Driving Tomorrow: 2016 State of the University address

Thursday, March 3, 2016

                                                                               (The full video here.)

After nearly five years at this humbling job, what keeps me energized, what drives me?

I know all the critical issues we face together … from ethical research to campus climate to faculty governance to tuition policy. They are pressing and they are at the top of my priorities list.

But, honestly — and maybe it’s the same for many of you — it’s the little things that tend to give me the biggest boosts.

Student office hours drive me. Every six weeks or so, I set aside time and the opportunity to sit privately with some of our amazing young people to hear their concerns and their joys, and to regularly get pushed on my policies and thinking. If we ever lose track of the fact that our students being the stars of our show, we have lost our way.    

Faculty honors and faculty creativity, that drives me, and gets my competitive juices flowing. I think back to 2014 when we were the only institution in the nation to have faculty elected to five of the most prestigious academic organizations — the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Philosophical Society. That was a good year and I want us to do that again.

Then, there are all the events I attend … so many drive me. But, actually, FarmFest really pumps me up, although chemical engineering didn’t prepare me for it. This very casual annual ag community gathering allows me to set aside a couple of intense days to listen to ag community members whose relationships I treasure, and to hear on their own turf the concerns of Greater Minnesota. It really helps to annually refuel my commitment to our historic land-grant mission, and FarmFest boosts my energy to remind people where ever I go and when ever I speak of the deep value of this University to our entire state.

Regents Anderson, Cohen, Devine, Johnson, Lucas, Rosha and Simmons, here at Coffman or watching on line across the state ... members of our University Senate ... colleagues watching in Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Rochester ... students, staff, faculty, distinguished guests, elected officials, here and online …

What also truly drives me is the unmistakable momentum we have and the upward trajectory this University is on, like few other American public research universities. Applications are up, ACT scores are up, our endowment is up, philanthropic giving is up, research activity is up, the number of students of color is up, and the number of students graduating without debt is up while those students with debt have less of it than five years ago.

That’s all well and good, but it's actually not good enough. Not nearly.

The ongoing work to improve our human participant protections requires constant vigilance, and we have yet to fully win back the trust that we have lost.

 We need to improve our campus climate, especially for our students and faculty of color.

 We have to carefully recalibrate and monitor our tuition policies.

 And we must vigorously defend fundamental University values, such as academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom to conduct research that’s legal and ethical … all with the goal of the human understanding of wellbeing. 

Through our ups and downs and debates, I do believe that what drives all of us — and unites us — is a set of shared values and accomplishments across all of our campuses.

Let me give you an example named Amanda Weber. Amanda is a doctoral student in our music conducting program, and shows us what unity and harmony can do and mean. When Amanda arrived on campus just eight months ago after earning her masters degree at Yale, she met Dr. Jim Verhoye, a U alum in Communication Studies and the education director at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee.  In other words, the women’s prison.

Jim wanted to start a choir and Amanda, … well, she wanted to make a difference. So, she began weekly sessions with what eventually became the prison’s “Voices of Hope” choir. Before long, Amanda brought members of our Campus Singers Maroon choir — our students with many options — to Shakopee to sing, side by side, with women with very few options. Barriers broke as a partnership of diverse voices was forged.

As Amanda says, a choir builds community while teaching critical skills. Singing in a choir means you have to listen to other people while evaluating yourself. It means being vulnerable to the discordant mistakes that you make, and others may hear. But the group process — be it in a choir, in a department, or in a five-campus University system — is not about wallowing in the mistakes — on those flat and sour notes — but, rather, how we recover from them.   

Our University of Minnesota community — we ­— are an extraordinary collection of voices brought together for the common purpose of enriching students’ lives and the life of our state. We do that for citizens of vastly different backgrounds and with, sometimes, painfully different opportunities. We are a community with passionate and muscular visions and with large tasks:

  • To fuel the paths and successes of thousands of young people,
  • To create new knowledge for millions of others, and
  • To drive tomorrow’s prosperity for all Minnesotans by tackling Grand Challenges.

In Amanda Weber’s work — tucked behind prison walls — we witness the kind of day-to-day brush stroke that too often goes unnoticed amid a portrait splashed – from time to time — with our well-publicized challenges.

 As I conclude the fifth year of my Presidency, it is important for me — and I urge you — to remember that from busy labs in Duluth, to quiet libraries in Morris, to vibrant classrooms in Crookston, to community engagement in Rochester, and to fervent rallies on Northrop Mall — we each contribute small slices to our University’s impact and to our communities.

 Together, every day, in ways big and small, we all demonstrate that the state of the University of Minnesota is transformative, vibrant and strong, and the work of dedicated students and colleagues like Amanda Weber prove it.

 Amanda’s here, and she deserves our thanks. Amanda, where are you?

Five years of progress                                    

Let me review …

When I became President on July 1, 2011, this University and this state were still recovering from the Great Recession.

Tuition had increased by more than a third over the previous five years as state funding had been reduced by 17 percent.

We needed to tighten our belts to reduce administrative costs, and student support needed a boost. 

Our philanthropic infrastructure was burdensome at a time when giving was needed the most.

New approaches were required to increase diversity in our student body and faculty.  

Our Medical School needed renewal.

Our relationships with business and industry in the state had room to improve.

We had lots of work to do, and today, four months short of five years later, we can track our many responses and successes.

But we can't bask in them. We must keep our momentum going.

Don’t just take it from me, but take it from the Higher Learning Commission that recently completed its accreditation review of our Twin Cities and Rochester campuses, and, separately, our Crookston campus.

The HLC concluded that the University is firmly committed to continuous improvement and went on to say that since its last  comprehensive evaluation of the Twin Cities campus a decade ago — and I quote — “The University has made great strides in the areas of student success, sponsored research, and community engagement.”

When it comes to accessibility, affordability and excellence, the facts support their conclusion.

Over the past five years, our Minnesota resident students across all of our campuses have seen the smallest tuition percentage increases in 55 years, since the Eisenhower Administration … when I was four years old. This accomplishment benefits over 70 percent of our undergraduate student body systemwide. This span of unprecedented tuition stability included a historic two-year tuition freeze we forged by renewing our partnership with the Legislature and Governor.  

By keeping a lid on tuition, we are defying the national narrative on student debt.

Thanks to strong financial aid, we remain among the most affordable colleges in the state for students from families earning less than $75,000 a year, and for students at the lowest income level we provide grant aid — without any loans — that exceeds their tuition and fees, allowing them to cover some living expenses. Forty percent — and if you only remember one thing I say here today remember this — 40 percent of all of our Twin Cities undergraduate students graduate with zero debt from University sources ... there might be their own credit card debt or their parents may have borrowed some, but on the easiest debt to get, which is from the University of Minnesota, 40 percent graduate without any. And it’s 36 percent across all of our campuses.

Our success in reducing debt is part of a comprehensive strategy. First, affordability is directly linked to our commitment to Operational Excellence and a reduction in administrative costs, which have totaled $58 million so far.We’ve also made big investments in financial aid, partly because of record-breaking philanthropy from generous friends. We’ve dramatically improved our four-year graduation rates on our Twin Cities campus, and especially year-over-year over the past five years. That’s related to the increased preparedness of our incoming students, and better counseling, advising and availability of courses.

In two more years — and with $32 million more in administrative reallocations across the system set to occur — we will have reached our ambitious $90 million goal. That has not been easy, and I appreciate the tough choices everyone has had to make, but — as we can now see five years into our work — there’s a reason for Operational Excellence: and that’s to maximize our investment in our students, faculty and your research.

That investment is also reflected in our system campuses. We’ve worked hard to address the financial challenges at UMD, and over the last several years have invested nearly $8 million in recurring support and another $6 million in one-time support for UMD’s strategic enrollment management plan and year-end shortfalls. We are turning the corner with an encouraging 12 percent increase in campus visits of prospective students.

In Crookston, the Wellness Center, developed in partnership with the state, is enhancing the student experience and student retention is up again, a great sign, as was the glowing reaccreditation UMC received.

As always, Morris continues to be a national leader in sustainability, liberal arts and diversity, with students of color comprising 27 percent of its student body

And Rochester is honing its unique niche as a center for health care education.

Together, we are working on a joint enrollment and curricular strategy for all of our campuses, which promises to ensure more Minnesota students have a University of Minnesota option and that current students can better access the strengths of our great system with five distinctive campuses as they earn their University of Minnesota degrees.   

Research

Let me turn to research.

In an environment of flat federal funding, remarkably, we’ve seen growth. As the 8th most active public research university in the nation, we have now topped — for the first time — more than $900 million in research activity across our system.

Everyday, it seems, another one of our faculty researchers is making news with breakthrough discoveries. I spoke earlier of Amanda Weber’s impact and music. . 

Last month, another kind of music was reported, and it was this “chirp” . . .

Listen …

No, that’s not some underwater monster cheering for Rachel Banham, the Big Ten women’s basketball player of the year. That’s a gravity wave. It was formed as the consequence of the collision of two black holes and detected for the first time ever. 

This discovery depended on the measurement of a displacement of 1 part in 10 to the 21st ...Or one part in a thousand, billion, trillion …

That displacement means that our Earth was briefly stretched by one thousandth of the diameter of the nucleus of the smallest known atom …

Like, really, really small.

But its discovery confirmed something stupendously large, and that’s the last prediction of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. 

Proudly, our Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Vuk Manditch and five of his students  — including two undergrads — were part of the team that made this historic discovery. That project cost the National Science Foundation more than $1 billion dollars and took 40 years, but it confirms fundamental knowledge about how our universe works, and that makes it worth it. It’s that kind of fundamental work that is at the heart of who we are as a University, and why we seek every day to wonder why, and to long to answer the seemingly unanswerable. This is basic science — basic research — and it is needed to advance our civilization. 

Where it leads, we don’t know …

Just as we didn’t know that finding out that DNA was a double helix would lead to medical advances and a biotech industry …

Or we didn’t know that fundamental mathematics would lead to encryption schemes for cell phones.

That need to do basic science is embodied in our Board of Regents’ policy that preserves the right of all faculty – and I quote – “To explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression.” 

Our University has a long, successful, and life-changing history of searching for and developing cures and treatments for some of the most devastating illnesses and conditions. 

We need to continue to do that work.

We also need vigilant attention to the fact that the world is in constant change – in part fueled by the technology that arises from basic science research, and in part fueled by economics, conflict, religion, government policy, population growth, and more. 

To paraphrase a recent report, “The Heart of the Matter,” by a panel of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the research portfolio and curricula at all great research universities must be balanced with the arts, humanities, social sciences, and the natural sciences. 

“The humanities and social sciences are not merely elective, nor are they elite or elitist,” the AAAS declared, and I agree. 

“They go beyond the immediate and are instrumental to help us understand the past and the future.”   

Our great university can lead in the integration of these disciplines, and I am proud that we will do just that in combining our strengths by addressing some of the Grand Challenges of our state and society as a cornerstone of our Twin Cities campus strategic plan.

Before I leave the subject of research, let me mention the success of our MnDRIVE initiative. As you recall, MnDRIVE — or Minnesota’s Discovery, Research, and Innovation Economy — began by identifying our strengths, requiring interdisciplinary approaches, and laying the groundwork, really, for our Twin Cities strategic plan, which emphasizes transdisciplinary research, the kind only a university with our breadth and depth can tackle. And, better yet, MnDRIVE represents a true partnership with the state, which is investing $18 million recurring every year, and for that we are very grateful. In these past three years, we have hired 31 new faculty members with MnDRIVE funding and MnDRIVE research — with 144 external partners — has leveraged almost $60 million in additional state, federal and corporate funding.

It’s meant, among other projects, Medical School faculty exploring  brain cells that could prevent drug addiction relapses and CFANS’ faculty working to halt soil contamination on Greater Minnesota family farms. MnDRIVE clearly demonstrates our impact on the state’s innovation and entrepreneurial culture, added faculty at time when others are cutting, and supported our researchers with the kinds of partnerships that move basic research to discoveries that once could not be seen or heard.

Health sciences

The reinvigoration and improvement of our Academic Health Center, and especially our Medical School, has been another consistent priority of mine. With Vice President and Dean Brooks Jackson at the helm, we are working to forge a historic integrated enterprise with our partners at Fairview. Our aim is to create a new, integrated academic health system. Last year, Governor Dayton’s Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended and the Legislature invested $30 million in the Medical School. It was exciting last month to help open our new Clinics and Surgery Center, which we shepherded from vision to design to completion in three years.

But our health sciences have also suffered when we have fallen short of who we are and who we want to be. The first, of course, was around our human participant research. After years of various reviews that preceded my presidency — and at your urging — we completed an external review of our Human Participant Research policies and procedures. The state’s Legislative Auditor, Jim Nobles, also completed a review. Both reviews were blunt and required significant responses. We present reports monthly to the Legislature and to our Board of Regents on our progress on implementing the many recommendations of those reviews, and I’ll be testifying at the State Capitol over the next few weeks about our progress.

Recently, we released another report on the Department of Psychiatry that identified many of the same troubling challenges. These serious issues are being addressed.

David Strauss, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Vice Chair for Research, Administration, Ethics and Policy at Columbia University, who was a member of the external review team, will be returning to our campus at the end of this month to evaluate how we’ve done in responding to his report. We recently welcomed back Legislative Auditor Nobles to our campus, and we expect his evaluation of our progress on our implementation plan in the summer.

I am listening carefully to concerns as we keep our pledge to be a model for Human Participant Research. It remains a very pressing issue for me and for our Office of the Vice President for Research.

Listening                                                         

Listening to stakeholders — particularly, students and faculty — is key to my decision making, and it’s essential to nurturing a culture of cooperation, collaboration, and productive conversations.  As I make my way across our campuses, I listen in both formal and informal ways. As I mentioned, student office hours inspire me, and I also regularly invite groups of faculty to lunch, and last year I began staff lunches.

We are also working with faculty governance to increase collaboration, and this year we added a faculty member to attend meetings of my Senior Leadership Team. Moving forward, that person will be the immediate past chair of the FCC. While we don’t always agree on every issue, and often things may move more slowly than we would like, when it comes to shared governance, we are a model among all research universities and it’s an essential part of our rich history here.

There is no area in which we all need to listen more carefully than in our work to create a more welcoming and respectful campus climate and promote diversity.While we are not where we want to be, since I became President, the number of undergraduate students of color on the Twin Cities campus has increased to more than 20 percent, and to 18 percent across the system.

But our progress in increasing the number of American Indian and underrepresented students of color — and creating a climate for their success — has been moving slower than I would have hoped. While we have significant resources devoted to both, we must do better.

It’s a reason why we launched our CORE 2025 strategic initiative. CORE stands for Community Outreach Retention and Engagement. It’s a high-touch, early outreach program to make sure the U engages students of color as early as 6th grade. We will work with high-achieving multicultural students, help enhance their college preparation, and create ties and aspirations that we hope will make the University their top college choice.

In attracting new faculty of color, Provost Hanson has collaborated with deans to expand cluster hirings, and our Twin Cities College of Liberal Arts has been a leader. CLA right now is in the final stages of hiring four tenure track or tenured faculty in the Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality — or RIGS — initiative. It’s part of a collaborative effort between the RIGS departments and other units in CLA.

But, clearly, as we increase the number of faculty of color, we must do better in creating an environment that encourages them to stay. In particular, our African American and American Indian faculty have a different experience on our campus from our white or Asian faculty, and also, in some areas, our women faculty. Our employee engagement surveys, other faculty surveys and conversations with our faculty tell us this is so, and, unfortunately, it’s consistent with national trends.

Here, we also must do better. The gap in engagement between our white faculty and some faculty of color is, frankly, more like a chasm, and we must and will do better to ensure an environment that attracts and retains the nation’s best faculty.

Two years ago in my State of the University Address, I committed to campus climate being a priority and it came in response to our students. We changed the way our University Police Department issues descriptions of suspects in alleged crimes to address concerns that our previous practice promoted racial profiling.That came after students told me of their experiences and provided me with overwhelming data.

We convened a Campus Climate Workgroup, comprised of senior leaders, and they are developing and implementing new strategies to ensure all of our faculty, students and staff experience a welcoming and respectful environment here on the Twin Cities campus.

Last semester, we created a Bias Response Team to quickly assemble after bias incidents are reported.

And, among other things, we’re consistently honored for our commitment to GLBT students and we’ve invested in infrastructure to better serve them.

I know . . . I know . . . individually, each of these may seem like small steps, but together, and with other steps in the future, greater and necessary change will happen.

It must.

Looming large                                                                                 

Now, let me turn to a few things that loom especially large before us.

First, freedom of expression and the freedom to pursue legal and ethical academic inquiry, scholarship and research. They are central to the life and values of a world-class, land-grant research university. A national political climate that has trickled down to us seems to permit obstructionist shouting and bullying over reasoned debate and the sort of unfettered exploration that has made the United States the envy of the world for our thought leadership across science, the arts and the humanities.

On speech, there can be no compromise. I understand the FCC is actively debating these issues, and I welcome that.

Our Board of Regents policy guarantees the freedom “to speak or write as a public citizen without institutional restraint or discipline.”

I am opposed to hate speech of any kind.

While the University encourages all members of the community to speak with respect and understanding of others, we should not forbid speech that shocks, hurts or angers. We must not tolerate the shouting down of points of view, as we’ve seen in our community in recent months. As our Law School Professor Dale Carpenter, who is a national thought leader on this topic, has told me: “The best response to offensive ideas is to counter them with better ideas.”

I urge us all to consider other points of view, to allow even our most disliked opponents to speak, and then for us to counter their words with even more eloquent and effective messages. If there is any space in our society for that, it is this space we call the University.

This place must not only be one filled with all kinds of ideas, conversations and debates, but also one that allows students from all economic backgrounds to thrive and to not be burdened by costs or debt.

As the first in my family to attend college, it’s important to me that we balance access and excellence as we develop tuition and enrollment strategies. As I said earlier, over the past five years we have a strong record of affordability and we’ve been true to our land-grant mission by serving our Minnesota students as our top priority.

Eight years ago, tuition was reduced dramatically for out-of-state students. That was a decision that vastly diversified and improved the quality of our student body, and continues to transform us into the national university we want to be. That decision strengthened our role as a talent magnet for our state, and it actually increased total revenue. In other words, the strategy worked and demonstrates that sound tuition policy can be a path to excellence and diversity.

Currently, the Board of Regents and our colleagues at the Legislature are engaged in a healthy conversation about our tuition policy. It’s important and I urge you to pay close attention and participate because it can affect our revenues and the excellence of our University..

As we consider tuition, we must keep need-based and merit-based financial aid programs strong, and keep resident tuition and fee increases as low as possible, without sacrificing the flexibility we need to manage our resources, and especially in the face of uncertain or even diminishing state support.

When it comes down to it, my view is that those families who can afford to pay their fair share, should.

Those who cannot, we should help with financial aid.

If — to ensure excellence, reward our employees and keep up with inflation — we do have to raise tuition, we should work tirelessly to offset those increases for the lowest income families with additional investment in financial aid.

For the 2016-17 academic year, I have proposed for discussion a 15 percent increase for our out-of-state students that will gradually move us to the Big Ten midpoint. Our out-of-state tuition is now the lowest in the Big Ten. We will do this in a way that mitigates the impact on current students.

That’s been a difficult decision, but is balanced against a wide range of differing views and the reality that, right now, we are an outlier with our tuition at the bottom of our peers.

We are a bargain for out-of-state students and an extraordinary value for all of our students.

Our non-resident, non-reciprocity students — or about 14 percent of incoming Twin Cities undergraduates — are among the most difficult to attract, their academic credentials generally lead all of our applicants. At a rate of about 25 percent, we know they remain in Minnesota and become business, community and cultural leaders. We can’t make it so expensive that such imported young talent shuns us, and so must be poised to adjust, when needed.

I heard that passionately from a student a few weeks back. During my regular student office hours, a sophomore accounting major named Reilly Knorr came to protest — very politely — this proposed spike in tuition for out-of-state, non-reciprocal students. He told me that it was important to him that students from around the nation and world shared ideas and friendships in Middlebrook Hall, where he lives. 

He was passionate about the importance of geographic diversity and the different world views it brings to his experience on our Twin Cities campus. Reilly happens to be from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota — not some distant city in another state — and he wants to learn from and meet people who are different from him. His words and perspective will stick with me as we move forward and as the Regents act on these important policy and budget issues in the coming months.

Reilly’s here, where are you Reilly? Thanks.

Transitions

Another challenge in our future is an upcoming transition of talent and loss of our institutional memory. Chancellor Jacquie Johnson, who, for the past decade, has kept our University of Minnesota Morris campus nationally ranked and universally respected, is retiring after 10 years of tremendous leadership. Jacquie, thank you. The search is on, and we hope to have a successor for Chancellor Johnson in place when she leaves on June 30.

Dean Steve Crouch of CSE is stepping down, Marilyn Speedie of Pharmacy is retiring, and Law School Dean David Wippman is set to become president of Hamilton College. Thank you to them for their service to this University.

Among our senior leadership team, our Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter is retiring in June.  Fitz has been an invaluable adviser to me and an incredible advocate for this University for 24 years. We will feel the absence of his wisdom, humor, strong opinions, creativity and integrity.

Our General Counsel, Bill Donohue, who has represented our University so ably since 1982, is also retiring. Bill built a wonderful culture in the OGC office, and will take with him a treasure trove of understanding of how this institution operates, and we will miss his guidance and loyalty. Fitz, Bill, thank you and would you please stand so we can all give you a big round of applause and thanks.

With Fitz’s retirement, I am proposing reorganizing our senior leadership team.

I’ve proposed to the Board of Regents — and I’m consulting internally with others — the idea of creating a new Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations position. University Services, Human Resources, Finance and Budget, and Information Technology would report to that new leader. This structure is common at peer institutions, and I think it could bring great value to all of our campuses, and with Fitz's retirement there would be no increase in senior leadership headcount.

Simultaneously, to recognize that the Office of Academic Affairs and Provost has assumed additional responsibilities for global programs, public engagement, strategic planning and other areas  — and to reflect the primacy of the University’s academic mission — the title of our chief academic officer would be changed to Executive Vice President and Provost.

Philanthropy                                                

In the range of responsibilities I have — and of all the tasks that any university president has — leading philanthropic efforts is essential. Yes, I spend as much as 20 percent of my time raising money, and I enjoy doing it because of what it brings back to the U.

Last year, we raised $351 million for our students, our faculty, our research, our health care enterprise, and for so many things that make us a great place. It was a record year. More importantly, more than 78,000 different people contributed to this University, a great testament to what our alumni and friends think of us.

We are now on the verge of a major philanthropic effort that will be transformative for this University. This work promises to fund faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, research and capital needs. These next couple of years will see my growing involvement in national and global fundraising intensify to drive our University forward.

Driving Tomorrow 

When I look into the future, the most exciting and enduring piece of what’s ahead is our “Driving Tomorrow” strategic plan, and philanthropy will support it. “Driving Tomorrow” is the achievement of countless faculty, students and staff on expanded teams to build a more agile University and a dynamic campus culture of ambition that will make us a magnet for field-shapers. It will have long lasting impact on the excellence and reputation of our University.

I applaud Provost Hanson and our faculty, staff and students for moving it forward with passion.

It demonstrates that this academic community is determined to build on our already world-class strengths and to unleash — across barriers — our full potential for our students and our impact. It is not another cookie-cutter, academic strategic plan to make your eyes glaze over and to put on a window sill under a plant. The five Grand Challenges areas that months of conversation among our faculty landed on, as I’m sure you know by now — I HOPE you know by now, are:

  • Feeding the World Sustainably;
  • Advancing Health Through Tailored Solutions;
  • Enhancing Individual and Community Capacity for a Changing World;
  • Fostering Just and Equitable Communities; and
  • Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems.

And the launching of related interdisciplinary Grand Challenges courses is truly exciting. Science, women’s health, public policy, different cultures and religions, language, politics, arts, racism … they’re all tied up in the Grand Challenges of water quality, of hunger, of climate change, and of sustainable communities, in Minnesota or in far away lands.

A recent Minnesota Public Radio story highlighted the impact and the dynamic nature of a team-taught, transdisciplinary Grand Challenge course . . .

This one is called “Can We Feed the World Without Destroying It?”

Associate Professor Jason Hill of our Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems, one of the instructors, told MPR: "When the professors themselves are disagreeing over the answer to a question like that, imagine how the students are approaching this and what they're thinking.

"That's the fun of a class like this  . . . We cannot tell students the answer, but rather allow them to discover it for themselves."

Exactly … that’s what we want and need to do.

This is your strategic plan, your roadmap for the future of our University and you’ve delivered on what our strategic plan was intended to be when we all began this journey about 18 months ago. More than an inanimate product, this is a rallying cry for a new process of teaching, research and public engagement, and a reimagining of our land-grant tradition, preparing our students to learn how to think about and create real societal solutions. The culture and spirit of “Driving Tomorrow” will continue to fuel this University’s distinctive momentum.

Collaborative, transformative, extraordinary

In closing, as I look around this room, I know, from time to time, we don’t agree on all issues. I know, every once in a while, we disappoint each other, and even doubt each other’s motivations.

I know sometimes the headlines embarrass us all. But I’m confident that we share common goals.

Of wanting an exceptional University of Minnesota with a worldwide reputation that is accessible to the best students we can attract. Of striving for a University that reflects the increasing diversity of our state and nation, and that — unfettered by politics or ideology — pursues truth and new knowledge to better our society.

We share a vision of place-based centers of learning across our system, of personal growth and of discovery that prepares our students to go on to win Grammys, Nobel Prizes, and Olympic gold medals … to close gaps, open doors, and help future generations better understand their history and each other’s.

I want us all to recognize the power, compassion and undeniable influence we have together, and to embrace how far we’ve come over the past five years. I want us to work together to improve what we need to improve, and —  over the next five years — I am committed, I am determined, and I am ready to drive us to even more collaborative, transformative, and extraordinary tomorrows.