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City Club of Chicago

Video of the talk, which includes corresponding PowerPoint slides, is available at the City Club of Chicago's website. (Please note that the video is not captioned.)

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Jauwan, thank you for your kind introduction. Jauwan is an excellent ambassador for UIC. The true reason that he is here introducing me today is because when I was told when I come talk to the City Club of Chicago, I need to have some protection and who can protect me better than a marine who has served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it is a privilege to have students like Jauwan at UIC and I'm humbled by his very generous introduction.

It is a great honor to be here today. Before I begin I would like to thank Jay Doherty and Paul Green for their gracious invitation. Since I arrived at UIC eight months ago, I have been here several times, I have attended many City Club events and these lunches have been a key part of my Chicago orientation.

You probably can't tell from my accent but, you heard it, I'm not from around here. So I have found the City Club's speakers and networking opportunities invaluable experiences and I have learned a great deal about this world-class city through the City Club.

So, thank you Jay and Paul and I'm honest in saying, I'm really looking forward to receiving my very own City Club coffee mug so I can claim with a straight face that I share something very special with Donald Trump.

Of course it's all true, I'm an academic!

My education and immersion in Chicago hasn't been limited to lunches at the City Club – despite how much I enjoy the food here at Maggiano's – and I have the belt line to prove it.

Since I arrived, I have met in small groups with over 3,000 people on campus and over 500 people in the community. And it's clear if I can give you numbers like this that someone in my office has too much time on his or her hands to keep track of this stuff, but I can assure you that my first eight months here have been an exhilarating and gratifying experience.

Some of the individuals I have met are here with us today and I would like to acknowledge and thank all of you for taking the time to come out. Of course I would like to thank my wife, who after 25 years of marriage still talks to me. And we also have a number of Deans, Vice Chancellors and other colleagues from the university here, and I'm wondering who is minding the shop right now, but thank you all for attending.

I would like to especially acknowledge one of our Board of Trustees members, Judge Patricia Brown Holmes for being here, today, thank you. Thank you for being here.

People ask me, why did I come to Chicago? And I start by making it clear that I didn't come from South Carolina because of the weather, and I didn't come because of the traffic problems here. But I came here last March because of UIC's reputation and unique and important mission in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.

I believed at the time that UIC is a model for urban universities in the 21st century: a research powerhouse that remains accessable to local students and serves with distinction, the surrounding communities.

My experience to date, in these eight months, has indeed confirmed that UIC is an excellent university – and it is truly deserving to be Chicago's public research university.

So allow me in the next few minutes to share with you a few key points about the University of Illinois at Chicago that I think underscore the unique strengths and contributions of this university:

Our most recent economic impact study shows that UIC had a $4 billion impact on Chicago and the state of Illinois. Now if magic works, there should be some slides behind me, so I'll pretend that everything is going well. And that is a very conservative estimate, by the way, the $4 billion. By almost every measure, we are a key driver in the economic vitality of the city and of the state.

And for every dollar of state investment, we leverage $8 of other revenue. At least this was true until last year, since we have not seen any state investment in the first 120 days of this year.

With over 29,000 students, we're the largest university in the City of Chicago.

We have 15 colleges ranging from Liberal Arts and Sciences to Engineering and Medicine and within these colleges our faculty are doing incredible research and scholarship. And just to give you a few examples:

  • We are developing a blood test that can identify whether someone is clinically depressed;
  • We are working in collaboration with the Department of Energy to achieve revolutionary advances in battery performance;
  • and to researching and writing, our faculty members our writing award-winning novels such as The Devil's Highway, which is a novel bringing an acute focus on the challenges facing those migrating from Mexico to the United States.

We also have regional health sciences campuses in Rockford, Peoria, Springfield, Urbana, yes, Urbana, and the Quad Cities. UIC, together with our sister institution in Urbana-Champaign, are the state's two public flagship institutions with a statewide presence.

Our undergraduate reputation continues to grow, as evident in the most recent U.S. News rankings, this is by the way the rankings of all of us in academia hate, until we do well in them. We moved up 20 spots. We are now ranked 61st among public universities in the nation.

Furthermore, according to U.S. News, many of our colleges and graduate or professional programs are ranked in the top 20 in the country, this includes Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy.

UIC is one of Chicago's largest employers with over 13,000 jobs. Our total compensation in wages, salaries and benefits was roughly $1.2 billion in 2013 and our employees and students paid $99 million - it shows you how honest we are in our assessments, I tried to make the guys change this number to 100 million- in income, sales, and property taxes to the state and local governments.

The university has also long been committed to providing compassionate care to high-risk, vulnerable communities, regardless of their ability to pay.

We meet critical health care needs among under-served populations in greater Chicago, and last year, we provided $28 million in charity care.

And our medical care extends far beyond the boundaries of our campus. In addition to our main campus and regional campuses, we have a network of Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout Chicago. Our Mile Square Health Centers comprise 12 sites throughout the city — from Back of the Yards to Englewood and from Humboldt Park to South Shore – and last year they served nearly 37,000 patients, with the number growing. And we provide critical medical care where it is needed most, as you can see in this map.

Almost three-quarters of the added economic value generated by UIC is due to increased education attainment by our graduates. 95% of our undergraduates are from Illinois. 95% - most of them in the Chicagoland area. And nearly 170,000 UIC alumni live in the state, with the vast majority living right here in Chicagoland: 170,000 of them!

UIC does all of this locally, while at the same time is recognized nationally as a major research enterprise. According to rankings from the National Science Foundation, We rank 40th among public universities with total research expenditures of approximately $370 million — driving innovation and economic development across our city and the state.

We are only one of four institutions in Illinois, along with Northwestern, the University of Chicago and our sister institution, Urbana-Champaign, to have the highest classification for research by the Carnegie Foundation. In our business we are called a 'Carnegie 1 research institution,' and there are approximately 100 Carnegie 1's across the country, and 4 of them here in the state of Illinois.

Many of our research efforts lead to disclosures, patents, and licenses.

Just to give you an example, Prezista, the first treatment for multi-resistant HIV infections, was developed by researchers at UIC and is the top royalty producer for the university. It brought approximately $24 million in royalties for fiscal year 2015.

How does our UIC research enterprise stack up compared to our peers? We may not have a football team but when it comes to national research rankings we're in the same league with institutions such as the University of Colorado, University of Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Virginia. There is another small private there, Princeton. They are working their way up, actually they are a little bit further down on their terms of research expansions, but they are catching up.

By the way, when you look at these powerhouses, these athletic powerhouses, we haven't lost any football games in more than four decades to any of these schools.

I do joke about football but we do have an excellent athletic program with 20 NCAA Division 1 teams and with Coach McClain, who is here with us today, joining us this year we're looking forward to a great basketball season. Actually, we may be the state's representative in the Big Dance this next March.

We hope DePaul is with us, Mr. President.

UIC has no ethnic majority and many of our students are first-generation students, like both myself and Ero were the first in their families to attend college and attain a degree. Our Fall 2015 undergraduate student body consists of 28% Latino students, 22% Asian American students, and 8% African American students. We reflect the demographics of this cosmopolitan city although we have a lot of work to do to increase the number of African American students enrolled at UIC, which is a key institutional priority for me and our leadership team.

We are officially designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education, a federal designation given to universities that enroll at least 25% Latino students. When I visit our neighbors in Pilsen and Little Village, I hear them frequently in the community refering to UIC 'la Universidad,' and no other designation is needed because they know what university they are talking about.

51% of our students are Pell Grant Eligible and receive federal grants for education based on financial need. Andrew Carnegie described universities as social ladders. UIC's ladder is broad, and UIC's ladder runs deep.

By the way, there are only four Carnegie Research 1 institutions in the country -we established this already. It is going to be with the test in the end, right? What is a Carnegie 1 institution?- with the Hispanic-Serving Institution designation – the University of New Mexico, and two schools in California, Riverside and Santa Barbara; and UIC is the fourth one. You notice on the map that we are the only Research 1, Latino-serving university east of the Mississippi with this designation.

This is important because the rate of Latino high school graduates enrolling in college is increasing and UIC is becoming a national destination point for these students.

So in 50 years since the Circle Campus opened, and 33 years since UIC was created in its current configuration, we have become the largest university in the city and one of the best national research engines in higher education.

The true impact of UIC, as I present it to you today, tells a different story than our local reputation. Sometimes we've been called, and I take it as a term of endearment, as an adolescent because of our relative age. And from what I know about adolescents – and I have one at home – they are strong, they are energetic, they are creative and they are good-looking. So this is UIC today. But we are just scratching the surface of what we can accomplish.

Our goal is to fulfill our mission to serve the City of Chicago and become, remain, the premier urban serving public research university in the United States. The question is…where do we go from here?

We start with a foundation of an excellent university – which is the case that I have been making for the past 15 minutes, and I hope I've convinced you of this– but this city deserves even more from its flagship university.

We must build on what we have come to call our "Pillars of Excellence." The Greek background shows here. And in the short term, we have four strategic priorities:

Strategic Priority One: Student Experience and Success

Our students are our greatest asset and the heart of our mission.

As such, we need to ensure that our academic programs remain relevant, that our learning spaces modern and our pedagogy is held to the standards of the 21st century. This is a new generation of learners - technology driven, with a shorter attention span and a need for instant gratification - and we need to meet them where they are if we want to connect with them. If we wait for them to become like us, we will be waiting for a long time. I have tried it at home, it doesn't work.

Student learning experiences have to extend beyond the classroom. This is how students acquire the skills they need to get a job. We will create optimal internal structures to support internships, co-ops, leadership and international opportunities, civic engagement and we will create even more research opportunities for all our students.

We are already implementing a curricular transcript this year, where we will verify beyond the classroom experiences and give our students with a transcript a niche in the job market.

Strategic Priority Two: Emphasis on Chicagoland

Emphasis on Chicagoland is our second strategic priority.

UIC was founded by and for the people of Chicago and Illinois.

And as we become stronger every year, it is time for us to claim the top spots in the minds of Chicago's leaders for 21st century solutions to problems that this city is facing right now.

To achieve this we need to be closely aligned with city agencies and all other institutions: educational institutions and cultural institutions in this city. And we must build more partnerships with the business community and continue fulfill our land grant mission in service of the citizens of Chicago.

Chicago offers enormous potential to study, learn and apply our scholarship to issues affecting urban regions around the world, from transportation and clean water to health care delivery and education. And we are doing this all at UIC. We have been throughout history, and will always be, the University FOR Chicago.

A recent example of our commitment to student success that you heard already about, and to Chicago, is our new partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, that I got to know fairly well and I admire. The new UIC Star Scholar program will give hard working students who obtain an associates degree at the City Colleges the opportunity to receive a UIC-funded scholarship toward a bachelor's degree at UIC. And I was thrilled to hear that other universities in the city have also joined in similar efforts.

And we will make sure that our curricula with the City Colleges of Chicago are aligned and every city college student, regardless of whether they are a star scholar or not, who intends to join a four-year degree is appropriately advised by us, if they are willing to come to us and guide them through their journey. We want these students to know from their first day at the City Colleges that they are welcome at UIC.

Strategic Priority Three: National and International Reputation for Research

We also need to engage in strategic initiatives to elevate and build further awareness of our status as a premier research university.

We need to align our resources behind key areas of cross-campus excellence in research, and the first inventory, such as and this should include: the human brain; functional and regenerative materials; solutions for community disparities like health, education and violence prevention; and urban infrastructure and the environment.

These are our strengths and we need to build on strength. And we will become even more known as a national and international leader in these areas, serving a model for access to education and social impact, while maintaining the status of a premier Carnegie 1 institution.

Strategic Priority Four: A New Business Model

And finally, we need to create new efficiencies and innovative operating models that protect us from the liabilities and fluctuations of state funding.

Of utmost importance is keeping tuition levels stable so that we never price-out the students we are here to serve. One of my personal biggest fears is that we are heading towards a new segregation in higher education along financial lines, as we price out from the top public universities the lowest economic groups. And financial lines coincide with racial lines as well.

Our capital campaign will play an integral role in our new model as we elevate philanthropic giving. But this will not be enough and we must find new ways of operating and we do need a new business model.

UIC can be the sustainable and affordable model for public higher education, creating alternative pathways for student advancement - and the agreement with City Colleges of Chicago is one of these pathways - and embracing opportunities, like public-private partnerships to build and upgrade campus facilities and offer other support services – which are critical needs for us.

To achieve all of this we need to create a culture of innovation where new ideas are tried, implemented quickly, adapted and revised based on measurable outcomes. In academia we are very good at studying problems, creating workshops, and writing papers about them. We are going to put innovation into action! And that is what UIC will try to do.

Illinois is struggling right now with the current higher education paradox – a broad consensus, fueled by the lessons of our own history, that a postsecondary opportunity is critical to our collective prosperity, but also at the same time, challenged, to sustain the investments needed in public higher education to support such prosperity.

Public higher education is at a crossroad and how we pivot and fulfill our public purpose at UIC moving forward will have a significant impact on our students, this city and the state.

Building on the pillars of excellence at UIC will fundamentally enhance our capacity to meet our public responsibility. But we still need some help.

The current budget impasse in Springfield is of great concern, and quite frankly, we cannot stand idle and wait on a budget agreement to fund the university.

In the interest of our students, we must continue to advocate for adequate higher education funding.

However, we must also develop new models that combine new partnerships and solutions that accept that we may need to find innovative ways to increase educational attainment without significant new public investments.

Such an approach also requires new thinking about federal and state deregulation, accountability, and financial partnerships. If the state wants us to operate more as a business, at least give us the freedom to do so, because we cannot do so with hands tied behind our backs.

How we respond to the current challenges has very real implications. However, I am confident that UIC is poised to remain on its current dynamic trajectory and continue to provide unparalleled education, research, clinical care and service to Chicago and to the state of Illinois.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as Chancellor during this next step in the university's evolution and I look forward to working with all of you to help build an even better University of Illinois FOR Chicago. Thank you for your attention.