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Transcript SOTU 2022

(UIC Student Jazz Ensemble playing.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. Our broadcast will begin shortly.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome UIC student Anandita Vidyarthi.

ANANDITA VIDYARTHI: Hello. It is an honor to be with you today. My name is Anandita Vidyarthi, and I'm a third-year student at UIC in the disciplinary education in the arts major. This poem is entitled UIC.

UIC, like all my great loves, grew out of muddied water and resentment. This school has thrown me for a loop. But somewhere in the contortion across the Eisenhower in big letters plastered across Dr. Janet Smith's office were the words hey, Ana. And that is the kind of welcome that leaves you no other choice to stay. Even though she is no longer here to leave me messages on her window, she taught me that this was a school for revolutionaries, and so has every professor I've had in Global Asian studies. It is the way Dr. Guevarra asks us if we're okay, offering us clementines in exchange for our honesty. Here revolutions seem small, whether it is my friends who are the first ones in their family to go to school or the ones that commute from class to work to class and then back again. Now I may not be good at math, which is why the staff at the medical campus and the science building have yet to meet me, but I'm sure they are revolutionary too.

UIC is eavesdropping on conversations and languages I don't know yet. The way the brown kids at the Starbucks know how to pronounce my name. It is the campus hijabis outdressing us all. And every time we protest in the quad, the consistency of the movement and the resilience to get home to meet that 11:59 deadline, it is an ode to the kids in the back of the lecture hall, having boba and bao in the same building, and the stronghold my fellow students of color have on this campus. And it is a place high school me imagined I'd go to when I didn't want to be the only brown person in the room. There are days when I look around at the brutalist buildings and think we would have been better off at Navy Pier, and they could have just built the rides around us. But I've learned to appreciate the art of being scrappy, taping together cardboard in my sculpture class, reminding myself that it, too, can be something to be proud of. And the way all the shining buildings that sit on top of the bridge blind me as the sun sets. The monotone of the train as the soundtrack to my commute, the wind tunnels between University Hall and the quad propel me to class. A brand new dorm room that I still convinced myself to be haunted. Sitting on my laptop at home, I knew UIC would be waiting, that the Blue Line train could still take me to UIC and Halsted, that the city skyline would still reflect us, that there would always be someone in the quad with an idea and a bullhorn and that we would still keep fighting to hold it down. For me and my friends and for those of us to come. Thank you.


DONALD WINK: Thank you, Anandita, for that lovely expression of UIC and its impact on you. I'm Donald Wink. I currently serve on the senate and as the chair of the senate executive committee. I know I'm not alone when I say that Chancellor Amiridis' accomplishments have left an indelible imprint on UIC. We have been the benefactors of his vision to make UIC a world-class academic institution, second to none.

His unfailing determination to have UIC serve as an example of social responsibility has made it a beacon of hope to the disenfranchised and pushed us all to levels we could have only dreamed of when he first took the leadership mantle in 2015. What followed since then were seven momentous years. I also have served on the faculty in the department of chemistry in the college of liberal arts and sciences at UIC for nearly three decades. I led the department for five years and have served under many chancellors. I am very proud and honored to say that I have seen this university grow up. It is better than it has ever been. As in any institution this big and complex, there are always challenges along the way, and we have faced several. However, because of Chancellor Amiridis' guidance, UIC's upward trajectory feels more solid than ever. The recent event alongside U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Governor JB Pritzker thanked the chancellor for his work at UIC and said, "I can't say enough how invaluable your leadership has been." I know we all echo this sentiment. It is my pleasure to welcome chancellor Michael Amiridis for his final State of the University address.


MICHAEL AMIRIDIS: Thank you, Don, and thank you for not bringing up the link to the history of different governors that we had for this. But thank you for your very generous and warm introduction today.

One of the most important points of pride for me during the past seven years has been the great relationships that I had with the faculty senate and its leadership and it was not only me. It was the entire leadership group. Without this relationship of mutual trust and respect, nothing would have been accomplished. As one university, one community, no matter where we are, east side, west side, in the Loop, Rockford, Peoria, Quad Cities, Springfield, Urbana, our different voices, our experiences and specialties came together and created this undeniable impact that we experienced in the world around us.

For this I thank you, and I thank your predecessors for your leadership as well as the entire community for their support. Before we start on the State of the University today, I will take the opportunity to introduce to all of you the new members of our leadership group who joined us since the last state of the university event. And remember, two years now, we didn't have an event like this.

So during this period, we welcome new provost, Dr. Javier Reyes, a new vice chancellor for strategic marketing and communications, Dr. Chandra Harris-McCray. And new deans, new deans for the libraries, Rhea Ballard-Thrower, a new dean for education, dean Kathryn Chval, and a new dean for nursing, Eileen Collins. And also in the last couple of months, we have announced two additional new deans, one in CUPPA, Sandy Swearingen White, and recently in law, dean Nicky Boothe. What a great new group of leaders.

In looking at these names as I was preparing for it, I realized these are five women leaders that are going to be leading our colleges. And you know what's the funny part? Nobody pays attention to this because we have such a diverse leadership anyway, that is expected for UIC to do something like this.

Challenging has been an understatement for the last two years. Through it all, we have taken a measured and deliberate approach to ensure that our students, our faculty, and our staff were, first and foremost safe, continuing to fulfill our mission as the nation's best urban, public research university. And as I have said repeatedly, each one of these words has a meaning, an important meaning. This was our collective goal. We worked together. We put people first. We placed our trust in science from day one, and we led by example. We faced the challenges head-on, and we succeeded as we continued to do what we do best. Listen, learn, and teach. Take care of patients, serve our community, and innovate for a better tomorrow.

At UIC and throughout the country, we relied on our clinicians, on our researchers, and all the frontline workers who stayed at their posts, to take care of the sick, to develop new therapeutics and vaccines, and to ensure that the essential needs of our community were met during this period. They worked tirelessly through uncertain and stressful circumstances. There are so many who went above and beyond during the last two years, but I want to recognize in the leadership group, Bob Barish, our vice chancellor for health affairs, John Coronado, our vice chancellor for administrative services, and TJ Augustine, our vice chancellor for innovation, and of course Janet Parker, our vice chancellor for budget, and financial administration. As we said to the Athenians, at the end of everything and all the plans, we need money. Without money, you can't do anything. And Janet took care of this component.

They led the multifaceted COVID-19 response across the campus, one of the best responses across the nation. We applaud you all and we are forever grateful to all of you. Thank you.


I would also like to personally acknowledge         Dr. Susan Bleasdale. Susan has been on the frontline, and she have helped guide every decision that we made as a university during this period to ensure the health and safety of our community. She has been a most trusted resource for me, for our leadership team, and for the University of Illinois system. Susan, if you're watching us, thank you. Early in the pandemic, we made a commitment to implement rigorous safety measures to protect our campus community. We developed a comprehensive, our own, on-campus saliva testing and contact tracing program to minimize the spread of COVID and we developed several safety protocols for the entire campus. These measures, coupled with a 95 percent vaccination rate for which we should all be very proud, have made our campus one of the safest areas in the city and the state.

Our researchers joined scientists worldwide who raced to find treatments and create vaccines to bring the pandemic under control. UIC was awarded more than 88 million in funding for COVID research projects, including 39 COVID 19 related clinical trials, many focused on vaccines, treatment, and testing. Dr. Rick Novak, one of Chicago's first vaccine clinical trial with the Moderna vaccine and also on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as well, two of the most important clinical trials in the world to prevent COVID. He's currently involved in yet another trial for a new Moderna vaccine with a much broader coverage this time.

True to our mission, a diverse group of participants were enrolled in our trials, reflecting the demographics of Chicago. People ask me why was UIC selected for these trials. And there are two reasons. One is the excellence of our physicians, researchers, and the second is the diversity of the population that we treat. And I'm very proud of both of them.

When vaccines became available to the public, UIC and UI Health opened the first mass vaccination center in Chicago at the Credit Union 1 Arena. The first day the center opened, we administered nearly a quarter of all vaccine doses distributed in Chicago on that date. In addition to faculty and staff volunteers, hundreds of UIC students contributed thousands of hours to the effort. In total, approximately 180,000 people were vaccinated at UIC and UI Health, and 5700 COVID patients were treated at our hospital.

I want to recognize and thank the leaders of our health care delivery system, Bob Barish and Michael Zenn, and through them all of our health care heroes for their efforts during the last two years.

UI Health leaders, Paul Gorski, who's the senior director of clinical services and Kimberly Bertini, director of nursing excellence, spearheaded the mass vaccination site alongside so many volunteers. And we expanded our commitment to Chicago's most vulnerable populations through a partnership with Protect Chicago Plus and Mile Square by providing community vaccine clinics in underserved neighborhoods. Among others, Dr. Janet Lin, that many of you have seen in our town halls, who is the associate chief executive officer for strategic innovation partnerships at UI Health was instrumental in leading this effort with the city and bringing the results, bringing the vaccines to the community.

At the same time a team of interdisciplinary colleagues from across campus led by Jerry Krishnan has been working with partners at NIH to better understand the disease and why does it disproportionately impacts certain groups of people, including communities of color.

In partnerships with churches, community organizations and small businesses, UIC researchers in Chicago and Peoria are leading a four year, $22 million project called ILLInet RECOVER  that's not an easy name and we'll come back to names to attract people with long COVID and set light on the poorly understood chronic conditions and long term complications that can occur after the disease. One patient in particular, and we'll use her first name, Alma, lost her mother and two sisters to COVID. Nearly two years after having COVID 19 herself, she's still suffering from congestion, cognitive problems and difficulty in breathing. She says that she signed for the RECOVER project for the trials for her grandchildren because, and these are her own words, hopefully we can find out a lot of things from the study and we can help people and children.

Alma, this is our commitment and hope as well.

UIC researchers led by Professor Rachel Poretsky, in biological sciences, are also expanding collaborations with public health officials to monitor levels of the virus in wastewater samples. Their analysis includes quantifying the virus and sequencing more than a hundred population-level samples weekly to help provide an early warning sign of rising in the number of case levels or variants of concern.

This, of course, includes surveillance data with the Chicago and Illinois Departments of public health and with CDC, the national wastewater surveillance system. So we are plugged into them and provide them information.

Finally a report issued by our Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy looked at how national and local policies related to health care, mental health care, housing, child care, education and social assistance, how did they fail to meet the needs of the Chicago's communities and residence and contributed to the health disparities we had in COVID 19 infections, hospitalizations and tests. Our hope is that once again UIC will inform policy with the results of this report.

In the face of changing public health conditions, we continuously adopted our academic operations to ensure that our students had the best learning experiences possible. Our faculty found creative and engaging ways to teach through e learning, through hybrid media, and in person instruction when it was possible.

At the same time our staff members made sure that support services were available to students who needed them most. The creation for the center for the advancement of Teaching Excellence, which many of you at UIC know as CATE, and the hiring of Dr. Erin O'Leary as the executive director in 2020 during the pandemic were integral to the success of remote learning efforts during the pandemic. CATE serves as the teaching hub for the UIC campus where anyone with teaching responsibilities can find support and technology resources.

As we moved forward and came back together in person this past fall, I can tell you personally I had never been happier to see so many students on campus. And I know I was not alone because everyone that I ran into, in the elevators, in the different buildings, anywhere on campus, was also thrilled to see our students again in person, and the students were thrilled to see us.

And with the largest enrollment in our history for the seventh consecutive year, reaching 34,200 students, it was very easy to find the students everywhere on campus.

Given their socioeconomic background, most of our students rely on financial aid to meet their goals. 79 percent of in-state undergraduate students pay less than full tuition and fees. In fiscal year '21, total undergraduate scholarships, grants and fellowships provided by UIC from our own budget reached 52 million. As difficult as this is for the finances of the university, it is also a great point of pride for UIC. A new program that we ended last year, the chancellor's FirstGen Flames Abroad scholarship that's another very long name encourages and supports study abroad for first-generation college students.

Jason Mei, a second-year finance major, was one of the 11 students who received the scholarship in the program's first cohort. Mei, whose parents came to America from China 30 years ago believes that expanding his own perspective in meeting people from different cultures will benefit him and it will help him build great relationships in his personal and professional life.

I could not have said this better. He hopes to study in South America and South Africa and he's also part of UIC business scholars, our four-year leadership and development program in the business college.

With national demographic trends predicting that undergraduate enrollment declines will continue, we have to focus more than ever now on remaining an entry point for low-income students who may otherwise be diverted from college. Our guaranteed programs include agreements with 24 community colleges in the Chicagoland area and they bring hundreds of new students to our campus every year. We're diligently working together with the provost extending and reinventing this network as we secure even more pathways for students and prepare for the demographic changes on the horizon. We also need to remember that record-breaking enrollment alone will not help us fulfill our mission unless we also invest in student services success and services especially when it comes to closing the gap in retention and graduation rates for first-generation and underrepresented students. This is why over the last few years we have been doubling down on advising, coaching, tutoring, student success centers, financial aid resources, hardship assistance and access to wellness and counseling centers for our students. I want to recognize Provost Javier Reyes and Vice Chancellor for student affairs Rex Tolliver, as well as Nicholas Varelas in the provost office and Susan Posner, our former provost, who are leading the way as examples for our students.

When Ja'Waun Williams began his first year at UIC, he knew he was going to thrive in college, but he couldn't do it alone. Now a senior in the college of education on his way to graduation, Williams credits his success to reaching out early to campus resources, in particular in his case, he got engaged with the African American Academic Nnetwork but he also credits the CHANCE program which aims to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students. For decades UIC has been at the forefront of the nation's universities in creating institutional structures and supporting programs that have led to significant gains in diversity and inclusion.

In addition to Ja'Waun, other programs like LARES, Urban Health, the Hispanic Center for Excellence, AARCC, and all the cultural centers have made a difference and continue to change the lives of thousands of students.

To bolster the number of Black and Latino students studying in SSTEM-relatedfields, this year UIC launched a new mmerit-basedscholarship program within the colleges of engineering and liberal arts and sciences, the DuSable Scholars program. This program identifies and supports talented Black and Latino students to help them graduate on time in a STEM major and encourage their matriculation to a research-based STEM program. The first cohort will receive housing and recent stipends with tuition already paid for scholarships and fellowships.

For Kaliah Linear, a freshman studying mechanical engineering, the scholarship program solidified her decision to attend UIC, and this happened actually when she learned that we were going to have program mentors for her that they're both people of color and women, two groups that are underrepresented in the STEM fields across the country.

Finally, I would like to highlight that this fall more than 30 percent of the students enrolled at UIC's health sciences colleges identify as part of different underrepresented groups. Deniz Namik is pursuing a degree in dental medicine to work with underserved populations and improve dental hygiene. While volunteering as an interpreter at the dental clinics, he began to realize the equity gap in dental care and differences in private offices versus public clinics. That's when he decided he wanted to work in health care to help make a difference.

UIC continues to create new programs and innovate when it comes to the student experience outside the classroom. Through a partnership with breakthrough tech, which is a national initiative that propels women into higher education and tech careers, UIC students in computer science, data science, and other related disciplines are paired with companies, partnering organizations, to solve real-world business problems. These paid, short-term internships give students experience that make them more competitive when applying for summer internships or full-time positions. In fact, one out of four students who participated in the program last year, and last year was the first year with UIC, secured an ongoing role with their partner organization before their short-term internship ended. More than 200 UIC students have participated in the first two years of the program. And this program is supported by Pivotal Ventures, which is a Melinda Gates company.

We're also taking initiative beyond the traditional classroom to help students of all ages acquire the new skills they need to further their career through all degree programs and professional development opportunities. In August we launched a new online MBA and by now we have 90 students in that program. In addition, this month we launched an online master of engineering degree program, focusing on AI and machine learning. And for the tenth consecutive year, the UIC online bachelor's programs ranked number three in the country according to the 2022 U.S. News & World Report. This ranking demonstrates our dedication to educational access and our firm commitment to quality of online education.

The Wall Street Journal and the Times of Education ranked UIC as one of the top 25 universities and in the Top Ten Best Value Universities, publics and privates, once again this year, making it four years in a row now.

We're also ranked number one for diversity among Midwest universities. And it's not only demographics that this ranking is taking place. It's taking a positive direction. It's also the success and placement of our underrepresented students which makes this recognition even more meaningful.

We also continue to climb in U.S. News & World Report rankings this year ranked 26th among public universities up six from last year and according to U.S. News, our undergraduate nursing programs and several graduate programs were in the top 20 in the country. UIC is also ranked in the top ten in the nation in U.S. News, in terms of social mobility, a category that evaluates the graduation rates of low-income students who receive Pell grants.

So a lot of programs in the rankings that we have not been paying much attention to because we are an egalitarian society but others outside of UIC recognize the work that we are doing. Changing the subject, I'm also very proud of our student-athletes and all they have achieved this year under the direction of Michael Lipitz, earlier this year we joined the Missouri Valley Conference, fulfilling a decades-long aspiration of our student-athletes and of our loyal fans. The Flames have also historic results, both in the classroom and in competition, all while navigating through the COVID pandemic. The Flames posted the best academic results in school history. They recorded a cumulative 3.4 GPA for the 2020 21 academic year and reached an all-time high, 91 percent, 91 percent graduation rate.

In the courts UIC captured its first-ever Horizon Women's all-sports trophy in 2021. The Flames won three Horizon League championships in softball, women's tennis, and volleyball along with three individual titles in women's and men's diving as well as men's cross country. Two Flames, two of our divers, Cydney Liebenberg from South Africa and Felix LaFortune from Canada wrapped up careers in spring. They both hold the school records in their respective events, one and three meters. Both are multiple-time conference champions, combining to win 11 individual titles and both have an All-American selection to their credit. Liebenberg has multiple national championships as well as four gold medals in the South African national championships, and she barely missed the qualification for the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Despite COVID 19, we remain steadfast in our commitment to improve our physical infrastructure and provide our students, our faculty, and staff with the quality facilities they deserve. Last July we broke ground on the Computer Design Research and Learning Centers. All right. So one thing that I will not miss about UIC is the very long names that we use for buildings and the even longer acronyms that we use eventually that make absolutely no sense, but this is the culture. So that's the name of the building. It could be the computer building. This new facility will provide much-needed space to accommodate UIC's rapidly increasing undergraduate enrollment in computer science with collaborative teaching and learning spaces and it also have 16,000 square feet of classroom space, which is much needed.

It also provides space for UIC research in the computer science and engineering fields. There are going to be 35 labs into this building and there's going to be also 1200 square foot robotics lab in there as well.

Hopefully, you have also noticed our local efforts to highlight this building, but also all of our successes in UIC's reputation. This week we are back again in the market with a continuation of our outdoor brand awareness campaign. This campaign is simple yet strong, using just one descriptive word to reinforce UIC's brand attributes. It's a moment to instill pride, pride for our students, for our faculty, for our staff, for alumni, and to pick pique the interest of prospective students along the way.

A very important reason students are drawn to UIC is the national recognition of our faculty and the opportunities to work alongside top investigators in all fields. Our research impacts the entire globe as we develop new treatments in vaccines, we save education, equity and taxes, we create sustainable environments and we advance technology and culture.

One great example is the U.S. entry to the prestigious architecture Biennale last year, which was created and curated by two UIC Professors and architects, Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner, the two Pauls, as their dean calls them. The work was hailed by major worldwide publications, including the New York Times, and The Guardian as a huge success. I couldn't help but recite The Guardian, which noted, that's a direct quote, "For once the United States contribution is a triumph." Well, for once UIC represented the United States.

The last three years have been outstanding in many different research fields, with the external awards growing from 350 million in FY '18 to 450 million in FY '21, breaking historic highs along the way.

This level of funding places UIC in the top 45 public universities in the country according to the National Science Foundation and in their annual survey. I want to thank John and her team for leading the way in our research endeavors. Highlights among the 3,500 active research projects from last year, the work of a team led by professor Asrar Malik and Lucy Zhang in pharmacology was funded by a $13 million grant in NIA and used to a new drug to treat patients with severe COVID. Yulia Komarova, associate professor in pharmacology, who received a $6 million award from the department of defense for developing another promising treatment for damaged lungs and reduce cytokine levels in COVID-19. The work of Professor Russell Hemley in physics and chemistry which was funded by an $8 million grant from the Department of Energy to create an interdisciplinary center focusing on the study of materials under extreme conditions, and finally a group of UIC researchers that was led by Professor Peter Nelson, the dean of engineering, for using artificial intelligence to bolster real-time traffic information throughout the Midwest. And by doing so, they addressed the impacts of traffic and congestion on the economy, the environment, and the safety of the drivers.

We're also known for our success in bringing research results to the market, with a proven track record in drug discovery. UIC has several major drugs on the market today, including a bladder cancer drug, a very successful vaccine against shingles, a hormone-free birth control gel, and an anti-HIV treatment. Last fiscal year from the ones that are still a patent, we generated $35 million in licensing revenue from some of these therapeutics. These funds that we bring in have been used to support and extend our research enterprise. Three examples included of how we've used these funds is the modernization of our IT infrastructure. The recently announced grants for arts and humanities and the soon-to-be-announced initiatives to establish a new university research institution. These were all financed either in whole or in part by the licensing revenue that we bring in.

With this record of success, it should not come as a surprise that the State of Illinois and DPI are supporting us in a new drug discovery and constant research center adjacent to the college of pharmacy. This project is currently in the design phase and will supercharge our research and education efforts in these high-priority areas, not only for the health science colleges but for the entire university, for the entire UIC.

Another investment in this area is the $10 million expansion project for UIC's Innovation Center, which is also financed in part by the State of Illinois and DPI. The center brings together students and faculty from a cross-section of UIC colleges who work with corporate partners, such as Caterpillar and OSF for practical problems and practical solutions. Recently the Innovation Center, as you heard actually from Don, was visited by U.S. treasury secretary Janet Yellen. The governor was there, JB Pritzker, and the mayor was there, Lori Lightfoot, during a visit to Chicago. All three pointed out that the center's cutting edge work is a “shining example,” this is in quotations because that's exactly what was mentioned there, of innovation, “a shining example of innovation and collaboration.”

Recruiting and retaining promising scholars to UIC is the most important action we can take to secure excellence in both our education and our research missions. At the same time diversifying our faculty is a key priority for a minority-serving institution like UIC.

This fall we welcomed the second cohort of scholars in the Bridge to Faculty program, which seeks to recruit, retain and promote tenure track faculty from historically underrepresented groups. Currently, the program has 34 scholars in its ranks whose research spans a wide variety of disciplines and departments throughout the university. This is what I call innovation when it comes to our own organization and our own operations because we change things in our organization to achieve this.

I want to recognize vice chancellor Amalia Pallares for all her participating active departments in this very successful mission.

At the same time, UIC has led an alliance of the 20 Hispanic serving institutions in the country with R1 status. These 20 institutions are all top-tier research universities with over half a million students.

The goal of the alliance is to increase the number of Hispanic students with doctoral degrees entering the profession. And the first grant with this was awarded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and was led by Professor Nena Torres and once again Amalia Pallares.

I would like to highlight the office of the community collaboration which is developing two neighborhood centers, another in Auburn Gresham and another in North Lawndale. In partnership with the greater Auburn Gresham development corporation, we have designed a lifestyle providing much-needed services under one roof. For structural center is expected to be completed in late May with programming activities beginning in June. UI Health and Mile Square will serve in this facility more than 11,000 individuals annually with primary, dental and behavioral health needs. Furthermore, UIC will also provide legal services through legal clinics of the law school, educational outreach to local students, and opportunities for adult training.

A second similar neighborhood hub, this time in partnership with the Lawndale Christian development corporation, is underway in North Lawndale with expected completion later this year.

Starting this spring, much-needed specialty care and advanced diagnostic services are provided by our Colleges of Medicine and Applied Health Sciences and UI Health to patients from Gage Park, West Elsdon, and Elsdon communities through the 15th..I'm sorry…the 55th and Pulaski Health Collaborative. This area was lacking specialty care for a number of years since the previous occupants of that building have moved out. This is a $15 million project that brings together local partners, including Alivio Medical Center and Friend Family Health.

A year ago Mile Square also opened a clinic in Rockford, the LP Johnson Mile Square Health Center in Rockford working together with our medical school as well. I had the opportunity to visit this clinic last fall and I experienced firsthand the strong support and the gratitude of the Rockford community, a clear testament of the positive impact that UIC has in this area.

These examples, once again, demonstrate our unwavering commitment to improving the health of the citizens of our city and our state and even more for those who have limited access to care.

At the same time, we are leading the region and the world with the quality of our education, training, and practice in health sciences. In the fall of 2020, we cut the ribbon of the surgical innovation and training laboratory, a unique center of excellence for robotic surgery. The lab establishes new and advanced ways to provide state-of-the-art health care for our patients and it gives us the ability to train thousands of surgeons across the country and the world. These are not students. These are practicing surgeons, and they're coming here to learn from us. This is the vision of Piero Gudiannoti, who leads this center. They have kidney transplants in 2021 than any other major medical center in the Midwest. I want to recognize all the physicians who are contributing to these efforts as well as the head of surgery, Enrico Benedetti. We're also curing patients with sickle cell disease for stem cell transplant and without the help of chemotherapy. UI Health is strong with the highest level for Joint Commission-accredited hospitals to provide diagnostic testing through neurosurgical surgeries. His multi-specialty team are leading the Chicago metropolitan area in this field. And what I'm talking about the Chicago metropolitan area, by the way, we are talking about two or three states in other parts of the country. Let's be clear here. The expanded efforts in the success of our health care delivery system have also exposed the need of a surviving infrastructure. Last year we celebrated the successful transition of UI Health from an old to a new EMR system, a significant change which we expect will contribute to better quality of care and more effective management of our operations. And the first signs are already there. Furthermore, our growing clinical enterprise will soon have a well-deserved face lift in terms of facilities. Our structure is near completion for the UI Health special care building. This is a 200,000 square foot, six-floor facility that will accommodate the increasing volume and complexity of surgical care as well as it includes the clinics of some of our specialties. Completion is expected late December, and I have told Dr. Barish no matter what, I'm coming back to see this building from inside.

Our structure is also near completion for the hospital's welcoming entry, a newtwo-storyy lobby located at the corner of Taylor and Wood. The goal is to create a welcoming environment and to enhance the experience of patients and visitors. In fiscal year 2021, we established another historic record. And this time in fundraising. Five years ago, we set out to raise $750 million in the IGNITE campaign. I'm proud to share that as we approach the end of the campaign this summer, we're closing in on $800 million, exceeding our goal. I want to thank vice chancellor Tom Wamsley and his advancement team for all their efforts to get us to this point under unprecedented and very challenging conditions. Donors, alumni and friends believe in UIC and believe in our transformational impact on student success, on empowering faculty, on driving discovery and on serving the communities of Chicago. I'm very grateful to more than 50,000 donors, and I know the vast majority of you are donors of the university already, faculty members, staff, students, alumni and friends who made the 137,000 gifts of all sizes. In fact, more than 56,000 proved that collectively small donations add up and make a difference. These 36,000 people and their 120,000 gifts of $1,000 or less totaled more than $17 and a half million for UIC. As of today, the campaign has raised 260 million for research, 115 for scholarships, 35 for community work, 60 for faculty support, and I can go down the list. 120 of our IGNITE campaign gifts were at the level of one million and above, including the 40 million gift from a MacKenzie Scott which included the first-generation and low-income students. Starting this year the student success fund is supporting summer tuition, housing fees, paid internships and some basic needs for our most vulnerable students.

This prize, because it is more of a prize than a gift in this case, is a recognition for all of you and your commitment to change the world and build a better future one student at a time.

As all of you know, this is my final state of the university address, a tradition that we started in 2016 and I hope will continue for years to come. Through these events, we made our priorities clear. We addressed challenges head on. You may remember my call a few years ago to escape forward from the situation that we're facing, and we celebrated the success of the university for Chicago.

Together with my partner in life, and the best cheerleader, by the way, for UIC over the last seven years, together with my wife Ero, I want to thank you for your support and the wonderful opportunity you gave us to be part of this unique university. Through your collective action and through your resilient spirit, UIC is thriving today and both Ero and I know that its best days are yet to come. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


(UIC pep band playing.)