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State of the Campus Address 2011

Chancellor delivers 2011 State of the Campus Address

Thank you and welcome to the 2011 State of the Campus address. Since I rarely get the opportunity to see my wife, other than scheduled appointments, I would like to take the opportunity to say hello to and introduce my wife, Yvonne.

I would like to begin today my telling you a couple of stories that illustrate our university community coming together as one. The first is well known to many by now. The other is known by only a few.

A little more than a week ago we were awarded the prestigious National Solar Observatory headquarters, beating out the University of Alabama-Huntsville. The Boulder campus will be the primary site for scientific research on turbulence and magnetism on the sun, right here on our East Campus.

This will enhance our longtime research partnerships with several federal labs, facilitate exceptional educational opportunities for students and will create more than 70 high-paying jobs in our community with an annual payroll of $20 million.

It will further position us as a center of innovation in solar research and is another example of how our entrepreneurial spirit will benefit the economic health of our state.

Our ability to win the National Solar Observatory came about because it was a collaborative effort between the university, the city of Boulder and the business community. Senators Bennet and Udall, Congressmen Polis and Perlmutter, our federal lab partners and Governor Hickenlooper were all closely involved. It was our alignment with our community partners that put us in position to win the NSO.

That shows what we can do when we work together on a macro-level. But we can also do it on a micro-level.

This summer I received a letter from the mother of a freshman with autism. The student’s mother wrote: “It is amazing to me that such a large school was able to give so much personal attention to my son.” She told me that units all across campus offered her son help and individual attention that gave him an unparalleled college experience. Those units and people included: Housing and Dining, CU Disability Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, his residence hall director, his math professor, his computer science advisor, the Engineering Department, his physics professor, and the CU Rec Center staff.    She was amazed and wouldn’t stop bragging on you. In her words, “Thank you so much to your amazing faculty and staff.”

This shows how we pull together to achieve our goals on a grand scale and on a interpersonal level.

Our faculty, staff, students lead the way
This supports my belief that we as a university dig deep inside ourselves to do things the right way, every day. I would like to talk about some of our other key achievements this year. Ten students earned Fulbright grants, the most we’ve ever had in a single year.

Distinguished Professor Carl Lineberger was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August to the National Science Board.

Physics assistant professor Alysia Marino was one of 13 Department of Energy researchers named last week by President Obama to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Chemistry and Biochemistry professor James Hynes, and Jun Ye, adjoint professor of physics and JILA, were elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Jewish Studies Director David Shneer co-curated, with CU Art Museum Director Lisa Tamiris Becker, an amazing exhibit at the Art Museum, “Through Soviet Jewish Eyes” based on his critically acclaimed book.

Geography professor Tom Veblen and his students created an excellent exhibit on ecological lessons from the Fourmile Fire and other wildfires at the Museum of Natural History.

I could go on. Everywhere we look we see collaboration and achievement. Our faculty and staff maintain the excellent national reputation of the university, mentor students to new heights of learning and discovery and broaden the horizons of our community in countless ways.

New leadership
We have also seen some big leadership changes at the university this year. These changes create opportunities for the next generation of leaders to step in, fill big shoes and advance us into this new moment in our history in which we find ourselves among world-renowned academic peers in the Pac-12. When I think of big boots to fill, I think of David Getches, a progressive thinker and innovative leader, who was more comfortable in cowboy boots than dress shoes. He had just retired as law dean last summer to return to teaching when cancer took him from us suddenly and much too soon. He left our campus a lasting legacy in the Wolf Law Building, and as dean he led Colorado’s only public law school to national prominence.

We’re now delighted to have Phil Weiser as the new dean of the Law School.  Phil founded the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law Technology and Entrepreneurship right here at CU. He is also just back from serving as a technology and innovation adviser to the National Economic Council at the White House.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Todd Gleeson, announced his resignation in August to return to the classroom following a highly successful decade of leading the college. He more than doubled the Arts and Sciences endowment.  I want to thank Todd for his outstanding service to the university as a visionary dean and associate dean for 14 years. We are commencing a national search to fill that position. John Stevenson, dean of the Graduate School, will chair the committee.

In business, I am pleased with the job David Ikenberry has been doing since he joined us from the University of Illinois, as dean of the Leeds School of Business in February. He took the helm in a transformational moment in the business school’s history as it emerges as a leader in entrepreneurship and social and ethical business education.

We recently created a new Vice Chancellor for Strategic Relations position. Through this role we will raise the focus and coordination of our strategic communications. We will increase our emphasis on government and commercial relations, and fully integrate our alumni association into these efforts.

I have named Frances Draper to that position and look forward to what we will be able to do as she collaborates with all of you on these initiatives.

Deb Coffin is doing a remarkable job as Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, as is longtime administrator Jeff Lipton as Interim Vice Chancellor for Administration. Robert Boswell is serving us very well as interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. My great thanks to them.

I am confident this leadership team will help us find new and innovative way to succeed.

A Modest Proposal
As I thought about how to begin my speech today, I thought of a literary comparison, as I am wont to do from time to time as a former high school English teacher. I compared our situation last year to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” – the best of times and the worst of times. And we have certainly seen plenty of both.

This year the state of our campus evokes another literary metaphor… “A Modest Proposal,” in which Jonathan Swift proposed a plan to protect the poor in Ireland from being a burden on society and for making them beneficial to the public. Swift advocated eating the young to survive the Irish potato famine.

Well, today, as I stand before you, we have a potato famine.

So let’s eat our young. Let’s cut our way to excellence. Let’s not hire the next generation of great professors to educate the future leaders of our state. Let’s not engage in the kind of research that distinguishes and pushes our state forward. Let’s not build any new buildings to educate our students. Instead, let’s eat ourselves from the inside out to solve our problems.

Of course, that’s absurd. It’s our job to think about growth, not decline. It’s our job to think about the future of Colorado. It’s our job to blaze our own trail to decide where we are going to be in five years or 10 years. We’re not going to eat our young. Just the opposite. We’re going to invest in our young. We’re going to invest in the people, places and programs that make this university great. We’re going to make our case why alumni and donors, business and industry, the state and the federal government, need to invest in us.

And so…I have my own modest proposal. And it centers on our tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation.

A tradition of innovation at CU
We have a well-documented tradition of innovation at CU-Boulder. While many of our peers continue to try and squeeze the final drops of subsistence from old models, we are well practiced at inventive new models. For more than a decade we have been creating new models to not only survive, but to thrive, in the face of declining public funding. Innovation has been the backbone of our resilience. It has become our trademark. It’s in our DNA.

While we may be a university with traditional students, carrying out a traditional role and mission and operating on a classic brick and mortar campus, we are anything but traditional. In my 38 years on campus I have watched how we continually redefine ourselves to rise up to meet the challenges of our times and the demands of our state and its citizens.

For example, last year, during a recession, when there were American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus awards to be won, our faculty and staff went out and got it … to the tune of $95 million. Among public universities without a medical school we were No. 1 in the nation in ARRA funding from the National Institutes of Health, and No. 3 in ARRA awards from the National Science Foundation. That shows how effective our researchers are in a highly competitive environment. 

Further our research funding injects $147 million a year into the local and state economies through salaries and benefits and another $39 million in purchased supplies, equipment and services. CU-Boulder research inspired seven new companies this year alone and 27 in the last five years.

We initiated new diverse funding models for new facilities to educate our students in the 21st century with a combination of philanthropy, student fees, indirect cost recoveries, auxiliary funding and federal grants.

This allowed us to build the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building opening early next year, the Visual Arts Complex, the Center for Community, Wolf Law, the Williams Village North residential complex and expand Koelbel Business – often with little or no state funding. I should note that all are LEED gold or platinum-certified or pending certification.

Academically, we have been innovative -- successfully pursuing revenue-producing Flagship 2030 initiatives to attract more students through providing more international connections and by growing our Residential Academic Programs.

This fall we expanded our RAPs again from 10 to 12 with two new programs at Williams Village North in sustainable design and sustainable justice. This fall’s RAP enrollment of 2,650 students represents 41% of our residence hall students. RAPs continue to grow in popularity.

Our international enrollment of nearly 1,500 represents an 8 percent increase, including a 50 percent increase in our freshman class, exposing our students to diverse cultures.

Our domestic student population also is reflecting a greater diversity with 20% of our freshman class identifying themselves as racially and ethnically diverse.  Diversity among our in-state freshman students is even higher at 25.6%, approaching the level of diversity among our state high school graduates.

When we talk about innovation it’s impossible not to mention our nationally replicated and award-winning STEM education programs – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education – addressing a national shortage in math and science teachers in ground-breaking ways.

Through this collaboration of the School of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, we have doubled the number of STEM majors completing secondary math and science teacher certification compared to just five years ago. And the number of physics and chemistry majors enrolling in teacher certification has more than tripled in the past three years. One of our STEM programs, the Learning Assistant Program is emulated at 22 universities.

We are establishing a new journalism and mass communications model for the 21st-century media environment.

We will prepare out students in content-rich disciplines like political science, economics or international affairs paired with a robust education in journalism. Christopher Braider is overseeing the implementation of the new Journalism Plus program as director of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty.

We also are looking at realignment of the environmental design program to focus on design and sustainability.

Our move to the Pac-12 is re-connecting us with an important alumni and donor base while re-energizing our fans and community. Identifying ourselves with these world-class peers allows us to showcase our research, teaching, creative scholarship and the many achievements of our students.   

We have redefined our Alumni Association-Foundation collaboration and we are forming or re-establishing chapters in London and Saudi Arabia. This year we are looking to establish alumni chapters in Japan and China, providing greater visibility in Asia, a prime recruiting area for international students. The Alumni Association and the Foundation have also teamed up to reinvigorate relations with our Pac-12 alumni and donors.

Back at home we continue to streamline our business practices. The Boulder campus is well below our peers in administrative support expenditures. We are among the most innovative and efficient universities in the nation by any measure.

Through this tradition of innovation we have made great strides in the face of declining public funding. We are preparing our students for a life of career and contribution in a global society. The university contributes billions annually to Colorado’s economy. Our research innovations improve lives, while creating and attracting companies. We advance the economy, health and culture of our state and beyond. And it’s safe to say that the University of Colorado contributes to the quality of life that all Coloradans enjoy.

The New Normal
And yet…and yet, despite our ingenuity and productivity, we are still facing extreme funding challenges and declining state support.

We are finding what we thought would be a temporary economic downturn has turned into an extended challenge. State support continues to dwindle.  Federal funding for research and student support is more competitive for declining dollars. The federal and state economies continue to lag. This is the New Normal.

Colorado is already 48th nationally in per pupil state funding. Now the state economic forecast issued last month projects a $500 million state deficit in fiscal 2012-13. We know that public higher education is likely to be the target of further cuts.

In the last decade, state support for CU has declined 53 percent. State support has dropped from 15 percent of our budget in 2002 to under 5 percent of our budget today, the lowest of any state flagship in the nation.

This seemingly unenviable position results in many institutions around the country calling us to ask; how do you do it? How have we continued to provide quality in the face of radically reduced public support? We have done it through the innovations of our faculty, staff and managers who continue to make tremendous progress with meager resources. But without adequate support, it is unsustainable.

 Higher education funding continues to be vulnerable as it is one of the only flexible components of the state budget.  And yet, as the funding has continued to be reduced, the people of the state of Colorado have continued to expect quality education from their flagship university.

While the state may not be able to support us, it urgently needs us. It needs us to be successful and prosper. It needs us to produce a highly skilled workforce that supports its industry and contributes to its economy. It needs us to continue to be the center of innovation for new research and business development. It needs us, because if we don’t move forward, the state doesn’t move forward.

Vision for the future
We have had a lot of practice in being innovative. We created a dynamic strategic plan in Flagship 2030. We have been scrappy in competing for federal research dollars and streamlining expenses. We already operate more efficiently than our peer institutions. And we realize we cannot cut our way to success.

So where does that leave us? What do we need to do?

  • We need a faculty that is consistently recognized among the nation’s leading teachers, and top scholars for their research and creative works.
  • We need to ensure that our graduates are well educated and highly sought after in the marketplace.
  • We need to be a vibrant hub for cultural enrichment and community spirit, through our performing and visual arts, sporting events, and our lectures and debates.

So what are we doing today?
In research, the work and articles generated by CU Boulder faculty and students are among the most highly cited in the nation. In a recent study published in Science, CU Boulder ranks No. 8 among prestigious US research universities in research citations over a five-year period from 2004 to 2009.

That puts us in the company of M.I.T., Caltech, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard and Cal-Berkeley. You can see we’re running in good company. It’s also indicative that in a world of shrinking federal dollars, we are viewed among a handful of elite universities as a safe bet for research awards.

Our faculty and staff brought in $359 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2011.  That was up 5.6 percent from 2009, the last year before American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding. 

And research funds translate into cutting-edge instruction in the classroom. We stand out from other research universities by involving 1,000 undergraduates and 1,150 graduate students in research from bioscience to astrophysics.

Finally, in the latest National Research Council rankings of graduate programs, CU-Boulder has 20 programs -- across all disciplines -- ranked in the top 20, and many are in the top 10.  

To make sure our graduates are viewed as exceptional in the marketplace, we need to immerse our students in the most cutting-edge innovative environment that we can provide. We do that through engagement in research, application of new teaching models and the implementation of new technologies like Desire to Learn to facilitate learning.

Payscale.com this year rates CU-Boulder as one of the nation’s top schools for mid-career salaries. In recent years our graduates have been perennial leaders in early-career starting salaries as well.

For the second consecutive year we have seen a sharp increase in companies looking to hire our graduates. Job postings were up 23% over last year, with nearly 3,500 fulltime listings. A week ago, there were 150 employers recruiters in this room recruiting our students at a career and internship fair.

Yes, I know, there’s more to a degree than marketability. We all agree that critical thinking, civil discourse, problem solving and civic engagement are important parts of the CU learning experience. But the fact that a CU degree is highly regarded is certainly one mark of a powerhouse university.

As a cultural hub, we need to continue to draw the statewide community onto the campus for engagement in the performing and visual arts. Performing and visual arts are powerful teachers of different cultures, perspectives, historical interpretations and philosophical discourse.

More than 385,000 citizens come on campus annually to take advantage of our museums, arts and cultural events in the last year. And that does not even count the 110,000 attending our cultural outreach activities we take into the community. A half million people come on campus every year for our athletic events, which engenders spirit and camaraderie while connecting us with our alumni and devoted supporters.

So what do we do going forward?
In our recent 10-year re-accreditation report, leaders of our peer universities said that the reputation of CU-Boulder may be better appreciated outside the state of Colorado than within the state itself.

To ensure our reputation is raised within our own state borders, we must draw the community to our campus and build a greater understanding of the value we offer.

Building that reputation is critical to our future because it attracts resources and funding that we need to chart our future.  It is vital that we:

  • Attract more qualified student applicants – both resident and non-resident
  • Build upon our international student momentum to help meet our Flagship 2030 objectives of internationalization as well as to build our financial model.
  • Engender the same excitement about CU from inside Colorado that we enjoy outside of Colorado.
  • Prepare our students to be competitive in a rapidly changing 21st-century job market.
  • Continue to be the safe bet for research awards among federal agencies.
  • Unify our communications so that we effectively build our reputation and communicate our value to all our constituents.

How will we achieve these goals in the new normal? We all agree, I believe, that we cannot cut our way to success. We cannot eat our young.  We must rely on our history of innovation and continue to build on our Flagship 2030 achievements.

These goals are vital to our future.  But it is also vital to create a financial model to support and sustain these activities.

Tuition and state support have never paid for the cost of educating our resident students and, consequently, we have evolved to a model that is highly dependent on non-resident tuition. Unfortunately, in the face of continued declines in state funding, it’s inevitable that our resident students are going to have to bear a greater cost of their education.

This year our resident undergraduate tuition for Arts and Sciences students increased 9 percent. Cal’s resident tuition increased 17 percent and the University of Washington went up 20 percent. Closer to home, CSU’s tuition increased by 20 percent.

If you look at the Colorado private institutions, Colorado College’s annual tuition is nearly $40,000, and the University Denver is nearly $38,000. At our public peers, like the University of Illinois, resident tuition this year is more than $14,000. At CU-Boulder our resident tuition and fees is $9,152.

As we look at the prospect of raising tuition, seeking more research dollars and exceling in private fundraising so that we can be the powerhouse university that we are capable of being – we need to be accountable and transparent to our constituents and to the state.

In academics, we need to invest in academic programs with high student demand and those with demonstrated need in the business community, increase availability of core courses, and aggressively pursue evidence-based reform to improve faculty-based productivity and student outcomes. In student performance, we need to increase our six-year-graduation rate from 68 percent to an all-time high of 71 percent over the next decade.  And we intend to increase the percentage of freshmen who return for their sophomore year from 85 percent to 88 percent.

We will also keep a sharp eye on how to enhance financial aid to low and middle-income families to preserve and increase accessibility.  We have already made dramatic additions to financial aid, increasing it nearly three-fold over the last five years from $14 million to $39 million.

Creating Futures
There is another critical piece to financial stability and our ability to deliver a quality education to our students: our fund-raising campaign. The Creating Futures campaign was publicly announced in April.

Creating Futures is a campaign to enhance CU’s four campuses on all fronts and advance the economy, culture and health of Colorado and the nation. Our donors invest in the people, places and programs that compose CU’s pillars of excellence and impact in:

  • Learning and Teaching, such as our STEM programs, our Residential Academic Programs, or the work we do in the performing arts.
  • Discovery and Innovation, such as our work in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, the Geosciences Complex approved by the Board of Regents last month, or the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.
  • Community and Culture, including the Visual Arts Complex, the Center for Community and Athletics, which just opened its new facility at the Coors Events Center.
  • And Health and Wellness, which includes the work of our new Biofrontiers Institute on cancer research, heart disease, cartilage regeneration and much more in the new biotech facility.

We have made significant progress in our fundraising. As a campus we have a goal of $508 million in private fundraising and we have achieved $242 million thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

We have funded four endowed chairs in the last year and a half: two in Business-Finance and one each in Jewish History, and Bio-Engineering. This adds substantially to the momentum and presence of those programs.

This fundraising has been enormously valuable to us, but the vast majority of it is committed to specific areas of the donors’ passions. We need to pursue unrestricted gifts and aggressively build our endowment for long-term financial stability, much as our private higher education institutions have done.

Despite recent years of success in fundraising we are still relatively young in our fundraising activities. We need to build a greater tradition of philanthropy amongst our alumni, our parents, our faculty-staff, and our supporters. And we need to help them understand the tremendous benefits of supporting this institution.

Our campaign goals will be met through all of our efforts – alumni, parents, faculty and staff. One of the many success factors that provides great strength to a comprehensive campaign is faculty and staff giving.  Some of you have been a part of faculty and staff giving programs within your departments. Or, you have simply felt passionate about an area of the campus – our students, research or capital projects – that have led you to give in your own way.

Whatever has led you to pursue your passions and interests at CU-Boulder, I want to tell you how grateful I am, as well as the campus is, too, for your support. As employees of this great university, you contribute so much to ensuring that we are successful. Your gifts help our students fulfill their academic careers to go on to be productive citizens. And I thank you.

Call to Action
I have long felt that “the best” perform in the most difficult circumstances. And we’re there. We have made tremendous progress in the face of very difficult conditions. We have not only survived but we have excelled. You have demonstrated your resilience as a campus. Now the challenge is to elevate this university to lead Colorado forward.

So I am asking our faculty and our staff to continue to step up on several fronts. I am asking you to:

  • Retain our outstanding research reputation, and enhance it, so we continue to be the “sure bet” in federal research funding at a time of reduced federal funds. This will require faculty to be entrepreneurial and pursue innovative models to capture the same dollars from a shrinking pie.
  • I am asking you to continue to build on our success of bringing a diversity of students to campus – both domestically and internationally. We must welcome students from all points around the globe, all races and income levels, so that we become a global community and enhance the experience of all students.
  • I am asking you to further build our campus into a tight-knit community. Help our students, alumni, faculty-staff, and all our supporters to feel vested in the university. Ensure they are truly Forever Buffs, and that they are inspired to support the university.
  • I am asking you to help Coloradans to understand and see the value of our university as the national and worldwide communities do. Those with a stake in the future of the state should be encouraged to embrace the university as a significant asset and invest in it.
  • Finally, I am asking you to help build dynamic, consolidated and coordinated communications about our value to the state, the nation and the world.

We are ultimately a place for learning and transformation in a rapidly changing world.

Our research forges new knowledge, finds solutions to our problems and builds our economy.

 Our education prepares students for a fulfilling life of career and contribution, creates citizens who contribute to their local and global communities, and imparts knowledge to succeed in a volatile world.

Our cultural and athletic offerings weave a community fabric, enrich our quality of life, and offer broad perspectives.

Working together
This moment in our history is too important to stand idle.  We cannot wait. We cannot wait for the state to restore funding to historical levels. We cannot wait for the economy to rebound. We cannot wait for someone else to create a model for our sustainability. We must do it ourselves. And we must do it together. On a macro-level. On a micro-level. And on a level that advances our state in perhaps the most challenging time we will know. 

As we depart this morning for our separate classrooms, labs and offices, to do our life’s work of advancing knowledge, creativity and culture, let us recall the words of George Norlin, our beloved fifth president. He presided over CU in its darkest days of the Great Depression. He said, “We can light the way ...  if we all hold a candle.”