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Convocation 2005
Chancellor Richard Ringeisen's Remarks to Faculty and Staff
August 17, 2005

 

The Present as Prologue

Good Afternoon and Welcome.

Thank you for the introduction, Harry. Many of you know, but not all do, that Harry is leading this convocation for the first time.  Last January, when the time came to name an interim provost, it was clear that Harry should be considered. What a fortunate choice! And he has done a great job since taking over the most important academic position on campus. So, let's have a warm round of applause for our interim provost Dr. Harry Berman.

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.

I want to tell you why this year is so important, why you are so important.

It's because we are in the early years of a new era in world history.

We've been hearing for a long time that we're in the Information Age.

But I assure you, that is passé.

We're beyond the Information Age.

Peter Pestillo, vice chairman of the Ford Motor Company, in a speech six years ago, mentioned the Information Age, yes, but he also said that what will set communities and companies apart in the next decade is "worker knowledge - or intellectual capital, as we call it."

He may not have realized that he was providing a segue to the era that we are in now - the Knowledge Worker Age.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, uses that same term - the Knowledge Worker Age - over and over again in his new book, The 8th Habit.

He says the biggest added value that any worker can provide in this era is not product, not time, not energy, but knowledge. Knowledge is now the most important value-added commodity.

We are in the Knowledge Worker Age, and at UIS, we are in the knowledge business.

There is no better place to be, creating knowledge ourselves and teaching our students the benefits of knowledge. It is not hyperbole to say that what we do here will shape our community, our nation and our world for the rest of this century.

The good news is that our future is so bright!

Last year on this day I talked about the future as prologue. We looked to the future because we did so much important planning last year, and many great things happened:

  • An exciting, new general education curriculum was adopted. Still needs board approval, and we expect that next month.

  • Quad enhancements - trying to compete with the entrance marker for the longest continuing construction project at UIS.

  • Graduated first class of Capital Scholars

  • Approval for the recreation center - the Board of Trustees approved the design in July, and we'll be breaking ground this fall or next spring, with the opening planned for 2007.

  • Oh yeah. And the entrance marker is finished!

Last year I talked of the future as prologue,  I tell you now that this year - the present is prologue.

This is our time. This is our moment.

After all the planning and preparation and foundation building we have done in recent years, this is our time.

I am reminded of what a character in The Secret Life of Bees, the popular novel by Sue Monk Kidd, said during one important conversation. She said: "This is your time. Don't mess it up."

Why do I say this is our time?

I say the present is prologue - but prologue to what?

Let me start with the people in this room. We have about 40 new faculty members with us this fall. That's an astounding number - about one-fourth of our entire faculty. You have a chance to shape UIS as no new group of faculty has done since this institution opened 35 years ago. This is your time.

You are the big story this year, and I know people are going to be impressed when they learn about the credentials you bring.

You are joining a community of good people. You have great colleagues here.

And if you have been here a year, five years or twenty years, this is your time, too.

This is the year we will implement a new strategic plan.

Last year, our Strategic Planning Committee worked very hard. Its work is not complete. The process continues, and we will get all of our new staff and faculty up to speed about it.  That will happen this fall.

Today I want to tell you about a great discussion our Strategic Planning Committee had earlier this year. They talked fervently about the values that have been in place here since the beginning:

Four values that still guide us.

  1. Learning. We value an intellectually vital and flexible learning environment, high-quality teaching, high academic standards and scholarship, and opportunities for experiential learning.  Our academic values are reflected in an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in all of our colleges.

  2. Students. We value a student-focused environment characterized by personal growth and development opportunities within and beyond the classroom.

  3. Community. We value a democratic, ethical, caring and diverse community fostering the well being of our students, faculty and staff.

  4. Engagement. We value and promote informed engagement and service among our faculty, staff and students, and between the UIS community and the local, state, national, and international communities.

Those values permeate our institution.

Another great thing that our Strategic Planning Committee needed to do was write a new vision statement.

It is wonderful and speaks for itself - summing up those values.

Here it is:

UIS: A premier small public university with innovative, high-quality liberal arts and professional programs dedicated to academic excellence, to enriching individual lives, and to making a difference in the world.

I love that commitment to high quality! It joins our past with our future.

But THE PRESENT time - this year - we will take that vision -  not yet widely circulated here at UIS - and make it more and more a shared vision, a reality in the UIS community and the UIS culture.

UIS: a high-quality small public university.

High-quality.

Small.

Public.

Right here in Springfield.

You will be part of building this high-quality small public university.  It's a lofty vision, but it's where we are headed.

Our visibility is rising, our stature is rising:

  • The great historian David McCullough is coming here in October to launch a new national lecture series, in a joint effort with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

  • More international students are attending UIS than ever before - 270 students from 45 countries - double the number from just six years ago.

  • There will be a major forum in Chicago hosted by Illinois Issues - with the governor and mayor of Chicago as honorary chairs and  with Lisa Madigan and former Governor Edgar among those on the panel.

  • The UIS online Computer Science program was rated fourth in a national survey of the "Top 20 best buys" in higher education. Fourth in the nation.

  • To give you an idea of the rising stature of our graduate programs, biology student Tracy DiMezzo (who has since graduated) brought honor to UIS when she received a distinguished thesis award from the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools. She was one of three to be so recognized. The other two were from the Miami University of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati.

  • A top state official came here last year to announce that our College of Business and Management  will house a new Center for Entrepreneurship so that we can be of greater service in the economic development of this region.

So what an important and challenging year lies before us.

  • The Strategic Planning process

  • Approval of a General Education curriculum by the Board of Trustees and its development and implementation here at UIS

  • An increasing emphasis on private fundraising

  • Preparing for the expansion of our freshman class in the fall of 2006 - recruiting, planning, creating new courses, hiring new faculty - what excitement this will generate!

A few words about the b word - our budget:

Once again, no increase from the state. It's called level funding, but it's actually a loss because expenses go up.

Some increased revenue came from a modest tuition increase.

Reallocation is a word you'll be hearing more in the next few years. For example, I think it's essential that we give raises, and the only way to do that is to reallocate funds from somewhere else.

The fact now is, the only way we can do new things now is to take hard looks at everything and then reallocate funds to address vital current needs.

So we have to do more. We will reallocate, but we must also aggressively find new ways to help ourselves generate more revenue - perhaps with:

  • More continuing education for the community

  • Dusting off the Campus Town plans, and continuing to be aggressive in pursuing grants.

  • Whatever we do in this area, we must take an enlightened approach - not only generating more revenue, but generating revenue that helps us move toward our vision.

So if you have ideas, I'd love to hear them. To have high quality requires high financing!

We are learning more each year how to allocate funds most strategically, and when we complete our strategic plan this fall, we'll have an even better road map for the allocation and reallocation of our resources.

So in summary about the budget, it's tight but we're moving forward vigorously. We have stabilized and turned the corner. That's another reason I can tell you: This is our moment.

Our vision is powerful and our optimism is high.

Please know that your individual efforts and your collective spirit are deeply appreciated.

This is your time, because you provide the spirit and the energy to move this university forward and implement our collective vision.

In conclusion, I want to go back to The 8th Habit and something else that Stephen Covey said. He said it's great to have plans and strategies in this Knowledge Worker Age, but he also said, with an exclamation point,  "Execution is the great unaddressed issue in most organizations today!"

I am convinced that the key to our success as we begin a new year and a new era in UIS history, is execution.

I want you to know that I am absolutely committed to doing my part, to working with campus leaders to stay doggedly focused on what we need to do. We need to put our energy into teaching and learning and doing research - creating knowledge in the Knowledge Worker Age and sharing knowledge with students with high energy and high enthusiasm.

We need to complete our new strategic plan and to implement it with enthusiasm. This is so important, because the working operational goals of that draft strategic plan are so exciting:

  • One, UIS has academic excellence

  • Two, UIS enriches people's lives - students, staff and faculty.

  • Three, UIS makes a difference in the world.

  • Four, UIS celebrates innovations on campus - in a culture where respect and civility prevail.

Let me repeat:

  1. Academic excellence

  2. Enriching people's lives

  3. Making a difference in the world

  4. Working on a historically innovative campus in a great atmosphere.

Last year the future was prologue.

Now the present is the prologue to becoming a great small public university.

This is our vision.

This is our time.

This is your time.

Have a great year.

 

 

Convocation 2005

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