Remarks, September 19, 2019 Meeting of the Board of Trustees

As prepared for delivery for President Tim Killeen

Thank you, Chairman Edwards, and good morning everyone. Later in today’s meeting, Chairman Edwards will share his report showcasing excellence at our universities, but I’m sure won’t mind if I salt in a few examples of my own early on.

Our new school year is already off another fast start, adding to the momentum that just keeps building across the University of Illinois System. Chancellor Jones shared the news about yet another year of record enrollment here in Urbana, and I’m proud to report that it helped push system-wide enrollment to an all-time high for the seventh straight year. Combined, our universities saw a nearly 4 percent increase in enrollment, to almost 89,000 students. UIC also saw record enrollment for the fifth straight year, topping 33,000 students for the first time, with a strong growth in undergraduates and the addition of the John Marshall Law School. And UIS welcomed the largest freshman class in its history, a class of 373 that is up by double digits … 18 percent … from a year ago. System-wide, it was another year of gains among in-state students, and in enrollment of underrepresented students – priorities in the Strategic Framework you approved nearly four years ago to lead us forward.  

And this fall keeps us squarely on track to meet the ambitious goal you set to top 93,000 students system-wide by the fall of 2021. In the three years since you handed us the challenge, enrollment has grown by 9 percent, or nearly 7,400 students – a byproduct of our academic excellence, a commitment to access and affordability that has frozen in-state tuition for five straight years and the outstanding work of an admissions team that waves our flag year-round across the state and around the world.

Last week’s impressive news on enrollment growth came on the heels of the always strong showing by our universities in rankings of the best-of-the-best in higher education. Chancellor Jones outlined Urbana-Champaign’s lock on its place in the nation’s top 50, and in the top 15 among publics in this year’s U.S. News rankings.  And there is just as much to be proud of at UIC and UIS. UIC continued its rise in the U.S. News rankings, moving up another spot among publics … to No. 60, a full 13 places higher than just two years ago … and held its ground in the overall rankings at 132nd, just three places short of last year’s finish. And the fast-growing campus ranked even higher in the recently released Wall Street Journal-Times Higher Education rankings … ranked 21st among the nation’s public universities and 81st overall. UIC also earned a place as Top 10 best value for students, coming in at No. 8. UIS took the top spot among our state’s regional public universities in the U.S. News rankings, and placed fourth among all publics in the Midwest, jumping three spots from a year ago. Our capital city campus has consistently ranked among the 15 best publics in the Midwest, and also was judged this year by U.S. News as one of the region’s most diverse universities.

My thanks to Chancellor Koch, Chancellor Amiridis and Chancellor Jones for their leadership, and to the talented faculty and staff across their campuses who are the very core of the excellence that makes each of our universities best-in-class.

On another important front, we continue to make great strides toward our Discovery Partners Institute and Illinois Innovation Network, the pioneering initiatives that will write the next chapter in our long legacy of contributions to progress and the public good. This summer, DPI was granted temporary institute status by the staff of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, a somewhat procedural but necessary step that gives us the green light to operate for five years pending review for permanent status. And those operations and business plans are nearing completion, after working in concert with an outside consultant to refine DPI’s vision and hone in on its short- and long-term objectives. We also are moving closer to securing the funding that will allow us to begin construction of DPI’s permanent home in downtown Chicago and our IIN hubs across the state. We have gathered the information necessary for the economic impact study for DPI and IIN that the state has set as a condition before releasing the $500 million in capital funding approved for development of the new facilities. We hope to see the impact report soon. In the meantime, we continue to raise the funds required to match the state’s contribution and are getting closer and closer to our magic number. As we get closer to digging, we also are expanding programming and will host the first two events this month involving all of our IIN hubs … a summit tomorrow focused on standards for K-12 computer science education and a Sept. 27 competition featuring young innovators from across the state. We are well on our way, and I am grateful to Vice President Ed Seidel, DPI Director Bill Sanders and their teams for leading us closer and closer to the finish line.

As you know, I commissioned a task force more than six months ago, led by Executive Vice President Barb Wilson, to review best practices and suggested policy changes with regard to the issues of sexual misconduct and institutional responses. I want to assure the board that these issues are front and center for us to uphold our bedrock commitment to our students. I am reviewing the preliminary recommendations from the task force and anticipate sharing concrete steps forward with the board in the very near future.

In closing, I want to briefly preview a series of presentations to the board that I will kick off at your November meeting. The four-part series will run through the May meeting, focusing on the leadership efforts you have help steer that have super-charged the U of I System’s power as an economic engine for our state and the entire Midwest. What we have accomplished together as we follow the path charted by our Strategic Framework is nothing short of remarkable. But, spread out over more than four years, it’s easy to overlook the collective impact of everything we have done. This series will examine our efforts and how they stand as a model for the nation.

Finally, I want to end today’s report by showing a new television commercial we have produced that airs during the primetime “NFL Kickoff” show the U of I System is sponsoring this season on NBC Sports Chicago. It debuted two weeks ago ahead of the season-opening Bears-Packers game and you can see it next week before the Bears’ Monday night game at Washington. It also will appear in programming on select targeted smart televisions across the state, as well as on social media. And, in just 30 seconds, it does a great job of capturing why our three universities are truly Altogether Extraordinary.

I hope you enjoyed it. We’re proud of it and excited about all of the eyes it will catch this fall.

My thanks for your time and attention and I’m happy to answer any questions.