President's report to the Board of Regents: A year of systemwide accomplishments

Friday, June 8, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Another academic year has ended, a year with a clear systemwide focus and with systemwide achievements. To me, that’s what made 2017-2018 exceptional and forward looking for all of the campuses of the University of Minnesota.

Let’s begin in Crookston, where many of us visited to officially inaugurate Chancellor Mary Holz Clause in April. There, we see a real commitment to a systemwide research approach.

Huge strides have been made this year to expand and upgrade much-needed faculty and undergraduate student research space at UMC. Up to now, the Crookston campus has had precious little dedicated research lab space even with its steadily growing number of faculty members who are eager to conduct research.

Last summer, at the start of this academic year, the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research awarded a matching grant to help establish Crookston’s Center for Collaborative Research in an old, underutilized campus space. This grant supported the establishment of UMC’s first centralized, self-contained lab capable of supporting the research needs of  faculty and undergrad students in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Department, the Math, Science and Technology Department, and the Northwest Research and Outreach Center. The new CCR lab space is poised to open this summer and will initially support two major research projects.

And then there are the investments in the recent bonding bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Dayton as part of the Greater Minnesota Academic Renewal. That support will further increase research space at UMC.

Meanwhile, at UMD, we have seen soaring interest in enrollment. This is very good news.

During the 2018 calendar year, Duluth's Office of Admissions hosted more than 18,000 visitors, which was about an eight percent increase compared to 2017. No wonder then that for the fall of 2018, we’re expecting to surpass 10,000 undergraduate applicants for the first time. That is really good news for Chancellor Black and all of our colleagues at UMD.

Of course, nationally and internationally, UMD has been a big winner. Globally, as I mentioned last month — and it’s worth mentioning again — UMD’s Labovitz School of Business and Economics Financial Markets team won the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Research Challenge national title and represented the U.S. in Malaysia. And, of course, you may have heard nationally, the UMD men’s hockey team won the NCAA championship, Mr. McMillan. UMD has had a very solid year.

What about Morris? Well, it continues its tradition as a living testament to the value of the liberal arts, the importance of a well-rounded education and the relevance of the humanities in today’s workplaces.

A real highlight of the 2017-18 academic year — besides the inauguration of Chancellor Michelle Behr, of course! — was UMM winning a $1.2 million Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The grant will fully fund Morris’s McNair project, which will provide eligible students with an effective preparation for doctoral study as they seek to obtain the Ph.D. or Ed.D. degree, through the year 2022.

Morris’s McNair project will prepare cohorts of low-income, first-generation students and students from groups underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral study. It will expand funded undergraduate research, enhance Morris’ deep culture of support for students, and provide critical early support for incoming Morris students. The goal is to retain more students to the bachelor's degree and help Morris in the very long term by preparing underrepresented faculty members.

Remember, more than one-third of Morris’s degree-seeking students are McNair-eligible: 28 percent are American Indian and students of color, and 41 percent are first-generation college students. And at Morris 51 percent of students participate in undergraduate research with a faculty member and about 25 percent of our Morris students plan on pursuing advanced degrees.

Meanwhile, at UMR, they have been very busy. Of course, we have a new Chancellor there, too, in Lori Carrell and, even as we speak, she is hosting more than 100 registrants and presenters at the national Higher Education Innovation Summit, a three-day conference for scholars who specialize in teaching and learning.

There they are exploring and sharing innovations in higher education, collectively considering evidence, emerging best practices and challenges, and promoting affordable innovation in higher education. Chancellor Carrell sees the Summit as a catalyst to build and sustain a culture of creativity and wellbeing among innovative campus communities. And UMR is certainly a center for innovation.

I think all of these stories and accomplishments demonstrate the power and utility of our ongoing Systemwide Strategic planning work, which you’ll be hearing more about later today and in the months to come.

As for our Twin Cities campus, well, it seems that just about every day we’re learning of research breakthroughs, student achievements, alumni honors, and reputational mileposts worth talking about.

For example, in the past month, the Center for World University rankings listed us among the top 35 universities in the world, and among the Top Ten comprehensive public universities in the United States.

Our alumus, Earl Lewis, retired as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and we learned our Department of History received a $300,000 grant in Dr. Lewis’ honor to help diversify the next generation of scholars in African American, Native American and immigration history.

And our exciting Medical Discovery Team initiative in our Medical School launched a new Institute on the Biology of Aging and Metabolism … and I think we’re all interested in that.

As for all of our students on our Twin Cities campus and across the system, this academic year once again adds up to a remarkable impact on our state, culturally and economically.

Of our nearly 16,000 graduates at all levels across our system, this University creates, on an annual basis, about $189 million of increased earning power for our graduates over those who only have high school degrees. And this increased earning power translates to increased spending by alumni in the state of Minnesota. Our students who become our alumni have great economic impact on our state.

Oh, and perhaps I forgot to mention the Gophers baseball team, which will play tonight, has advanced to the next round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977, or 41 years ago.

Yes, it’s been a very good year and, as the calendar changes to July, I’m looking forward to another great one as our 2018-19 academic year begins.

Among the big tasks ahead of us all are the searches for new Vice President for Equity and Diversity and next Vice President for Research, two critically important systemwide leadership positions. Both searches are underway right now and we’re looking to have them filled by this fall.

Finally, Mr. Chair, I acknowledge with sadness the passing of Regent Emeritus William Hogan, who died last month. Regent Hogan served our University and this Board well for 12 years, including two as chair, and he will be missed.

With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude the final report to you and this Board of this 2017-18 academic year.