The other day I was walking back to my office from lunch and was struck by the vibrant, diverse, and beautiful setting our campus has become. The Washington Avenue sidewalk was buzzing with hurried students, curious parents, and health care providers in different-colored scrubs. The Metro Green Line light rail train rolled by as I strolled past a pharmacy, an independent bookstore, new student apartments, and Vietnamese and Middle Eastern restaurants with lines snaking out their front doors. Ahead of me rose the downtown Minneapolis skyline.
I was in the heart of our campus and one of the nation's most dynamic metropolitan areas. We are a strong University for many reasons: our unique location, the vibrant urban personality we have because of it, and opportunities and challenges that need our attention and commitment.
Unlike the vast majority of public research universities across the nation, we're not located in "a college town." Our location is even better: We're in the 16th largest metro area in the nation with an extraordinary cluster of Fortune 500 companies, filled with internship and job opportunities for our students and alumni.
It's why our strategic plan - titled Driving Tomorrow - calls on us to "establish a culture of reciprocal engagement, leveraging our unique location, and to better leverage the resources and relationships available in the Twin Cities and across the state to benefit our students, our communities, and the world."
We are working to live out the plan, and as a rare urban land-grant university, we must embrace our location in all that we do. We remain a statewide asset and a leader in fueling Minnesota's agriculture industry, and our city location allows us to attract the best and brightest from across the country and around the world. For this fall's incoming class, we received a record 50,000 applications for about 5,800 first-year spots, and 67 percent of our applicants said they chose the U because of our campus life opportunities, which are driven by our uncommon location.
Exceptional learning and career opportunities for our students and alumni, and research topics for our faculty intersect with the challenges that come with life in our diverse and open environment. While it's true that we must work harder than other campuses to ensure ours is safe and welcoming for all who live, work, and visit here, it's also true that our campus is safer and more inviting today than it was a few years ago.
Our location and our mission also mean that we must be good neighbors - be it with the Somali community in Cedar-Riverside; our partners in North Minneapolis, the home to our Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center; or in the booming Prospect Park neighborhood. In particular, this includes using our resources and expertise to help close the economic, educational, and health disparities that burden our communities and state.
If you haven't been on campus recently, please visit. Join me and other alumni for Homecoming Week festivities October 15 through 22. And watch for the Alumni Association's monthly events calendar in your email and see firsthand how the University is the beating heart of Minnesota's culture of innovation, caring, and urban energy.