City Council members Diane Hofstede and Barb Johnson chat with U prez Eric Kaler

City Council members Diane Hofstede and Barb Johnson chat with U prez Eric Kaler

The University of Minnesota's Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC for short) put on the dog Tuesday for the U's new president, Eric Kaler. I stopped by to hear his views on how the U interacts with its home city, as the only urban land-grant institution, as everyone said, again and again.

Speaking to a friendly standing-room-only audience of U employees, local leaders and community members, Kaler lauded UROC and stated his commitment to Minneapolis. "We're going to be open and inclusive. We're going to embed ourselves in the community." 

With Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Bernadeia Johnson in attendance, Kaler pledged that the U would work to close the achievement gap between students of color and white students. "You will see my commitment to that," he said, to a round of applause.

After 81 days in the job, Kaler said he doesn't yet know what needs to change, if anything, in town-gown relations.He said he considers the University of Pennsylvania's revitalization of its West Philadelphia neighborhood an example of such a beneficial relationship, albeit one that was achieved by "breaking a lot of eggs." U senior vice president Robert Jones made sure I knew that the U is already engaged in the city beyond UROC, including the University District Alliance on the East Bank and in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood on the West Bank.

The MPLS blog will check back with Kaler about his Minneapolis ambitions once he's had a chance to settle in.