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State of the University Address, 2004

SEPTEMBER 10, 2004

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Core Values

While each academic program or department will have its own opportunities for achieving excellence, its plans should reflect the core values and priorities of the institution-at-large. In reading the 2020 Report and reviewing our own recent campus conversations, I believe I can discern a set of core values to which we are committed and that have guided our actions. I propose them here – and I only propose them here – for your consideration. The plans of each academic program should either confirm these core values as I see them or suggest alternatives.

I believe we are committed to the following:
  1. the uncompromising pursuit of excellence,
  2. the integration of teaching, research and service,
  3. the need to support, engage, and challenge every member of the university community,
  4. continuous improvement measured by performance indicators and a meaningful process of self-assessment and self-improvement, and
  5. diversity.
The first, and most important, is that we are committed to an uncompromising pursuit of excellence, that this is a university that will not be distracted from its goals and its dreams by external circumstances or by the ebb and flow of resources that are beyond its control, that this is a university that will take risks, that will dare to be first, to pioneer new frontiers if necessary to achieve excellence. This is a university where the only thing unknown about its ultimate success is how long it will take, not whether it will occur. How long it will take depends on this state's willingness and ability to provide us with resources, but it also depends on our own creativity and appetite for embracing change.

We believe in the integration of teaching, research and service. These missions are neither independent nor in conflict, even though they sometimes compete for our attention, our resources, and our time. Our primary reason for existence is to assist young people in achieving adult success through our teaching programs. Research informs our teaching and makes our classrooms current, sophisticated and unique. For the increasing number of students who participate in our research activity, it is often a life-changing experience that can be duplicated at no other type of institution. We also prepare students to assume leadership roles for the uncertain but always changing world that they will enter. As a land-grant institution, we extend our comparative advantage in teaching and research toward improving the lives and prosperity of all the people of Nebraska. This year we encouraged our students to “engage,” “connect,” and “balance” as a strategy for their own success. This creates a corollary responsibility on us to support, engage, and challenge them. This commitment extends, not only to students, but also to every member of the University community. To fulfill this commitment we must provide everyone with the “materials and equipment” necessary for them to do their jobs well and position them to do what they do best every day. We must continue to prioritize and to reallocate our resources so that we have the means to pursue excellence. Those who do good work should receive frequent recognition for what they do. And all students, faculty, and staff should know that there is someone here who cares about them as people, encourages their development and pushes them toward higher ambitions. All members of our community should believe that their opinions count and that they are engaged in important work. I know of no mission in our society more important than preparing the next generation of leaders, inventing the next technology of economic progress, and creating the literature and arts that will improve our quality of life. We must each give our best and be willing to recognize the best of others. We must be certain that when students engage the University, we are there to make that engagement as productive as possible. And we must fully engage all members of the community regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or intellectual perspective.

We must also challenge every member of our community. We should expect again that all employees and students have the opportunity to talk to somebody about their progress on a regular basis and that they are encouraged to learn and grow. For example, we have implemented a recommendation of the Transitions Task Force to have a mid-semester check with first-year students to talk about their progress. I remain convinced we have not fully tapped the reservoir of talent that resides within our faculty and staff. We attract students from across Nebraska and from around the world. All are entitled to have us challenge them to do their best. All are entitled to have us push them beyond their comfort zone, to test their limits and to expand their horizons. We told our students to seek balance in their lives – to work hard and to play hard. My guess is the entries on the “play” side of the ledger will come naturally. They will need our guidance on how to connect and engage. This fall we have the most academically qualified freshman class in the history of the university. As these students attempt to achieve balance, we must be confident that our programs, our curriculum, and our classroom match and demand the best of their talents. I fear that you will regard the last few minutes as too sermon-like in tone. Yet, the Gallup Survey results continue to demonstrate that we could enhance the quality of the university by devoting some attention to the engagement and inclusiveness of members of our neighborhoods. I remain committed to the Gallup process because it offers us a proven method of addressing our core value of supporting, engaging, and challenging each other. While our scores modestly improved overall, much remains to be accomplished. The most important aspect of the process is not the survey but the conversations that should follow. I will ask that each program plan include how that program intends to address the engagement and inclusiveness of its environment. We hope to help this process by holding workshops for Deans and Chairs to build on best practices and to increase the consistency of administrative action across campus. Ultimately, however, it is at the program level that progress can be achieved. And, in the process, if some of you were to develop a “best friend” at work, so much the better! We are also committed to a process of continuous improvement with established measures of success. The 2020 Vision statement is a candid self-assessment of where this University was five years ago. In addition to initiatives to improve our performance, we adopted a set of quality indicators to assess our progress on an annual basis. I acknowledge that some of the indicators are controversial and some may need revision. However, the idea – the idea – of periodically measuring progress against standards announced in advance is important. I will encourage programs in their own planning processes to identify the methods by which they desire to have their performance measured.

Finally, I believe this campus is committed to diversity. Achieving a diverse faculty, staff, and student body is not an easy task. We have made progress over all but it has not been without setbacks. The number of racial minority students continues to increase as the Admissions office makes this a high priority. I have asked Colleen Jones to serve my office, in addition to her teaching responsibilities in the College of Business Administration, to work on developing networks and best practices that will assist us in recruiting and retaining minority faculty. Linda Crump is taking the lead in revising the institution-wide diversity plan, an effort that will be consistent with our planning methodology. We remain hopeful that we can find a workable plan to provide childcare on campus. I have asked both the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on the Status of People of Color to focus on best practices that will assist in both recruitment and retention of women and minorities. These activities are designed to support the efforts across the programs of the University. And I will expect that diversity will be specifically addressed in each program's strategic plan.