Commencements and our public good: President Kaler's May report to the Board of Regents

Friday, May 11, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Welcome to our new Board member, Regent Simonson. 

I had the opportunity to meet Regent Simonson for the first time in 2011 when we met at FarmFest. We welcome him with enthusiasm.

And Happy Commencement Season to us all!

In many ways, this time of year and its celebrations are at the core of what we do and who we are. I’ve already attended the CFANS graduate student commencement with Regent Johnson and our College of Pharmacy ceremony with Regent Anderson. Later today, I’ll be attending the CFANS undergraduate commencement with Regent Powell. There, I’ll be introducing one of our University’s great friends, Land O’Lakes CEO Chris Policinski [Polla-sin-ski].

Each of my commencement visits this year reflects my commitment to our University’s statewide impact and our land-grant mission … With our College of Pharmacy’s campuses in Duluth and the Twin Cities — and it’s the only professional pharmacy college in the state. And CFANS’ influence is, frankly, incalculable in all 87 of our counties. 

Across our all of campuses, there are thousands of accomplishments. At UMD, Chancellor Black proudly Tweeted that 2,245 students received their degrees last week. At Crookston, this academic year we have 439 graduates and about  half of them were online-only students, a hallmark of UMC’s innovative role in our system. At Morris tomorrow, 354 graduates — including a just-named Fulbright teaching scholar and a 2017 Udall Award winner — will march and will be honored to hear Senator Amy Klobuchar as the commencement speaker and greet Regent Omari. At Rochester, following tomorrow’s commencement, 100 percent of our Bachelor of Science in Health Professions graduates will be  employed in their field, and, of our Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences graduates, 86 percent are pursuing professional or graduate school. UMR is truly on target.

In this season of success and passage, we help to facilitate a private good for our almost 16,000 graduates from our five campuses. But, just as importantly, I remind you we also witness the confirmation of an extraordinary public good as our newest alumni move into the state’s and nation’s talent force and make a real difference in their communities. It’s a very special time and we should all be proud of our graduates and of this remarkable University for its unmatched role of driving economic and cultural prosperity in our state.
Let me offer a brief report of what I’ve been up to since we last met as a Board in March and few other tidbits of note. Of course, I’ve been spending much of my time advocating for the University’s capital request and our supplemental request. The drive from Morrill Hall to the Capitol is quite a familiar one. I was pleased with the recently-announced House and Senate Bonding Bill because it clearly recognizes that higher education is and should be an important part of infrastructure investments across the state. I remain hopeful that the allocation for HEAPR will grow closer to our request as the Legislature and governor negotiate a final capital investment bill.

On the philanthropic front, our Driven campaign has now raised more than $2.8 billion. We’ve had very successful campaign launch events in Arizona, Florida, and New York — Dallas is coming up soon — and I’ve attended various on-campus launch events, including an especially fun one for our Pride of Minnesota Marching Band.

I’ve been spreading the word about the University’s impact globally and locally. I spoke last month to our remarkable iCOMOS conference. ICOMOS stands for the International Conference on One Medicine One Science, and I applaud College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Trevor Ames and Professor Srirama Rao for their work in making us a world leader in this One Health space.

About 400 thought leaders from around the world —from Brazil to Turkey to Uganda — gathered on our campus to explore new ways to solve pressing health issues. It’s the third time we’ve hosted this and we now have a partner in Chiang Mai University in Thailand.

Also, our University brand was promoted on the global front by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Financial Markets Program when its five-student team won the national Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge. Domestically, the UMD team beat out more than 400 other American programs. All students in our Labovitz School of Business and Economics, they took their U.S. title last month to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They didn’t win there — I blame the judges for that!! — but they did us proud in analyzing the inner workings of Minnesota’s Fastenal Company.

More locally, I spoke last week to about 300 business leaders as part of the Carlson School’s 1st Tuesday lunch, detailing just how well we’ve done as a University over the past seven years.
I was pleased that Regents Beeson, McMillan, and Omari could attend. And a week ago today, I traveled to Brainerd to speak to the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce to highlight our statewide impact and to celebrate the work of our University Extension’s Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, which is helping that community create a National Loon Center. Congressman Rick Nolan, an advocate in Washington for the Loon Center and someone who deeply fears the extinction of our state bird in the coming decades, was in attendance, as were other key Brainerd Lakes area elected officials and education leaders.
Let me turn to athletics. As you know, I’ve been deeply engaged in reform efforts at the NCAA. I’m the chair of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and we’ve been working hard to alter the landscape of men’s college basketball. Last month, I was in Indianapolis when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chaired the Independent Commission on College Basketball, announced a set of sweeping reforms to keep college basketball true to its amateurism ideals. The NCAA staff and boards are hard at work on implementing the recommendations.

On the ice, since last we met the UMD Bulldogs won the NCAA men’s national hockey championship. Regent McMillan, Chancellor Black and the entire UMD community are still recovering from that achievement. And I think we’re all very excited about the hiring of CEHD alum and Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Whalen as our Gopher women’s basketball coach. Every time I mention Coach Whalen’s name at public events I receive spontaneous applause from the audience . . . for her, not for me! It was a great hire by Athletics Director Mark Coyle and adds tremendous buzz to our entire Gopher program.

Finally, I understand there is sentiment from this Board for a deeper analysis on our Minnesota resident tuition modeling level. I will bring that report to you in June.

On that happy note, Mr. Chair, I conclude my report.