Introduction 

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Seeking his first seat in the Illinois General Assembly at the age of 23, Abraham Lincoln envisioned a future— he called it “the happy period”—when education would become widespread and widely regarded as a public good: “I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.”

With this strategic framework, the University of Illinois System—The Public’s University— reaffirms the central role that education, and higher education in particular, can play in promoting the public good for the entire state of Illinois and beyond.

We can do this because of who we are and where we are.

Our System member institutions include two world-class research universities with extraordinary depth and breadth, a top-ranked regional liberal arts university in the state capital, and an expansive healthcare training and services enterprise. We are an indispensable presence in a global city, smaller metropolitan areas, and rural locations. We carry out our mission in the American heartland—not just the iconic center of our nation, but also a geographic, demographic,  and economic microcosm for many of the  challenges facing the world. Indeed, part of what will differentiate the System will be our leadership among Midwestern universities and  other surrounding institutions in the economic revitalization of our region—a goal that none of us can accomplish alone.

This framework is designed to unleash the collective potential of our institutions and our geography, creating an array of reforms and solutions that are scalable and replicable elsewhere. In doing so, the System will become a model for the very best in research-intensive higher education.

We have a magnificent tradition to build on. Every day, across the System, we make the world more imaginative, more equitable, and more sustainably productive. We are a breakthrough juggernaut, expanding the boundaries of knowledge; a launchpad for the next generation of professionals in every field; and a catalyst for well-being, social mobility, creativity, and inclusivity. The University of Illinois name is a guarantor of excellence around the world; the Urbana campus is among the top Ten American University destinations for some of the best students from abroad according to U.S. News & World Report (2015).

The framework provides fresh thinking for how, over the next decade, we will leverage all of our strengths: academic excellence and world-class faculty; the aspirations, energy, and diversity of our students; the dedication of a staff that encompasses thousands of people—from facilities and services personnel to lab technicians to county Extension officers. The framework also identifies where and how we will improve: finding new efficiencies, forging new partnerships and collaborations, and defining new ways of operating within both physical and virtual landscapes. We have a long history of providing a return on investment that can be measured in global terms. But we can, and will, do even better.

 

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