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Ramsey urges faculty, staff ahead in 21st Century University initiative

by Janene Zaccone, communications and marketing last modified Sep 11, 2013 04:48 PM

The University of Louisville has difficult work ahead to become a university that thrives in the 21st century, but its track record of success and its history of leadership and of working together as a campus community will ensure its success, President James Ramsey said Sept. 11 in his annual State of the University address.

Ramsey spoke to about 400 people in Comstock Concert Hall at the School of Music. His address marked the end of a weeklong celebration that included, among other things, a faculty/staff appreciation picnic, awarding of faculty honors, a symposium on community engagement and dedication of a renovated quiet study area in Ekstrom Library—a project initiated by students and funded entirely by private monies. (See related story.)

At the heart of his talk is the fact that higher education faces challenges and unknowns that have become the “norm.” They range from a changing marketplace for higher education, to changed perceptions and expectations of the purpose for higher education.

These are driving the university’s current 21st Century University initiative, but UofL has “long understood that for us to achieve our statutory mandate we could not be successful by merely doing what we have done in the past,” Ramsey said.

The university, for instance, implemented $114 million in cost efficiencies, made changes to its health care infrastructure that will allow it to provide the best health care to all within the community and, long before the recession of a few years ago, started to take control of its assets to ensure they are “fully performing” and are paying dividends, he said.

“We have planted the seedlings that will bear fruit—financial fruit—to the university in the years ahead,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey thanked faculty and staff for their work in setting the university on its current academic trajectory, noting that they have had only two recurring salary increases in the last six years, no departmental budget increases in over a decade and no new positions within departments. He also acknowledged that students have paid a price for the university’s success in increased tuition.

“But now we face the reality that there is more to do. More is expected of us,” Ramsey said.

In the coming months, the university will continue working on the 21st Century University initiative to position UofL for the future.

The work will include

  • finalizing a plan for enhancing and enriching scholarship, teaching and research to include new and innovative collaborative and multidisciplinary concentrations that build on existing institutional strengths and identifying funding sources for them
  • ensuring that UofL is globally engaged, accessible and student-centered
  • addressing issues identified as threats and weaknesses in the campus-wide assessment of the university’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • reviewing existing business practices with an eye to making fundamental, systemic change in many of the university’s business operations
  • allocating resources strategically

The 21st Century University process, Ramsey said, is the “right thing to do” and “offers us the best hope for providing the resources that are critical to supporting your work….”

“Change will happen. We know the academy. We know what it values. We should be the ones that drive change, not federal bureaucrats and others from outside the academy,” he said.

“We can be successful in the future because we have a track record of success. Do not underestimate what you, you, the University of Louisville, have done and the power that we have as a campus community.”

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