UMR students adjust to new downtown campus

By Edie Grossfield

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Third-year University of Minnesota Rochester nursing students Joe Ponik and Shane Garner are happy the school’s campus moved downtown.

"I like the site here a lot better than at RCTC (Rochester Community and Technical College). I’m glad we have a place that’s all our own," said Ponik, who on Wednesday afternoon was taking a break between classes in the newly finished commons area on the third floor. That floor used to hold the food court of the Galleria Mall. Now, the building is called University Square.

The drawback? The campus feels a little empty now, without the between-classes bustle of thousands of University Center Rochester students at the old southeast site shared with RCTC and Winona State University.


"Because we’re really the only people in (the commons area) and there was no furniture until yesterday. But, the classrooms are roomy and there’s plenty of space." Garner said.

Both recently started the second half of their Registered Nurse program on the new downtown campus of the University of Minnesota Rochester.

Just eight months after the site was selected, UMR’s downtown campus opened for the fall semester this month with an enrollment of about 400 students.

Victor Johnson, who is taking a graduate-level biostatistics course at the UMR, said he thinks the new campus is spacious and well-organized.

Johnson is a statistical programmer analyst in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. He said he enjoys the short walk he has from work to the UMR. He’s contemplating entering a masters degree program there.

"I’m just kind of weighing out where my career path is taking me," he said.

The class he had on Wednesday was an interactive television course in which Johnson and about four other students at the UMR campus participated in real time with a professor and larger group of students in the Twin Cities.

"It is really nice; I really like it," Johnson said.


Garner and Ponik did say the parking situation and lack of an onsite book store and library are minor headaches.

"At RCTC, we weren’t charged anything to park. Here, it’s $30 a month to park in the (Civic Center) ramp. So, that’s kind of expensive," Ponik said.

As for the book store and library, UMR Program Director Faith Zimmerman said a U book store will open later this fall on the first floor.

"And we hired a librarian about a month ago," she said. "We have electronic library access right now — and that’s what we’ll have at least for a period of time — with a full-time librarian helping people get what they need."

For more information on University of Minnesota Rochester, visit


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