UIS LogoChancellor Ringeisen's Remarks
Convocation for Faculty and Staff

August 17 , 2006

 

These are the prepared remarks of Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen for Convocation 2006, delivered on August 17, 2006. 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.

 

Creating a brilliant future

Good Afternoon and Welcome

Thank you for the introduction, Harry.

I always look forward to this day.

Welcome especially to new faculty and staff who are here.

We take time at this annual convocation to celebrate the new year and the promise it represents.

 

The UIS presentation in Urbana about the strategic plan was a pivotal moment in the history of our university.

"My professors know me" - a slide we used to portray the essence of UIS - really got people's attention, including President White's.

That symbolizes what makes us great: Small classes, intimate learning environment.

The response from our deans and from other campuses was remarkable

Sometimes, when you're fortunate, you can say:That was a moment in time when things changed.

At this time last year at this time I talked about the enormous task ahead of us:

  • To complete our strategic plan
  • To create and to teach the courses needed for our new general education curriculum

What I am saying this year:

  • We have turned the corner
  • And we are, right now, creating a brilliant future.

I can sense it!

The Chicago Tribune this summer called us The University of the Future. I'll take that.

I know we have turned the corner after dealing with four really bad budget years, and then spending 18 months in spirited conversations about our future and our strategic plan.

I can tell you today that not only have we survived years of budget cuts, but we have emerged with a strong, focused plan for our future.

We have emerged with a new general education curriculum with two great principles: lifelong learning and engagement.

We have emerged with our first comprehensive strategic plan in 14 years. It's called Creating a Brilliant Future.

We have emerged by adding about 40 new faculty last year and now we have 41 - giving us more faculty than UIS has ever had in its history.

I think this is the most faculty we have added in any given year, including the year we first opened in 1970.

As I heard Dean Margot Duley say last spring, UIS is now on an upward trajectory as we become a full-fledged four-year university.

We did a lot of work last year to finish our strategic plan.

Then we drilled deeper at the college level.

Now all the colleges have their own strategic plans, as does Brookens Library, the Center for State Policy and Leadership, the Division of Student Affairs, and our Development and Alumni offices.

We have indeed turned the corner.

We are on that upward trajectory.

This is the year we make the biggest transition in my five years here from planning to implementation.

We are going to focus on two priorities this year, and that's what I want to talk about today:

  1. Our strategic plan - and in the first year, how we're already making progress on its goals.

  2. Building bridges and making connections

First I must address THREE ISSUES that came up many times during our strategic planning discussions. In fact, I want to make some declarations about three issues as we move forward.

  1. The first is that we remain committed to our traditional role in serving non-traditional students. All over the country, universities are going after non-traditional students. You might say that we are 30 years ahead of them, because we have been doing this so well since 1970. I hope we stay 30 years ahead of the competition as we continue to serve non-traditional students. The competition for such students is getting stiffer in our state and in the nation.

  2. Second, we remain committed to our tradition in strong public affairs programming. Our location in the state capital is one of our strengths, and we will continue to do what no other Illinois university is in a position to do.

  3. Third, we will continue to have strong professional programs. Many liberal arts universities have outstanding professional programs, and so I want to let you know again: Our professional programs here are an integral part of our academic mission. They shall prosper.

We will do these things as part of a premier public liberal arts university. Because that is the way UIS chooses to be the best. We choose to be premier:

  • We choose to have strong professional programs.
  • We choose to have high-quality public affairs programs,
  • And we choose to reach out to adult students, even as we grown our residential population.

We will be THE model for a high-quality, broadly based, public liberal arts university.

So let's talk about the STRATEGIC PLAN.

As you know, it has three major goals.

  1. Academic excellence
  2. Enriching individual lives
  3. Making a difference in the world

Academic excellence - I am so pleased that academic excellence emerged as our number one goal. That's exactly as it should be.

I am pleased to announce that we are already implementing this goal:

  • New courses: We have added at least 60 new courses to our curriculum as we implement our new general education curriculum. Thanks to Karen Moranski and all who worked with her in the past year to make that happen.

  • New faculty: As you can see today, we have added dozens of new faculty members across the curriculum in the past two years.

  • Support for faculty: We will increase support for faculty to attend conferences at which they will make scholarly presentations.

  • We will establish an internal grant program aimed at supporting innovative, interdepartmental faculty development projects.

  • We will provide funds specifically targeted at the theory and pedagogy of general education and liberal learning.

  • Seed funding for new projects: We will provide seed funding for some high-visibility collaborative projects identified in the strategic plan to aid those projects in leveraging external support.

  • Professional development for Academic Professionals: We will also take steps to develop the skills of our dedicated academic professionals and their ability "to advance the professional practice in their fields" by increasing the pool of funds available to them for professional development.

  • Support for college offices: We will begin to remedy longstanding staffing needs by increasing staffing in the college offices and by beginning to address faculty and staff salary equity.

All of this with a strategic plan that is just a few months old but will guide us for the next three to five years. I think we're off to a great start.

The other goals: enriching lives and making a difference in the world

There is one current project that summarizes the aspirations we express in the strategic plan to enrich individual lives and to make a difference in the world.

Look no further than our Quad - and see the sculpture by Preston Jackson. It arrived in late July and it will be here for months. It is a beautiful piece of sculpture.

It is here because one of our faculty members, Mike Miller, worked with:

  • local arts organizations in this community;
  • the sculptor himself;
  • the UIS community;
  • and the local African American community.

To make this happen.

The Preston Jackson exhibit is a community-wide exhibit, and on September 9, there will be several receptions in Springfield.

The first reception will be here at UIS.

And so we have the fine arts enriching lives and making a difference in our community.

Everything about this exhibit is right for our community and right for UIS. I commend Professor Miller for making this happen at UIS, and I hope we have an overflowing crowd at that September 9 reception.

Making a difference in the world. What a wonderful goal!

We know that universities become great first by being great locally, in their own backyards. For example, the College of Charleston made its mission to serve the "low country" of South Carolina with unprecedented excellence. It has done just that and is now recognized nationally as a premier university.

Let me give you recent examples in which UIS has applied this principle:

  1. One, we are doing biological research on the Illinois River reclamation project near Havana. That is an important project about the Illinois water supply. But what we learn there is expected to have an impact on how scientists and environmentalists deal with the Amazon River in South America and the Yangtze River in China. Awesome, isn't it?

  2. Second, our work in online education expanded our outreach to non-traditional students, making high-quality education more and more accessible. How we're providing online education is getting attention literally around the world - at major national and international conferences and in publications such as the Wall Street Journal.

  3. Third, there is Gear UP and how we have helped students at Lanphier High School.

Think of those examples: local excellence, global impact. It's a pattern that works.

You might say we have a "laboratory" every day in the arts, in state government, in the sciences, in education.

Local excellence, regional and global impact.

And that leads me to the other point I want to make in these remarks. First I wanted to talk about our strategic plan; now I want to talk about building bridges.

BUILDING BRIDGES

As we execute our bold plan for the future, we will have to build many new bridges, and we will.

The Preston Jackson exhibit is just one example of that - of building bridges in our community.

Jim Collins is an author well-known for his business books Built to Last and Good to Great. One of his points is that many businesses and organizations are mediocre or good, but few are great.

Someone gave him the idea to apply his principles to the nonprofit sector. He recently did that, in a monograph called Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

Collins says something that pertains directly to the implementation of our strategic plan. He said this:  "The number one resource for a great social sector organization is having enough of the right people willing to commit themselves to mission."

Well, we have a mission, and we are on Dr. Duley's upward trajectory, and so we need to build bridges to get more people committed to our mission and vision.

Let me give you just three examples:

HOMECOMING

This year's homecoming at UIS will be very different from all others. We have built a new bridge to the community for our homecoming.

This year, we have representatives of the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce on our Homecoming Committee for the first time. We have asked local businesses to allow our students to paint UIS Homecoming themes on their windows for Homecoming week. We are making efforts to introduce our UIS visitors to more local businesses. We have built a bridge to the local business community in this way, and I think it's the start of a great new tradition. And we will have a parade and I hope the public comes!

ENTREPRENEURIAL CENTER

Another example is the lunch our College of Business and Management hosted here in June to give grants to 10 local entrepreneurs. That was the work of our emerging Entrepreneurial Center in our business college - reaching out to lend our expertise for the betterment of the community.

DOWNSTATE INNOCENCE PROJECT

Still a third example is the success of our Downstate Innocence Project to help a previously convicted woman gain her innocence at a new trial this summer. How terrific is that - UIS helps an innocent woman gain her freedom!!!

Enriching individual lives and making a difference in the world by building bridges. Remarkable.

As I wrap up my remarks, though, I have a special message for the UIS community about bridges I want us to build right here at UIS. From the administration to faculty, staff and students.  Let's recall how important building bridges was in our successes - the gen ed curriculum, the marvelous strategic plan, the invest in UIS program.

Let's continue to build strong build bridges and walk on them together!

I am reminded of something that Benjamin Franklin said at the end of the constitutional convention. He advised his colleagues in this new nation in 1787 to doubt their own infallibility, to set aside their differences and to work together to implement the new constitution.

And that reminds me of something our own Phil Paludan says: Don't believe everything you think!

We have high aspirations, and it is vital that we talk about our aspirations today.

We aspire to be recognized as one of the best five small public liberal arts universities in the nation. One of the best!

It is said that if we can imagine it, we can have it. I believe Henry Ford was right when he said whether you believe you can do something or not, you are right.

I believe that as we pursue our vision, we must build even stronger bridges to one another. Remember at commencement in the spring how our own Phil Paludan calmly advised us to try to be good to each other. Great advice then, great advice this year.

We have strong bridges that unite us, and we need to keep them strong. I'm thinking of my own administration and the Campus Senate, and APAC and all APs, and our civil service workers, and relationships between faculty and staff. Reach out to each other. Try to be good to each other.

I believe we can not only build bridges together, but walk over them together in pursuit of a brilliant future that we will create together. I ask you to join me on this journey, and I promise to join you on yours!

We have already started, and I look forward to working with all of you this year to pursue the boldest vision ever for UIS.

Thank you.

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