Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Each May, shortly after commencement and after I have had time to tie up the loose ends, clean up my desk, and delete no-longer-needed e-mails, I begin to think about what I should say in the next State of the University Address. The senior administrative team does their part by retreating with me for two days to explore what issues we should address in the year ahead. Then I spend July and August wondering why anyone would want to sit through such a speech. Perhaps delivering it this morning is designed to transfer the burden of that question from me to you! I have tried to be sensitive to the length of my remarks this year. After last year's address I heard a faculty member recalling what Abraham Lincoln had said about one of his opponents: "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know."
Yet, this occasion gives us the opportunity to come together and rejoice in our accomplishments and the talent that resides here. This is by anyone's definition quite a remarkable place and quite a remarkable time in the history of this university. The most visible successes are in research because it can be measured in dollars. Also visible is the work you are all doing - faculty and staff from across the university - in assisting our admissions office in generating increased enrollment by students with strong academic credentials. For the third year we will experience a sizeable increase in enrollment. Less visible, but more important, are the interactions in and out of our classrooms that you have with our students, interactions that are resulting in increased retention, increased graduation rates, and increased student accomplishments. And perhaps, the least visible, because it cannot be collected in a single statistic, is the day-to-day contributions that our faculty and staff make to the citizens of Nebraska - by responding to their needs, by providing the insights of our research to make their lives more productive, by assisting their communities, and by contributing in a variety of ways to the quality of life in Nebraska.
I wish you all could have shared a late afternoon concert by the Chiara Quartet at the movie theater in Curtis, Nebraska, where almost 250 of the 700 people who live in Curtis attended. One woman told me she was going to frame the printed program because it was the only time in history where Carnegie Hall (a part of the Chiara's resume) and Curtis, Nebraska, were on the same page.
I believe Nebraskans are increasingly aware of the quality of their state-wide, land grant, comprehensive research university and the importance of its success to their future. Winston Churchill once said that a "pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." I remain an optimist. Nebraska, like many states, engages in budget discussions under a false rhetoric, thinking the costs of Medicare and support for K-12 education are "mandatory expenditures" whereas investments in the university are "discretionary." But whether Nebraskans will be positioned in the future to fund these "mandatory" programs may to some significant extent depend on whether they make investments today in this university. You can do your part in proving my thesis correct by seizing the opportunity in this difficulty, thus continuing to demonstrate the quality of our programs and their potential for Nebraska.
I can report to you that we will not face major budgetary issues this year, in large part, because of our increased enrollment. Next year we may face greater budget obstacles but as Henry Ford said: "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." We will continue to focus on our goal of enhancing the Power of Red and all it means for students, for faculty, and for the community at large.
I am fortunate to serve with an extraordinary group of individuals who lead this university. Teamwork is essential to managing the university. It means you never have to accept all the blame yourself, and it gives your critics someone else to shoot at! Thus I hope you will indulge me the time to introduce them. Please hold your applause until the end. Would the vice chancellors please stand and be recognized.
With a special welcome for Susan Poser who has just begun her service as Associate to the Chancellor, would the other members of the Senior Administrative Team stand and be recognized. And with a special welcome for David Manderscheid who joins us as the new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, would the deans please stand and be recognized. I wish it were possible here to review all of the accomplishments during the last year. In every division - not only in the academic units but in Student Affairs and Business Affairs - with every class of employee - not only for faculty but for staff as well - your successes are too numerous and too diverse. We will publish a special edition of the Scarlet and it too will have to be selective. My hope is that each achievement, large and small, is recognized and valued by all of us.
Because of your work, this is a vibrant place. We have come far; we have far to go. As the old saying goes: if everything is coming your way, you might be in the wrong lane! We have only scratched the surface on our potential. We are not lacking in opportunities to improve. We have only kindled the Power of Red.
This University has two priorities: undergraduate education and research. The State has two priorities: keeping young people in Nebraska and diversifying our economy. Our priorities are aligned. The growing reputation of our undergraduate experience and the human touch that you bring to our recruiting has resulted in three successive years of increased enrollment. Unleashing the talent of our faculty and making some key investments has significantly enhanced our competitiveness in research and has opened several opportunities to contribute to Nebraska's economy. We are in the right lane after all!