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State of the University Address, 2005

SEPTEMBER 9, 2005

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

It is once again my privilege to address you on the state of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Because of your good efforts, this annual task is one to which I look forward. It provides the opportunity to reflect on the past year and the many accomplishments we have achieved together. As a point of personal privilege, however, I want to emphatically deny that I am resigning from the university to pursue a career in reality television. Nor will I be joining the concert tour of Motley Crue. I have "no comment" on the recent report that I have acquired a tattoo.

As we are about to reflect on the remarkable progress we continue to make as a university and the optimism we have for its future, we cannot help but think of our academic colleagues displaced by Hurricane Katrina, who face enormous challenges to rebuild their institutions, their lives, and their careers. I appreciate the efforts of so many of you who have worked to accommodate students from those institutions. Numerous individuals and groups from across the university - students, faculty, and staff - are pursuing additional ways to provide assistance. The administration will do what it can to support those efforts. I invite you now to observe a moment of reflection for all persons displaced by this natural disaster.

Today I want to ask you to do three things:
  1. I want you to share the enormous pride I have for this university and what you have been able to accomplish;
  2. I want you to share my passion for continuing to move this university forward in all of its missions,
  3. And, I want you to share my awe at the powerful nature of our work - for we transfer to students the power to improve the quality of their lives and, with them, we have the power through our teaching, our research, and our engagement, to improve the lives of others and to influence the world.
We should be proud of our accomplishments. We invested almost $500,000 to spark improvements in student learning, permitting faculty across the campus to pursue their ideas to advance our instructional mission. Each new entering class of students sets new records for academic quality, for geographic distribution, and for racial and ethnic diversity. And through receipt of national scholarships and through disciplinary competitions, our students increasingly demonstrate their ability to compete at the national level.

Since 2000, externally funded research has doubled to nearly $100 million. NSF now ranks us 81st among the top recipients of federal grants, and ahead of such regional comparators as Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. At least we beat Oklahoma in something last year! And we continue to rejoice in the success of our colleague, Ted Kooser, winner of a Pulitzer Prize and now a second-term U.S. Poet Laureate.

We continue to expand our engagement with Nebraskans. It is remarkable that Nebraska leads the country in per capita participation in 4-H programs, a tribute to the many university staff and faculty who administer that program. And we continue to make contributions to economic development and our quality of life, through the good work of cooperative extension which is adjusting to the developing needs across Nebraska, through the outreach efforts of other academic units, through our research in water, in bio-fuels, and in other areas of particular importance to Nebraska's economy, and through our efforts to commercialize the products of our research to build economic capacity in Nebraska. Internally, by completing the initial phase of strategic planning, we have positioned ourselves for more comprehensive and more sustained progress.

While nothing at this university is accomplished without the involvement of many people, I hope you will indulge me a moment so that I might publicly acknowledge the people I interact with on a daily basis. This university is well-served, as am I, by a senior administrative leadership team that is unselfishly focused on advancing this university. The vice chancellors and other members of the senior administrative team have contributed enormously to both our past accomplishments and our agenda for the future. I am indebted to each of them for their energy and support. I want to specifically take this opportunity to thank Jim Griesen for his many contributions to the university. He has been at UNL since 1984 and, when he retires from the vice chancellorship this July, he will have served for 20 years as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Happily, he is not retiring from the university but will rejoin the faculty. This university is deeply indebted to him.

After several years of fiscal restraint, we received the best budget for this next biennium as we have seen in many years. We are all grateful to Governor Dave Heineman and our many friends in the Legislature as well as for the efforts of J.B. Milliken, our new president, and the support of the Board of Regents. I believe, however, these good results would not have been possible without your success in demonstrating the potential of this university to contribute to the well-being of Nebraska.

I will again this year rely on a special edition of the Scarlet to record the many highlights from last year. Neither my voice nor your patience could do justice to a recitation here of the breadth of individual and unit accomplishments. Happily, we are expanding our mechanisms to celebrate these successes as they occur.

But this year I have a unique opportunity to symbolize our growing national reputation as a university. Representative of the outstanding talent of the faculty from a variety of disciplines we attracted to the university this year, I am very pleased to introduce to the university community Rebecca Fischer, Julie Yoon, Jonah Sirota, and Gregory Beaver - The Chiara Quartet. These young artists are fresh from placing third in the world in an International String Quartet Competition in Italy, adding to many other accomplishments and awards. They have performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. From 2003-2005 they held the Lisa Arnhold Residency at the Julliard School. They have now joined our faculty for three years as artists-in-residence. In this role, they will teach our students, contribute to the arts in Nebraska, and carry the banner of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as they perform around the world. They graciously agreed to perform for us this morning. So as representative of the talent we are attracting across the university, please help me welcome the Chiara Quartet performing Claude Debussy's only string quartet Opus 10: Anime et tres decide.

[Chiara Quartet plays 7-10 minute set]

I hope you all enjoyed them for their intrinsic talent and as a reprieve from listening to me. To be fair to other disciplines, next year we will have a ten-minute demonstration of a regression analysis. Seriously, I hope you get the point: in every college this university is attracting already accomplished faculty, recruiting young faculty of extraordinary promise, and exploiting the considerable talent and expertise of our existing faculty. In every college a dedicated staff is working hard to assist in these accomplishments. I have enormous pride that by the accident of circumstance I am leading this university during a period of such sustained success.

I invite you to share that pride and to broadcast it to those around you. We too often understate the significance of our own accomplishments. As this state's only comprehensive research university with its land-grant tradition we have a role to play in Nebraska, we have a role to play on the national scene, we have a role to play in the world and we need not take a second seat to any university in doing so.