May 8, 2012
This letter continues a series of regular communications to the campus community. With commencement just a few days away, I want to share some reflections on the past year and look ahead to the next few months.
In my convocation remarks last Fall I mentioned that I would spend the year listening … to students, faculty, staff, alums and friends of the university, and members of the Springfield community. I have spent a great deal of time doing just that and I have especially enjoyed conversing candidly with faculty and staff about what’s on their minds. I’ll continue in the fall so that I can reach my goal of spending time in every department and unit on campus. I have also embraced every opportunity to be visible on campus, taking as much time as possible to listen to students as well as participate in many campus/student events. Thanks to all for those invitations! Every conversation and event has contributed to a more comprehensive understanding of our university for me and I am grateful for each opportunity.
Since my last letter, Robert Easter has become President-Designate of the University of Illinois and will officially become the university’s 19th president on July 1. As I’m sure you know, Dr. Easter has beenpart of the University of Illinois for 36 years – a highly regarded agricultural researcher and deeply respected academic leader. Bob has made getting to know the UIS and Chicago campuses his top priority and he has already visited our campus several times. It has been delightful to work with Dr. Easter in the past several weeks and it is clear to me that he will be a strong supporter of UIS. I am confident that the presidential leadership transition will continue to progress smoothly.
You will not be surprised to hear that the budget environment for the state and for the university continues to be very challenging. In our May 3 budget meeting with President Easter and members of the UA finance team, we were informed that we should anticipate a budget reduction. The good news is that we have already been planning for it. Our focus in any reduction will be on preserving the core academic functions of our work and on the careful management of our resources. You have already received university-wide communications about the ongoing pension debate. The University of Illinois will continue to work with legislators to contribute positively to that discussion and periodic updates will keep you informed.
Now that the search process for the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost has been successfully concluded with the appointment of Dr. Lynn Pardie, the Provost’s Office is moving ahead to plan national searches for two more critical leadership positions, the Dean of Education and Human Services and the Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration. A national search for the new UIS Vice Chancellor for Development is also under way in collaboration with the University of Illinois Foundation. Building a superior leadership team is essential to our advancement toward our vision to be a premier public liberal arts university and each of these searches presents an opportunity for us to recruit the talent that we need to continue in that direction. Many of you are being asked to serve on these important search committees and I will greatly appreciate your contributions to their successful conclusion.
I discovered in April that Springfest is one of the most energizing events of the year! There were hundreds of students competing with great enthusiasm in a variety of events including a very muddy Tug-of-War. One of the items to be found on the Scavenger Hunt was … the Chancellor … and I commend the well over 150 students who found me in my office late that night and got a photo to prove it. (If you have one of those pictures, could you please share it with me?)
The second Chancellor/student dialogue, “Chili with the Chancellor” was cosponsored by Student Government, the Black Student Union and the Organization of Latin American Students. It was a great success and another good opportunity for me to hear from students. Rumor has it that “Chimichangas with the Chancellor” is on deck for next Fall. Que’ guay!
I really enjoyed the recent events where we honored outstanding faculty, staff and students. We had exceptional SGA leadership this year, culminating in a successful push to pass the referendum for a new student union, a gift to our campus that will last for decades. I want to especially recognize Erin Wilson for her excellent leadership as SGA President. Congratulations, Erin, on receiving the Donovan Pepper Award for outstanding student leadership this year. I also want to recognize Evan Stanley, from the Office of Records and Registration, who has received the CAPE Award for his professional excellence. Recognizing our accomplished faculty is also a very important ritual at our university. My congratulations to Professor Lan Dong in English, who is the recipient of the 2012 Pearson Award for outstanding teaching; Professor Mike Lemke in Biology for being awarded the Spencer Award for exemplary public service; and Professor Elizabeth Kosmetatou from History who has received the 2012 Oakley Distinguished Online Teaching Award. It is deeply satisfying to hear stories about the great students, staff and faculty that make us who we are.
The women’s softball team’s season came to an end this week and what a season it was! These talented student-athletes won the West Division of the GLVC and then made it to the championship round of the conference tournament. The team was the first in UIS history to advance to the NCAA Division II national championship and eventually lost 4-3 to Northern Kentucky in the championship round of the Midwest Regional this past Sunday. Congratulations ladies and coaches for your grit and determination during a historic season.
It has been a great pleasure this past few weeks to attend many end-of-year events and celebrations. The Senior Art Show, Epilog, is a great example. I want to congratulate senior Visual Arts major, Karen Boerema, for winning the Chancellor’s Award for the outstanding artwork in the show. Karen is one of Professor Shane Harris’s ceramics students and her work is truly exceptional. A generous gift from Polly Roesch, Springfield philanthropist, that will allow us to renovate our choral rehearsal room this summer will contribute to our growth in our Music program. The visible presence of high quality fine and performing arts on our campus is an essential element of the intellectual climate of a premier liberal arts university and I am looking forward to growth in these areas with the leadership of our new Department of Art, Music and Theatre.
This summer UIS has 32 students studying abroad in Japan, Peru and The Gambia. We’ll also have students studying in Australia and Northern Ireland. We are anticipating a significant increase in the number of international students who will come to UIS in the fall. I reflected on this progress this past week when I was a participant in the 5th Global University Summit, a gathering in Chicago, co-sponsored by the University of Illinois, of over 60 university presidents, rectors and chancellors from 35 countries. One of our speakers was Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation. Dr. Pitroda challenged our universities to be “incubators of global discourse” where “every student is an international student.” I am encouraged by our growing international connections, which are so essential to providing a global education for ourstudents.
Though I won’t be using my passport this summer, I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to visit with some key officials and friends of UIS and to serve as a member of the faculty for the AASCU Millennium Leadership Institute. We have a Board of Trustees retreat coming up in July. If time allows I’ll also be working on my applesauce recipe for the Illinois State Fair competition in August. (My husband says I’m out of my league, but what does he know?) Regardless of the outcome, by the time the fair ends we’ll be launching the next academic year!
This Saturday we will celebrate commencement with about 770 graduates and their families and friends. The ceremony includes an address by SSU graduate, Wen Huang, whose family memoir has just been published to wonderful reviews. To our students who are graduating, I send you all my good wishes for the future. We are proud to call you our alumni. You are our legacy and we look forward to your continuing participation in the life of our university.
Have a great summer everyone and I look forward to our work together next fall.
Susan J. Koch