From the Desk of Eric Kaler

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Winter 2017

W2017_FromTheDeskOfEricKaler_Inline300 The 2017 legislative session is quickly approaching. In preparation, I am sharing our legislative request with lawmakers and Governor Mark Dayton and his staff, and I’ve been contacting newly elected state representatives and senators.

One of my primary tasks as President is to be the Advocate-in-Chief. But I can’t tell our story alone. I need you—and other alumni whose lives were changed by the U and who know firsthand the value and impact of a University of Minnesota education.

You, along with our outstanding students, are our most credible advocates. You can make a difference by meeting with legislators, making a phone call, communicating via email, or even writing a good, old-fashioned snail mail letter or postcard. The message is simple: Support the U because a strong University makes for a strong, prosperous Minnesota.

Your personal story and passion for the U really matter. Case in point: Patricia Buschette (B.S. ’96), an alumni ambassador par excellence. She lives in the west central town of Renville and is especially supportive of the University’s agricultural mission, Extension, and our commitment to environmental education. For years, she’s been meeting with and contacting legislators on our behalf. Patricia and her husband, Butch, have been generous donors. They saw two of their daughters gain U degrees, too.

“Advocating for the U is like planting seeds,” she says. “You don’t see growth immediately. But when you share your insight about the University, what it did for you, and the needs of our students and faculty, you plant a seed, and you hope that it will bear fruit.”

That’s the goal: to help lawmakers understand and support our efforts to produce new ideas, groundbreaking research, and, most importantly, the next generation of civic, scientific, arts, and business leaders. And, of course, to let them know you’re an engaged constituent and a diligent voter.

Those of you who live outside of Minnesota can write to the Governor or a legislator and share your University experience. And encourage your friends and family who live in Minnesota to support the U.

This legislative session we are seeking to partner with the state on key initiatives that support student success and affordability. That is, funding to help us improve, among other things, our graduation rates, retention rates—particularly of students of color—and enhance our capacity to teach more students in science, technology, engineering and math fields, which are in historic demand.

We’re also hoping policymakers will make new investments in our highly successful MnDRIVE—Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy program—improving cancer outcomes across the state, eliminating educational disparities, developing new water technologies, and harnessing our strength in big data.

Learn more about our request at and get updates by joining our UMN Advocates at And please attend our Legislative Kickoff Breakfast on January 25 (see page 51 for details). As always, Patricia Buschette plans to be there.

“Advocating for the U is extremely satisfying,” she says. “I think of my advocacy as not just seeking economic support from the Legislature, but, of encouraging an appreciation of the gifts that the University brings to the education and culture of the people of the state. And it’s a way of paying back to the University all you received.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Our elected leaders hear about the U’s successes from me all the time. But they need to hear from you, too. You can truly make a difference.

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