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It is almost the end of the semester, and that means that there's just one thing on my mind: final exams. Next Thursday is a designated study day for all University students, and then tests begin! Students are packing their bags full of books and heading to their favorite spots on campus to study. I have one final test, but many final projects and papers. 

At my sorority house, we have 22 quiet hours each day during finals week. We can have conversations on the main floor for an hour at lunch and at dinner, and other than that it's pure silence--which is exactly what I need for a productive study-a-thon. Our house mother is a doll and makes us delicious study snacks, such as spinach dip or nachos. When I am not at the house, I study at a variety of different places around campus. I like to switch locations every so often to keep my concentration and avoid falling asleep! Some of my favorite places to study are:


Walter Library
Walter Library is one of the most popular and largest libraries on campus. There are three main floors and two sub-basement levels. During finals week, the library stays open 24 hours a day. There is a coffee shop in the basement where you can get a huge cup of joe before diving into the books.

Rapson Hall
Rapson Hall is home to most architecture and design classes. I like to study in the Rapson Atrium. When I need a study break, I take a walk around and look at the architecture models and artwork on display.

Eric Sevareid Library
The Eric Sevareid Library is housed in Murphy Hall, home to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It is home to the digital media studio, where students have access to state-of-the-art computers and equipment for graphic design and video editing. This semester I spent so much time in the library working on media graphics projects, that sometimes I feel like I live there!

Purple Onion Cafe
The Purple Onion Cafe is located in Dinkytown, a neighborhood just across the street from campus. Its cozy atmosphere and many seating options makes it the perfect place to do group projects or study with a friend. I always enjoy the comfortable chairs and delicious food!

Magrath Library
Every Sunday, I drive over to the St. Paul campus to do homework at Magrath Library. I go there when I need to get some serious work done. This huge library is always super quiet and has many different places to study. And, I love the free parking on Sundays.

With so many great study options and a whole lot of coffee, I'll be ready to ace all of my projects and exams!


The Department of Forest Resources is one of my favorite departments in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. They have a very tight knit group of students that participate in a number of activities throughout the year. For example, each year, the Forestry Club sells Christmas trees. Currently, the club is selling balsam fir, fraser fir, scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees. Along with the trees, they are selling garland, wreaths, and even maple syrup! (If you live in the area and would like to purchase a tree, check out this flyer for more information about the sale!)

Forest Resources is a wonderful major offered here at the University. Students in this major receive hands-on learning experiences concentrating on forest and related resource management, with a focus on conservation issues and strategies.

Graduates pursue careers as forest managers and conservationists or provide specialized expertise for resource management organizations. Principal employers are federal and state forestry, wildlife, parks and related agencies; forest products companies; and nongovernmental conservation organizations.

Forest Resource students get to take advantage of some of the best learning resources that a University can offer. The department has their own 3,506 acre research and learning center in Cloquet, Minn., where students spend two summer sessions getting field training in assessment and the biology of forests. 


Image courtesy of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

I've written previously about the U of M's research in renewable energy, including wind energy. There are a lot of amazing professors here working on the problem of storing and transmitting wind energy. But when these professors retire, we need more bright minds to continue searching for new ways to tap renewable energy sources.

The U of M recently received a grant to offer coursework for undergraduate and graduate students intended to educate them to become the next generation of renewable energy experts. Ned Mohan, an electrical engineering professor here at the U of M, said, "The main objective [of the grant] is to spread the curriculum we have developed over the last 10 years."  The U of M will be spreading its curriculum to almost 100 schools.

We currently offer undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering which include curriculum emphasizing renewable energy. The objective of EE 5940: Wind Energy Essentials, a course offered this semester, is "to familiarize students with various essential aspects in harnessing wind energy and its conversion and delivery as electricity."

In addition to developing curriculum to teach the next generation of researchers, Dr. Mohan is also researching what he calls the "next-generation grid" to transmit wind power across the entire country. Dr. Mohan says that there is enough wind power in North Dakota and South Dakota alone to supply half the electricity needs of our country.

Even first-year students can incorporate sustainability and renewable energy coursework into their class schedules. There is a freshman seminar being offered this semester through the Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Department called Sustainable Housing: Community, Technology, and Environment (BBE 1906W). In this class, students "examine some of the basic principles and guidelines that are critical to designing, building and owning an energy-efficient and sustainable home."

The U of M is dedicated to ensuring that today's great minds do everything possible to prepare tomorrow's great minds to tackle the issues of of renewable energy. As a student here, you can be part of this forward-thinking, cutting-edge culture!


Xiaoxiao Lou was in your shoes just a few years ago: sorting through myriad options for college and beyond. Here's a little bit about Xiaoxiao and why she chose the U of M...


Name: Xiaoying Lou (Xiaoxiao)

Hometown: Burnsville, Minnesota; Attended Apple Valley High School

Major: Biochemistry

Minor: Philosophy

Year in School: College senior, graduating in May 2011


Why Xiaoxiao chose the U of M:

"Like many of you, I dreamed of attending a big name, East Coast undergraduate institution in high school, and I actually had a very difficult time deciding between MIT and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Ultimately, I chose the U of M because of its fantastic research and extracurricular opportunities, its unparalleled facilities and resources, and its amazing merit scholarships. The U of M is truly the best deal out there - it provides all the rigor and opportunities of other top-ranked undergraduate institutions but at a fraction of the cost. I truly believe the quality of education I've received at the U of M is unmatched; I've never regretted my decision to attend the U of M!"


Highlight of her U of M experience so far:

"I've had so many rewarding experiences at the U of M! From my leadership experiences as president of the College of Biological Sciences Student Board and the Biological Sciences Research Club, to my volunteer experiences both abroad and in the local community of Minneapolis, to my extensive research experiences, which include both clinical research in heart transplantation and bench science research in Biochemistry, I've been able to take full advantage of the breadth and depth of opportunities at the U of M. And the faculty on campus are incredibly talented and passionate; it is through their support and guidance that I was named a 2010 Goldwater Scholar. As I look forward to graduation this spring, I feel fully prepared to take on the challenges that lie ahead in medical school next year!"


Xiaoxiao's advice to high school seniors:

"As I recall, senior year of high school is an incredibly busy and stressful time, both in terms of completing college applications and making the big decision of where you want to spend the next four years! (I can relate; I'm going through the same process again as I apply to medical schools.) Wherever you end up (and I hope you choose the U of M!), I hope you remember to enjoy the process. You'll have some of the best experiences of your life in the next four years; you'll also be challenged in more ways than you can imagine, and you'll grow in more ways than you thought possible. Get involved, and explore your passions! I wish you all the best of luck in the year ahead!"



Although our days are getting shorter and the air is getting colder, there are still a lot of heart-warming activities going on in Minneapolis during the winter season. Just a 10-minute bus ride from the heart of campus is Nicollet Mall, downtown Minneapolis's shopping and dining district, where the City of Minneapolis hosts the Holidazzle Parade. Going on 19 years strong, the Holidazzle is a brilliant display of favorite storybook characters brought to life in sparkling costumes. 

This wonderful Twin Cities tradition is brought to us by several Twin Cities-based companies and organizations. Starting November 26th and going through December 18th, the parade lights up Nicollet Avenue between 12th and 4th street, Thursday through Sunday starting at 6:30 pm.

Grab some friends, go see the parade, and spend the evening walking the warm skyways connecting the stores and restaurants of Nicollet Mall. If you have time, head up to the 8th floor of Macy's department store to see their annual holiday display, "A Day in the Life of an Elf," which tells the story of Santa's little helpers getting ready for the holiday season in the North Pole. 

An evening in Minneapolis viewing the Holidazzle Parade and Macy's holiday display is a wonderful way to spend a wintery evening! (And it's totally free!)

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