Speeches and Writing

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

October 12, 2012
(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you, Madam Chair. For my second academic year as president, yes, I have hit the ground running, driving, walking, and flying on behalf of our University since last we met. Mostly, I have been detailing and promoting our legislative request and the new approach that this Board heard about last month.

I gave presentations about our important Biennial Budget Request—for which I will be seeking your approval later today—to, among others:

  • legislators from both sides of the aisle;
  • the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce;
  • the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable;
  • our Faculty Senate;
  • all of our faculty and staff via a systemwide, live-streamed, and well-attended-in-person Campus Conversation; and
  • 300 members of our Extension faculty and staff, where I also emphasized the advocacy power of Extension—what with its impact and presence across all 87 of our counties, touching people, families, and communities.

From legislators to business leaders, from faculty to staff, I have been receiving universally enthusiastic and positive responses. Also, as we tell our story to the public, we have been getting excellent media coverage and editorial support. But that’s only a part of what I’ve been up to.

Since our last Board meeting, among the groups I spoke to and met with—discussing a wide range of topics, but always promoting the value of this University—were the American Association of University Women, and an exciting, new, revived organization on campus of African-American faculty and staff.

I met with leaders of the Toyota and Sumitomo Corporations as I led a panel on sustainable energy at a U.S.–Japan business conference. I had the pleasure, along with Regent Frobenius, of awarding an honorary degree to the Minister of Health of the People’s Republic of China.

I broke ground with Regents Devine and Allen at our Itasca Biological Station, which is going through a spectacular renovation thanks to you and the legislature. I met with the parents and members of the Pride of Minnesota, our great marching band. I visited alumni and generous friends in Oregon and Washington State.

I spoke to hundreds of other higher education leaders in Washington, D.C., where our Office For Technology Transfer was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the White House for its innovations. And I met with our Minnesota Students Association for undergraduates, and our Graduate and Professional Students Association.

For good measure, Karen and I will be riding in tonight’s Homecoming Parade. And for extra special good measure, Karen and I met the King and Queen of Sweden last Saturday.

All in all, from spreading the word about our Budget Request to meeting Interim Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank in Washington, D.C.—who, like me, happens to be a U alum—I’d say Month One of Academic Year Two was pretty exciting and very productive.

On other fronts…

We have another outstanding cohort of about 500 new honors students on our Twin Cities campus this fall, a testament to the value and strength of our undergraduate education.

Some numbers:

  • Average ACT—32
  • Average High School Rank—97th percentile
  • Percentage Students of Color—19 percent
  • Percentage from Minnesota—59 percent

I’m also happy to announce the new President’s Emerging Scholars Program. It will begin next fall, and grow in the fall of 2014. The program is designed for incoming students who have faced challenges that may have affected their high school ranks and test scores, but whose personal experiences and high school records indicate strong potential for success at the University.

The President’s Emerging Scholars Program offers a number of services that address the needs of students with diverse backgrounds and characteristics, including:

  • first-generation college students,
  • rural students,
  • students who are parents,
  • students with disabilities,
  • students of color,
  • older students, and
  • non-native speakers of English.

Vice Provost Bob McMaster will detail the Emerging Scholars Program more fully in December. But I am very excited about its implementation and its commitment to keeping this university accessible to students from all economic and demographic backgrounds.

On another matter, we began tackling how we are going to move forward with our Office of Academic Administration. You know our senior vice president Robert Jones will be leaving us to be president of the State University of New York at Albany. So we must examine how to reorganize the functions of the Office of Academic Administration, which Robert has so ably led.

Vice President Jones brought unique assets to his job and, so, a unique portfolio. He had an important systemwide approach, was a leader in our community outreach efforts, and expanded the University’s important global footprint.

I have appointed a Task Force, chaired by my chief of staff, Amy Phenix, to review the office’s portfolio and make a recommendation to me regarding the organization of the functions, including reporting lines, and assessing the responsibilities of the senior vice president.

I have asked UMD Chancellor Black, Chief Financial Officer Pfutzenreuter, and Vice President for Research Mulcahy to be on the task force, with support from the Office of Human Resources. I expect their recommendations by October 22. This is not a base-closing commission. This is an alignment process. Also, this timeline is short, and some decisions have to be made quickly.

As you know, we are in the final stages of a search for a vice president for our Office for Equity and Diversity. To keep that search on track and attract the best candidates, I have decided that this position will report directly to me. I remain confident that we will have finalists for the OED vice president position on campus yet this fall.

In another senior leader opening, earlier this week we had the finalists on campus for our vice president for research job. They are:

  • Mark Banaszak Holl, professor of chemistry, University of Michigan;
  • Brian Herman, special assistant to the president of the University of Texas Health Science Center, and professor of cellular and structural biology; and
  • Meredith Hay, professor of physiology, College of Medicine, University of Arizona.

This process is affirmation that we can attract the nation’s best and brightest to join our leadership team.

Speaking of best and brightest: It is with great pride that we celebrated the announcement Wednesday that 1977 UMD grad Brian Kobilka was named the co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is now an alumnus for the ages, and we are very excited for him and for our UMD colleagues and students.

In closing, Madam Chair and Regents, last month, next month, and in the months to come, my team and I will work diligently and tirelessly everyday to communicate my priorities:

  • that we are dedicated to increasing financial aid while holding down tuition for our students and their families;
  • that we are in the business of solving the state’s and nation’s most pressing problems;
  • that our Biennial Budget request has purposeful research initiatives that align with key Minnesota industries; and
  • that our teaching, research, and public engagement are designed to enhance the cultural and economic prosperity of this state.

With that in mind, we have a new set of Driven to Discover TV spots and other advertising platforms to promote those priorities, our brand and our value to the state. The print ads and billboards are so hot off the presses that they highlight the initiatives in our Biennial Budget, which we’ll be discussing in a few moments: food, water quality, neuromodulation and robotics.

You see some of the images on your screens now. The campaign launched late last month, and I want to share two of the TV spots with you now. UMF CEO Steve Goldstein and MMF CEO Becky Malkerson will be sharing another spot with you later today.

Madam Chair, with that I will return the microphone to you so that you may illuminate us with your report.