Remarks by Chancellor Richard Ringeisen
University of Illinois Springfield

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Remarks to the Board of Trustees

 

Thank you Mr. President for this opportunity to talk about my very favorite subject - UIS, the University of Illinois Springfield.  Let me first add my formal welcome to all of our new trustees, and tell you that we in Springfield are eager to work with you.

"DIFFERENT" - That's an important word, because UIS is much different from the other two campuses.  We are small, intentionally small, and always will be. We are the newest of the three universities that comprise the University of Illinois - since 1995 - but we have the high quality you expect from this great university.

In 2006 we launched a strategic vision for UIS: To wit, we will be one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the country.

On the UIS campus, the vision is clear. Everyone knows it. It's an advantage of being intentionally small. We live the vision every day, and I can report to you that we have made demonstrable and clear progress toward that goal.  

That means we are a lot like small private universities in several ways - classes are small, nearly all classes are taught by faculty (No TA's teaching), and our students expect, and receive, a highly personal level of interaction with full-time faculty members.   We do this at a public institution's cost.  Are we making progress? Let me say this:

Within the last year or so we have received 8 different kinds of national recognition, each related to our strategic vision.  EIGHT! You know I'm going to mention a few - three to be exact.

In its new 2010 edition, US News and World Report ranked UIS the BEST public master's level university in Illinois, and the FOURTH best public master's level university in the large 12 state Midwestern region. That means, in short, we're 4th best in the Midwest already, and we intend to be the best!

Second, I want to talk about our expertise in offering programs online. We have received three national awards for our online learning programs. Two are from the Boston-based Sloan consortium of 1,300 institutions that teach online. Sloan says we are the best overall nationally in online teaching and learning.

Third, we officially became THE public liberal arts university in Illinois this year. The national organization of such universities allows only one per state. It's open only by invitation and invited and accepted UIS as a member.  Maybe you never thought of this before: Does Illinois have an intentionally small great public liberal arts university? Yes, UIS!

The recognition indicates we are pursuing our vision. But there is more than the outside recognitions.  This fall we welcomed Professor Michael Burlingame to UIS as our Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies. Among his many notable accomplishments, Dr. Burlingame has just finished a two volume book, Lincoln: a Life, which is already being described as a definitive work on Lincoln. Acclaimed Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said Lincoln scholars have waited anxiously for this book for decades. Now it's here, and we have Dr. Burlingame at UIS.

The point is that our strategic vision has changed UIS.  We have a clear vision, and we are attracting the kinds of faculty and students that, year in and year out, are making UIS better and better.

If you want to go to college in the city where Lincoln walked and where the seat of state government provides a living laboratory, UIS is the only choice. We are very proud of our location, and we take advantage of it. We we have a record number of public service graduate interns this year - throughout state agencies, the executive the legislative branches, and in many associations based in Springfield!

Are there challenges? Certainly! The financial challenges are many.  How can we keep our excited and exciting faculty when we can't afford any pay raises? That's a major question in a world where institutions compete for great faculty. We need more faculty development money to attract and retain the best faculty.

Another challenge:  to keep building a physical and programmatic infrastructure to recruit and retain students at a high rate of success.  We need more scholarships to remain accessible and to attract the best students. 

Fundraising presents a different kind of challenge for us, with relatively young alumni and not nearly as many as our sister institutions. UIS is only 39 years old, having opened in 1970 as Sangamon State University.

Here is something that surprises people: We had no theatre program, no musical groups and only a fledgling visual arts program a decade ago.   We now have those programs, but students need scholarships and we need to retain those great young faculty.

And athletics is growing on this newly residential campus, just having joined the NCAA at the Division II level.  And that needs private funds as well.

How do I know that people on our campus know our vision? Let me tell you this: Just about everybody who comes to me and asks for something - and it's often money - looks me in the eye and says: If you want us to be a top-five program nationally, you should give MY IDEA more resources.

They get it. The vision is so clear and exciting at UIS.

So, there you are.  We are eager to show you our beautiful campus at your next meeting there in November. I personally welcome any or all of you to come see us any time, to see and learn about your public university in the state capital. 

We are different because we're intentionally small - the small public liberal arts university in Illinois. That's what we do for the state of Illinois.

You know what that means?  It means our students can and do say, from their first day at UIS: My professors know me. And that makes all the difference. It's our vision.

UIS: UNIQUE, EXCITING, MOVING TOWARD THE BEST.

Thank you and I would enjoy questions.

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