RSDP Happenings - Focus: RSDP Faculty Board Members
By Elizabeth Braatz
“I encourage you to do it! It was a neat experience, and [RSDP’s board of directors] was one of my favorite boards.”
-Dr. Michael “Mike” Mageau, Director, Environment and Sustainability Program, UMD
“It enabled us to see how developmental models worked in the field. There is nothing like on-the-ground experience to situate the work in reality.”
-Dr. Ingrid Schneider, Professor, Forest Resources
“There were so many great people, and I enjoyed interacting with them. All in all, they made it pretty easy—they have a lot of respect for faculty and respect for their many responsibilities. … The people I got to work with were the best part.”
-Dr. James “Jim” Luby, Professor, Horticultural Science
“It’s easy for us on campus to be very ‘content driven’ (i.e., evidence-based research). What the Partnership experience did for me was help me realize that the community context is very important to that scholarship.”
-Dr. Craig Hassel, Extension Nutritionist and Associate Professor, Food Science and Nutrition
- Connect their own interests and projects to the Greater Minnesota community
- Expand their community-engaged scholarship
- Learn about new issues and meet the people involved
- Serve as ambassadors for the land-grant university
Board members serve three-year terms working to identify and implement sustainability programs in sustainable agriculture and food systems, natural resources, sustainable tourism and resilient communities, and clean energy (RSDP’s four focus areas). They also vote on proposals, coordinate resources, and work directly with their community board member counterparts. Generally, meetings are held about once every two months, and can be joined in person or remotely. As Dr. Ingrid Schneider, Professor, Forest Resources, put it, “[It’s] a mutually beneficial experience.”
Benefit #1: Connecting projects to Greater Minnesota
RSDP is a way for faculty to connect their interests and projects to the Greater Minnesota community. For instance, Dr. Carl Rosen, Department Head and Professor, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, worked with the Central RSDP to develop and promote high tunnels for Minnesota climates. Even now, looking back 12 years later, he is glad to have been involved. “We were the first Regional Partnership to really focus on high tunnels,” Rosen said. “I feel that a lot of work on high tunnels in Minnesota [started] due to those initial studies. It really … laid the groundwork for a lot of the subsequent research, and it was very applied.”
Community-University partnership is one of RSDP’s three bedrock principles, and projects vetted by RSDP boards frequently engage faculty. For instance, Dr. Mike Mageau, Director of the Environment and Sustainability Program and the Sustainable Development Research Opportunities Program (SDROP) at University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), started the SDROP program with the Northeast RSDP, which ended up contributing $10,000 to the project and leveraged an additional $20,000.
Benefit #2: Expanding scholarship
Working with RSDP can expand faculty scholarship. In the words of Dr. Craig Hassel, Extension Nutritionist and Associate Professor, Food Science and Nutrition, who works with connecting the University to multicultural communities, “It’s easy for us on campus to be very ‘content driven’ (i.e., evidence-based research). What the Partnership experience did for me was help me realize that the community context is very important to that scholarship.”
Dr. Schneider, who focuses on parks, recreation, and tourism, found similar benefits. “It enabled us to see how developmental models worked in the field. There is nothing like on-the-ground experience to ground work in reality.”
On a related note, Associate Professor Eric Castle, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC), found that Northwest RSDP helped him connect students to his work. Castle said, “I think that students getting to be involved in real-world projects, where there’s a real client and a real set of parameters, and then creating work that’s actually being implemented, is a great opportunity. It takes it to the next level for that student.”
Benefit #3: Learning about new issues and meeting the people involved
Sometimes, opportunities can open in unexpected areas. Dr. David Mulla’s (Professor and Co-Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, and Larson Endowed Chair in Soil and Water Resources) work on nonpoint source pollution and nutrient modeling is known throughout the country, yet one of his favorite parts of working with RSDP was learning more about new areas. Dr. Mulla recalled, “They asked me to do a project on local foods in the Southeast, and it was really rewarding. It was something completely new, and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Similarly, Dr. James “Jim” Luby, Professor, Horticultural Science, who has worked on developing new strains of grapes and apples (including our state fruit), found that working with RSDP helped keep connections open. “[I’m always trying to] stay connected with producers across the state, and RSDP was one of these ways to do so.”
Finally, working with like-minded people can lead to further research. Castle said, “I think the connections that RSDP can facilitate with other faculty who are interested in similar projects or who can complement work that you’re interested in, or ways that you can complement other’s work, has been a real benefit of working with RSDP.”
Benefit #4: Serve as ambassadors for the land-grant university
In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which established the land-grant tradition. As a land-grant university, one of the University of Minnesota’s core goals is “promoting access to higher education and collaborating to advance knowledge benefiting communities, the state, and world” (UMN).
Members of the RSDP boards of directors help fulfill that act. As Dr. Schneider put it, “It’s a great opportunity to be an advocate for the University.”
Dr. Luby agreed. “[We] bring the U to parts of the state where we aren’t represented with a campus.”
Interested in serving on an RSDP board?
Former Northeast RSDP board members Bryan Anderson (current RSDP Statewide Coordinating Committee Emeritus member), Jamie Juenemann, Mike Mageau, Melinda Welch-Spinler, and Cynthia Messer (who also serves as University of Minnesota Tourism Center Director and current Central RSDP board member).
If you’re interested in serving on an RSDP board, or know a faculty member who might be, we invite you to check out our mini-spotlights on different faculty members’ experiences and fill out a board application. Applications are available at the bottom of the RSDP homepage using the link “Download RSDP Board Application.” Any of our five Regional Executive Directors would be happy to talk with you about their board and opportunities for involvement. We invite you to contact them and learn more!
- Molly Zins, Central
- Okey Ukaga, Northeast
- Linda Kingery, Northwest
- Erin Meier, Southeast
- David Fluegel, Southwest
Elizabeth Braatz is a student in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Sciences (CFANS) majoring in Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management. She works with RSDP as a Student Writer/Communications Assistant.RSDP connects communities with the resources of the University of Minnesota to drive sustainability in Greater Minnesota, and is part of University of Minnesota Extension.