Remarks, March 14, 2019 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

As prepared for delivery by President Tim Killeen

Exactly 100 years ago, in 1919, the University of Illinois was wrapping up one of the most defining periods in its long history. The 16-year term of our fourth president, Edmund James, brought explosive growth. The number of buildings on what was then our only campus, here in Urbana-Champaign, grew by more than 200 percent, to 71. Virtually every academic college, school and department saw robust growth in both the breadth and depth of classroom offerings. That sparked a 157 percent surge in enrollment, to 9,200 students, and a nearly 50 percent jump in degrees awarded.

But, in a detailed statistical report he compiled at the end of his presidency, President James said the U of I’s real growth was intellectual and spiritual, not material and physical. In the final analysis, he said, the university’s true measure rests squarely on the talents and passion of its faculty. And during his presidency, James said faculty had lifted the university to a place among our nation’s elite, through an unflagging zeal to push the boundaries of knowledge that fueled both enrollment growth and the breakthrough discovery that he saw as fundamental to human progress.

His presidency charted our path to what we are today--a system of best-in-class universities that has set enrollment records for six straight years; a research giant that is ranked among the world’s most innovative university systems. And his formula for success holds as true today as it did a century ago.

So we never stop working to expand our already extraordinary faculty, who are still the heartbeat of our universities and still the magnet that makes us a go-to destination for students and research. We ramped up our efforts over the last year, hiring the first cohort of 14 professors under the President’s Distinguished Faculty Hiring Program. In collaboration with each of our universities, the three-year, $60 million initiative brought in acclaimed experts in a host of critical fields, from electronics and healthcare to public finance and history. I have asked several to join us today, and give you a chance to get to know them.

We gave these stellar scholars a short series of questions and asked for brief, one- or two sentence answers to the following: Why did they choose to uproot from their previous institutions to come to one of our universities? What is one thing they would like you to know about them? What is one thing they are especially proud of? What is one thing they want to accomplish as a member of our faculty? And how will they contribute to advancing the U of I System overall?

First, it is my pleasure to introduce Nancy Amato. Dr. Amato started in January as the new head of the Department of Computer Science and as an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering in Urbana’s College of Engineering.
She comes from Texas A&M, and is recognized widely for her work in motion planning in robotics, which has practical applications in mobility, autonomous driving and manufacturing.

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Kenneth Kriz.Dr. Kriz started last fall as a professor in the College of Public Affairs and Administration at UIS, where he also serves as the inaugural director of the campus’s newly launched Institute for Illinois Public Finance. He came to UIS from Wichita State and is a leading scholar in the field of public finance and budgeting, including research focusing on public pension fund management and policy, and on state and local government debt management.

Now, I would like to introduce David Sepkoski. Dr. Sepkoski joined the Urbana faculty last fall as the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in History of Science, and is the author of three books that explore the history of various STEM fields. Before joining us, he was a senior research scholar at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany.

And my thanks again to all of our inaugural distinguished professors for deciding to join the U of I System, and for contributing their many teaching and research talents to one of our three universities.

Now, I want to pivot to another important hiring initiative we are examining, one that we hope will add hundreds of new tenure system faculty across our universities over the next five years. It is rooted in the board’s ongoing encouragement to always keep looking beyond the horizon,to stay focused on our long-term needs even during lean times when near-term challenges command the bulk of our attention. Your thoughtful guidance produced a strategic plan to increase system-wide enrollment to more than 93,000 by 2021, a goal set two years ago that I am happy to report we are still firmly on track to meet.

And it produced new plans we unveiled just a few months ago that seek to pump $4 billion into nearly 350 major capital projects over the next decade to ensure our facilities match our academic and research excellence.
And, now, thanks to your encouragement, we have produced a five-year assessment of the growing need to expand our ranks of tenure system faculty, another critical component in the formula to secure our future. In the end, our universities rise on the quality of our students and faculty. As we grow one group, we must nurture and grow the other. But as enrollment has topped records each of the last six years, faculty hiring has lagged, in part because our universities had to hold down expenses during a two-year state budget impasse that siphoned away hundreds of millions of dollars from our day-to-day operations. Let me share some data to illustrate.

Since the fall of 2014, enrollment across the system has grown by nearly double digits, almost 9 1/2 percent, increasing by about 7,500 students.

As an aside, I wanted to share some wonderful enrollment news that I received just last month. Undergraduate enrollment of underrepresented minorities reached an all-time high last fall. Underrepresented minorities comprised nearly 30 percent of total undergraduate enrollment, about 17,000 of more than 57,000 students, continuing a strong and steady rise from less than 24 percent five years ago.

Back to the subject at hand, while total enrollment jumped 9 1/2 percent since 2014, our total tenure-system faculty growth has been far, far smaller, increasing by only 2.1 percent, or by 68 professors. The disparity cuts to our core, threatening academic quality because it increases class sizes and reduces the opportunity for individual student attention, threatening their success.

Ratings agencies like U.S. News & World Report know it, too. They count faculty-student ratios among key factors in their annual rankings of top universities, which, like it or not, influence decisions of prospective students.

Reinvesting in talent is essential, so we asked our three provosts to look into the future and assess the new faculty additions they feel are needed over the next five years, along with replacements to keep pace with retirements and turnover. They worked closely with deans and department heads, honing in on disciplines where student demand is expected to grow, identifying opportunities to add strength in areas where their universities are already intellectual powerhouses, and proposing hires at the intersection of fields such as healthcare and business that hold promise to transform teaching and discovery. Here is a brief summary of each university’s unique needs:

Here in Urbana-Champaign, the assessment by Provost Andreas Cangellaris and his team calls for 493 tenure-system hires over the next five years. Of those, 325 would be replacement hires and 168 would be actual growth, a 9 percent increase in faculty. Most of the new positions would be in graduate and professional programs, which have fueled the bulk of Urbana’s recent enrollment growth.But the additional hires also would reduce high undergraduate student-to-faculty ratios in engineering, computer science, business, statistics and information sciences to bring them in line with peers. Overall, priority hiring areas include computer science, engineering, mathematics, business, statistics, economics, information sciences and biological and health sciences.

At UIC, the long-range outlook developed by Provost Susan Poser and her team sets a target of 391 tenure-system hires over the next five years, which includes 135 replacements and 255 actual growth in faculty numbers. The new hires would increase tenure-system faculty by about 20 percent to serve a fast-growing campus where enrollment rose to nearly 32,000 students last fall, a new record for the fourth straight year. The strategic hiring would right-size undergraduate student-to-faculty ratios that are high in colleges such as business administration and engineering. Priority hiring areas include several disciplines in business, such as accounting, marketing and management; in engineering, particularly computer science; and in the liberal arts and sciences such as chemistry, criminology, psychology, math and statistics. New hiring also will occur in medicine and the health sciences. Several of the hires also would bring different fields together, such as healthcare and business or engineering, supporting interdisciplinary teaching and research that would bridge UIC’s east and west campuses.

In Springfield, Provost Dennis Papini and his team have developed a five-year outlook that calls for 33 tenure-system hires, eight replacements and 25 hires representing actual growth. That would increase tenure-system faculty by 15 percent, and priority hiring areas include business and management, teacher education, allied health, computer science and public administration. Combined, the three plans call for 916 new tenure system hires over the next five years. Roughly half of those would replace current faculty and half would be net growth.

The growth initiative sets a high bar, proposing 448 new hires over five years, a 14 percent increase from our current tenure-system ranks. So where do we go from here? Like all faculty hiring, the additions would require recurring funding to support new salaries, as well as one-time funds to cover start-up costs. Funding obligations would be substantial--tens of millions of dollars across our universities every year once all new faculty are in place. And our chancellors and provosts are clear that these ambitious goals can only be reached by expanding on our current revenues through new dollars from a combination of tuition, fundraising and state appropriations. As we sharpen our pencils and examine our options, we can take heart from the University of Illinois Foundation’s current fundraising initiative.

Just this morning, our partners at the Foundation announced its campus-focused campaigns have collectively topped the $2 billion mark. That is 64 percent of the Foundation’s ambitious $3.1 billion goal, just a little over a year into the five-year campaign, which runs through 2022.

We also can take heart from Governor Pritzker’s budget address last month, where he proposed a nearly 5 percent funding increase for the U of I System, our largest increase in nearly two decades, since fiscal 2001.
In his address to the legislature, the governor said he is focused on reversing the damage done to higher education during the budget impasse, and keeping our best and brightest in Illinois.

And we can take heart from our own good, sound stewardship, from the creative new efficiencies we honed during the budget impasse that we have carried on to channel precious dollars toward our academic programs and the needs of our students.

Our success over the last 150-plus years is proof that the U of I System is always up for a challenge.  And we are determined to meet this one, as well.

Investing in the U of I System and in expanding its world-class faculty is the key to ensuring that our three universities remain a magnet for the students and an incubator of the talent and discovery that drive progress. As President James foreshadowed a century ago in his end-of-term report: “If the present high ideals of scholarship and service are maintained,” he wrote, “there is no reason to doubt that the University of Illinois will establish clearly its right to be counted as one of the great seats of learning of the world.”

My thanks to the board for your time and your dedicated service to one of the world’s great “seats of learning," the University of Illinois System.