My first images of the University of Minnesota – Rochester

Gateway to the U? (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

So when I heard that the University of Minnesota - Rochester was located in a shopping mall, I had a hard time picturing something nice.

I thought of some of those cheap strip-mall schools, or one of those thrown-together-looking offices you find in unconventional commercial space.

It's actually quite a nice setup. But it's still a bit odd.

Gateway to the U? (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

After I parked in a nearby ramp, I made it over to University Square, the mall where UMR is located. I had to go by skyway, which I found is how you generally travel to get there. UMR doesn't seem to have any real ground-level official entrance.

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Mix with the city, folks.

I soon found myself here. I saw UMR signs, so finding the place wasn't hard. It took a little getting used to, though. I also found that this is where I could get breakfast: the food court.

At least it's organic.

UMR has no cafeteria, so students grab whatever they can from the restaurants downtown. Most students told me to go to either a pizza place or sandwich shop on the floor below the main UMR level. (There wasn't much else around, except for a coffee shop.)

At least it's organic. I think. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

I'd just missed breakfast, so I went for a pizza. (Sorry, mom.) It was ... really good pizza. And organic, from what people were telling me. I'm guessing the food would have to be decent, because the place served more than students; I saw a few scrubs-wearing Mayo professionals eating in the area. The price was just over $5 for a  slice and a Cola. Not terrible, but it made me think:  Can students really afford eating out like this? (Later I found out that a lot live within walking distance, so they go home to eat or bring their lunch.)

No stupid questions here. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

I took the elevator to the main UMR floor and saw this -- the student lounge, and the "Just Ask" desk. Turns out the desk isn't just an info booth. It's where students go for "office hours" with professors, who spend a certain number of hours a week there to answer questions, help students with problems, and so forth. (It was quiet in the morning, but packed later on.)

A lounge, but with purpose. (MPR Photo / Alex Friedrich)

Here I was at the heart of UMR -- the Commons, or student lounge. No Fussball or TV here, though. Lots of discussion, studying, laptop use. This level is perhaps the main part campus -- with study rooms, administrative offices, and a book-free online library.

And this, apparently, used to be a movie theater, from what students and faculty tell me. That's why a lot of the rooms have no windows. And if you take a look at the building's exterior, that would make sense.

Man, this place just gets more and more intriguing.

I'll post my story about my day at UMR in the coming days and give you all the details.