State of the University Address 2010 - page 5

Harvey Perlman, Chancellor


Research is central to our mission as a land-grant institution. We must not only sustain but escalate the momentum we have achieved. The importance of our research has never been so accepted; the opportunity for growth has never been so apparent; the ingredients for achievement have never been so real. Our research accomplishments play a significant role in our stature among American universities. More importantly are the contributions we can make to the economic prosperity of Nebraskans, to the educational experience of our students, and to the imperative of solving some of the challenges we face as a society. We should heed the observations that Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made in last year's commencement address: "Nebraska may not be a big place, but Nebraskans can do big things. . . . Nebraska can change the world." We should have no less an ambition.

To achieve our objectives we must be curious, collaborative, creative and comprehensive. This university must foster and celebrate curiosity-based research - the research for which no immediate benefit can be ascertained. We know that pushing the frontiers of knowledge forward opens surprising insights and unforeseen possibilities.

We must enhance the collaboration among faculty of different disciplines. The problems of today are too complex to be resolved without the benefit of multiple perspectives. I applaud the work of the steering committee for the Faculty of the Life Sciences in planning a major program on September 24 to further facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. I hope all faculty who have a relationship to the life sciences will attend and participate.

We must also partner with the private sector where appropriate. I applaud the new Strategic Investment and Competitive Grant program in the Life Sciences, led by Susan Fritz at the Agricultural Research Division of IANR, that provides internal funding to interdisciplinary projects within the university and with industry partners.

We must be creative. Particularly in this time of budget restraints, we must make the essential investments in talent, facilities, and instrumentation necessary for research to move forward. We are positioned to recruit faculty both of promise and accomplishment, as well as high-quality graduate students and post docs who are essential for growing our research. We must develop mechanisms to employ these investments in a collaborative way across the campus.

Most importantly we must be comprehensive. If we are to close the gap with our new Big Ten colleagues, we will need a major effort from every college. For disciplines that have the potential for securing external grants to fund research projects, our expectations have to be for a high level of competitive success. We should, and will, also hold high expectations for research and creative activity - the value of which is not measured in pure economic terms, but rather in attracting national and global attention to the boldness, quality and importance of our work.

The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic arm of the Big Ten, actively fosters collaboration among its members. Every faculty member should be open to how this new relationship can advance his or her own agenda. Opportunities for collaboration do not automatically mature without significant effort from all parties and we now take on a new responsibility to engage with the CIC at every opportunity. A major effort this year will be to explore and better understand how this new relationship can be exploited to our maximum advantage.

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