Prepared Remarks for Convocation 2019

UIS Fall, 2019 Convocation

August 22, 2019, 2:30 PM

Student Union


Chancellor’s Remarks:

Good afternoon, and welcome to the annual UIS Fall Convocation. Thank you so much for being here today.

We’ll be meeting several new members of our community a little later in this program, but whether you are new to UIS or not-so-new, I’m delighted to welcome you all to this Convocation and the official start of the 2019-2020 academic year at the University of Illinois Springfield.

I’d like to take a moment to offer an especially warm welcome to some special guests who are with us today. [Please stand when I introduce you and I promise you a rousing round of applause after everyone has been named]:

  • Former Provost and former Interim Chancellor Dr.Harry Berman and his wife, Deborah
  • Josh Collins, Interim CEO of the Land of Lincoln Economic Development Corporation
  • Jennifer Gill, Superintendent, Springfield School District 186
  • Shawn Gregory, City of Springfield Ward 2 Alderman
  • Karen Hasara, Former Mayor of the City of Springfield and former University of Illinois Trustee
  • Chris Hembrough, President and CEO, Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce
  • Jim Langfelder, Mayor of the City of Springfield and two-time UIS graduate
  • Former Chancellor Naomi Lynn and her husband, Bob
  • Andrew Procter, City of Springfield Ward 5 Alderman
  • Chuck Redpath, City of Springfield Ward 1 Alderman
  • Lisa Clemmons Stott—Executive Director of Downtown Springfield, Inc.
  • Jo Barnard, President of the UIS Civil Service Advisory Committee
  • Emily Boles, Chair of the Academic Professional Advisory Committee
  • Rosie Dawoud, UIS Student Trustee
  • Craig McFarland, Vice-Chair of the Academic Professional Advisory Committee
  • Ben Paoletti, President of the Student Government Association
  • Ann Strahle, Chair of the Campus Senate
  • Holly Thompson, Vice Chair of the Campus Senate

Please join me in welcoming these special guests. [APPLAUSE]


Today marks my own 64th school year start:

hat includes kindergarten back in Madison, South Dakota (where my duck, Quacker walked me to school every day and where I was blessed to have an unforgettable teacher – Mrs. Roth), it includes fourth grade at St. Thomas Catholic School with Sister Paulette (where my report card – which I still have – confirms I earned a “C” in conduct ….. that got me in a lot of trouble at home where there was absolutely no sympathy for “my side” of the story), Those 64 beginnings also include (like some of you here today) my first year as Assistant Professor (both memorable and terrifying) and now – my 34th school start in higher education and my 9th serving as your Chancellor. I’d love to hear some of your similar “school start” memories later during our reception today.

No matter how many times we participate in the beginning of the school year, this moment offers so much opportunity – a fresh, unwritten page in each of our own stories as members of this community. And, of course, today is also a fresh page in the UIS history book – the start of our 49th year as a university and our 24th as one of three Universities that comprise the world class University of Illinois. I’m confident that with our collective commitment – this will be our best year ever!

The stage is certainly set for success ….

  • With new and growing academic programs that are attracting more students to campus. Thanks to the leadership of Associate Provost for Enrollment Management, Natalie Herring and the contributions of many others, we expect the Freshman class to be about 13% bigger than a year ago
  • The Student Union opened just 18 months ago and has been a game changer – the heart of campus life every day. According to Director Ann Comerford, the Union has hosted more than 1800 meetings and events to date.
  • More and more talented faculty and staff are joining the UIS community – again welcome to all our newcomers this fall. We look forward to the many contributions you will make to achieving our mission.
  • Both the Performing Arts and Division II Athletics are growing dramatically (and strategically) here at UIS and are important for both the student experience and as part of our community engagement.

Lots of people don’t realize Sangamon Auditorium right here on our campus is the largest performing arts venue in Central Illinois. Thanks to the leadership of Director Bryan Rives, we’re offering another ambitious slate of the highest quality professional music, theater, dance and entertainment this year.

Renovation of the Studio Theatre (our smaller performance venue in the PAC), will be completed in a few weeks, thanks to a grant received from the UI System Arts and Humanities Initiative. It will provide a much-improved home for our own growing Theater program, as well as a performance space for both campus and community groups.

Our young Division II Athletics program continues to make history – winning three conference championships in the last two years and attracting talented student-athletes and athletics staff to campus.

  • And speaking of setting the stage for success, I just learned a few days ago that we’ve now “closed the books” on fundraising for Fiscal Year 2019 and we made history! Private gift commitments to UIS hit an all time record high –  $8,472,704 in new business in Fiscal Year 2019!

Within that number are the many financial gifts made by the 51.2% percent of UIS faculty and staff who made a financial contribution to the University during the past year – thank you all so very much.

As you’ve heard me say many times before, the essential first step for success in fund-raising is “creating a place where people want to be involved.” Thanks to all of you, we’re doing exactly that and it shows in our advancement success!

  • And finally, in the recent legislative session that concluded in May, a total of $66.5 million was appropriated for building projects and improvements at UIS, including: $5.5 million for the long-awaited (and much-needed) Public Safety Bldg., $35 million for new Library and Learning Center, $11 million for deferred maintenance, and $15 million for the new UIS hub of the Illinois Innovation Network that will house Innovate Springfield and other related university activities.

We’re very grateful to Governor Pritzker for his leadership and to the many other political leaders and advocates who understand that a robust public higher education system in Illinois is a public good and essential for the future of our state.


To repeat – the stage is certainly set for success ….but what’s ahead in 2019-2020? Plenty! If you wanted me to describe the coming year in one word, that word for me would be “fulfillment.”

Let me explain:

We’re now moving into the implementation stage of the new Strategic Compass.

[You all have bookmark reminders of that work at your seats and there are more detailed booklets available in the back that you can pick up today as you leave if you like.]

I’m so grateful for the visionary leadership Provost Dennis Papini has provided in helping to develop the Strategic Compass, a critically-important planning effort that involved campus-wide participation this past year. Our new mission, vision and values have been approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and are now translated into priorities and goals across the campus.

We will be implementing them with a deep commitment to fulfilling our overarching goal:

To provide a premier educational experience, both in and out of the classroom, for all students.

Our University’s vision is to be a “pathway of opportunity, a catalyst for change, and a space of possibility and each of us will play an important role in the coming year to fulfill that vision.

I’d like to take a few minutes to provide a few examples (not an exhaustive list) of what fulfillment will look like this year:

First in the Academic Affairs Division, here are a few examples:

  • A review of our undergraduate General Education curriculum in light of the new university mission, vision, and values of the University is an important priority and it will be conducted in the coming year by the General Education Review Committee. I’m grateful to Dr Tena Helton, who will chair the committee. We expect to see recommendations by the end of the academic year.
  • As everyone knows, growing the visibility, reputation and enrollment of UIS continues to be critically important. This year will be our second to partner with EAB, a best-practices firm that is using research, technology, and data-enabled services to improve our recruitment, retention and graduation outcomes. We’re already very encouraged by the early results of this partnership – as evidenced in the growth of our freshman class this year.

EAB has developed the NAVIGATE system, a mobile phone app, that better connects students to faculty, staff, and campus resources – all to improve retention and student success.

UIS launched NAVIGATE in June and all incoming freshmen have downloaded the app and received training on how to use it.  The integration of NAVIGATE into advising processes will continue this fall.

  • Conversations about Academic Reorganization will begin in earnest tomorrow at the Faculty Forum.

The Division of Academic Affairs initiated an administrative reorganization during the summer that has already resulted in changes that will enhance efficiency and better serve faculty and students.

Dr. Vickie Cook is now serving as Executive Director of Online, Professional, & Engaged Learning (OPEL). Among other activities, this unit will build our capability to deliver non-credit bearing programming to working professionals. It will also better coordinate all UIS faculty development efforts – so important to continuous improvement in teaching and learning. We all know Dr. Cook and appreciate her expertise and commitment, and we’re grateful for her broader leadership within this new organizational framework.

Also in conjunction with the implementation of NAVIGATE, the Center for Academic Success has been reorganized as the Center for Academic Success and Advising (CASA).  Dr. Tarah Sweeting Trotter will serve as Director of CASA and will provide leadership for Advising as well as leading student academic success professionals.

In the Student Affairs Division, guided by the continuing leadership of Vice Chancellor Clarice Ford and her team, that fulfillment looks like implementation of the UIS Star Map – a new and innovative “Curricular Approach” to Student Affairs.

With the over-arching theme of “cultivating inclusive communities”, the Star Map will be focus efforts in Student Affairs on providing experiences that will enable students to:

  • enhance self-awareness,
  • develop meaningful connections,
  • understand and value inclusion as being both socially aware and globally focused, and
  • understand leadership as both taking action and creating legacy.

These are all essential elements to our Mission, Vision and Values. If you’d like more details about the Star Map, the Student Affairs Curriculum, there are brochures available at the back of the room today.

Fulfillment in Student Affairs will also be visible in the best practices brought to us by several new leaders that have joined the Student Affairs team during the past several months. That includes new directors of the Counseling Center, the Diversity Center, Residence Life, the Women’s Center, and the Center for Volunteer and Civic Engagement as well as program coordinators for Hispanic/Latinx Outreach and the Necessary Steps program.

We’re especially pleased that, with the many improvements in campus housing made with the leadership of Brian Kelley, the number of students choosing to live on campus is increasing – that will enhance student success as well as student life.

The Cox Children’s Center is also under the Student Affairs umbrella and is an important asset at UIS for both students and employees. Last year, with the leadership of Stacey Gilmore (and some outspoken advocates), preliminary plans for a much-needed new childcare center were developed and we’re going to do everything possible in the coming year to fulfill that need.

In the Chancellor’s Division, fulfillment looks like:

  • First, continued collaboration at the UI System level where we continue take every possible advantage of the Strategic Framework, the system-wide plan developed a few years ago. Part of that work, of course, includes opportunities and contributions within the ongoing development of the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network.

It’s been exactly a year since UIS acquired Innovate Springfield – announced as the first hub of the IIN and, as our regional economic development contributions continue to expand, we plan to move forward asap with a capital project to house that expanded hub and other related units.

  • I suspect Chuck Coderko may be lying awake at night with visions of “fulfillment” dancing in his head. Besides providing a myriad of services to each of us every day and continuing to lead the amazing physical transformation of our campus, Chuck and his team will complete the UIS 2020 Master Plan this fall, critically important to guiding facilities planning in years to come. Chuck will also be working closely with me and others to move forward with those capital projects I mentioned earlier, as soon as the money starts to flow. (Maybe this will be the year we get a new road right outside this building.)
  • I’ve already mentioned the success of our Advancement unit this past year. With the ongoing leadership of Dr. Jeff Lorber, we’ll continue to prioritize the Reaching Stellar Campaign this year. We’ve raised over 78% of our $40 million goal and, with about two years and ten months remaining in the campaign, we’re well ahead of schedule.
  • Athletics, also part of the Chancellor’s Division, continues to forge ahead with implementation of their “Blueprint for Excellence” and their vision to be the premier Division II Athletics program in the Midwest.

We’re delighted to be welcoming four new head coaches this year to the UIS community including Matt Brock and Casey Thousand in Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Ryan Copeland, Head Baseball Coach and Tyler Pence for Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track.

We’ll also be welcoming a new Athletic Director later this year. The search for that important leadership position is well underway and, in the meantime, I’m grateful to Vice Chancellor, Dr. Clarice Ford, who is serving in the interim role until the new AD is named.

[I hope you’ll bring friends and family to the Athletics Welcome Back Bar-b-que this Sunday afternoon.]

  • And finally, I want to mention planning is underway for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of our university – a celebration that will take place throughout the 2020-21 academic year.

And, of course, in addition to the examples just provided, there are myriad activities that will occur every day this year that will contribute in so many essential ways to the fulfillment of our Mission and Vision.

Undergraduate and graduate students will be learning every day from faculty who are dedicated to their success, students will be advised and mentored, campus and community events will be presented, and donors will be asked to financially support the University,

Public safety will be ensured and enforced, research will be conducted, buildings will be cleaned and maintained, interns will be placed, food will be prepared and consumed, and students, faculty and staff will volunteer thousands of hours throughout the community.

Leaves will be swept, snow will be shoveled, visitors will be welcomed, audiences will be engaged, and every other activity necessary for a vibrant university community will occur.

As Provost Papini is now famous for saying: “There is a lot of good work to be done.” It’s going to be a busy year …. our best year ever!

In closing, let me remind you that, for nearly 50 years this University has prepared thousands of graduates to contribute, not only to their own success and the success of their families, but also to the public good of their communities across Illinois and beyond. With the continued momentum created by all of you, by all of us – we will build an even stronger UIS in the coming year.

Though there are certainly challenges ahead, with your contributions we will fulfill our vision to provide that pathway of opportunity, that catalyst for change, and that space of possibility for every student this year.

So I ask that you think for a moment about that “fresh page” in front of you –  right now – at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Ask yourself, in my role here at UIS:

  • What will I do to pave that “pathway of opportunity” for every student I encounter?
  • What will I do to create a “space of possibility” that might help keep a struggling student in school or help a student become more than they thought possible? (Sometimes a kind word is all it takes.)
  • And when I get to the end of the year, what is going to be written on my page?

I want to assure you I’ll do my very best this year, as your Chancellor, to enable your success.

Thanks so much for your attention. Please take care of yourself and have a great year!

Chancellor Susan J. Koch