State of the University Address 2017-2018Read the Prepared Remarks
Prepared TextState of the University “Sesquicentennial Eve for our beloved Land-Grant flagship: Bold Strategic Transformation”
Chancellor Ronnie D. Green
September 19, 2017
Good morning to our collective community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, stakeholders, partners and citizens of Nebraska. I am so pleased to have you joining us today here at the fabulous Lied Center for Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as so many of you joining via live stream across our statewide campus.
It is a real privilege as we settle in to the 2017-18 academic year to have the opportunity to dialogue with all of you on the state of YOUR university on the “eve” of our sesquicentennial anniversary in 2018-19. We have much to celebrate in the year past, as well as considerable challenges and opportunities to drive us in the year ahead.
It is an honor and privilege for me to serve as the 20th chancellor of this far-reaching and impactful university. As an alumnus, a parent of former and present Husker students, the spouse of a devoted and passionate alumna, and as a citizen and taxpayer of the great state of Nebraska, I am immensely proud of this institution, its mission, its values, its people, and most importantly, its world-wide impact. I want you all to know that each and every day I consider serving as your chancellor a great opportunity, a wonderful challenge, and a labor of love. I must admit, it is hard to believe that 16 months have now passed – perhaps analogous to 16 stones in the road of this journey with you – since assuming the role in May 2016.
You may recall that last year, in my first opportunity to have this dialogue with you, we talked about the enhanced opportunities which lie ahead for our university in expanded enrollment growth and management, student matriculation and graduation success, innovative fiscal management and elevated academic distinction both in the Big Ten Academic Alliance as well as nationally and internationally. We also talked about how we might enhance our efforts more collaboratively across the system of NU institutions, particularly UNMC.
Today I certainly have much to cover with you. Our road map for the discussion will include:
- re-affirming the opportunity of our mission and purpose;
- reviewing and overviewing our current status and progress made in the past year;
- surveying the external landscape and transformational climate of the current time;
- undertaking significant and bold transformations ahead for us in 2017-18; and
- focusing with precision on our mission as we forge ahead into the next 150 years of service.
We have the awesome remit and charge of serving as Nebraska’s flagship, comprehensive research, land-grant university. We are the largest university in the state of Nebraska, its major Carnegie doctoral granting home and center of higher education, with the single largest research and discovery enterprise in the state and region.
We offer the full breadth of areas of study, research, creative activity and discovery as a research-intensive comprehensive public university. We were established here on the plains of Nebraska under the Morrill Act of 1862 – where our mission today, as it was then, is a tri-partite one of 1) affordable and accessible education for the people; 2) cutting-edge and comprehensive fundamental to applied research, creative activity and discovery in areas that matter to the people of our state and beyond; and 3) translation and engagement with the state of Nebraska to improve the quality of life and economic well-being here through Nebraska Extension and many other programs and services across the university.
This mission has never been more important in our 149-year history than today – in all three mission areas. Higher education has never been more needed for career success, nor research and innovation to better understand and improve the human and natural environmental condition. And I would dare to wager that there have been few times over the past 15 decades where understanding the benefits of higher education and the academe’ for the general public – i.e. translating our value – has been more in demand than today.
As I said at April 6th‘s investiture – we benefit from “being in the middle of everywhere and everything” geographically – and from indeed, being what I referred to as the “DNA” of Nebraska. We also benefit from being the people of Nebraska’s flagship university. I cannot think of another place that has the same connection of its people to its major university as we are so fortunate to have here. We should never take that for granted in any respect and should constantly strive to continue to foster that sense of “connectedness” of people of Nebraska to their university.
This past year was one filled with new records for our institution – led certainly by a significant increase in enrollment across the board. We enrolled 25,897 students in fall 2016, breaking the previous record of 25,075 set in 1982. Similarly, we were very pleased to recently document that our fall 2017 enrollment once again set a new record at 26,079 students. The significance of this increased enrollment – at a time when the odds are against such a result – simply cannot be overstated.
We have more students from across Nebraska studying with us than ever before, while continuing to see significant increases in non-resident students coming to us domestically as well as internationally. This fall’s first time freshman class is the largest (4,905) and most diverse (15 percent) in our history while continuing to uphold equal academic credentials (avg. ACT of 25.2). We were also pleased to see an increase in our graduate enrollment this fall for the first time in the past several years.
Our enrollment growth was led by the College of Business, which with its new home in Hawks Hall, welcomed a freshman class that is 15 percent larger than 2016. Our colleges of engineering, arts and sciences, architecture, and fine and performing arts also significantly contributed to our enrollment growth.
As you will recall, I have suggested that we should pursue continued growth in enrollment at both the undergraduate and graduate levels – not random growth but planned smart growth. I am indebted to a task force that worked hard this past year to further study this possibility led by co-chairs assistant vice chancellor for ASEM Amber Williams and interim CASNR dean Tiffany Heng-Moss. The task force, aided with the help of some outside expert consultants, evaluated the competitive marketplace in which we operate, institutions who have significantly increased their enrollments in a similar way in the past decade, and where the greatest opportunities exist for needed growth here at Nebraska. The conclusion of their work was that a reasonable 2025 goal for total enrollment for us is in the order of 29,000 to 31,000 with an upper-range, aspirational goal of 32,500 students.
Achievement of this level of enrollment will require us to innovate in a number of ways, including increasing levels of financial support for students, maximizing the capacity of our academic and university housing infrastructure, expanding and innovating our university honors program, and concomitantly investing in our faculty ranks to meet the anticipated growth. All of these are areas currently being explored.
We also must continue to expand and invest in elevating and supporting student timely graduation success. It should not be considered unrealistic to aspire for our university to exceed undergraduate graduation rates of 80 percent in four years. We also had a task force this past year led by senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate studies Amy Goodburn and dean of the college of architecture Kathy Ankerson evaluating student success and means to continuously improve. With increasing numbers of first generation students and growing diversity of our student body across all demographic parameters, we must continue to invest in and elevate our academic support systems, including more traditional personalized academic support and advising. I have been very pleased to see the increased efforts like First Huskers (up to 200 students this year) and FIRST GEN faculty (over 300 faculty have affiliated with this new program), as well as and perhaps most importantly increased average individual student credit hour loads. We cannot emphasize enough the simple math of 15 x 2 x 4 = 120 credit hours. While there are a variety of permutations for how to get there, that should be our collective goal with every student having a personal accountability plan, or approved deviation from it if needed to meet their educational and personal goals, for how to get there. We must recognize that the student debt and cost issues are real – and we must more actively as a university faculty have reducing this barrier and obstacle as a part of our collective mission.
We have continued to significantly invest in our physical infrastructure to meet current demands as well as planned growth. This past year saw a record number of infrastructure projects come to completion with more planned for the immediate years ahead. We brought online these phenomenal new additions and renovations to our campuses:
- Adele Hall Learning Commons in Love Library North
- Marvin and Virginia Schmid Clinic Building – College of Law
- Cather Dining Hall and Zatechka Housing Office
- Massengale Residential Center
- Veterinary Diagnostic Center
- College of Business / Howard L. Hawks Hall
- Behlen Laboratories
- The Mill at Nebraska Innovation Campus
- Biotech Connector at Nebraska Innovation Campus
- New Video Capacity for Memorial Stadium
- 16th/17th Street Re-Purposing
- New student parking on east campus
- Renovations to Nebraska Union – BIG10, Georgian Rooms, Starbucks Coffee
- Major sidewalks/plaza repairs
Construction was initiated for the following projects (2017-19):
- Student Health Center / UNMC Nursing-Lincoln Division
- Library Repository Addition
- Nebraska Innovation Campus – Phase II (SDL3)
- City Campus Thermal Energy Tank
The Board of Regents has approved the following projects which are now in design planning (2019-21):
- Morrill Hall 4th Floor Renovation
- East Campus Student Learning Commons / CY Thompson
- Mabel Lee Renovation
- Gymnastics Facility Addition to the Devaney Center
- Memorial Mall Loop Road Re-Design and Replacement
- Removals – Burr, Fedde, Cather, Pound Halls
The Board of Regents are considering the following projects in October for approval (2019-20):
- Carson Center for Emerging Media
- Nebraska East Union Renovation
And, as if that were not enough, the following are in initial planning (2019-23):
- College of Engineering Renovation / Expansion
- Ruth Staples Center Re-Build
- Kaufman Center Expansion
- Honors Housing Complex
- NIC Phase II – SDL4 and 5
Another one of our major achievements this past year was a stellar and successful reaccreditation of the university by the Higher Learning Commission. As I stated last year going in to the campus visits of the HLC team, this process required the active engagement of a large team of faculty and staff leaders across the university, ably led by Laurie Bellows, Amy Goodburn, and Renee Batman. A few statements reflecting the strength of the accreditation from the report:
“The openness and integrity of the institution was apparent in their receptivity and responsiveness to the process... The university has a self-reflective capacity to ask itself difficult questions; to identify appropriate sources of information and to obtain data from them; and to use this information to guide decision-making and planning for the future. It is about to do so once again as a new strategic planning process is launched in the coming year.” I will come back to refer to this statement later in my remarks.
“(The university) has enhanced student support services infrastructure through investments of over $32M in the renovation of classrooms, laboratories, student support and learning and resource centers.” Of course, as we just reflected, that number is much larger only a mere year later.
“Faculty and students appear focused on improving diversity and inclusion at (Nebraska). There is clear opportunity to improve accountability and institute (university)-wide change.” Again, more to follow.
“(The university) is firmly engaged in promoting the public good. It recognizes that it is first and foremost responsible to the people of Nebraska. Faculty and staff feel that their commitment to the state is reflected in the great support that Nebraskans provide for (the university).”
As you saw in the highlight reel at the start today – the year has been marked with significant accomplishments across our nine academic colleges. Just a few of those highlights from that long and impressive list include a second year for our College of Law being ranked as the No. 1 best value in the nation, a continued elevation in the US News and World Report rankings for our College of Business, now checking in among the Top 50 across all institutions, and awarding of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for student work on the “Wounds of Whiteclay” project.
We were also very pleased to see the success of the efforts of our Military and Veteran Success Center under the leadership of Darrell Everhart lead to our university being ranked a “Top School” by Military Advanced Education and Transition 2017 and movement to 24th in the nation in Military Times’ “Best for Vets” ranking. We are proud to now have over 800 student veterans on our campus, nearing 4% of our undergraduate student population.
Our faculty continue to be recognized for their teaching excellence locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. A special shout out to our Department of History on being recognized with the NU systemwide departmental teaching award and to professors Erin Blankenship (Statistics) and Jason Kautz (Chemistry) on being named NU OTICA awardees as well as Professor Eileen Hebets (Biological Sciences) for being named an NU IDEA awardee for her innovative outreach in science education. I was also particularly pleased to see teaching efforts enhanced in the colleges of arts and sciences (new Teaching Academy, redesigned introductory math curriculum), engineering (Excellence in Teaching Seminar series) and business (Teaching and Learning Center).
The advent of the Silicon Prairie in Nebraska – and the fueling of it by our University was recognized with both of the NU Peter Kiewit awardees being start-up entrepreneurs arising from our institution – Red Thread and Bugeater Foods.
Our momentum continued to build as one of America’s fastest-growing research universities. This past year we checked in at just under $300 million in collective research expenditures – roughly doubling the level of activity over the past 10 years.
Five of our faculty were named as prestigious fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of our alumni was named a MacArthur Fellow (Rebecca Richards-Kortum of Rice University), and we were named 35th nationally amongst 225 institutions by the Milken Institute for our success, combined with UNMC, in transfer of research in to commercial development (reflecting $140M in industry-sponsored research, $23M in licensing income over four years, and 822 jobs created state-wide).
Our faculty and students continued to productively publish their works in the leading publications across multiple disciplines with creative activity contributed in some of the most prestigious venues and portfolios around the world. Of particular note amongst many others -- Professor Vuran (Computer Science and Engineering) was recognized for the third year for being in the top 1 percent of cited researchers in his field, and Professor Emeritus Luthans (Management) was named to the top 1 percent Web of Science citations for researchers across all fields.
Nebraska faculty won 23 awards recognized by the National Research Council in the recent reporting period, a record number. In addition more than 50 faculty, representing 23 departments across campus, have been recognized with major national and international awards in the past year. And, Professor Yongfeng Lu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) received the NU system’s prestigious Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award.
We were highly pleased with success of our faculty in receipt of new grants and contracts totaling $248 million, which represents a 27 percent increase over the past five years. This success included funding of new major NSF EPSCOR grants in the areas of root rhizobiome ($20 million over five years led by Ed Cahoon and Jim Alfano) and in cellular signaling ($11.3 million over five years led by Jim Takacs and Concetta DiRusso), new funding of the Mid-America Transportation Center in the College of Engineering from the Department of Transportation ($13.75 million over five years led by Larry Rillett), DHHS funding supporting the Center for Children, Families and the Law for child welfare workforce assessment ($15 million over five years led by Michelle Graef), funding from NSF in crop stress resistance using automated phenotyping ($5.8 million over three years led by Harkamal Walia), DoE funding supporting genetic enhancement of sorghum for biofuels ($4 million over five years led by Tom Clemente and Ed Cahoon), and funding from NSF to support graduate training program on resilience and vulnerability in ag landscapes ($3 million over five years led by Craig Allen).
I could not have been more excited to announce this past year the formation of the Nebraska Food for Health Center, a joint multi-disciplinary effort led by Marshall Distinguished Professor and Director Andy Benson. This center was established with a generous $5 million gift from Jeff and Tricia Raikes’ Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation coupled with $35 million over five years from university funds and private philanthropy. The NFHC is led by Nebraska faculty across four departments coupled with significant partners at both UNO and UNMC, and is the first to integrate large-scale agricultural research with biomedical and food science research to develop food products that prevent and treat health issues.
And, finally we continued to have an extraordinary level of engagement across Nebraska and beyond to translate the university’s work to our stakeholders. It is worth mentioning that a primary level of that engagement is direct economic contribution to our state – which conservatively is in the order of $2 billion annually for the university.
Nebraska Extension continues to be seen as a leader nationally in both adult and youth education and outreach. With its new reorganization around 17 thematic areas and issues important to Nebraska, coupled with its nation-leading 4-H program, our extension faculty and staff are, in cooperation with local governments, making huge impacts in all 93 counties across our state locally every day.
We often forget that our engagement mission is not only delivered by Nebraska Extension, but programs throughout the greater University on an ongoing basis. To name only a few of these programs – the Nebraska Public Policy Center; Nebraska Educational Television; Center for Children Families and Schools; Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab; Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior; Nebraska Energy Sciences Center; Barkley Center; Center for Children, Families, and the Law; Center for Great Plains Studies; Lied Center for the Performing Arts; the Sheldon Museum of Art; Nebraska State Museum (Morrill, Ashfall, Fort Robinson); Nebraska Innovation Campus Makerspace; Nebraska Innovation Campus (30 public-private partnerships); Nebraska Drought Mitigation Center, Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska State Climate Office, Nebraska Tractor Testing Laboratory; Nebraska Press; Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Program; Mid-America Transportation Center; Nebraska Human Resources Institute, Clifton Strengths Institute, and the Bureau of Business Research, as well as the NU-system institutes including Daugherty Water for Food, Buffett Early Childhood, Rural Futures, and the National Strategic Research Institute – all significantly led by our university.
It is safe to say that the state of our university delivering on its tripartite mission is solid, committed and passionate, and I want to express to each of our faculty and staff my congratulations, thanks and unwavering support for an exceptional past year of accomplishment and impact.
This also is a very dynamic time of leadership transition of our university. As we discussed a year ago, we knew that there was a major time of turnover of leadership ahead of us and we have achieved major progress this past year in building that new team.
I am so thrilled to now have two exceptional leaders at the helm of the university’s academic enterprise. Donde Plowman is now bringing her leadership talent to the entire campus in her first year as our new Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer. She has been busy reforming our structure bringing the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Research under her leadership in addition to the eight academic-affairs colleges. Joining her in the EVC leadership team are Amy Goodburn as senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education; Judy Walker as associate vice chancellor for faculty affairs; Sonia Feigenbaum as associate vice chancellor for international engagement and global strategies and senior international officer; James Volkmer as assistant vice chancellor of budget planning and analytics; Amber Williams as assistant vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management; and Renee Batman as assistant vice chancellor and chief administrative officer.
I am equally excited that Mike Boehm joined us as the new Harlan Vice Chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and NU Vice President of Ag and Natural Resources, also in January. He comes to us from the Ohio State University where he most recently served as vice provost. Dr. Boehm has hit the ground running in all respects, including that he is now up to 76 counties visited across Nebraska. I have no doubt that Mike and the IANR leadership team will continue to further elevate the growth and momentum in IANR and its statewide mission and impact.
With the loss last year of our dear friend and colleague Prem Paul, Steve Goddard stepped in seamlessly and has served most ably as the interim vice chancellor for research and economic development over this past year. I am pleased to announce that we have just begun a national search for our next VCRED this past week led by a search advisory committee co-chaired by Professors David Sellmyer and Deb Hamernik. We hope to have our new VCRED in place by the beginning of the calendar year. The new vice chancellor will report to Dr. Plowman in their research remit and to me in their economic development remit.
We suffered another major loss with the death of Juan Franco in July. Juan served as our vice chancellor of student affairs from 2006 until June of this year. While his transition back to a faculty appointment was underway and planned, his passing was certainly a shock to all of us. We will miss him and will continue to keep his wife Elisa and family in our highest thoughts. On Thursday afternoon we will gather at the Wick Alumni Center with the Franco family and our university community in a time of celebration and remembrance of Juan. I hope to see many of you there.
We are so fortunate that Laurie Bellows has assumed the role of interim vice chancellor of student affairs effective July 1. She will serve in this role for the coming year, after which we will begin a national search for the next vice chancellor. I am most pleased that Laurie is leading a major rework of our student code of conduct and judicial process assisted by Professor John Lenich of the College of Law, as well as working with EVC Plowman in leading a new effort of reform of our Greek system which kicked off earlier this year with engagement of leadership and alumni. This bold effort, aptly named #GreekVitality, has the goal of being a national leader in reform of Greek affairs, and is off to an excellent start.
Tim Carr, former chair of the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences in the College of Education and Human Sciences, assumed the role of interim associate vice chancellor and dean of graduate studies on July 1, replacing Dr. Bellows. We look forward to his leadership in this role.
Our deans welcomed Professor Richard Moberly as the permanent dean of the College of Law earlier this year following a highly effective year of service as the interim dean of the college. Richard has already shown that he intends to continue to elevate the college in ranking and impact.
After 17 years serving as dean, both Steve Waller of the College of Ag Sciences and Natural Resources and Marjorie Kostelnik of the College of Education and Human Sciences have moved to new roles effective this fiscal year. Dr. Waller is now the director of the Center for Grassland Studies in IANR and Dr. Kostelnik has assumed the leadership role in the NU system leading the budget efficiencies transformation. We thank them both for exceptional consistent leadership excellence in leading both colleges to new heights.
Beth Doll has assumed the role of interim dean of CEHS and Tiffany Heng-Moss has assumed the role of interim dean of CASNR. Both formerly served as associate deans of the respective colleges. It is expected that searches for both of these dean positions will be initiated and completed in 2018.
And finally, at the dean level, Kathy Farrell has been effectively and seamlessly serving as the interim dean of the College of Business since EVC Plowman’s departure in January. Dr. Farrell formerly served as the chair of the Department of Finance in the college. A national search is now underway for the permanent dean.
And last, but certainly not least, we have initiated a national search for our next vice chancellor of business and finance following Christine Jackson’s announcement of her retirement at the end of this calendar year. Chris has served Nebraska in this position since 2000. As I said in June when her retirement was announced, there are certain people from whom one hopes to never hear the words “retirement” or “leaving.” Chris is one of those and at the top of that list for me. Since she will not be here next year – I want to ask her to come to the stage to receive a small token of our love and appreciation for her major contributions to the betterment of our university through 17 years of servant leadership. Chris, will you please join me on stage?
As we all know, any success of our university is made because of the talent of our people. Our community at Nebraska is one of almost 6,500 faculty and staff who work hard every day to deliver on our mission with enthusiasm and heart. As has been our tradition, we annually recognize all of our team members across our statewide campus who have reached five-year milestones of service to the university and our constituents. As the auditorium was filling today, you saw the names scroll on the screen of our five-, 10-, 15-, 20-, 25-, 30-, 35-, and 40-year service awardees. While we now leave the individual recognitions to the units across our institution to make these awards more intimate and personal, I want to thank all of you, on behalf of your university colleagues and all of the students and constituents who you touch with your work. Thank you for your continued excellence, your commitment to our ideals, and your belief in our mission every day. Please join me in recognizing all of our service awardees with an appreciative round of applause.
There are two special groups of our service awardees who we would like to recognize in person here today. I would ask you to turn your attention to the screen and Professor Rick Alloway as we honor our 45- and 50-year servant Husker leaders.
>>>>>>>>>RECOGNITION OF 45 and 50 YEAR SERVICE AWARDEES>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In our remaining time today, I would ask you to think with me about the year that we have ahead for Nebraska. While we have experienced a tremendous amount of momentum in the past several years, we do have some significant challenges in maintaining that momentum and accelerating ahead in to the future.
I started our discussion this morning by pointing to the upcoming 150th anniversary year for our university. As we approach that historic milestone, the external environment around us presents both opportunities and major challenges.
We live in somewhat turbulent times. You might recall in my remarks at April’s investiture, I referenced several of the previous chancellors who led our university during challenging times. I am both an idealist and a realist. The realist cannot miss several challenges in our external marketplace:
- challenging realities of constrained fiscal resources at both the state and federal levels over the next several years ahead;
- significant change and continuing evolution of the university’s funding portfolio;
- highly charged and divisive general political environments, including so-called identity politics;
- more challenging economic conditions for students and need for cost containment;
- increasing mental health needs of the campus community, particularly students;
- challenges associated with understanding and maintaining respectful discourse in the campus environment while fully adhering to freedom of speech and the ideals of academic freedom; and
- a changing global dynamic of leadership in science and technology.
As we discussed a year ago, as we move forward in to our second 150 years, and in light of these important externalities, there is no doubt that we need what I will refer to this morning as “bold transformation” as we lean forward in to our next era.
A year ago, I would not have envisioned that we would be facing the level of fiscal concerns now immediately ahead of us. As you know, our state is now being impacted by significantly reduced state revenues. To address the shortfall in state tax receipts, the Nebraska Legislature had difficult decisions to make in this past year’s budget-setting long session. This resulted in a reduction in the university’s state appropriation of $12 million with no new funding for salaries and benefits. The end result was that the University of Nebraska system went in to the current biennium (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019) with a projected $49 million shortfall under the assumption of no change in enrollment.
In June, following the resolution of the state budget, our board of regents set the NU budget by passing a 5.4 percent tuition increase for this fiscal year and an initial additional increase of 3.2 percent for next year. After funding a 1.75 percent salary increase across the system and funding increases needed for benefits, this has resulted in a significant short-fall for the system and, of course consequently, for its flagship university.
On September 6th, I met with all of the administrative leaders across our university to discuss our budget dilemma. In that town hall session, I described that we are facing a total state budget deficit of $17 million for our institution for this biennium – approximately $6 million in the current 2018 fiscal year and an additional $11 million in FY2019.
For the past two years, the central university leadership has been discussing how we might transform the NU system, and in the process free up needed resources for re-deployment through bold transformation of shared services across the system’s campuses. This began in earnest with information technology and services as early as three years ago in to what has been implemented this past year as the OneIT initiative under the strong leadership of VP/VC Mark Askren. Plans were under development and discussion for efficiencies to be extended to other areas of business operations when we began to learn last fall about the state’s fiscal issues.
The state’s fiscal challenges accelerated this process, resulting in the development of a set of budget response teams, appointed by President Bounds in late January, across 10 areas of business operations. The teams were made up of subject matter experts across the campuses and were asked to identify ways to streamline, consolidate, and find budget efficiencies across human resources, facilities management and planning, energy, financial operations and accounting, procurement, travel, communication and marketing, online education, printing and copying, and transportation services. These teams developed recommendations which were reviewed by a steering committee which then forwarded the recommendations they deemed appropriate to the President’s Council for consideration. We reviewed each of the recommendations in mid-April, endorsing 72 for implementation. Collectively, these recommendations were projected to ultimately recoup over $30 million in budget efficiencies across the system, with $22 million identified as possible in the current biennium.
Our own Marjorie Kostelnik was appointed to oversee the implementation of these recommendations by President Bounds in a new appointment effective July 1, and we are deeply appreciative for her leadership.
This process is now beginning to unfold with the appointment of four consolidated managers – as previously stated VP and CIO Mark Askren, who is now joined by additional NU associate vice presidents Bruce Currin (human resources), Mark Miller (Facilities Management/Planning and Energy), and Maggie Witt (Procurement). All have dual roles as system managers and lead responsibility as director for our campus.
It is important to understand that the budget efficiencies gained through this process (projected to be $11.3 million for our institution out of the total of $22 million in the system), will affect all of our units across the university, and that we will emerge from this process with fewer people in these operational areas. While this will be painful in the short term, it is the right thing to do in the long term for the university. As individual recommendations are rolled out for implementation, we will work diligently to inform the campus of the changes and impacts. I ask you all to be patient, cooperative and understanding, particularly for those whose positions are impacted directly.
The bottom line is that we are projected to re-coup about $11 million of our budget shortfall through the budget efficiencies process described here, leaving an additional minimum of about $6 million of additional cuts and reallocations to close the budget gap. I will be meeting with the Academic Planning Committee tomorrow to lay out this general framework to begin the budget planning process as defined in our policies. To assure that we have some reinvestment ability and contingency against any additional potential cuts, I will be asking the APC to work with the administration to consider a total of $8.5 million in programmatic cuts and reallocations (about $6 million in shortfall plus 1 percent of state appropriation base). The timeline for this budget process is expected to reach conclusion around the beginning of the spring semester to allow ample time to implement the budget changes necessary going in to the next fiscal year. I thank your fellow faculty members and students serving on the Academic Planning
Committee, chaired by Professor Ken Bloom, in advance for their service and diligence in this difficult and important process.
Additionally, because there is some concern that we may experience an additional midyear rescission (following last year’s $7.5M), we have intentionally held back 2 percent of our state appropriations in academic affairs and IANR this year in the event that there are additional cuts required. While this is a precautionary step at this stage, tax receipts have continued to come in below forecasted numbers to date.
While we must (and will) successfully manage through the fiscal challenge, we must equally importantly continue in our forward planning and progress for the university. I am working closely with vice chancellor Jackson and the administrative leadership team to evaluate a number of different funding models following the initial work of a task last year on budget models led by her and now EVC Plowman. That task force recommended that the university move toward a hybrid responsibility-centered management model. Combined with our enrollment management plans and modeling, we are working this fall to model the optimal approach to re-vamping of the budget model across the campus, including elimination of administrative fee structures and revision of the indirect costs allocation model for F&A. Ultimately, we will be considering adjustments to our budget model in concert with the budget reallocation process described earlier.
A second area of work that I will be commissioning this year is an evaluation of our academic organizational effectiveness in the life sciences. This, in part, comes from the recommendations made by a task force this past year charged with approaches for increasing our institution’s academic distinction chaired by vice chancellor Steve Goddard and Professor Melanie Simpson.
The life sciences has had several major external and internal reviews and consultations since the late 1990s on our campus. All have called for, in differing ways, consideration of reorganization of our efforts in this area. While there has been significant change – and progress – in our life sciences efforts during that time period, because of the critical magnitude of our investments and strategic focus in this area, I will soon be appointing a faculty-led task force to evaluate and consider organizational optimization and needs of the life sciences for Nebraska, including in relation to partnership and collaboration as appropriate with UNMC. The task force will be assisted by VCs Boehm and Plowman in an ex-officio capacity.
I am very excited about plans being finalized in our student enrollment management, with attention to increasing the academic credentials of our student body. These include development of new programs for our scholarships and financial support to students (including the implementation of the new $5 million Husker Scholars Program funded by Nebraska Athletics); optimization of University Housing and Greek Life programs for enrollment management; developing and expanding a new University Honors Program into thematically based academies including consideration of expansion of the Raikes School; and transforming our programs to incentivize and increase our 120-hour four-year graduation success rate.
In another key bold transformation, I am very pleased to report that the careful and pragmatic mapping of Nebraska for our diversity and inclusion efforts has now been completed and reported to us by Dr. Rona Halualani of Halualani and Associates. Over the past 18 months they have engaged with our university to study our efforts and effectiveness. In late August we received the draft of their report which has now been shared with the Diversity Council, our academic deans and leadership and is being made available to the general campus community today at: http://diversity.unl.edu/diversity-analysis. Rona will be on campus September 25th to hold several forums to discuss the report and findings. The report points out that there is a lot happening across our campus, but that the activities are not well coordinated or strategic, and ultimately calls for the development of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion Excellence led by a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Excellence reporting to the EVC. This office will, through integration and coordination of academic and student affairs, seek to increase recruitment, retention and graduation of minority students; increase recruitment, retention and promotion of minority faculty and staff; provide support for inclusion and excellence in curricular and co-curricular programs; and communicate expectations and norms that demonstrate our priority for diversity and inclusion. The new vice chancellor will be charged immediately with the development of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion – clearly called for by the report. The Diversity Council will continue to counsel me as we immediately move forward with this implementation. I look forward to major moves forward in this key area for us as we build to the future. I should also mention that we are excited to be hosting sessions later this afternoon on unconscious bias for our administrators and general faculty and staff community.
And finally, in order for us to be ready to properly celebrate our sesquicentennial year, I am pleased to announce that Associate Vice Chancellor Mike Zeleny and Professor Emeritus and Former Director of Communications Meg Lauerman have agreed to serve as co-chairs of our University of Nebraska-Lincoln 150 Celebration Steering Committee. This group will work with an administrative advisory council, a faculty advisory council, the university leadership, students and an external committee of advisors this academic year to outline what promises to be a phenomenal celebration for Nebraska as we celebrate the past and look to the future during academic year 2018-19.
I hope that the past hour has reinforced to all of you both the tremendous and unprecedented momentum we have as a university – and how critically important our planning, choices and focus in this year ahead will be to the immediate and long-term future of Nebraska’s flagship university. While there is a huge amount of activity requiring a huge amount of work for all of us, I want to leave you today by focusing us all back on our mission. That is: delivering the highest quality education to our students; pushing the frontiers with world-leading research, creative activity and discovery; and engaging with our state in ways that improve the human and natural conditions of this place called Nebraska, all the while treating each other with dignity, respect, collegiality, and care – even if (and when) we might disagree. What is that line in “Dear Old Nebraska U?” -- “We’ll all stick together in all kinds of weather, for dear old Nebraska U.” That is Nebraska; that is who we are.
I will repeat the same closing that I used at April’s investiture – the famous quote from one of the most famous of Nebraskans, William Jennings Bryan, inscribed on our Memorial Stadium:
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.”
I wish you all the very best for a highly successful and rewarding year ahead. I have no doubt that our best days lie ahead. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you all. Go Big Red.