This blog is no longer being updated. For current information about the Parent Program, please visit

« September 2006 | Main | November 2006 »

October 31, 2006

Changes coming to GRE and LSAT tests

Students planning to apply for graduate or law school may want to review the coming changes to the standardized tests used for admissions.

The Minnesota Daily reports that

According to the Educational Testing Service, the Graduate Record Examination will become hours longer starting September 2007. The Law School Admission Test writing section will be more predictable and thus easier to prepare for as of June 2007, according to the Law School Admission Council.

An administrator quoted in the article recommends that students who will need to take the GRE in order to apply for graduate school (not all graduate programs require the test) do so now, as the scores will be good for five years, rather than taking the newer longer test.

October 30, 2006

President Bruininks discusses state budget request with The Daily

Recently University President Robert Bruininks sat down with the Minnesota Daily to discuss the U's $123.4 million biennial budget request, as well as faculty salaries, academic expectations for athletes, and the new academic minor in sustainability.

Read the Q&A here.

October 27, 2006

Upcoming event focuses on social networking

You may have read the recent headlines about Google's acquisition of YouTube, a fledgling WebSite offering users a chance to share videos, ads, and other content online.

The University's program series Headliners has booked University Professor John Reidl to discuss social (online) networking, a phenomenon that is transforming the internet from a repository of information into a tool that allows people to reach out, form connections, and interact with each other.

Here's more info on the event from the College of Continuing Education's website, where you can also purchase tickets to this and future Headliners events:

There have been precious few innovations that have changed the way humans, as a society, behave. We gathered around fire, we moved our bodies with wheels and our minds with the printing press. Sure, there have been other milestones along the way. But nothing changed our societal DNA like instant, always-on access to a global community and its data vault of knowledge -- the Internet. In the wake of Google's acquisition of YouTube and Reuters launch of a virtual Second Life bureau, join University of Minnesota computer science professor John Riedl for a lively discussion of humanity's "Social Web."

John T. Riedl, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Minnesota, devised the algorithms behind software that is a standard feature of e-commerce Web sites. The software, called “collaborative filtering,? collects data on a consumer’s preferences and calculates items they are likely to enjoy. The winner of several awards for exceptional contributions to teaching, Professor Riedl took a leave from his teaching post in 1996 to form the business Net Perceptions where he serves as chief scientist and a member of the board. Riedl holds four U.S. Patents and in 2002 he co-authored the book Word of Mouse: The Hidden Marketing Power of Collaborative Filtering. His research has been the subject of an article in The New Yorker, coverage on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, and a half-hour profile on ABC’s Nightline.

The Social Web

The national coverage of Google’s acquisition of YouTube has focused on its three inventors and their remarkable $1.65 billion payday. Local media coverage focused specifically on Jawed Karim, a 27-year-old St. Paul native whose mother is a professor of biochemistry at the University of Minnesota.

But what are the broader implications of this merger? Why would Google pay such a premium for a year-old fledgling Web site and why are YouTube’s millions of users so concerned over the possibilities of a change of ownership?

No longer is the Internet merely for sharing facts and figures; increasingly it’s for creating connections between people. Nor is the information on the Web mostly static. Anyone can create, share, and interact with its content. Hundreds of social networks are springing up all over the Internet changing the way people keep friends, find jobs, enjoy hobbies, and even choose life partners. What is the Social Web? How did it happen? And why is it so important?

Professor Riedl will present a selection of YouTube movies, political ads, and online games and show several social Web sites in action.

Where and When
Thursday, November 2 at 7 p.m., at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center on the St. Paul campus.

Author offers advice for student success-seekers

On Sunday, November 19, Dan Harbeke, author of Get In! How to Market Yourself and Become Successful at a Young Age, will speak to students about how to chart a successful course in their lives and careers.

Date: November 19
Time: 1:00 - 2:45 p.m.
Place: Coffman Menorial Union, President's Room (3rd floor)
The event is free and registration is not required

harbekecover1.jpg harbekeabout1.jpg

Harbeke will share his advice on

*the keys to a successful job search
*networking and getting your foot in the door
*balancing personal and professional achievement

October 25, 2006

Encourage your student to get a free flu shot from Boynton

Flu shot clinics will be held at a variety of locations across campus between now and November 30th.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service, said that although flu season is generally considered to last from November through April, students often get sick earlier in the season because "they are generally busier, exposed to more people, and engage in stressful activities like smoking and drinking," according to today's Minnesota Daily.

Encourage your student to find a time and location that is convenient and to receive a flu shot before coming for Thanksgiving.


October 24, 2006

Students attending off-campus parties can be ticketed

even if they're not drinking.

WCCO has a story about a party patrol bust this weekend, in which 15 kegs were confiscated and 250 people ticketed for a party near campus. Two of ticketed students were not drinking--they were designated drivers for their friends--but still received citations for "noisy assembly."

Here's the story.

College costs continuing to rise faster than inflation

the Associated Press reports:

College price increases slowed this year but they again topped inflation, and financial aid isn't keeping pace, a new report says.

Tuition and fees at public four-year public colleges rose $344, or 6.3 percent, to an average of $5,836 for the 2006-07 academic year, according to the College Board's annual ''Trends in College Pricing'' report, released Tuesday.

Accounting for inflation, prices rose just 2.4 percent -- the lowest rise in six years, and the third straight time the gap between prices and overall inflation has narrowed.

The news that price hikes are getting smaller is tempered by the fact that this decade has been a period of an extraordinary increases in college costs. Published prices are up 35 percent in five years -- the largest increase of any five-year period in the 30 years covered the report.

That's coupled with the reality that grant aid -- from the government, colleges and private sources -- isn't covering the price hikes. For the 62 percent of full-time undergraduates who receive grant aid, the average net cost of a four-year public school rose 8 percent to $2,700, the report said.

The cost increases at state schools are baffling to many students and parents, given the relative health of the economy and state finances.

After several years of sharp cuts, state spending on higher education has been rising again nationally. The problem is that more people are enrolling, so there is less and less to spend per student.

And, with another angle on the rising cost of tuition, the New York Times has a story about student loan companies courting university administrators:

One student loan company has invited college and university officials, and their spouses, to attend an education conference — in the Caribbean this February, all expenses paid. Another pays universities bonuses based on how much their students borrow. Others gave away gifts like iPods at a recent conference for financial aid administrators.

With rising tuition and lagging government aid making private student loans a big and increasingly competitive business, these are some of the ways lenders are courting universities in hopes that they will steer students their way.

Students took out nearly $13.8 billion in private loans in 2004-5, more than 10 times the amount borrowed a decade ago, according to the College Board.

The key to this business is university financial aid offices, which compile lists of “preferred? lenders, sometimes as few as two. Students rarely comparison shop and rely on those lists.

Read the whole story.

October 20, 2006

Ninja apple-picking

What could be more fun that apple-picking? Picking apples dressed as a ninja, apparently:

If you have been dying to release your inner ninja, the wait is over. Ninja Apple Picking has arrived. Dress in all black and prepare for a mission worth your while. The event is this Sunday, October 22nd. Meet behind Coffman at 12:30 where you will be transported to AAMODT Apple Farms in Stillwater. Make sure to RSVP to

The transportation is free, but students will have to pay for the apples they pick.

For more info on this and other fun events for students this weekend, check out the Twin Cities Student Unions website.

Students opt for substance-free living in Middlebrook

This fall, 13 undergraduates, a community adviser, and a U-Crew peer member signed a contract to forgo the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs while living in the University's first Substance Free Living & Learning Community. The group has been supported by educational and social programs presented by Boynton Health Service and by community advisers.

From today's Minnesota Daily:

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said the new community gives students a chance to live in an environment which supports their decision to refrain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

She said University housing officials had been looking at other campuses that have similar substance-free communities for some time, but didn't begin planning the new community until September 2005.

"Over time, we have gotten requests from students that they would like to live in a substance-free community for a variety of reasons, so we started looking at options," she said.

The substance-free community was originally planned to be in Middlebrook and Pioneer halls, but after a majority of the students requested to live in Middlebrook, housing officials dropped Pioneer, Stubblefield said.

Pioneer Hall will be added next year if more people sign up, she said. She expects the community to grow next year as more students hear about it.

Read the rest of the story in the Daily.

October 18, 2006

Question from a parent: how to handle a roommate conflict

A parent writes:

What should we do about a roommate issue? Our freshman daughter’s roommate has her boyfriend living in their room. Since they have been in the dorm there have only been 3 days that he didn’t sleep there. This is very stressful for her and we don’t know how we should help her.

I would suggest starting by reading Scott Slattery's article from our current newsletter, which addresses how students can handle conflicts with their roommates.

Dr. Slattery offers advice on evaluating whether a conflict can be resolved through negotiation, setting ground rules for a residence hall room, and drawing up a "roommate contract" with the help of a community adviser that I think might be helpful for you to review and discuss with your student.

If those efforts are not successful, students can seek mediation through their CA or residence hall director.

Parents whose students have had conflicts with their roommates, what has (or hasn't) worked for your sons or daughters?

October 16, 2006

Parent shares video of 2006 Move-in Day

University parent Doug Weber, from St. Louis, sent us a link to a slideshow video he made during Labor Day weekend this year, as students were moving back into the residence hall.

We like the video so much, we asked Doug's permisson to post the link here so we could share it with visitors to the blog:

Our daughter, Kim, is a sophomore at U of M this year, majoring in medical technology. Our other daughter is a freshman at the University of Missouri.

No matter how well prepared you are - and you need to be well-prepared - moving your child into college the first time around is both hectic and strenous - physically and even more so, emotionally. Between moving in and shopping for last minute items, the weekend becomes a blur and in what seems like a blink of an eye, you're saying good-bye to your child. I'll never forget giving her that last hug, realizing that this was the very last time I would hug "my little girl" for the next time I'd see her, she would have turned the chapter into adulthood.

Fortunately, not only are the subsequent moves far less stressful, this year Kim volunteered to assist during Move-In weekend. As a result, we were able to move her in on Friday, ahead of the crowd. This afforded me the chance to explore and take pictures on a gorgeous Saturday morning, getting lost in the majesty of the campus, watching the rest of the world move in and savoring the satisfaction of knowing our job was done!

Here's a link to the video slideshow.

Send us your photos or videos of your trips to campus--we'd love to post them here.

October 14, 2006

A request for advice from other parents

I received the following e-mail from a parent whose freshman daughter is struggling academically. If you have any suggestions for her, please add them in the comments section below.

Our daughter called the other nite & was so discouraged about her midterms. She felt she had studied hard & knew the information. She stated that that is all she has done in the last two weeks is study, by herself & with friends. She was an "A" student in high school & did PSEO her Senior year. So for her to get a "C" & "D" on her midterms was a total shock. I stated that you have to study differently in college. How differently? I'm not sure. She said she was having a hard time concentrating & she thought she was ADD!! She's working on getting a job & my reply was that I thought that would help her in scheduling her time to study, knowing she wouldn't have open ended hours to study, she might be able to concentrate better. What advice can I give her? I would think not being able to focus isn't all that unusal for freshman. Is there any better food or drink that would calm her nerves (She doesn't drink pop). Any advice from seasoned parents would be appreciated! Thanks.

A good starting place would be reading the following article written by Dr. Scott Slattery, who writes a regular column for University Parent. This article appeared in our Fall 2004 newsletter.

Question for U: Academic Blind Spots

My son did well in HS, so why is he struggling now? We didn’t see this coming.

Situations like your son’s are confusing and troubling for students and parents alike. Why would a student with no history of academic difficulty start struggling? These situations are often understandable and easy to address.

One way of understanding is to think about academic “blind spots? (ABS). Just like the blind spot we know from driving, ABS’s are issues that are ‘there’ but can’t be seen without actively looking for them. Students can be cruising along academically – success in the rearview mirror, clear goals ahead, no problems in sight – when they bump into an issue that was sitting in their blind spot.

As an example, let’s look at study/homework time. The traditional guideline is that students should spend three hours of study time a week for every credit taken (i.e., 45 hours of studying per week for a 15-credit semester). In this example, though, we will use a less strict guideline of 1 hour per credit, or 15 hours a week). In a recent survey of incoming freshmen (CIRP, 2001), approximately 77 percent said they expected to devote 15 or more hours to homework. Unfortunately, only 5 percent studied that many hours in their senior year of high school (86 percent studied 10 hours or less per week). In another survey (FYE, 2001), 64 percent of freshmen reported that their courses required more study/homework time than they expected. Two years later, 81 percent of the same group said their courses required more study time than they expected.

These statistics are not made to suggest that students need to study more in high school; rather, they point to a potential ABS – namely, that increasing study/homework time from 10 hours or less to 15 hours a week is a significant adjustment for many students. After all, if 10 hours or less worked well in high school, why change in college?

I use study/homework time as an ABS example because it indicates how small skill issues can snowball into large academic problems and how easy it often is to fix these situations (i.e., develop a more effective study schedule). Other common ABS’s include:

• ineffective time and stress management;
• difficulty shifting from a high structure environment (like home or high school) to a low structure environment (like college or an apartment);
• leaving home for the first time;
• taking an unrealistic academic load;
• too many campus involvements;
• and under-utilization of resources.

Past academic success does not make a student immune from an ABS in college—just like having a good driving record doesn’t make someone immune from hitting another car if the blind spot is not checked. While ABS’s are difficult for students to see, they are often easy to spot by others. Taking steps to assess if your son or daughter is academically prepared for college may prove to be a worthwhile preventive step. If you don’t find any concerns, then nothing is lost; but, if an ABS is found, then a lot of frustration and confusion can be avoided. Some options & suggestions are listed below for assessment and intervention:

1. Identify ABSs – there are several quick, affordable assessments students can take to highlight potential ABSs.

2. Use resources – remember that others are often able to see potential issues and can offer practical recommendations for change.

a. LASC (Learning & Academic Skills Center) (624-3323) offers courses for academic skill development [LASk 1001; & LASk 1101) for students on probation. Individualized skills training (LA – learning assistance) is also offered.

b. UCCS (University Counseling & Consulting Services) (109 Eddy Hall; 612-624-3323) offers individualized academic counseling for issues such as procrastination and low motivation, as well as assessment and test interpretation. UCCS staff are available for consultation with parents.

c. Consult with faculty / advisers. Students gain the benefits of increased efficiency and networking. Faculty offer important insights into potential ABSs based on work with previous students.

3. Value balanced schedules. While it is important for students to maintain a credit load sufficient to graduate in a timely manner, it is equally important for them to balance challenging courses with less demanding classes. Students with too many challenging courses run the risk of deflating their GPA. A balanced courseload is more likely to result in a healthier GPA and a clearer mind for focusing on work (not catching-up).

One update: the LASC is now called Student Academic Success Services (SASS).

Parents who've experienced something similar with your student, what worked for your student? What didn't?

October 13, 2006

Upcoming pre-law events

The following events may be of interest to students considering applying for law school:

SHOULD I GO TO LAW SCHOOL? Friday October 20, 2006 From 10:10AM to 11:40AM 345 Fraser Hall

Is law school a good fit for you? This workshop will help you explore the possibility of going to law school, and some basics about getting in.

Monday October 23, 2006
From 1:25PM to 2:40PM
345 Fraser
Learn how to create effective resumes and cover letters that appeal to employers.

Monday October 16, 2006
From 11:15AM to 12:15PM
345 Fraser

Want to feel confident in your interviews for jobs, internships or graduate school? Learn how to best present yourself to potential employers or schools, and how to find a good match.

Wednesday October 25, 2006
From 2:30PM to 3:30PM
345 Fraser

If you're searching for jobs in the want ads, you're not using the best job-search strategies! Learn techniques to find the right job for you.

Tuesday October 24, 2006
From 2:30PM to 3:20PM
345 Fraser Hall

Many students dread networking, but it's the most successful job-search technique! This workshop will debunk networking myths and break it into easy steps.

Wednesday November 1, 2006
Mondale 25
From 6:00PM to 9:00PM

This Princeton Review workshop contains the following features:
* Admissions Panel Discussion with Q & A
* LSAT Intensive Skills Workshop

Admissions is free. Please call 1-800-2REVIEW to register for the event.

October 12, 2006

New public safety alert for St. Paul campus

In its entirety:

There have been two recent robberies along Cleveland Avenue on the St. Paul Campus. One occurred near the intersection of Buford Avenue and the other was near the intersection of Doswell Avenue. Both locations are just south of Bailey Hall. They occurred as follows:

-Just before 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10, 2006, a young adult visitor to campus was robbed near the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Buford Avenue. One of the suspects implied that he had a gun. The victim was not injured and the suspects fled with his wallet and backpack and departed in a dark colored mini-van being driven by a third suspect. The suspects were described by the victim as being two males in their late teens to early twenties, approximately six-feet tall, of light build, and of East-African origin. One was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, and the other was dressed in dark clothing.

-Just after 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11, 2006, a student was robbed near the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Doswell Avenue. The victim was approached by two males who demanded the victim's book bag. One of the suspects held something to the victim's back while the suspects wrestled the victim to the ground. The suspects took the victim's book bag and ran westbound on Doswell Avenue from Cleveland Avenue. The victim was not seriously injured. Both suspects were described as being males in their early twenties, approximately 5' 6" to 5' 10" tall with medium builds and dark complexions. One suspect was described as wearing a brown striped thigh-length long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans and the other was described as wearing an orange long-sleeve shirt.

Cleveland Avenue is a busy thoroughfare in the afternoon, and it is hoped that somebody witnessed the incidents as they were driving or walking by. Anyone with information regarding the suspects or the vehicle in either incident is encouraged to call the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) at 612-624-COPS (2677) to assist us in solving this crime.

The UMPD urges people to immediately call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity. While crime overall remains stable on campus, robberies have occurred in and around the University area at all hours of the day and days of the week. If confronted by a robber, be cooperative. Take note of any descriptors and physical attributes you can, and give them to the police dispatcher as soon as possible after the incident so that police are able to respond quickly in an attempt to apprehend those responsible.

Greg Hestness
Assistant Vice President of Public Safety and University Police Chief

Event for jobseekers on the St. Paul campus

The St. Paul Career Center asked me to put out the word about a job fair on the St. Paul campus next week:

Are you interested in learning about career opportunities in banking, retail, commodity trading, food industry, human resources, sales and marketing, bio-based products, animal and plant industries?

Plan to attend the Applied Business and Agriculture Job and Internship Fair
Tuesday, October 17
10:00 - 2:30
St. Paul Campus Student Center Ballroom

Open to all University of Minnesota students!

October 11, 2006

Gopher Express offers Halloween care package


Click here for more info or to order.

"Second Wind" program helps students finish the semester strong

Several weeks into the semester, students (especially first year and transfer students) are sometimes dissatisfied with how they are doing in their classes, and surprised at how much more demanding the coursework is compared to what they've experienced before.

Although it's not possible to rewind the last few weeks and start their classes over, there is still time for students to learn new study skills and strategies that will help them improve their academic standing.

A mid-semester workshop called "Second Wind" will cover such topics as:
**Time Management
**Note taking
**Test Preparation
**Basic reading and study strategies

The workshop will be held on two sequential Mondays, October 30 and November 6, from 3:00 - 4:30 in 125 Coffey Hall. Students who register should attend both sessions--different material will be presented each day.

The workshop is produced by the St. Paul Office of University Counseling and Consulting Services and the SMART Learning Commons, and is open to all University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students.

Participants should register ahead of time online at or over the phone at 612-624-3323.

October 9, 2006

Tickets to Homecoming game available for parents

This year's Parents Weekend was held in conjunction with the Michigan football game, but we've had some parents inquire about whether Homecoming tickets would be available again at a discounted rate.

I'm pleased to announce that we've negotiated a special parent rate for Homecoming tickets.

Parents can click here and use the promo code PARENTS to get the parent rate of $20 per ticket.

October 6, 2006

Driven to Discover campaign

Have you seen the University's new "Driven to Discover" campaign, promoting the great research that goes on here at the U? Here's a link to the campaign's site.

Those of you who visited campus for Parents Weekend last weekend probably noticed the questions and answers posted on sidewalks on the East Bank. And if you live in Minnesota, you may have also seen some ads on television during the local new.

The Minnesota Daily ran a story earlier this week about the purpose of the campaign, and how students perceive it (follow the link to read the complete story, including comments from students):

Now that campus streets are plastered with bright yellow question boxes, students are questioning what's behind the University's new marketing campaign. The $2 million, two-year initiative, dubbed "Driven to Discover," aims to explain why the University wants to become one of the top three public research institutions in the world.

Ideally, the campaign will alert more Minnesotans about the importance of University research and how it affects their lives, said Linda Thrane, vice president for University relations.

"We found that there is broad awareness of the University and broad support for the University, but it doesn't go very deep," Thrane said. "In particular, (people) don't understand the research that makes us different from other higher education institutions in the state."

A 2006 survey conducted by Thrane's office shows that more Minnesotans think it is "very important" for the University to provide a high-quality education - more important than to become an international leader in research.

"So the University has a lot of work to do," Thrane said. "We need to get people to understand how beneficial research is and how it makes us different from other schools."

Today's Daily printed a couple of letters to the editor from undergraduates in response to the story about the campaign:

Driven to Discover what?

I have a question for Linda Thrane: How do random questions plastered to a campus sidewalk "help," as she says, "garner resources to support the research mission"? Does Thrane think students will be so inspired by whether or not Goldy is "all gopher" that they will donate their grocery money to research?

Does Thrane imagine that a question like "When will we have a cure for AIDS" somehow distinguishes the University of Minnesota from other universities who are also asking themselves the same question?

The main problem of the Driven to Discover campaign so far is that the marketers don't appear to understand how to ask a research-related question and instead have opted for some very broad questions that fail to highlight the large and unique body of research thriving at the University of Minnesota.

It's great that University students are submitting thoughtful questions to the panel of researchers online, but this success is invisible to the tax-paying public and due more to the quality of students and faculty than the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.

The University has paid $2 million for this campaign in order to help raise the profile of research at the University of Minnesota, but all I see so far is a bunch of expensive stickers that 1) tell me nothing new 2) minimize discussion of actual research projects and 3) are not, in fact, 15 paces apart.

Featuring the current projects and short biographies of University of Minnesota faculty on the sidewalks would have been a more sensible and direct way to highlight research at the University: Give research a compelling human face and tell the students and general public how many different ways research at the University improves the quality of life and economic well-being of both Minnesota and the world at large. I don't think this is too much to ask of a $2 million campaign. Academic scholarship drives this University. A marketing campaign that fails to put faculty research in the front seat and on the sidewalk doesn't make academic or economic sense.

Jennifer Smith
University undergraduate

Academics important

In response to Tuesday's editorial, "What is Driven to Discover?": Despite the almost annual tuition increase at the University of Minnesota and the increased student fees to fund a stadium that will be completed after many of us have graduated, how can the University explain how it is spending $2 million on an ad campaign for a controversial academic reorganization? Is it to try and persuade those of us who are still not convinced that becoming a top-three public research institution is not inherently better for the University, and most importantly, the students?

From the Daily's Tuesday article on the ad campaign: "A 2006 survey conducted by (Linda) Thrane's (vice president for University relations) office shows that more Minnesotans think it is 'very important' for the University to provide a high-quality education - more important than to become an international leader in research. 'So the University has a lot of work to do,' Thrane said. 'We need to get people to understand how beneficial research is and how it makes us different from other schools.' "

There you have it. The general pubic isn't as concerned about research as they are about good, quality education, so the University must spend $2 million in order to make us think, er, "understand," otherwise.

I'm happy I was accepted into the General College, before it was closed to make way for a top-three research Institution and was able to get an education at the University that has taught me to recognize the subtleties in speech and the written word that make you believe things you didn't even know you read.

Mark Davidson
University undergraduate

Your thoughts?