Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
I'm very pleased that so many of you are here this morning. It underlines again for me the power of a free lunch. I was of course honored to be "installed" as Chancellor. When asked what it felt like to be installed, I was tempted to say I felt like a plumbing fixture, but I was worried about which fixture would come to mind. I hope our intention of utilizing the ceremony to celebrate our collective successes was apparent. I've only had the chance to conduct a small sample of opinion on the matter: my mother who was the only one in the audience who believed all the nice things that were said about me and a couple of my undergraduate classmates who were still in a state of disbelief that the person they knew then was now in charge of their University. In many respects I still share their disbelief.
What a difference a year makes. I confess that at this time last year, I had no expectation or intention of being here today to deliver another State of the University address. I am truly grateful for the support you have provided during my interim administration, and the encouragement many of you offered during the search process. I want to especially thank those members of the University community who disrupted their own lives to serve as interims in administrative positions. Thanks also to those members of the faculty who formally and informally assisted the University not only to survive an extensive transition in leadership but also to prosper from it.
Last year I acknowledged that the central course of the University's future had been proposed by a series of faculty task force reports reflecting the view of many of our most thoughtful colleagues. Because of my interim status, I tried to set out a relatively short-term agenda designed to implement the recommendations in those reports. I believe we made considerable progress in that regard. Now that you are obliged, for good or ill, to take more seriously my comments about our long-term future, I want to talk about what I hope will become our collective vision for and attitude about the future of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Let me first reaffirm, as your permanent chancellor, my support for the general objectives described in those task force reports. I will not today, announce any major change in direction for this University, but rather celebrate our continuity and the steady progress we are making.
As we assess our accomplishments and move forward, I believe it essential that we share a common vision for what kind of a University this is and how good we want it to become. We began that process more than a year ago with the publication of the 2020 Task Force report. I invited this community to hold conversations about the vision in that report. The Omaha World-Herald's series examining the University prompted the people of Nebraska to join in that conversation. From what I have been able to discern, not in all of its detail but certainly in its major themes, that report has struck a responsive chord not only within but also outside the University.
The 2020 Report is essentially about enhancing the quality and reputation of the University - about enhancing the quality of our teaching, about elevating our stature as a research university and about continuing to serve the people of Nebraska by contributing to their economic welfare as well as the quality of life in their communities. The Governor and the Legislature provided us strong support this session because they understood that we can play a central role in the future success of the State of Nebraska. We must work hard to continue to deserve their confidence.
Accordingly let me suggest that we face two important challenges and that our efforts and our attention should be consistently focused on addressing them. The first is to enhance the actual quality of everything that we do. We must not permit the status quo, the past, or the few among us who fear the future, to inhibit us from taking actions that improve the quality of the University. In every decision we make, whether large or small, we must ask ourselves whether it is the decision that best moves this University to a new level.
The second challenge is less tangible, but I believe equally important. We are positioned to have high ambitions because we are a very good university. We already have nationally significant research programs. We excel in undergraduate teaching. We play a vital role in the success of many communities in Nebraska and of the State as a whole. But we must build our reputation, both within the State and across the nation, by making our accomplishments more visible. Reality is often the handmaiden of perception. In recruiting students and faculty, and in attracting financial resources, our reputation is almost as important as our actual accomplishments.
ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF ACADEMIC PROGRAMS
First, let me talk about some of the steps that we have taken or should take in the future to enhance the quality of our academic programs. Last year our first task was to bring stability to the academic leadership of the University. We are now back on a steady course. More importantly, we were able to recruit very talented individuals from across the country to fill our open positions. The list of senior administrators new to their positions since the last State of the University address underlines the nature of the challenge we faced and conquered. If these individuals are in the audience I would invite them to stand and be recognized:
- John Owens, Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Chris Jackson, Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance
- Prem Paul, Vice Chancellor for Research
- Richard Hoffmann, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
- Wayne Drummond, Dean of the College of Architecture
- Marjorie Kostelnik, Dean of the College of Human Resources and Family Sciences
- Steven Willborn, Dean of the College of Law
- Elbert Dickey, Dean of Cooperative Extension
- Jack Oliva, Dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts
- Meg Lauerman, Director of University Communications
- Jan Driesbach, Director of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden
We are also delighted to welcome back Rick Edwards from his medical leave, and to recognize the stability that Jim Griesen has given to the Division of Student Affairs.
As Chancellor I could not ask for a more talented and more thoughtful team of individuals with which to work. They have the unenviable task of making me look good and we are all fortunate they are up to the task.
At least of equal significance in building our academic quality are the new faculty members that we were able to attract to the University. We recruited a very exciting group of young faculty who are talented, accomplished, and enthusiastic. We also were successful in contributing to the diversity of the faculty. Last year our ranks were joined by 65 new faculty and tenured administrators. Of that number, 30 were women and 12 were persons of color. We cannot become a great university unless the composition of our faculty reflects the composition of the world that we seek, in our teaching and research, to understand. We have great expectations for these new faculty. Moreover, we have good reason to be optimistic. I hope many of you saw the display of the accomplishments of those faculty members who received tenure or promotion last year. That display speaks loudly of our future success.
We were also able, through strategic hiring, to attract several senior faculty from other institutions to the Lincoln campus. It is my firm belief that continuing to recruit senior faculty is critical to achieving our objectives. Fortunately we have the resources to do so. Chancellor Moeser allocated $12 million dollars from the Othmer Endowment to create matching opportunities for private donors to create professorships to attract senior faculty to this campus. Donations have been received for 20 of those professorships and three individuals have been hired. Searches are currently or will soon be under way for eight others.
I fully realize that doing what is necessary to attract senior faculty from other institutions can cause concern among accomplished senior faculty already at the University. Although such recruitment is critical to our success, it is equally important for us to recognize the talents and accomplishments of our existing faculty. In this context I was pleased that the University of Nebraska Foundation last year accepted my recommendation to increase the stipend on endowed University professorships to $15,000. We must continue to celebrate our homegrown successes. Let me take this opportunity to engage in such celebration. I am happy today to introduce to you four of our colleagues who have been newly selected by a University-wide faculty committee to receive University professorships. Three of them are in the audience this morning and I would like them to stand as I announce their names.
Dr. John Hibbing, from the Political Science Department, who will become a Foundation Professor. Dr. Hibbing is nationally recognized as one of the leading students of the Congress of the United States and his book, Congress as Public Enemy, won the prestigious Fenno Prize in 1996 for the best book on legislative politics.
Dr. Anthony Starace, from the Physics Department, who will become a Holmes Professor. Dr. Starace, a theoretical atomic physicist, has been continuously funded by two agencies, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, and is one of the world's leading researchers on the theory of atomic photoionization.
Dr. Al Kamil, holds a joint appointment in Biological Sciences and Psychology and is Director of the Cedar Point Biological Research Station. Dr. Kamil is an expert in animal behavior, has been funded virtually continuously for 30 years by the National Science Foundation and is regarded as a pioneer in the study of learning and memory of animals.
Dr. Larry Parkhurst, who was unable to attend this morning, will become the Hewett Professor of Chemistry. Dr. Parkhurst has the longest record of continuing National Institutes of Health funding at the University. His research has involved hemoglobin functional studies and more recently, DNA bending.
I would wish those who doubt the quality of this University could read the files submitted on behalf of these individuals. Each contains letters from leading scholars around the country attesting to their accomplishments and their national stature.
Unfortunately, the number of endowed professorships falls far short of the many faculty members who could qualify for such recognition. We will continue to encourage the Foundation to make endowed professorships one of its highest priorities. But we cannot rely alone on our friends and alumni for this purpose. Accordingly, I am pleased to announce that we are creating a new category of professorships with University resources. These professorships will carry a $2,500 annual stipend and will be awarded through a University-wide competition. That competition will begin immediately, in accordance with the same standards as our endowed professorships. Recipients will be designated as either a Charles Bessey Professor or a Willa Cather Professor after two of this University's most distinguished historical figures. Charles Bessey represents the model for our research faculty - a gifted teacher and a noted botanist, whose interest ranged from basic science to applied agriculture. Willa Cather reflects our commitment to the arts and humanities and our role in enriching the quality of life. We are in a position to award 10 of these professorships this year, and I am hopeful that we can award a similar number next year and two or three each year thereafter.
No institution can really embark on a serious effort of renewal without a common sense of self. We are often fond of celebrating our complexity and diversity, the multiplicity of our missions, the different cultures that purport to exist depending on whether you are East or West of 27th street or whether you are in a particular College or Department. I acknowledge, indeed I join in celebrating, these differences. However I believe that overriding this complexity and diversity must be a unifying purpose that should govern our decision-making.
We are this state's only land-grant, research university. Those words define our character and the nature of our programs. We are a university and thus in the business of educating and teaching. We are a land-grant university and thus we have a special obligation to serve the people of Nebraska. But in my view our teaching and service missions cannot be understood separate and apart from the fact that we are a research university. Many other institutions teach. Many other institutions serve. No other institution in this state has the special responsibility to do research - to advance our understanding of the world around us.
Research helps define our teaching mission. Our teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels must engage our students in the excitement and frustrations of research. Our classrooms should not only transmit established truth but they should be forums of exploration and discovery. We rightly are proud of our recognition by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as one of only 16 institutions known for innovative undergraduate programming. More importantly we were one of only five research institutions and the only land-grant institution so recognized. We achieved this honor because of our programs connected to our research. In addition to providing our undergraduate students the opportunity to learn from faculty engaged in research, we encourage undergraduates themselves to participate in research through our UCARE program, funded by the Pepsi Endowment. In addition, several of our faculty are national leaders in the scholarship of teaching, exploring how best to define, recognize, and transmit good teaching, activities that fit clearly within the research enterprise. Other faculty are exploring the role that technology can play in enhancing our teaching efforts, whether in our residential classrooms or in learning centers or homes across Nebraska and the world. This is an institution where the line between teaching and research is becoming increasingly indistinguishable. I encourage our faculty to continue to find ways to engage our students in research.
Our service mission can be similarly understood. Historically and contemporaneously, our land-grant mission involves bringing the insights of our research, whether basic or applied, to those who can benefit from them. Cooperative Extension has been instrumental in using the University's research capacity to improve agriculture. Increasingly, other industrial sectors, from manufacturing to technology will depend on the innovation and information central to a research university. Our current technology-transfer activities are but modern versions of our land-grant tradition.
The university's long history of creative research and activity in the arts and humanities helps enrich the lives of Nebraskans and gives us all a better sense of the place in which we live.
As a land-grant university rooted in the Great Plains we face a particular challenge to respond to the current needs of Nebraska. We cannot ignore the aging population, the creeping poverty, the decline of small communities, the emigration out of Nebraska of some of our young, the immigration into Nebraska of persons of different cultures and languages that provide both a daunting challenge to our schools and social services and an extraordinary opportunity to enrich our society. Those faculty who wrestle with these problems, whose scholarship is directed toward the application of research directly to the human condition are equally important to our success as a university.
One example of what it will take to build our research enterprise lies in the recent experience in the Life Sciences. No area of study is more critical to our future success than the life sciences. It speaks to our rich tradition in agriculture as well as our growing capacity in biomedical research. Biotechnology holds potential keys for economic development in both rural and urban Nebraska, through the discovery or creation of new plants, the enhanced safety of our food supply, and the technology transfer that can generate economic activity. More than a year ago, our Life Sciences Task Force concluded that while we had considerable resources throughout the University, coordination was lacking and barriers existed to prevent the kind of collaboration necessary for this University to be competitive. In response to these challenges, I appointed a Life Sciences Action Team with Linda Pratt, then Interim Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Darrell Nelson, Dean of the Agricultural Research Division, as co-chairs. Some of our finest life science faculty served on the action team. I challenged them to develop a model coordinated life sciences curriculum and to identify specific constraints to research collaboration and the means for surmounting them.
Although the team was unable to agree on a model life science curriculum, I am pleased to report that they proposed a process to assure that we move in that direction. That proposal has been accepted by all affected units. It calls for a Life Sciences Curriculum Coordinating Council consisting of representatives from the three colleges who offer most of our life science curriculum: Arts and Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and Human Resources and Family Sciences. The Council will be responsible to assure that courses students need in the life sciences are offered on a regular basis, to identify omissions, duplications, deficiencies and inefficiencies across the life sciences, and to identify emerging areas that need to be added to our curriculum. The council is more than merely advisory. Its recommendations, if not accepted at the departmental levels, will be forwarded to the relevant deans and vice chancellors for resolution. I am pleased to report that the Coordinating Council has been appointed and will commence its work this fall. I believe this is a major step in the right direction. I applaud those in the Life Sciences for their willingness to make progress in this important arena.
The Action Team also produced a very thoughtful report on stimulating collaborative research across the Life Sciences units of the University. They examined the activities of five of our aspirant universities in the life sciences to see how they were approaching similar issues. It should be no surprise that there are major initiatives around the country in the life sciences, which makes it increasingly important that we move quickly. The Action Team identified several constraints, as well as strategies for encouraging research collaboration. One such recommendation, based on what other universities are doing, is to develop clusters of researchers using both new hires and existing faculty to create areas of strength that cross departmental lines.
We have moved deliberately with respect to these recommendations awaiting the arrival of Prem Paul, our new Vice Chancellor for Research. I have asked Vice Chancellor Paul to make consideration of these recommendations one of his highest priorities. I know it is his intent to pursue the research cluster strategy immediately with the tobacco settlement funds that are directed toward biomedical research. He will make consideration of the other recommendations a high priority. A separate administrative working group consisting of deans, chairs and heads in the life sciences developed an administrative structure to facilitate collaborative research projects and to assure that researchers working across unit lines have clear reporting relationships. We have implemented their recommendations.
This experience in the life sciences makes me optimistic that working together we can lower or eliminate the barriers to collaboration. This is critical to our success. We need to build similar bridges in other areas where we have a base of competitive faculty. I hope you will be supportive of these efforts.
Another significant achievement last year, and one that bodes well for our future success, was the prioritization of our academic programs. We were able, with broad participation, to arrive at a list of programs that can be targeted for new investment. Such prioritization is necessary if we are to move the University forward.
The program list is only the first step. Programs so identified must be prepared to demonstrate how additional resources will in fact provide value to the University. More significantly, these programs will need to identify measurable indicia of success so we can monitor the impact of our investments. As a university, we must also condition ourselves to act in accordance with our priorities. Thus, the appropriateness of our decisions and our processes must be measured by whether they are designed to improve the academic quality of the University and are consistent with our priorities. That is the same measure I hope you will apply in assessing my work as Chancellor.
As the state's only land-grant, research university we may have additional obligations that conflict with a narrowing of our programs. We cannot retain Nebraska high school graduates in Nebraska unless we offer a set of programs that respond to their diverse interests. We cannot serve the people of Nebraska unless we have a range of programs and resources that respond to their diverse needs. Thus in focusing on our priorities we must also take account of these other factors.
I am also aware of the discomfort any system of prioritization generates among faculty and staff who are not associated with one of the listed programs. I remain convinced that every current employee at this university, if they are willing to do so, can find a way to contribute to one or more of our priorities.
RECRUITING AND RETENTION OF STUDENTS
Last year I indicated that we must be the first and most persistent recruiter of high school graduates in Nebraska. Although we have made very significant progress in building our admissions and recruiting efforts, the time between implementation of changes and demonstrated progress is a long one. We continue to be challenged to be more competitive against other universities who are increasingly recruiting Nebraska students. We also recognize that we could benefit from increasing the number of non-resident students both for the additional financial resources they would provide, but also for the diversity of perspectives they would bring to our student body. We have presented a plan to the Board of Regents to increase enrollment on this campus over the next four years and to increase the number of out-of-state students. At the same time our strategic plan calls for increasing the quality of our student body as well.
Because for so many years we either did not recruit or were prevented from doing so by state policy, we need to develop the appropriate mind set for attracting students to the University.
It has been increasingly proven at institutions like ours, that, with additional technology and University-wide cooperation, we could choose the entering class we want to teach rather than waiting for students to choose us. We are in the process of acquiring the technology and staff necessary to make this happen, and we have engaged an outside consultant to assure that our effort conforms to nationally recognized best practices.
In order to provide more coordination of our recruiting and admissions functions I have recently formed an enrollment management council, which I will chair. The council consists of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Vice Chancellor of the Institute, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the Director of Admissions, the Director of Financial Aid, the Registrar, the Director of Communications, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs most closely involved with undergraduate programs, a dean and a member of the faculty. The purpose of the council will be to develop strategy and tactics for a coordinated recruiting and retention initiative. I hope this signals how important I believe student recruiting is for our success.
We must also work hard to retain and graduate the students who enroll. Our numbers in this regard continue to improve but we have much more to do. Notwithstanding our nationally recognized success in undergraduate education, we have room to create a more cohesive and coherent experience for undergraduates before they commit themselves to a particular major. I am intrigued by the suggestion that we create a Dean for Undergraduate Studies who could lead this effort. I will consider doing so as soon as resources for such a position become available.
We all must share responsibility for recruiting and retention. Notwithstanding our land-grant and research efforts, we would not exist as an institution without students. The marketplace for good students is increasingly competitive and I invite all of you in the University community to make this effort your own. I know that a particular unit's enthusiasm for student recruiting is inversely correlated to the ratio of its current enrollment and its instructional resources. We must find a way both to recruit to those units that have capacity and move capacity to areas of strong demand.
While most of the public attention to our recruiting efforts is at the undergraduate level, our status as a research university demands that we also continue to attract highly qualified graduate and professional students, many of whom assist in our research and teaching missions. We are investing Othmer funds to increase graduate student stipends so that we will become more competitive. I know the Graduate Office, as well as many departments, are increasing their recruiting and I intend to be supportive of these efforts.
ATTENTION TO CULTURE AND CLIMATE
Improving the over all culture of our university is fundamental not only to our efforts to recruit students and faculty but also our goals of bolstering the quality and reputation of the university. By culture, I include those factors that we often refer to as "climate" as well as our general attitude about ourselves and our university.
We can take some pride in our recent efforts to diversify this campus. With the added assistance of an appropriation from the Legislature specifically for this purpose, we increased our women and faculty of color. We continue to place emphasis in our student recruiting on achieving the broadest perspectives. Our partnerships with historically black colleges and institutions serving Hispanic populations have brought to the campus increasing numbers of graduate students of color. Our partnerships with universities in other countries have contributed to the internationalization of our student body. And, the recent Newsweek-Kaplan guide highlighted that, among high school guidance counselors, our commitment to diversity is becoming noticed. Yet this is too important an issue for us to become smug or content. It affects the quality of the education we provide, the richness of the conversations we have, and our competitive stature as a university.
Beyond these measurable efforts to recruit and retain a diverse community we must fully embrace this diversity. We must focus on the climate that we provide for those who work and study here. For most persons, the climate in which they work is dictated locally - at the department or college level. We have room to improve the climate for everyone - whether it is for racial minorities, or women, or untenured faculty, or staff or students. What I'm sure we would all hope for is a climate that embraces all people for what they can contribute to our success regardless of their color, their gender, their race, their status, their discipline or the person with whom they choose to share their life.
Thus I will ask deans, department chairs, and heads, to make a special effort this year to address matters of climate within their units. One method may be to form a small group within each major unit to facilitate a conversation about the nature of the current working environment within the unit and whether there is a need for improvement. From the campus perspective we are making an effort to formulate a survey that will provide a baseline of the working environment for faculty and staff within each unit so we can measure over time our progress. But I am convinced that without active, leadership at the local level, progress will be hard to achieve. For me this issue goes beyond climate for racial minorities or women. It involves our attitudes and actions toward everyone who is essential to our success.
Let me emphasize the role that our non-faculty employees play, or can play, in our efforts to make this a better university. We cannot build a great university without great faculty but great faculty can not prosper without staff support. I experience on a daily basis the efforts of dedicated men and women who get little public credit but devote their lives to making this institution function. By way of illustration I want to mention two incidents. In January of this year our admissions office had fallen behind in processing student applications, to the point where we were at risk of losing students because of inattention. Staff of the Business and Finance Division volunteered to help and the backlog was quickly resolved. This week, these same Business and Finance staff, from the vice chancellor to directors to secretaries, spent an entire day cleaning up the campus, inside and out, to enhance our students' first impression of their campus. I am confident that acts like this are repeated in large and small ways throughout the year by many of our employees and we ought to salute them for it.
COMMUNICATING THE QUALITY OF THE UNIVERSITY
So much of what we need to accomplish - from student recruiting, to enhancing the quality of the University, to creating a culture of success - depends on our ability to communicate the successes of this university to all of our constituents and to the public-at-large. Even after one year in office I continue to discover for the first time areas of extraordinary quality within the University - a department or a program quietly making real contributions to one of our mission objectives. I discovered our Math Department, which has had extraordinary, nationally recognized success in disproving the myth that women cannot perform well in higher level mathematics. I discovered the faculty at the Panhandle Research Center whose research and outreach efforts may lead to chicory as a new cash crop for the panhandle area of Nebraska. I discovered a program of the Teachers College to train Native American teachers for reservation schools. I discovered a group of faculty at the Museum who are passionate about the research they perform on the natural history of this region. This convinces me that, almost as significant as building quality at the University, will be our efforts to communicate the existing quality to others. This will need to be a major initiative for an extended period of time and it will need the cooperation of everyone if it is to succeed.
As a University, we face a real challenge in marketing the quality of this institution. The first challenge is the quality of our athletic program. Our athletic program forms a considerable part of our national image as a University, in part because of its success, and in part because the athletic department speaks with a single, loud voice in the national and local media. We will not improve the image of this university by diminishing the success or the voice of athletics; what we need to do is adapt their techniques to our academic programs.
For too long on the academic side we have chosen to speak through many, smaller voices. What we need to do is to join these smaller voices into a big voice that can be heard as clearly and as loudly as that of athletics. The strategies and techniques for accomplishing this are straight-forward and well researched. They require that we communicate consistently and repeatedly the academic success of the University as a whole. It means that the small successes of individual units and programs become part of a larger story about the success of the University. We must remake our smaller voices into a larger voice.
As Chancellor I receive a large number of publications originating from colleges and departments and other units. Many of them are of high quality, but some are not. More significantly, one can line these publications side-by-side on a table and you would have no way of telling they all came from the same university. These are small voices.
I also attended a celebration last April of our efforts in distance education. There were posters from many of the courses and degree programs our faculty have developed for distance learning. It was an impressive display and I believe probably demonstrated a deeper engagement by our faculty in distance learning than many of the institutions, which purport to be leaders in the field. But, I had to read the fine print to tell they were University of Nebraska-Lincoln products. We have too many large accomplishments heralded by too many small voices.
My impression is that many units speak only to their own constituencies, when there would be synergistic results if the message were more broadly received. Too often our accomplishments are publicized once rather than repeated continuously in different media and in different markets. In this complex world, where we are bombarded with messages of every imaginable type, we will not be able to tell our story with small, undisciplined voices.
I have renamed our public relations office as the Office of University Communications to signal a broader and more sophisticated vision for our communications efforts. I am not so naive as to think I can decree that all of our small voices suddenly join together in harmony. But I hope to persuade all of you that it is to our mutual advantage to coordinate our communications efforts, to take advantage of new insights into how messages are effectively communicated, and to speak with a louder, more harmonious voice. I hope you will work with Meg Lauerman, the new Director of Communications, toward that goal.
In short, we need to both communicate and celebrate our successes and our achievements and yet remain aggressively ambitious. We have a good story to tell.
Our federal research funding increased 45 percent in the most recent year, including a major grant of $10.7 million from the NIH for the study of virology. This project, under the leadership of Charles Wood, involves collaboration among scientists on the city campus, the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Medical Center. It holds promise for contributing both to human health and agricultural production.
Our plant science initiative has attracted very talented new faculty to the University who hold promise of contributing immediately to our national recognition. Importantly our research efforts are broad based, involving not only science but also the arts, humanities, and social sciences. We remain hopeful of being designated a regional center for the humanities based on the stature of our Center for Great Plains Studies, which is nationally recognized for its interdisciplinary programs.
We are among a few universities with faculty developing processes for the peer review of teaching. Our recent NCITE grant will create a national center for the study of information technology in education. This will, for the first time, give us some understanding of whether the glitz of instructional technology also contributes meaningfully to the substance of teaching and learning.
Consider the prospects that face the freshmen students who enter the University this week. They have enrolled in a university nationally recognized for its innovative educational programs. Some of these students will join the J.D. Edwards Honors Program in Computer Science and Management. That program has finally moved into the Kauffman Center, a residential learning center unmatched anywhere in the country. Many others will join the expanded general honors program. If these entering students study the visual arts, education, chemical engineering, journalism, natural resources, law or film studies, they will enjoy new physical facilities that greatly enhance the quality of the educational experience they will receive. And all students will have the opportunity to study in a renewed Love Library.
These students are likely to enjoy extraordinary success if they apply themselves. We know this because of the success our current students continue to experience.
- December graduate Brian Carlson of Fremont, who took first place in the 41st annual Hearst Journalism Awards National Writing championship.
- Lucas Sabalka, a junior from Lincoln majoring in mathematics and computer science, has twice been a member of a computer science programming team from UNL representing the United States in the world computer programming contest. He is one of three students, along with Dorea Claassen from Denver and Ellen Veomett of Lincoln Pius X, from UNL to win $5,000 Goldwater Scholarships.
- December graduate Jaclyn Anderson, of Omaha, was named the top woman math undergraduate in the nation.
- Angela Clements, of Elmwood, a senior political science major, was awarded a coveted, nationally competitive Truman Scholarship, worth up to $30,000, bestowed upon students pursuing public service careers.
- May graduate Brett Stohs, of Lincoln, received an honorable mention on the USA Today All Academic Team.
- May graduate Katherine Rush, of Kendrick, Idaho, won three national honors for outstanding leadership, academics and athletics displayed during her four-year career with UNL Air Force ROTC.
- The UNL Forensics team won fifth place at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament. And senior Katie Kock of Omaha, placed second in the nation in the individual sweepstakes competition.
In addition, there are literally hundreds of students who quietly expand their horizons, build their human capital, graduate, and return to contribute to their families and to their communities. Their stories might not generate headlines, but they are reflective of our success.
At the beginning of my remarks I posed two general challenges that we needed to address: enhancing both the actual quality as well as the reputation of the University. I have outlined some of the more specific initiatives that we have taken or must take to respond to these challenges. I firmly believe our attitude is as important to our success as our actions. We know that students will meet the expectations we set for them and so it is important that we set those expectations high. The same can be said for the expectations we set for ourselves. An institution can never be better than it thinks it is or wants to be.
We need to focus on things that we can control and not be discouraged by things we cannot. Progress doesn't come in straight lines. We will have fewer resources to put toward academic enhancements this year than I had hoped because of the market performance of our private funds. And we may even be asked to take steps to help alleviate a potential shortfall in state revenue. But we will make some investments and we will position ourselves to take advantage of resources when they become available. And we will marshal the resources we have to continue to make progress.
We need to understand that no unit of the University can rise in quality or stature much beyond the average of the University as a whole. The competition between departments and colleges must be refocused toward competing against our institutional peers. Not only must we celebrate the success of our colleagues but it is to our own best interest if we contribute to them.
We need to recognize and rejoice in the important and exciting role we play. Nothing can be more important to the future of our society, or more personally self-fulfilling, than our efforts to stimulate and challenge the young people who are in our care and to advance the state of human knowledge and the quality of the human condition.
I am excited about what the faculty and staff of this University have been able to accomplish. I am encouraged about the prospects for our future. I am personally humbled by the responsibility you have chosen to give me, but I am comforted by the support I have received from within and without the University. And I am certain that working together we can achieve something very special for this University and for the State of Nebraska.