State of the University Address 2014 - Research

We have a very ambitious research agenda – to achieve $300 million per year in research expenditures. We are currently at around $250 million. Vice Chancellor Prem Paul and his team have created a playbook for engagement in the research enterprise. They know how to identify opportunities, how to create relationships with program officers, how to successfully build coalitions and initiatives with prospects for funding. But Prem will tell you that the single most critical ingredient to research success is faculty leadership. We have built our current research success on the vision, the energy, and the creativity of the faculty. We will need your best continuing efforts to succeed.

We have seen over the last few years how a concentrated infusion of new faculty talent can elevate our competitive position. Our stated goal is to add at least 160 tenure-track faculty by 2020. We are well on our way. The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources through reallocation and careful central management of its resources has undertaken a major hiring initiative with the expectation of adding over 60 new tenure track faculty. We have strong expectations that this will further accelerate the research agenda in water use, food processing, and all of the related disciplines that make up the cutting edge science of modern agriculture and food production.

Ellen Weissinger, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, has similarly worked hard to identify funding for a tenure track hiring initiative in units based in Academic Affairs. With Programs of Excellence funding we will hire 17 new positions in Engineering. With internal funds and reallocations we will hire a total of 50 new tenure track positions in priority areas.

We announced yesterday another voluntary separation incentive program that will provide financial incentives for those tenured faculty contemplating retirement. We have great respect for our senior colleagues. Indeed for some reason I have increasing empathy and respect for how difficult the decision to retire can become. We welcome those who want to continue their work on behalf of the University. We hope the program will ease the transition for those who are ready to move to a different phase in their careers so that we may reinvest these positions to advance our priorities.

Over the last two years there has been considerable planning and considerable controversy about the felt need to expand our College of Engineering at its two sites in Lincoln and Omaha. In Omaha, we must continue to identify and to exploit the unique opportunities the College has because of its association with the Peter Kiewit Institute and its interactions with the Medical Center. At both sites we recognize that we have state-wide responsibilities. In order to build our research agenda, supply the human talent needed to make Nebraska competitive state-wide, and compete with our Big Ten colleagues, Nebraska’s flagship campus must have a first tier College of Engineering. Tim Wei and the faculty of the college have made an excellent start on enacting their ambitious plan and this has to be a top priority for the entire campus.

Beyond Engineering, there are areas within the physical and social sciences, the humanities, the arts and the professions that can contribute to our goals. The hiring initiative in IANR, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Green, was preceded by an extensive planning effort involving Deans, Department Chairs, and the faculty. Vice Chancellor Weissinger will initiate a similar planning effort over the course of this year to identify the targets for reinvesting the VSIP salary savings within Academic Affairs. This will provide an opportunity for every department to focus on how it can best help us enhance the University.