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State of the Campus Address 2012

Chancellor DiStefano delivers 2012 State of the Campus Address

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Good morning and welcome to the 2012-2013 State of the Campus address. It's wonderful to be with you in the Glenn Miller Ballroom in my 39th year on the campus. I'd like the record to show, that contrary to popular belief, I did not know Glenn Miller. He wasn’t in any of my classes. But I certainly enjoy his music.

I would like to welcome those of you who are with us today via live streaming. Whether you are watching on your computer, or you are here in the room, thank you for joining us. I have important goals to announce that will impact us all.

Let me make some brief introductions.

  • First of all, my wife, Yvonne
  • Regent Steve Bosley
  • Boulder Valley Schools Superintendent Bruce Messinger
  • Brittni Hernandez, President of the CU Student Government and Vice-President Tyler Quick.

It's always nice when one has particularly good news to start with. We are honored that Dr. David Wineland, of NIST and our physics department, won the Nobel Prize in physics last week, the fifth for our campus.

His work here is transforming the digital future of the nation, but it is also transforming the work of his graduate students and adding to CU-Boulder's legacy of innovation.

I have to tell you, I was flying back into town on the day Dr. Wineland won. As I was getting on to the airport shuttle, an individual next to me asked, "Aren’t you Phil DiStefano?" I said, "Yes." Excited by the great news of our latest Nobel winner, I was anxious to talk all about it. And he said, "I really want to talk to you about the football team."

Clearly this demonstrates the need to communicate the importance of the life-changing research going on at this campus.

Speaking of the campus, I am delighted to say that for the first time in two years I have a fully staffed cabinet with the recent additions of my new Chief of Staff, Catherine Shea, our new Vice Chancellor for Administration, Louise Vale, and our new Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, Kelly Fox.

I would also like to welcome our new Arts and Sciences Dean, Steven Leigh, and congratulate College of Music Dean Dan Sher on his retirement after 20 highly productive years of excellent service to the university.

As we discuss the University's present and future today, we must be mindful of the great forces around us. We're dealing with a slowly recovering economy. We have a hotly contested presidential election coming up. We are in a very unstable environment for both state and federal funding.

Yet despite these realities, the university continues to do what it has always done: produce top-quality graduates, improve human lives, generate new discoveries, fuel new companies and forge new relationships that add to the intellectual capital of our nation and our world.

We are a global university in every respect, contributing to and "engaged in the world." And just as importantly, the world is engaged with us.

That means our success or failure today, more than at any time in our history, is a matter of how we manage these complex relationships.

I believe it boils down to two things: knowing who we are as individuals and yet also understanding our roles in making the entire University successful.

Today I am going to talk about three elements critical to the university and its success:

  • Enhancing the experience of all of our students
  • Establishing a diversified funding model
  • And building and protecting our reputation

Coming Together

When I contemplate the challenges that confront us, both now and in the future, I believe that it is imperative that we balance our robust success in research, scholarship and creative work with a rededication to our long traditions of cooperation and collaboration.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me give you three quick examples.

Jim White is an internationally known ice core expert, who directs the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Jim is also chair of the academic committee that carries university outreach to the state. Why does he do this? Because he cares about engaging with the community at all levels, as do the other faculty who take their presentations out to Colorado communities. He is enthusiastic about representing the entire University to his audiences. Wherever he goes, Jim includes introductory slides and hand-outs that provide information on the value of CU-Boulder.

Here's another example:

The Leeds School of Business, in an effort to collaborate more closely with the entire campus, sought and just received a very generous seed gift from the Anschutz Foundation to support the development of an innovative business minor. The Leeds faculty came together to create curricula customized to serve students outside of their college, in all disciplines, across all schools and colleges.

In the arts, we see a wonderful collaboration this month among the CU Art Museum, the College of Music, the CU Opera, the Center for British and Irish Studies, and the English and Fine Arts departments.

They will present all three versions of William Hogarth's famed "Rake's Progress." This includes the original artwork by the 18-century British master, Stravinsky's inspired opera, and the 1960's pop-art prints by David Hockney, a former faculty member.

This creative coming together breaks new ground, attracts new audiences, and builds community and culture.

I propose that coming together represents our path to the future, and if you remember, it was also the driving force in how we created the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan, now five years old.

Flagship 2030 Five-year Accomplishments

The genius of Flagship 2030 is that it isn't simply an internal, proprietary vision for ourselves. It is a combined vision of the hopes and aspirations of individuals and communities around the state for their flagship university. We have made significant progress on the goals of the plan since it was launched in 2007.

There are numerous accomplishments which I could spend the rest of the morning reciting. Instead, I will issue a report to document those in the next couple of weeks on the Flagship 2030 website. For now, let me share just a few highlights.

  • The research and scholarly productivity of our faculty has grown at an unprecedented rate.
  • Our research grants have increased from 260 to 380 million dollars in the last five years.
  • I should also note that in 2010 we were listed as No. 8 among the most cited research universities in the country.
  • Despite our economic hardships, we have invested in nearly 100 new tenure and tenure-track positions since 2007, increasing our ability to attract research dollars and serve our students.
  • We have nearly doubled the number of Residential Academic Programs to 13, creating close-knit learning environments and a sense of community for 44% of the freshman class.
  • Five faculty leading these programs are now living in the residence halls.
  • We anticipate two more will move into the halls next year.
  • We are advancing the academic experience of our students in a number of ways:
    • We continue to assert our leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education and have positioned CU-Boulder as a national model, recently establishing a new Center for STEM Learning.
    • We allowed ourselves to think creatively about new opportunities in the areas of information, communication, media, journalism and technology.
    • We created a new Journalism-Plus program which has been well-received by students.
    • Enrollment is up this year to 400 in the program's second semester.
    • We brought the environmental design program back to the Boulder campus. This creates a unique opportunity to think about new academic synergies with disciplines rooted in environmental sciences, environmental engineering, and architectural engineering and design.
    • Over the past five years, we've increased diversity from almost 20% to more than 26% of our resident freshman class.

But let there be no mistake: We still have much work to do in building trust with diverse communities around the state, improving our campus climate to be more welcoming and inclusive, and adding diversity to our faculty and graduate student ranks.

When Flagship 2030 was launched, we had an ambitious goal to support the mission by investing in our facilities.

In the last five years alone, this has yielded:

  • The Jennie Smoly Caruthers building, an interdisciplinary world-class research facility in biotechnology.
  • The new JILA wing, one of our jewel alliances between federal labs and the university.
  • The Visual Arts Complex, the Center for Community, The Institute of Behavioral Science, seven new or renovated residence halls, and two dining centers.

Other significant accomplishments include:

  • The integration of Athletics into the campus and into the PAC-12 Conference.
  • Important alliances have been created with our Pac-12 peers: academically, in communications and alumni, as well as athletics.
  • I just have to take a second to say: In our first year in the Pac-12, we celebrated three conference championships... as well as sending six Buffs to the Olympics. But what we are all most proud of is the academic performance of all of our student athletes. Our 303 student-athletes had a combined grade-point average of 2.935 last spring, the highest in CU's history. This news came on the heels of a school-best NCAA Academic Progress Report that measures eligibility and retention of student-athletes, a key to their graduation.
  • In other areas, we continued to work on transforming our reputation as a party school, committing ourselves to instilling academic rigor in all courses and to offering students an engaging social experience right here on campus.
  • We took a stand against the intrusive and disruptive 420 gathering.
  • By partnering with last year's student government and our community—including the Boulder Valley School District and the city—we succeeded in one year in reducing the crowd from over 10,000 to about 700.
  • We took these measures to ensure that our key directives—research and teaching—were not compromised.

I received many letters of thanks and support from students, parents and faculty. One came from a longtime staff member here at CU whose daughter was considering colleges to apply to... but not CU. The reason: 420.

Two days after 420, when she saw our successful efforts to extinguish it, she changed her mind. She is a student here today.

These combined efforts are paying off:

  • CU-Boulder was no where to be found this year on the top "party schools" lists published by the Princeton Review and Playboy.
  • More students are choosing CU-Boulder for the right reasons: superior academics and the life-changing educational experience we offer.

In dozens of places across the campus, collaboration and combined efforts are having a big payoff for the entire community.

  • The Broadway-Euclid underpass—right outside the doors here—is one example. It resulted from a successful partnership of the city, RTD, Boulder County, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and CU-Boulder.
  • Our students also joined in, and the CU Student Government once again stepped up and provided $300,000 in student fees to support the project and make a down payment on safety in our community for generations to come. I'd like to note that a graduate of our Masters of Fine Arts program, Melissa Gordon, designed the artwork called "Defining our Roots" that graces the walls of the new underpass.

So that summary gives you an idea of some of the key accomplishments that we have achieved together since Flagship 2030 was launched.

Continued Funding Challenges

Moving forward, we know that a key challenge confronting us is the development of a stable and sustainable funding model for the university. Some have estimated that if state funding continues on its current track, there will be no funding for public higher education in Colorado in 3 to 5 years. A recent study by the University of Denver was more optimistic. That study still concluded that funding for public higher education in Colorado will be gone in a decade.

Whether it's 3, 5 or 10 years, we can anticipate, and we must plan for, zero state funding. And that planning will require us to come together as never before.

The National Science Board just released a report that put the State of Colorado at the top—or should I say the bottom—of public funding per student, at number 50.

We are also facing a period of extreme uncertainty related to our federal research and student aid financing. So, we are taking a proactive approach to communicating the serious impact of these impending cuts to our federal delegation. We are doing this in partnership with the county, city and business community, many of whom are equally concerned.

Flagship 2030 is a visionary plan, but one that could not foresee a major financial crisis, nor the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It did, however, put forward a vision rooted in enhancing the educational experience of our students while simultaneously generating new revenue.

Some of these initiatives include:

  • Increasing the international student body
  • Building the Residential Academic Programs
  • Creating facilities like JILA and Biofrontiers that enable partnerships
  • and Investing in technology to provide distance learning

Let me take a moment to talk about distance learning.

We are fully reviewing our distance learning options to see what advantages we can create for our students, what opportunities we can develop for our faculty, and what delivery methods we can realize to enhance our budgets. This is perhaps one of the greatest innovative challenges the campus, and indeed all of American higher education, is facing.

But it is—like all of our other opportunities—an opportunity to come together, to invent and pioneer, and to explore a whole new dimension for the university.

Enhancing Student Experience

Looking forward, we are fortunate to have a strategic plan like Flagship 2030 to build upon. I'd like to talk with you now about other ways in which our Strategic Plan offers the framework for new innovations and new opportunities to work together.

First, we must continue to improve the overall learning experience for each and every student. We need to focus on how we offer students a sense of community, make it easier for them to work across departments, and to seek and receive advising relevant to their needs. We are working on programs this year to remove barriers to their educational experience, an effort that I believe will not only enhance their education, but improve our reputation, allowing us to attract the best and brightest students in Colorado and the nation.

Provost Moore is working with his team to reduce the barriers to collaboration between schools, so that our students can get dual majors more easily. Today if a student wants to earn a dual degree—meaning one in each of two colleges—it requires 145 credit hours, despite the fact that a student may be able to satisfy the requirements for both degrees in 120 hours. That extra 25 hours constitutes an additional year of study, a significant logistical and financial barrier to our students. We are working to eliminate that obstacle. We must seek out other barriers we can remove to enable flexibility for our students, particularly in this era when adaptability to changing circumstances is basic to success in their lives.

Diversity is also an enriching component of the student experience. Diversity offers an incredible opportunity to get to know students and colleagues from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences whose life stories add to the lessons of the classroom and the workplace.

Our freshman class this year is the most diverse in our history. 26 percent of Colorado residents in our freshman class are underrepresented students. That compares to 33 percent among Colorado public high school graduates. Our goal is to erase that gap by 2020. It's a tough goal, but one that we should and can achieve.

Our Student Affairs division is developing a number of new extracurricular activities that will encourage students to stay on campus. We are redoubling our efforts to bend the curve on binge drinking through a comprehensive alcohol and drug prevention strategy, and putting an increased emphasis on civic engagement and service learning.

We have long been known for our service-oriented students and graduates. CU-Boulder produced the most volunteers for the Peace Corps of any university for the past two years. This spirit of serving is a key element in the student experience. Challenging our students to see beyond themselves and their individual wants and needs, and to place their experience in a larger global framework, is becoming a hallmark of a CU degree.

This year, Student Affairs piloted a program on student volunteerism in which 120 new freshmen spent their first Saturday on campus volunteering for community activities. These included environmental restoration, yard work for disabled and elderly citizens, and sorting food at the local food bank.

As you can imagine, getting up early on the first Saturday at school was not on the top of their "happy-to-do" lists. When I was with them early on that Saturday morning, they grabbed their sack lunches and trudged off to work. Many looked like they weren't sure what they were getting into. But when they returned, they had the look of satisfaction we all get when we step outside ourselves and serve our community or help someone in need.

Student volunteer Kimberly Chin said—and I quote—"Volunteering at the Food Bank of the Rockies made me more aware of the face of hunger in America and how much impact a single individual can make." I think this day is something the students will always remember about their initial college experience.

This program will be expanded to more freshmen next year, with the goal of incorporating the entire freshman class in three to four years.

These are just some of our initiatives to enhance the student experience in the coming years.

Bold Goals in Building Diversified Funding

Now, to thrive and survive in the public funding environment in which we find ourselves we must—and will—take bold, entrepreneurial actions to diversify our financial model.

Our first step will be to do a rigorous review of potential new funding sources for the University by forming alliances with our community. I will speak more about this later.

Our second step will be to more proactively work with business and industry to generate industrial research contracts. Right now when it comes to research revenues, we are largely dependent on federally sponsored research, the future of which may be endangered by federal budget cuts in the new year. At this moment, we bring in about $20 million a year in private research contracts. Like the best research universities among our peers, we should aspire to generate at least $100 million per year.

To support both applied research and basic research, we will focus on creating the infrastructure and support personnel we need to meet the needs of our faculty and the rapidly increasing federal compliance requirements. Provost Russ Moore, Vice Chancellor Stein Sture and Senior Vice Chancellor and CFO Kelly Fox are now engaged in a project to determine what resources are required and how to secure them.

Next, we will increase the recruitment of international students to reach a steady state of 900 matriculating students per year and a total international student population of 3,240—10 percent of the student body. More importantly, we are building the support and retention services for international students so that they will enjoy their experience here and become some of our best ambassadors around the world. Since Flagship 2030 was launched, we have increased international enrollment by 31 percent. An international student body offers all students a broader cultural understanding andperspective, and a more complete view of the world around them.

Certainly a big part of a diversified funding model is private fund-raising. The campus community will begin to see private fundraising as a source of revenue just as we view tuition, research and other sources of revenue.

We need to think boldly to increase the amount of private fundraising, and to explore new ways of deploying these funds. We are proud of the progress we have made, and so grateful for the hard work of our campaign chairs, Jack and Jeannie Thompson as well as Bruce and Marcy Benson. We must supplement their efforts with bold and visionary goals.

Our goal is to double our fundraising to $100 million per year.

To enhance our fundraising, our first order of business is to engage our 247,000 alumni in new and dynamic ways. The Alumni Association team is implementing an exciting new plan to step up engagement and alumni services for both alumni and students.

Our efforts to connect with our alumni need to increase. You may not be aware that the level of participation by our alumni—that is the percentage of alumni who give to the university—impacts our rankings. It is one of the factors considered in college rankings nationally. Our performance in alumni participation is very low compared to our Pac-12 peers and other public peers. Last year, our rate of participation was 8.2%, down from 10% in 2008. The Pac-12 average is 15%. It's critical to the future success of the university that we reverse our trend. We are setting a challenging goal to increase the percentage of alumni who donate to the university from 8.2% to 16% in FY16.

Our second order of business is to ensure that we all know that it is critical to be attuned and informed on how to connect potential donors to our development officers at the Foundation. If we all have our eyes and ears open, we can identify opportunities that might not otherwise come to fruition. Look for information coming your way on how to easily connect potential donors to our professional team of fund-raisers.

Our third order of business is to fully integrate Athletics into our fund-raising efforts. I know from experience that many financial supporters of the university first gave to us through the athletic program. Over time they became more engaged and passionate about other areas of the university—such as music, theater or business—and began giving more broadly. Athletics is a key element to how we engage many in the community with the university, and it must be an integral part of our Flagship 2030 plan going forward.

Under Mike Bohn's leadership over the last seven years, athletics has united with the campus to make academics and campus culture an inseparable part of its fabric.

You may have also heard about the possibility of upgrading and expanding the athletic facilities. We are currently studying the feasibility of enhancing spectator and training facilities to improve the game-day experience for our fans, and to remain competitive for student-athletes in the Pac-12. We expect to complete a facilities review and a donor feasibility study by the end of the year and then decide if we go forward or not.

Building and Protecting our Reputation

Today I have talked about two things that are very important: enhancing the student experience and building a diverse and stable financial model. To make those happen, we also need a sterling reputation. People need to know who we are, what we do, and what we stand for.

CU-Boulder is admired and respected for our unique work in teaching methodologies, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. When we were re-accredited in 2010 by a panel of our national peers, they wrote this in their final re-accreditation report:

"The reputation of CU-Boulder may be better appreciated outside the state of Colorado than in the state itself. Those with a stake in the future of Colorado should be encouraged to embrace the university as a significant asset and invest in it."

This signals that there is a big gap between understanding the actual value that the university provides, and how we are perceived in our own state. This means we must dramatically change that perception in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced environment.

This requires us to develop a strongly aligned message platform that emphasizes our tremendous academic and research strengths. We must represent everything we do across the campus as part of, and integral to, the University of Colorado Boulder.

In November, we will announce a unified message platform that aligns our communications so that we can begin to create a consistent and distinct image. A group that broadly represents the various areas of the campus came together in August to work on this project at my direction. The group has engaged with students, parents, alumni, faculty, and the administration for input and guidance.

Building our reputation in the state also includes communicating our economic impact. Research universities are job creators. CU-Boulder technology has spun off 27 technology-related companies in the last five years alone.

Our reputation depends on all of us knowing and communicating our value. Even though Colorado is 50th in state funding for higher education, CU-Boulder's tuition is below our peers and below market. Our campus was once again named one of nation's 150 best values in higher education by the Princeton Review, a laurel that is not new to us.

At the same time, Payscale.com rates CU-Boulder 35th out of 452 state schools for mid-career salaries of our graduates. Smart Money magazine rates us 19th among the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities, public and private. This ranking calculates the ratio of our alumni's salary to the tuition and fees they paid to attend here. In this ranking we are just behind Princeton, but ahead of Carnegie-Mellon, Dartmouth, Harvard, Colgate, Columbia and a host of other institutions. That's pretty good company and a powerful statement about the value we offer.

In order to help you communicate our value, we are publishing a new version of "Just the Facts," our handbook of basic information about the campus and its impact. This will be delivered to your schools and departments in early November.

Challenging the Campus Community

I began our visit today talking about the need to balance our individual pursuits with a greater commitment to the common good of the university itself. Your dedication to pursuing this balance is vital to our future success.

Change is upon us, and we must not only embrace that change, we must lead it. The levels of state support of 40 years ago aren't coming back. It may be that the levels of federal support for research could shrink substantially soon, and we need to factor that into our near- and long-term future.

But these challenges are opportunities for us to do again what we've done well in the past: innovate, share and work together.

To our faculty, I say: Don't embrace the status quo, because it will not be with us very long. Employ the same vision, energy and imagination that fuel your research, scholarship and creative work to help transform the University.

If we are going to be the university that models how a public institution can survive, and even thrive in the new fiscal reality, we must think boldly, we must come together as a team.

You can expect support from my administration for stepping outside of traditional structures, traditional ways of thinking, and for pushing boundaries at all levels of your work. I am asking you to consider new ideas and approaches.

To CU-Boulder staff, I challenge you to help us identify ways to make this a more caring place to work and a continued place of innovation. We need your ideas to revolutionize how work gets done on the campus.

I am challenging the management of this institution to work with you to create this environment.

To CU-Boulder administrators: We need to fundamentally re-examine our work structures and build on the efficiencies we've enacted over the last five years... and we need to go further than that. We can't afford to build empires or to simply protect administrative turf... we have to listen to each other and to our external communities.

To all employees: Now is the time to lead, evolve, and change how we do things. Now is the time to bring forth new ideas and new methods, new levels of organization, and new partnerships to reach our goals.

To our students: I challenge you to build on the educational experience you are immersed in, and to develop a greater awareness of yourself and your relationship to the community around you. To be mindful that the reputation of this institution rests, in no small part, on your conduct and future achievement. Know that this university supports your highest aspirations and your boldest visions. Indeed, that's what we're here for: to support you.

To our donors: I thank you for your investment and belief in CU-Boulder, and I ask you now to help us reach out to like-minded people in your circles of influence. Help us to convince these individuals to invest in the University of Colorado Boulder as a catalyst for a better future for all of us.

To our alumni: I am honored by your legacies and your connections to this great institution. Today, I am asking you to re-connect with CU-Boulder at all new levels of involvement, and I am charging our Alumni Association with the task of building greater connections to you to help foster that involvement. Your voice is vital to helping us secure more resources, lead the university in more dynamic directions, and live up to our promise as an institution.

To our parents: I thank you for entrusting your most precious resource to us—your child. I ask you to engage with the University, stay connected with us, but more importantly with your student. Research shows that, although they may not appear to be listening, they are, and you have more influence than you think.

To members of the public, lawmakers and even skeptics of CU: We invite your input, your ideas, and you to the university. We hope you will come learn about us on your own terms. Come work with us to serve Colorado communities, the nation and the world, and you will see what we are really about.

For my part, I pledge to our faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and stakeholders, that my administration will work tirelessly, in good faith at all levels, at all points of commonality and even through our differences, to move CU-Boulder ahead. We must develop a shared vision—one that is bold enough to inspire our community and engage us in the world.

New Advisory Council

I also pledged to you today that we will do a rigorous review of new funding sources. As a first step, I am announcing the creation of an Advisory Council that will draw from the best and brightest leaders in our external community, many with no ties to CU-Boulder, and some with lifetime ties to us. This council will help us identify new funding sources, build support for new research partnerships, make innovations in how we serve our students, and help us build and sustain our reputation in Colorado and across the nation.

In partnership with this new Advisory Council, I would like to challenge the Financial Advisory Committee of the Boulder Faculty Assembly—led by Jerry Rudy—to engage our faculty to bring forward ideas for new revenue sources that can be shared with the council. We must utilize all of our significant intellectual and entrepreneurial capital to solve our financial challenges.

Let me conclude with this: This moment is born of necessity. But we will rise to the occasion as we always have: by listening to one another, the public and our stakeholders, and then by working together to make the tough decisions, find common ground, and take bold actions.

By coming together, the state of our campus will remain strong. The state of our lives, and our future together, will be stronger still.

Thank you very much, and my best to you all.