December, UMD Publications Director, Cheryl Reitan and Art History
Professor, Robyn Roslak sat down to talk with UMD Chancellor Dr.
Kathryn A. Martin about the last five years at UMD. The following
article is based on that interview.
Roslak and Reitan perused the room as Chancellor Martin stepped
away to take a phone call. A sculpture by faculty member Tom Kerrigan
hung on the wall of her office, a colorful painting by visiting
artist Rudy Autio hung next to it. On the table rested the award-winning
Tweed Museum of Art Exhibition catalog designed by graphic design
faculty member Janice Kmetz. On the shelves sat three white construction
hard hats, from the UMD Library, the Weber Music Hall groundbreaking,
and the Soft Center/Technology Village in downtown Duluth. Just
below the hard hats was a framed photograph of the 2000 Womens
Hockey Team after they received the WCHA championship trophy. It
was signed by all the players. Roslak and Reitan didnt wait
long, Chancellor Martin walked in and the interview began.
Make no mistake about it, building the new library is the
single most significant event at UMD in decades, said Martin
in response to the first question. That isnt to say
it just happened overnight. It took precise planning, hard work,
winning over key players, and going around those who said we would
never get a library funded.
I have studied the history of the growth of UMD, in particular
the publications by Robert Bridges. I learned that throughout its
history, UMD has had to fight for every building and improvement.
Nothing has changed.
I needed to gather people together who would confront adversity
and be willing to take risks, Martin continued. We convinced
people that UMD couldnt grow without a new technologically
sophisticated library that was accessible for students and the community.
Then it got easier. The legislators and the regents worked hard
for UMD. They bargained and fought. We also had incredible support
from our alumni. They made their presence known and people across
the state realized we werent going to give up. Chancellor
Martin went on to say, rather nonchalantly, And now we have
a marvelous place for our students. There is not another library
like ours in the country.
Reitan asked about the other building projects. Were you able
to keep that synergy going and continue to improve the campus?
Yes, the Weber Music Hall came next. Last spring, our students
performed on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City. That tells
you what a great music program we have. Martin believes that
UMD deserves the new Weber Music Hall. Our Music Department
has never had an adequate space, or space they could even call their
own. They often had to find a location to perform by hit and miss
A music performance facility has been a documented need for
20 years. A year ago, 300 students on 11 buses traveled to the state
Legislature to lobby for the building. I was told it was the largest
student delegation to ever lobby the Legislature. It was remarkable.
The students worked hard, they were informed and they knew what
they were talking about.
That day turned out to be a most important day, the turning
point, she went on. After that day, I felt confident
we would receive funding for the building. Then Ron and Mary Ann
Weber, both UMD alumni, came forward with extraordinary support.
Their gift made it possible for us to contact Cesar Pelli, a world-class
architect, and he designed a world-class music facility.
Construction will begin this summer and UMD plans to dedicate the
Weber Music Hall in the 2002-2003 school year.
Barely catching her breath, Chancellor Martin said, with a big smile
on her face, And there is more! UMD has a third new building
in its future. A $33 million science building is the highest priority
of all facilities on the University legislative agenda. It is the
first time UMD has been first on the list of University legislative
When Reitan asked about the factors that ensured the favorable attention
for funding of the building, Martin responded, First, as I
already mentioned, it is a high priority in the system. To grow
and meet the needs of todays science students, we must have
a new science building. Second, we have an effective Northeastern
Minnesota legislative delegation that has a deep appreciation for
the value of education. They will work hard on behalf of UMD. And
third, a $7.5 million gift to build our science facility was given
by the Swenson Family Foundation. That extraordinary gift gave the
project awesome momentum. I am already thinking about new lab equipment
and scientific technology teaching tools.
Because she received one of the first faculty small grants, Roslak
was interested in hearing Martins opinions on faculty development.
Faculty development is a critical area in higher education,
Martin responded. I remember when I was seven years old, a
ski instructor told me, If you quit falling, you quit learning.
What I mean is, success in the academic community is a result of
continued educational opportunities, experimentation and risk. If
the academic environment doesnt support faculty willing to
take risks, then we have a problem. We cant stay the same;
we as teachers are obligated to continue to learn. That is why I
initiated the small grants program. I started it the first year
I came to UMD.
Roslak agreed. It was a wonderful experience for me.
The first year there were only five applicants. Martin commented,
In recent years, we have had more faculty apply than we can
UMDs technology camps are another good example of innovative
faculty development. These camps help faculty learn by using technology
as a teaching tool. The technological support for the faculty
is right here on our own campus, Martin explained. Helping
faculty adapt to the technological change is an important part of
keeping the classroom learning experience relevant for the student.
We used to get questions from people wondering if UMD was
technologically current. Now that the library is open, our laptop
initiative for selected programs is entering its third year, and
faculty are learning how to use technology to become even better
educators, we dont often get questions like that anymore.
The past five years have brought some thrilling moments but they
have also brought a lot of difficult work. An important part of
Chancellor Martins leadership has been planning. We
have stuck pretty close to the comprehensive plan that campus leaders
put together in 1995. That plan gave people confidence in the system.
It served us well, but now it is time for another five-year plan.
The old plan looked at technology and other campus needs. We are
right on schedule in those areas.
Not everything is the way Martin would like for it to be. I
do wish we had more resources so we could provide the deans with
a discretionary fund enabling them to bring about needed changes
in their collegiate units. They are doing a good job without much
financing; they are being very creative, but they need more support
for their visions.
One of the ideas that Chancellor Martin would like to initiate is
an undergraduate honors program. Every year UMD enrolls between
50 to 65 students ranked first in their high school class. This
means we already have a core of students who may elect to participate.
An honors program is the next logical step for UMD in cultivating
a more successful academic profile.
UMD has already implemented some programs for students at other
academic levels along the curve. Seminars and the Introduction to
College Learning class for first-year students, coupled with better
student advising, have helped students succeed. We are always
going to have students for whom the collegiate experience is more
challenging, at least for the first year, Martin said. An
interesting consequence of this additional assistance to first-year
students is a marked increase in student retention.
Martin thinks that a solid support system for students is necessary.
She shared a story from her college experience to make her point.
I attended a splended college, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College
in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a small womens college with
a graduating class of about 100. I had wonderful, bright young women
as classmates, and I was especially fortunate to have a strong faculty.
Her instructors mentored her in ways that were not dictatorial.
I thought I was very self-motivated. I see now that I was
actually being guided. For example, I had a literature teacher who
said to me, Why dont you read Gertrude Steins
Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas? As I read it, I talked to
her about it. Next, she told me to get a book of Picassos
artwork and study that. Then she told me to look at Picassos
Portrait of Gertrude Stein. That tutorial taught Martin about
thinking, about art, and about writing. Ive stayed in
touch with many of those faculty members, she said. Each year
similar stories come to Martins attention in the UMD faculty
awards process. It is delightful to hear how appreciated our
Most people dont know that you have an academic appointment
as a full professor in the UMD Theatre Department, Roslak
said, Do you miss teaching?
Martin said, I miss teaching because I really enjoyed it,
but what I miss most is directing. I love directing childrens
theatre and childrens opera. I miss the rush of watching little
kids and their imaginations come alive. Children are wonderfully
honest. Kids will boo if it doesnt work. I love the challenge
of childrens theatre and I would like to do that again someday.
Martin finds that administering is similar to directing. It
is consultative, but you are constantly trying to sort out the motivations
of the characters. I moved into administration more by happenstance
than design. I was on the faculty of a small college theatre department
in Indiana and I was asked to be the chair. From there, Martin
went on become the Fine Arts Dean at the University of Montana,
the founding Dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication
Arts at Wayne State and the Dean of the College of Fine and Applied
Arts at University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. She learned the
ropes of university administration.
UMD is an incredible place to work, Martin declared.
Being an administrator agrees with her, especially when she is able
to oversee fine programs and research projects. Because of
our aggressive, ahead of the wave approach to undergraduate
and institutional research, we filed nine patent applications last
year. Martin illustrated her point, That is as many
patents as the Academic Health Center filed on the Twin Cities campus.
We do a superb job of blending teaching and research. Dr. Jim Riehl,
our new dean in the College of Science and Engineering, came to
UMD with an unfinished research project from his last position.
He has been provided with a postdoctoral assistant in order to support
his research here. Research is important to us. It feeds and strengthens
the educational experience. We are a superb institution for the
way we blend teaching and research. We have undergraduate research
programs at UMD that I would put up against research programs anywhere
in the country.
UMD has the intellectual capital to make a huge difference in the
regions economy. UMD takes this responsibility seriously and
places its departments resources in the arenas where they
can have the greatest impact. Martin said that one of her jobs is
to help determine what projects provide the most influence. We
are doing some extremely important work here. For instance, the
research on water and natural resources by the Large Lakes Observatory,
NRRI, and Minnesota Sea Grant will change all of our futures.
She is proud of UMDs work on the environment, including the
work on determining what air-born pollutants are contaminating Lake
Superior. The research is thrilling. The hybrid poplar tree
developed at NRRI grows to maturity in half the time of a native
tree. This innovation will make our forest industry and paper products
companies competitive with the southeastern part of the United States.
UMD has an impressive roster of involvement in the economics of
the region. In order to keep up, Chancellor Martin needs to have
knowledge about many things. Whether it is how to extract
chemicals from birch bark or the history of an exhibition at the
Tweed Museum of Art, I have to learn about it, she said. The
opportunity to learn so much about so many different things is what
I like most about the job. As Chancellor, she balances UMDs
role as a good corporate citizen and as an academic institution.
One area Martin wants to develop more thoroughly is the public image
of UMD. We havent launched a comprehensive marketing
and advertising campaign like many of the schools around us because
we already have record enrollment. She is certain that UMD
will be stronger in the eyes of the community if it can define and
promote a clear image of one unified campus. We have an expectation
that students who attend UMD will graduate, we have a high rate
of retention, we support research, and we have outstanding faculty.
More people in the community need to know that.
The past five years have flown by, and to the bystander, the developments
at UMD seem overwhelming. Martin said that it has been a group effort.
I was able to participate in some impressive advancements,
along with many others, and we had some good times doing it. The
majority of the projects I helped bring to fruition came from people
who have been here with me. Everyone agrees, there has been
a whirlwind of activity. Martin said, I am here to help. Facilitating
other peoples dreams is a major part of this job. And
facilitating dreams has made them come true.
Chancellor Martin has met with hundreds of alumni and donors. Reflecting
on those encounters, she said, One of the things that is true
about UMD alumni, no matter where they are, is that they remember
the people who mentored them. At almost every gathering people
tell stories about particular moments from their college days. Jim
Swenson and his wife Susan, for instance, are a spectacular couple.
How gutsy they were to keep on taking risks in order to realize
their dream. The Swensons built a computer products business
in California and presented UMD with its first $10 million gift.
Martin recalled, When I met them, they told me stories about
people at UMD who were willing to spend time with them, and about
people who singled them out to give them encouragement. Alumni
have taught Martin things that impress her about the campus. It
doesnt matter what vintage or era, alumni stories about faculty
members who go the extra mile are legendary. It is exciting
to represent the campus because I can tell our alumni that there
are still people like that at UMD, she said. I was told
recently that Dr. Robert Franz, who, sadly, recently passed away,
had waiting lists for his statistics class. They told me that students
never took just one class from him. When you hear things like that
about our faculty members, you know they are extraordinary.
Martin said that some teachers names come up over and over,
like Henry Ehlers in Philosophy, and Bill Tezla in English. I
have heard many alumni tell me, I think in a completely different
way because I was in that class, or I am a different
person because one teacher took the time to make me learn.
Former coach Jim Malosky made the football players go to class and
maintain their grades before he gave them playing time. One alumnus
said that he would have never made it through college without guidance
from Coach Malosky.