses more than 100,000 LED lights! I visited the Premiere Party for this event, and I can say from experience that the lights were absolutely spectacular!

The Premiere Party took place on December 7 and included performances by student organizations at the U of M such as MinnesoTap and Serenade the City, as well as CSE's "Freezin' for a Reason" 5K runAll proceeds from the 5K Run were donated to the Amplatz Children's Hospital. After the Premeire Party, the light show ran every weekend in December. What a great way to bring the U of M campus community together during the holiday season!

Check out the video clips below to see some of the CSE students' excellent work! Happy Holidays!


Finals week is coming up! As the semester finishes up, everyone wants to do the best they can do in all of their classes. Luckily for students like me, the U of M does a lot to support students during this time of year, such as offering students many ways to improve their study skills and relieve stress. 

Puppies, cookies, and massages in the libraries!

This week, the Bio-Medical Library will hold a Final Stress Buster program for students. Cookies and beverages will be served, and chair massages will be offered. Additionally, a registered therapy dog will be at the library to offer Pet Therapy to students. What a fun way to study for finals!

During finals week, I practically live at the library. Walter Library has the perfect atmosphere to help me get the most out of my study sessions; it is the largest library at the U of M so there is always room for me, and the Wise Owl CafĂ© in its basement which makes it the perfect place to focus and have access to coffee at all times.  

This past Saturday was the beginning of Exam Jam in University Libraries. Exam Jam offers practice test, snacks, and tutors for students to use as resources. As a matter of fact, tutors are offered to students for the entire semester. When I was taking Calculus as a freshman, I used the math tutors nearly every week, and they were extremely helpful. The beginning of Exam Jam also marks the weekend when libraries are open 24/7. This ensures that students have a night, quiet place to study all day and night.

 

Boynton Health Services stress management classes

To help students relieve stress, Boynton Health Service offers free yoga, tai chi, and Pilates classes each day of the week.  Classes focus on stress management. Exercise is extremely important for your health, especially when you are under a lot of pressure; I am lucky to attend a school that encourages these healthy behaviors!

 

Find a study space

I love it when I find a new, perfect place to study; there are many on campus. The U of M just began connecting the use of smartphones to helping students with classes by allowing them to find a nearby study space. The University has located all the General Purpose Study spaces (GPS Waypoints) on campus. Each space has a QR code so students can save the hours of each location in their phones! This way, U of M students will always have a great place to study. 

It's homecoming week! Homecoming at the University of Minnesota is one of my favorite events of the year. Not only am I a huge Golden Gopher fan, but the University also sponsors many events honoring the spirit of the maroon and gold. This year's theme is "Legendary U" (hashtag #LegendaryU).

Two of my favorite events include the Cheer Competition and the Lip Sync Competition. U of M students compete to be named the best Cheer team of the year at with crazy songs and stunts at the Cheer Competition. Additionally, at the Lip Sync Competition, students perform a dance while lip-syncing a song related to this year's theme. Along with these events are many others, including flag football, volleyball, a blood drive, and a 5K run/walk.

The 2012 Homecoming concert features B.o.B. with Timeflies. My friends and I have been talking about this concert all semester! "The Bank" will definitely be filled with U of M students on Friday evening.

The day everyone is waiting for is Saturday, when the Golden Gophers take on Northwestern at TCF Bank Stadium. I can't wait to cheer our football team to victory on Saturday! Ski-U-Mah! Go Gophers!


It's hard to believe that the summer is nearly over! I love the start of a new school year because you get to meet new people and get a fresh start. Next week, I'll be starting my junior year, but this week the University of Minnesota Class of 2016 will be moving in and participating in Welcome Week on campus.

Welcome Week is a new tradition for incoming freshmen that takes place the week before school starts and is designed to help new freshmen adjust to campus and college life. This year's Welcome Week will be held this week, from August 29 to September 3, 2012. The class of 2016 will have the opportunity to connect with their advisors and faculty members, build friendships with classmates, become an expert at navigating campus, and sign up for student groups and other opportunities. 

When I was an incoming freshman to the U of M, I loved Welcome Week! I didn't know anyone when I moved here, so it was great to get to know students who were going through the same experience as I was. My favorite events were the Target Run and Late Night at Mall of America. During the Target Run, freshmen are bussed to Target after hours to pick up last minute school supplies or items for their residence halls. There are also tons of freebies and games going on in the Target parking lot at this event. Another fun event  is "Late Night at Mall of America" After the mall closes, the U of M freshmen take over and 
spend the evening on the rides at Nickelodeon Universe or exploring Sea Life Aquarium in the Mall of America. I had a blast at Nickelodeon Universe with all my new friends.

Another cool part about Welcome Week is that students who attend Welcome Week have a greater sense of belonging and higher fall & spring GPAs (as reported by research based on survey and attendance data from Fall 2009 cohort). What's not to love about Welcome Week? 


Ski-u-mah, and welcome to the Class of 2016! I hope you all have an amazing Welcome Week!

Check out the video below to learn about more great events that happen during Welcome Week, such as Convocation and Pride and Spirit Day:



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