Speeches and Writing

Centers and Institutes Review

Email from President Kaler to Twin Cities Deans, Chancellors and the Administrative Email List (AEL)

July 20, 2012


Dear Colleagues,

As you know, this spring I asked 20 deans on the Twin Cities campus and the chancellors to review their academic centers and institutes. This review is consistent with my goals for Operational Excellence, a long-term commitment to reduce administrative costs and increase efficiency to free up resources that can be reallocated toward the University's core teaching, research, and public service mission.

I am pleased to provide you with a report of the first phase of this review. In total, 241 centers and institutes were assessed. Of these, chancellors and deans deemed 73 percent (175) viable and relevant, 9 percent (22) in need of further review, and 9 percent (23) were either already closed or will be closed in the near future. The final 9 percent (21) should not have been included in the list as "centers" or "institutes"; these entities were better defined as research outreach centers, internal service organizations, research infrastructure, professional development or training units, or academic departments.

Although this review provides us with a better understanding of the scope of centers and institutes, it was focused at the unit level and I believe we need to consider a number of questions at an institutional level. Specifically, we need to assess opportunities to consolidate support services for existing centers and institutes, consolidate centers or institutes with similar missions, and assess further the 25 entities that utilize the highest dollar amount of operation and maintenance (tuition plus state) funding. This second phase is intended to insure that future investment aligns with institutional priorities and expectations with regards to mission, efficiency, and productivity. Phase two will be led by the relevant vice presidents, deans and chancellors with oversight from the Operational Excellence group.

Please know, as well, that Star Tribune reporters have been interested in this review since its beginning and have formally requested copies of all submitted reports, which will be provided to them with explanation of the process and results next week. If you, or faculty in your centers and institutes are contacted by the media, please contact the News Service for additional background and assistance.

To all those involved in this process and in the ongoing excellence of the University's centers and institutes, I thank you. It is clear from the review that centers and institutes across the system are important to the intellectual vitality of the University and necessary for facilitating teaching, research, and public engagement that would otherwise be unmet in traditional departmental, collegiate, or campus structures. In their ability to frame and define a variety of complex problems, facilitate interdisciplinary inquiry, generate new sources of external funding, and provide solutions to today's most vexing problems, the University's centers and institutes are vital to institutional success.