In the weeks since the Board of Trustees unanimously appointed me as the University of Cincinnati’s 28th President, I have been touched by the outpouring of good wishes. This is a very special time for me professionally and personally, and I remain thankful that my parents, my wife Wendy, and my two daughters, Juliana, 14, and Sarah, 8, were at my side to share in the announcement events last month.
UC has a long and successful history of providing a transformative educational experience for our students. I take that responsibility very seriously, and students must always remain at the center of our decisions. Last June, we awarded over 8,760 degrees – a 24-year record. This fall, our enrollment of 42,000 remains close to last year’s record-breaker, and the caliber of our incoming freshman class is higher than ever.
Having opened the new Veteran’s Center earlier this month, we strive to better serve those students who have in turn given so much in service to our nation. UC also has added pioneering new certificate programs in innovation and service learning, as well as a new Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarly Activity and Creative Practice. Our new UC Forward program of interdisciplinary studio courses tackling real-world problems has expanded its offerings and appointed a full-time director. All of this makes our university’s renowned offerings in real-world education even stronger for our students and puts us closer to our goal of providing 100% of UC graduates with real-world experience before they reach Commencement.
World-class research, innovation
UC faculty continue to make a profound difference in lives all around the world. The American Heart Association awarded Joseph Broderick, our Albert Barnes Voorheis Chair of Neurology, its Clinical Research Prize “for exemplary contributions to advances in stroke treatment … that have changed medical practice as we know it.” Pompeii archaeologist Steven Ellis won the prestigious Rome Prize. Criminal Justice Professor Robin Engel provided consultation on gang violence to the Prime Minister of England while her colleagues in the criminal justice department provided expertise to governments in Scotland and Singapore.
We are raising the bar on research and innovation with our newly-established UC Research Institute (UCRI), a new Technology Commercialization Accelerator and expanded investments in faculty entrepreneurship. In addition, a $3.7 million award from the National Science Foundation will allow UC to become a national model for recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine). This remains a critical need as already one-third of our STEM faculty at UC are nearing retirement age, and we must take steps to prepare the next generation.
Building on our momentum
One of my first priorities is assembling the leadership team to keep our trajectory rising. I have appointed both Ryan Hays and William Ball to permanent positions. The search for a Provost has begun, and in the interim we have tremendous leadership from Lawrence Johnson, long-time dean of the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. We will systematically look at other interim positions to solidify a plan for filling those as appropriate.
UC stands at the brink of a new era of progress as our UC2019 momentum moves us forward to even greater prominence as a major research university and one of the finest institutions of student learning in our nation. The UC2019 Academic Master Plan, developed under my leadership as Provost and unveiled in May, has gained a strong foothold with an initial long-term investment of $10 million for student and faculty initiatives as well as services that support our academic mission.
Steps to place UC on a path to even greater excellence have already begun. We are mobilizing committees and task forces to focus on “three pillars” critically important to our future: our financial success, our research enterprise, and alumni and donor relations. A 20-member Task Force called 1UC is focusing on the latter and will provide advice on taking our alumni and donor efforts to the next level.
More reasons for Bearcat Pride
The coming months promise even more excitement and opportunities for Bearcat pride as we expect to reach and even surpass our Proudly Cincinnati campaign goal of $1 billion, the largest fundraising goal in UC history. When we do hit the $1 billion mark, we will join an elite set of only 1% of public universities who have reached such a goal in a single campaign.
We also expect great news in the months ahead when our soon-to-be-released NCAA academic performance rate data will show our student-athletes collectively achieving at all-time bests. We are also coming off one of our greatest years of competitive success, based on our highest-ever finish in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Directors’ Cup, which is an aggregate ranking of on-field and on-court performance for every intercollegiate athletic program.
Sharing our UC pride remains one of my favorite activities. I draw energy from meeting with the university’s greatest achievement – our alumni – and I have begun to visit with our graduates all across the nation. I look forward to completing a 10-city tour within my first year in office.
I promise you that I will work tirelessly to make our Bearcat Nation proud. As Thanksgiving Day approaches on Thursday, I remain profoundly grateful to work at such a great university, and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.