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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:

From web-spinning adventures to gravity-defying rescues and explosive action, the stories of larger-than-life comic book characters have thrilled and inspired us for years. But have you ever wondered how fast Superman must have flown to save Lois Lane as she plummeted off a skyscraper? How much force did Spiderman use to stop the train from derailing into disaster? Well, you'll no longer have to wonder about Wolverine or be suspicious of Superman. Never fear! Professor Kakalios is here to save the day! Pow!

Not only is Jim Kakalios a physics professor at the University of Minnesota teaching classes such as "Everything I know about Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books," he is also a tried and true superhero consultant so-to-speak. He has served as a scientific consultant on Warner Brothers' 2009 film Watchmen as well as the upcoming summer flick The Amazing Spider-Man. Through the National Academy of Science's Science and Entertainment Exchange program, Kakalios consulted behind two of the superhero's most important traits: webbing and wall crawling.

His most important contribution to the film is the "Decay Rate Algorithm," a mathematical expression relating to cell regeneration and human mortality. The equation needed to be so memorable that audience members would be able to recognize it during several scenes throughout the movie.

The algorithm provides a mathematical explanation for how defective cells multiply against the weekend immune system of an aging body and become fatal: combining the real science found in the Gompertz Equation and the Reliability Theory of Aging and Longevity.

Aside from transforming fictional situations into realistic scenarios, he also wrote the book The Physics of Superheroes as well as The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics. "At the end of the day, I'm not looking for a movie to be 100 percent scientifically accurate. But if they can do something right, it's like catching a little inside joke... And who knows? Maybe the audience will learn a little something about science," says Kakalios on his website. See his work come to life on screen in The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters July 3rd. 

Check out "Everything I know About Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books" along with other freshman seminars offered here.

Happy Minnesota Museums Month! May is the month of a 31-day celebration of the hundreds of historic centers, art museums, zoos, and science centers located across the state of Minnesota. Did you know that there are 55 museums in Minneapolis and St. Paul alone? That's twice as many as in Chicago!

The University of Minnesota has a few of its very own museums right on campus:

The Weiseman Art Museum 

Frederick R. Weisman was a noted California philanthropist, art patron, and entrepreneur who provided the pivotal gift of $3 million, which gave the University of Minnesota Art Museum a new home. Frank Gehry, the architect of the building, won a prestigious Progressive Architecture Design Award for his design. The museum opened in 1993. Its structure was built to represent both the beauty of the Mississippi River and the architecture of the U of M campus.


Of course, the art within the building is also amazing. There are many exhibits and events currently held at Weisman, including "Cartography of a Collection," "Sympathies," and many more. U of M students are lucky to have the Weisman Art Museum, right at our doorstep in the heart of campus. Visit the Weisman Art Museum website to learn more!

Even if you won't be able to visit the Weisman Art Museum anytime soon, you can still celebrate Minnesota Museums Month! Check out some fun facts about Minnesota museums, and the featured video, "Museums Creating Community," below.

The Bell Museum of Natural History

The Bell Musuem of Natural History was established in 1872 to "collect, preserve, skillfully prepare, display, and interpret our state's diverse animal and plant life for scholarly research and teaching and for public appreciation, enrichment, and enjoyment." This museum allows its visitors to become closer to the natural world through its exhibits. One of the features of the Bell Museum is the ExploraDome, which is a portable dome that allows students to virtually travel across the universe. I've been inside the ExploraDome when I was taking an Astronomy class at the U of M. It was an amazing experience, and I was able to see planets and stars like never before!

Goldstein Museum of Design

The Goldstein Museum of Design has two gallaries on the U of M Twin Cities campus -one in St. Paul (in
McNeal Hall) and one in Minneapolis (in Rapson Hall). This museum features many diverse exhibits. The current exhibitions include the work of Jack Edwards, a master costume designer, and Leonard Parker, an architect and skilled designer. The next time you are on campus, check of the work of these great designers and get inspired!

Did you know?

  • Minnesota has approximately 600 museums. That's one for every 9,000 residents and twice as many as the national average.
  • Every county in the state has at least one museum.
  • The total economic impact of Minnesota museums is over $300 million annually.
  • An estimated 1.7 million tourists traveled outside their region to visit museums in 2011, resulting in $53 million in economic activity in Minnesota.

ABC.jpgRelay for Life is a very popular event at the University of Minnesota, and always ends up being attended by a large amount of students. U of M student groups form teams to raise money for the American Cancer Society; the ultimate goal is to honor cancer survivors and remember people we have lost, but also to raise funds and awareness to help save lives. The teams walk in a relay around Bierman Field and set up campsites for the entire night. This year, the event will be held on Friday, April 27.

To help raise money for Relay for Life, the student organization Business Association of Multicultural Students (BAM) is hosting the Angel Benefit Concert this Thursday, April 5th. I have already RSVP'd for the Concert, and I can't wait!

There will be four great performances to watch tomorrow night. MinnesoTap is "a student-lead tap ensemble promoting cultural and historical awareness of a truly American art form." Members of Pi Eta Sigma will be performing a step show, and William Within, a band who plays folk/Americana music across the Twin Cities, will also be performing that evening. Finally, the Enchantments, a woman's a cappella group, will end the night with a few of their own songs.

The food and prizes are another amazing part of this event. Raising Canes and other Twin Cities restaurants will cater the Angel Benefit Concert, and there will even be a chocolate fountain. The raffle prizes include gifts from corporate sponsors, gift cards to local restaurants, and an iPod touch. To attend this event, tickets are sold in advance for $5 and at the door for $8. It will be held in the Great Hall of Coffman Memorial Union. This is a great way to have fun, get free food and prizes, and support Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. I know I'm going to have a blast this Thursday. If you're near campus, please check out this awesome event!

For more information about the Angel Benefit Concert or Business Association of Multicultural Students (BAM), visit the BAM website at http://www.bam4biz.com/. To learn more about Relay for Life and how you can help make a difference, click here! View the save-the-date video for the Angel Benefit Concert below to get an even better idea of what the event will be like. Hope to see you there!


The members of the University of Minnesota Dance Team have proven themselves to be the best of the best once again! The team recently competed in the 2012 UCA/UDA College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championship and defended their championship title for the third year in a row. The U of M team placed first in both the jazz and pom categories. The competition was held on January 13-15, 2012 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. As a student, I have watched these girls dance at every football and basketball game (I even had class with a few of the dancers this year!). Their jazz and pom routines are truly something to be proud of--there is no doubt that they deserve the national trophy!

If you would like to learn more about the members of the U of M Dance Team, visit the Gopher Sports Dance Team webpage. You can also follow the team on the University of Minnesota Dance Team Facebook page. To watch the winning performances, check out the YouTube videos below!

University of Minnesota Division IA Jazz Finalist 2012

University of Minnesota Division IA Pom Finalist 2012

Spring is finally here, and the U of M campus is busier than ever; everyone wants to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and the gorgeous scenery on our campus. Spring break just ended for me, and what an amazing time it was! 

I took the week off from school as an opportunity to participate in a Pay It Forward Tour through a student organization, Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF). STLF was actually founded right here at the University of Minnesota by a group of four freshmen looking to make a difference. Since then, the organization has expanded to serve thousands of college, high school, and middle school students by providing opportunities in service and leadership.

The Pay It Forward Tour is a nine-day bus trip across the United States. The students on the tour stop in five different cities along the way. In each city, a community service project is completed before moving on. The tour ends in a "celebration city" where many buses gather to complete one huge service project, and share the different experiences that were had on the trip. 

To learn more about what the Pay It Forward Tour is, check out the short video below:

This spring break was my second college Pay It Forward Tour. I also participated in a high school tour, which was four days long. I love getting involved with STLF and feeling like I really made a difference in the world! On the tour this year (from March 9-March 17) I traveled to: Rock Island, IL; St. Louis, MO; Paducah, KY; Memphis, TN; Texarkana, TX/AR and Dallas, TX. The community service projects were extremely rewarding. In Rock Island, I met the oldest man in the Western Hemisphere while helping out at a nursing home (He's 111 years old!), and in Kentucky, I was able to read to the most adorable elementary school children. We also completed a few outdoor projects on the trip. The tourism is also what makes this trip amazing! I was able to see so much of the country in such a short amount of time, including sites like the St. Louis arch and Beale Street in Memphis.

Finally, my favorite part of Pay It Forward Tours is the people you meet along the way. I have made an amazing group of 41 friends who were with me on the bus. We shared an incredible experience together, we got to know each other very well, and we will stay in touch for an especially long time!

If you would like to learn more about STLF and the Pay It Forward Tours, please visit the STLF website at http://www.stlf.net. To see photos from my Tour and the other Tours that travelled to Dallas over spring break this year, watch the video below! I hope you are able to see what an amazing time I had by getting involved this spring break!

If you've been on a campus visit to the University of Minnesota this year, then you have may have noticed that Northrop Memorial Auditorium is currently under construction. In February 2011, construction workers began to deconstruct the delicate building. The renovations that will be completed in August 2013 will make Northrop more usable for the events and needs of the University or Minnesota campus. As the second most recognized icon in Minnesota, it is important to preserve the historic value of Northrop Memorial Auditorium during this process.

Northrop was built in 1929 as a gathering place for performing arts, academic ceremonies, and major civic events. Prior to the deconstruction, Northrop was used for only 51 events each year, and held seating for 4,800 people.  The restoration will feature a 2,750-seat hall, which is the optimal size for acoustics and will therefore bring more of the world's great artists to the U of M.

Additionally, Northrop will house the University Honors Program, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Innovation by Design. The new Northrop will focus more on the students of the University; in the past, student contact with the building has been minimal. The renovation will also increase the amount of public study space on the East Bank campus by 50%. This will bring a whole new energy to the building, as it will be available to students day and night for study.

The work to the interior of the performance hall is already underway. Northrop is a beautiful center point on our campus; I look forward to seeing the outcome of this project in my time here at the University of Minnesota! Watch the video below for more information about how Northrop has changed through the years.

Finals week is finally here! After all of the hard work that University of Minnesota students, (including myself) have put into our classes this semester, there's just one, culminating test in each of our classes that is holding us back from winter break.

I would be lying if I said that finals week wasn't difficult or stressful at times, but there are so many resources on the U of M campus to help students during this hectic time of the semester. In fact, most of these resources are available to students year-round.

• The professor and teaching assistant office hours are a great resource to students, not just during finals week but throughout the semester as well. Every professor is willing to spend time with students who need help understanding the concepts of the course. These are especially useful in classes that are larger that 20 students. Larger lectures typically provide more office hours where students can have one-on-one time with professors.

• The libraries on campus are open 24 hours during finals week. My favorite library to study is in Walter Library, which is also the largest library on campus. Additionally, Walter offers peer-tutoring services in the SMART Learning Commons, which is a one-stop resource for students needing research, technology, or writing help. The peer-tutors in the SMART Learning Commons were especially useful to me when I was taking Calculus last year.

• The Center for Writing on campus is very helpful for writing intensive classes, which often require students to write essays for the final. Throughout the entire year, students are welcome to schedule an appointment with a writing consultant for advice and support.

After studying as much as we can in preparation for finals week, students on the University of Minnesota campus have a tradition of tossing pennies into the Coffman Memorial Union fountain for good luck. Watch the video below to see this tradition in action, and wish me luck with my finals!

At first glance, the seasonal animated e-card sent to the extended University community by President Eric Kaler and his wife Karen 
appears to have been created by a professional. In fact, it was actually the work of two U of M students: Mari Mihai, a third-year graphic design undergrad, and Adam Zahller Brown, a first-year grad student in music composition. 

As a part of celebrating their first winter as the U of M presidential couple, Karen and Eric Kaler made a splash with their beautifully constructed piece of student art, which was sent to faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents of students, and selected friends--more than 100,000 people in all.
 The 30-second greeting card is complete with falling snow, a snow globe, a crackling fire, and a crescendo of holiday-evoking music.

Designing a winter greeting
Mari Mihai began the card design by sketching an interior scene with a fireplace and mantel and scanning it into a computer. She then painted it and, on a suggestion from the Kalers, added images of all five University campus mascots as mantel portraits. 

Meanwhile, Adam Zahller Brown worked at creating sounds that evoked a magical holiday mood. He created a unique sound, while keeping in mind the typical "bells and trumpets" sounds of typical holiday music, by utilizing unusual instruments such as cymbals, a celesta, a Navajo ceder flute, and recorders.

About the artists
Mihai, born in Romania, moved to Minnesota at the age of 8. Mihai chose the U of M as her college choice for its reputation and location. She says, "I knew I wanted graphic design, but I didn't want to go out of state. I wanted to be near my family because we've shared so much." Mihai has a College of Design Legacy Scholarship, among others, and is a part of the University Honors Program. 

Brown, who aspires "to write challenging concert music," is a graduate assistant in the music theory program. He came to the University's School of Music to work with composer and professor James Dillon, whose music he has long admired.

It is inspiring to think that two college students like myself have worked together to create something that brought warm winter wishes to the entire University, and now to you. Enjoy!


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