Commencement Provides Opportunity to Reflect upon the Year's Successes
As the University of Louisville quickly approaches its spring commencement ceremony, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on the accomplishments of the last semester and to begin anew our commitment to the future of our community and state.
The spring semester was a time of institutional successes – successes that reflect our commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, dedication to building a world-class research university, and a reaffirmation to improving the economic opportunities and quality of life for the people of Metro Louisville and the Commonwealth.
We continue to attract better and brighter students as measured by ACT test scores, high school grade-point averages and other academic factors. Our committed faculty challenges these and all our students to achieve, as evidenced by our students’ scholarly success. This spring we have had four more students selected for prestigious Fulbright teaching assistantships, three selected to participate in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program, and one selected as a Rotary World Peace Scholar for 2004-2006.
Our nationally renowned debate team excelled in competitions across the country, qualifying for the “Sweet 16” of the national championship and finishing fifth in the country among all colleges and universities.
Each of our three cheerleading squads (all-girl, coed, and dance again won national championships, representing the second consecutive year that U of L’s spirit groups have taken all three top cheerleading titles. Previously, no school’s cheer squads have won all three championships in the same year—U of L has now set this record two years in a row.
At the heart of every great university is a great library. The University of Louisville’s library is a member of the prestigious Association of Research Libraries and ranks nationally among the top 100 of all college and university libraries. To build on this excellence, the university recently broke ground on a $14 million expansion of the Ekstrom Library with funding provided through the efforts of Sen. Mitch McConnell and the federal government.
We have promoted the highly respected Shirley Willihnganz to the permanent appointment as executive vice president and provost, hired a world-class dean, Charles Moyer, for the College of Business and Public Administration, and are moving forward in searches for other positions critical to our academic success, including the dean of the Speed School of Engineering, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and dean of the School of Medicine.
A few years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation mandating that the University of Louisville become Kentucky’s “preeminent metropolitan research university.” We have talked often about the federal grants and accomplishments of our dedicated faculty and staff that affirm the progress that we are making toward achieving this goal. We are pleased the progress has continued full speed ahead during the spring semester.
The Cardiovascular Innovation Institute — a unique partnership between the University of Louisville, Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services, the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Office of the New Economy, and the federal government (again, thanks to Sen. McConnell) -- continues to advance as evidenced by a partnership with the New England Research Institute and the finalization of plans for a new research institute to be located on the U of L Health Sciences Campus. In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that a partnership of U of L and Ension (a Pittsburgh company) was awarded a five year contract to develop a pediatric cardiac assist device system worth $3.7 million.
Our efforts to achieve designation as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center are on track due to the brilliant work of Dr. Don Miller and his team. Dr. Miller continues to recruit world-class faculty and researchers to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center; the research work of these individuals is reflected not only through publications of their scientific work, but also through the development of new therapeutics that are in approved clinical trials. All Kentuckians will benefit from these new discoveries.
The James Graham Brown Cancer Center is committed to excellence in cancer prevention, education, care and research so that the people of our community and state have access to the best in cancer care without leaving their state. The Brown Cancer Center is currently exploring partnerships with oncology programs throughout the Commonwealth, especially in Taylor County, Madisonville and Owensboro. A recent visit from representatives of the NIH provided us with feedback that we are on track to receive designation as a comprehensive cancer center.
U of L’s nationally-renowned pediatrics program continues to build its research programs. We are excited about our partnership with Norton Healthcare to expand these efforts so the children of Kentucky can receive the best in both treatment and new research applications at Kosair Children’s Hospital. In addition, the University of Louisville, though a competitive process at the NIH, was selected as one of 13 premier pediatric pharmacology research units in the United States. This network allows our faculty and researchers to conduct clinical trials and research in drug applications for children.
Construction of our new research building on the Belknap Campus continues on schedule—the “clean room” to be contained in this facility will provide us with one of the top 10 lab facilities in the country, thus allowing U of L to further the outstanding research conducted in nanotechnologies and MEMS technologies.
As I stated in my inaugural address last fall, the University of Louisville has a civic responsibility to our community and state. During the past semester we have pursued those commitments with the creation of the University/Community Advisory Board, comprised of university and community representatives who help us target how we can best serve the community through our expertise in environmental policy, economic development, health care, education and other areas affecting our quality of life.
We have reached out to all citizens through face-to-face meetings in Pleasure Ridge Park, Newburg, Fern Creek/Okolona, downtown Louisville and other locations in both the West and East Ends to hear directly from the residents on how the university can help improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. We are engaging in discussions about how the university can assist the community to rebuild the social, cultural and artistic institutions that are so critical to sustain quality of life and economic development that make our community attractive.
We continue to succeed in our partnership with the new merged government, as exemplified by the joint appointment of Dr. Adewale Troutman, a physician highly recruited by Mayor Jerry Abramson. Dr. Troutman serves as director of public health for the city and as a faculty member in U of L’s School of Public Health and Information Science.
During the spring semester we devoted our attention to ways that improve the racial climate on campus to ensure the University of Louisville is open, diverse, accessible to all individuals regardless of race, nationality or gender, and respectful of differences. Because we know these campus issues reflect broader community topics, we have worked with community leaders to define how we can continue to make progress and achieve an environment that nurtures learning for all.
The University of Louisville’s commitment is real. We reached seven of our eight diversity goals set by the Council on Postsecondary Education—the only public college in Kentucky to do so this year. We continue to be aggressive with implementation of the diversity plans for each of our units on campus. Although we still have much to do, we are proud of our progress.
The state’s fiscal environment has meant that during the spring semester we had to cut our budget for the third consecutive year as a result of reduced state funding. While there is currently no state budget for the next biennium, we again expect there will be no new state appropriations for the individual college campuses during the next two years.
We shall respond to this fiscal challenge by staying focused on our goals, ensuring that each dollar spent is directly related to our legislatively mandated mission, and achieving good stewardship of every state, tuition and private dollar we receive through increased efficiencies.
The lack of a state budget creates uncertainty about authorization for important projects that we need to move forward. Foremost in our plans is the first phase of funding for a new health sciences research building in downtown Louisville. This $98 million facility is critical to our continuing efforts to build a research enterprise so crucial to economic development and the people of this community and state. The previously proposed state budget would at best have provided us with only $19 million in state funds; however the university, through its own development efforts, is committed to moving ahead with a $50 million first phase to maintain focus on our cancer program.
The Strong, Vibrant University
It really has been quite a semester! We continue to make progress,
and as we approach my favorite time of year—commencement—it
is important that we reflect on successes at the same time we recommit
to the future of our university.
I remain personally committed to the agenda I shared in the beginning of the academic year during my inaugural address – an agenda that “requires us to play a central role, a leadership role, ensuring a better way of life for the people of our state, a leadership role ensuring improved economic and educational opportunities for all Kentuckians.”
As we move forward as one university, we will support this agenda through academic programs that educate future experts and leaders, through research initiatives that that will improve the quality of life for Kentuckians, and through community, state, national and international collaborations that advance the university as well as its many partners.
A strong, vibrant University of Louisville makes for a strong vibrant community and state that benefits us all.
James R. Ramsey