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It is my great pleasure to write periodic columns for the newspapers of west central Minnesota. I appreciate the invitation to do so, and hope that my occasional messages serve to help connect you to the University of Minnesota.

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Most of us these days have financial matters on our minds, so let me first address the economy and how it may impact the Morris campus. The University of Minnesota, like other state-funded entities, has been asked to reduce its budgets for the coming biennium. The Morris campus will participate in this budget reduction. No doubt we will need to make tough decisions, for these are not easy times. Our budget priorities will be driven by the principles of: honoring the academic and co-curricular student experience as the core of what we do; protecting jobs as best we can; and preserving our value to the region. Our plans will align with the budget principles of the university, including changes in our organizational structure and business practices intended to promote more effective, efficient, and less redundant efforts.

It is also important to remember that there is much to celebrate here, even in the midst of challenging circumstances. UMM's "fundamentals" are strong. Our philanthropic contributions are robust this year, already exceeding our accomplishments at the end of last year on June 30. While it is still very early in the enrollment season, our student numbers continue to track very well for next fall, with both new high school students and transfer student groups included. We have begun a $7.5 million remodeling of the historic engineering building, also known as the community services building which will, when completed in 18 months, provide a welcoming entry point for all visitors. Our campus community is strong and our mission distinctive -- our commitment to these factors will be especially important as we move through the next few months.

We are privileged to live in West Central Minnesota, along with our good neighbors and partners in the West Central Research and Outreach Center and the University of Minnesota Extension Service. I firmly believe that we possess assets and potential here that are positive indicators for the future. By pooling our collective community resources, talents, and energies, we can achieve good things together. Please let me know if you or someone you know has an interest in enrolling at UMM. And I welcome your ideas for how the university can play a role in supporting western Minnesota during these challenging times.

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