Toward the end of his speech on Tuesday, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler raised an outstretched arm, as if putting it around the audience's collective shoulder.
"Let me ask you this," he said, "won't you help me to advocate for this great university and all that we do?"
The audience was largely business people. This gesture was only Kaler's latest attempt to woo them.
Since he took office this summer, Kaler has been speaking at jobs summits, lunching at Rotary Clubs and generally shaking a lot of entrepreneurial hands.
During Tuesday's talk, part of a Carlson School of Management speakers series, Kaler told the stories of several graduates, including Curt Carlson, the late founder of Carlson Companies and the school's namesake, from whom he borrowed the shoulder-holding sales-pitch move.
Kaler stressed the university's importance to the state's economy. He described the ways the university has become more efficient. He declared that the university has become more "aggressive and innovative" when it comes to transferring the university's technology into income.
"I want us to be known as nimble and entrepreneurial," he said. But he acknowledged that "some business leaders remain skeptical."
"For years we've all heard that companies love to work with our scientists, but find it annoying how tenaciously the university clings to intellectual-property rights," Kaler said.
This Friday, the university's vice president for research, Tim Mulcahy, will announce a new model to make research contracts involving intellectual property "less complicated," Kaler said. No details yet from the U's public relations arm.
But Kaler promised that the move would be "a symbol" of what he hopes to do across the university.
"I want us to move from the default mode of 'no -- can't do it, never done it, won't do it' -- to a culture of 'yes,'" he said. "Let's give it a try. Let's take a calculated, fact-based risk."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168