Message from the Chancellor, December 2011

Statement by Chancellor Susan J. Koch
December 12, 2011

This December, 2011, letter continues an ongoing series of regular letters to the campus community on issues of importance to the University and to our overall goals and mission.

First, I have some very good news! The Governor’s office recently released $4 million in state capital funds for UIS’s new Public Safety Building. It will replace and enhance our outdated police department headquarters in an old farmhouse on campus. The legislature included the funding in a large capital bill in the spring of 2009, and we’ve been awaiting release of the funding since then. We are grateful to the Governor’s office and to our local representatives for continuing to move this important project forward. We don’t yet have the precise timetable for design and construction, but I will keep you posted.

My sincere thanks to everyone involved in hosting the University of Illinois Board of Trustees at UIS for its December meeting. A highlight for the Board occurred when two of our Theatre students, Jennica Danner and Lindsey Ninmer, performed sketches they have been preparing for an upcoming theatre festival. I heard rave reviews about these students’ talent from trustees and colleagues from the other campuses. Another highlight for UIS occurred at a dinner in downtown Springfield on Thursday evening. We had arranged for our trustees to interact with a diverse group of Springfield community leaders and Mayor Mike Houston affirmed, in his welcoming remarks, how important UIS is to the Springfield community. Board of Trustees Chair, Chris Kennedy, was so pleased with the evening that he has requested that it become an annual event.

I am grateful to Associate Professor Mike Miller of the Visual Arts Department for his willingness to chair the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs search committee. I’m very pleased with the committee’s early work. Advertisements for the position were placed this month and, for the next couple of months, the important work of building an excellent and diverse pool of candidates will be under way. If the search goes well, we anticipate the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs will begin in the summer of 2012.

It was a pleasure meeting Washington-area alums and friends of UIS at our DC event last month. Our director of federal relations, Jon Pyatt, planned a great schedule for me, including visits with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (who is from Peoria and knows UIS well); Senators Kirk and Durbin as well as members of Congress, Aaron Schock, John Shimkus, Tim Johnson and Bobby Schilling. With the support of our governmental relations and the new UI Washington office, I expect our opportunities for federal interaction and federal funding to increase in the next few years.

Our Brilliant Futures Capital Campaign will come to a close at the end of this month. Reaching our $28 million goal, a real “stretch” goal for UIS, has been a high priority for me during my first five months and I have been working very intensively with our development staff to achieve our goal. I am delighted to inform you that, though we have not reached the goal as of today, it is “in sight” and we are cautiously optimistic that we will pass the $28 million mark very soon. My sincere thanks to all members of the UIS community who have donated to the Brilliant Futures Campaign, and, if you haven’t had an opportunity to do so yet, please know that your gift (no matter how small) will make a real positive difference in the support of our students…and in reaching our goal. I hope to have some very positive (and conclusive) news about our Capital Campaign soon.

I promised in my Convocation speech to spend time listening to students, faculty, staff, alums and others who are invested in our university. So far, so good! I’ve already met many UIS faculty who are successfully weaving together the strands of their careers – outstanding teaching, scholarly contributions, and a commitment to being a contributing member of our academic community. Thanks to their efforts, our reputation is strong and continues to grow. I’ve also been to the Campus Senate and met with leaders of the Student Government Association, Academic Professional Advisory Committee and Civil Service Advisory Council, among many groups. I’m impressed with the talent that we have. I plan to meet with academic departments next semester as well as host several “coffees” for various groups, with the intent to continue to listen and learn.

With the co-sponsorship of student government, I also had a two-hour late-night “Chocolate with the Chancellor” for students this month; an opportunity for students to share their UIS experience with the Chancellor. It was way past my bedtime; but it was very well-attended and very informative! In February I look forward to “Chili with the Chancellor”, which will be cosponsored and promoted by the SGA, the Black Student Union and the Organization of Latin American Students.

I have been talking to President Mike Hogan about my own goals for my first year to eighteen months. Those goals have been informed already by many of you and I will be sharing them with the campus community early next semester. A Chancellor’s goals can only be achieved with the support and collaboration of the campus community and sharing my goals is one more way that we can work together and that I can be transparent.

Many of you know and have worked with my executive assistant, Charlene Lambert, who will be retiring at the end of this year after 24.5 years of service to UIS, twenty at Illinois Issues magazine and the last several in the Chancellor’s Office. Charlene has been more help to me in the past six months than I could ever describe in detail. Her institutional knowledge (she knows everybody!), her connections with the President’s Office and Board of Trustees and her outstanding communication skills have helped to make my transition into the Chancellor role smooth and enjoyable. Charlene presents to the campus community and beyond exactly the kind of respect and concern that I want the Chancellor’s Office to have for everyone. I wish Charlene all the best in her retirement and I encourage you to express your appreciation to her in your own way in the next couple of weeks.

As you finish up the semester, I want to thank you again for welcoming me so warmly. I feel at home both on campus and in the community, and I know that doesn’t happen automatically. I wish all of you good times with friends and family during the break and during the holiday season, and a happy and healthy 2012. I am eagerly anticipating what we will be able to do and accomplish together in the coming year.

Thank you for everything you do every day to provide our students with the academic excellence that is so central to what we do.

With all best wishes,

Susan J. Koch, Chancellor