English Transcript SOTU 2017
FLORDALIA RODRIGUEZ-GARCIA: Good afternoon everyone. My name is Flordalia Rodriguez-Garcia and I’m the current president of the Undergraduate Student Government here at UIC. Thank you so much for taking the time in your busy schedule to attend the State of the University of Illinois at Chicago address. Before we hear from Chancellor Amiridis, I want to take a moment to speak from a student perspective.
This has been a very exciting and interesting year for the student body with many positive changes and plans. My fellow students and I cannot wait to see the visions come to fruition in the months and years ahead.
Although my term as president and tenure as an undergraduate student, I am excited to see what the future holds for this world-class university. The past year has brought many challenges for us as students, for our university, and for higher education in general here in Illinois. Here at UIC, I am very pleased to see my fellow students be more engaged and involved both on campus and in the community. Just this morning, buses filled with students departed to Springfield to attend our annual student day at the capitol to voice our concerns of funding for higher education to our legislators.
If anything, we have become even more positive about UIC’s role in the state and as a national and global leader. We all must pull together to maintain this energy and momentum to continue growing in our engagement in the years to come and even after we graduate.
I hope you enjoy hearing from our Chancellor Amiridis about all we’ve done this past year and what we plan to do moving forward. Next, I would like to introduce Catherine Vincent, the secretary of the UIC Faculty Senate and the chair of the UIC Senate Executive Committee.
Once more, thank you for being here today. Thank you.
CATHERINE VINCENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. On behalf of the UIC campus, it is a distinct honor to welcome you all here today. I know that you are looking forward to hearing the Chancellor’s State of the University of Illinois at Chicago address, an important event, started by Chancellor Amiridis when he arrived at UIC in 2015. First I would like to acknowledge the following dignitaries in attendance: consul generals and representatives from the consulates of the Philippines, France, Romania, Lithuania, the Republic of Haiti, Greece, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, China, and Costa Rica. I would also like to acknowledge Michael Scott, the 24th ward alderman for the city of Chicago and staff members from Senator Duckworth’s office and Congressman Davis’ office. It is now my honor and pleasure to introduce the Chancellor of the University of Chicago…I’m sorry, University of Illinois at Chicago.
As an accomplished basketball player growing up in his native Greece, Michael Amiridis was used to running. Since he first stepped foot on UIC’s campus, he hasn’t stopped moving. He regularly meets with departments throughout the university and enjoys interacting with as many students and faculty as he can to share his vision of making UIC the top public research university in Chicago and one of the best in the nation. In his short time here, Chancellor Amiridis has made his mark on the UIC community. Look outside any window on campus and you will see activity abound. Under his leadership UIC is being transformed. Inside, classrooms are being modernized; outside, buildings are being changed. For UIC students to be successful, Chancellor Amiridis believes there must be a contemporary, relevant content in modern learning spaces and he works tirelessly to achieve this.
A skilled chemical engineer and researcher, whose work has appeared in more than 100 publications and garnered more than $24 million as principal or co-principal investigator, Chancellor Amiridis realizes the importance research plays in attracting today’s top students. At UIC, learning isn’t limited to the classroom, and Chancellor Amiridis wants all students, should they desire, to have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of discovery. Throughout his distinguished career, Chancellor Amiridis has been recognized with numerous research and training awards and was elected as a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012. Chancellor Amiridis earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki in Greece and his PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, before moving to the University of South Carolina in 1994. At South Carolina, he served as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. He was promoted through the academic ranks there and became department chair in 2002, dean of engineering in 2006, and provost in 2009.
As an avid basketball fan, Chancellor Amiridis was thrilled when the University of South Carolina earned their first trip to the NCAA Final Four this past weekend. And after having a successful season this year with the youngest team in the nation, he hopes one day to see the Flames follow in the Gamecocks’ lead.
I am pleased to present to you Chancellor Michael Amiridis.
CHANCELLOR AMIRIDIS: Well, thank you! Thank you for the kind welcome and thank you for taking the time to attend this year’s State of the University address. Please join me in thanking our UIC Jazz student performers: Eric, Aaron, and Danny. They are a wonderfully talented group. I run into them at many of the university events and it’s always a treat to listen to them and they serve as another very bright example of the gifted students we have here at UIC.
I also want to thank professor Catherine Vincent, the Chair for the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Flordalia Rodriguez-Garcia, the President of our Undergraduate Student Government. Thank you for your kind introductions and your kind comments.
Now, I want to begin by taking a moment to underscore that I very much appreciate and understand how difficult this last year has been for our campus community. I realize that the uncertain budget environment in the State of Illinois along with the changing policies coming from Washington D.C. have made it hard for our students, our faculty, and our staff. Please know that we will continue to manage the budget situation as best as we can and we will continue to advocate for the university’s needs both in Springfield and in Washington, D.C. I want to thank you for your support of UIC and our students during these challenging times.
Perhaps because of my heritage, I cannot help but wonder if we all are actors in some Greek tragedy.
Very badly written Greek tragedy, by the way. Since fate has not been very kind to us recently. I may be Greek, but I have neither the time, nor the talent — and Ero and Dimitri who are with us today can attest to this — for these philosophical conundrums. I know only of one approach that we need to follow: escape forward. Escape forward. This is where we are heading and this is the direction that I will be asking you to endorse today.
So we gather today, in the midst of shadows cast from a dysfunctional budgetary and political environment, to shine a bright light on the magnificent accomplishments of our students, our faculty, and our staff. In doing so, we demonstrate that UIC, despite the contemporary challenges, continues to thrive in a multitude of ways.
We continue to enroll and educate more students, and to conduct cutting-edge research that gains international recognition. We continue to provide excellent health care services and to support the surrounding communities, the city, and the state in numerous different ways. And we continue to set the national standard for comprehensive diversity and inclusion. We accomplish these feats and many more as we remain true to our core public mission, even without the public funding to do so.
UIC is proud of its public mission and we will continue to have a far-reaching impact on society through education, scholarship, research, service, and engagement, regardless of the challenges that we face. Our students, our academic community, our city, and our state deserve nothing less from us. The highlights from this past year that I will share with you today underscore this reality. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago and I am humbled by the opportunity to present you our progress today.
Reflecting on our academic year, I am drawn to the memories of the thousands of hopeful new students at this year’s convocation in August. This event is always a personal highlight for me — filled with optimism, hope and excitement. It is always energizing and it is always gratifying.
For the second year in a row we set a new enrollment record in the fall. In the middle of the worst financial crisis in the history of higher education in this state, students and their families are voting with their feet because they recognize the quality of this institution. We are grateful for their vote of confidence and remain steadfast in our commitment to access and excellence. We have also held tuition constant for undergraduate students for three years in a row now as we try to remain affordable.
Equally invigorating were our December university-wide commencements. We were honored to have two distinguished speakers — Dr. Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Mr. Oscar Muñoz, CEO of United Airlines — for the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies.
During the December commencement we initiated a new tradition, inviting alumni from the 50th year class of 1966 to join us dressed in golden robes and walk alongside the new graduates. In doing this, we represent the strong bond among all generations of our alumni and the continuity of the institution. I want to thank Jeff Nearhoof and his staff, as well as the alumni volunteers for this new tradition for UIC.
By the way, through March 15, more than 4,700 UIC alumni have donated to UIC’s Annual Fund, which is over 20% more than the same time last year. And as we move forward to reorganize our alumni under a new UIC Alumni Association, a step that many of them desired for 50 years now, I hope that alumni presence and engagement with our current students will continue to grow. I know many of our alumni are here today and I want to thank you for it. UIC needs you!
The success of our students has always been and will continue to be our first priority. Our student success initiative has already accomplished many of its original benchmarks and is now hitting its stride. This past year we took decisive steps in streamlining the developmental math courses and further enhancing the first-year writing program. We expect that these changes will lead to better progression rates for our freshmen. We have been improving the student advising process — an area where work continues to be done — and streamlining the scholarship awards process. We are also focusing on the transition to college, working with Chicago schools and community groups to provide coaching during this transition from high school to freshmen and as they adjust to college life. These changes and many others are having an impact on the success of our students.
The quality of our students and graduates is consistently recognized at a national and international level. This year alone, Sarita Deshpande, a senior in bioengineering received a Gates Graduate Scholarship; Zoie sheets, a senior in biological sciences received a Truman Scholarship; Deborah Park, also a senior in biological sciences received a Goldwater Scholarship; Rima Nimri, a graduate student in CUPPA received a Newman Civic Fellowship, and 35 other students — and yes there are some men among them — 35 other students from UIC received Fulbright, Gilman or Schweitzer Awards. Our students are outstanding. They could be at any university in the country, but they choose to be here.
Just to offer another example, this summer, a group of UIC students will join scientists and students from five other institutions to take part in a historic National Science Foundation program. The group will do climate and marine research in the Canadian Arctic’s remote Northwest Passage aboard the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry. You see the picture of the ship, I hope, if everything works behind me. I’m trying to claim one of the spots on the ship, but they tell me I’m not qualified, so we’re still working on this.
We are also taking action to improve the student experience. Under the leadership of Rex Tolliver, our student affairs group created the U and I Care program. This program provides options and resources for students facing personal difficulties and empowers other students and staff members to take action when such concerns arise.
We also launched UIC Impact to provide pathways for every student to have the opportunity to apply their learning to real world challenges through high impact engagement. Research indicates that students who participate in such practices are more likely to persist through graduation and are more successful in the initial steps of their career. The focus areas of these programs are leadership and involvement, research, environmental awareness and sustainability, career development, and global perspective and diversity.
Finally, we renovated and expanded student engagement spaces in Student Center East, Student Center West, and the James Stukel Towers and reimagined the residential dining experience with the opening of 609 Commons and two new retail concepts in our student centers.
Our athletic department, under the leadership of Jim Schmidt, continues to play a big role in building school spirit. Our men’s soccer team captured its fourth Horizon League Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in its history. And it looks like excitement is coming back to the Pavilion with a much stronger men’s basketball team. I heard the chair of the senate who says we’re headed to the Final Four next year, we’ll take it from her. But more importantly, our 355 student-athletes are also breaking records in the classroom, posting a collective record-high 3.12 GPA while their graduation success rate was above 80 percent for the 12th-straight year. And in between the classroom and the practice fields they find the time as well to give back to the community. From the University Village Community Clean-up and Operation Christmas Child to the Disability Pride Parade and Special Olympics, the Flames are there and they contribute to the community.
In January, we also successfully hosted the Martin Luther King Peace Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry. The event was attended by students, faculty, and staff, but also we brought in school children from Chicago Public Schools, and civic leaders attended as well. I would like to thank the Student Affairs and Public and Governmental Affairs groups for their efforts to create a new university-community tradition honoring one of America’s best and most inspirational leaders.
And we are also very proud to learn that UIC was named one of the nation’s top 30 LGBT-friendly colleges and universities according to Campus Pride Index. It is the third time we have been in the top 30 and UIC is the only institution in Illinois to be named in the 2016 rankings.
Dialogue, transparency, and communication have never been more important than they are today. As many of you know, throughout this academic year, Provost Susan Poser has hosted a series of campus conversations exploring national and international issues that have a direct effect on the lives of our students and our communities. These campus conversations have covered race and violence, the 2016 election, immigration, civil liberties, and the new administration. The final conversation, about the First Amendment, will take place next week. I am heartened by the campus community’s participation in these important forums and I encourage everyone to participate in future opportunities for dialogue. I would like to thank especially the Provost for her leadership and the stewardship of these efforts.
The Provost and the Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs, Dr. Bob Barish, have also launched East Meets West, a regular series in UIC News that underscores the variety of research and service collaborations that occurs between the east and west parts of our campus. They recently co-hosted the first East + West Research Mixer — that was an opportunity to have a few drinks I guess — but also at the same time, the program is designed to bring the faculty together on a monthly basis about particular research topics and build the communication channels that are needed to stimulate multidisciplinary collaborations.
Continuing on the theme of bridging together the two parts of the university, we implemented the new UI Health cobranding campaign. I want to thank Dr. Barish and Dr. Michael Redding for their work to ensure that this campaign successfully represents the unique strengths and attributes of UIC and our health sciences enterprise.
We are updating all of the campus building signage to reflect our UIC brand. This project should be completed by the end of this summer. And this actually since we are talking about facilities and maintenance, gives me an opportunity to thank Vice Chancellor Mark Donovan and his team for their efforts, in all of these areas. And Mark, we will miss you and we wish you well.
This year, the University of Illinois at Chicago rose into the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The Times list included the best 1,300 research-intensive universities across the world. And I want to thank Dr. Mitra Dutta for her efforts in research. And these 1,300 research-intensive universities, they were ranked based on their core missions of teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook. We were in the top 200 in the world.
Sixty years ago, Clark Kerr, the first chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, wrote that the most important decision academic leaders make is the hiring of the faculty. It’s not only that they find ways to prevent and correct the mistakes of the leadership — and yes, we make plenty of them — but it is the faculty that define the quality of the institution. And of course, everybody knows that the staff members are the ones who actually run the place and the only ones who can get anything done at a university. Being ranked in the top 200 in the world simply means that our faculty and staff are among the best in the world. It is they who compete at the highest level and bring international recognition to this university.
It’s people like Professor Salehi-Khojin from mechanical engineering who along with his research group developed an “artificial leaf” solar cell to cheaply and efficiently convert carbon dioxide from the air directly into burnable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.
It is people like Professors Susan Goldman and Jim Pellegrino, who through the Learning Science Research Institute, bring together faculty and researchers from different disciplines to design and test innovative interventions, models, tools, and technologies for the 21st century learning environments. And year after year they obtain the necessary external funds to do so.
It is people like Professor Luis Alberto Urrea, one of five finalists for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner award, who through his book “The Water Museum,” examines the borders between one nation and another, and between one person and another.
It’s people like Aixa Alfonso and Karen Su who organize and lead the groups that last year brought to campus large programs such as the Latinos Gaining Access to Networks for Advancement in Science or the AANAPISI Program to support our students.
It is people like Robin Mermelstein and Larry Tobacman who led the efforts to create the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at UIC and who last year got a four-year, $17.7 million grant from NIH, to train, support, and connect researchers through UIC and to network with them with clinical and translational researchers throughout the United States so the research results become real-world applications.
It’s people like Robert Winn who led our participation in the national Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program that will help bring one million or more U.S. participants over the next five years into a research effort to improve the prevention and treatment of disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and genetics.
People like Mark Rosenblatt and Jennifer Lim who can perform retinal prosthesis procedures to restore sight in patients who have lost vision due to a loss of light sensing photoreceptors in the retina making our Department of Ophthalmology one of only 13 sites globally who can implant these so called “bionic eyes”.
It’s people like Damiano Rondelli and his group who can cure adult patients of sickle cell disease using stem cell transplantation through a new non-chemotherapy-requiring technique that offers the prospect of a cure, a permanent cure, for tens of thousands of patients.
And it is people who are recognized and called to serve as leaders of their professional fields. Professor Barbara Ransby, the new President of the National Women’s Studies Association; Dean of Libraries Mary Case, the new President of the Association of Research Libraries; Dean Ralph Keen of the Honors College, the new President of the American Society of Church History; Professor Roderick Ferguson, the new President of the American Studies Association and Loreen Maxfield, the new President of the National Association of College Stores.
And it is the same members of our community, everyone who contributes to our mission, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who give me optimism for the future and conviction to move aggressively forward. To escape forward.
As you know, during the last year we completed our planning process. The final document outlined a set of priorities and specific strategies that offer fresh thinking for how, over the next five years, we can leverage our unique strengths to shape the future: by supporting our students, enhancing our reputation on a national and international stage, engaging Chicago and its communities, and operating in new ways to foster and advance innovation. I want to thank the committee members who guided this process and their co-chairs Michael Pagano and Robert Winn, and I want to thank all of the faculty, staff and students who participated and provided guidance to formulate this final plan.
In addition, three campus committees working in unison with the Strategic Priorities Committee submitted reports to identify the enrollment priorities of the campus, to identify issues and solutions to improve practices and policies that affect our operations, and to improve the likelihood of success for African-American students at UIC.
I also want to thank these committees for their diligent work. They are already having an impact on our institution, since several of the elements included in this annual address are directly related to priorities and recommendations identified by them.
One issue that became clear during the deliberations of these four groups, and it haunts our university for over two decades, is the need for improvement and expansion of our physical infrastructure. This university has fallen behind when it comes to new classrooms, labs, offices, and even some of our auxiliaries, and it shows.
You may have already noticed that some limited construction is underway on parts of the campus — small progress toward a much larger goal — but worth noting. We are nearing the completion of removing and restoring the lot occupied by a long-abandoned electric sub-station on the east campus. And we soon will be able to remove the “temporary” yet very permanent awnings that have graced, in lack of a better term, University Hall for years now.
And let me take a moment here to thank the faculty, staff, and students for their patience during this process. I know first-hand how disruptive the drilling and the noise has been. If you think the 28th floor was exempt, we were not. However, it is a needed maintenance project and demonstrates our commitment to begin to address the many capital facility needs on campus. We still have much work to do in this area, including finishing our College of Dentistry project — Dean Stanford, I haven’t forgotten about it — but finally we are slowly moving in the right direction.
It is my strong desire and my responsibility towards the institution to greatly accelerate our efforts in this area. Our capital infrastructure should reflect the quality and the impact of this institution. It should be an asset that helps us attract the best faculty and students. It should not be a limiting factor of the potential that we can reach academically.
In order to help us realize this vision, I have asked a group of our experts to start the process of developing a new Master Plan for our University. The central question is “what infrastructure do we need to achieve the goals outlined in our strategic priorities?” They have looked at how our campus can be organized better and they have taken a data-driven and inspirational approach to capital projects for the next 10 years. The first draft of this plan creates a flexible framework to guide the future physical development of our university, taking into account current and projected increases in enrollment and our need for a sustainable business model. Today I want to invite all of you to review this first draft and respond to the calls that we will be issuing in the next few months for your feedback.
What I have is a teaser. We have a video that provides examples — examples — of an overview of what we hope to accomplish in the next ten years. And I emphasize the word “examples” so nobody gets fixated on a single project that you will see or a specific architectural rendering. Instead, try to take a holistic approach today and imagine what this university could look like in ten years from now.
REX TOLLIVER: UIC has a plan for growth in its enrollment. We would like to take the institution to about 35,000 students. And in order to be able to do that, we have to have adequate facilities.
DAVE TAEYAERTS: Our existing facilities will be taxed near their limit as we grow with these 5,000 students and adding additional faculty in order to support those students.
TOLLIVER: The strategic priorities created a wonderful narrative about what we want to be and what we want to accomplish in the future. And the Master Plan sets that forth in a more concrete way.
TAEYAERTS: The plan is in draft form right now. It’s critically important to share it with the UIC community and then our neighboring communities and we invite comments and feedback. And then we analyze the feedback and see how can we take that into account and make improvements to the plan.
STEVE EVERETT: The university mission has served by having a very strong creative culture. We are providing really a space which is designed to accommodate great art, great intellectual conversations, and great community participation — not just the arts and design programs, but really, the engineering, medicine, everybody would be utilizing this space.
TOLLIVER: One of the most exciting aspects that’s included in the master plan is the inclusion of a new living/learning community. Stevenson Hall is currently a rather old and outdated instructional classroom building. The plan provides us an opportunity to replace that building with a new academic instructional space that will also include living spaces for up to 500 incoming freshmen.
EILEEN THANITANONT: You’re giving the chance for students to live, pretty much, right above their classes. Not only is that good for like those winter days, but it’s good access to those classrooms. I know some of the buildings now when there’s no class going on students would go in there to study and that’s more group space for students to study.
ANASTACIA NARRAJOS: They want to make it more of a green space, more of an open space for students to congregate. Right now, I feel like it’s more of like a hallway of people kind of coming through and passing by. I think it if was more of a place for people to come and relax, it would encourage more communication between students with different majors and it’ll give students a better sense of community within the college.
TOLLIVER: There are few campuses in the state of Illinois that provide the richness of culture and diversity that UIC does. It’s the kind of place where students can come and interact and engage with people from all over the world. Student engagement is important and directly tied to student success.
ASTRIDA TANTILLO: Our faculty, across the various colleges, are already doing research that is nationally and internationally making an impact. If we had new research spaces to enable even more innovative, creative and dynamic research, we will be able to increase the impact of this research. For example, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we will be building an Advanced Chemical Technology building and this will allow us to bring four endowed chairs that will bring research teams that will work on a variety of research projects including building the next generation of battery, personalized medicine, improving wound healing, and drug discovery, including drugs for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and bipolar disorder.
MARIEKE DEKKER SCHOEN: Our building was built in 1954 and the way that people did research in their labs at that period of time was very, very different from the way that people work today. Research today is much more collaborative. Most of the research funding is being supported by people from different backgrounds that are coming together with different ideas to solve a single problem. So we really need to develop new research space that allows for people of different backgrounds and different abilities to come together.
DIMITRI AZAR: This facility would allow, not only better research space for our existing researchers, but would also serve the need of recruiting additional researchers to accomplish our academic and clinical missions.
MICHAEL SCOTT: In engineering, we are at full capacity with respect to research labs, so we’re not able to do all the work we want to do. We need more space to do that. I’m very excited about having that modular building providing more research labs because right now we’re bursting at the seams on the research work that we’re doing. People are filling in closets and little back spaces and corners of people’s labs in order to get important stuff done. And now we’ll be able to sort of stretch our wings and do it more appropriately.
MICHAEL MIKHAIL: We’ve seen increases in job placements over the last five years. We’ve seen increases in the number of companies that are recruiting business students on campus. With all the growth that the college has experienced over the last several years, we’re essentially scattered across three buildings and I think having everything centralized will only enhance our ability to continue to attract the very best students, to continue to attract the very best faculty, and to continue to be able to innovate in the kinds of curriculums that we offer.
JENNIFER LIM: On the west campus of UIC is really is where all the health care-related activities take place. We house the medical center there as well as seven colleges that deal with the health sciences. A lot of patients don’t have a lot of resources who live in our community and they really rely on UI Health to provide them with primary care as well as specialty care for all of their needs. It would be nice to have some improvements to make it a little bit more aesthetically pleasing for the patients to help them relax and feel comfortable in the area. More importantly, though, we really need improvements in the facilities. We don’t have enough space in order to take care of our patients and to grow the way we need to.
This would be fantastic because there’s space available to build this building, it would be right across from the current hospital area, and it would allow us to have total integration of care for patients with ocular diseases.
JANET PARKET: Budget constraints and the financial condition affecting the state of Illinois have really forced the university, much like other public sector institutions, to seek other ways to finance capital projects. One such method, the public-private partnership or P3 agreement, whereby we’re able to partner with a private sector firm, is an affordable way for us to deliver student housing, for example, and it’s really attractive to private investors because this is a reliable stream of revenue to repay their investment.
TAEYAERTS: Our goal for the Master Plan is to create these facilities that are going to enable the best work that’s possible from our outstanding faculty and students. We don’t want our facilities to hold anything back.
AMARIDIS: I think I know what many of you are thinking. Do we have the money to do all of this? And some of you may even be thinking, do we have the money to do any of this? The answer is straightforward. No, we don’t have all the money that we need now, we have some that we are going to put in good use, but we do have the potential to get there if we become more entrepreneurial and more innovative. You already saw one example in the video regarding the new residence hall and classroom combination where a public-private partnership, as pointed out by our CFO Janet Parker, is utilized to provide the upfront capital needed. And the additional benefit in this case is that the buildings can be constructed in half the time and with reduced cost. This year, in 2017, we will be breaking ground both for this building, and for the modular engineering building. So two of these projects are real, they are moving.
We are working in Springfield to achieve a change in state law that will allow us to use a similar vehicle to build the Eye and Ear Infirmary Replacement and the Surgery Center on the west side. This can also be done with no upfront money. And we will be entering into a new capital campaign this fall, which will require that we work together to raise a significant portion of the funding needed through private funds. And I know our deans are energized about this — you saw all of them up in this video.
Increased enrollments in certain areas can also help offset some of the infrastructure costs. But we have to expand our recruitment strategically and we have to become more innovative. UIC and Shorelight Education signed an agreement last year to create UIC Global, a partnership that supports the recruitment, preparation, and success of undergraduate international students. UIC Global will build our international student enrollment by recruiting students from more than 100 different countries and support them as they transition to our academic environment. We welcomed the first 38 students to campus this January and we expect 150 to 200 more undergraduate international students this fall.
Innovation doesn’t stop here. Taking a hard look on how we conduct our internal business is of critical importance. I’m hopeful that the reorganization of the University of Illinois System Administration, under the leadership of President Killeen, a reorganization for which I have strongly advocated since my first week here, will not only improve efficiency, but will also reduce costs allowing us to invest the savings into our human and capital infrastructure. And within our own operations we are carefully following the recommendations of the Resource Strategy Task Force to achieve exactly the same results.
And by the way, innovation goes beyond dollars and cents…Last April, we announced UIC’s climate commitments to reduce carbon emissions, reduce waste, increase water efficiency, and increase biodiversity on campus. I want to thank Cynthia Klein-Banai for her leadership in this area. These efforts will reduce the campus’s energy footprint, and at the same time save us some dollars and cents that we can invest elsewhere.
It’s not uncommon in our days to find voices that question the role and impact of public universities. Thankfully they are in the minority. This is not a unique occurrence in the history of higher education in the United States. In fact, one can argue that concerns regarding the impact of universities in the daily life of the average citizen led to the creation of the land grant universities in the last third of the 19th century. Since its inception, UIC has remained focused on the land grant mission of improving the lives of people of Chicago and Illinois, not only through education and research, but also through one of the most comprehensive community engagement programs in the nation. Last year was not an exception, despite the financial challenges.
In fact, in November, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Mile Square Health Center with a community awards dinner honoring the men and women who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to improving the health of Chicago’s underserved and underinsured communities and Congressman Davis has been the champion of these efforts. For 50 years, Mile Square, one of the oldest community health centers in Chicago, has provided comprehensive medical and dental care, mental health support, and social services, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay, to more than 40,000 people per year throughout Chicago. And of course, there is no question that we will continue to do this for decades to come.
In October, UI Health opened the doors to a new community health center in Pilsen. This bilingual center provides comprehensive health care from immunizations and physical exams to prenatal care and complex medical care to patients of all ages regardless of financial ability and regardless of immigration status.
And we had a great idea also of improving health through housing. Chronic homelessness is one of society's most intractable social issues bearing devastating health consequences and decreasing life expectancy by up to 15 years. Last year, UI Health launched a pilot program, Better Health Through Housing, to provide housing and intensive case management for some of its chronically homeless emergency department patients, because without a secure home base, patients cannot get healthy. I want to thank Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, Bob Barish, and our hospital CEO, Dr. Avijit Ghosh, for their inspirational leadership and commitment to innovation.
Our reach for health care delivery goes way beyond Chicago. Across the state of Illinois our medicine, nursing, and pharmacy efforts in Rockford, Peoria, Springfield, Quad Cities, and Urbana do not only cover the professional health education needs for the entire state, but also provide avenues of access to quality care for rural populations. And beyond the state of Illinois we also have a global presence in underserved areas in many countries, including among others Nepal, India, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Nicaragua, Peru, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and I can keep going and going.
But we also love to make new friends. Last fall we welcome the first official delegation to the United States from the Cuban Ministry of Health for a week-long visit. This visit marked the launch of a new partnership aimed at improving health in under-resourced communities through improvements in community-based care. We exchanged best practices, but most importantly, we are building a relationship with Cuba for decades to come.
Of course our community engagement efforts are not limited to health care delivery. Our UIC Police Department, for example, under the leadership of Chief Kevin Booker, is also engaged with our community. From the John Smyth Elementary School where our police officers help tutor and mentor students, take them to day-trip to the zoo, and have a secret Santa party with the 3rd graders, to hosting community barbecues and basketball game nights out, UIC PD is present in the community and it contributes.
But the big effort, the big component there also comes from our College of Education, the College of Social Work, the College of Public Health, CUPPA and its centers — despite the lack of state funding, all of them have continued to address head-on the problems created by economic, education, health care, and criminal justice disparities. Problems that have haunted the neighborhoods of Chicago for decades and have led to the explosive situation we are facing today.
People like Teresa Cordova and the work of Great Cities Institute on youth joblessness; people like Gary Slutkin and the impact of the Cure Violence program here in Chicago and across the world.; people like Juliana Stratton and the procedural justice training for law enforcement agencies through the Center for Public Safety and Justice. People like Janise Hurting and Zitlali Morales from the College of Education who lead weekly writing workshops with Latina mothers and people like Patricia O’Brien from the College of Social Work who supported incarcerated women and worked on ways to improve release and reentry; all of them have made a big difference for yet another year.
I can keep going with example after example. After all, this is UIC. These are the stories and the contributions — and Catherine, I may not be the chancellor of the University OF Chicago, I am the chancellor of the University FOR Chicago.
These are the stories that put support in my claim.
Over the last two years I have been asked frequently here in Chicago, but also across the country, “How do you run a public university in Illinois these days?” and in most cases, the expected answer is “with a great degree of difficulty.”
Of course, as we already established, the staff members run the University and the faculty govern the university, so how would I know how to run a university? But joking aside, the important question is “How do you advance a public university in Illinois these days?”
Well I don’t know as much about other public universities in Illinois, but I do know and have shared with you today that to advance UIC, we have one choice: escape forward. We are Chicago’s public research university. We are the university that provides high quality education to the sons and daughters of this city and this state. We are the university that advances knowledge and culture across the world. We are the university that extends and improves every year the lives of hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. We are UIC. Our UIC, your UIC.
So we escape forward. We escape forward together. With great pride for our accomplishments, with a renewed conviction to our public mission and our core values, and with a spirit of innovation and excitement for our future, we escape forward.
Thank you for your support and thank you for all that you do for the University of Illinois at Chicago.