December 2, 2007

Kathy Hill Tunheim: Class of 1979

In my sophomore year at the U, within minutes of starting my Constitutional law course, I knew I was in the presence of a remarkable teacher and was going to love the intellectual challenges and sense of civil discourse. Thirty years later, there are lessons learned in that class that I still recall.

Professor Harold (Hal) Chase began with the quiet acknowledgment that he was not only our professor, but also the author of the expensive textbook we had been compelled to purchase. He then asked us to line up so that he could write each of us a personal check, equal to the amount of his royalty for the book.

We learned quickly that this was not a class to attend unprepared. While Chase was always patient, even ready with a quip if he sensed that a student needed a few seconds to gather her thoughts, he also sent the strong message that, if we had enough respect for him, our classmates, and ourselves, we wouldn’t make that mistake. He used a Socratic style to draw us into discussions about cases. The pace was demanding but exhilarating.

I came to appreciate the word collegial in that course. Chase was the professor and therefore “in charge.? But he so graciously shared the responsibility to engage that we students learned how to graciously accept the responsibility too. I also learned that some people have keen insight and it pays to listen to them. Chase had a wonderful capacity for showing enthusiasm for a new idea or observation. But during monologues by classmates who liked to hear themselves talk, he had a gift for respectfully telegraphing to the rest of us, with a subtle smile, that it was OK to multitask during these long recitations.

While it is true that I had the benefit of many great teachers throughout my CLA education, I freely confess that Chase was key to those years at the University being among the best in my life.

Ms. Tunheim is CEO of Tunheim Partners, a national communications consulting firm based in Minneapolis. She holds a B.A. in Political Science (’79) from the U of M.

October 16, 2007

Zach Coelius: Class of 2005

To walk into the office of John Sullivan, a deified regents professor of political science, with a scheme like ours should have been a recipe for disaster. A group of undergrad and graduate students had decided to help college students nationwide to register to vote in the 2002 Congressional elections via e-mail; at the same time, the group would help the schools meet their obligations under the Higher Education Act to assist students with voter registration. Having taken Dr. Sullivan’s political psychology class, I had a passing relationship with him. That, my poli-sci major, and this idea were all I had going for me. Standing there in my surfing shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops, I made my pitch, rambling on for a good ten minutes before he stopped me.

“You mean to tell me that you’re going to collect millions of e-mail addresses, raise all this money, design a voter mobilization system, track all the responses to the e-mails, and then match your data to the voter rolls to test efficacy, all in the next couple of months??

“Yessir.?

“Sounds great. Let’s do it!?

I left not only with his support, but with the beginnings of the formidable team the U of M would align behind our project. Professors Mark Snyder and John Freeman and CLA dean Steven Rosenstone provided invaluable assistance. The University Relations office landed us a cover story in USA Today. And a multitude of fellow students pitched in to make our dream a reality. Only a first-class research university like Minnesota could turn that crazy idea into a 501(c)3 nonprofit that raised a quarter of a million dollars and in-kind gifts to register half a million voters.

Looking back, I am astonished at the diverse opportunities and resources available to U of M students. No matter our aspirations, we were given the tools with which to achieve them. While the massive scale of the University can seem overwhelming, I feel it prepared me for the more massive scale of the world.

Mr. Coelius lives in San Francisco, having recently completed his M.A. in International Studies at the University of Limerick, Ireland, on a Mitchell Scholarship. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’05) from the U of M.

September 4, 2007

Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere: Class of 1984

My family moved from Nevada to Minnesota in my senior year of high school. I stayed in Reno to graduate, then headed to Minneapolis. Everything here was different—the warm, wet summer and the bitterly cold winter, the generosity of the people and their funny accents, the enormity of the cities and their rich variety. At the center of my new world was the University of Minnesota. Two decades later, it remains an anchor for me because of the people from whom I learned and with whom I became friends. One special professor stands out: Frank Sorauf.

It was the spring of my sophomore year, and I was still finding my way. My interest in a legal career was on the wane while my enjoyment of economics, political science, and mathematics was growing. What I found most intriguing was figuring out how societies work—how a mass of people could come to a decision about laws, or how people buying goods in the market could together set prices. As I was dreading another summer of waiting tables, a wonderful opportunity presented itself: Frank Sorauf hired me as his research assistant. He was writing a book on campaign finance, and he needed someone to do computer work. The data he was collecting would help piece together the puzzle of the new world of political action committees. I could do for pay what I enjoyed doing during my classes.

Frank kept me on beyond the summer. I worked for him throughout my junior and senior years, learning the nuts and bolts of research. More important, I learned how to take the germ of an idea and pursue it to its fullest. This was my calling, I decided. The ideas I encountered on that job and in my political science and economics major took hold and have not let go. A pleasant summer job became an invaluable mentoring relationship and friendship, which has only grown over the past two decades.

Dr. Ansolabehere is the Elting R. Morison Professor of Political Science at MIT. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’84) and a B.S. in Economics (’84) from the U of M.

July 22, 2007

Kenneth J. Abdo: Class of 1979

In 1976, in the interest of connecting in a substantive way with the U, I applied for a job at the Student Ombudsman Service. Student-run, student-staffed, and modeled after a Swedish government office, SOS provided a progressive, nonconfrontational approach to resolving student complaints with the administration. In other words, we tried to make the U a little less of a hassle for students via our special access to faculty and administrators. Our assistance was free and available to all students.

Our office, which was on the first floor of Johnston Hall, looked more like a college pad than a place of business. It was cluttered with campus reference books, ferns, a Mr. Coffee, a used couch, several very used lounge chairs, a battered desk, and a free phone. Students stopped in unannounced to seek directions, advice, information, or some other form of help. Some questions were a pretext to hang out, use the free phone, and mooch a cup of coffee, but most requests were real, if not urgent.

I was a political science major, and, like most ombudsmen (and women), I was a full-time undergrad working part-time. As amateur do-gooders, we were paid about $2.25 an hour by the University. We were self-governed—a true oxymoron—yet we reported to one of the college deans whose name I can’t recall because we were so effectively self-governed. After my sophomore and junior years of service, I was elected SOS director.

My eldest son started the U this year. Prompted by nostalgia, I investigated the Student Conflict Resolution Center, which, as I suspected, is the former SOS. It is now part of Student Affairs and run by several full-time professionals and at least three students. The director tells me that my picture is in the office history book. Maybe I’ll pay a visit with my son and ask him to pose a few questions to an earnest staffer while I mooch a cup of coffee and show him the old man’s photo.

Mr. Abdo is a senior law partner and full-time entertainment lawyer at Abdo, Abdo, Satorius in Minneapolis. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’79) from the U of M.

June 2, 2007

Gene Sperling: Class of 1982

I entered the University of Minnesota needing what might now be called an “extreme makeover? in terms of study habits. In high school I prided myself on my ability to survive without regular studying or even regular note-taking. In the fall of 1977, however, as panic over my first midterm exam propelled me to spend grueling nights in the basement of Wilson Library, it hit me: If I were going to compete all four years on the men’s tennis team and attend a top law school for three years after that, I was going to have to find a way to make long hours of study not only less painful, but downright tolerable.

So while I coaxed myself every night after tennis practice and rushed dinners at Centennial Hall to trudge to the basement of Wilson Library, I also took ice cream breaks in the underground cafeterias, had rendezvous with tennis teammates over fries at Annie’s Parlor, made late-night long distance calls to high school buddies, and, of course, wandered in search of the sports action. Friends pointed out that if I skipped these diversions, I might avoid closing down Wilson at 2:00 a.m. so often. Perhaps, yet finding those moments of pure relief in every evening—pure joy, in the case of the ice cream—helped give me the confidence that I could sustain my commitment to studying without hating it or burning out. Many years later, even as I found myself in jobs of high responsibility, with days so jam-packed I could barely catch my breath, that Wilson Library lesson—balancing hours of dedication with laughter and friendship—sustained me well even during the most stressful of times.

Mr. Sperling works for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’82) from the U of M.

April 24, 2007

Jessica Kimpell: Class of 2002

Involve me and I will learn. Encourage me to question and I will reflect. Inspire me and I will achieve. Such is the legacy of my CLA professors. They fostered my love of all things political and permitted me to wonder about the relationship between an individual and her community. They invited me to discover what theorists of the past had contributed on the enduring questions of citizenship and political obligation.

Professor Mary Dietz, in thought-provoking lectures, introduced me to Greek and Roman political thought, including the ancients’ views on themes that continue to form the backdrop of current political debates—democracy and empire, power and justice—and their beliefs on the interdependent relationship between human happiness and political life. Professor Jeffrey Lomanoco, whose intellectual flexibility would make Socrates take note, encouraged me to ponder the meaning of citizenship in American political thought and guided me to explore how the ideals of the Declaration of Independence have been used by groups excluded from enjoying the rights of citizenship to justify their place within American life. This notion was given poignant context in my classes with Professor Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, who vibrantly engaged with the rhetoric of the woman’s suffrage movement and the struggle for the passkey to political inclusion. With Professor William Flannigan I examined what citizens united in self-government know and think about politics, why they might hold certain views, and how public opinion might affect public policy. Professor James Druckman, whose attention to methodological questions and precision in research helped me to define and organize my approach to scholarship, continues to guide how I read the works of others and frame my own graduate research so that I may contribute to the field.

My interest in civic and political life remains entwined with the mastery of professors who showed me that there are no days so fulfilling, no moments so sublime, as those spent in engaging the intellect.

Ms. Kimpell is a Truman Scholar studying political theory at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England. She holds a B.A. in Political Science (’02) from the U of M.

March 10, 2007

Sylvia Kaplan: Class of 1976

This past year, as I watched the puppet ensemble sing “I Want to Go Back to School? in the Broadway musical Avenue Q, I really identified. In 1974, after years of wondering why I left the University of Minnesota and wishing I could go back, I finally did.

This is not to say that the U wasn’t exciting back in 1956, when I was solving the world’s problems with friends at the Bridge Café or sitting on the steps of Northrop in hopes I would turn as tan as those students returning from spring break in Florida. But I was so busy enjoying my social freedom that I forgot to pay attention to classes. When my freshman year was up, I left school to join the work world. I enjoyed it, but a year later, after I was married and working on campus, I realized what I had given up. It was more than a longing to be like the carefree students I saw: it was the books they lugged around that I missed, the chance to study and learn, then to choose new subjects ten weeks later and start all over again.

Eighteen years, four children, and several careers later, I returned to school. At thirty-five, I thought I was the oldest person ever to pick up a class schedule. But once I started, I made up for lost time. I quickly earned my bachelor’s in political science and then my master’s in American studies. I did all the coursework for a doctorate, later returning to get my master’s in social work. I took nothing for granted, and I loved the clear-cut order of it all: the newness of each term, followed by midterm papers and pressure-filled final exams.

Life does not always provide second chances, but for me, and no doubt for other students who have returned to the U, school was truly better the second time around.

Ms. Kaplan is a former social worker and restaurateur. She and her husband, Sam Kaplan, endowed the U of M’s Graduate Research Fellowship in Social Justice. She holds a B.A. in Political Science (’76), an M.A. in American Studies (’79), and an M.S. in Social Work (’90) from the U of M.

February 2, 2007

John Andresen: Class of 1963

I enrolled at the University of Minnesota for one simple reason: I wanted to play baseball, especially for the legendary Dick Siebert. But I soon found out that I needed to stay academically eligible to continue my participation in sports. That meant I had to find an area of study I could both handle and enjoy. My sophomore year I enrolled in a political science course out of desperation. To my surprise I liked the subject. I had found my major!

Baseball earned me All-American honors in 1963, my senior year. I signed with the Minnesota Twins and played four seasons in the minor leagues. My competition in making it to the Major Leagues was Rod Carew and Frank Quilici. When I played with them, I knew it was time to get on with the rest of my life.

My love of baseball got me to the U and the Twins, but the College of Liberal Arts helped launch my business career. My liberal arts education was important for me because I was an average student, so studying history, English, political science, and psychology allowed me to gain a broad base of knowledge for use in the real world. I was never a good reader, but with a major in poli-sci and a minor in physiology, I had to read, a lot. I learned to enjoy it, and to this day I complete a book a week. The rewards in business have been tremendous for me.

I think it’s a mistake for athletes to attend college out of their home state, not to recognize that it’s an advantage to play where you live. This community embraced me both during and after my baseball career. I completed a degree, met great people, and enjoyed two financial careers that fit me perfectly. What more could I ask? I’m glad to be a graduate of the U of M and glad to be a Gopher.

Mr. Andresen is a former stockbroker for Dain Bosworth and former managing director of Piper Jaffray, both in Minneapolis. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’63) from the U of M.