Delivered September 17, 2013
Harvey Perlman, Chancellor
We have been driven by the ambitious growth goals we set for the University two years ago. Frankly, I underestimated the infrastructure we would have to build and the level of new activities we would have to undertake in order to move the enrollment needle. But we have made the investments and with the extraordinary commitment of the deans and faculty and staff of the colleges, and the leadership of Dean Alan Cerveny and Associate Dean Amber Williams, this year's freshman class is among the largest, most diverse, and most academically gifted in our history. It reflects increases in Nebraskans, in students from other states, and from countries around the world.
Accommodating this growth has required careful planning from chairs and deans, and personal commitment from our faculty, whose willingness to engage with undergraduates distinguishes us from many research universities. I am impressed by the overwhelming number of our faculty who involve undergraduate students in their studios, labs and research teams. I continue to marvel at the commitment of our faculty to find one more chair, virtual or real, for each student who seeks their classes. I admire the many departments and colleges that are advancing innovative curricula and teaching methods that will challenge and inspire this newest generation of freshmen. Our students represent a pool of impressive but yet not fully formed talent and leadership for the state, the country, and the world and we have the important and exciting opportunity to help them fashion their own story of success.
Our goal is to exceed expectations for retention and graduation rates, and time to degree. Through the leadership of the deans and faculty and with the talented oversight of Amy Goodburn and her team in Academic Affairs, we are remaking academic advising, becoming more intentional in reaching out to students who are facing challenges, and creating a culture that accepts our responsibility to assure students maximize their talents and achieve a diploma within a reasonable time.
The Division of Student Affairs, under the direction of Vice Chancellor Franco, is making student engagement its priority, including initiatives in civic engagement, service-learning, living and learning communities, enhanced programming for groups of students who face special challenges, including first-generation students, veterans, out-of-state and international students and other high impact activities that support student retention and graduation. The physical and programmatic improvements by University Housing are also essential to our enrollment success.
Engagement on a global platform is critical to our enrollment objectives as well as important for enriching our campus. Major investments in our Intensive English program and a number of outreach efforts in housing, academic tutoring and the writing centers will help international students transition.
Online education should contribute to enrollment growth although the form it will take remains uncertain. A faculty task force has provided us with a cautious yet sensible set of issues to consider. Collaboration through the CIC may provide a platform for innovation in digital teaching and learning. A second task force will convene this fall to consider which path best fits our goals and values.
Existing online efforts continue to expand. Seventy percent of our online enrollments are by students who are also resident students on our campus. This allows flexibility in scheduling, increased teaching capacity, and implementation of different teaching methodologies, all very positive outcomes, but they do not contribute to our enrollment or revenue growth. We are committed to reexamining the way we finance online instruction to insure it creates appropriate incentives to engage broader markets. This no doubt will include providing departments with a more substantial share of online revenue from courses taken by students not already enrolled at UNL.
We must increase the size of the tenure track faculty. This is central to our growth plan and essential to our research aspirations. IANR announced a major hiring initiative to increase tenure-track faculty by 10 percent and is on track to complete this hiring by the end of the calendar year. In Academic Affairs, differential tuition in the Colleges of Business Administration and Engineering and strategic use of Programs of Excellence funding will jump start faculty growth. To demonstrate my confidence in our enrollment trajectory, I will work with Senior Vice Chancellor Weissinger to identify additional funds for new faculty hiring in our highest reputation and research priorities in Academic Affairs to complement the IANR hiring plan.
In the era of federal sequestration, sustaining our incredible growth in research faces significant challenges. Vice Chancellor Paul and our faculty research leaders have redoubled their efforts to connect with the federal funding agencies. If we are to continue to be successful, we must broaden our faculty leadership, both through strategic hiring and further development of existing faculty. We must also continue to build relationships with other sources of research funding including private industry. The expansion of our partnership with Bayer CropSciences to now include soybean research is an example of this potential. Creative mechanisms to solve issues of intellectual property and recovery of indirect costs can greatly enhance our attractiveness to private companies. Recognizing the value of research with private sector partners in our promotion and tenure processes is critical. In expanding our engagement with the private sector we need not and we will not jeopardize our academic values or traditions, we will only extend our reach.
Indeed our outreach to Nebraska citizens and businesses remains a crucial element of our enterprise. The year 2014 will be the 100th Anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act creating cooperative extension, an appropriate opportunity to envision new and creative models to serve the public.