Friday Letter 2016-10-07:
Big Goals from Our State of the University
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This week I delivered my third State of the University address as a Vandal. I shared with our faculty and staff, along with our supporters and friends, the success we’ve had in the past year. I also shared the goals and initiatives of our Strategic Plan, the basis of an exciting future for our students and our state.
We set ambitious goals for innovation at UI – the research, scholarly activity and creative work that makes an impact in Idaho and beyond. As a broad institutional goal, we have our sights set on R1 “Highest Research Activity” status by 2025, a standard for comparing institutions published by the Carnegie Classification. UI is already Idaho’s only R2 “higher research activity” university. Joining the research elite by becoming R1 is an exciting prospect, but really just an indicator for enhanced impact. Initiatives like our Rock Creek Ranch partnership and our dairy/cattle initiative present interesting research opportunities and meet needs for Idaho. We are on our way – this year, for the first time ever, we have crossed $100 million in research expenditures.
We’re also going to deepen our engagement within Idaho. The Direct Admit program that offers automatic admission for qualified seniors will continue to make strides in changing our college-going culture. We’re going to renew our “Vandal Ideas Project,” an internal investment in UI creativity. Last year our focus was interdisciplinary scholarship and research. This year, the Vandal Ideas Project will tackle the “Engage” goal, working to help Idaho’s “go-on” effort. As the statewide higher education leader, we are well-positioned to apply our strengths to improve the Idaho we are proud to call home.
We want to continue to transform lives at UI. That means increasing our enrollment, improving our retention, and ensuring our curricula evolve to best prepare our students for the dynamic and fast-changing world after graduation. We are making strides, with encouraging enrollment projections for our incoming freshmen and transfer students, for underrepresented groups, and for residents of Idaho. Our Idaho resident enrollment has increased 7 percent this year; underrepresented groups by 14 percent. Progress will be gradual as we build on successive classes in the years ahead, but it has started.
We also want to cultivate a valued and diverse community for students and for faculty and staff. We have some work to do in making our organization the best it can be for our employees. But we are tackling that issue head-on, and we will see progress. I want our institution to have a growth mindset, and as we turn the corner on enrollment, as we continue our excellence in research, teaching, and statewide engagement, we’ll connect better with our institutional excellence. We have the capability to solve any problem when we work together.
Last, this is an exciting time on campus. New facilities are expanding our capacity and capabilities. We’ve ushered in the new College of Education building, a revamped Library, and will open the Integrated Research and Innovation Center soon. We have plans for a renovated home for our WWAMI program, which has grown to meet Idaho’s medical education needs. A new court sports arena is on the horizon, about which I will be saying more in this letter later this month.
Our success starts with our hardworking faculty and staff – I am grateful for their commitment to excellence. And I appreciate that our alumni and friends support UI’s work and share the Vandal success story far and wide. That makes a difference. You make a difference. Thanks for a great year, and I look forward to our brave and bold future. Go Vandals!