In the Spotlight

News & Features
News StoriesWeb Features
A Reporter's Journal
By Brandt Williams, February 2001
This spring will mark my 10th year as a University of Minnesota graduate. Walking around the Minneapolis campus observing and interviewing students, I also take time to reflect on how much water has passed beneath the Washington Avenue bridge - both for the University, and myself.

Take a tour of the University of Minnesota from a former student's perspective.
The most obvious change at the "U" is the amount of new buildings that have been erected in such a short period of time: The new alumni center, the Weisman Art Museum, the new Carlson School of Management building to name a few. Construction sites filled with cranes and heavy machinery are nearly everywhere you look. Parking ramps, have sprouted up around campus faster than Starbucks coffee shops in strip malls.

There are still very familiar sites, but I look at them through very different eyes. Some 12 years ago, I used to walk through the tunnels located underneath the West Bank, wondering what in the world I was going to do once I left school, pondering the meaning of life and fretting about upcoming tests.

Today, I'm mulling over ideas of how to fix the garage door of the new house I just bought; the status of my retirement annuity or what to make my wife for dinner.

I know it is cliche, but these days the university seems smaller and the students younger. When I was a student time, passed at a snails pace. Clocks were like calendars. These days, clocks are like fans. I can't tell how time is passing for today's university students, but the looks on many of their faces are familiar. It is the look of someone who is juggling schoolwork, everyday life and plans for the future. It is a look that is as prevalent and burdensome as the packs on their backs.

Of course student life isn't all drudgery. I saw many students enjoying the independence that college life affords. On a Friday afternoon at the St. Paul Student Union, I got a little jealous watching the groups of students just hanging out playing pool or pinball.

MPR's Brandt Williams graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Minnesota in 1991. He majored in speech communications and minored in African American studies.
I also saw a few loners; those students who can be found by themselves, heads buried in books or napping at one of the many campus libraries or lounges. I was one of them. I was more focused on getting my degree than socializing. Sometimes I think if I would have had it to do all over again, I would have lightened up a bit.

Much has been done around the "U" to increase school pride. Flags and a new paint job have spruced up the Washington Avenue bridge. The most creative attempt to rally Gopher pride has to be the little black boxes located in urinals, which upon contact with warm liquid, reveal a sign which says "Go Gophers." (Actually, a letter in the Minnesota Daily posed that the urinal signs are also meant to inspire accuracy as much as pride.)

As a student, I didn't think much of Gopher pride. I didn't go to any sporting events, get involved in any clubs or even own a Gopher sweatshirt. However, these past few days of reliving my college years has helped me realize that being a grown up isn't so bad. And I can't help but feel a little proud of the institution that helped me grow in more ways than I've been able to realize until now.