Rochester legislators and community advocates started the campaign to increase University of Minnesota presence in Rochester as early as the 1950’s. Programs based on economic development, such as engineering, education, and math, began being offered in 1966 as a satellite site of the U of M.
In the early 1990’s, an educational coalition was formed with Rochester Community College and Winona State University-Rochester to form the University Center Rochester – 3 institutions, 2 systems, 1 campus.
In 1998, Rochester was recognized by the legislature as a branch of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. This designation allowed the Rochester site to develop its own leadership structure and to begin expanding its programs.
In 2000, the University heightened efforts to grow both the programs and reach of the Rochester branch by adding a new Provost to lead the campus and increasing staff to accommodate this growth.
The future “University of Minnesota Rochester” began to take form when, in January 2005, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced in his State of the State address that southeastern Minnesota was underserved by public higher education and a plan to initiate research into what was necessary to solve the problem.
Governor Pawlenty formed the Rochester Higher Education Development Committee (RHEDC) and appointed local business owner Marilyn Stewart to lead the group. The committee consisted of representatives from other public and private education institutions, area business leaders, and leaders in health care. The group’s charge was to formulate a plan to advance higher education in southeastern Minnesota.
The RHEDC eventually identified the need for an institution that could drive and support key economic growth factors for the region and to do so through education, research, and outreach. The group recognized the University of Minnesota as the only institution in a position to carry out this ideal. An RHEDC report was drafted and delivered to Governor Pawlenty. The recommendation was adopted by the Governor, the legislature and the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.
In 2006, the University of Minnesota Rochester was designated as a full and official coordinate campus of the University of Minnesota system, and shortly after, selection of a downtown location to grow the campus began.
In fall of 2007, UMR staff moved into the new facilities at University Square in downtown Rochester and welcomed its new Chancellor, Dr. Stephen Lehmkuhle. Dr. Lehmkuhle was inaugurated in April 2008 with a community celebration and formal address.
Programs offered through UMR were delivered in partnership with other U of M campuses, but in 2008 and 2009, Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology (BICB) and a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) respectively, became the first two programmatic offerings administered and delivered by UMR.
As programs grew and enrollment increased, UMR recognized the need for additional academic space and, in 2009, developed a campus master plan, containing guidelines for the development of a permanent campus in downtown Rochester. As part of the plan, UMR announced its intention to collaborate with existing resources in the community to provide students with housing and recreation and to work in partnership with the city of Rochester to develop a plan for the growth of downtown and the future campus. The Rochester Downtown Master Plan initiative began and local leaders from the city, county, Mayo Clinic, UMR, and other organizations worked in conjunction with the Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA) to develop a report to the community outlining the steps and goals of this initiative. The report was finalized and presented in summer 2010.
Also in summer 2010, UMR began its search for a mascot through a public campaign, involving the community and the students. The mascot, the Raptor, was revealed in fall 2010 on the Peace Plaza in downtown Rochester. In the spring of 2013, UMR will engage students, faculty, staff, and the community in a campaign to Name the Raptor. The Raptor's name will be revealed in May.
UMR has continued to grow its programmatic offerings to respond to the needs of the region, most recently adding the Bachelor of Science in Health Professions (BSHP) degree program in fall 2011. The BSHP is delivered jointly with the Mayo School of Health Sciences, and students in the BSHP program will graduate with a both degree from UMR and a certificate from the Mayo School of Health Sciences in one of four health-related fields: Respiratory Care, Echocardiography, Sonography, and Radiography.
On May 18, 2013, UMR will graduate its first class of undergraduate students in the B.S. in Health Sciences and B.S. in Health Professions programs at the Mayo Civic Center in downtown Rochester.