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The University's physical and cultural transformation is well underway, although there are still some questions to be answered.
May 10, 1999
Soon I will be leaving the University of Connecticut to take up the position of Chancellor of Louisiana State University. As with most of life's transitions, this one has given me a good excuse to pause and reflect on what has been accomplished at UConn in recent years and also to consider what is yet to be done.
The list of achievements of this academic community is impressive indeed, ranging from the most grand and sweeping facilities projects to the nearly invisible, but equally essential, improvements to the way we manage resources.
If one reviews just the highlights of our progress, it is impossible to deny that this is a University in the midst of rapid transformation. We have, for example, created a strategic plan intended to guide the University to national academic prominence. A facilities master plan was established, giving context and structure to the physical changes needed to assure the University's success. The appearance of the University has been utterly transformed, so that it is a much friendlier, more welcoming place.
Within this revitalized place we have strengthened undergraduate education through dynamic new approaches to orientation, advising, the first-year experience, the honors program, instructional quality, and living and learning arrangements. The student body has increased in number, in diversity, and in quality. We have recruited dozens of exceptionally talented new faculty to join us.
Our new confidence and energy have resulted in a dramatic increase in private financial support, including the creation of newly endowed chairs and professorships and the singular gift of Raymond Neag for the School of Education. Funding for research in the critical technologies areas has been solidified and our research support infrastructure is being completely restructured.
The University's commitment to multiculturalism has grown substantially , as shown by the increasing diversity of our students and faculty, the creation of the new Rainbow Center, and the investments in the multicultural centers and institutes.
All this has come to fruition while we were bringing about a successful resolution of the University's severe budgetary difficulties . And yes, we played some pretty good basketball along the way.
Most impressive to me, however, is the cultural transformation which has begun. Today a sense of pride and enthusiasm pervades the University of Connecticut - the place and the people. There is a resoluteness about the transformation of the University which is palpable on the campus and throughout the state. The University community acknowledges, both intellectually and viscerally, that we have every reason and every capability to become one of the best universities in the United States. All should be pleased and excited by the progress so far.
But still, there is much unfinished business. The physical transformati on of the campuses must move forward within the guidelines of the master plan. The University must continue to show that it can steward resources effectively, that it can make thoughtful and even difficult decisions that serve long-term goals, and that it can manage capital projects skillfully and with appropriate discipline.
In programmatic areas, similar resolve is essential. First, there is the central matter of recruiting, retaining, and supporting the University's most important resource - its faculty. The University must retain its faculty through competitive salaries and appropriate levels of support for their teaching, research and service.
Although it is a controversial subject, the conversation that has just now begun about faculty development is essential to this process. Faculty must know with clarity what is expected of them and what they in turn can expect of the University in support of their work throughout their careers.
Additionally, UConn still needs to add to its ranks more faculty with worldwide reputations. The impact of new chairs in chemistry, business, education, law, and engineering, among others, is just now beginning to be felt. The effort to raise funds for endowed chairs and professorships for just this purpose must continue aggressively. Capital campaign planning is well underway and, when implemented, the campaign will be immeasurably important.
The University's commitment to multiculturalism must also not waiver. Advances in the diversity of the faculty, staff, and students must be matched by similar efforts to expand curricular horizons, to increase the role of multiculturalism in the core curriculum and in academic programs across the University.
There is as well the need to implement the new regional campus role and scope statements recently approved by the Board of Governors of Higher Education. It is now incumbent upon the University to determine the right programmatic mix for each campus and its community. The regional campuses hold great potential for the whole University, but require significantly more attention.
Information technology holds the potential to wire together all these efforts, both literally and figuratively. But many questions are yet to be answered before UConn can take advantage of this opportunity. What will be the correct application of information technology in UConn classrooms? What will be the role of distance learning on the campuses and beyond? What administrati ve systems should be implemented and installed to improve necessary and appropriate services to students, faculty, and staff? How will this all be paid for? These are huge questions with complex answers.
But the most complex and most important issue facing the University is that of critical scale and the need to determine the best overall size of the University. To pursue its academic goals UConn must grow, at least, back to the size it was in 1989.
This point begs many questions. How can growth and increasing academic quality be accommodated? Are the facilities available for this growth? What is the most desirable mix between graduate and undergraduate offerings and enrollment? Can the curriculum and pedagogies currently in place be improved to better meet the educational needs of the students and the rigor of the academy? These central questions, among others, are being discussed already and the preliminary conversation is encouraging.
There are many more opportunities and challenges before the University of Connecticut, but these few are essential to its advancement. I have great confidence that UConn will stay the course.
And, with these thoughts - of the past and of the future - I will soon leave the University. To the University and to the kindness of its people, my family and I owe much. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with you in achieving what we have accomplished and in setting the foundation for what is yet to be.
I commend you. I thank you. And, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.