A Message from the Chancellor

Good afternoon, UNL Students, Faculty and Staff,

It is my honor to serve as chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the 155th celebration of Charter Day. On Charter Day, I am reminded that our teaching, research, and engagement transforms lives and learning; that the dissemination of knowledge created at UNL builds communities across Nebraska; that our students have an active role in shaping their UNL experience; and most importantly that every person and every interaction matters at UNL.

On Charter Day, I call upon you to grasp the values we have held dearly for 155 years, to treasure them, and to rely upon them every day you step foot on this campus to guide your thoughts, your words, and your actions. I call upon you to seek out your role in helping UNL reach its lofty aspirations, whether that is in pursuit of rejoining the AAU or championships in our athletic endeavors. I call upon you to discover your piece of the puzzle that will make UNL the model for public flagship institutions across the country.

We have a road map in the N2025 Strategic Plan that has pointed us in a direction toward becoming the model for flagship universities, and we have achieved much since it was finalized four years ago. While COVID and other challenges may have disrupted our progress in some areas, there is still positive momentum and much to celebrate in many areas of the university that matter most.

For example, we are seeing positive signs that we are turning the corner in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment, which includes an emphasis on enrolling Nebraska’s best and brightest, as outlined by Governor Pillen, Interim President Kabourek and the Board of Regents earlier this month. We are also realizing growth in sponsored research, awards and expenditures, and we are experiencing record gains in private giving.

We are making progress—the evidence is there—but, as you know, the news is never all positive. We are facing ongoing budget challenges, and we will be required to make some of the most difficult decisions in the institution’s history.

This morning, I convened approximately 100 university leaders for a robust and spirited discussion on all matters UNL. While we covered several topics, it was evident that concerns about the budget and the processes by which we arrive at budget-related decisions remain a top concern for many across our campuses. I heard this loudly and clearly. I have an appreciation for the level of frustration that budget processes result in, and I am committed to working across the university community to outline processes that are open, transparent and allow us to accomplish our goals. None of us enjoys reducing the budget, but it is critical that we operate within our budgetary allocation. Going forward, we must work together in a spirit of collegiality and embrace the reality that we are all working for the benefit of the institution that we love and cherish.

This semester we will be outlining processes to update the N2025 Strategic Plan and address remaining budget shortfalls. I look forward to fleshing out plans with shared governance partners and other campus leaders that will accomplish these goals.

As we work to live within our means, we also know that higher education is facing an existential crisis of perception and relevancy. At UNL, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to evolve higher education for our state. We know that the perception of higher education across our country is in decline. I share with you in lamenting the changing perception of the value of higher education.

Nevertheless, I truly believe that at UNL, despite our obstacles, we are limited only by our own imagination. UNL is not a place for the status quo; it is a place for big ideas. At UNL, there is no shortage of the world’s brightest minds. At UNL, there is no shortage of people who are committed to life-changing, transformative work—work that I am excited to be a part of. The UNL combination of intelligence, strength, and determination is unique not only in Nebraska but across the country. We are up to this significant task.

I thank you for your dedication to UNL, and I am humbled to serve as your chancellor. I am grateful for your good work. And I am looking forward to supporting and being witness to all that you will accomplish as we work to become the model for flagship universities.

Thank you, and happy Charter Day.