By Troy Fedderson, University Communications
UNL faculty, staff and administrators from academics to athletics have spent the last year meeting with Big Ten counterparts to prepare for the new relationship with the Big Ten Conference.
Members of the Big Ten and its Committee on Institutional Cooperation have come to Lincoln to become familiar with UNL's people and programs. And, by all accounts, the transition has gone smoothly.
"We have worked for the last year to set the stage for UNL's entry into the Big Ten and the CIC. At no time has any part of this transition felt forced, strained or stretched because UNL is a natural fit for the Big Ten." - Barbara McFadden Allen, director of the CIC
UNL is indeed similar to other Big Ten universities. It is a land-grant institution like seven others in the conference and UNL is a major research university. Nebraska is contiguous to states in the Big Ten Conference. UNL has a high percentage (around 30 percent) of faculty who have degrees from CIC universities. And UNL faculty and administrators have shown an intense desire for collaboration — both across disciplines among campus units and with other institutions around the world.
"This is going to be a partnership that will thrive for many, many years," said Allen.
However, UNL still has some work to do to measure up academically to Big Ten counterparts.
"The Big Ten is much more than a new group of teams with which we will compete," said Chancellor Harvey Perlman. "This new relationship is an enormous leap forward for UNL academics. The Big Ten is a historically prestigious and stable academic community of scholars and students, highly regarded in academic circles."
Among those strength gauges, UNL does rank high in growth in both enrollment and research funding. In the last five years, enrollment has grown 13.5 percent at UNL — a figure that ranks near the top among Big Ten institutions. And, from 1999 to 2008, research funding at UNL has increased by 121 percent. That figure is second only to Ohio State University.
While UNL administrators, faculty and staff are ready to work on strengthening campus academic programs, the university does boast programs that are attractive to Big Ten and CIC institutions.
Those unique programs include the digital humanities project, the Global Water Institute, climate study, life sciences initiative and the water center.
While working with Big Ten peers, UNL faculty have been named to a variety of CIC committees and initiatives. UNL representatives have also participated in a pair of collaborative research projects offered through the CIC. Those projects include work to address traumatic brain injuries and international competitiveness.
Allen said the Center for Advanced Study in International Competitiveness will present a variety of opportunities for UNL faculty. The center — which is the CIC's first large scale collaborative research effort across the consortium — will provide research leadership in the study of complex international competitiveness issues that have scholarly and practical significance, particularly those with public-policy implications.
Access to materials through the UNL Libraries will also increase with CIC membership. Books in the library will be added to the CIC's digital book project. The project offers more than 85 million books and volumes to CIC member institutions. The program eclipses a similar Ivy League initiative, which offers around 60 million books.
And, UNL technology is also already working to support the CIC. Through an agreement signed earlier this year, UNL is providing network backup in case CIC internet access is disrupted.
One of the first programs UNL students will encounter is the CIC's course-sharing program. As the name implies, the program allows for unique courses (in particular areas of foreign language study) to be offered across CIC institutions. The CIC also offers a variety of study abroad opportunities for students.
"The Big Ten Conference is the oldest athletic conference in the nation," said Allen. "There is a long standing, stable partnership on the athletic side. But, the presidents recognized that they are truly peer institutions with much more in common than other conferences."
She said Big Ten officials have stuck by the idea that member institutions should be powerhouses in both athletics and academics.
"That sustained level of commitment is what has enabled Big Ten institutions to collaborate in ways that are not possible in any other conference," said Allen. "We found that same spirit when we visited Lincoln. It's also why UNL is such a natural fit for the Big Ten and the CIC."
What is the CIC?
The Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of the Big Ten member universities plus the University of Chicago. For more than half a century, these world-class research institutions have advanced their academic missions, generated unique opportunities for students and faculty, and served the common good by sharing expertise, leveraging campus resources, and collaborating on innovative programs. Governed and funded by the Provosts of the member universities, CIC mandates are coordinated by a staff from its Champaign, Ill., headquarters.
University of Chicago
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Michigan
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ohio State University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Wisconsin-Madison