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U's Rochester campus has first graduation

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On Saturday the University of Minnesota - Rochester will graduate its first crop of students.

It's a milestone for the city, which has long sought to establish a school offering four-year and advanced degrees.

Twenty-nine of the original 57 students who started in the fall of 2009 have made it through. They are the first graduates of a campus known for its experimental approach to education.

These first students were adventurers, said Chancellor Steve Lehmkuhle. They were taking risks by coming to a new campus whose curriculum was not yet established.

  "The path was not created for them," Lehmkuhle said. "We created it along the way, and they helped us blaze those paths. So much of who we are today is a reflection of our interactions and their input as students in this program."

Classes are small, and many are integrated so they can approach a subject from different angles. Biology professor Robert Dunbar said he enjoys the creativity that's possible on a campus that is not fully established.

"In some ways I look forward to our becoming mature, but in other ways I dread it," Dunbar said. "I don't think that we should become mature. I think perpetual adolescence might be good for UMR, and might be good for other institutions as well."

Specializing in the health sciences, UMR is located downtown near the Mayo Clinic. It now has more than 400 undergraduates and almost 40 graduate students. U officials hope to grow to a total of 5,000 students in the next two decades.