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Faculty Meeting Address August 2008

August 20, 2007


Good afternoon.

Dr. Swan, fellow faculty members and others in attendance, I thank you for the opportunity to extend my welcome for the 2008-2009 academic year.  

I always look forward to this address. It provides an opportunity:

  • to congratulate faculty members whoíve earned special recognition, and

  • to acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students in the past year.

It is also an opportunity to briefly review the past year with you, and an appropriate time to talk about key issues facing UNI during the upcoming academic year.

I want to acknowledge that there are people still dealing with challenges associated with this summerís natural disasters.

  • During and after these disasters, the university proved itself to be a responsive and responsible community partner.

  • UNI students and personnel who helped with mitigation and recovery efforts demonstrated the service orientation that is so much a part of UNIís culture.

  • Thank you, and keep up the good work.

II. Brief Review of Last Year

We had a number of significant accomplishments by faculty, staff and students last year. I would like to highlight a few:

  • First, congratulations to John Groves, Lisa Jepsen, and Dan Power: Thank you for setting the standard of excellence for all of us.

  • Alexa Warrick, a double major in Biology and Spanish, was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for her pursuit and potential contributions in a career in the natural sciences.

  • Laura Gingrich, a graduate student in Communications Sciences and Disorders, won the prestigious McElroy scholarship.

    • She will pursue doctoral studies at Florida State University under that scholarship.

  • Mary Losch, associate professor of psychology, and assistant director of our Center for Social and Behavioral Research, received the largest single grant in UNI's history-11.5 million dollars over five yearsóto implement 5 projects to reduce unintended pregnancy in Iowa.

    • UNI faculty and staff will be collaborating with faculty at the University of Iowa and the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

We had new and renovated facilities come on line, with the Physics building, renamed Begeman Hall, the Botanical Center, and the Human Performance Center all opening their doors last year.

  • This summer saw the much anticipated reopening of Gilchrist Hall. Weíll have a rededication event October 17th.

  • Russell Hall is also reopening this fall with a rededication event September 26th.

We had an excellent year in The Office of Sponsored Programs, which nearly doubled its competitive grants.

  • 2006-2007 produced $14.9 million

  • This year it closed with $29.3 million.

These numbers reflect the hard work of many faculty and Christy Twait and her team.

We had a record year of fundraising for the University, with more than $21 million raised in gifts, pledges and estate commitments.

We also received the third largest gift everóa $3 million challenge gift from Dick Jacobson.

  • We announced the new campaign ìImagine the Impact,î with a goal of $150 million in 2013.

  • These funds are needed to achieve excellence and increase accessibility for students.

We had an increase in enrollment of more than 2.5% with another increase expected this fall.

Again, this is only a sample of the many accomplishments, achievements and activities from last year. Most importantly, we provided high quality education for more than 12,500 students.

III. Key Issues for the 2008-2009 Academic Year

So, what are the priorities, goals and key issues for the coming academic year?

There are many issues, and I will cover the most important ones briefly.

  • We can have more discussion of these issues during the Q&A, the reception that follows, and, of course, when Jim Lubker and I make our annual visits to the colleges.

The key priorities this year will be based on the longer-term goals of the university, and this yearís priorities of the Board of Regents.

The longer-term goals that I have been promoting for the past year and a half are:

  • To be the premier undergraduate program in the State of Iowa and among the best in the Midwest, and

  • To ensure that UNI is the leading academic institution in the State of Iowa for addressing P-K through 12 issues, and among the best in the country.

    • This includes developing our teacher education program, already viewed as the premier program in the state by most people, to be among the very best in the nation.

In addition, we need to increase our efforts to assist the state in economic, social and cultural development.

  • This is important for a public institution - we need to do this in a manner that reflects our strengths as a university.

Of course, we do not operate in a vacuum, but within the governance and direction by the Board of Regents.

So, what are the priorities of the Board of Regents?

Four priorities were presented by the President of the Board of Regents, David Miles, at the Regents' June meeting.

UNI representatives will be involved in all of these priorities and obviously affected by each of them.

The priorities are:

  • To review, revise, and extend the Board of Regentsí strategic plan.

    • The new plan is intended to be approved at the April 2009 meeting of the Board.

    • UNI faculty and administrators will be involved in the development of the plan.

  • To develop a professional communication plan for the Regents system that will articulate the positive impact and value of Iowaís public universities and special schools to the State of Iowa.

    • The concern is that the Regents system has not been effective in making its case.

    • Higher education is often used as a balance wheel in state budgets. Our budget is used to balance the State budget.

    • We have the opportunity and responsibility and need to make the case for the societal value of higher education.

    • This plan will be drafted by a working group composed of representatives from all Regent institutions, and submitted to the Board by December 2008.

  • To prepare an analysis on affordability and financial aid.

    • This analysis, and a set of recommendations, will be submitted to the Board this fall, to help ensure that Iowans have affordable access to the public universities.

    • This openly reflects, at the state level, and national level, a concern about tuition levels.

  • To develop a sustainability plan.

    • The Regent institutions are to develop an integrated and collaborative plan that makes Iowa a national leader in operational practices, education, research and economic development related to sustainability.

    • This is based on Governor Culverís 'Greening of Iowa' initiative.

Given these priorities, we enter the year with great opportunities, challenges and issues, some of which we addressed last year but must revisit this year.

Financially, we begin the year benefiting from the support of our legislators and Governor, and from our solid student enrollment numbers.

The hiring of 44 tenured track and tenured faculty, a net gain of 13 this year, reflects this support. (For the past 5 years we had a net loss of faculty each year)

Salaries were fully funded for the second year in a row.

The only proposal submitted by the Board of Regents to the General Assembly-the Math and Science Education Collaborative Initiative-was funded for $4 million.

    • UNI is the lead institution of the Math and Science Initiative, directed by Professor Jeff Weld from the Department of Biology.


  • This project addresses a critical need in Iowa, provides needed resources to the university, and creates new opportunities for faculty, grad students, and undergrad students.

Given the impact of the floods and the encroachment of a weak national economy into Iowa, it will be a challenge to achieve the same level of state support for FY2010.

We will continue to work hard with our local legislators and others to achieve the funding that we need.

I see more challenges with traditional sources of revenue, such as increasing tuition for all students by the HEPI index.

  • The priority of the Board of Regents regarding affordability and financial aid reflects a growing concern at the state and national levels that tuition levels reduce, and in some cases, eliminate accessibility to public higher education.

  • I would argue that the growing number of students attending community colleges is directly related to the fact that our tuition doubled since 1999.

In short, we will be facing more constraints for significant tuition increases from public policy makers and the marketplace.

We must be more creative in generating revenues, more disciplined in containing costs and more focused in our use of resources on our most important programs.

  • We need to look at the application of differential tuition, prioritization of programs (academic and non-academic), elimination of undersubscribed courses, uplifting of signature programs, and better marketing of our programs and university.

  • Selected actions have been taken and action plans have been created in all of these areas.

    • Provost Lubker has outlined an approach for the prioritizing academic programs this coming year

We've made progress on our goal of being the premier undergraduate program in the state, but we need to take additional steps this year.

For example, we re-established the Center for Teaching and Learning.

I thank Provost Lubker for his leadership on this issue.

He will review past efforts, determine what changes need to be made to improve the centerís services, and then hire a director.

In addition, the Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation process is officially underway.

  • Although there is much work involved in this effort, it is a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about this great institution.

  • This process can be and should be used to strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs.

  • As I mentioned last fall, the regulatory part of this process has taken on more importance with the concern expressed by national and state officials about accountability of institutions of higher education.

I thank Associate Provost Bev Kopper for her leadership of this multi-year effort, and the members of the Steering Committee for their efforts.

We want and need faculty participation in the process. Call Bev if you are interested.

I applaud the effort by the Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to get UNI accepted into the Foundations of Excellence program as part of the reaccreditation process.

  • This program addresses several issues but focuses on improving the quality of the first-year experience for students.

I noted in last yearís faculty address that we needed more diversity to enhance the quality and vitality of our undergraduate educational experience.

In fact, many students and employers are demanding it.

Last fall I asked Vice President Terry Hogan, who was new to campus, to take a look at our diversity programs and mechanisms.

  • Dr. Hogan found that we had a number of outstanding people working very hard to reach the goal of increased diversity.

  • He also found that university leadership was not providing the type of overall leadership needed to take advantage of their efforts.

This year, we will take the following actions:

We will conduct a campus climate survey to develop a baseline for where we are in terms of commitment to, achievement of and climate for diversity.

An executive committee for diversity will be appointed to provide more structure and accountability on campus.

This committee will report to me and will address how we can become more committed and intentional in our diversity efforts.

To accommodate the Regents’ priority of sustainability, we will make some changes in how we are organized to work on the ‘greening of campus’ issue.

  • Per the guidelines set by the Board of Regents, we will establish a Sustainability Steering Committee similar to the ones established at ISU and the University of Iowa.

  • The current Advisory Committee on Sustainability, chaired by Professor Jim Walters, has made significant contributions over the past two years and will continue its work.

    • Jim will be a member of the new Sustainability Steering Committee.

  • My focus will be on:

    • making sure our sustainability efforts reinforce our cost containment efforts as much as possible, and

    • how we can make unique or special contributions because of the strengths and impact of some of our academic programs;

      - for example, ‘What can our Teachers Education Program do to create impact that affects future generations of students?’

This coming year will provide more clarity to the direction of the university with respect to Information Technology related issues.

  • First, the Information Technology Task Force, Chaired by Professor Eugene Wallingford, will finish its work some time this fall.

    • The broad charge of the task force includes the evaluation for the current state of IT on campus in terms of IT needs of faculty, staff and students

    • Recommendations on how to improve our IT services will be part of the report

  • Second, substantial progress will be made in implementing a new student information system.

    • This effort, done under the direction of Vice President Hogan, is long overdueówe have to replace our home-grown system that is not sustainable.

    • The investment in this new system, which will add a number of benefits, including taking advantage of new technology that allows users to have Web access to information.

  • Finally, as you know, we need to conduct a second search for the position of Executive Vice President and Provost this fall.

Jim Lubker continues to provide excellent leadership and service to UNI as interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

As he now notes, he has become a "common law" provost.

I thank Jim for his continuing leadership and service.

I want to thank the members of this new search committee and in particular Professor Cate Palczewski for her leadership of the committee.

I decided to retain a search firm. The firm selected by a committee, Storbeck and Pimetel, will assist us in this search.

The committee plans to have the finalists on campus in early November.

In consultation with the members of the Cabinet, I changed the title of this position to Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, adding the adjective "Executive."

  • I did this to underscore the importance that we place on our primary mission, and to reflect that the provost, at least in my administration, is the person that takes the place of the president when I cannot participate.

  • Thus, we should have high expectations of this search, and of the person hired as the result of it.

  • Having said that, we cannot expect this person to walk in and take on all of the challenges and opportunities at once.

IV. Final Observations-Closing

This is my 34th year as a faculty member or administrator. I am as excited about the new academic year as I've ever been.

This must be a year of action, the urgency for which is driven by the sustainability of this university.

We must apply all the wisdom and intellectual vigor at our command to priorities designed for the best interest of UNI, it students and the state of Iowa.

We have the amazing opportunity to help meet the educational goals of more than 12,000 students, so that they can go out and shape their world.

This is a superb university with outstanding faculty and staff. I have no doubt about our ability to take UNI into the future and make it better.

I’m honored to be with you on the journey.

Thank you.