Highlights of Inaugural Convocation 2011 Speech

Chancellor Susan J. Koch
August 18, 2011

I have read our founding documents. One word from President Spencer’s “blue memo” in December 1970 has made a lasting impression on me: innovation.

Starting in the 1960s, the IBHE did comprehensive master planning for higher education in Illinois. One of its mandates for SSU was to be an innovative institution.

Another mandate was for SSU to be a public affairs institution, while emphasizing the liberal arts.

The excellence and success of our online programs is the envy of higher education institutions around the world.

How will we interpret that original innovation mandate for the coming decade? We need go no further for inspiration than the UIS 2006 strategic plan.

But I do think it’s time for us to re-examine that document, to refresh it as needed and to embed into it even more fully the innovation mandate so necessary for our university’s continued advancement. I will have more to say about the process in the weeks to come.

We must continue to vigorously pursue academic excellence, enriching individual lives, making a difference in the world, strengthening our campus culture, pushing forward on enrollment and retention, and developing the necessary resources and infrastructure to support our educational endeavors. These are the six goals in our strategic plan and they are worthy ones.

I endorse the goal of 6,000 on-campus students.

We need to have a serious conversation about the growth of both on-campus and online programs.

I am not satisfied with the diversity of our workforce. We need a more diverse faculty and staff, and I am pleased that President Michael Hogan agrees. We will be participating in the coming year in a university-wide effort to increase the diversity of the faculty in our community, and we need to have a conversation about expanding that effort across all aspects of our community.

Living in a global community requires us to increase our international outreach – bringing more international students to UIS, having more of our students benefiting from global experiences.

Our efforts at innovation must also include examination of the programs we offer and new programs that we ought to offer to meet the demands of our times and our students.

Originally, the Illinois Board of Higher Education also called on this university to –and I quote–“take advantage of the existing medical facilities in Springfield as [we] plan programs in the allied health fields.” … I am asking the university community to be mindful of this. Perhaps we have not been innovative enough in this area.

We must increase the number and size of our need- and merit-based scholarships provided for our students.

Let’s take a look at our campus culture. We need to provide opportunities for students to participate in and be exposed to music and theater, the visual arts, intercollegiate athletics, service learning, volunteering, student organizations and intercultural experiences are very important elements of the university experience.

As we begin this academic year, 2011, I invite you to engage with me in determining how we can best do better.

  • What are we passionate about?
  • What can we be “best at in the world?”
  • How can we build on our strengths and create new ones?
  • How can we better serve the needs of our students?
  • How can we better serve the needs of our communities and the needs of the state of Illinois and beyond?
  • How can we best create a campus culture that contributes to the intellectual, cultural, social and personal enrichment of every member of our community?
  • How can we make that valuable University of Illinois diploma even more valuable?