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State of the University Address, 2009

SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The last time I formally addressed you was on September 4, 2008. What has happened since, both within the university and in the larger community, is breathtaking. Most pervasive, perhaps, has been the precipitous decline in our nation's economy which has negatively impacted us individually and collectively. While thus far Nebraska has avoided the scale of disruption in other states, we cannot be certain that this will continue. In the national news, we have witnessed the change of administrations, the transitioning of the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan, a series of stimulus expenditures in dollar amounts too large to fully appreciate, and the decline or disappearance of some of the major business and financial icons of the American economy. Within higher education nationally, both public and private institutions are adjusting to significant declines in revenue while at the same time being asked to increase the percentage of our population with college degrees as a national priority. We are also seeing a large increase in funding for scientific research as part of the attempt to preserve America's competitive posture in the world. I should not need to further convince you that we are living in extraordinary times and such times always present both perils and opportunities.

At UNL, much has also happened - more than any speech or special edition of the Scarlet can fully recount. Here, quickly, are some headlines just to illustrate the scope of our work and the upward trajectory of our accomplishments.

This semester our entering students will be the first to participate in the Achievement Centered Education program of general education. Faculty and staff from across the university have constructed over 400 courses that are ACE certified to meet one or more of the 10 student learning outcomes we now expect our students to demonstrate. This program is viewed nationally as a remarkable achievement and reaffirms our leadership in undergraduate education.

Our graduation rates and retention rates are up; our enrollment continues to increase. Consider that this year we reached our goal of 24,000 students three years earlier than we predicted. Consider this year's entering class is the most academically gifted in history and for the eighth year in a row has a higher ACT than its predecessor. Consider this year's entering class is the most diverse in history with higher numbers of both students of color and international students.

A new student information system will come online this fall for students enrolling in the university for 2010. This has required a massive effort by many of our staff across the campus and throughout the university system.

We grew our federal research enterprise by 13 percent to $122 million, $84 million of which was federal support. This is a new record for both federal support and overall support. And significantly, these dollars were generated by a cross-section of disciplines.

Through Cooperative Extension the university contributed to the wellbeing of farmers and ranchers across Nebraska. Our irrigation demonstration project is lowering water use, energy costs, and carbon emissions. Our 4-H program, with the highest participation per capita of any state, has achieved national recognition for its Robotics, GPS/GIS, and Entrepreneurship curricula. The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction took the lead in forging relationships among faculty to address the energy efficiency and safety of buildings. As a country we have more opportunities to save energy by making buildings more efficient than we do by making transportation more efficient.

Important new research facilities, including the new Physics Building and the renovated Whittier building and Keim Hall will help address some of our critical research space needs. The University of Nebraska system's work in developing the Holland Computing Center, combining the resources in both Lincoln and Omaha, gives our faculty access to large scale computing resources.

Notwithstanding the passage of Initiative 424, which wrote a ban on racial, ethnic and gender preferences into the Nebraska state constitution, we continue to make progress to diversity our campus. The new Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center will open in January and provide important space for pursuing our diversity objectives. The National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant that seeks to provide more faculty diversity in our science, engineering, and mathematics departments is up and running and showing success. And we are implementing a university-wide program to adopt best practices to recruit and retain a diverse faculty.

Our campus has become more family friendly with the opening of our state-of-the -art childcare facility at Whittier, the implementation of our new lactation policy that will provide private spaces for nursing mothers, and the alignment in 2011 of our spring break with that of the Lincoln Public Schools.

We are increasingly a global university. We have major partnerships in China, India and in other countries around the world that provide us with research and enrollment opportunities as well as welcoming locations for our faculty and students. Student participation in Study Abroad is increasing and the University of Nebraska Foundation Grants Committee awarded us a major grant for this coming year to engage more faculty in leading study abroad programs. The International Program Advisory Council has developed a set of proposed benchmarks and strategies to guide our international efforts. In May, we held the first global Future of Water for Food conference for scholars from around the world. A University of Nebraska system-wide Global Water for Food Institute has already attracted attention internationally and will enhance our ability to address water issues in Nebraska and on a global scale. And we have recently launched our new "Put Yourself on the Map" campaign to vividly depict the global reach of our programs and our alumni.

The new Chancellor's Commission on Sustainability is seeking ways in which we can create a softer footprint on the earth's resources.

Our new Alumni Association structure appears to be generating creative ways in which alumni can reengage with the university. Alumni involvement with us can lead to opportunities unavailable otherwise.

For the first time we have a Chief Information Officer, Mark Askren from the University of California at Irvine, whose responsibilities are to insure that our information technology resources are directed toward assisting the university achieve its primary missions of teaching, research, and outreach. We welcome Mark and his family to Lincoln.

Consultants are close to providing us with the plans we need to initiate the development of Innovation Campus - an initiative that could transform the entire university in many ways. More about this in a few moments.

We will celebrate at least two significant anniversaries this year: the 20th Anniversary season for the Lied Center for Performing Arts and the centennial celebration for the College of Engineering.

Not insignificantly, our athletic teams are beginning to again match the competitiveness of our academic programs.

And most significantly of all, each graduate that walks across the stage at Devaney and accepts his or her diploma represents a major accomplishment of this university. A few may think they "made it on their own" but I suspect they were all impacted by the richness and vitality of the university and more directly by a nudge here or an act of kindness there from a member of the faculty or staff.

As an institutional matter I find it difficult to identify particular individuals to thank for their contributions because what we are accomplishing takes so many efforts, large and small, visible and invisible and to mention one runs the risk of omitting others. So I hope you will forgive me taking a moment to personally thank the vice chancellors and senior staff and deans with whom I've worked directly and who rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Their unselfish leadership and commitment to the success of the university is truly remarkable.

We salute the contributions of Will Norton, Cynthia Milligan, and Steve Willborn, who have left their deanships but have also left some lasting marks on the university. And I want to particularly acknowledge and thank John Owens who this week announced his retirement as Vice Chancellor and Vice President of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the end of this fiscal year. John has been a strong advocate for agriculture, a tireless contributor to the university, and a personal friend. We are fortunate that he and Virginia will remain at the university.

I am blessed to work with such people.

We are all blessed to be at an institution that each year receives a transfusion of new talent and energy from our student body. To remind us of our principal mission I am pleased to give you a short break from my voice and introduce the voices of Roctavo. Founded in 2006, Rocktavo was acclaimed at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella at Lincoln Center in New York City as the best all male ensemble of 2007. The group is composed of undergraduate vocal music majors and coached by Senior Lecturer Alisa Belflower.

Their new, self-titled CD was released last spring and is available now in the Nebraska Bookstore. Here with a new take on a Nebraska standard, please welcome ROCKTAVO.