Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you today to deliver my tenth State of the University Address. I can hardly believe that it has been 10 years since my first report to you. Yet the calendar doesn't lie, and I hope you all indulge me in an exercise of presidential privilege as I take this opportunity to, among other things, reflect on the past 10 years as a foundation for the next decade at NIU.
Recognizing and celebrating milestones is a fundamental part of historical analysis, strategic planning and personal life. On a road or highway, milestones are markers that provide reference points to reassure travelers that they are on the right path. With our children, we watch for developmental milestones that assure us they are growing and attaining skills that will sustain them in the future. Historical milestones mark turning points at which we acknowledge major changes that have taken place in societies.
And at the institutional level here at NIU we take note of milestones that chart our progress toward goals, as well as those that signal a growing permanence in challenges we hoped might be temporary.
In any event, we can't chart milestones without reviewing our goals, and I had quite a few of them by the time I delivered my first State of the University Address:
For 10 years, I have kept that list of goals on a scrap of paper in my desk, and I periodically take it out like some sort of worn talisman, asking myself if what we have done this week, this month or this year has furthered some or all of these objectives. What have we done to make NIU the best regional public university in the country?
Over the course of the last decade, we have tackled all of these challenges through initiatives with different names, different methods and different champions. Sometimes our pursuit of these goals has found expression through serendipity, where existing expertise has met new interest and the availability of support has broadened our thinking. More often, we have just worked harder. And we have gotten a lot of things right in the past 10 years:
These and other institutional attainments help tell our story.
Over the past 10 years, we have grown and refined our academic program in a variety of ways. We have added four new Ph.D. programs, seven new master has degrees, three new bachelor has programs and countless new certificates and emphases.
We have established 10 new research centers, including the Center for Child Welfare and Education, the Center for Accelerator and Detector Development, the Analytical Center for Climate and Environmental Change, the Center for Educational Policy Research and Services, and the Institute for Nanoscience, Engineering and Technology, among others.
These are the sorts of degree programs and centers that justify our designation as a top-level research university.
We have also created new programs that allow place-bound students to complete their baccalaureate degrees at community colleges, and we have embraced online learning as an important part of our educational profile.
In short, we have responded to new needs and embraced new opportunities to serve our students with the types of degrees and programs they want. We have also nurtured scholarship in these new programs, adding to the body of knowledge in countless important subjects.
Over the past 10 years, we have responded to the growing needs of our students and researchers with a long list of new facilities. It has amazing, really, when you think about it: We have physically transformed the face of our campus and redefined our geographic boundaries in a single decade! You'd hardly guess that we have been without a state-funded capital bill during most of that time.
And as our state economy sputters back to life, we are grateful for the capital bill that was finally passed this year (and for which we are awaiting actual funding) that will finally allow us to recreate Stevens Hall into a facility worthy of the world-class theater and anthropology programs housed there.
It will allow us to keep our pledge to students, faculty and staff to reinvent Cole Hall, changing its appearance and functionality in ways that will help our campus continue our healing.
And the new capital bill contains money that will allow us to begin planning on a new Technology Center somewhere in center campus a facility that will bring together a number of academic programs as well as much-needed general computing space for students and faculty.
Just as all of the new buildings that opened in the last decade had a planning history going back much further, so must we now make plans for the campus of the 2020s, 2030s and beyond. As we look forward, we must think seriously about renovating the core of our campus, including the Holmes Student Center and the classroom buildings that surround it.
We need to assess our housing stock, and commit to a long-range plan for updating all of our residence halls. We have taken two important steps in that direction, the opening of the Northern View apartment complex in 2007, and beginning this year, the $80 million renovation of Grant Towers. Now we need to commit to a blueprint for all of the residential facilities that we own and operate.
And while I suspect most of you haven't thought much lately about our far west campus, I can assure you that we continue to develop roads and infrastructure in that area to prepare it for future development. So far we have used the far west campus to locate the Northern View student apartments, the Family Violence Center our first fully federally-funded building on campus and we have received about $8 million in federal dollars to build roads and infrastructure there. Thanks to the foresight of our Board of Trustees, NIU has future growth and development will not be constrained for lack of development-ready land.
And I would also like to note the progress we have made on athletic facilities. When I came here in 2000, NIU has athletic facilities were simply not Division I quality not at all competitive with the other 116 Division I schools with whom we interact. With the construction of our Convocation Center, arguably the best multi-purpose center in the MAC, and with improvements to our stadium, construction of our wonderful new Olympic-caliber track, our new soccer fields, and the fabulous end zone facility we call the Yordon Center, NIU is well-positioned to remain competitive in our conference and beyond.
Of course, new facilities do not create research innovation and academic and athletic success on their own. Almost all of the growth and progress we can claim for our past decade has come from the hard work and expertise of our faculty, and I'd like to focus on two areas in that regard research and relevance.
Even in a decade of dwindling resources at traditional funding agencies, we have managed to substantially increase our research funding both competitive R&D grants and special requests. Between 2000 and 2009, we moved from the 55th to the 63rd percentile ranking from the National Science Foundation, which ranks universities by total federal research expenditures. Moreover, we are growing our research program in ways that fit our university and our long-range goals. Specifically, our strategic plan calls upon us to enhance investment in multidisciplinary scholarship and artistic clusters.
Many of those multidisciplinary projects have already made it through the planning phase and are up and running with central university investment and faculty initiative:
And so our strategic plan has created a tremendous amount of cross-disciplinary discussion and planning over the past two years, much of it happening quietly behind the scenes. Yet these are very important developments in the life of our university, and 10 years from now I predict that we will look back on these years as a watershed moment in NIU history that happened through creative thinking and cost-effective partnerships.
This year alone, we will invest $4 million in our academic strategic plan, and the initiatives I have just described are part of that effort. Even in the worst of economic times, we must invest our own dollars in new initiatives before we can seek external funding.
Yet external funding is critical, and over the past decade we have become much more adept at our pursuit of federal dollars:
Beginning in the first year of this new millennium, and continuing on to the present day, we have stepped up our pursuit of federal dollars in a variety of ways. Whether through increased support for the often-tedious process of grant application, or through targeted requests to Congressional supporters, our federal agenda has provided millions of dollars in seed money to grow critical programs:
We had a two-week period last month during which four of our scientists received four separate NSF research grant awards totaling nearly $2.3 million: Dhiman Chakraborty in Physics, Jozef Bujarski in Biology, Narayan Hosmane in Chemistry, and Jon Carnahan in Chemistry all received NSF funding â€“ some of it made possible by an infusion of federal stimulus dollars into programs considered important to the federal government.
Meanwhile, Jim Collins, director of our Center for Southeast Asian Studies, got good news last week from the U.S. Department of Education in the form of a $500,000 grant to the Center for creation of an online dictionary of the Malay language.
And across campus, the U.S. Department of Energy just awarded NIU physicist Zhili Xiao a three-year grant totaling nearly $500,000 to continue his investigations of superconductivity at the nanoscale.
These are simply a few of our most recent research funding successes. A 10-year list would keep us here all afternoon. Suffice it to say, our researchers are productive and have found ways to continue their work even in the most difficult economic times.
For some programs, federal grants with fewer zeros at the end have nonetheless nurtured and transformed important research initiatives:
In some cases, federal dollars were aimed at collaborations and community-based programs. The most visible example of that sort of funding was a $6 million grant to establish what is now the NIU Family Health, Wellness and Literacy Center in the former Monsanto Building on Sycamore Road, in the heart of DeKalb has Health Corridor.
And the list goes on. Over the past 10 years, our federal agenda has yielded more than $70 million to start up, continue or expand programs across campus and within our community. Over the next 10 years, we will need to redouble our efforts to expand external funding activities, and to provide incentives for our faculty to apply for external grants to fund their scholarship and artistic work.
Faculty excellence has sustained this university over the past 10 years, as it will 10 years from now. Just as our faculty members have expanded NIU has research agenda, so are they leading the charge on the second major category I mentioned, which I have simply called relevance. One of the most significant outcomes of our strategic planning process was the call for a complete review of our baccalaureate programs.
While NIU is typically quick to respond to changing needs, it has been 25 years since we have really assessed what it is that our graduates should know, what they should value, and what they should be able to do.
Thirty-one members of our university community primarily faculty make up the Baccalaureate Review Task Force. While there is clearly some urgency to their charge, the group has proceeded deliberately and inclusively. Before we can overhaul our general education program, the task force said, we must have agreement on a set of baccalaureate goals, and everyone involved in this enterprise called NIU must know what those goals are.
To that end, the Task Force held 29 focus group discussions involving faculty, staff, administrators, employers, commissions and cultural centers. They held an additional 16 focus groups with students, led by fellow students from an NIU marketing class. The task force also commissioned a three-month, online survey that attracted nearly 1,000 responses from students, faculty, alumni, employers, staff, parents, and community colleges. At the end of all these focus groups and surveys, participants were asked three open-ended questions:
Probably the most interesting result from all of this study is that there was not much variation in response from all these different groups. Across the board, NIU stakeholders said that our undergraduate curriculum should be known for producing graduates who are:
The three C has Critical Thinking, Communication, and Context. We'll discuss and refine these goals throughout this fall semester, and when we're finished we'll adopt them through our university shared governance structure. And when we have all agreed on our goals, we'll proceed as quickly as possible to develop specific changes, including new approaches to better integrate our general education program with individual majors. This is such an important undertaking, and I applaud the task force for its work.
Ten years ago, our goals for this institution included enhancing our outreach efforts, particularly within our service region. A decade later, we have made great progress in this area:
There are far too many examples of our outreach and engagement efforts to list them here this afternoon, but I would like to talk about one more. No discussion about connecting NIU to its region would be complete without mention of technology. NIU is at the forefront of broadband connectivity through a project we call NIUNet. Not only have we connected ourselves to the high-speed fiber optic lines lying unused beneath toll ways throughout our region, but we have helped others connect as well cities, schools, hospitals, libraries, community colleges. Hundreds of other entities are now recognizing the benefits of broadband connectivity thanks to a 75-mile fiber optic loop around our region.
NIU also led a coalition of universities and hospitals in successful pursuit of a $21 million grant from the FCC that is connecting 85 rural hospitals to broadband service. Thanks to NIU has leadership, doctors and patients throughout rural Illinois will soon have access to 24-hour, real-time consults with specialists who are simply not available in these small, rural areas.
We're using our expertise to assist the cities of Chicago and Rockford and many towns in between to establish crime-fighting video technology, disaster recovery capabilities, and other public safety programs. From Schaumburg and Olympia Fields to Hanover Park and Glendale Heights, NIU is helping cities and towns attain this decade has new requirement for economic success â€“ broadband infrastructure.
Closer to home, our School of Music is becoming a well-known member of the Internet2 community for its use of broadband to broadcast concerts, bring in master teachers, teach classes in remote locations all virtually, of course and all thanks to high speed Internet.
I'm very proud of this work, and I send my congratulations to all of you who are involved in it.
Perhaps no measure of our involvement with our communities and our region is more meaningful than the honor we received a few months ago. In June, NIU joined an elite group of 195 institutions across the country designated as community engaged universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. As you know, The Carnegie Foundation is higher education has ultimate benchmarking authority. For more than 100 years, American universities have used Carnegie shorthand to describe what type of institution they are, in our case, Research University / High Activity.
Several years ago, the Carnegie Foundation officially recognized a dramatic movement in higher education by creating a new classification. Now, in addition to being classified by size, breadth of programs, and research activity, Carnegie has chosen to assess levels of demonstrable commitment to community engagement. I'm happy to say that we were chosen for that honor, and I hope that all of you share my pride in that very prestigious and meaningful designation.
We have heard many things this afternoon that give us pride and a sense of accomplishment. Looking through the prism of a 10-year assessment, we can clearly see a university that has made measureable progress toward the goals we hold dearest. Yet I am a realist, and I believe in sharing our challenges as well as our triumphs.
Our biggest challenge today is the same one that greeted me upon my arrival in June of 2000; quite simply, it is the disinvestment of our state in higher education. When I came here, the state portion of our budget had plummeted to somewhere around 40 percent. Today it is less than 26 percent. There is a breach in the social contract that has for 150 years defined higher education as a public good. Today, as battles rage in state capitals across our country, higher education is cast as a private benefit instead of an investment we all make in our future.
This fiscal year we are told that we have received flat funding, but, of course, that has not quite the way it plays out. This year has flat funding includes $4.5 million in one-time federal stimulus dollars and I emphasize the descriptor â€œone-time. We fear that next year has budget will start at the previous year has base level minus the $4.5 million. Clearly we must brace ourselves for this type of blow.
We understand that all must share in the sacrifice, and that higher education is expected along with human services, K-12 schools, health care, early childhood and a host of other worthy causes to tighten our belts. We understand all these things, but ladies and gentlemen, I cannot for the life of me understand how the State of Illinois can turn its back on its neediest college students.
I'm talking about the crisis in our state has Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP grants. Facing a 50 percent cut, MAP administrators chose to award full scholarships for this fall (to a reduced number of students, I might add) but then to cut the award to zero for the spring semester. More than 5,000 of our undergraduates rely on MAP grant money, and more than two-thirds of that group are eligible for the maximum amount, meaning they are among our poorest students.
Because they are poor, neither they, nor their parents, can qualify for loans at reasonable rates, or more often, any loans at all. Since I have been using a 10-year time frame for the rest of this speech, allow me to invoke that device here. Nothing in my 10 years at NIU has made me angrier or more alarmed than this. Nearly a third of our current undergraduates face the very real possibility of being unable to return in the spring.
We have joined with other colleges and universities across the state, public and private, to protest this move and to encourage our elected officials to right this wrong. Last week, a small group of us met with Gov. Quinn and received assurance that he would use his office as a bully pulpit to advocate for solutions and draw attention to the problem.
In the meantime, we are taking our case to the airwaves, to newspaper editorial boards, and to our state representatives. We most want our current students to understand their dilemma and not be taken by surprise when October has financial aid award letter arrives. This is not something the universities can fix. In a state that is struggling to rebound from recession, enhance educational attainment, and create the skilled workers who attract new businesses and investment, this is about the most counter-productive move I can think of.
Please take some time to read about the MAP grant dilemma and understand it. Consider adding your voice to the public discussion. And realize that this is a make-or-break, institution-changing issue, for which none of us, including lawmakers, have an answer.
With public funding on a steady downward spiral, we have had no choice but to rely in greater part on tuition. None of us likes to raise it, our students don't like to pay it, but it is the only way NIU can maintain the value of its academic programs and the degrees it awards.
In this scenario, maintaining enrollment becomes ever more essential. That has why we reorganized the enrollment management function this summer to enhance the focus and resources aimed at this critical function. We must make student recruitment and retention a more integrated process with clear objectives and measureable performance outcomes; we must align our enrollment goals with available university resources; and we must not consider the job done when students show up for their first semester. In this environment, we need to make NIU the best possible choice for students each and every semester because they face mounting obstacles, and because they have other options.
That has why we established the Office of Student Academic Success to provide one-stop coordination of all services that support student academic progress. It has in our new central Advising Center in the former Wesley Building, and it provides early alert programs, mid-semester grade checks, special initiatives for building student leadership and financial literacy programs.
It has a challenge to maintain enrollment at levels that match our resources. Going back over previous State of the University addresses I have given, I note that on one occasion shortly after I arrived here, I was announcing the largest single-year enrollment spike in recent history. And let me tell you, we were every bit as concerned then as we are now. Our enrollment goals must match our resources, and they must make sense for the type of institution we are.
This year, with our tenth-day count numbers just in, we are looking at a strong entering freshman class and a healthy number of new transfer students. We met our target goals for both freshmen and transfer students, and we saw healthy increases as well in the number of graduate and law students. That has good news; it means that NIU remains a strong choice for talented young people in this region. But now more than ever, we need to clarify our identity. In business terms, we need a brand.
Fortunately, we're not starting from scratch on this. We have made tremendous progress on messaging, graphic standards, and our Web site; and we're ahead of the curve in many communication efforts involving technology.
But there is a limit to how much can be done in a fragmented environment where historic organizational oddities have held us back from a truly focused branding effort. And so we have reorganized that function as well, pulling together the major units (under three different divisions) into a single communications powerhouse that will lead all aspects of university marketing and communications, with special emphasis on that directed toward our prospective students and their families.
All of the steps we have taken over the past several years, and particularly those I have just mentioned, are aimed at stabilizing our university has future in what will undoubtedly be rocky times.
Yet we have had a solid rock of support over the last decade from those individuals many of them former students, faculty and staff who choose to honor NIU with generous gifts. We have seen a dramatic increase in private support. For instance, even though the last state-supported building project was the renovation of this building, Altgeld Hall, almost a decade ago, private donors have stepped up to fill that funding gap.
We have gone from raising about $35 million in the decade of the 1990s to nearly five times that amount already in the new millennium. Significant campus buildings built with private funds during True North our first-ever comprehensive capital campaign include:
Three bricks-and-mortar examples of generosity in action.
Of a less visible nature, but of equal importance, is the direct support True North has generated for our students and faculty. Donations received during our campaign so far have provided scholarships for 13,700 students; that has $8.2 million in scholarship funds awarded to our students.
NIU now has more than 20 named professorships and chairs to support faculty teaching and research. Ten years ago, we had exactly one.
Support has come for specific programs, like lecture series for visiting artists and scholars, and to provide start-up funding for new initiatives like the Murer Initiative in Health Care Management and Policy.
True North, our first comprehensive fundraising campaign has now entered its final year and I am pleased to report to you that nearly a year early and during a period of extraordinary challenges to our university, our state and our nation we have reached and surpassed our $150 million goal. Neither of them could be here today, but I'd like to personally thank the co-chairs of our campaign committee, John Castle and Dennis Barsema, for their leadership as we celebrate meeting our very ambitious goal for NIU has first-ever capital campaign.
We have reached our dollar goal, but our work is not finished. Our students are under greater financial pressure than at any time in recent memory. MAP grants are in peril, parents have seen college saving funds decimated, jobs have been lost, and both student loans and student jobs are increasingly scarce.
We have 10 months before True North the first campaign for Northern Illinois University draws to a close. We're using this time to focus on immediate and direct support of our students through scholarships a special faculty and staff campaign. Today we ask every member of the NIU family, and especially our faculty and staff, to consider a gift to student scholarships before the campaign ends on June 30, 2010. The size of the gift is not as important as the act of giving, itself. Give what you can, but give.
You might have seen this message in the past week or so. You will soon learn more about how you can give to directly help students during the school year. Keeping our students in school, on the path to opportunity, is an act of kindness from a caring university. At the end of the campaign, we will know that we did all that we could for our students.
Well, this is almost the end of my tenth State of the University Address. I could certainly continue to reflect on the past 10 years and prognosticate about the next decade, but instead, I'd like to publicly acknowledge another significant milestone.
This week, a person we hold dear in our NIU family and in our history passed a milestone of his own. Francis Stroup was a member of our faculty and also served as the men has swimming coach for many years. He led the Huskies to 13 NCAA College Division Championships. And being the loyal Huskie that he was, in 1960 Francis responded to an appeal from the student newspaper to write new lyrics for what was apparently a less-than-inspiring Huskie Fight Song. In 1961, the new song was adopted and the rest is history. For 45 years, in good times and bad, we have been sustained by his words, Forward, together forward.
This week, Francis Stroup celebrated his 100th birthday, and I am thrilled to tell you that he is with us today. Francis, will you please stand and allow all of us to tell you how much we value you and your contributions to NIU. Thank you for being here, Francis, and for sharing so much of your life with NIU.
The gift of perspective comes to us at times both unexpected and desperately needed. Where we are depends almost entirely on where we have been, and where we're going requires us to plan, adjust and evolve. We're doing all those things at NIU, and we will get past all that is put in our way. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless NIU.
Forward, together forward.