President's Report to Board of Regents at March 2018 meeting in Rochester: Legislature, department visits, Driven, NCAA, and Bulldogs

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thank you, Chair McMillan. And thank you to Chancellor Carrell, your team, and the entire Rochester community for your warm welcome and informative day yesterday. UMR and this community are true partners. As you know, we are engaged in an extensive and rigorous Systemwide Strategic Plan process, and we’ll be hearing more about it later in this meeting. Our time here demonstrates how distinctive each of our campuses is, how strong our system is, and the importance of our Systemwide Strategic Planning work.

Legislative request

I’m pleased to say that Governor Dayton has taken notice of the inpact of our entire system statewide. I was fortunate to attend his State of the State address last week and heard him support us in keeping tuition down by pledging to support our $10 million supplemental legislative request and in fully supporting — and actually adding on to — our capital request for renewing our facilities.

The Governor said — and I quote — “If we invest more in education, future generations of Minnesotans will be more successful. If we don’t, they won’t.” I couldn’t have said that better myself!

As you know, I’ve already testified three times before legislative committees, I’m visiting legislators regularly, and expect more committee appearances in the near future.
With the great help of our Government Relations team, we’ll be working hard through May for our faculty, staff, students and their families.

Department visits

Mr. Chair, members of the Board, let me turn to one of the highlights of just about every one of my months in this job. Since I became president I’ve been visiting a department on our Twin Cities campus pretty much monthly during the academic year. I’m now up to 59 visits and counting.

Recently, I visited our Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences department in our College of Liberal Arts. Besides preparing some needed members of the state’s workforce, this department also produces some remarkable research and outreach. For instance, it houses a so-called voice bank, allowing people with debilitating and terminal diseases to store away — that is, literally, bank — their voices before they lose their ability to speak. Later, they can use their own words, with a synthesizer, to speak.

I’ve visited departments and institutes in just about every college and school — from Mechanical Engineering to Dance to Pediatrics — and here’s what I see and learn. It’s not in the telling, but in the showing during these visits. Each department shows me the remarkable interdisciplinary research and teaching performed by faculty and staff who deliver every day on our mission. And I meet energetic and passionate students who are ready to make a difference and ready for the state’s talent force. For example, 100 percent of our graduate students in Speech-Language-Hearing are employed after they complete their degrees.

In touring labs and studios, in hearing from our scholars, I also engage in a certain quality control check on these departments. Sure, I hear a few gripes, too. But that’s OK because, in the end, I see these visits as monthly one-hour-long sabbaticals, getting me out of the office and into the heart and soul of our University. They are really inspiring and show me how great this University is.


Driven campaign

Others agree that we’re great, which is why progress continues in our Driven philanthropic campaign. We had another regional launch earlier this month in Naples, Fla., with about 150 friends and supporters of the University. And thank you to members of this Board who were with me last month at the Arizona launch — Regents Johnson, Sviggum and Lucas.

There is great energy for our priorities and for the direction in which we’re headed, and the UMF and I will conduct another launch in New York City next month. We’re at $2.7 billion raised towards our $4 billion goal. Listen to what that one decimal point meant when we recently jumped from $2.6 billion to 2.7. That’s one truly remarkable decimal point because it equals $100 million in gifts and pledges, and, more importantly, the impact it represents. With each decimal point, we could:

  • Provide 4,000 students with scholarships of $5,000 each, AND
  • Endow 10 faculty or research positions to attract and retain the best leaders, AND
  • Renovate a sorely-needed teaching, research, or healthcare facility, AND 
  • Help get the most innovative new research off the ground to help find a cure or develop a process to keep our environment more sustainable.

Just imagine all that we can do with our Driven campaign, and that’s why we’re working so hard towards our goal.



On another matter, as you know, I’m the Chair of the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors. Even as we live through the popularity and excitement of March Madness and the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, big-time college sports — especially basketball, faces great ethical and financial challenges. That’s why the NCAA has established The Commission on College Basketball, which is being chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Specifically, Secretary Rice and her colleagues are focusing on three areas:

  • One is the relationship of the NCAA national office, member institutions, student-athletes and coaches with outside entities, such as apparel companies and agents.
  • Two is the NCAA's relationship with the NBA and the so-called “one and done” rule.
  • And three is examining the right relationship between member institutions and the NCAA national office to see if the current model provides the investigative tools, cultural incentives and structures to ensure exploitation and corruption cannot hide in college sports.

Secretary Rice will deliver her report to the Board on April 25th  in Indianapolis, and, as Board chair, I’ll be there.
I’ll continue to keep you informed of this important work with the NCAA.
As for us here at the University, we were proud of our Gopher women’s basketball team, which made it to the final 32 teams in the nation . . . . on the court, that is.
In the classroom, our women’s basketball team was actually among the Elite Eight. The publication Inside Higher Ed annually conducts what it calls the Academic Performance Tournament for the men’s and women’s teams in the brackets. It takes into account the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, or APR, and graduation rates among teams. Our team was among the top eight in the 64-team field.
So, congratulations to Coach Marlene Stollings and her team on a strong season … on and off the court.

Also applause for Gophers indoor track athlete Kaitlyn Long, who won the NCAA national title in the weight throw, tossing the 20-pound weight more than 76 feet. She became only the second Gopher woman to ever win a national track championship. Congratulations, too, to diver Sarah Bacon, who last week won the NCAA 1-meter platform championship.

Of course — and I’m guessing Chair McMillan might have something to say about this — our UMD Bulldogs men’s hockey team will be playing tonight in the NCAA tournament. With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude my report on a very successful month and — if I may — “Go Bulldogs."