Moving Forward with Grand Challenges Research and Curriculum

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Update from Provost Hanson 

In my last update on campus strategic plan implementation I noted the work of alignment that is guiding the annual college and school compact and budget meetings, as well as the steps being taken by central offices to take up some of the specific tasks set for them by the strategic plan. I also mentioned that I would very shortly be convening a Grand Challenges Research Strategies Group to help shape grand-challenges research priorities.

I requested suggestions for membership from all of the Twin Cities campus deans, indicating that members of this workgroup should be faculty who would be deeply respected and accomplished in their own fields, but whose perspective on this strategic work would not be shaped primarily by their own scholarly interests. This was to be a group of senior faculty who could take an expansive and informed view and yet be open to extensive consultation with all levels and elements of our campus.

This group has now been formed, and I am delighted to announce that Bud Duvall (Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Political Science and former interim dean of CLA) has agreed to chair it. In addition to Bud, the following distinguished faculty have agreed to serve as members:

  • Bruce Blazar, Regents Professor of Pediatrics and CCRF Land-Grant Chair in Pediatric Oncology, Director of Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Chief of Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, Medical School 
  • James Bradeen, Professor of Plant Pathology, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences 
  • Tom Clayton, Regents Professor of English Language and Literature, Classical Civilization Program, CLA 
  • Marilyn DeLong, Professor of Design, Housing, and Apparel, College of Design 
  • Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Civil Engineering, Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Chair in Environmental Engineering, College of Science and Engineering 
  • Gunda Georg, Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Medicinal Chemistry, Robert Vince Endowed Chair, Director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development, College of Pharmacy 
  • Apostolos Georgopoulos, Regents Professor of Neuroscience, McKnight Presidential Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, American Legion Brain Sciences Chair, Medical School 
  • Marc Hillmyer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Chemistry, Director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers, College of Science and Engineering 
  • Sarah Hobbie, Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences 
  • Deborah John, Professor and Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Marketing, Carlson School of Management 
  • Sonja Kuftinec, Professor of Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA 
  • Richard Leppert, Regents Professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, CLA 
  • Ann Masten, Regents Professor, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, and Irving Harris Professor of Child Psychology, Institute of Child Development, College of Education and Human Development 
  • Matt McGue, Regents Professor of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts 
  • Phyllis Moen, Professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in Sociology, CLA 
  • Thomas Molitor, Distinguished University Teaching Professor of Veterinary Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine 
  • Gary Muehlbauer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Endowed Chair in Molecular Genetics, Agronomy and Plant Genetics, CFANS 
  • Fionnuala Ni Aoláin, Professor and Dorsey & Whitney Chair in Law, Law School 
  • Harry Orr, Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Edmund Wallace Tulloch and Anna Marie Tulloch Chair in Genetics, Director of the Institute for Translational Neuroscience, Medical School 
  • Mike Osterholm, McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Health, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, School of Public Health 
  • F. Abel Ponce de León, Professor of Molecular Genetics, Animal Science, CFANS 
  • David Pui, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Mechanical Engineering, CSE 
  • Peter Reich, Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Forest Resources, F.B. Hubachek Sr. Chair in Forest Ecology and Tree Physiology, CFANS 
  • Steve Ruggles, Regents Professor of History, Director of the Minnesota Population Center; CLA 
  • Karen Seashore, Regents Professor of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development; Robert Holmes Beck Chair of Ideas in Education, CEHD 
  • Donald Simone, Professor of Dentistry and Division Director/Basic Sciences, School of Dentistry 
  • Joe Soss, Cowles Professor for the Study of Public Service, Humphrey School of Public Affairs 
  • Ann Waltner, Professor of History, CLA
  • Jean Wyman, Professor and Cora Meidl Siehl Endowed Chair in Nursing Research, School of Nursing; Director, Minnesota Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence; Co-Director, Powell Center of Women's Health, Medical School

This group has been charged with gathering perspectives from across the campus on the cross-disciplinary areas of research and scholarship where we have, or are poised to have, exceptional strength and a competitive advantage. In consultation with our faculty, staff, and students, and with relevant external experts, they will then suggest which of these areas might best align with the Grand Challenge criteria outlined by the Strategic Planning Workgroup.

Key criteria outlined by the SP Workgroup include: global impact and local relevance, extent of existing faculty strength and leadership, disciplinary diversity, impact on the University and its reputation, suitability for a land-grant research university, interconnection with education, engagement of external constituencies, and sustainability. (You can find a discussion of these criteria in the final planning report.)

I want to emphasize, as I have previously, that the three areas identified in the plan (related to food, environment, and vibrant communities) were intended only as examples and models—areas where robust interdisciplinary work congruent with grand challenges ambitions is already under way. And I again emphasize, too, that alongside boundary-breaking Grand Challenges research, we will continue to nourish and celebrate basic research and focused disciplinary scholarship and creative activity.

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Grand-Challenges Curriculum Jump-Start

On the curricular side, the Office for Undergraduate Education has collaborated with the Twin Cities deans to shape a call for proposals for Grand Challenges courses,to be offered to students in 2015–16.

These courses will aim to help students develop a foundational set of knowledge, skills, and values that can be applied across a range of potential grand-challenge topics. Proposals are invited from both freshman-admitting colleges and professional schools. The schools and colleges have been asked to distribute the call for proposals, but principles and processes can also be found here.

Proposals for fall 2015 Grand Challenges courses should be submitted by the end of the month and for spring 2016 by August 31 via the Grand Challenges Online Proposal Form.

Implementation of the University’s strategic plan will be a dynamic, decade-long process aimed at creating a nimbler, more integrated and vitally engaged research university for our students and state. Achieving our goals will require many small steps over time, many conversations, and wide-ranging collaborations that engage everyone in our campus community. I encourage you to look for opportunities to help the campus move forward.

This update, in modified format, was emailed by Provost Hanson on March 4 to Twin Cities faculty and staff.