Prepared Remarks for Fall Campus Update, November 2018

Chancellor Susan J. Koch
October 7, 2018

Good Afternoon and welcome to this Fall, 2018 Campus Forum!

As many of you know, this gathering is one of several ways for me and other members of the UIS leadership team to share information with members of the campus community. It’s a way for you to stay informed about important issues affecting our campus; but it’s also a way for you to provide input, advice, and helpful constructive criticism that we very much need in order to deliver on the assurance of excellence that is the collective promise we make to our students and that is a responsibility we all share.


If you attended the annual Convocation event in August, you will remember we did something different from previous Convocations. I temporarily conceded the time I typically use at Convocation to provide what some would call a “State of the University” address in favor of a presentation by one of our COHRE consultants, Dr. Patrick McCarthy, who presented the results of our year-long “Strategic Compass” planning process (more on that later).

At that event, I promised you that you would not be “off the hook” for the Chancellor’s remarks – so I’m going to start with those remarks today.

As we did at the Spring, 2018 Forum last April, I’ll then turn the microphone over to Dr. Jerry Joseph for an important Budget Update.

Professor Rick Funderburg, Chair of the Campus Planning and Budgeting Committee, will also join in with some comments about the ongoing work of the CPBC following Jerry’s presentation.

And then finally, and equally important, we’ll have time for you to provide input, share your thoughts and ask questions during a Q and A session. Several members of the campus leadership team are here today to respond to questions as necessary.

We’re shooting for this Forum to last about an hour; but as always, I’m happy to stay longer to visit with anyone individually after the session.

So, again, thank you for taking the time to attend this Forum today and let’s begin:

In the spirit of a “State of the University” address, let me start with a few somewhat global remarks:

Obviously, given this is the day after the 2018 elections, I would be remiss if I did not start there. At the state level as you all know, we have a new Governor, J.B. Pritzker. The Governor-elect Pritzker is a longtime Illinoisian who has been an advocate for education and for economic development for many years. You won’t be surprised to hear that the UI leadership team has already established a relationship with our new Governor and his team and we’re confident that relationship will serve the UI System and our students well in the coming years.

You may also be interested to know that our new Lieutenant Governor, Juliana Stratton, is a UI graduate and a UIC employee who has headed UIC’s Center for Public Safety and Justice for several years.

Of course, with a new Governor there will be many changes in state government in the coming months, including likely leadership changes at most units of state government. Joan Sestak, UIS’s Director of Community and Government Relations, and others will be working in the coming weeks to position UIS as strategically as possible as the transition continues. It certainly helps that we have loyal UIS alums in a variety of positions throughout state government.

In the meantime, the UI leadership team will be asking the Board of Trustees next week to approve a budget proposal that includes a 16.5% increase in state funding for the UI System. That may sound like a lot; but I want to remind you we’re still recovering from a budget crisis that last 2 years and 6 days! This year’s request, if approved by the BOT and then by the legislature next Spring, will still be slightly below 2015 funding levels.

The plan is for much of the increase to go toward salary improvements, undergraduate scholarships and capital improvement projects at all three campuses – all very, very important to UIS.

Speaking of the BOT, the new Governor will have an opportunity to name 3 new members of the Board of Trustees as early as January, 2019. We currently have a strong Board and I am grateful for our Board members continuing support of UIS and for their confidence in the momentum we have created the last several years; but that having been said, I continue to be concerned that since Karen Hasara’s retirement from the BOT almost 2 years ago, we do not have a direct representative on the Board who is from Springfield or who is a UIS graduate.

Though Chancellor’s do not have a role in the selection of UI Board members, who are appointed at the discretion of the Governor, I want to assure you I will be doing everything possible to advocate for at least one of the three new BOT members to be either a UIS alum or a Springfield resident.

In terms of system-level issues, I hope you are continuing to follow developments related to the Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network. This is another great example of the advantage we share as one of the three Universities in the UI System.

You already know we acquired Innovate Springfield, the downtown business incubator, as of August 1, and that we announced in mid-August that iSPI will be the heart of the first Hub of the Illinois Innovation Network. This is a tremendous opportunity for UIS and for Sangamon County and we’re doing everything possible to take full advantage.

We are working closely with DPI leadership and anticipate a multi-million-dollar allocation for a capital project in downtown Springfield; at the same time as the project unfolds, faculty, staff and students will have new opportunities in Chicago for learning, experience, and research at DPI headquarters.

I’m grateful for the leadership of Provost Papini, Associate Provost, Keenan Dungey, David Racine (Executive Director of the Center for State Policy and Leadership), COBM Professor Ranjan Karri, Katie Davison, Director of Innovate Springfield, Chuck Coderko (Associate Chancellor for Facilities and Services) and others for their leadership in the early stages of this project.

Our new Director of Economic Development and Innovation, Bruce Sommer, who is a founder of Innovate Springfield and a faculty member in the College of Business Administration, will also be a key leader in this effort that has the potential to provide such important new opportunities for UIS students and faculty at the same time it will positively impact the economy of Sangamon County.

At the campus level for the DPI/IIN project, we have two goals to be accomplished in the coming months:

  1. to identify and secure property for the capital project in the downtown area and,
  2. to develop the preliminary program plan for the downtown location.

There will be lots more news to come and I encourage you to talk further with the folks I just mentioned if you would like to know more or you would like to be involved.

Finally, from the UI System level, I want to mention one more initiative. After discussion with the three Chancellors last summer, President Killeen announced in July the “Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities.” This new funding opportunity is aimed at highlighting and celebrating the public good that flows from the arts and humanities and it will provide up to $1 million per year for two years to strengthen the arts and humanities at the three UI campuses.

I’m so pleased to tell you today that UIS faculty are involved with 11 of the proposals that have been submitted. Some of those 11 proposals are specific to UIS while others are collaborations with colleagues at UIC or UIUC.

Obviously, they won’t all be funded this year, but some will and I am confident this new initiative will, in fact, strengthen the arts and humanities at UIS – something that is personally near and dear to my heart! My sincere thanks to all faculty who have contributed to this initiative thus far.

Now here’s where we are at the moment when I need to face the reality of my time constraint today. You didn’t come to this Forum to listen to the Chancellor talk for a couple of hours!

That being the case, I’m going to do two more things before I hand the microphone off to Jerry: I’ll simply name several recent highlights of our collective efforts during this past year to illustrate the momentum we have built together. Then I’ll call out briefly the principle challenge that, I believe, lies ahead:

First, our recent points of pride (apologies in advance that I won’t be able to name them all):

  • UIS was notified several weeks ago of its successful institutional reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.
  • The Strategic Compass planning initiative begun last fall has yielded real results in the draft Mission, Vision and Values statements that have been discussed by several campus groups and are near final review. Once approved, these statements will guide our decision-making for the next several years.
  • The $40 million UIS Reaching Stellar Campaign has reached 57.66% of goal as of today, with over $23 million raised so far. Goals for the campaign include Scholarships, Academic Excellence, the forthcoming Center for Lincoln Studies, the Public Good (ie. UIS Performing Arts Center, NPR Illinois, Illinois Innocence Project) and Facilities and Technology. In addition to several significant gifts received, I’m especially heartened that UIS faculty/staff giving this year stands at a robust 50% and that we have a steady flow of faculty and staff who have been creating their own scholarship funds to help make the aspiration of a college degree from UIS more accessible to students.
  • Thanks to a high level of collaboration and good will all around, the transition of Admissions, Financial Aid and the Registrar operations from Student Affairs to Academic Affairs under the leadership of new Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Natalie Herring, has gone very well. At the same time our new collaboration with the enrollment consulting firm EAB to implement best practices in recruitment and retention is moving forward successfully.
  • And speaking of enrollment, though our total headcount this fall was down as expected by 381 students due to the loss of international students being seen across the country since the last Presidential election (and Jerry is going to talk about what that means in terms of our budget this year), it is absolutely a point of pride that our freshman class enrollment is up 14% as compared to last year! My sincere thanks to all who contributed to building the freshman class this past year.
  • Thanks to the leadership of many, the commitment of our students, and the generosity of our donors, we completed and successfully opened this new Student Union about 10 months ago …. and its so interesting ….. our freshmen seem to think its always been here. Just last week the Student Union was honored with the Excellence in Design Award by the American Institute of Architects – the organization’s highest award for building design. This recognition is a tribute not only to the wonderful architectural team of Dewberry Architects and Workshop Architects, but also to the large group of UIS students, faculty and staff who contributed extensively throughout the design process. And I also want to mention that the Art Acquisition Committee for the Student Union has completed their work, recommending how best to spend the $250,000 private gift we have received for art for the Student Union. They selected a beautiful outdoor sculpture by artist Lisa Williamson that will be installed on the berm outside of the Student Leadership Center and a wonderful quilt and textile piece by Sanford Biggers that will be installed above the upstairs fireplace. Chuck Coderko has promised me these works by two American prominent artists will be installed early in the Spring semester for all to appreciate.
  • Have I mentioned our UIS Prairie Stars? Just last weekend the UIS Women’s Volleyball won a share of the GLVC Conference Championship, closing a record breaking season with 15 conference wins and 3 losses. I’m really proud of these young women who excel both in the classroom and on the volleyball court. And by the way, this is the third GLVC conference championships for the Division II Prairie Stars in 2018 – pretty amazing.
  • You’re aware we acquired the former FOP lake club on Lake Springfield this past year and, under the direction of Chuck Coderko and his team, Phase One of renovations for the new UIS Field Station at Lake Springfield will be completed within the next week or so. Faculty are already using the property for classes and research. The Field Station is a multi-use facility that will be available not only for classes, but also for meetings, events and recreation (no swimming!) Please do stop by the property just off West Lakeshore drive and take a look. Dr. Tom Rothfus, now Director of Field Stations (plural) can tell you more about its possibilities. There will be an Open House at the Field Station in the Spring.
  • We’re also pleased with progress made in other facilities areas, including the newly renovated second floor of the Library, new academic spaces for Exercise Science, Athletic Training and Nursing, and the just opened bookstore on first floor in the PAC. And I want to remind you, you’ve all been invited to attend one of two Campus Master Plan kick-off events later this week. These events on Thursday and Friday will set the stage for a year-long discussion for the development, renovation and repurposing of University facilities, spaces and grounds for the next 10 years and beyond. Your voices in this discussion are very important and I hope you will participate.
  • I hope you’ve also noticed the rebranding of our performing arts operations as the UIS Performing Arts Center. With the leadership of Bryan Rives, our campus and community outreach for the performing arts has taken a giant step forward. Now that the Sangamon Auditorium lobby doesn’t need to double as a banquet hall, you’re going to see more improvements to that space that will greatly enhance the performing arts experience for patrons of both Sangamon Auditorium and the Studio Theatre. The aerial spotlights on top of the PAC building are creating increased excitement for performing arts events and the increasing number and variety of performances is bringing more visitors to our campus to enjoy the arts.

So what about the challenges that lay ahead:

I’ll simply say that, broadly speaking, maintaining our momentum in all areas, despite various limitations, will be the real challenge.

If Jim Collins (researcher and author of Good to Great) were here today, he would be the first to say we’ve got that flywheel going! We’ve “created a place where people want to be involved” (that’s the reason our fundraising is increasingly successful).

But going from being good to being great, says Collins’ extensive research, “comes about by a cumulative process, step by step, action by action, decision by decision,” …. and ultimately adds up to success.

There is no single “miracle moment”.

Our challenge now is to continue to get the right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats to help us take the right actions and make the right decisions.

That will ensure we maintain momentum on behalf of our students, our campus and our community into the future.

You’ve heard me say repeatedly over the years that the number one priority for UIS must be growth in visibility, reputation and enrollment.

Visibility means prospective students (and their parents) are aware of UIS and know it is a great choice for a high quality, personalized college experience, whether its for an 18-year-old high school grad or a 40-year-old part-time graduate student.

Reputation means it is consistently shown and widely known that UIS faculty and staff demonstrate excellence through their dedication and through the implementation of best practices in teaching, scholarship and service to our students in all areas of campus life – in curricular and extra-curricular areas as well as in customer service. (We’ve seen that demonstrated again and again this past year with prominent examples being Richard Gilman-Opalsky, the 2018 University Scholar; James Koeppe, Academic Professional CAPE Award winner; and Krystal Wilson, winner of the Civil Service CARE Award.)

The University’s reputation also comes to life in our alums as they move on after graduation and into their professions and their communities – making a difference in the world.

And enrollment means an increasing number of qualified undergraduate and graduate students, both on campus and online, choosing UIS to pursue an increasing number of educational opportunities.

So when I think about “the State of the University”, we’ve made great progress in all those areas, but we’re still young and we need to continue to work together to maintain our momentum.

I’ll close these remarks by reminding all of us, as I did just over a year ago, that the work we do, educating future citizens of our state and our nation, has never been more important. In fact, it’s critical not only to their individual futures, it is a public good that is critical for our state and for the future of our democracy.

Thank you for what you do every day to educate those future citizens and leaders and to make this University better than it was the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before.

With that, I’ll turn the Forum over to one of those right people who is, thank goodness, in exactly the right seat today – Jerry Joseph, Associate Provost for Budget and Administrative Planning and CFO of the University.

Chancellor Susan J. Koch