Prepared Remarks for BOT, May 2018
University of Illinois Board of Trustees Meeting
May 17, 2018
UIS Student Union
Chairman Koritz, members of the Board of Trustees, President Killeen, colleagues and guests:
Welcome to the University of Illinois at Springfield!
We are honored to serve as your hosts for this May University of Illinois Board of Trustees meeting.
Of course, I’m especially pleased to welcome you to this beautiful Student Union. It was about two years ago, on May 4, 2016, that we broke ground on this project and, as you can see, it has become a reality and is exceeding our expectations in every way.
We’re especially proud that this newest addition to the campus is a sustainable building, a charge that was led by students. There are 196,000 plants on the Student Union roof, contributing greatly to energy savings and enhanced storm water management. A majority of the building’s materials were intentionally sourced in the Midwest – extracted, harvested, recovered and manufactured within 500 miles of Springfield. We anticipate achieving LEED GOLD designation later this year.
I’ll take these few minutes to provide a brief update regarding the University; but I hope time will also allow you to simply take a walk during your time on this beautiful campus today – visit the Lincoln sculpture, the Colonnade, maybe have a brief chat with The Bard in the Shakespeare Garden and just get a sense of what a terrific environment our faculty and staff provide on this University of Illinois campus – where, as the UI mission states, we are “transforming lives and serving society” every day.
You’ve heard me say that we are intently focused at this young UI campus on three strategic priorities:
GROWTH in visibility, reputation and enrollment,
TALENT – the recruitment and retention of highly-talented leadership, faculty and staff, and
FACILITIES – providing the FACILITIES needed to provide a comprehensive, high-quality student living and learning experience.
Thanks to the contributions of many, I’m pleased to report today that we’ve continued to make excellent progress this year – despite the ongoing challenges our state faces.
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of shaking the hands of nearly 1,000 new University of Illinois Springfield graduates as they walked across the commencement stage. Four of our last five graduating classes have been the largest in institutional history and among this year’s graduates were students heading off to medical school, law school, and the Peace Corps as well as graduates moving on to their first professional employment – each one an economic engine for their employer and their community.
At the same time, the first Nursing students completed their BSN degrees this month – a partnership we created three years ago with the UIC College of Nursing to help meet the high demand for BSN-credentialed nurses here in Sangamon County.
It was a spectacular day and I was delighted that President Killeen and Trustee McMillan were able to share it with us!
I’m pleased to say our expanded marketing and recruitment efforts are having a positive impact, with the number of freshman, transfer and graduate applications all increasing for fall, 2018.
We anticipate the new system-level statewide media campaign, “Altogether Extraordinary,” will also enhance awareness of UIS as part of the University of Illinois System and a terrific choice for Illinois students.
Expanded educational offerings that you have approved—programs including Exercise Science, Information System Security and Data Analytics—are all attracting new students to the campus.
Our second priority is TALENT, and the recruitment and retention of highly-TALENTed leadership, faculty and staff is a continuous process as you know.
Our new Provost, Dr. Dennis Papini, has completed an outstanding first year at UIS as has Dr. Robert Smith, the new Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration.
Several leadership searches were also successfully completed this year including one that brought us a talented new Director of the Student Union, Ann Comerford, who you met last night.
In the ASAC meeting yesterday, you heard from Professor Ben Walsh, Associate Professor of Management, an outstanding teacher and scholar in the College of Business.
And speaking of talent, I want to make you aware of this exemplary example of faculty excellence. The December, 2017 special issue of Hydrobiologia, the International Journal of Aquatic Sciences, was produced entirely by UIS faculty and their students in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy. It features ongoing ecological research led by Biologist Michael Lemke and others that is taking place at Emiquon, a large-scale flood plain restoration project in the Illinois River Valley near Havana, Illinois where UIS has a field station.
I think what I’m most proud of is that the articles in the journal feature the research of not only UIS faculty, but also of many undergraduate and graduate students who had the opportunity to participate in important projects and co-author along with their professors. It’s a great example of the unique opportunities students have at UIS to work closely with faculty and get real hands-on learning experiences.
Our third strategic priority is FACILITIES and, in addition to the new Student Union, important renovations have been completed or are underway this summer to provide new learning spaces for Exercise Science, Athletic Training and the new BSN program, as well as Brookens Library.
And there’s another facility addition to the campus that means we can say for the first time: “UIS is on the lake!” We’ve been fortunate to acquire this year a former lake club on nearby Lake Springfield just a few minutes’ walk from campus. This new resource–including more than 400 feet of lakeshore –has been named the UIS Field Station at Lake Springfield and, with the leadership of Dr. Tom Rothfus, Director of Emiquon, it will serve as a multipurpose educational, research and recreational facility.
Faculty in Environmental Science and Biology are already using the Field Station and several classes are scheduled to use the facility in the fall. Some limited renovations will be completed this summer and I’ve been told there may even be a Bass Fishing team in our future!
In October, UIS launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign in our history. With a goal of $40 million, “Reaching Stellar” campaign priorities include scholarships, academic excellence, and a new Center for Lincoln Studies that will greatly enhance our collaboration with the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and other Lincoln-related organizations in Illinois and beyond.
With the leadership of Dr. Jeff Lorber and his team, the campaign has been going very well and we have raised to date over $20.5 million – about 54% of our goal. This campaign, of course, is a top priority for me in the coming year. The campaign continues through 2022.
A little less than a year ago, our young Division II Athletics program, led by new AD Jim Sarra, finalized a new strategic plan – the “BLUEprint for Excellence”. The plan declared the program’s intention to center the student-athlete experience at UIS on three goals: academic achievement, the pursuit of championships, and community outreach.
I did not realize at that time they would move so quickly!
As I am speaking to you today, both the Prairie Stars Baseball and Softball teams have won their Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships – in the toughest Division II conference in the nation!
Head softball coach Shannon Guthrie and head baseball coach Chris Ramirez have been named GLVC Coach of the Year and both teams are hosting the NCAA Division II regional playoffs right here in Springfield today. (The baseball team is the #1 seed.)
These talented student-athletes have been making history this year at UIS and placing the University on the national stage in a very positive way. I could not be more proud of them. By the end of the weekend, we may be headed to the College World Series.
(By the way, I’m really hoping this meeting ends on time today because game time is 1:30.)
As the University of Illinois at Springfield continues to grow and serve students, our community and our state, I sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement of this Board of Trustees and the advice and support of President Killeen and other members of the UI leadership team.
Thank you and again, welcome to the campus.