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Environment, Faculty, Local business, Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Mankato Kasota Stone Closes – Helped Define the UST Brand

If you’re walking around in downtown Minneapolis it would be hard to miss the St. Thomas campus. Not because we have the biggest, or the tallest building downtown, but because each building has a distinctive look, thanks to their Kasota Limestone exterior. Sadly, it was reported last week in the Mankato Free Press that one of that city’s oldest businesses, Mankato Kasota Stone, “has closed as the recession-driven slowdown in construction hurt the market for local limestone.”

Photo by Mike Ekern.

Photo by Mike Ekern.

Mike Porter, director of the Master of Business Communication program noted that Kasota Limestone “certainly is a major element of the visual brand identity of the university.” He added that, “It facilitates the transfer of our brand to downtown.” True, especially when compared to the mostly metal and glass skyscrapers that make up the minneapolis skyline. Almost every building on the main campus in St. Paul is made with Kasota Limestone. Continue Reading

Environment, Local business, Newsroom

How the Mall of America $ees Green by Being Green

Mall of AmericaIn April, Earth Day was recognized around the country. Having the Mall of America, one of the world’s largest and well-known shopping centers, in our backyard provides an interesting glance at how such a complex operation can find profit in what once was a cost center: recycling.

An EPA case study (pdf) notes that Mall of America “is considered a model of commercial recycling.” The current system in place has evolved from the early days of the mall, more than 20 years ago. The facility was designed for recycling before construction even began. Separate trash chutes for cardboard and other waste allow for a basic sorting by tenants, who have provisions in their leases requiring recycling.

With more than 40 million visitors annually, it is easy to imagine how quickly trash piles up at the mall. Interestingly, if you visit today, you won’t see recycling bins next to trash bins. Why? Because mall staff found that trash would inevitably end up with the recycling – instead, all of the trash is manually sorted in a recycling center before leaving the mall. In all, MOA recycles more than 60 percent of its waste – an average of 32,000 tons per year. Continue Reading

Environment, Ethics, Events, leadership, Newsroom

L2L Summit Asks Students “Leadership. Why me? Why now?”

Saturday March 1 marked the date of the Fourth Annual Learners to Leaders Summit. The annual summit is a unique event hosted by the Opus College of Business but targeted to a wide range of future professionals with connections to area colleges, including current juniors and seniors, as well as recent grads. The mission of L2L? To provide high-potential students and young professionals of color with perspective and resources that will position them for success in graduate school and in their careers.

The theme of this year’s summit was “Leadership. Why me? Why now?” The theme was chosen as a reflection of the reality that while everyone is capable of playing a valuable leadership role, it’s all too common to assume that the responsibility of leadership belongs to someone else, based on title, personality, or amount of past experience.

Did this year’s L2L Summit achieve its objective of providing content relevant and valuable to future graduate students from a broad range of backgrounds and interests? Here’s what some of the participants had to say.

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Entrepreneurship, Environment, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

From Feeling Guilty to Finding a Way to Help: The Creation of Kiva

Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first peer to peer micro lending website, joined the UST Symposium of Social Entrepreneurship to talk about creating an entrepreneurial life. Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty, one person at a time. Kiva’s loans are expected to reach $1 billion in 2012. Talking with current and aspiring social entrepreneurs at the symposium, Jackley shared the story of how her entrepreneurial life has unfolded.

Starting at a young age, Jackley was taught about the poor as people who needed a handout. Sunday school classes taught her that her job was to help them. Television and direct mailing taught her that there were children around the world who were sad and spent their time with their hands out. These images haunted her as she grew up. As a junior in high school, Jackley visited Haiti. She came back to the US just before her high school prom. The sharp contrast between the lives of those her age in Haiti compared to her own caused an emotional struggle. While she was spending money on a dress, transportation, flowers, dinner and an evening of dancing, those in Haiti were struggling to find something to eat.

Fast forward a few years and Jackley found herself a college graduate without a specific direction. She landed as a departmental assistant at Stanford where she was able to meet people like Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi banker, economist, Nobel peace prize recipient, and developer of the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. His influences and stories reshaped Jackley’s understanding of the poor. It wasn’t necessarily that these people were looking for a handout but rather they were stuck in the cycle of poverty. Many of these artisans were making goods but didn’t have access to good credit. Creditors would only borrow to them at 300% interest which meant they could sell their products but paid all of the profits back to these creditors.

Like most entrepreneurs, Jackley took a big risk. She quit her job and moved to East Africa. By gaining firsthand knowledge of the cycle of poverty, Jackley began seeing the poor as hard working, smart, strong entrepreneurs who simply did not have access to financing. Just a simple interest free loan of $20 could end this cycle. These people had something to offer not just empty hands held out. Those who, like Jackley, wanted to help could lend interest free to those who needed a loan to keep their business going. By making this connection, not only does Kiva help those who need assistance escaping the cycle of poverty, it is also helping those willing to lend to make a difference without making a handout.

Jackley learned a significant amount through the launch of Kiva. Although her words of wisdom were stated specifically for non-profits but they can easily be applied to for profit companies. Her top four suggestions include: Continue Reading

Environment, Local business, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

From College Campuses to City-wide Initatives: Bike Traffic is on the Rise

An article in Inside Higher Ed titled Shifting Gears, highlights the shift among higher educational institutions to promote more bicycle-pedestrian (bike-ped) transportation courses and research on campus.  The article acknowledges that this promotion exists because there has been an increase in popularity of users of this form of transportation, those users are not just current university students (graduate and undergraduate), but also faculty and staff who are choosing to make this form of transportation, the primary method they use to get to and around campus.  The University of St. Thomas provides great resources and options , for those wishing to bike to and from campus.

The increase in popularity has many thinking that additional courses on campus as well as possible majors focused on bike transportation would be needed in the future.  Academic scholars today are choosing to not just focus on the health benefits of biking, but to examine the sociological and anthropological aspects of this form of transportation.  Biking has been a part of the American culture for years, but has taken a backseat to the automobile.  More recently it has started to re-gain enthusiasm in many cities as a preferred method of getting around town.

The increase in popularity with bike-ped transportation relates well to aspects of the New Urbanism concept, a concept that I studied in one of the real estate courses during my time in the Full-time UST MBA program.  Bike use impacts both cities and towns, by not only allowing residents to be healthier, but helps to increase connectivity in an affordable and good for the environment way. Continue Reading

Environment, leadership, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Views of Election 2012 from Senator Durenberger: The Value of Democracy

The following commentary is from Senator David Durenberger, Senior Health Policy Fellow of the National Institute for Health Policy at the University of St. Thomas. Senator David Durenberger served as Minnesota’s senior U.S. Senator from his election in 1978 to replace Muriel and Hubert Humphrey until his retirement in 1995. Durenberger earned a reputation as a thoughtful national leader on health policy reform while in the Senate and continues in that role as a member of the faculty at the Opus College of Business. 

Nothing was as devastating to representative government in the last four years as U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s pledge that his party would make President Obama a one-term president.  Americans knew they were in trouble by the time Obama took office.  At times of crisis we come together as a nation.  In retrospect, it is clear that every elected Republican everywhere in the country, at every level of government took the “McConnell pledge.”  The 2010 elections appeared to demonstrate the effectiveness of the tactic.  But the elected and the Republican presidential primary showed Americans that dividing America rhetorically served to divide us as family and as community.  That’s just not who we are.

The best applause line in 2012 campaign speeches was “reaching across the aisle.”  Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) did it and won 2/3 of our vote.  Cong. Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) did the opposite and very nearly lost her seat to an unknown Democrat and entrepreneur.  More importantly, Americans instinctively know the problems they face are the problems we all face. We face uncertainty about our present and our future. The need for confidence building from those in a position to do so was demonstrated by Gov. Chris Christie(R-NJ) reaching out to President Obama in Hurricane Sandy.  Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship, Environment, Local business, Newsroom, OCB Alumni

Skyline Exhibits: Wins Outstanding Innovator Award

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The Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) announced recently that Skyline Exhibits has won their coveted Outstanding Corporate Innovator (OCI) Award. The OCI is the only global innovation award that recognizes companies for demonstrating sustained and quantifiable success in developing new products and services.

Several UST graduate business alumni work at Skyline and last year the company hosted the Full-time UST MBA program for a tour and in-depth discussion of strategy with executives.

The OCI selection committee, comprised of ten of the world’s leading innovation and new product development experts, selected the trade show products and services company after a rigorous nine-month selection process. Continue Reading

Environment, Local business, Newsroom

Science Creating Business Opportunities in Minnesota: Cold Weather Grapes and Minnesota Vineyards

When brainstorming destinations known for vineyards, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa Valley and Sonoma usually top the list. Thanks to science, the Upper Mississippi River Valley may soon be top of mind when looking for good wine. According to the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, the Upper Mississippi River Valley is now the world’s largest American Viticultural Area (AVA). The region is 50 times larger than Bordeaux allowing for higher production. In 1997, there were three wineries in Minnesota. This number increased to 37 by 2010.

Why the increase in grape growing? Science. The Minnesota Legislature has directed funding to the Univerisity of Minnesota to research grapes since the mid 1980’s. This research has resulted in the development of several varieties of cold weather grapes. Five new varieties have been released since 1996; Fontenac, Fontenac Gris, La Crescent and Marquette.  Unlike the grapes in Bordeaux, Tuscany and Napa Valley, these grapes have been developed to withstand the cold temperatures without special coverage.

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Environment, Media, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Risk Management: The Story Behind Crop Insurance

We had a refreshing rain shower pass through the Twin Cities yesterday, but I know the drought is affecting major swaths of the Midwest. “As corn crops wither and food prices rise, this has resulted in a steady string of visits to Iowa and other sun-baked states by politicians, including both Rep. Paul Ryan and President Obama,” reported Andrew Revkin in the New York Times Dot Earth Blog.

But, interestingly, NPR’s Planet Money noted that “In spite of the drought, many U.S. farmers will do just fine this year. They are, after all, covered by crop insurance — a program that costs U.S. taxpayers $7 billion a year.” Yesterday’s Planet Money Podcast looks into the business of farming and crop insurance.

Do you see crop insurance as a necessity or an unfair government subsidy of one business sector? Let us know in the comments.

Environment, Local business, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Higher Education Posperity: Why Higher-ed and Business Must Interact More

According to a report released by The Itasca Project, Minnesota’s higher education institutions act separately from one another and sometimes view each other as competitors rather than collaborators. Meanwhile, businesses see post-secondary institutions as sources that fuel their work force but only infrequently interact with them.

Christa Meland at Twin Cities Business detailed how the state’s colleges and universities need to find new ways to collaborate with each other and local businesses in order to fuel economic growth and prosperity in Minnesota.

The report pointed out that Minnesota has more than 200 post-secondary institutions that collectively serve nearly 500,000 students annually and maintain annual budgets that together total about $7 billion—and it touted the fact that Minnesota ranks eighth among states in terms of the share of high school graduates who enroll in higher-education programs. Continue Reading