English Transcript SOTU 2018
THERESA MINTLE: "Woo" is right! Thanks Nick, and the members of the UIC pep band. Let's give a round of applause everybody! That was a fun way to start the program. Good afternoon, my name is Theresa E. Mintle and I am the interim vice chancellor for Public and Government Affairs here at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I'm delighted to see so many of you here this afternoon and to welcome you to the UIC Dorin Forum and for the 3rd annual State of the University of Illinois at Chicago Address. Although I've only been at UIC for a short time, I'm already bursting with pride at the breadth and depth of the outstanding quality of work that goes on day in and day out at this great institution.
And now I understand why Chancellor Dr. Michael Amiridis describes us as "the University of Illinois for Chicago", because that is truly what we are. Some 53 years from the founding of the Circle campus, UIC has emerged as a global leader in the field of post-secondary education. From our diverse student body to our dedicated faculty members and researchers, from our hardworking administrators to our passionate alums, UIC is a true community; a place where we have made it possible for generations of Chicagoans and for people from around the world, to access excellence in higher ed. And on this, the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., UIC stands as a beacon of diversity and inclusiveness today and for the future of our city of Chicago. In a few minutes, we'll be hearing from UIC's biggest cheerleader and most fervent advocate, Chancellor Michael Amiridis. However, leading an institution of this size such as UIC is requires a serious team effort, and there's one person who really is the head of that team and that is Ero Aggelopoulou-Amiridis, the chancellor's wife. Ero, thank you. Thank you for all you do to support the chancellor and UIC.
We have with us today some distinguished members from the Illinois General Assembly; Linda Chapa LaVia, a proud UIC alum who represents Illinois' 83rd House district. Linda there you are! Welcome, thank you for being here with us. I'm also honored to welcome distinguished representatives from Chicago's Consulate Community; Anna Liza Alcantara, the cultural officer for the Consulate General of the Republic of the Philippines. Gisselle Castillo-Veremis, consul general for the Dominican Republic. Yerassimos Lazaris, the trade commissioner for the consul general of Greece. And José David Murillo Quesada, consul general for Costa Rica.
I would also like to recognize several members of the university's leadership team who are with us today. There's a lot of them so if you want to hold your applause, that would be okay. Susan Poser, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Bob Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs; Jeff Nearhoof, vice chancellor for advancement and senior vice president for University of Illinois Foundation; Janet Parker, associate chancellor for budget and financial administration; Rex Tolliver, vice chancellor for student affairs; Mitra Dutta, vice chancellor for research; Mike Landek, interim vice chancellor for administrative services; Ralph Keen, dean of the Honors College; Mike Mikhail, dean of the college of Business Administration; Pete Nelson, dean of the college of Engineering; Mike Pagano, dean of the college of Urban Planning and Public Affairs; Glen Schumock, dean of the college of Pharmacy; Clark Stanford, dean of the college of Dentistry; Astrida Tantillo, dean of the college of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Terri Weaver, dean of the college of Nursing- I told you there were a lot- Mike Zen, chief executive officer of the University of Illinois Hospital and clinics; Garrett Klassy, director of athletics; and Kevin Booker, our chief of police. Thank you to all of you from UIC who are here today.
And we also have members from the Community and Civic Leaders who are here with us today who without them we wouldn't be where we are so to each and every one of you, I extend our heartfelt gratitude for all that you do and continue to do for UIC.
Our program now continues with one of our outstanding students, Yohana Ghdey. Miss Ghdey is a graduating senior in public health with a minor in public policy, and she is president of the undergraduate student government. Upon graduation, she hopes to return to UIC to pursue a master's degree in public administration. Please join me in welcoming Miss Ghdey.
YOHANA GHDEY: Thank you everyone. Good afternoon, and welcome to the University of Illinois at Chicago. My name is Yohana Ghdey, and I am a first generation [sic] American college student. Since I first stepped foot on this campus in August of 2014, I realized that I could accomplish anything because there are numerous resources here at my disposal, and I quickly learned that I was right. Because from my first day here, I learned that UIC's hands-on approach would help me learn from real world applications and allow me to take advantage of the rewards such as having a diverse campus. At UIC, I've had the honor to learn from a diverse group of people including the administration, faculty, my advisors and of course, my peers. To me, the campus is a reflection of the world and the city.
Among the highlights of my academic career at UIC have been my time in office as the president of the undergraduate student government. From this leadership position, I've had opportunities I have never imagined that I, as a person of color, would have the opportunities to experience. And through USG, I have a platform to be a student leader and to try to address the concerns of my peers. And as president, one of my goals is to empower everyone around me to do their part for the UIC community. And as a member of the UIC community, I believe that our voices as students matter, and so does having the best examples from us to draw. I've always made sure to be a positive role model for all my fellow students.
The beauty of UIC is that while we are all part of the same campus, we are encouraged to be individuals and be whoever we have our minds to be. UIC has been a gift because this university has proven to me that with hard work and dedication, you can accomplish anything. My experiences here have taught me many valuable lessons such as the importance of seeking out and accepting help when needed. It has also taught me how to survive and take advantage of this very large city.
The advice I have received here over the years from my teachers, advisors and peers has pushed me to further my academic career. As a graduating senior, I know that much of my success over the past four years is due to the overabundance of support I have received from the people who make up UIC.
I came to this university with a four-year plan of obtaining my bachelor's of arts in public health, and I was not thinking about my plans post-graduation. Then, after a meeting with Chancellor Amiridis over tea and Greek cookies, that quickly changed. Thanks to his good-natured prodding, I applied to graduate school to study public administration here at UIC, where I will be attending this fall. I have always used this story to boast to my friends at other institutions that while their schools talk of inclusion, my school truly practices inclusion. We are a community, after all. You can't spell community without UIC.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." The University of Illinois at Chicago has been my home away from home. I will forever cherish my experiences here and the knowledge I've obtained at this institution. Thank you for this opportunity.
THERESA MINTLE: Thank you, Yohana. Boy, does she represent well or what? Thank you so very much once more. I am now delighted to introduce Dr. Catherine Vincent who gives, and gives some more to UIC. Dr. Vincent has taught nursing for over thirty years, is associate professor and associate dean of academic affairs in the college of Nursing, chairs the UIC senate executive committee, and is secretary of the UIC faculty senate. Please join me in welcoming Catherine Vincent.
CATHERINE VINCENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Each year, I have the honor of participating in the State of the University Address, an important event started by Chancellor Amiridis when he arrived at UIC. If this is your first time attending, or if you've been here every year, I know you will leave here today with a sense of optimism and excitement for Chicago's only public research university. Michael Amiridis, like many UIC students, reflects the diverse global nature of Chicago. A native of northern Greece, he was himself a first-generation college student who came to the US to pursue graduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to arriving at UIC, Chancellor Amiridis established a proven record of building academic and research excellence as a professor, researcher, and senior administrator at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Throughout his distinguished career, Chancellor Amiridis has been recognized with numerous research and teaching awards, and was elected a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012. 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. Chancellor Amiridis has also received awards for teaching excellence at South Carolina and as a graduate instructor at Wisconsin. He was elected a fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012.
Since taking office as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago in March of 2015, Chancellor Amiridis has focused on leveraging UIC's strengths to elevate, enhance, and sustain the institution by focusing on the student experience and student success, engaging Chicago and its communities, enhancing UIC's national and international impact and visibility, and operating in new ways to become a more entrepreneurial university. Chancellor Amiridis has initiated ongoing engagement with community, civic, corporate, and elected officials to discuss how UIC's strengths and resources are beneficial to Chicago and the state. He serves on the boards of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities, the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. I am pleased to present to you, Chancellor Michael Amiridis.
MICHAEL AMIRIDIS: Thank you, Kate, for the kind introduction. As it was going longer and longer I was thinking maybe I'm retiring today, and they're so kind to me. And thank you, Theresa and Yohana, for your kind words. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome, welcome to the University of Illinois at Chicago and welcome to this State of the University Address.
I really like the UIC Pep Band. They bring so much energy everywhere that I see them and everywhere that they go, and I needed the help today. So if you like them as well, let's show them one more time how good they are!
Last year when I gave this address we were in the middle of the state's worst budget crisis and I finished by telling you that under those circumstances our only choice was to escape forward. Escape forward with a renewed focus on our mission and core values, escape forward with confidence in our strength and abilities, escape forward with hope for the future. And boy, did we ever escape forward! We ran forward over the last 12 months; we ran through barriers and we broke records we have generated a tremendous amount of momentum for UIC. We have shown to our peers, to our community, and to the city of Chicago that we have the strength and momentum- not only to weather any storm- but we emerged from the crisis of FY'16 much better than we were before. All of you have played a critical role in moving our university forward during these challenging times and I'm grateful for your persistence, your drive, and your fortitude!
In a fairly short time, we have been able to make significant advances at our university by remaining true to our strategic priorities as we, together, shape the future of UIC. You have heard me talk about this many times, but it bears repeating. We are an outstanding global research university and we will continue to improve, working together and leveraging our strengths in our efforts to improve the student experience by educating citizens for the 21st century and preparing professionals for the workforce; build and showcase our national and international impact and reputation for research and scholarship; enhance our engagement through a closer alignment with Chicago, its institutions, its businesses and its neighborhoods; and build a more dynamic, and more entrepreneurial and a more sustainable university to support our mission, and to always take pride in being one of the most, if not the most diverse and inclusive universities in the nation. For five decades, Dr. Martin Luther King's principles and ideals have been our guiding light. His dream has been our dream, and we have done our best to contribute to its realization. And today, as we mark fifty years from his assassination, this guiding light may be more important than it has ever been in recent history of this country, and our commitment has to be stronger than it has ever been in the last fifty years.
Whether it's our record-breaking enrollments; the national and international recognition and attention that our university has received recently; our improvements in capital infrastructure; or the life-saving health care services that we offer, they all point in the same direction. A direction of growth and momentum.
We have come this far because of our resolve and our commitment. In a time of crisis, the most important responsibility of the leadership is to protect the organization's core values. And this is exactly what we have done over the last three years at UIC. We have focused on our public mission, protecting access and excellence, and in order to do so we have shown the spirit of innovation expected from a leading research university.
For the third year in a row we have achieved all-time record enrollment, which surpassed 30,500 students this past fall, up nearly 5% from last year. We are, by far, the largest university in the city and the second largest in the state. Students and their families know the value of a high-quality education at the city's only public research university. They are coming to us in record numbers, when enrollments at other Illinois public Universities decreased, because they want to experience a thriving urban university with access to 15 colleges, a broad range of programs and a experience that prepares them for their future careers. And they are coming to us because they recognize the mark of international excellence that UIC represents.
We have also held tuition constant for undergraduate students for four years in a row now as we try to remain affordable. In fact, a senior graduating from UIC in 2022, will be paying the same tuition as a freshman who entered UIC in 2014; an eight-year period. And in addition to federal aid and MAP grants- whenever the state provides them- we provide $60 million of scholarships every year from our own budget. This is what commitment to affordability means. Our students and their families choose us because they know about our mission and they are drawn to UIC because of what we have to offer.
We also experienced last fall, a 12% increase in transfers – more than 2,100 students transferred to us in addition to 4,000 first-time freshmen. They transferred to us from the Chicago City Colleges, including the first cohort of UIC Star Scholar recipients, from the College of DuPage, and from many other institutions.
For over five decades, we have continued to serve the students and the families of Chicago and Illinois. More than 90% of our students are from Illinois and more than 50% of our students of our undergraduates receive Pell grants, federal aid for students with the lowest family incomes. We welcome the opportunity to help these students dream big and to provide them with the skills needed to make their dreams a reality.
I often talk about the resilience and determination of our students. Students like Kelly Gerhardt, who at 21 suffered a stroke and took a semester off to focus on her health. When she returned to campus last fall, she continued to succeed academically despite all of the challenges that she faced, earning a GPA of 3.8, and she was determined to complete her degree and she did it. At our December commencement I was honored to meet Kelly and hear first-hand about her resolve to do everything in her power- not only to complete her degree, but also to pursue her dream of helping others. She has plans to apply to graduate programs in school counseling and we wish her all the best.
Each year, UIC students are selected for highly competitive national scholarships and awards. And this year was no exception.
Christopher Kooy, who is dual majoring in political science and Spanish, was named one of 30 recipients of the Charles Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship for International Studies; Marvin Slaughter, a political science and economics major, received a Newman Civic Fellowship; and Adam Mertz, a doctoral student in history, was one of only five scholars to receive a nationally competitive dissertation fellowship from the Center for Engaged Scholarship. And five UIC students were awarded Gilman scholarships to study abroad.
Last spring, nine UIC current and former students were awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships; one of the most prestigious awards for STEM majors entering doctoral studies. We just found out yesterday that five more UIC students are awarded the same NSF fellowships for 2018. Just to put things in perspective; each one of these is an access of $100,000 for a four-year period. These students represent just a few examples of our outstanding undergraduates who could study at any university in the country but choose to be here at UIC. They deserve every effort to support them financially.
This is why I'm thrilled to report for example, that the college of Engineering has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to assist 30 academically-talented, low-income engineering undergraduates with scholarships, mentoring and internship opportunities.
At the university level, we recently received a commitment from a local anonymous foundation of $2.5 million to support students who transfer from Community Colleges, with 80% of these dollars dedicated to City Colleges transfer students. The donor wanted us to name this the Circle Scholars Fund and this fund will allow UIC to provide much needed financial aid to one group of students who are frequently overlooked; the transfer students.
And you may have noticed the new signs when you entered the Forum, a $3 million gift made this year from the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Foundation provides a term naming of the UIC Forum and establishes a permanently endowed fund to provide merit-based scholarships to undergraduate students from Cook County.
And speaking about students, how about Martin Dimitrov from the College of Business; he used his skills and entrepreneurial spirit to kick start his career while still in college. If you have not seen Martin on a recent episode of "Shark Tank" pitching his product- the product that he created and patented- to the sharks and making a deal. You need to find it on Youtube and watch it. Hopefully not right now! Although he may be more entertaining, I think he will be! And if you have seen him, I bet you you're as proud as I was.
Our students are not only the best and the brightest, they are also civically and democratically engaged. In 2017, UIC was among a select group of winners at the first-ever ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge awards which recognizes colleges and universities committed to increasing voting rates among college students. This is a testament to our students' desire to be lifelong, active citizens. The award was UIC's second honor in 2017 for work in support of student voter engagement. In March, the university was named a Voter Friendly Campus by the Fair Elections Legal Network's Campus Vote Project and NASPA, which is the organization of student affairs administrators in higher education.
Our students, our students who study hard work hard, and try to make a difference are the heart of UIC. They are our future and they are the reason so many of us have chosen to work here.
The Wall Street Journal and the Times Higher Education has recognized the success of our University and our people, students, faculty and staff, ranking UIC 23rd in the country among public universities. I know we hate rankings, but we kind of like this one! To begin with, it's pleasant to see -and that's why I asked to put the entire list up there- it's very pleasant to see ourselves rank ahead of half of the Big Ten schools. But what is really important is that these rankings place a much greater emphasis on outputs, both research and educational outputs, emphasizing the success of all the students that we accept, rather than the quality of the students that we reject- which is what other rankings are doing. And this is why I'm really happy to see UIC included among the top Universities in the country in this group, and I would argue that The Wall Street Journal is not just a local newspaper. Of course we would not be recognized at this level without our esteemed faculty who teach and mentor students while they bring international recognition to our university. I just told you a minute ago that the students are the heart of the university, obviously the faculty are the brain of the university, and I hope nobody will ask me what part of the body is the administration!
UIC is a major research engine with over $240 million in research expenditures and an additional $70 million in other sponsored programs. This is the amount of money that we've brought in last year.
From the humanities to the health sciences, our researchers are changing policy, finding ways to improve our health and life-expectancy, and they are solving practical problems with new technology. Here are a few recent examples of success:
In January, we were awarded two new grants totaling approximately $1.9 million from the Mellon Foundation; one of the best known foundations in the country, and these are the first grants ever for the University of Illinois system. One of the grants will help us teach and mentor undergraduate students to explore and conduct research in the humanities at UIC. The second grant will develop a national fellowship program designed to mentor Latino studies scholars as they complete their doctoral research and improve their job-market readiness. Provost Susan Poser (yes she finds time to do this as well) and professor Maria de los Angeles Torres are the principal investigators. And I want to congratulate and thank them both for their efforts.
Psychologist Sylvia Morelli recently earned a prestigious Google Faculty Research Award which supports world-class research in computer science. Her project, to identify the features of personal stories that trigger empathy and determine if empathy causes stories to go viral, will give both faculty and students the opportunity to work directly with Google researchers and engineers.
And Ying He, research assistant professor of biopharmaceutical sciences, received a Pathway to Independence grant from NIH's Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to advance her career. She's developing effective pharmacological interventions that can slow the progression of sickle cell disease and improve the quality of life for patients.
Researcher Lisa Powell, distinguished professor and director of health policy and administration in the School of Public Health, heads a $4.9 million study funded by Bloomberg to understand the implementation of sweetened beverage taxes. Does this ring a bell? In particular, she's looking into the effect on the consumption and sale of both taxed and non-taxed beverages, but also the amount of tax revenue generated and the impact of the tax on the local economy.
And professor Frank Chaloupka is the principal investigator on an $8 million grant also from Bloomberg Philanthropies to advance global progress on tobacco taxation by engaging with policy-makers in countries with the highest and fastest-growing rates of tobacco use.
We also have many faculty who serve as leaders in their professional fields. People like UIC College of Nursing Dean Terri Weaver who was inducted into the Honor Society of Nursing, the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame; Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Pauline Maki, who recently received the American Medical Women's Association Women in Science Award for 2018; and mathematicians Aldridge Bousfield, Izzet Coskun and William Howard, who were named fellows of the American Mathematical Society; and Linda Skitka, professor of psychology, who was elected the 2019 president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, leads her field through the professional organization.These are just a few examples.
Let me use two additional numbers that I looked at and found in the last couple of days to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our research enterprise. Currently, we have 21 junior faculty members with active NSF CAREER Awards. These are the top ranked scholars in the country, in the NSF fields. And we also have a large number of the much coveted, active NIH R01 awards. I have been running a test in the last couple of days, asking people that I met with to guess the number. How many active R01s do we have on this campus? Everybody's off by a factor, a significant factor. We have over 200 active R01s at UIC right now.
The research and discovery led by our faculty impacts the world. Whether it's developing a new blockbuster shingles drug or addressing the root causes of educational inequities in our neighborhoods or understanding the tragedies of human trafficking, the scholarship of our faculty is at the forefront of national and international issues.
And we also know how to implement solutions because we know how to move scientific discoveries to the marketplace. In fiscal year 2017, licenses of our intellectual property generated more than $28 million in royalties for UIC. This places us among the top 20 universities- public and private- in the country in revenue from intellectual property licenses.
Our IP has also resulted in 35 active start-up venues which range from a company developing a capsule to help identify the presence of esophageal inflammation, leading to faster treatment, to a company that has created a battery that stores effectively, thermal energy.
UIC researchers have over 300 active patents right now in their collective portfolio and this is practical scientific innovation at its best.
But I want to make sure- because sometimes this is lost in the discussion of numbers- I want to make sure that everyone also knows the excellence of our faculty in the humanities. Among the hundreds of books published by our faculty, many were highlighted in reviews by prominent national authorities, including the three that you see in the screen right now: Luis Urrea's new book, The House of Broken Angels, which was just reviewed a few days ago as the cover story of the New York Times Book Review. Lisa Freeman's new book, Antitheatricality and the Body Public, was recently reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement in England. And Zizi Papacharissi's new book, Trump in the Media, you can imagine how this can be a best-seller, which was reviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
It should not come as a surprise to any of you - that while we are demonstrating new ideas, discoveries and innovations in the classroom, in the research labs, and in our healthcare system – we are also expected to demonstrate new ideas and innovations in the way that we conduct our own business.
This year we will finalize our updated campus master plan to improve UIC facilities and grounds over the next decade. You may recall that I shared a draft of the plan with you here last year. You may wonder, "Why hasn't it been finalized yet?" Well, we needed a little bit of extended help to make it perfect and guess what happened? Three dreaded words that always cost time and money. State procurement process. It will take some time….
Back to the things that matter. You have heard me saying before that our capital infrastructure must and will reflect the quality and impact of this institution in order for us to achieve our educational, research and engagement goals. Our facilities should help us to attract the best faculty and staff, while also providing the best experience for our students. They deserve it.
So while we are waiting for the state procurement process to take its course so we can get to the final plan, we are also escaping forward. In the past five months we have broken ground on two major projects that will enable our campus to meet our commitment to access and excellence.
In November, we broke ground on a new Engineering Innovation Building – the first new academic building on the east campus since 1991. This is before the vast majority of our students were even born. While demand for an engineering education is up everywhere, UIC's College of Engineering has seen its demands skyrocketing, outpacing national growth – and its bursting at the seams with approximately 5,000 students.
In December, we also celebrated another groundbreaking for a $100 million academic and residential complex. This complex is part of a public-private partnership with American Campus Communities, the nation's largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing communities.
This new facility will not only revitalize campus housing, adding 550 new beds, but will also provide more than 50,000 much-needed square feet of academic space. By creating an innovative public-private partnership- and I'm really thankful to the people who made this happen- we are able to address our capital infrastructure needs in the current fiscal environment. We are not putting a dollar down for any this; it's the developer who is taking this step.
This is a less expensive, and much faster process than our traditional state process. Delivery for the complex is 18 months. Delivery time for a project that we run through the regular channels, is close to three years. And I know and you know because you are watching it, that they will complete the project in 18 months. We shut down the parking lot on December 22 and they started digging on December 23rd. Now look how far they've come in just over three months! And you know what's amazing? I only received a couple of complaints about closing a 200 car parking lot; I was ready for much more! This is how thirsty our community is for new facilities.
These two facilities are just the beginning. The final master plan that we will unveil later this year for both the west and east sides of the campus will do much more to support and enable the achievement of our strategic priorities. It is a plan that looks into the future of the university with the same spirit of innovation that we have shown across our campus. It will not only change UIC, but it will also affect the entire West Loop.
All of the challenges, all of the changes and progress we have made in the past three years are being noticed by the media and by our peers. We are more visible locally and nationally and our name recognition becomes stronger every day, especially among Chicagoans. You see a number of stories, positive stories for a change, that we had in the media.
The launch of our new website targeted at potential students, our advertising campaigns, and our consistent presence in the news with positive stories have all contributed to name recognition and awareness. But we continue to need your help to spread the word about UIC and the success of the University. You, all of you in this room today collectively are the best ambassadors for UIC – help us tell our story, help us tell your story.
In October, we launched "IGNITE: The Campaign for UIC," our five-year fundraising effort to raise $750 million dollars to advance our priorities. The campaign brings all of our alumni, friends, and donors together to raise the funds needed to achieve our ambitious plans for the future. The campaign will provide even more students with access to a UIC education through scholarships; it will support new endowed faculty positions (chairs, professorships and deanships), allowing UIC to retain and attract the very best faculty in their fields; it will equip our scholars with the latest technologies for teaching and research; it will directly support research projects and generate new knowledge; it will bring new solutions to the communities that we serve; and it will transform the physical infrastructure of the university.
We have already made significant progress – raising during the quiet phase, more than $330 million towards our $750 million goal and our deans are working hard to achieve each college's individual goal. Several early campaign gifts have given us the momentum we need and the indication that there is a deep and loyal support from our alumni, friends, grateful patients, partners, foundations and corporations. Two transformative gifts totaling $10 million were committed within the last year:
A $5 million gift from UIC Nursing alumna Christine Schwartz allows for expansion of an existing simulation laboratory that bears her name at the College of Nursing; and another $5 million gift from Herbert and Carol Retzky establishes the first named deanship on the campus at the College of Pharmacy.
With the launch of the IGNITE Campaign, we also launched our very own UIC Alumni Association and we hired Caryn Schultz Korman as the new executive director. We want and we need our alumni to find meaningful ways to engage with our campus, our students and our faculty, and to support UIC with their time, energy, passion and yes, their resources as well.
Caryn is conducting an alumni survey to better understand how our alumni would like to engage with us, what is at the heart of their connection with UIC, and how we can best communicate with them. The survey will be open for the entire month of April and actually, we have a small gift that we will give every alumnus that participates two tickets to a basketball game for next season, either men's or women's – compliments of Athletics!
Speaking of athletics, we have one of our very own former basketball players with us today, Bill Merchantz. I warned him that we would put this picture up there! Bill has agreed to be the founding chair of the UIC Alumni Association. He is a 1979 graduate of the UIC College of Business, he was UIC's first athletics scholarship recipient, and he has bled for UIC, he has been a tireless cheerleader for our alumni and for our institution for many years. So Bill- I don't know where are you? You are somewhere here- Thank you, Bill, thank you for your dedication to our university. You look a little bit better in this picture, by the way.
Through the work of Caryn, Bill, and many others, we hope to leverage the strength of our 250,000 alumni -170,000 of them in Chicago- to help advance our university. Collectively, all of our alumni are living proof that Mayor Daley's vision has been realized and 50 some years later Chicago is home to the best urban-serving public research university in the country.
To continue on our path of growth and innovative thinking, we have welcomed several new campus leaders:
In alphabetical order, John Coronado, who starts his job next week, as he was appointed vice chancellor for administrative services, and I'm glad to see Mark Donovan with us today, his predecessor; Dr. Wayne Giles became the dean of the School of Public Health last fall; you already met Theresa Mintle, who was appointed interim vice chancellor for public and governmental affairs; Amalia Pallares was appointed associate chancellor and vice provost for diversity earlier this spring; Glen Schumock became the dean of the UIC College of Pharmacy earlier this year; and Michael Zenn, is the new chief executive officer of the Hospital since February or March, I don't remember the exact date. They're all with us, it's great to have you as part of the university.
We also welcomed Garrett Klassy as UIC's director of athletics, and Garrett is off to a running start with our Athletic teams. In fact, today he had a press conference where we announced the hiring of Tasha Pointer as our new women's head basketball coach. That's a fantastic hire [sic].
Last year, UIC sent three teams to NCAA Tournaments. Both the softball and baseball programs won Horizon League regular season and tournament championships, and competed in an NCAA Regional. And the men's soccer team won its second consecutive conference tournament, and with it, a second trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Flames have also sent a handful of individual competitors to NCAA Championships over the past year, in women's gymnastics, in men's track and field team and in diving, and as I always joke and I keep doing it because I like it; we are undefeated in football for a long period of time!
What is important is that in addition to success on the field, our student athletes also excel off the field. Last semester, a total of 218 Flames had a GPA of at least 3.0 and 47 of them achieved a perfect 4.0. And just one example of how our students find the time to also give back to the community is Karissa Frazier, an exemplary student-athlete in all of her endeavors, both on and off the field. A redshirt junior on the softball team, Karissa is a Campus Ambassador for Gift of Life Marrow Registry.
Since becoming a Campus Ambassador in September of 2016, Karissa has swabbed and registered well over 1,000 individuals and facilitated over 50 drives in just over 18 months with the organization. Karissa gave herself a goal last season of swabbing every softball team in the Horizon League, and she did it. Before you went to the plate you had to go and see Karissa! This year, she's working toward swabbing all 20 of UIC's athletic teams and she will do it, and she is also organizing a plan to swab both athletes and fans when UIC hosts the 2018 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships next month. Her efforts have been nationally recognized; she was named a semifinalist for the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, and was presented with the Roland Hemond Award by the Chicago White Sox last year.
Changing the subject a little bit, I am pleased to report that we continue to make progress in our discussions to have the John Marshall School of Law become part of our university and I'm delighted and to welcome here today, Dean Darby Dickerson from Marshall.
For 50 years we have had a gap in our academic canvas that affects our ability to fulfill our mission. We have a very strong program in the Humanities but we are missing the Professional School of the Humanities; the Law School.
In our College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, we are educating the future leaders in public administration with one of the best programs in the country and we need to introduce them to the legal component of their future work.
In our College of Engineering, we are preparing leaders in technology and we need to educate them on the intellectual property issues that they will face.
In the School of Public Health, we are graduating the next policy leaders in this field, and we need to teach them how to write the law.
And finally, in our research and community engagement, faculty from various disciplines address educational, health care, economic and criminal justice inequities in our neighborhoods. This is one of our core strengths of our research in the social sciences – and we need the law faculty to supplement and enrich all of their efforts.
It's about time that we fill this void in our university and it's about time that we open our doors to those who teach the law and those who study the law. There is a natural alignment that exists between UICs public mission and Marshall's commitment to access and opportunity and there is a good fit between the two institutions.
These are the reasons we are going through this process and these are the benefits for UIC, for Marshall, for Chicago and for the state of Illinois.
Another significant benefit to the people of Chicago and the state of Illinois is our healthcare system. With a 495-bed tertiary care hospital, 22 outpatient clinics, and 11 federally qualified health centers, we provide comprehensive care to the people who need it most in our underserved and underinsured communities. But also we provide the highest level of specialty care for everyone.
In fact, we have the first Robotic Surgery Center of Excellence in the United States and our doctors have pioneered more than 30 robotic surgical procedures; these are much less invasive procedures, with smaller incisions, and shorter recovery times.
We are second in the city in kidney and liver transplants, and we are one of the very few places in the world qualified to implant an artificial retinal device in individuals who suffer blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa. The media, in their stories, have called this the "bionic eye". Somebody actually asked me, "Isn't this like the goggles that Jody wore in Star Trek: Next Generation?" And I said "Not only it's like it, it's exactly what he wore."
The spirit of innovation characterizes every aspect of our healthcare operation. Last year I talked about how our hospital leadership launched a pilot program called Better Health Through Housing, to provide housing and intensive case management for some of the chronically ill, homeless emergency department patients. The pilot project was a great success, and the hospital recently decided to extend it.
More importantly, several other hospitals in Chicago are starting similar housing programs. There is a very simple reason for doing so. We have demonstrated that this program reduces the number of almost daily emergency room visits by a very small number of individuals that people call the "super users" of the emergency room, and not only improves their health but also saves a lot of money in the operation of the hospital. Our hospital puts innovation into practice and leads the way.
Our health sciences colleges and UI Health serve the surrounding communities in many ways. From the Give Kids a Smile Day hosted by our college of Dentistry that promotes oral health education and provides free preventative exams to underserved communities, to the numerous programs initiated by the Mile Square Health Clinics located throughout Chicago, we are on the whole spectrum of healthcare services in the area, where actually in the areas services are needed the most. And just last week we celebrated the opening of yet another new Mile Square clinic in the South Shore neighborhood.
Last year we also made significant progress towards achieving a long-standing institutional goal of earning NCI designation for our Cancer Center. This is a goal strongly reaffirmed by our vice chancellor of health affairs, Dr. Bob Barish, and fully endorsed by the entire leadership team. Our Cancer Center, led by Dr. Rob Winn, is already recognized nationally as a hub of academic excellence, with over 100 faculty member affiliates from various Departments, across the university, attracting over $35 million in NIH awards in the areas of basic, translational and population health sciences. These faculty members generate new scientific knowledge informed by, inclusive of, and in the service of our communities.
There are over 4,000 cancer centers in the United States. When our Cancer Center receives NCI designation, it will be one of only 72 cancer centers in the country carrying this distinction and only the third NCI-designated cancer center at a minority serving institution like UIC. It is also important to note that such a designation provides access to significant amounts of funds available only to NCI-designated Centers. These are the reasons why this designation is so important to the entire institution and I'm very happy to report that based on the progress we have made and an external review that was conducted, we are heading to Washington in a couple of weeks to meet with the NCI officials and determine a jointly-agreed timeline for submission of our application.
For all of the reasons I have mentioned today, I have enormous pride in our institution, I am excited about the future, and I have the greatest respect for all of you who contribute to our mission and success on a daily basis.
We are at a critical and important moment in the history of our university. As the landscape of higher education is changing rapidly across the country, and as the debate about the value of public higher education's contributions to society continues, many of our peer institutions are circling the wagons. We are in an enviable position of having developed strong momentum as we are charging forward under the flag of innovation. And by doing so, we have a unique opportunity to be recognized as the leaders in the country in public higher education for the 21st century. Let's maintain the momentum next year, let's stay laser-focused on the mission and let's continue to innovate.
Thank you for your support, it's an honor and a privilege to be the Chancellor of the University of Illinois for Chicago.
THERESA MINTLE: Thank you Chancellor, thank you for your leadership. You tell the UIC story better than anybody else can. I'd like to thank the chancellor's office staff, the PGA staff, and the team here at the Forum for all the hard work to make this program a success. And I'd like to thank each and every one of you for being here with us today. We have a lot to celebrate at UIC and I hope that you leave here today feeling very proud of this institution and as ambassadors as the chancellor said, to spread the word about all the great things happening here. So as we conclude our program let's give a big, UIC-style round of applause for Sparky D. Dragon and the members of the UIC Pep Band. Remember, go UIC and go Flames!