FROM THE CHANCELLOR
At the recent chancellor's open forum, I outlined current campus priorities and new initiatives for strengthening and transforming the Boulder campus. In the event that you weren't able to attend - or would like a review of the topics discussed and ideas for ways you can help - following are my remarks from that event.
Chancellor's Open Forum Remarks, September 27, 2005
Good afternoon! Thank you for joining us for the Chancellor's Open Forum; I hope it will be the first of several opportunities for dialogue in the coming year.
Today, I want to talk briefly about where we are as a campus, where we want to go, how we can get there (given the fiscal realities of higher education), and – most importantly – how we need to work together to reach the next level of excellence. Many of these concepts were discussed this summer at a planning retreat with the Board of Regents.
In many ways, CU-Boulder is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. As we work to emerge from nearly two years of unflattering press coverage, we face the prospect of further deterioration of an already inadequate level of state funding support. In fact, our very existence as a state-supported university is called into question by the fact that only 6.5 percent of our budget is supported by state tax dollars – and that amount is all but certain to decline further if voters do not grant a reprieve to TABOR spending limits in the November election.
In the face of such fiscal adversity, some might say that we should not bother investing in new initiatives for our future – that we should just try to maintain what we currently offer and simply try to survive. I can understand those feelings, but, frankly, I am not interested in any such notion. To be sure, we will need to preserve our core mission and invest in current programs and infrastructure, but we cannot limit our horizons to mere maintenance. Colorado needs a great research university, and our goal of providing that to this state is unaltered by the current circumstances.
Over the years, I have engaged in countless discussions with my fellow faculty members, staff, students and alumni about the future we want to see for our campus. While we may come at this question from differing perspectives, there are some common elements in our vision.
Let's look down the road five years and imagine for a moment the CU-Boulder we want to see in the year 2010. For example, I see a campus community that:
• Is commonly viewed among the top public universities in the country
• Attracts talented and well-prepared students who become engaged in research discovery and co-curricular experiences
• Rewards its faculty competitively for their outstanding research and exceptional teaching
• Graduates students who have strong technical, interpersonal and writing skills
• Builds life-long relationships with its alumni who generously give back to support the next generation of students
• Operates efficiently under a strong and diversified funding structure
• Builds new facilities to accommodate expanding research needs, academic priorities and student services
• Offers a diverse, enriching and welcoming environment for all
• Generates great pride among the people of Colorado who recognize CU-Boulder's value to the quality of their lives
That's the CU-Boulder I want to see in 2010 – and many of you have expressed the same to me over the years.
So, how do we stack-up -- where are we today?
I won't take the time to recount the long list of CU-Boulder's accomplishments since this campus was founded in 1876 – with one building and big dreams. Suffice it to say – we have come a long, long way – to become a major comprehensive research university that makes a difference in people's lives.
As a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, CU-Boulder lights up the Rocky Mountain West with its high-caliber research advances, internationally recognized faculty, undergraduate education initiatives, economic impact, rich cultural and arts offerings, and services to the people of our state. We have established a world-wide reputation for excellence in areas like the space sciences, engineering, molecular biology, physics, biochemistry and others.
But let me take a minute to highlight just a few comparisons of where we are today, compared to ten years ago.
Over the past ten years, our library holdings have grown by more than 50 percent, research funding has doubled, and our endowment has more than doubled. The qualifications of our incoming students have improved nearly every year to their highest point today. First-year student retention rates have improved from 82 percent to 87 percent for all students, and from 77 percent to 87 percent for students of color. The percentage of female tenure and tenure-track faculty has increased from 24 percent to 29 percent.
Over the past ten years or more, this campus has excelled by nearly every measure. The credit for all these advances – often in the face of great obstacles -- belongs to the faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and other stakeholders who invested their hopes and finances in us throughout our 129-year history.
Regardless of whether the state of Colorado is able or willing to fund our future, we must find the means to remain committed to our goals and responsibilities to the state.
So, where do we go from here? Today, I want to lay out the framework for a new vision for CU-Boulder – with the caveat that your input is vital as we create a framework for the future. Let me start – appropriately – with our academic priorities.
As you may know, our strategic plan, called Quality for Colorado, has focused on a number of academic priorities -- and some of those will continue. We remain steadfast in our efforts to reach the goals articulated in that plan, such as improving undergraduate education, enhancing graduate education and research, increasing diversity, and leading in the use and study of technology.
Consistent with Quality for Colorado, we will continue to invest in high-priority academic programs, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and neurosciences. And, as we outlined for the Board of Regents this summer, we plan to add tenure-track faculty in high-priority areas – an additional 100 positions over the next six years – thus helping to improve our student-to-faculty ratio for enhanced learning.
For example, we believe we have the potential for greatness in the area of molecular biotechnology. In that exciting new field, advances are literally redefining our understanding of life at the molecular level. Led by such outstanding faculty as Leslie Leinwand, Kristi Anseth and Natalie Ahn, this campus initiative offers an exciting new opportunity for collaboration among biology, chemistry, engineering and other disciplines.
At CU-Boulder, we are poised to play a crucial role in making Colorado a center of renewable energy research – through our strong interdisciplinary focus; our multiple partnerships with business, industry, and other institutions; our ability to train future leaders and innovators in the area; and our existing strengths in competing for sponsored research.
To leverage those strengths, we plan to establish a new institute in renewable and sustainable energy. This new institute will create a focal point for collaboration among faculty, students, industry, other Colorado research institutes, and others. It will help harness our resources to create a truly exceptional response to the need for sustainable energy around the globe.
In the coming months, you will be hearing more about another key initiative in support of improving undergraduate education in the sciences. This initiative, led by Distinguished Professors Dick McCray, Carl Wieman, and Bill Woods and Education Dean Lorrie Shepard, will form the basis of a new Center for Science Education. President Hank Brown and I have committed our support, aimed at improving science education, but using a framework which could be reproducible in other disciplines.
As a comprehensive university, we also have the potential for breaking new ground in the important fields of the arts, humanities and social sciences. Over the past few years, we have built an array of centers that integrate the work of faculty in the arts and humanities, such as the Center of the American West, the Center for Humanities and the Arts, and the American Music Research Center.
Our next major step will be the construction of a new Visual Arts facility, with crucial support from a student-led fee initiative and other resources. As a centerpiece of the main campus, this will be one of the largest single facility projects ever undertaken here at CU-Boulder.
In the social sciences, we are planning a new building for the Institute of Behavioral Science -- that will bring together interdisciplinary social sciences faculty currently housed in separate locations throughout the campus. Under the leadership of distinguished faculty members Jane Menken and Dick Jessor, we will create a place that truly reflects the caliber of our faculty.
Our road map also continues to emphasize graduate education and research. In particular, we want to rejuvenate our mission to educate future faculty and leaders of our society. For example, we want to increase the number of Ph.D. students. Last year, I asked Vice Provost Bill Kaempfer to lead a team to develop a plan for a new tuition model for graduate students on-appointment to help build our graduate enrollment. We expect to receive a report from the team by the end of December.
Also, we want to improve the overall infrastructure that supports our research enterprise. In that regard, we are creating a new concept for our Research Park on the East Campus. Under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Paul Tabolt, we are developing a plan that would transform the current Research Park into a Research Campus. This transformation is expected to create new learning opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students as well as cultivating a rich environment for advancing discovery and creating new knowledge.
As one example, we envision the growth of a biotechnology complex on the new Research Campus. This complex would foster vibrant partnerships in the fields of chemical engineering, biochemistry, molecular biology and physics, among others. This new facility will accompany our soon-to-be completed LASP addition and other facilities that emphasize our role in space science and atmospheric research.
One of the most critical operations for any college campus is the system of libraries that support faculty research, bolster student learning and provide a repository for information. Given our limited resources, we are very concerned about the future of our libraries as a vital engine of the Boulder campus. Therefore, I am asking our Interim Provost to establish a task force, working with Dean Jim Williams, to assess the condition of our libraries and to develop a strategic plan for their enhancement. In the meantime, we will invest some one-time funds this year to avoid serious cutbacks in library materials that are central to the work of our faculty and students.
Now, let me turn to what may become one of the most transformational elements of our vision. Over a multi-year period, we want to change the basic culture of our undergraduate education environment by implementing a residential college concept – crafted and supported under the leadership of outstanding faculty and student affairs professionals.
This initiative responds to concerns articulated by faculty and students alike. We have heard faculty say they want to work with more serious, better-prepared students. And we have heard our best students say they want more special academic programs – like the residential academic programs, the Honors Program and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Building upon our outstanding residential academic programs, residential colleges would offer classes, seminars, study rooms, advising, computer labs, tutorials and dining in the renovated halls. Each would include a live-in faculty "principal" who would provide leadership and guidance on educational and programmatic offerings.
Under this long-term initiative, we envision that all students would live in residential colleges – in residence halls renovated for the purpose – for their first two years.
Several other institutions have developed a residential college concept, although not many are in a large public university environment like ours. But I believe residential colleges would enhance the intellectual growth of our students, help build social and personal responsibility, enhance the academic rigor of our undergraduate education, improve student satisfaction and retention, and foster faculty-student collaborations.
Obviously, such a transformation cannot happen overnight or without significant investments. We have begun a study of the residential college concept, led by Arts and Sciences Dean Todd Gleeson and Vice Chancellor Ron Stump, and hope to see a report from the study group by the end of December.
This one concept could truly reinvent the undergraduate experience at the Boulder campus.
So, how can we get there? What actions and resources are needed to realize our overall vision? The fact is, visions don't become reality without resources – and our resources are limited.
We know that to be comparable to the average of our AAU public peers, we would need to increase our budget by nearly $150 million per year. Realistically, we will not be able to close a gap of that magnitude in the near future. But we have always outperformed our resources, so we propose a more realistic goal of identifying $50 million in new resources specifically to invest in our vision.
Clearly, in our current environment, we will need an extraordinary commitment from everybody who holds a stake in the success of this university – our faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, donors, businesses, legislators and Colorado citizens.
For example, we must set fund-raising goals that are consistent with our plans – and achieve those goals – with the support of our alumni and donors. We also will support and expand our entrepreneurial programs.
We will continue to seek support from the State of Colorado. CU-Boulder represents a tremendous asset to the people of this state and we want to continue serving them as a great university located in their backyard. However, without a significant change in the level of state support, we anticipate Colorado students and their parents will have to pay a larger share of the cost of higher education in the coming years.
As you know, the citizens of Colorado will be voting on two questions – Referenda C and D – that could have significant impacts on higher education in this state. But regardless of the outcome of this election, I believe it is imperative that we explore new models for assuring the future excellence of this campus – for the sake of our students and the citizens of Colorado.
If we are to ask for extraordinary commitments from our stakeholders, we must be willing to match that level of commitment ourselves. In the coming weeks, I am asking our vice chancellors and deans to identify ways to streamline operations, create administrative efficiencies, consolidate or discontinue some academic programs, and reduce the scope of our operations where appropriate.
I don't view these actions as a budget-cutting exercise, but as an investment in our shared vision. We do not have an unlimited amount of time to ensure the future of the Boulder campus. Therefore, we must move quickly to strengthen, finalize and implement our plans, while remaining flexible in the face of a changing environment for higher education in Colorado.
So, how can you help? First of all, I urge all of you to continue doing what you do best – providing service efficiently, effectively and with a passion for this university and its students. I urge you to share your feedback and reactions to this vision for our future. Serve on campus planning groups. Voice your ideas, your concerns, comments, and questions. Look for linkages between your areas and the campus priorities. Be a mentor to students. Serve on community boards. Become an informed ambassador for CU-Boulder. In short, by becoming INVOLVED, you can help shape the future of this great university.
Now, I want to have time for some questions, so I'll stop there and thank you for coming here today. I also thank you for the countless contributions you have made to this great university. As I mentioned, we will plan other opportunities like this to focus on a number of specific issues and priorities, such as tuition policies, financial aid, and enhancing diversity, among other important topics.
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