2005 State of the University Address
September 28, 2005
Welcome and thank you for joining us at this special time.
We are one month into the new academic year, but we can still feel the excitement, the enthusiasm, the hope, that is part of our campus life at the start of a new semester.
This week is also special as we celebrate Homecoming — one of the great traditions of the academy — a time to pause and pay tribute to our history and tradition.
The State of the University Address is becoming an annual part of the Homecoming celebration — a time to recount our successes from the prior year.
But more importantly, it is a time to recommit our every energy, to achieving the mandate given to us by the people of Kentucky — the mandate to be a “preeminent metropolitan research university.”
For by so doing, we improve the quality of life and we enhance economic opportunity for the people of our community and state. We also join the ranks of great academic institutions — those that contribute to society by lifting the spirit, preserving cultural knowledge and leading cultural change, fostering innovation, and providing the intellectual and ethical leadership our community needs.
We have been called upon to make a difference; and let me report to you that we are making a difference — a real sustainable difference — in the lives of those in our community and our state.
Let’s look at the past year
We take pride in our accomplishments. Our freshman class last fall was again the best in our university’s history — and let me add that this year’s class is even better academically prepared than the outstanding freshman class of last year. We are attracting the best and brightest!
Under the guidance and leadership of our faculty and staff, our students are excelling in the classroom and beyond.
- A record 17 of our students received prestigious, national scholarships and awards. Three others were named as finalists or alternates for these national awards.
- Our Cardinal Singers dominated several international competitions, earning gold medals and invitations to perform in prestigious events throughout the world.
- Our engineering students were among the top 10 in the nation in the most intense automotive design and performance competition.
- Communication student Tiondra Willingham became one of the 40 top minority advertising students in the nation recognized by the American Advertising Federation.
- A team of finance students won the 2005 Student Investment Fund competition by earning a 17 percent return on their investment — at a time when the Dow Jones increased only 3.7 percent. I’m sending my portfolio over to them this afternoon.
- And by the way — 66 business students earned perfect 4.0 GPAs this past year.
- Our recent graduates continue to make a difference in their communities. Peter Diakov, a 2002 graduate of the law school, is just one example. He is serving a fellowship with the Legal Aid office, helping victims of domestic violence regain control of their lives. He also works with low-income residents of Jefferson County in several community-based programs.
Peter is representative of the many students who come to UofL not just to prepare for a career, but to find a way to help others in the world.
And our faculty and staff continue to excel. The past year we celebrated the achievements of:
- Sena Naslund who was designated by Governor Fletcher as the Poet Laureate of Kentucky.
- John La Barbera who was nominated for a Grammy Award.
- Robin Krimm who received the Presidential Early Career Award — the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young scientists and engineers beginning their careers. Dr. Krimm is the FIRST Kentuckian to receive the award.
- Kerri Remmel who was named a McCann Scholar for 2005, one of only four people to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding mentoring in medicine. We also appreciate Kerri’s work in making the UofL Hospital the first accredited stroke program in Kentucky.
- Scott Whittemore’s who with his team has developed a procedure that shows great promise in restoring motor function to victims of paralysis. Their research received a $10.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue their work.
- Roberto Bolli who received an $11.7 million NIH program project grant for his team’s research in gene therapy to aid the heart in defending itself against a heart attack.
- And nursing professor Carla Hermann who works with terminally ill cancer patients — people often “written off” by health-care systems. Carla helps these individuals maintain their quality of life, addressing their physical and emotional needs during this difficult time. She then shares what she learns with other health-care workers and caregivers to help their terminally ill patients finish their lives with dignity.
We are extremely proud of each and every one of our faculty and applaud their work.
Our commitment to diversity has been unwavering. This past year we were one of just two schools to achieve the eight objectives set for us by the Council on Postsecondary Education in the Kentucky Plan. We made substantial progress in the implementation of our unit diversity plans — plans that will make our diversity goals a reality.
But we know that diversity is more than the achievement of quantifiable goals — more than achieving numbers.
Our commitment is to make the University of Louisville a place welcoming to all: students, faculty, staff, regardless of race, religious beliefs, country of origin, political philosophy or sexual orientation.
And our commitment is to work with our community leaders to make Louisville a community that thrives on and cherishes these differences, understanding that such differences embody the richness of a vibrant/energeticcommunity. We made progress—but we can and will do more.
During the past year, we have strengthened our partnerships and commitments to our community.
- We were honored, along with the Jefferson County Public Schools and the Louisville Metro government, by Governor Fletcher for our Partnership for a Green Community initiative.
- The Louisville Medical Center Development Corporation has charted an economic future important to our community and state. Let me cite some examples:
- Through the leadership of Steve Gailar, President of MetaCyte, we are moving our discoveries and inventions from the “mind to the marketplace.” Steve’s is a vital member of our UofL family.
- Last year we led the way in this state by creating a Kentucky Life Science Venture Fund and a Kentucky Life Science Seed Fund to provide the capital to our researchers as they move the creation of knowledge from the “mind to the marketplace.”
- And a downtown Life Science Research Park will occur as a result of our efforts.
- Our University and Community Advisory Board has crafted the plan for a Signature Partnership Program that will allow us to serve the people of the West End of Louisville through education, health-care, economic development, and social services. Our goal is to enable all individuals, all individuals, to have the opportunity to lift themselves up for a better life.
- We’re also working with low-income, at-risk middle school kids to guide them toward college through a collaboration between our College of Education and Human Development, the Jefferson County Public Schools, GEAR UP Kentucky, and our office of undergraduate studies.
- And at last count, we have more than 1400 ongoing partnerships with business, government and civic entities within our community.
During the last year we have again proven to be effective stewards of the scarce resources entrusted to us by the state, by our students, by our friends and donors.
- We have the largest endowment of any public institution in the state.
- In the last fiscal year, alumni and friends invested more than $66 million in our university priorities.
- This fundraising is allowing us to address the needs of precious young people who suffer from autism.
- This fundraising is allowing us to focus on “Finding Answers to Cancer,” a campaign for our James Graham Brown Cancer Center focused on advances in drug development and cancer care — so that we can “turn the buses around” and provide the absolute best care — here at home, in Kentucky, near family and friends.
- Our fundraising is allowing us to improve heart care.
- Our fundraising is allowing us to build strong academic programs such as a Masters in Fine Art and a Glass program that strengthen the cultural and artistic fiber of our community.
- Our fundraising is allowing us to recruit the best students and to achieve the margin of excellence expected of us, but not funded by the state and city.
And today it is important for us to stop to thank our state officials — thank you for restoring three years of budget cuts — thank you for providing new required research space and thank you for ½¢ of the cigarette tax increase to support cancer research.
To our federal delegation we say, thank you — thank you for your support and efforts — and to Senator Mitch McConnell — no university, no university, could have a better friend. You understand the role of earmarks and how these funds allow us to build the research infrastructure necessary to compete — and compete we are.
We announced earlier this month the receipt of a federal grant of $22 million to build a research lab on our Shelby Campus focused on developing new vaccines to fight bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. This award was based on a national competition — we are competitive!
In addition we are taking non-performing assets and making them productive. We announced that the Reynolds Building will be converted into 77 beautiful loft condominiums. A project that brings us new resources but also helps us create a more livable/vibrant campus.
Last year we saw unprecedented change on our campus — construction projects everywhere — projects that add to the quality of our academic offerings, and projects that make our campus even more livable/vibrant.
And, of course, we could not highlight the past year without mentioning the success of University of Louisville athletics. No city in the United States . . . no city . . . had a sports program that was number three in basketball with a trip to the Final Four; number six in football and Liberty Bowl Champions.
But our athletics program is more than football and basketball. We are committed to the success of every student-athlete. Our sports teams made us proud both on the field and in the classroom.
- More than 160 athletes were honored by earning the commissioner’s award, signifying 3.0 or better grade-point averages.
It would be easy for us to stop here; it would be easy for us to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Well done.” That’s the state of the University.
The Year Ahead
But, we cannot stop here. The road that we have been asked to travel is long. The goals set by for us by the General Assembly are for the year 2020. For example, we are told that for Kentucky to reach the national average of our population with college degrees by 2020 we must: first, begin graduating our young people from high school at the rate of the highest performing state in the nation; second,we must enroll these high school graduates at the rate of the best performing state in the nation; third, we must achieve college graduation rates equal to that of the best performing state in the nation; and fourth, we then must still import graduates from out of state — just to reach the average! An awesome task!
So, we re-commit to ensuring that every student admitted to the University of Louisville has the opportunity to be successful and graduate.
Under the leadership of Provost Shirley Willihnganz we have refused to ignore the issue of low graduation and retention rates that has confronted us for many years.
We are not content to say that we’re different, we’re an urban institution, we’re a non-residential campus, we’re a commuter school.
Rather, we have committed the resources, developed the programs to improve student learning and to making student engagement a centerpiece of our agenda going forward.
In addition, we must continue to build our research. We were proud this summer to achieve the accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs. UofL is only the fifth public university in the nation — and the first in Kentucky — to be accredited by this organization, which seeks to make research on humans as safe as possible.
But we must continue to address difficult research compliance issues; we must make every effort to streamline our ability to participate in clinical trials; we must ensure that our incentives encourage faculty to take knowledge from the “mind to the marketplace.” We must provide the space, the start-up packages, and the reward structures for our faculty to be successful.
Our efforts must include our commitment to the cultural, social, and artistic well-being of our community. During the next year we must continue to promote the role of higher education — all of higher education — in the implementation of the community’s Cultural Blueprint.
And, as we have noted, we must continue to build a community atmosphere in which diversity is embraced, recognized and celebrated.
Our path going forward is clearly marked. The issue becomes how we can travel this path with limited resources.
- First, we must ensure that organizational structures and the budget process are aligned with our goals. Under the leadership of Dr.Willihnganz, we are committed during this year to campus discussions on organizational change and budget change.
- Will these discussions be easy — No!
- Will these discussions be non-controversial — No!
- Are these reasons to ignore these discussions — No!
Dr. Willihnganz cares deeply about this institution - its students, its faculty and its staff. She is ideally qualified to lead these discussions on how our organization and budget system support the achievement of our mandate.
- Second, we must continue to tackle other issues that are tough and difficult. Issues that may create discomfort. For example, under the leadership of Dr.Larry Cook we are doing just that in the medical area:
- We are looking at how we can improve the efficiencies of our private practice plans;
- We are looking at the governance of our university hospital so that it reaches its full potential and meets our educational needs as well as the community’s needs;
- We are strengthening our partnerships with Jewish and Norton’s healthcare systems;
- We are strengthening our clinical programs so we can better support our research needs; and
- We are reviewing how we finance the outstanding quality of care we provide to our most vulnerable.
- Third, we must communicate, and then recommunicate, to all in our community and state that it is the investment in our people, the investment in human capital that drives true long-term opportunity for all our citizens.
Yes, arenas are nice and, yes, we support the Governor’s Arena Task Force under the outstanding leadership of Lt. Governor Steve Pence and Secretary Jim Host. Let me thank Lt. Governor Pence and Secretary Host for their work; their efforts on behalf of our university have been unrelenting.
But wouldn’t it be nice if others in our community put the same effort that has been exerted around the building of a downtown arena into our efforts to achieve the mandate of the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997. Wouldn't it be nice if that same energy, drive, and commitment were allocated to improving education in our community — all of education?
We must clearly and concisely communicate our work; our efforts; our progress, and how it will bring lasting, meaningful economic, social, and cultural opportunity to the people of this community — East End, West End, and South End — so that those at the Downtown Development Corporation, those in the press, and other community leaders — join us in this important journey for a better Louisville.
Finally, we work hard at the University of Louisville as we strive to achieve the mandate the people of Kentucky have given us. Our faculty works hard; our staff works hard; our students work hard. We must make sure that we pause and celebrate our efforts and achievements.
We must celebrate this great university and what it means to our community and state. We must recognize those who do so much day in and day out to make a difference.
Ensuring the alignment of our organizational structures and budget process with our goals; tackling the difficult issues that allow us to enhance our efficiencies and effectiveness, communicating our role — the role of all of education to leading our community and state to a better future, and celebrating our successes will ensure that we continue on our path — a path for a better Louisville; a better Kentucky.
What better time — at the start of a new year, during homecoming week — to celebrate this recommitment.
As you have allowed me in the past, let me close with a personal reflection.
Earlier this summer our Board of Trustees held a retreat, providing it the opportunity to discuss strategic issues facing the University.
I suggested to the Board at that time that they should begin to think about succession management, as the job that they asked me to do three years ago was moving toward completion.
Upon reflection, the Board rejected my recommendation, asking me not only to help finish the original Challenge for Excellence, but also to help set the strategic agenda for the University through 2020.
My emotions are mixed as I do not always feel comfortable in this leadership position and I assumed that I would finish my career in the classroom.
Yet, given this challenge from the Board I am excited with this opportunity. I like being part of a winner and the University of Louisville is a winner.
A great faculty, outstanding students, a wonderful staff, and a support structure committed to making this great University even better.
While I accept this challenge with trepidation as to my own role, I am honored and privileged to be part of this great university.
Thank you. Have a great Homecoming.