President Kaler’s June 2013 Report to the Board of Regents

Friday, June 14, 2013

Madam Chair, members of the Board…

These meetings and the remaining days of June mark the end of two challenging, productive and, for me, exhilarating years of working together with you and the entire University community.

I have learned much from all of you during that span. One lesson is to be always thoughtful, sensitive, and careful, but direct, in what we say and how we say it.

Until recently, I had no idea we also had to be mindful of what we’re thinking! I learned last week that thoughts can trigger amazing things. Let me show you.

You see what I mean?

These have been two wonderful years, filled with discovery. And I can’t recall a more successful or noticed month as these 30 days, one in which we have so deeply illustrated:

  • the role of a world-class research institution,
  • our collective commitment to affordability and accessibility,
  • the strength of our incredible faculty and staff, and
  • the vibrancy of our students.

You just saw the amazing work of Bin He and his mind-over-matter robots.

Meanwhile, we opened a new Medical Devices Center, and more than 425 people came to the open house, and about 100 representatives from industry attended a VIP event, strengthening our partnership with them, a goal of mine.

Students on our five campuses earned almost 16,000 degrees, including the first graduating class in Rochester and 50th in Morris.

And I was lucky enough to share the joy of graduation with students and families in Duluth and at our College of Liberal Arts on our Twin Cities campus.

We saw the retirement from the spotlight of one of Minnesota’s truly embraceable public figures, state economist and our own Professor Tom Stinson, who has performed a marvelous service to governors, legislators and the general public for 26 years.

Economists are known to equivocate, arguing one position, but then always noting, “But on the other hand.”

That’s why it was former President Harry Truman who once angrily asked for a “one-armed economist.”

So, this being economics, while Professor Stinson is stepping down—on the other hand, we are ushering in the era of a new state economist, our own applied economics professor Laura Kalambokidis. She will be the first woman to hold that position

I don’t think I need to say too much more about our great success at the Legislature.

We took a giant step in renewing and building on our historic relationship with the state.

We saw our first state funding increase in six years, our Minnesota undergraduate tuition frozen for the first time in a generation, and the state partnering with us on our MnDRIVE initiative.

Then, there’s the story of Millicent Atkins, which I announced at the UMF Heritage Society dinner last week, and which has received attention in the media.

Just like Myrtle Stroud’s gift to CLA last year, the Millicent Atkins gift comes from a humble woman who shared her fortune so others could afford a college education.

That marvelous gift is to our College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences,

I was saddened to learn also this month that Dean Al Levine has decided to step down from that role. But the Atkins gift is a very high note on which Dean Levine can exit.

Yesterday, we learned of significant academic improvements in our Gopher intercollegiate athletics department.

The NCAA reported we have five athletic teams with perfect multi?year Academic Progress Rates, or APR scores, and 22 of our 25 teams maintained or improved year over year.

The team that saw the biggest improvement was football, which set a program record. And I want to mention our women’s soccer team with its fourth-straight season of a perfect APR.

APR allows the NCAA to take "a real-time snapshot" of each team’s academic performance. Clearly, our entire program’s academic performance is on the right path, and I congratulate our coaches, our staff at the McNamara Academic Center, but, mostly, our student-athletes.

Finally, later today, we’re all going to walk over to the Biomedical Discovery District and celebrate the opening of the fourth building of that remarkable public-private-University partnership.

What a great way to end the academic year.

Global university

Now, as you know, I’ll be traveling to China and Taiwan later this month, my first international trip as President, in a whirlwind 11-days that will include a heavy schedule of meetings with government officials, high-ranking higher education leaders, hundreds of alumni in four cities, potential donors, a group of honorary degree holders, top-ranking business executives, and incoming students.

This will kick off the 100th anniversary of the first Chinese students to graduate from the University, one of the longest and deepest relationships between China and any American university.

In 2012 we hosted 2,483 students and 502 scholars and researchers from China.

There are more than 8,000 proud University alumni in China, including the Governor of the Central Bank of China, and we have more than 80 strategic partnerships with Chinese universities.

This is part of what being a 21st century land-grant university is all about, engaging with the global community to solve the world’s most pressing problems, while fostering understanding, and enhancing the economic vitality and brand of our state.

This is critical as other Universities compete with us for students, scholars, and relationships.

We expect our academic discussions to focus on areas in which the University has particular expertise, including food safety, bioinformatics, green technologies, marketing and finance, and tech transfer.

I will leave June 23 and return July 6, and will report back to you on our work when we meet again at our next Board meeting a few days after my return.

Looking ahead

In closing, in the next 12 months we will undoubtedly face important challenges, and we will need to make difficult decisions together.

By this time next year, we will have completed a strategic planning process for the Twin Cities campus.

We will have appointed a new Dean of our Medical School and Vice President for Health Sciences.

We will have hired a new dean for our largest college, our Twin Cities campus’s College of Liberal Arts, which I want to see flourish.

With Dean Levine’s decision, we will have appointed a new dean at CFANS, a college with an important relationship with all 87 of our counties, and a deep connection to our land-grant roots.

As we have learned over the past two years on all of our campuses, we might just want to expect a few surprises, too!

Thank you all for a 2012-13 academic year of achievement and advancement for our wonderful University and our students.

With that, Madam Chair, I conclude my report, and advise you that my memo on my accomplishments of the past year will now be distributed.

Thank you again.