Delivered September 17, 2013
Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
I've been thinking...
I've been thinking that this is quite a remarkable time to be at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It has been observed that the passage of time is what keeps things from happening all at once. We often fail to appreciate how incremental accomplishments, large and small, form a mosaic representing substantial institutional momentum and achievement.
We are not the University that entered this century. Alumni who return to campus inevitably comment on the remarkable changes. They see the physical transformation but they also recognize this reflects programmatic accomplishments. I thought it might be instructive to remind ourselves of that progress. As a recovering faculty member, I have a 50-minute slide presentation but I'm going to do it in ten minutes, so watch fast!
September marks the flowering of intellectual vitality of our new faculty colleagues and the energy of our returning students. It is a good time to marvel at the talent that a set of circumstances and coincidences have brought together in one place. To showcase a small slice of that talent, I am pleased to present UNL's a cappella ensemble ROCKTAVO, all of whom are members of UNL's Varsity Men's Chorus. ROCTAVO was founded in 2006 and in its first year was named First Runner-Up at the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella. Since then, ROCKTAVO has performed for important gatherings of music educators across the country. This morning, ROCKTAVO will perform Nebraska (arranged by a former member of the group) and the long-time standard For the Longest Time.
In "Through the Looking Glass" The Red Queen advised Alice: "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" That observation applies to where we've been and where we are going.
Running twice as fast as we can is hard work, and you might fairly ask why we should do so. There are many answers, most of which are embedded in the opportunities we have created but only partially realized. We are comfortably a Big Ten university, but that generates higher expectations for our achievements. We serve Nebraska in our role of producing and attracting talent and in supporting and generating economic growth. Never has this state been better positioned to utilize its natural advantages, with our help, to successfully compete in the world economy. We should not underestimate the boost in pride and spirit and energy across Nebraska that results from our academic successes, as it does from our athletic success. With our research initiatives, like Water for Food, early childhood, manufacturing, nanoscience, agricultural life sciences, digital humanities, Brain, Biology and Behavior, the Rural Futures Institute and many others, we have the potential to contribute to the solution of real problems around the world. If we increase our enrollment it will provide the benefits of scale, additional faculty, as well as the resources necessary to achieve our ambitions.
We often pay homage to the turn of the last century when Willa Cather and Roscoe Pound and others brought us national prominence. Our goal should be no less than that when the next history of the university is written, it will be the beginning of the 21st century, not the turn of the 20th, that is regarded as our golden age when we regained our rightful place among the leading universities in the country.
I am reluctant to propose an agenda for this year. I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two deans that I fear may have been directed at me. The first dean said: "He knows the voices in his head aren't real but he has a tendency to think their ideas are insightful." The second dean responded: "Yeah, some people think he has a lot of self-confidence but I think it's just a great faith in fools." And my wife keeps suggesting that I'm at a stage in my life when I have a hard time caring about things. I don't think that's true, but fortunately, I don't care.
Let me comment on some matters that require our attention.