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2007 State of the University Address

by Jim Ramsey last modified Apr 04, 2011 09:33 AM

2007 State of the University Address
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
3:30 p.m.
Bigelow Hall
Belknap Campus

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for the fourth annual State of the University Address.

Due to the lateness of homecoming this year, we are breaking with tradition a little bit and celebrating the State of the University the week before the UofL/UK football game.

With the state’s attention focused on this great sporting event, what better time to pause and to celebrate the academic achievements of our great university.

Each year during the State of the University Address, we first reflect upon our successes from the prior year.

We then identify challenges that we face as we move forward.

And we conclude by reaffirming our commitment to advancing our academic mission and all that it means to our community and state.

Last year was again an incredible year of achievement for the University of Louisville.

Our research is, in and of itself, economic development, but more importantly, the knowledge we create allows us to improve the quality of life for the people of our community, state, and beyond.

We welcomed again the best academically prepared freshman class in the history of the university. More importantly, we welcomed again a richly diverse freshman class. We welcomed students from across our community, across our state, across the nation and the world at large.

The University of Louisville continues to become a college of choice for students seeking a quality education in a vibrant metropolitan community.

Shortly after the start of the fall semester, the Board of Trustees directed that we have a celebration of the achievement of our 10-year plan, the Challenge for Excellence. A number of campus and community events were part of this wonderful celebration.

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of just one event — the spelling out of a 35-foot “UofL” on the front lawn using pizzas. This was a spirited competition between faculty, staff and students. No one needs to be reminded that the faculty completed the “L” with their pizzas before the students could complete the “of” or staff could complete the “U.” Now some might suggest that the faculty had the easiest task, since the “L” doesn’t have many curves. That may be the case. Still, I was honored to serve on the winning team, even though my role was just to throw away the empty pizza boxes for Joe Steffen and other team members.

We had a good time, but more importantly we reflected on the significant progress that we have made at the university of achieving the statutory mandate given to us by the people of Kentucky — to be a “premier metropolitan research university.”

Last fall, Provost Willihnganz and I visited each school and each college to talk not just about the Challenge for Excellence and the past, but to talk about how we move forward into the future. We did our PowerPoints, but we also listened. We solicited ideas on how we become the university we want to be and the university that the state expects us to be.

Out of this process Dr. Willihnganz appointed an outstanding group of representatives from the campus to direct our new planning efforts.

Thank you to Bill Pierce and Linda Shapiro for their leadership in our strategic planning effort. And to those of you who worked with Bill and Linda on this important project, we want to say thank you, too.

The campus community came together in an exciting way to set our direction, our tone and our plans for moving forward.

The campus also came together brilliantly as reflected in our reaccreditation report for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The reaccreditation process has become more important than ever because of the public policy focus on student learning outcomes and concerns about the three “A’s” — accountability, accessibility and affordability.

Our accreditation team was headed by Dan Mahony and Connie Shumake. Their leadership and the work of the campus was exemplary, and we are well on our way to meeting the challenge that was raised last year in the State of the University address when we said that our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) should be one emulated by other schools.

We are proud of the work of the campus community in developing a QEP that focuses on taking the theory and rich classroom experiences provided to our students and ensuring the application of this knowledge to the real world. The implementation of “Ideas to Action” will enrich our students’ academic experiences — thus enhancing student learning outcomes, while also allowing us to play a greater role in our community.

During the last year, our research programs continued to grow despite a very difficult fiscal environment. National Institutes of Health funding has continued to be flat for the last several years. NIH budgets for awarded research grants were cut and despite the efforts of Sen. McConnell and others, no earmarks were available last year to help us continue to build our research infrastructure.

At the state level, we faced a non-budget legislative session that did not address our vetoed projects and the minimal research funding increases which had been previously approved for the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.

Despite this lack of financial support, we continued to move forward:

Our new executive vice president for research, Manny Martinez, has updated our plan that will ensure our research programs grow, with emphasis on taking our discoveries from the “mind to the marketplace.”

Our research is, in and of itself, economic development, but more importantly the knowledge we create allows us to improve the quality of life for the people of our community, our state and beyond.

Last year we continued to ensure that our key leadership positions — both academic and administrative — were filled with individuals committed to educational excellence and people with a passion for building on the great history and tradition of the University of Louisville.

We completed searches for deans of medicine (Ed Halperin), law (Jim Chen), dentistry (John Sauk) and nursing (Marcia Hern) —academic leadership critical to our success.

No institution — no institution — has a stronger cadre of deans and academic leaders than the University of Louisville. We have been true to our values by recruiting only “A-pluses.”

Keith Inman joined us to head our advancement team so we can better brand, better fund raise, build a stronger alumni base and gain greater legislative support.

We filled the critically important position of vice president for student affairs with Tom Jackson, an individual committed to our students and an individual who understands the value of their total educational experience.

And we filled the position of vice president for information technology with Priscilla Hancock, who brings to our leadership team an understanding that the customers — the customers — of our administrative efforts are our faculty, our staff and our students.

We have momentum, we have energy. The plans are in place.

It’s hard to believe, but for the first time in our five-year tenure none of our administrative or academic leaders have the title “interim.” We have in place the team that will direct our growth and will ensure that we achieve our legislative mandate.

During the last year we moved forward with the implementation of our Signature Partnership Initiative, a program committed to improving lives in West Louisville.

We adopted five schools in the Signature Partnership area. We brought a mobile dental-health clinic headed by  Lee Mayer of our dental school to the neighborhoods of the West End, and we launched the Century Scholars Program that will allow us to mentor and help middle school students prepare for and understand the importance of higher education.

We worked with the Transportation Cabinet to provide training and professional development to minority businesses and start ups so that they can successfully compete for federal and state contracts.

And we were there to assist and encourage Simmons College as they reached out to provide educational opportunities in the West End, for we know that Rev. Cosby and Simmons will have the opportunity to open doors for those who in the past have not had doors opened to them.

It is important for us to work with Rev. Cosby, knowing that Simmons graduates will add greatly to our community and that many of their students may matriculate to the University of Louisville.

Last year we reaffirmed our commitment to the downtown with the opening of the Cressman Center for Visual Arts and our partnership with Museum Plaza.

Last year we began the planning for the Frederick Hart exhibit, which we are celebrating on campus today.

More importantly, we stated loud and clear that we understand the role we play in ensuring a vibrant social, cultural and artistic life within our community.

Last year we celebrated our commitment to diversity by again being the only university in the state to achieve all eight of the diversity goals set for us by the Council on Postsecondary Education. And we continued to be successful in implementing our campus unit diversity plans.

During the last year we celebrated as seven of our students were recognized as Fulbright Scholars — the most of any school in Kentucky.

During the past year our outstanding School of Music brought recognition to us time and time again. Our Cardinal singers competed worldwide, finishing second in an international competition. Our symphonic orchestra and wind ensemble took center stage at Carnegie Hall and our faculty and our students were superb!

Our College of Business and College of Education continue to climb in the national rankings each year, and I bet that it won’t be very long until our newest school, the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, will receive the accreditation that it’s been working so hard to achieve over the last several years.

Last year we celebrated success on the athletic field time and time again.

  • Football – finished sixth in the country.
  • Baseball – College World Series finalists.
  • Men’s Track – seventh in the nation, with Tone Belt and Andre Black winning national championships in their events.
  • Women’s Golf – 10th in the nation.
  • Seventeen of our 22 athletic teams competed in the NCAA championships.

But we know that athletic success is more than winning on-the-field.

  • It is providing academic opportunity to our student-athletes.
  • It is financial integrity.
  • It is a commitment to gender equity.
  • And it is an absolute commitment to playing by the rules.

We have a successful athletics program.

So it was another successful year for us at the University of Louisville.

Yet at the same time it was a difficult year. For while we celebrated many successes, we were reminded that not all in our state hold dear the same values and commitments to diversity and respect for all people that we cherish at the University of Louisville.

So today we do recommit—
we will finish the job.

We were reminded that we still have work to do to achieve true diversity on our campus. As the incident involving our International Service Learning Program reminded us, race is still an issue in our society and it is our responsibility as a campus community to continue day after day, week after week, month after month to promote within our campus and within our community tolerance and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, religion, geographic background and, yes, sexual orientation.

Out of this experience we will make an outstanding International Service Learning Program even stronger going forward.

Last year we were reminded that policy makers in difficult fiscal times often forgo investment in human capital for other short-term needs.

And during the past year we were saddened and devastated by the events of our sister institution — Virginia Tech. While our hearts and prayers went out to the faculty, students and staff at Virginia Tech, the events at Virginia Tech were a stark reminder to us of our obligation to ensure to every student, every faculty, every staff and every person who walks on our open campus that our campus is safe and that we are a campus that can function day in and day out without fear.

So we reviewed our emergency procedures, and today we are better prepared.

So we were challenged.

But during the past year we have had the courage to address these issues and more. We continued to make our administration more responsive to campus needs, including reorganization of our graduate school and the reorganization of our International Studies Center.

During the past year we continued to focus on building clinical programs to help us financially support our education and research missions.

We broke ground on our downtown faculty office building. We reorganized the Louisville Medical Center Development Corp. and the University Medical Center so that both of these organizations, critical to our mission, critical to our success, can say, “We, too, are accountable.”

In doing so we also reached out to Norton Healthcare and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare to strengthen our existing clinical partnerships and to build new partnerships, for Norton Healthcare and Jewish HealthCare are valued by the University of Louisville and we want these partnerships to grow.

And last year we addressed the issue of accessibility — an issue caused by unwanted tuition increases resulting from the lack of state funding — by launching the Cardinal Covenant Program. The University of Louisville again led the way in Kentucky. This semester there are 170 students who would not otherwise have been able to afford to attend college at the University of Louisville as a part of this program.

So while challenged, we did not shrink from our responsibilities as a campus community.

And now, as we move beyond the Challenge for Excellence embarking on our new plan, it is time for us to finish the job!

During the past year we continued to make our Shelby Campus a fully performing asset.

We secured $5.3 million from Gov. Fletcher for road work that will speed this development.

We celebrated the opening of our forensics lab in renovated space in Burhans Hall, a facility providing services to the FBI, Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro Police and the Lexington/Fayette County police.

We broke ground on our Center for Predictive Medicine and were told by the NIH that we were further along in the development of our lab than any other institution awarded funding in that competitive process.

We created a nonaffiliated 501c3 corporation composed of outstanding business leaders — individuals with experience in property development. We employed Vernon George, one of the premier research park specialists in the country, to work with us in making this 40-year-old University of Louisville asset a thriving part of our campus.

It is now time to finish the job of making the Shelby Campus a center of academic and research activity that provides us income to underwrite our teaching and learning missions.

During the past year we faced disappointment in the response that we received from Phi Beta Kappa, but we realize that the initiatives we undertook on behalf of the Phi Beta Kappa process made us a better institution, for now each student in our outstanding College of Arts & Sciences has a foreign language requirement. And, again, we challenge each of our colleges and each of our schools to ensure that their curriculum exposes their students to the global economy and the internationalization of our society.

As part of Phi Beta Kappa we made progress in improving faculty salaries, but we’re not where we need to be!

Our graduation and retention rates have improved over the last five years, but we are not where we need to be!

So we must continue to aggressively pursue a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, not only because it is something we desire but because the ideals of Phi Beta Kappa will help us improve as an institution fully committed to a strong liberal arts education.

So it is now time to finish this job!

Over the last five years our campus has improved in appearance, energy and vibrancy. We have increased the number of students in our residence halls from 8 percent to 20 percent of our enrollment.

But we must continue to be creative, working with private developers, realizing that we cannot count on the state of Kentucky to provide us with agency bond authorization and other assistance that we need to further build our residence life programs.

It’s time to finish this job!

During the past year, we initiated a mandatory student health program with a behavioral health component as requested and needed by our students. Yet we failed in our communications of the fee structure used to fund this program. We today remain committed to working with SGA to ensure a student health program that is affordable, convenient and provides services vital to our students.

So it is now time for us to finish this job by providing the space needed for a first-class student health program.

During the past year we continued our “green” initiatives. Our Partnership for a Green City — a valued partnership with the Jefferson County Public Schools and Metro Louisville — continues to focus on important sustainability issues.

The outstanding work of our Speed School of Engineering places us in a leadership position in the research of renewable energy sources.

Cam Metcalf and his team work with schools and businesses throughout our state to improve energy efficiency in those facilities.

It’s now time for us to take these efforts to the next level, for accountability in higher education is not just academic accountability and financial accountability, it is also environmental accountability. And environmental accountability must be a priority of our institution.

Our students have asked for a campus recycling program.

And it is now time for us to do so.

During the last weeks we received approval from the Metro Government for a Tax Increment Financing district to help provide funds to help finance our Health Sciences Campus master plan that Dr. Cook presented to our Board of Trustees last year.

This plan, including the Haymarket, will result in over $2 billion in capital spending in our community — quite an economic investment.

But more important, the implementation of this Health Sciences Campus master plan will permit the University of Louisville to build its teaching and research programs, important to the quality of life in our community.

It is now time for us to finish this job!

It is now time for us to take our campus-wide strategic planning process of the last year and to make it our road map for daily action.

Our plan contains platitudes of what we will be and what we will do. It is now time to finalize the metrics we will use to ensure that we finish this job.

Last year at this time we called for an Urban Solutions Institute — a partnership between the University of Louisville and the Kentucky League of Cities that takes our expertise to communities throughout the commonwealth. At the recent Mayor’s Luncheon, Sylvia Lovely of the Kentucky League of Cities announced this partnership.

It is now time for us to finish this job!

It’s time to aggressively tell our story — it’s a great story, a story of better students, the story of student learning and student achievement.

It’s a story of growing research — research making a difference in our community, our state and in the world.

It is a story of an unrelenting commitment to improving the quality of life of our community and providing opportunity for all those within our community.

It is a story that says to the people of our state, Kentucky cannot grow if Louisville does not grow and Louisville cannot grow without the leadership of the University of Louisville.

And finally it is time for us to move forward with a capital campaign, which provides critical resources to support us on our journey. Our past fund-raising efforts have been successful. From the beginning of the Challenge for Excellence in 1998 to today we have raised over $750 million.

But it is time to do more.

We have the team in place to achieve new levels of fund-raising success. Our partners such as Kosair Charities, the James Graham Brown Foundation, the Humana Foundation, the Gheens Foundation and many others have expressed their confidence in what we’re doing.

It is time to finish this job!

So last year was successful; last year was challenging. Last year we honestly faced issues so we would continue to improve and get better and meet the mandate given to us.

And now, on Sept. 12, 2007, with the excitement of the new academic year and, yes, the excitement of Saturday’s game, let us recommit to finishing the job.

For while we have been successful during the first half of our journey, the next portion of our journey — the time to 2020, the date set for us to achieve certain markers of the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act of 1997 — will be more difficult.

So today we do recommit. We will finish the job.

We have momentum. We have energy. The plans are in place.

But most important, most important, we have the faculty, the staff, the Board of Trustees, our alumni and our friends ready to meet this challenge and to finish the job.

Each of the last several years you have allowed me to conclude the State of the University address on a personal note.

Today I again humbly thank you for letting me serve on your great team.

Today I simply say I have never been more excited, more energized and more proud to be part of such a great institution.

So let’s get it done!

And by the way, GO CARDS! BEAT UK!

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