July 2009 Archives

BestMidwesternSeal.jpgCrookston, Minn.  - The University of Minnesota, Crookston is one of the best colleges and universities in the Midwest according to The Princeton Review.  The education services company selected the school as one of 158 institutions it profiles in its "Best in the Midwest" section of its Web site feature 2010 Best Colleges: Region by Region that posted July 27, 2009.   

The U of M, Crookston, with its applied learning and rich technology, received the designation "Best in the Midwest" based on survey data submitted by the campus and student opinion data. Student comments are included as part of a profile on each institution compiled by PrincetonReview.com.

"Our faculty and staff work hard to provide students with an exceptional experience on the Crookston campus," said Chancellor Charles H. Casey. "Our efforts to educate students as global citizens and attract a diverse student population to the campus, along with our extensive experience as a laptop university, have proven a great benefit to our students."

The 158 colleges The Princeton Review chose for this year's "Best in the Midwest" designations are located in twelve states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.  The Princeton Review also designated 218 colleges in the Northeast, 123 in the West, and 141 in the Southeast as best in their locales on the company's 2010 Best Colleges: Region by Region section on its site.  The 640 colleges named "regional best(s)" represent only about 25% (one out of four) of the nation's 2,500 four-year colleges.

The Princeton Review is known for its tutoring and classroom test preparation courses, books, and college and graduate school admission services.  To learn more, visit the Web site located at www.PrincetonReview.com.

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers more than 25 applied-science undergraduate degree programs and 50 concentrations, including several online degrees, in agriculture; arts, humanities and social sciences; business; math, science and technology; and natural resources. To learn more, visit www.UMCrookston.edu. 

Contact: Andrew Svec, director of communications, 218-281-8438 (asvec@umn.edu)

umcedacenter_verticallogo.jpgCrookston, Minn. - A new study released by The EDA Center at the University of Minnesota,Crookston finds that 89.7 percent of rural businesses maintain an Internet connection; up from the 66 percent reported in 2004.  And unlike in 2004 when 38.6 percent of rural businesses were still connecting with a dial-up Internet connection, today 96 percent of rural businesses utilize a broadband connection.  The report documents the findings of a study just completed in June 2009 which surveyed 689 businesses across a variety of commercial and industrial sectors throughout rural Minnesota. The study was conducted in collaboration with 8 different Regional Development Commissions, as well as the West Central Initiative Foundation and has a statistical margin of error of + 3.7 percent.

Researchers found that rural businesses are quite active users of the Internet and continue to integrate it into their business operations and strategy.  More than half of all businesses in the study report utilizing their broadband connection for everything from selling goods and services online (56.3%) to interacting with government agencies (69.8%).  Further, business owners report that securing adequate bandwidth is having a significant impact on everything from their overall cost of doing business (49.9%) to increased business sales (49.3%).

Interestingly, 71 percent of businesses in the study reported that the price they pay for their Internet connection was either "very affordable" or "priced about right"; and a wide majority of businesses (85%) reported that the speed of their current Internet connection was adequate to meet their current business needs.  However, only 37 percent of the businesses had confidence that their current Internet connection speed would adequately meet their business needs 24 months from now. Further, 54 percent of the businesses reported that they planned to further increase their use of the Internet in their business within the next 12 months.

Dr. Jack Geller, professor and director of the EDA Center observed, "It is clear from these findings that the Internet; and specifically broadband technology is now an essential component of all businesses regardless of the size or location of the business.  Accordingly, communities, economic developers and broadband providers must collaborate to ensure that businesses will be able to access the bandwidth they need."

A copy of the full report can be downloaded from The EDA Center's website at www.umcedacenter.org.

The EDA Center at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, is one of over 40 university centers nationwide, supported by the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.  The EDA Center conducts applied research, provides direct technical assistance and delivers educational programs to economic development agencies located in economically-distressed communities throughout Minnesota.

Contact: Jack Geller, director, The EDA Center, 218-281-8248 or 507-381-0720

In the photograph, Dave Volker (left), tractor operator from the Polk County Highway Department, and Junior Thomas Haarstick (right) stand by the tractor modified to run on straight vegetable oil.
When faculty and students work together on research the benefits are many and a project underway at the University of Minnesota, Crookston has the potential to benefit agriculture as well as the environment. This summer Junior Thomas Haarstick, Vergas, Minn., and Assistant Professor Paul Aakre from the Agriculture Department are testing a tractor they converted to run on straight vegetable oil (SVO). The tractor, which is currently being used to mow county ditches, began using SVO on June 15 and to date has logged some 160 hours, adding about 30 hours per week.

 "The tractor operates using a two-tank system," explains Aakre. The tractor starts on diesel fuel and a switch is made to the vegetable oil when the operating temperature is high enough and the exhaust temperature is hot enough on the tractor."

A conversion unit from the German company, Elsbett AG, was attached to a New Holland tractor this spring in order for it to use the vegetable oil as fuel. A tank on the front of the tractor holds the necessary diesel fuel for starting and then a switch is made either automatically or manually to the SVO in the tractor's main fuel tank.

The SVO, a byproduct of crushing canola seed, is filtered for use in the tractor. Since the SVO has a higher viscosity than diesel fuel, a heat exchanger is used to heat the oil to improve its fluidity. The Environmental Protection Agency provided an exemption to test the SVO in the tractor.

Haarstick, an agricultural systems management major, worked on mounting the conversion unit, preparing the tractor, and doing much of the electrical work. His student research is funded in part by an undergraduate research grant he applied for with Aakre. "Being involved in SVO research has shown me that hard work will pay off," Haarstick says. "I know there will be benefits working on research that only a select few are attempting."

Using a locally produced product and saving fossil fuel are just two of the benefits of running a tractor on SVO. The project is part of ongoing research by Aakre using vegetable oil as fuel. He worked with Jade Estling, a 2009 graduate of the U of M, Crookston, on setting up a small scale bio-diesel lab in 2007.

Support for the project came in part from the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NWRSDP). The NWRSDP serves northwest Minnesota and works to foster development of agricultural, tourism and natural resources systems that are profitable for citizens, while enhancing environmental quality and supporting rural communities.  The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) are a joint program of the University of Minnesota's Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, the Southwest Regional Development Commission, Green Institute, The Minnesota Project, and the Minnesota Office of Energy Security, Department of Commerce. CERTs works to connect people with the technical resources needed to identify and implement community-scale energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers more than 25 applied-science undergraduate degree programs and 50 concentrations, including several online degrees, in agriculture; arts, humanities and social sciences; business; math, science and technology; and natural resources. To learn more, visit www.UMCrookston.edu.

Contact: Paul Aakre, assistant professor, 218-281-8104 (paakre@umn.edu); Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director of communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

Fergus Falls, Minnesota, July 20, 2009 - Today Otter Tail Power Company announced its selection of the University of Minnesota, Crookston, as the winner of the On for Conservation Campus Energy Challenge.Thumbnail image for otpOtterLogoColor.jpg

In this first-of-its-kind program, the U of M, Crookston, will work with Otter Tail Power Company to reduce electric energy consumption on campus by as much as 15 percent. "That's an extremely aggressive goal," said Otter Tail Power Company marketing specialist Jon Fabre, "but we envision student leadership grabbing hold and making it work. With the interest we already have seen from the administration we're confident this Campus Energy Challenge will reduce campus energy consumption dramatically and achieve significant cost savings."

University of Minnesota, Crookston, Chancellor Charles H. Casey enthusiastically accepted the challenge on behalf of the students, faculty, and staff. "The goals of Otter Tail Power Company's Campus Energy Challenge fit well with our priorities and goals of establishing a culture of energy efficiency and a more sustainable campus," said Casey. "These goals also are consistent with systemwide sustainability goals established by University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks."

The Campus Energy Challenge will offer rebates and low-interest financing for energy-efficient technologies, redirect student and staff behaviors to enhance conservation efforts, and provide in-depth energy education through audits, consulting, and student scholarships. The challenge is a pilot project that is part of Otter Tail Power Company's Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program for 2009 and 2010 approved by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security last November.  

"We also are enthusiastic about the level of student participation that Otter Tail Power Company is looking to develop within this program," said Casey. "Our students are developing their lifestyle habits, including their personal energy use. What better time to impress upon them the cost savings they can gain through simple energy conservation efforts."

Otter Tail Power Company selected the Crookston Campus from four Minnesota colleges that have student housing within the company's service area. The selection process reviewed the total square footage of each campus along with their existing heating and cooling technologies, the number of students living on campus, and the school's overall energy-efficiency potential. 

According to Fabre, each campus application showed strong dedication to energy conservation. "One of the objectives of this pilot project is to see what methods work best to reduce energy use," said Fabre. "If this project is as successful as we anticipate, we'd consider offering the opportunity to the other colleges and universities in the future." 

Otter Tail Power Company, a subsidiary of Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: OTTR), is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It provides electricity and energy services to more than a quarter million people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. To learn more about Otter Tail Power Company visit www.otpco.com. To learn more about conserving energy visit www.conservingelectricity.com. To learn more about Otter Tail Corporation visit www.ottertail.com.

Posted with permission from Otter Tail Power Company.

Contact: Cris Kling, director of public relations, Otter Tail Power Company, 218-739-8297; Andrew Svec, director of communications, U of M, Crookston, 218-281-8438, (asvec@umn.edu)

As the plants mature over the summer, research by University of Minnesota, Crookston Assistant Professor Katy Smith, Ph.D., is steadily making progress. The study, which began in March 2009, is being conducted in collaboration with Associate Professor Albert Sims from the Northwest Research and Outreach Center focuses on emissions of greenhouse gases and the technologies that can reduce the emissions of those gases.

Smith's research involves obtaining gas samples from a wheat test plot that are taken weekly throughout the growing season and transported back to the laboratory for analysis. She has been assisted by Senior Tamara Luna, Crookston, Minn., in the data gathering process. Luna, a biology major, has worked closely with Smith as an undergraduate research assistant since fall 2008.            
Each week, samples are taken using a syringe along with recording the soil temperature and moisture, from each of 36 wheat plots located east of Crookston. The data will help compare an environmentally friendly fertilizer with its more conventional counterpart. Yield will also be checked after the final samples are taken in the fall and the grain is harvested.

Contact: Katy Smith, assistant professor, 218-8262 (katys@umn.edu) ; Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director of communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)

France_faculty.jpgIn an effort to integrate more study abroad options into the curriculum at the University ofom the agriculture department including Associate Professor Harouna Maiga, and instructors Chuck Lariviere, and Terrill Bradford, visited the French National Agricultural Research Institute (INRA) in Paris, France, and its allied agricultural universities.  

While in France from June 23 to July 1, the group made several stops including a visit to Tours, France, where they investigated a variety of options for collaboration and connection with INRA. They had an opportunity to establish contacts and plan to continue conversations in the future.  The trip was funded in part by a grant from the University of Minnesota's Office of International Programs and professional development funds.

Integration of study abroad into the curriculum offers a variety of options for students to gain international exposure, and it moves the Crookston campus toward the University of Minnesota's goal of achieving 50 percent of U of M graduates participating in a study abroad experience.

Contact: Terrill Bradford, agriculture instructor, 218-281-8108 (tbradfor@umn.edu); Chuck Lariviere, business instructor, 218-281-8175 (clarivie@umn.edu); Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director of communications, 218-281-8432 (ltollefs@umn.edu)