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Faculty Meeting Address August 2006

August 28, 2006

University of Northern Iowa

Good afternoon.

Dr. Joslyn, and fellow faculty members and others in attendance today, I am very proud to be a faculty member at UNI and serving as its president. 

  • Extend congratulations to the faculty earning special recognition

Thirty two years ago I began my career as a faculty member at Washington State University. 

Although since that time I have been a faculty member at the Universities of Arkansas, the University of Illinois, and Iowa State University, and now the University of Northern Iowa, there has been one constant—the great anticipation associated with the beginning of the academic year.

Being a faculty member is both a profession and a calling. 

  • The latter is what makes this profession so special. 

  • It is a privilege to serve as a faculty member.

Since arriving on campus, I have tried to meet with as many faculty, staff, students, alums, and friends of UNI as possible to learn more about the university, its programs, its buildings, its campus, and most importantly, its culture and people.

As part of this effort to learn about the university, I met with the leadership team and other staff members of each of the four divisions, the members of the Campus Advisory Group, which is comprised of many of the campus leaders, the leadership team and others of the six colleges, and various offices related to the academic mission of the university. 

I have also met with many alums and friends of the university who have made significant contributions to this institution, and I have met with legislators and candidates for the legislature, and others to learn more about this university and how people outside our campus view us. 

I still need to meet with the dean of the library and her staff, and many other faculty and students and friends and alums of the university.

In short, I am still in the process of learning about this great university. 

  • That journey of learning will continue throughout my tenure here. 

What I learned so far is the following:

  • People associated with UNI, both those working at UNI and those who have connections as alums and friends, are very proud of UNI, and rightfully so.

  • Students attending UNI are provided a special type of education that involves dedicated scholar-teachers working with students inside and outside of the classroom.

  • Faculty members continue to make the extra effort to maintain the excellence of the education provided but are increasingly frustrated by the diminishing resources.

  • Students are first-rate and engaged but are also increasingly challenged, as are their parents, by the level of tuition and fees charged to help pay for their education.

  • Faculty, staff and students are seeking more direction, more accountability and more results from their administrators,

  • Faculty and others have high expectations about the excellence and quality of the programs but do not believe the budget processes and other administrative processes consistently reinforce and reward efforts toward increasing excellence.

  • UNI has great academic and other programs—most of which are probably under promoted and highlighted

  • Faculty members do not agree on all issues, of course, and some issues have elicited strongly opposing views. 

    • Although these issues will create challenges in their resolution, it is also comforting—we have a normal faculty at UNI. 

  • And most importantly, I learned that faculty, staff and students do not want the core values of this great institution to change, but they do want change:

    • change in processes,

    • change in focus (but all do not agree which focus),

    • change in the level of accountability,

    • change in expectations, and

    • change in outcomes.

I also learned about the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students this past year.

Let me list a few fully understanding that I am taking only a small sample and will undoubtedly upset the many left off this list:

  • Cary Pint was a finalist for the 2005 American Physics Society Apker Award.  This award is the premier undergraduate research award in physics in the United States.

  • The UNI debate team improved its standing in the national ranking more than any other university team in the nation.

  • Professor Greg Stefanich, Curriculum and Instruction, was recognized as a Fellow into the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his outstanding contributions to science instruction for students with disabilities through scholarly publication and the delivery of professional programs to science educators.

  • Catherine Miller, Associate Professor of Mathematics, received the Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching from the Iowa Section of the Mathematical Association of America.

  • Student-related and business-related operations, though greatly challenged by the damage from the Gilchrist Hall fire, maintained a constant level of service amidst disaster recovery immediately following the fire and subsequent relocations.

  • Success in gaining federal and private sector support to support educational, research and outreach programs has also been impressive.

    • One example is that federal funds from the Department of Defense, along with a grant from the Carver Foundation, are supporting renovation and equipment for nanotechnology laboratories.  These will support both our undergraduate programs and the Professional Science Master's Degree program.

    • Another example is the Human Performance Center, supported by federal and private funds.  We had the ground breaking event this summer.

  • The MBA program is now ranked among Princeton Review’s Best MBA programs—ranking largely based upon student testimonials.

  • Tom Stancliffe, Professor of Art, was commissioned to do the beautiful, soaring metal sculptures on the highway at the Cedar Rapids airport plus many more.

  • As of January 2006, the Department of Geography houses the Geoinformatics Training Research, Education and Extension Center at UNI—called GEOTREE.

  • Transfer Plan It was just launched that will allow students at community colleges to evaluate their transfer opportunities to UNI on a 24/7 basis.

  • Residence Life is in very good shape:  National assessments indicate students are very pleased with the housing and dining services offered by the Department of Residence. The satisfaction levels for eleven of fourteen factors are rated excellent.

  • A number of capital projects that are important to enrich the overall college experience were completed or are being completed.

    • ITTC—Innovative Teaching and Technology Center

    • McLeod Center opening in November

    • Business and Community Services Building scheduled for completion in the spring

  • Success in intercollegiate athletics took place both on and off the playing field with success across a number of sports as indicated by the points earned for the Directors’ cup. 

    • More importantly, the academic success of student athletes is outstanding with an overall gpa of 3.08 for the spring semester and with the women’s basketball team ranked 8th in the nation academically

Again, this is only a small sample of the accomplishments and contributions of our faculty, staff and students during this past year or so.

This afternoon I will not offer my vision for UNI except to say that it needs to maintain and enhance its well-deserved reputation as providing an outstanding undergraduate experience because the classes are taught by scholar-teachers full-time faculty who care about their students and that the vision needs to say more and say it better.

I need to have more discussions and input from faculty, staff, students and others before laying out my vision for UNI.

My comments today are less philosophical and more pragmatic—issues that UNI and I, as president, must address immediately to ensure that the quality of education at UNI is not only maintained but enhanced.

  • Many more issues I could address but I want to focus on four main issues:

    1. Several appointments of high-level administrators,

    2. Enrollment issues and challenges,

    3. Budget related issues including comments about the FY07 and FY08 budgets and the need to redefine and refine the budget process, and

    4. Communications from the president and the president’s office

First Comments on/Update on Two Important Leadership Positions Decisions

I have two very important leadership positions to fill—the vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost, and the vice president for Educational and Student Services.

We need leaders who are committed to excellence and service.

These two vice president positions are being held by individuals with interim appointments. 

Both Jim Lubker, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, and Jan Hanish, Interim Vice President for Educational and Student Affairs, are providing outstanding service to UNI. 

  • Neither one has a personal agenda.  Both have been long-time UNI administrators and leaders.  Both are not afraid to make tough decisions. 

  • With respect to the position of VP for Educational and Student Affairs, I have decided to delay the start of the national search so that the organizational structure of the ESS can be reviewed.

    • Created an 8-person Task Force, chaired by John Valentine, with Mona Milius serving as vice chair, to review the organizational structure and submit recommendations to me by mid to late October.

      • The two basic questions are:  What is now under the VP for ESS that should not be; what is not under the VP for ESS but should be?

      • We need to be sure that the organizational structure is best suited to serve the students and the university. 

    • We will initiate a national search for this position after decisions are made about the units that should be included in that division—hopefully by mid-December. 

    • I will be seeking nominations for faculty, staff, students and others to serve on this search committee.  This search is very important and I need to have campus engagement in the process.

  • With respect to the position of VP for Academic Affairs and Provost, I have asked Jim Lubker to serve another year—until the summer of 2008. 

    • I am very pleased that Jim has agreed to serve the extra time.

    • The appointment of the provost will be the most important appointment that I will make.

      • The provost is the chief academic officer of the university; I do and will depend heavily on the provost

    • I need to have more time to benefit from both Jim’s wisdom and insights and understanding of UNI,

      • and more time for me to further review and analyze the challenges and opportunities facing UNI, and its capacity to meet those challenges and opportunities.

    • Obviously, the make up of the search committee will be carefully structured and selected.

      •  Nominations for people to serve on the committee will be elicited from a variety of constituencies.

    • The search will be initiated during the summer (late August) of 2007.

      • The new provost should be on campus no later than summer of 2008. 

      • The outcome of the task force on the organizational structure could affect the structure of the provost office so both searchers will be enhanced with clarity of structure

Second, Some Comments on Enrollment

During my campus interview visit in April, I suggested at the faculty forum that the university should grow somewhat over the next five years. 

This was one of the three or four changes that I thought would benefit UNI over the next five years.

My review of the university over the past several months, and the preliminary numbers on enrollment for this fall has reinforced that view. 

That was based upon several premises:

  • Classroom capacity could accommodate growth. 

    • The data that I have seen indicate that there is some excess classroom capacity, clearly indicating room for growth;

    • I have not seen relevant information to make a judgment on lab capacity.

  • If the other two Regents universities grow and we do not, this could be interpreted by some as an indication of the views of the educational market place

    • The unofficial early returns, if you will, indicates that the University of Iowa has substantial growth, and that ISU has some growth. 

    • The preliminary numbers for UNI indicate that we will have a decline in our enrollment-as predicted—and for the 5th straight year 

Tuition has become a major source of revenue with amount of state funds and the amount of funds from tuition converging.

  • We need to grow the out-of-state student enrollment for both diversity and economic reasons.

This task is not easy since the state of Iowa and the states adjacent to Iowa are predicted to have declining high school enrollments for the next ten years—including Illinois—based upon the most recent copy of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In addition, the higher tuition is making the option of students starting their academic careers at community colleges more attractive, and in some cases, necessary.

This issue is related to a number of processes and activities that will need review and changes made.  I am asking a lot of questions—easy for me to ask but …

  • Do we have incentives for colleges and/or departments to increase the number of students? 

    • Do we have any disincentives for colleges/departments not to  decrease the number of their students?

    • In short, do we need a different budget model?

  • Do we tell the UNI story as effectively as we could?

    • The University and I must better market UNI so that UNI will become more attractive to top high school and transfer students.

    • Do we have an intentional brand?  Do we know what others have branded UNI as?

    • We have to position UNI more strategically with respect to community colleges, the other two Regents universities, and the small private colleges that abound in the state and the region.

      • For example, we must better communicate the advantages and the real benefits to attending four years at UNI versus transferring to UNI after two years at a community college.

        • We have to be able to show that the additional benefits of attending UNI for all four years are larger than the additional costs of doing so

    • We must more clearly articulate how we differ from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University

    • We must more clearly demonstrate the additional value of attending a comprehensive university over attending a private university in the state

  • Do we most effectively and strategically invest our set aside funds to maximize the number of students?

  • This is a difficult task that Admissions and others have.

  • I am not sure central administration sent consistent messages about the goals of enrollment.

  • The decentralized structure of this university exacerbates the problem and makes a solution more difficult

We must develop an attitude that some growth is not only positive but also essential for the economic well being of the university. 

I ask each of you to explore how you can help recruit additional qualified students.  

  • I am not asking anyone, nor will I ever ask any faculty member, to lower standards to increase the recruitment and retention of students. 

  • Having a demanding and rigorous curriculum is a key part of being an outstanding educational institution.

A number of processes and activities need to be reviewed to see how improvements can be made. 

I will be working on designing a process and a mechanism to develop the best array of strategies to promote some enrollment growth for each of the coming years.

  • We need to tap into the creative thinking and dedication of our faculty and staff to work on this issue.

Comments on Resources and alignment of resources

A number of important issues, concerns, and opportunities surround the budget situation at UNI. 

These issues could be grouped several ways, including short-term and long-term issues, structural and process issues, and many others.

Let’s look at some more immediate budget issues, including the FY07 and FY08 budgets.

First, let’s look at the budget for this academic year, FY07—the current budget if you will.. 

As most of you know, the State increased the amount of operating funds to the Regent’s universities, which we greatly appreciate, but the amount of the increase was a third of the increase in cost due to salary increases, utility cost increases, and other costs.

With the implementation of the surcharge of $100 per semester for full-time students, short fall was reduced from approximately $4 million to about $2 million.

That shortfall was prorated across the four divisions and each vice president made decisions with respect to how to find funds to reallocate to cover the salary and other cost increases.

We will look at the final enrollment numbers, which will appear in early September, to see if the tuition dollars projected for FY07 will be met. 

  • A substantial reduction beyond the expected numbers of students will require us to review the FY07 budget to see if further reallocations will be necessary.  

The development of the FY08 budget, the implications of the budget, will be more challenging than the one for FY07, for several reasons--even if we have more success with the legislature. 

  • We have more than 3 million dollars of recurring expenses being covered by one time funds—either the one-year surcharge, or one-time funding by the legislature

  • We will likely have to support higher tuition levels than what is suggested by the HEPI index—which is about 5%.

    • This becomes more of an issue given the level of tuition, the students’ resistance to higher tuition, and the forces of the market place when our tuition is substantially higher than tuition for community colleges

      • As noted earlier, I believe the educational experience is substantially different at UNI than it is at a community college but we have not made that case with many students and parents.

  • And many parents and students cannot afford to pay the higher tuition

I have met with many state legislators, and candidates for the state legislature, during the past two months to try to make the case for how the Regents universities, particularly UNI, add value to the State of Iowa.

The members of the Board of Regents are working more broadly across the state. 

We at UNI will develop our own initiatives to promote UNI to the citizens and policy makers.

Internally, we need to be asking and answering the following questions:

  • Does the current budget reflect a rational budget process and the priorities of the university?

  • Do differences among college budgets reflect the relative centrality, quality, and size of the colleges?

  • Does the current budget process and budget support those units wanting to grow in size and increase in quality?

  • Does the size of the current budget allow quality programs, both academic and non-academic, to flourish with excellence?

    • For example, can we support nearly 70 graduate programs with the amount of resources and size of faculty?  Can it support all of the undergraduate programs now being offered?

  • I believe we can move forward better with a “Focus and Grow” approach.

Early this fall we must begin a process of asking questions including “are we doing things right?” (which is a question of efficiency) and “are we doing the right things?” (which is a question of effectiveness)  

  • In the academic area, this latter question addresses the issues of the number of academic programs we offer, including the issue of too many or too few in certain areas. 

We will need to use some type of “zero based” budgeting process so that we understand what the opportunity cost is for each program, academic and non-academic.

We also need to reexamine the degree to which the activities and budgets have been decentralized over the years. 

  • There is value to having a decentralized budget, but that value is diminished when the size of the fiscal challenges and the magnitude and speed of changes in society and the market place require more than marginal changes. 

Communications Issues 

Given the difficult decisions that must be made, the level and quality of communications from the president’s office must be and will be enhanced.

Let me add some changes that will hopefully increase the communications between the president’s office and the campus, particularly the faculty.

Provost Lubker and I will visit with each of the colleges in the fall for a two or three hour meeting. 

  • One component of these college visits will be an open forum with the faculty and staff members of the college. 

Later this fall, the first of four meetings during the academic year will be held with all of the administrators and campus leaders on campus to increase the communications about developments on state funding, and many issues facing the university. 

I will continue President’s Koob practice of meeting with the Campus Advisory Group.

  • This group of campus leaders can serve as an excellent sounding board and also can bring campus issues to me.

I invite you to suggest other ways to enhance the communications both ways—from the administration and to the administration. 

  • I know this was an important issue addressed by the Campus Conversations process.

Closing Remarks

While I have been talking mainly about the challenges facing all of us, I would be remiss if I did not talk more about the outstanding educational experience that you, as faculty, are providing for the students of UNI. 

I have talked with a number of students during my short 3-month tenure here at UNI.   

  • Without exception, those students list their interactions with the faculty as a key part of their education here.

The report from alums has been the same.  I received last week a report from the Iowa State Fair that was just completed. 

  • When asked “What makes UNI great” some mentioned particular strong programs, which there are many, some mentioned the beautiful campus, which it is, but most mentioned the quality of the faculty and their dedication to the student.

  • One quote captured this view succinctly by noting “Top-notch professors that cared about their students.”

You are educating the students at UNI and you are doing it very, very well.

Together we will ask and answer the tough questions and make the right decisions to continue this university along the path of excellence.