Speeches and Writing

President Kaler’s December 2012 Report to
the Board of Regents

December 14, 2012
(As delivered)

Two months have passed since last we met as a Board, and much has happened. Just yesterday I offered to our Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee the appointments of Dr. Brian Herman as our new vice president for research and Dr. Katrice Albert as our new vice president for equity and diversity. And just a moment ago, we said farewell to Vice Presidents Jones and Mulcahy and Foundation CEO Goldstein.

I do think change is a good thing. But just to recap, in the past 17 months, we have put into place a new provost; a new Crookston chancellor; new vice presidents for university services, for research, for our Information Technology Office, and for equity and diversity. A new systemwide chief communications officer; and a new government relations special assistant; deans of the Carlson School, Humphrey School, and Dental School; a new athletics director, and even a new Board of Regents secretary.

New leaders come in and question what’s being done and why. This brings fresh eyes, new ideas, and different ways to do things. It does indeed keep an organization dynamic. On the other hand, we lose years of experience and knowledge. This is one area in which the guidance of this Board is so important to me. You as a group have been very helpful in sharing your institutional memory and organizational history with me over the past year and a half.

I’ve appreciated all the input and opinions. Thank you for your leadership during this large and very exciting transition.

Office of Academic Administration

As you know, at the end of this month Senior Vice President Jones will leave to become the president of the State University of New York at Albany, in January. We will make some changes. In September, I reported to you that I had appointed a task force to look into the future of the Office for Academic Administration (OAA), and it came back with strong recommendations.

The result is that I have decided to eliminate the OAA and realign its functions and reporting lines with the administrative unit or college that most closely shares their mission and work. The reporting lines will transition on January 1, and I have asked Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter to work with each unit to transition appropriate resources by the end of the fiscal year. This is an important change, but we could not have achieved this without the extraordinary and firm foundation of “system-ness” that Robert built. These changes will not only improve organizational effectiveness, but also will achieve considerable cost savings.

More change awaits us: The boards of both the University of Minnesota Foundation and Minnesota Medical Foundation have proposed a merger. They are now conducting their due diligence, and, if that process is completed successfully, we anticipate actions by both boards to finalize the merger by late next month. When Steve Goldstein retires at the end of January—and if the merger is consummated—MMF CEO Becky Malkerson will assume the role of interim CEO of the combined organization while a national search commences for a new CEO. I am extremely grateful to Steve and Becky for their outstanding work over the years.

Generation Next

Since last we met, we publicly launched Generation Next, which I have agreed to co-chair along with Kim Nelson of General Mills. This is a broad partnership of organizations and leaders from across the Twin Cities—the first of its kind in our area, but modeled after successful programs in Cincinnati and Boston to help narrow the achievement gap.

This is an issue I feel passionately about, and that has long-term implications for the demographics and diversity of this University, and for the state’s future prosperity. I especially hope to activate our University’s research resources and expertise in a coordinated way to help tackle this critical problem.

Big Ten expansion

Also, since last we met, the Big Ten has expanded to 14 members with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland. We’re still not very good at math.

In addition to joining us in the athletic conference, they are also joining its academic counterpart, the prestigious Committee on Institutional Cooperation, or CIC. Rutgers and Maryland are both flagship, land-grant universities and, like us, are members of the Association of American Universities, the nation’s top research institutions.

The expansion is a smart, strategic decision with the long-term implications for the future of the Big Ten in mind. It positions the Big Ten very well in what is—for better or worse—an ever-changing, highly-competitive, sports-entertainment landscape. It extends the conference’s national footprint and, frankly, our national exposure as an institution, enabling us to recruit top students and athletes to the University. Certainly, there are some challenges, such as the time commitments of our student-athletes and travel schedules. But our Number One priority is to ensure the welfare of our student-athletes, who, on all of our campuses, are winning in the classroom.

Some statistics from this year: 70 Gopher athletes from fall sports were honored as Academic All-Big-Ten selections. At Crookston, 17 of our Golden Eagle athletes were named to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference all-academic team. At UMD this fall, 55 student athletes made the Northern Sun all-academic list. And football player Brendon Foss from the Morris campus was named a Division III academic All-American.

Nobel Prize and MN-IP

One of the real joys of this job is the chance to meet interesting people. Earlier this fall I got the chance to visit with—and tour the lab of—UMD grad, Class of 1977, Brian Kobilka. Now at Stanford, Dr. Kobilka won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. We are very proud of him and of UMD. I can report that while he is now a world-renowned scientist, he is, at heart, a baker’s son from Little Falls, Minnesota.

Last December—one year ago at the Board meeting—you approved an innovative research and intellectual property policy called Minnesota Innovation Partnerships, or MN-IP. Since then, the program has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce and White House for its groundbreaking approach. I’m happy to report that, to date, we have signed 40 MN-IP agreements with 35 different companies. That’s remarkable in just one year. It’s a tribute to our Office for Technology Commercialization, and it shows that industry is eager to work with us when we are innovative and entrepreneurial.

Despite that progress on MN-IP and our record number of startup companies this year, we’re not yet fully recognized for all we do with the state’s business community. It’s incumbent on all of us to spread the word whenever we can about how the University’s entrepreneurial partnerships help to drive the state’s prosperity and job creation.

Advocacy

Now, a quick look ahead. The Legislative Session begins on January 8. Already, we have been meeting with new legislative leaders. Jason Rohloff, our Government Relations special assistant, and his staff are working hard with new legislative members, and we are aggressively seeking support from all of our key allies. Just Wednesday, we met with Governor Dayton. It was a positive meeting and we look forward to working with the governor and his staff as the session unfolds. I invite you to attend our annual Legislative Briefing, sponsored by the Alumni Association on Wednesday, January 23, at 6 p.m. As Regents, you are some of our most important advocates. I will need your voices as the session unfolds.

Pigskin and parade

Of course, the Gophers football team is headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on December 28, and I hope many of you will join Karen me in Houston.

Finally, a truly unexpected honor and distinction awaits me this weekend. Tomorrow night, I will be the Grand Marshall of the Holidazzle Parade in downtown Minneapolis. And I will be accompanied by none other than that major Twin Cities campus celebrity—and my close personal friend—Goldy. Leading a parade seems like an appropriate and wonderful way to cap a VERY good year for this University—on all of our campuses. I thank you all for helping it to be so. Also, Madam Chair, I wish you, the entire Board and your families a great holiday season, and a healthy New Year. With that, I conclude my report.