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 Tuesday, September 12, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

 I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many of you at the Boulder Faculty Assembly breakfast forum last Friday. For those of you that were not able to attend, I have attached the text of my comments, which outlines my initial impressions and outlines some of my early thoughts about what we must do to continue to move this great university forward.

September 8, 2006 Campus Address

Good morning and thank you for joining me here this morning. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and would like to extend my sincere appreciation to Professor Jerry Hauser and the Boulder Faculty Assembly for hosting this event. My goal here this morning is to tell you a little about myself, give you some of my initial impressions about the University of Colorado, and outline some of my early thoughts about what we must do to continue to move this great University forward.   

I would like to begin this morning by thanking you—thanking each of you—for all that you do. In my eight weeks on the job, I"ve found the University of Colorado at Boulder to be a very special place made up of many dedicated people, who are highly committed to this University.

I also want to specifically recognize the many contributions of Dr. Phil DiStefano for the outstanding job he did as interim chancellor. Dr. DiStefano was faced with many challenges and dealt with some critical issues, issues of both substance and image, and his calm and steady leadership made a real difference at a time when prompt and decisive action was of paramount importance. His efforts have laid the foundation upon which we can continue to build for the future and I am pleased that he has agreed to continue serving this University as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. His experience, wise counsel and big-picture perspective of the issues we face are invaluable to me, the faculty, and the University as we move forward.

For those of you who may not be familiar with my background, I would like to take just one minute to tell you about my path to the University of Colorado at Boulder.

I did my undergraduate work at Kansas State University, where I received B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and in Mathematics and an M.S. in Engineering. I completed my Ph.D. at Texas A&M University and upon graduation took a position on the faculty there in the Mechanical Engineering Department. While at A&M I held positions as Department Head, Executive Associate Dean of the College of Engineering, and Associate Vice Chancellor for the Texas A&M University System. In addition, I spent two summers as a Research Scientist at NASA Johnson Space Center, and in 1993 served as Program Director for the Thermal Transport and Thermal Processing Division of the National Science Foundation. For the past six years, I have served as Provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

When I began exploring the possibility of moving to CU, I did some background research. What I found was a University with many of the elements of the finest institutions in the country – an institution that has made tremendous strides over the past 20 years, and one poised to continue enhancing its excellence and contributing to the quality of life in the state it serves. My first two months on the job have only served to strengthen and confirm this early assessment.

As the Flagship University for the State of Colorado and one of the finest comprehensive public research universities in the country, we have an excellent faculty, engaged in groundbreaking research and innovative teaching; an enormously talented student body with a strong sense of social consciousness; a knowledgeable and hardworking staff; and a beautiful campus that rivals any in the world. Our educational, research and artistic programs are among the best in the nation, and the University is renowned worldwide for academic excellence, discovery, innovation, and creative expression across a broad range of disciplines.

 New CU-Boulder Chancellor Bud Peterson shakes hands with new Athletic Director Mike Bohn before Peterson's first address to the faculty and staff. (Photo/Casey A.
This is an exciting time to be joining the University of Colorado and there is much to celebrate. There are numerous visible signs of continued growth and progress, all across the campus. The dedication of the new Wolf Law building will be held this afternoon. The new ATLAS Center is open for classes and while the grand opening for the center will not be held until October, many of its newest features, including the technology enhanced classrooms and the 2-story black box performance space are already available and in use.   Renovation and expansion of the building that houses the Leeds School of Business is underway, as are the construction plans for the Visual Arts Complex.

Sometimes I look around and think what a different place this would be if our students had not had the foresight and wisdom to make the commitment to support these capital projects, and I think that this action alone speaks volumes about the character and quality of the students who choose to come to this University. I thank them for making this commitment.

In addition to the physical improvements that are so visually evident, the campus continues to achieve less visible, but no less important programmatic achievements. Included among these is the recent award of a grant that identifies the Asian Center as a “National Resource Center for Asian Studies,” which will allow us to greatly expand our language instruction in less commonly taught foreign languages. Among the languages to be added next fall is Farsi.

This is the 70th anniversary of the Artist Series at the College of Music, and the Shakespeare Festival is launching its 50th, or golden anniversary, this year as well; and last spring, the Takács (tock-OSH) Quartet took first place in the Chamber Music category at the BBC Music Magazine Awards and their recording of “Beethoven's Late Quartets” was awarded the Disc of the Year.

CU-Boulder"s impressive track record for interdisciplinary research is evident in some of our newly identified research thrusts, such as the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Initiative, and the Colorado Initiative in Systems Biotechnology. Both have great potential to establish Colorado and CU as pre-eminent leaders in these important fields. In addition to these new thrusts, there are other possibilities on the horizon, such as partnering with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, and its parent organization, UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, to host a proposed national supercomputing center.

There are many, many more examples I could cite, including our incoming freshman class which is one of the largest, best qualified and most diverse classes in the history of this University, but suffice it to say that there are many things here at CU-Boulder to be proud of and there is ample evidence of the outstanding contributions that this university has made and continues to make to the community, the state and the nation.

All of this confirms my early impressions that while the University has faced a number of challenges in the past several years, there have been many, very good people working quietly, but diligently behind the scenes, doing the things that are necessary to continue to move this University forward. Much of that effort is just now coming to light and we can expect continued progress in the weeks, months and years ahead.

 (Photo/Casey A. Cass)
This then raises the question of what do we think must be done to continue the momentum that currently exists?  How can we position ourselves to ensure that we can provide the very best education possible, to develop students who are global citizens that can make meaningful contributions to the state, the nation and the world?  When I began as Chancellor, I set out to spend time during my first 100 days, meeting as many people as possible and to learn as much as I could about what makes this place so special; its strengths, its challenges and its opportunities. Thus far, I have met with faculty members, students, staff, alumni, community leaders, legislators, reporters, and Coloradans from every walk of life.

These interactions, while not yet completed, have helped me to identify several major thrusts that I think are very important; and, while not fully developed, I want to outline three of those with you here today:  They are first, to reaffirm our role as a flagship university; second to focus, on the people of this University; and third, to enter into a strategically driven dialogue about our future directions.

With respect to the first of these, we are a comprehensive, national research university, and I believe that it is imperative that we reaffirm our position as the Flagship University for the state of Colorado.   The CU-Boulder campus was constitutionally created as the “state"s University,” and 100 years later, as branch campuses began to evolve, Boulder continued to be defined in statute as the state-wide comprehensive, selective, graduate and research institution of the University of Colorado System. For better and worse, we are the most recognized and the most scrutinized institution in the state of Colorado.

Alumni, citizens, and legislators have an expectation that we will excel at our role and mission; that we will conduct research and educate undergraduate and graduate students to advance and impart knowledge across a broad range of disciplines to the benefit the people of Colorado, the nation and the world. We are a public university, created to serve the people of Colorado and beyond. We are selective, yet accessible to students who strive to meet our qualifications for excellence. In our more that 150 fields of study, we offer unique programs that no other institution in the state offers. In so doing, we will demonstrate leadership, and exhibit quality on a broad array of issues of concern and interest to the success of Colorado and its citizens. Science and math, music and arts, sociology and public policy, law -- ultimately, it is “comprehensive excellence” that distinguishes us from other campuses in the state, and defines us as the state"s flagship institution.

To that end, as is the case for all flagship institutions, many of whom share a place with us as members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, we are constantly proposing and evaluating solutions to a broad range of issues and problems that will improve the quality of life for Colorado citizens and the broader global society.

To continue in this role, it is imperative that we expand our resource base from federal, state and private sources. People from every sector of society support those things that they feel passionately about, and those things that they believe are well-managed. To enhance and expand existing support, we must effectively communicate the quality and impact of our programs in a way that will engender passion among our supporters and make believers of those who doubt us, while at the same time continuing to instill public confidence in how we manage this University.

We must also strengthen our ties to the community. The quality of this institution can be no better than the environment in which it finds itself, and the success of this University and of the Boulder community are inextricably linked.   Our campus would be a very different place, if it were not located here in such a beautiful and remarkable region, and the City of Boulder would be a very different place without our students, faculty and staff, all of whom contribute to the vibrant community in which we exist.

Our University makes tremendous contributions to the region, the state and the nation, through the development of human capital, through research and innovation, and through the technology transfer that results from that research and innovation. Last year alone we produced 177 invention disclosures and since 2000, annual patent applications have doubled from 69 to 139. There have been 46 operational start-ups, nine of those in the past 18 months, and we expect somewhere between 10 and 14 new start-ups in the next year. Today, the technology transfer activities of CU-Boulder generate nearly $22 million in regional economic benefit per year, $20 million more than in 2000.

Any great organization is built upon the quality of its people and this is the second key thrust, to focus on the people of CU-Boulder. We must continue to attract, develop and retain the very highest quality faculty to this University, tell them what is expected, and provide them with the resources they need to be successful.   We must strive to improve the quality of the students we attract, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, for they are the lifeblood of this and any university.

This fall we welcomed more than 28,000 students back to the campus and our freshmen class is among the largest, best qualified and most diverse in CU history.   The under represented minority students numbered over 850 and now comprise more than 15%of our undergraduate student body. International student enrollment is up nearly 10% this fall, with just over 1000 international students on campus. As all of our students come to the campus, we must work to create a “Community of Scholars” based upon intellectual inquiry, and to understand the importance of scholarship, intellectual curiosity, and critical thought.

We must ensure that we have the support staff necessary to excel. I recently said that while the faculty are the heart and soul of the University, the staff are the backbone and are a critical component in ensuring our success.

Further, because community, civility, and a greater understanding of our differences are critical to the welfare of our faculty, students and staff, we must continue to support and promote diversity in all its forms. As a national comprehensive research university, it"s vital that we nurture an inclusive environment and a diverse community – diversity that includes geographic origin, social and economic background, race and ethnicity, sexual identity, special talents, differing viewpoints, and personal achievement. I expect, and we expect, that everyone in our community will help to create and maintain an environment that welcomes others, regardless of their differences, for it is these very differences that make us stronger and make this such a unique and exciting community.

And finally, the third key thrust requires that we undertake a comprehensive strategic planning process. The University of Colorado at Boulder has long been considered among the leading public universities in the country, but our position in this elite group is not assured and cannot be taken for granted. Our place among the best universities is continually challenged and judged by how well we are able to meet the evolving needs of the world around us. Is it sufficient to say we aspire to be like or as good as Berkeley or Michigan?  I suspect the legislature and the people of Colorado would question the value of such a statement. Rather, we need to ask, how can the University of Colorado at Boulder strengthen Colorado, the nation and the world through our leadership position in public higher education?  How can we help Colorado position itself to be nationally and economically competitive and prepare for a global future?  How can we ensure that we are able to provide the type of education that the people of Colorado want for their young people, their children?  From these and other questions will emerge the characteristics that will define us as a great institution over the next 25 years, and an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process will allow us to better identify, develop and embody those characteristics.

Specifically, with regard to academic planning, we will need to address four important questions:

The first question is, in what areas or programs do we have a national or international leadership position and what must we do to retain and enhance that position?  Second, in what areas or programs do we have an opportunity to move into a national or international leadership position and what must we do to accomplish this? Third, in what areas must we absolutely have a presence and excel, in order to continue in our role as a national, comprehensive research University?  And finally, and this is the hard one, what are we willing to stop doing in order to achieve the first three, as we simply cannot continue to do everything we always have done and still aspire to excellence.

With these questions in mind, I intend to engage the entire campus community, including the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the broader Boulder and Colorado communities in a strategic discussion about our future -- a discussion that would begin by clarifying aspirations to excel at our role and mission as Colorado"s flagship institution, and validating our direction and long-term investment strategy.

Fortunately, this initiative is not one that must be started from scratch. Several of the Schools and Colleges such as Law, Journalism and Engineering have either just completed or are already well into the process of conducting a careful review and developing individual strategic plans. However, to clearly identify our institutional directions, these individual plans must be coalesced into a single comprehensive plan for the university. To this end, in the coming weeks, I will be convening a campus-wide steering group to lead this process. Beginning this fall, this steering committee will help us refine a set of questions and position statements about our future, on topics such as enrollment, program enhancement, research support, campus diversity, student services, land-use and facilities development, outreach, and faculty and staff resources; and bring them forward for review and debate by the campus community. We must address the question of what it means to be a “Flagship University?”    What responsibilities are imbedded in that statement?  What characteristics lead us to make that statement, and more importantly, what will be the characteristics of the great public universities of the future?

Following the development of these questions and position statements, we will engage the entire campus community, including the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the broader community, in a discussion about those questions and possible alternative outcomes, through meetings, open forums, and technology enhanced on-line input. The process will culminate in the development of an action plan, which I intend to take to the Board of Regents for their concurrence and support this summer. I fully intend to develop a process whereby all of you, the students, the alumni, members of the CU-Boulder community and other interested parties, can be actively involved in this strategic discussion and the development of our shared vision for this University.

Why do I think it is important to undertake this strategic planning process?  There is more than one path to excellence, and there are some transitions ahead that will make this great University even stronger, starting at the highest levels of governance. First, you may know, in June the Board of Regents adopted a “corporate model” for managing the University. This included delegating more authority to the president, who in turn has delegated greater responsibilities to the chancellors of each of the three campuses, including for example, the transfer of all non-tenure related personnel and salary decisions to the chancellors. This is an attempt to align the responsibilities and the authority for the three very different institutions that comprise the CU-System and delegate it to their respective chancellors.

This structural change is entirely consistent with the move of the Office of the President to Denver, and the evolving role of the chancellors as chief executive officers of their respective institutions. While we are working out the details of these changes in responsibilities, authority and expectations, one thing is clear – that we as a campus will have considerably more independence in making decisions involving the future of our institution than in the past, and that in turn, we will be held more accountable for our successes and for campus issues, than we ever have been in the past. I believe that this is as it should be, and I am fully supportive of these changes.

Second, I continue to be amazed at what this institution has been able to accomplish on such a limited resource base, but continued excellence will require that we improve and expand the current funding levels from all sources. In addition to seeking increased state support, we will be seeking increases in private, corporate and foundation support. I am sure it will come as no surprise that sometime in the next several years, we as an institution will be initiating a capital campaign. This will require that we have in place a fully articulated and well developed vision, and an action plan that describes how we can best achieve that vision. It is for these two reasons that I believe that we must undertake this strategic planning process, to identify our future direction and ensure that we are well positioned for success in all these arenas.
As we engage in this strategic discussion, we must also be mindful of the resources it will take to achieve our aspirations. As we debate the questions about our future direction as an institution, it will be critical for us to engage in a simultaneous discussion about new economic models that will provide the management flexibility and resources necessary for us to be successful. A plan without the means to turn it into reality, will only result in frustration and ultimately in failure. Our initial goal, and what I will be working to achieve is to increase funding to a level at or near the average spending per student of the 34 AAU public institutions, within the next five years.

While is it imperative that we undertake this strategic planning process to determine how we can move forward, to identify and accomplish our goals, there are some things that are clear to me already, some investments that are so critical that we must make them immediately.   Accordingly, in parallel with this strategic planning effort and as resources are available, we must make some investments now, that are essential to our continued competitiveness, even without having completed and fully articulated the detailed action and associated investment plan.

Among these critical investments are needed enhancements to our faculty ranks, and to our base departmental operations. Accordingly, yesterday, I approved and released recurring funding for 25 new faculty positions along with funds to support the associated startup costs. I have asked the Provost to work with the Academic Deans to allocate these new faculty resources and the accompanying start-up funds, with a focus on meeting our existing commitments in our fundamental core areas, supporting the new strategic initiatives already identified, and identifying special opportunity hires. Allocation of these positions will result in the first new, centrally-supported faculty positions at CU-Boulder in nearly six years.

In addition, as a result of several years of significant fiscal constraints, I have become aware of the critical need for increases in base operational funding within the various divisions and departments, to assist with staff support, policy implementation, compliance issues, and program operations, These requests might not normally rise to the importance of new initiative funding, but they are essential to the fundamental and efficient operation of our programs and departments. Over the next 30 days, I will be working with the Vice Chancellors and Deans to determine the best way to distribute some modest, additional base operational funds in selected areas, so that we can assist you in addressing your most urgent needs. This will be a real increase and will help you to perform your essential functions and meet the increasing demands on your staff and other resources.

While I recognize that these two actions alone will not solve all the resource challenges, they will I believe, help to relieve some of the mounting pressure and allow us to proceed with the development of a formal budget request process that will begin this fall, in anticipation of making decisions regarding additional resource allocations for the next fiscal year. I am optimistic that our enrollments will remain strong, and that the legislature will support our budget requests for increased base funding and/or tuition flexibility, so that we can provide ongoing support for the investments and initiatives identified through our strategic planning process.

This morning, I have shared with you some of my initial impressions, provided you with some of my early thoughts about what we must do to continue to move this great University forward, and identified a process by which we can plan for the future. If there is a theme to this message, it is about new beginnings, beginnings grounded in existing values and driven by our internal motivation to achieve greater success for the University of Colorado at Boulder. Having been in this role for only weeks today, I do not yet know all of the details, nor have we identified what our exact goals are or exactly how we will accomplish them once they have been identified, but I had a strong sense of the tremendous potential of this institution when I accepted the position of Chancellor. What I have seen to date is that this potential most certainly exists, and our very high aspirations for this University are absolutely attainable.

I believe that the vast majority of what is required to take this University to the next level is within our grasp; but one thing is essential to our success. We need your continued commitment – a commitment to provide the highest quality educational experience possible, a commitment to the creation and dissemination of new knowledge, and a commitment to the continued focus on scholarship and excellence in the many diverse fields of study represented by the faculty of this University. I have seen evidence of this commitment everywhere I have been on this campus and witnessed a passion for excellence, and it encourages me and inspires me. I am confident that together we can make this great university even greater.

I thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to talk with you this morning, and for the very special privilege of serving you as Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

I would be happy to take questions at this time.

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From the Chancellor

September 8, 2006 Campus Address

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