This December, 2012 campus letter continues an ongoing series of regular letters to the campus community on issues of importance to the university and to our overall goals. In addition to ongoing formal and informal meetings with faculty, staff and students, I hope this letter and other communications continue to demonstrate our shared expectation for open and engaged leadership at UIS and a commitment to shared governance that reflects the values of the University of Illinois as well as the finest traditions of our Springfield campus.
Though these are certainly challenging times in higher education in our state, I’m pleased that we continue to make significant progress toward our goal to be a premier regional university within the world-class University of Illinois organization. Our progress was certainly evident when we hosted the University of Illinois Board of Trustees meeting last month, the highlight of which was the UIS Campus Insights Program featuring presentations by several exceptional UIS faculty on their teaching, research and service activities. I appreciate the efforts of so many members of the UIS community who contributed in so many ways to making the entire meeting such a success.
At the Fall Convocation, you heard me speaking about priorities related to growth in both enrollment and reputation, talent acquisition in terms of both recruitment and retention of top quality employees, and facilities that meet the educational needs of our students. We continue to be actively engaged in these critical areas.
Increasing the visibility of UIS in the region is an essential part of our growth strategy and I’m sure you are seeing more of your university in many ways. I’m pleased that the new UIS theme, Leadership lived, has caught on so effectively both on campus and beyond. I think it resonates so well because it is authentic; it’s who we really are and it’s what really happens here every day in the classroom and on campus … thanks to all of you. If you opened the State Journal- Register on Saturday you saw an excellent example of Leadership lived – graduate student Justin Rose and his fellow Black Male Collegiate Society members volunteering with great dedication every week as mentors to 4th and 5th graders at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School in Springfield ( UIS fraternity provides role models for elementary school students). I hope you will also check out the new UIS Perspectives column in the SJR, which now appears monthly both in print and online. It’s all part of enhancing the visibility of our university and making prospective students, parents and community members more aware that UIS is a great place to pursue an undergraduate or a graduate degree.
I am pleased that Provost Pardie has assembled a first-rate “New Academic Programs Task Force.” Another aspect of our growth strategy is the addition of new programs that prospective students want and that Illinois needs. The task force has received many recommendations for new programs and is now evaluating and prioritizing. I’m grateful for the important work of this group and I look forward to forthcoming recommendations that will position UIS well for the future.
Talent acquisition at UIS is also critical to the advancement of the university and every new hire is important. We have strengthened our leadership team this semester with the addition of Dr. Jeff Lorber as Vice Chancellor for Development. With a doctorate in higher education and significant successful fundraising experience in higher education, Dr. Lorber arrived at UIS ready and eager to meet members of the UIS community and engage with potential donors. Making the leader of our advancement efforts a vice chancellor signifies how vital it is for UIS to be successful in fundraising and advancement and I look forward to the leadership Jeff will provide at UIS in the coming years.
The searches for outstanding academic leaders for the College of Public Affairs and Administration and the College of Education and Human Services have been launched. Many thanks to Dr. Pinky Wassenberg for her leadership of PAA for the past eight years. Dr. Wassenberg will return to the faculty in January, 2013. I appreciate Dr. Will Miller’s willingness to serve as interim dean of PAA. If all goes well, our new deans will join us next summer. We’re also searching for a new UIS Director of Human Resources. Current director, Bob Lael, has been an effective leader during difficult economic times. We will miss him, but wish him well in his retirement. We hope to conclude the search before this semester ends.
Our number one facilities priority, as you know, is the construction of the student union. We need this “living room” and gathering place in order to enhance student recruitment and to provide our students with the student life experiences that they need and deserve. Last year, as you know, our students voted to create a new student fee to help cover some of the costs. The Board of Trustees has approved the site for the student union and we are now moving forward with construction planning and fundraising. The Student Union Planning Committee is hard at work on its charge “to work constructively and proactively with each other, the architects, representatives from UI Facilities Planning and the UIS community to design a building that will enhance campus life, advance the University’s educational mission, inspire collaboration and leave a lasting legacy that is worthy of the world-class University of Illinois.” What vibrancy this facility will bring to our campus, to our student body, and to the local community!
We are all concerned about ongoing developments related to the university employees’ pension program (SURS) and you are aware that the state legislature and the governor are considering proposals for change. Dr. Avijit Ghosh, Special Assistant to the President, and Kappy Laing, Executive Director of Governmental Relations, will be on campus this week to brief campus leadership about the potential changes and how the University of Illinois plans to respond. I have invited the leadership of the Campus Senate, APAC and CSAC to attend this briefing and we will keep you informed of further developments.
I hope as the Fall semester draws to a close you will find time to participate in the upcoming December events including the annual Campus Holiday Party this Friday from 3:00 to 5:00 PM in the Sangamon Auditorium Lobby and (if you are a faculty member) the Faculty Coffee Hour on Monday, December 17, from 2:30 – 4:00 in the PAC Atrium Lounge. Our collective participation in these and other campus events is important because it contributes to building a collegial and welcoming campus culture for everyone and that’s everyone’s responsibility.
Last year at this time, I thanked all of you for providing me and my husband, Dennis, such a warm welcome to UIS and to Springfield, Illinois. Today I can say that it feels – in all good ways — as if we have lived here for decades. I enjoy living here, working with you and serving this university. I wish all of you good times and some well-earned relaxation during the holiday season and during the upcoming break. I also wish for you a happy and healthy 2013.
Thank you for everything you do every day to provide our students with the excellence that is so central to who we are and what we do.
With all best wishes,
Susan J. Koch