UIS LogoChancellor Ringeisen's Remarks
Convocation for Faculty and Staff

August 16 , 2007


These are the prepared remarks of Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen for Convocation 2007, delivered on August 16, 2007. Chancellor Ringeisen does not use a verbatim text for his remarks. He uses a combination of notes and text, and this is his prepared script.

Local excellence, global impact

Welcome. It is great to be back.

It's good to see so many familiar faces, and to welcome those of you who have just arrived or who just started here.

I'd like to include a few stories today, starting with one about our new rock garden.

One day this summer, I looked out my window on the fifth floor of this building and noticed that our grounds workers were removing all the grass from a location between the PAC and Brookens Library.

So we asked what was going on. Joan Buckles, our horticulturist and superintendent of the grounds, explained they were putting in a rock garden.

I love the idea! What I appreciate even more was that it sprang from our strategic plan. During our many deliberations in 2005 and 2006, our UIS community agreed that we needed more gathering places outside, and more walking paths, and Joan explained that the rock garden was a direct response to that part of the strategic plan. So Joan and her crew are taking a beautiful campus and finding ways to make it even more appealing.

There is another place outside at UIS that is quite beautiful and peaceful. It's the pond, where the UIS Women's Center has an annual gathering and awards ceremony at the place we call the Women's Peace and Friendship Garden. It's a great setting but one of our under-utilized assets at UIS.

But my wife, Carolyn, got to thinking – and here is what she saw – a fountain in the pond! Not just a little fountain, but the kind of flowing water that Hermann Melville might have been pondering when he wrote that "meditation and water are wedded forever."

So today, not only do I want to introduce Carolyn, as I always do – please stand and be recognized, Carolyn – but I want to tell you that she has decided to provide the funds for a new fountain in our pond. Plans are for the fountain to be installed this year. And it will be a wonderful addition to the campus. Thanks, hon.

As we were planning for this convocation over the summer, I felt more excited than in any other year since I arrived here in 2001. Last year I declared that UIS is now on an upward trajectory – a phrase I first heard from Dean Margot Duley. We have a bold vision, and in every way we are moving forward together in pursuit of our visions and dreams.

So that is what I will talk about today – the steps we are taking to implement our vision to be one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the nation.

I don't think I could remind us too many times about that vision and where we're heading and how we are getting there. It all starts with academic excellence, which is impossible without great faculty. It's why we take the time to introduce the new faculty to our university community. You’ll be impressed, as I am, about what our faculty have been doing recently and the high-quality faculty we are attracting to UIS.

But before I get too far into my formal remarks, I note with great sadness that we must move forward without one of our very best faculty members – Dr. Philip Shaw Paludan, the great human being and great Lincoln historian who died just two weeks ago. Let us pause now for a moment of silence in memory of our friend, Dr. Paludan.

What Phil Paludan did for all of us and how he did it sets the standard and lays the foundation for what UIS is becoming. I am thinking in particular of two speeches that he gave for the UIS community. The first was in this room, where he was honored as the recipient of the first UIS distinguished chair when we conducted the investiture ceremony in 2001.

Phil's speech that day offered a great insight into why he appreciated Lincoln so much. He described Lincoln as a man of great civility, a president who endured great criticism and yet did not consider his adversaries to be demons or scoundrels. Instead, Lincoln did his extraordinary work "with malice toward none." Dr. Paludan modeled that kind of civility himself in his six years at UIS.

Then last year at commencement, Phil advised our graduates to seek their goals persistently yet humbly. He concluded his speech this way with that soft, passionate tone of his:

     "Never give up.
     "Try to understand things.
     "Try to be good to each other." 

So as we begin this year and continue implementing our strategic plan, let us honor Dr. Philip Shaw Paludan by vigorously raising our standards of excellence, by humbly going about our work, and by being good to each other. For that is what Dr. Paludan did; it is how he lived; it is what he modeled for us.

Our faculty here are making great strides – accomplishing a lot. One of our bright young faculty members, Brent Never in public administration, has received a Fulbright grant to study conflict resolution in Northern Ireland.

What a great example that is of what has become a theme at UIS – local excellence, global impact.

That is a favorite theme of mine. It means we do things so well here at UIS that the impact is felt globally, or sometimes regionally or nationally.

Brent Never: local excellence, global impact.

Another example:  I am so proud of Dean Ron McNeil and the faculty in the College of Business and Management. The business college had been working for years to achieve national accreditation from The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International. Well, we finally received the good word in the spring. Our business college is now accredited!

Dean McNeil faced many many challenges in getting this accomplished, and I am so pleased that he kept his eye on the prize all along. To the faculty in the college, I salute you as well! I know you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get this accomplished. Fewer than 3 in 10 business colleges in the nation receive this accreditation. We are now in the elite.

The College of Business and Management: local excellence, national impact.

Our faculty here are impressive, aren't they? They are becoming increasingly impressive. There are 24 new faculty this year.

That's on top of the 41 new faculty members last year and another 39 the year before that. In total, that's 104 new faculty in the past three years – up to a record number this year of about 210 FTE faculty. That is our commitment to high quality and academic excellence.

The trend is clear. UIS is putting a high priority on hiring high-quality faculty wherever we need them.

And here's an amazing statistic: The number of faculty peer-reviewed presentations and publications has increased by 67 percent in the past four years. That includes longtime faculty and new faculty. Wow!

Faculty colleagues, congratulations on taking your scholarship so seriously. When you take this to the classroom, you have so much more to offer your students. Teaching and scholarship at a high quality liberal arts university are two sides of the same coin.

It's important to describe how exciting it is when this scholarship filters down to the students. Let me give you one example: Sara Paver, who graduated in 2007.

I want to tell you about Sara because her experience at UIS is indicative of what can happen at a small university in close interaction with a dedicated faculty member. As a freshman four years ago, Sara met biology professor Michael Lemke in the introductory biology course. Mike invited Sara to "hang around" the lab and learn about research.  Within the next couple of years, she learned a lot from Professor Lemke about advanced microbiology techniques. She worked with Lemke on the Emiquon floodplain restoration project north of here on the Illinois River. She analyzed nutrients in water samples collected from the river. 

Because nutrients fuel the base of the food web, Sara’s work is very important, as is Lemke's. Now this fall, Sara is advancing to graduate studies in ecology.

By the way, we broke ground up there this summer for a new Emiquon Field Research Station – where UIS is engaged with the Nature Conservancy and others on some remarkable research.

Mike, thanks so much for what you're doing to broaden students' interests and develop the next generation of scientists.

This illustrates what UIS is all about: opportunity for students and opportunities for faculty.

Local excellence, global impact.

OK, so far I've talked about a Fulbright scholar, bringing scholarship into the field, and national accreditation for our business college.

I want to tell you about another critically important accreditation process under way for UIS. This fall, in October, we will have the site visit for UIS' once-every-10-year reaccreditation process from the Higher Learning Commission, which we all used to know as the North Central Association.

This is critically important because the Higher Learning Commission examines the entire university, especially in light of our strategic plan. I want to thank Professor Karen Kirkendall for taking the lead and working so well with administrators and the entire steering team to compile a comprehensive report that is essential for the HLC's evaluation of UIS. You have done a remarkable job, and I thank you very much. We are looking forward to the HLC's Site visit in October. You can find a lot more information and documentation about this process on our web site: www.uis.edu/hlcreaccreditation/process/index.html   

A year ago I felt so privileged in thanking you for your great effort in producing a visionary strategic plan for UIS. Now it obvious the strategic plan gives us clear direction, the direction we need. Without that strategic plan, we simply would not have been able to put together such an organized document for the HLC.

And you know what? We are still on the upward trajectory that we have been mentioning so frequently in recent months.

There are so many examples of local excellence leading to regional, national and global impact. Let me mention a few of them.

  • Many computer science programs in the nation are lagging and having trouble getting students. Not here. Our program continues to grow and is one of the largest programs at UIS. Professor Ted Mims is a living billboard for this program wherever he goes.

Computer science: Local excellence, global impact.

  • Here's another: We have about 350 Civil Service staff at UIS, providing the structural backbone that allows us to do the work that we do. I was so pleased when they came to me earlier this year and we discussed if UIS would create a new award, called the CARE award, to honor one of the best among them every year. I said yes right away, and this summer, the first CARE Award went to Dave Antoine in our electronic media department. How about a round of applause for Dave and for ALL of our Civil Service workers?
  • Here's another: We have applied to join the NCAA, Division II. It’s going well. Today I want to emphasize that joining Division II is good for academics as well as athletics. The NCAA Division II insists on academic quality and has more rigid requirements than the NAIA. Local excellence, national impact.
  • On another note: I am also pleased to say we have just hired an Environmental Health and Safety Officer. His name is John Teimeyer. He has great credentials for this important, important position for UIS.
  • Speaking of the environment, there is growing advocacy on campus for protecting the environment. UIS recently got a $27,500 grant, to be supplemented with funds from student affairs, to expand recycling efforts here. That is wonderful news. Thanks to UIS faculty members Tih-Fen Ting and Marc Klingshirn  for writing the grant with the help of the student group called SAGE (Students Allied for a Greener Earth).
  • Yet another: Something else new this year for new Academic Professionals and Civil Service staff: a new Campus Welcome Committee. This group will meet monthly with new employees to share with them the UIS culture and the benefits for them personally of being a UIS employee. This will help to strengthen campus culture and to build a stronger community – which is another goal of our strategic plan. Earlier this year I asked APAC – the Academic Professional Advisory Committee – to get this Campus Welcome Committee up and running, and I commend you for putting together such a great program for our new employees.
  • Look at this slide. It’s really what we are, and everybody nods their head "yes" when they see this. In fact, UIS is becoming known around the state as the place where the professors take time to know the students in small class settings.
  • Something else to be aware of: This past year our students have studied abroad at two universities in Australia and a university in Japan. We also offer our own short-term study abroad courses in China, Nicaragua, and Japan. And in the fall, we'll have a student at Colima University in Mexico. Local excellence, global impact.
  • And we continue to generate students and visibility around the world with our wonderful array of 16 online degree programs. We’re still a national leader in this area and will remain so – local excellence, global impact.
  • You will see on our web site home page a box called Brilliant Futures. This is critical to our future – a major capital campaign that the University of Illinois formally launched June 1 at a gala event in Chicago. We need private donations, and our campus goal is $28 million. I am happy to report that with the public phase just now beginning, we are already half-way to that goal already. You'll be hearing a lot about it, and the money we raise will help all of us. More scholarships, professorships, better facilities – that's what we are pursuing.
  • Finally, I am so excited that our new Recreation and Athletic Center will open soon. It's a $16 million facility being paid for by our students – with student fees. This facility changes UIS forever and will become a major gathering point for students and the UIS community. I also predict it will prove to be a point of pride for all of central Illinois. Local excellence, regional impact.

I want to conclude with one last story.

Ninety-nine years ago this week, the city of Springfield endured one of the most notorious events in its history. The city endured two days of race riots – now commonly called the race riots of 1908 – a terrible time in our city's history. They got national attention in the media. As awful as those riots were, they did provide some teachable moments.

And in this academic year, there will be a connection between those events and UIS in a very positive way.  Next February – February 2008 – when the national Abraham Lincoln Association commemorates the 100th anniversary of the race riots, one of the events will take place in our own Sangamon Auditorium. Local excellence, national impact.

But there's more to this. Another side of the race riot story is the power of the media to set agendas and to affect policy changes. The First Amendment is very much alive in our country and at UIS.

So this year, at UIS, we are focusing on the media and the First Amendment. We are hosting a presentation by Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter recently jailed in connection with the Valerie Plame incident.

And we're hosting another presentation by investigative journalist Charles Lewis, who has appeared many times on national programs and worked with UIS staff on the award-winning Illinois Campaign Finance Project in the 1990s.

This year's focus on the power of the media will culminate in February when the L. A. Theater Works comes to UIS to present the radio play "Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers."

Local excellence, national impact.

Before I conclude, I do want to mention just one other thing about the race riot story. Did you know UIS is among an elite number of universities in the nation designated as an iTunes University? Well, today we are adding a new series to UIS on iTunes U: Revealing Voices. This series features oral histories as told by individuals who were present at the time. Go to "iTunes" from the A-Z index on our home page.

I said at the beginning of these remarks that we can honor Dr. Paludan by vigorously raising our standards of excellence, by humbly going about our work, and by being good to each other.

It's what we do at UIS.

We make a difference in the world and enrich people's lives, all from a firm foundation of academic excellence. It's what we called ourselves to do in our strategic plan, and we are doing it.

It's why I know we're going to have a great year.  Let's get to it!