Speeches and Writing

President Kaler’s July 11, 2012, Report to the Board of Regents

Madam chair, members of the Board. It’s been hot, and some of us have been enjoying an occasional day off. But the University never rests.

First, let me tell you about our incoming class here on our Twin Cities campus. The data is still preliminary, but exciting. Our class of 2016 will be comprised of around 5,500 students, or nearly 200 over our target. We had more than 38,000 applications, down just a bit from last year, but reflecting Minnesota’s demographic decline in the number of high school graduates. The percentage of students from the state of Minnesota remains at around 62 percent, much like the profile over the past decade or so.

Plus, the average ACT score will be the highest in the U of M’s history, higher even than last year’s, which was then the highest ever. We look forward to greeting our next group of future leaders on all of our campuses come late August.

Commitments

In my ongoing commitment to making this university a leader in helping this state close its alarming educational achievement gap, in June I conducted two meetings with faculty and staff from across the Twin Cities campus. I heard that we are engaged in more than 40 research or community-based initiatives or programs, working with school districts, students, and others on this critical topic.

While a great deal of important work is under way, moving forward I want our approach to this critical problem to be more focused. I want there to be more strategic coordination among all of the various efforts. This is something I will be working with the provost, other senior leaders, deans, and faculty to achieve.

I also conducted another diversity listening session with faculty and staff. We have renewed our search for a new vice president for our Office of Equity and Diversity, and finding the right person for that job is a priority of mine.

Our work on Operational Excellence continues. Our review of our 225 academic centers and institutes, which I called for in my State of the University Address, is nearly complete. In a preliminary examination, it looks like about 70 or 75 percent of those will meet the criteria we have for continuation. Others require further review, but, already, some percent have closed or will soon sunset. I am pleased with the outcome.

If we can identify 10 percent of what we do across the board that is no longer needed, we truly will have achieved operational excellence!

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community

Meanwhile, I had the honor to have a productive meeting with a very dear friend of the University’s, Tribal Chairman Stanley Crooks of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. I spoke with him about the TCF Bank Stadium alcohol policy we will be reviewing later today, and I underscored our commitment to maintain an alcohol-free, respectful and safe environment on the Tribal Nations Plaza at the west end of the stadium. We also had a wide-ranging conversation about many issues facing the state, the University, and his community.

This University is very fortunate to have such a wise and forward-looking partner as Chairman Crooks, and I look forward to strengthening that partnership with him and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

Workforce and Knowledge

Let me briefly turn to a topic that is related to the Itasca Task Force work we will hear about shortly. On this matter, we haven’t done a good enough job telling our story. It is the very deep and broad story of what we do as a university to fulfill the workforce and talent needs of Minnesota’s employers.

We know we are the state’s only comprehensive public research university. We know we graduate more than 80 percent of the state’s new physicians, and all of the state’s new veterinary and dental grads. We know that over a three-year period we are adding 1,000 new undergraduate slots in the science, technology, math, engineering, and nursing disciplines, responding directly to demands from our students, their families, and our state’s employers.

Plus, with our rising graduation rates, we are providing new workers and talent for our knowledge economy at a faster rate than ever before. So, we’re certainly doing our part there.

But let me share some other data. It is evidence that we will continue to build and communicate as we tirelessly advocate for this University and explain the fundamental role we play in preserving and advancing Minnesota’s prosperity, and in solving our state’s most pressing problems.

Take this state’s 19 Fortune 500 companies, amongst the largest concentration in the nation. Did you know that more than 85 percent of our Carlson School of Management graduates—and I mean students with four-year bachelor’s of management degrees—get jobs within 90 days of graduation in such industries as accounting, financial services, investment banking, health care, and manufacturing? Many of those jobs are with those Fortune 500 companies, but others are with smaller enterprises, some founded by University alumni. About 80 percent of those Carlson School graduates go to work for companies here in Minnesota. Eighty percent.

I spoke last year to the convention of the state’s city engineers, about 400 of them. I asked them how many were University graduates. Almost everyone’s hand went up. These are the people who manage the infrastructure needs for the municipalities in all 87 counties. In 2010, 115 civil engineers graduated in the state of Minnesota and 108 graduated from our College of Science and Engineering. That’s 94 percent of all new civil engineers in the state.

And just this spring, our University of Minnesota Duluth Swenson College of Science and Engineering awarded its first civil engineering degrees, 28 of them. We supply critical and high-level talent to this state’s economy and for the public good.

How about our College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences? Our CFANS grads are getting jobs in grain procurement and logistics, in commodity trading, in food sales, and in health care facilities across the state. Important, critical jobs for major Minnesota industries.

Are we in touch with the business community, reaching out to it and working to meet its current and evolving needs? We are. Career Services staff from our colleges meet with their relevant industry leaders to understand the jobs they are seeking to fill and the skills they need. We continue to break records for the number of employers attending our College of Science and Engineering career fairs. We went from 85 companies in fall of 2010 to 135 in fall 2011. In CSE, we are connecting companies to students with companies as early as their freshman year to help the students understand opportunities in industry and to help employers identify talent.

The University of Minnesota’s research mission makes us an engine for producing some of the most critical, high-level workforce and talent needs in this state. We not only prepare well-rounded students who can think critically and develop into engaged citizens, but we are aligning our curriculum and graduates with the needs of this state’s economy NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE to drive its prosperity.

We must do more to emphasize that the University is key to meeting the state’s workforce challenges. As the state’s only comprehensive, public, land-grant research university, we create new knowledge, and we prepare students for the jobs and societal needs for tomorrow, and the years beyond.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, let me give you a sense of what’s on my plate, and where my focus and priorities reside. I will be visiting with legislators in Rochester next week, speaking with them about the impacts our transportation and other research has on all of southeastern and southern Minnesota, and I’ll be speaking to the Rochester Rotary. I like speaking at Rotary Clubs!

In early August, I will be visiting with legislators in the Duluth area and showing them the important fresh water research we do at UMD. I continue to strengthen our relationship with policy makers and to highlight to legislators the value and impact we have on this state’s prosperity and culture in all 87 counties.

I will visit FarmFest for the second straight year, engaging with our partners in agribusiness. I will perfect my cow milking skills, and CFANS dean, Al Levine, has told me to put a pail UNDER the cow this year. I will be spending a day at the State Fair, and I will be accompanied by a group of first-year students. It should be fun.

I will also be speaking to those first-year students at their Convocation and—I won’t give away the secret—but we have produced a very artistic and entertaining Convocation film for the first-years, starring my wife, Karen, Goldy the Gopher and—even—me. We plan to show it to you at our September meeting.

In late August, I will be taking my first extended vacation since beginning my work here more than a year ago. I look forward to being refreshed and renewed for the school year.

We Have Done Well

In closing, I want to return to a very important decision you supported at our June meeting. From our students to their families, from our most world-renowned researchers to the hardest working facilities management staffers, we are in the people business. We must not forget that.

Last month, with your support, we returned our Regents Scholarship program to a 100 percent tuition waiver for those employees seeking their first college degrees. Subsequent to our decision, my office received emails from members of the University community. One came from an employee in Disbursement Services.

He wrote: "Thank you so much for restoring the Regents Scholarship to cover 100 percent of tuition for those of us seeking our first degrees. This is huge for me. I’m sitting here at my desk, wearing my maroon and gold, and I have the biggest smile on my face. I’ll be able to earn my degree much faster now and ultimately be able to repay the kindness of the University of Minnesota."

Madam chair, members of the Board, let’s all celebrate those employees who understand the true value of higher education and this great university. And as we embark on what I’m confident will be a productive, energetic, and successful academic year, let’s also take time to celebrate some of the difficult, but deeply important, decisions we have made here during our first year together. I believe we have done well. With that, I conclude my report.