2006 State of the University address

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
4:00 p.m.
Comstock Hall
School of Music

Video of President's Ramsey's 2006 State of the University Address is now available.
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Thank you for joining us for our annual “State of the University” ceremony for today we pause from our routine to gather as a campus community to discuss our successes and our progress toward achieving the mandate given to us by the people of Kentucky in the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997.

But we do more. For, today we also recommit to our future.

As we continue to feel the excitement of this new academic year, let us first look back — it really was a very special year!

We again welcomed the best academically-prepared freshman class in the history of the University of Louisville. We continue to attract the best and brightest from all 120 counties in the Commonwealth and beyond.

This goal of attracting the best students and being a university of choice is important to us and important to Kentucky because we know that if the best and the brightest students in our community and state feel that they must leave Kentucky to receive a quality education, the probability that they will come home to be part of our community and our workforce is greatly reduced after they graduate.

And while it is important for us to attract the best and to be a university of choice, we have committed ourselves to much more. For our community, our state needs an educated workforce; needs the creativity and the energy that human capital provides as a driver of economic opportunity and a better quality of life for all of our people.

“Kentucky’s higher education agenda is at a critical crossroad — we have come a long way but we have a longer way to go. It’s now time to redefine, or perhaps refine, our vision, our focus, our work plan taking us to the year 2020.”

So we must ensure that each student who comes to UofL has the opportunity to be successful and to graduate.

Under the brilliant leadership of Provost Willihnganz we are making progress in improving our retention rates — freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior, junior to senior. And we’re dramatically improving our graduation rates — a goal important to us, important to our state, as Kentucky competes nationally and internationally in the Knowledge-Based Economy. Let’s pause at this time and recognize Shirley Willihnganz. Why don’t you stand?

Our faculty achievements continue to bring us attention from around the world. Professors Jenson and Ghim developed a vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer.

Professor Ratajczak discovered Very Small Embryonic-Like Stem Cells (VSEL) and his work has now been replicated.

And these are just two examples of the many, many contributions that our faculty are making that hold such promise for the people of our community, our state, and the world in which we live.

Our sponsored programs reached a record level last year — $178 million; a 368 percent increase over the last 10 years. Federal research funding was over $74 million, a 790 percent increase over the last 10 years.Growth in our research funding last year occurred at a time when federal funding for most research programs was flat; and the competition for federal funds was fierce. We are proud that over the last five years UofL has experienced the fastest percentage growth in NIH funding of any university; let me repeat, the largest percentage growth in NIH funding of any university.

Our commitment to diversity last year was, and always will be, unwavering. Statistics show that we are making progress in achieving our goals, and the goals set forth by the Council on Postsecondary Education, to ensure that the University of Louisville is welcoming to all students, all faculty, all staff — regardless of gender, regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of geographic background, and regardless of sexual orientation.

But we must again remind ourselves that true diversity is more than numbers, more than statistics! It is a mindset, it is a culture, it is a way of life; and we can and must do more.

As we speak of diversity, let’s pause and express our sincere appreciation to our Board of Trustees. We have an outstanding Board of Trustees — a Board that has proven time and time again that it is willing to take on the tough issues; a Board that has proven that it will not run and hide from issues important to the future of this great institution. Today, we thank our Board of Trustees for their support of the domestic partnership benefit program to our campus. Let’s ask them to stand.

During the past year, we heard from John Hindman of the United Parcel Service that UPS is committing $1billion capital investment and 5,000 new jobs to our community and state, in major part due to its partnerships and collaboration with the University of Louisville through the Metropolitan College and our Logistics and Distribution Institute.

We heard from Secretary Jim Nicholson of the Department of Veterans Affairs that the University of Louisville and its strong clinical and research partnerships with the VA Medical Center was critical to Louisville being selected as one of only five cities for construction of a new modern $450 million hospital to meet the needs of the veterans not only of this community but the region and state. And we thank Congresswoman Anne Northup for recognizing this partnership and for being unrelenting in making this project happen.

It was great to see the continued work of our partnership with the Jefferson County Public Schools and the Mayor’s office in advancing our community’s commitment to important environmental and sustainability issues through our Partnership for a Green City.

We are pleased to partner with Project Women to provide educational opportunities to young single mothers — a partnership that will also advance our efforts to provide child care services to the campus community.

During the past year, our efforts to move “research from the mind to the marketplace” continued. Through the efforts of our Office of Technology Transfer, the Louisville Medical Center Development Corporation and Metacyte, we have 22 start-up companies in our community grown from our research at the University of Louisville. We are on our way to the goal that we set for ourselves for 2010 — to incubate or recruit 33 life science companies to our community.

“And for us as a campus to make sure that our community’s vision is achieved, we must be bold in our actions”.

During the past year, we have continued to transform and improve our campus, providing our students, faculty and staff with better facilities and an improved campus environment. We are proud of the expansion of the Ekstrom Library, a project made possible through the generosity and support of Sen. Mitch McConnell.

We celebrated the opening of a new residence hall to provide more “on” campus living and residence life for our students.

We opened our Belknap Research Building last spring and our clean room has been ranked as one of the best in the nation. We thank the Kentucky General Assembly and Sen. McConnell for making this project possible.

We broke ground on Health Sciences Research Building III and as soon as construction began on this important facility we were successful in obtaining authorization from the Kentucky General Assembly for another new research building; so we have now modified our plans to combine these two facilities into one research facility with more than 300,000 square feet of the highest quality research space for our faculty.

The Reynolds building has been transformed from an empty eyesore to a beautiful “performing asset” that will bring life and vitality to our campus community.

We sought and received funds from Governor Fletcher to improve and make safe Eastern Parkway at Third Street.

We have begun to develop the Shelby Campus as a research park. And key to our success has been the funding for the Center for Predictive Medicine. We competed against the best and were one of only nine institutions selected for funding. And we were successful in obtaining $5.8 million in state funds from the governor and the General Assembly for road work necessary to build a vibrant research park on the Shelby Campus.

We provided our students and student-athletes with new and improved facilities from the Trager Center to the Ralph Wright Natatorium. We dedicated the SGA Intramural Field.

Our growth has added to our “quote” parking woes, but — I see that you agree with me — we continue to work as a campus to find the balance between growth and the parking needs of our faculty, staff, and students.

Our campus continues to improve its appearance, creating a pride in UofL; a place that our students can call home and our alumni can remember fondly.

And now it is time to give every ounce of our energy to obtaining the funding we need for a new Belknap classroom building and funds to renovate classroom space in our other aging facilities.

And, let us not forget the outstanding achievements of our athletic program, for we are indeed One University, proud of the achievements and recognition of our athletic program and all that it means to our institution and this community.

Our transition into the Big East could not have been more successful. Our athletic program continues to distinguish itself, not only in Kentucky but nationally, as a preeminent athletic program:

  • committed to the overall well being and success of our student-athletes;
  • committed to gender equity;
  • committed to financial integrity
  • committed to “playing by the rules”; and
  • committed to being successful in the field of competition.

We appreciate the outstanding leadership of our Vice President for Athletics, Mr. Tom Jurich. And let us be clear — insuring that Tom Jurich is part of our University family for many, many years to come is a priority of this University.

We advanced last year a plan for our Signature Partnership Initiative — a plan to make a difference in an area of our community that has been left behind: medically, economically, educationally, and socially — the area west of Ninth Street and north of Algonquin Parkway.

It is now time for us to not just “talk the talk” but to “walk the walk” and to move from plan to implementation.

Indeed, we accomplished much last year. We continued on our path of being one of the nation’s finest universities.

We applaud you for all you accomplished in the past year — we applaud you, our faculty, our staff and our students.

But today is special. For we look not just to our achievements of the past year, but we look back over a decade.

For ten years ago — 1996 — this community outlined a vision and strategy — the Boyle Report — to create and grow new economic “clusters” so that our community could provide a better quality of life and new economic opportunities for our people. This community strategy called for the University of Louisville to drive that vision and we have done just that.

Nine years ago our state outlined a strategy to improve Kentucky by adopting the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act, and the importance of the University of Louisville was clearly defined.

Eight years ago our Board of Trustees again showed courage by stepping forward, fully supporting our community’s effort, fully embracing our mandate from the state. Our Board adopted The Challenge for Excellence that, when implemented, would ensure that this great university would take a leadership position in making this community’s Boyle Report and the state’s Postsecondary Education Improvement Act realities.

Our Board set goals; our Board set performance measures.

The Challenge for Excellence set forth a challenge to us as a campus community, and you, you the campus community rose to that challenge and you as a campus community accomplished what you were asked to achieve. We are achieving the 11 goals identified for us in 1998. You, the campus community, did it. You are again to be congratulated, so those of us who are not faculty, staff or students congratulate you.

“So it is now time for us to begin our campus dialogue and craft our plan for 2020 — a plan that allows us to become the university that other schools try to emulate and identify as their aspirational benchmark.”

In fact, you did it earlier than expected.

Quite an accomplishment! Worthy of a celebration — many celebrations.

And, over the past several weeks we have paused to celebrate and say thank you.

But it’s now time to look forward, for our work is not done! It is far from it!

Kentucky’s higher education agenda is at a critical crossroad — we have come a long way but we have a longer way to go. It’s now time to redefine, or perhaps refine, our vision, our focus, our work plan taking us to the year 2020.

Under the leadership of Dr. Willihnganz and Chairman of the Board Chester Porter, we commit today to the development of a work plan that will take us through 2020 — a plan to ensure that we continue on the road to achieve the mandates that have been given to us.

This vision and this work plan will be the product of campus discussions and conversations within the community.

In our thoughts and discussions we cannot be bashful; we cannot be shy! It is important that we set the bar high and that we are not be afraid to think big. For in 2020, and beyond, it is important that our community be the place where people want to live, where people want to work, where people want to play, and where people want to call home. We at the university can make this happen.

Our community in 2020 must be a leader in what Richard Florida calls the 3 “Ts” — technology, talent and tolerance; for technology, talent and tolerance will define the economic hot spots of the future; the communities that will compete and thrive in the New Economy.

Our community will not be what it must be without the leadership of the University of Louisville, for we are the engine that can ensure the success of our community and thus our state.

And for us as a campus to make sure that our community’s vision is achieved, we must be bold in our actions.

We must first continue to build excellence and quality in our undergraduate programs, remembering that while we are One University — one university with a commitment to quality and excellence in all that we do — quality undergraduate programs are our foundation. Great universities have great undergraduate programs committed to excellence in the liberal arts.

We have come a long way over the past several years, but going forward let us set the bar higher, let us be the school that others want to follow. Let us continue to provide our students with an appreciation and understanding of the global world in which we live. Let us provide our students with more opportunities to study and learn abroad.

Let us ensure that our students are multi-lingual when they graduate — all of our students — not just those in selected programs or colleges.

Let us ensure that our students are economically literate and have an education that allows them to understand the complexities and economic changes that are occurring around the world.

Let us ensure that our students are exposed to an education ingrained in ethical debates and discussions so that our graduates take the lead in addressing the corporate and social issues that have been prominent in recent years.

Let us ensure that our students have a liberal arts education that provides them with the ability to write, think, analyze so that they will be successful in a world in which the jobs of yesterday are not the jobs of today, and the jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow.

Let us ensure that all our students have practical experiences through co]ops, internships, service learning opportunities to complement the rich and outstanding classroom instruction that they receive. Let us take our challenge from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools so seriously that our Quality Enhancement Plan — or our QEP — is the one copied by other schools.

Let us, as a campus community, make as part of our vision and our work plan for the future, the achievement of a reputation among students, counselors, teachers, parents and, yes, even among ourselves, that we offer a unique, world-class undergraduate education program to all of our students.

We know that for our community to compete, it is for us — it is for us — to ensure the creativity that an educated society brings to its community. We are the ones to make it happen.

Second, we know that for our community to thrive and to grow, we must continue to lead with our research programs; research programs that address the priorities and issues and, yes, the problems of our community.

We must lead with research programs that address the health care needs of our community. We must lead with research programs that address the educational needs of our community and state, from early childhood to K]12 education to higher education to lifelong learning. For we must help raise the overall education bar of our community and state.

We must lead with research programs that through the application of business processes, nanotechnology, fabrication techniques, and micro electronic systems, we’re able to support business opportunities and development within our community.

We must lead with research programs strongly committed to translational research and taking the creation of new knowledge from the “mind to the marketplace.” For we know that this research creates the energy and the excitement within a community that helps attract the talent that defines its success.

Third, for our community to succeed and prosper we as a university must lead in integrating and bringing together the visual and performing arts — activities that make our community special and a place where people want to reside, work and play.

We have already proven the impact we can have with our commitment to Museum Plaza, our commitment to building a renowned glass program, and the Grawemeyer Awards. And maybe it’s time for us to lead by adding a sixth Grawemeyer Award to recognize the arts as an area that Charles Grawemeyer knew was important to the quality of life of our community.

Fourth, for our community to succeed and prosper we at the University of Louisville must take the lead in promoting community unity so that we as a community are One — not east end, not west end, not downtown, not suburbia — but a community of One that promotes tolerance and cherishes our diversity. For tolerant communities are creative communities; thriving communities.

Fifth, while we recognize our importance as the largest urban university in Kentucky, so let us take our talent, our expertise to all communities in our state and let us apply these skills and knowledge to issues faced by other cities and communities. Let us lead by serving as the community extension agents to our cities throughout our partnership with the Kentucky League of Cities. Our research and education can advance the success of all of Kentucky through a Center for Urban Solutions. Let this be part of our discussions and dialogues as we move forward.

So it is now time for us to begin our campus dialogue and craft our plan for 2020 — a plan that allows us to become the university that other schools try to emulate and identify as their aspirational benchmark.

Will it be easy? We know that it will not.

Will we have the resources that we need? We know that we will not.

But we cannot, we will not, use this as an excuse for not moving forward.

So first, we must be more aggressive in our fundraising efforts than we have been in the past.

Second, we must continue to examine every one of our revenues and every one of our expenditures.

Third, we must make sure that every one of our assets, be it the Shelby Campus, be it the Haymarket, or whatever asset it may be, are fully-performing assets.

Fourth, we must better tell our story so that public policy makers, donors, friends, alumni, and community leaders truly understand that the University of Louisville is an “institution of consequence” as called for by the founders of our city over 200 years ago. It is time for us to be recognized for all of the contributions we make to our community and to our state.

Fifth, as we discussed three years ago in our Inauguration Address, to meet the challenges that we face, we as an institution must reaffirm the values that we hold dear, for it is these values that will guide our every decision, our every action.

And finally, to our partners throughout this community and beyond, those who are instrumental in helping us achieve our vision for the future, we will re-affirm to you our goals, our strategies, so that you can join with us and help us to be all that we can be. Our partners must not be threatened by change; they must not be threatened by our commitment to excellence. We ask our partners today to join us in making this a better community.

We can do it. Our community’s future, Kentucky’s future, depends upon us, depends on all of higher education, so that our state, a state that we love, can reach its full potential.

In each of the past years I have concluded my remarks with personal reflection.

Today, I conclude first by recognizing again and thanking again our Board of Trustees, a Board that embraced Kentucky’s higher education reform from day one, and who had the courage to step forward with an aggressive plan that embraced a “community agenda” and a “state agenda.” A Board that has kept us on track and encouraged us; a Board that is ready to help us take this next important step in the life of the University of Louisville.

Let’s again recognize these outstanding men and women.

I am more convinced than ever that this is a great University, a place of great “consequence,” an institution that achieved the Challenge, an institution now ready, eager, excited to move forward with the next challenge.

To you our faculty, our staff, our students, friends of the University of Louisville, thank you for allowing me to serve on your team. I am honored.

I recommit to you today my every energy, my every effort as we move forward together.

Office of the President

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University of Louisville

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