2010 State of the University
2010 Presidential Speeches and Presentations
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010
Ragan Theater, Sorensen Student Center
The annual State of the University address is designed to communicate key issues that will impact the University and higher education. This year, topics addressed included updates from the current Legislative session, a report on budget and University highlights from the 2009 calendar year
"An Institution Forging Ahead"
Matthew S. Holland
Utah Valley University
As always, it is truly an honor to speak to you. I will also confess that doing so remains a bit intimidating. Such a feeling makes me think of one of my favorite, if less-often quoted, Yogi Berra moments. When Yogi was at the height of his fame as an All-Star catcher for the Yankees during the 1950's, he still got very nervous speaking at large, public gatherings, even though he did it all the time. While he typically masked his nerves pretty well, sometimes those nerves got the best of him. One such moment came during an evening when he was the keynote speaker for a grand affair involving most of the movers and shakers of New York City. Just before the event started, the mayor's wife walked by him and commented on how cool he looked. Yogi nervously replied, "Well, you don't look so hot yourself."
I thought I might begin this morning by offering a few, general observations, now that I have had a little time to get established and find my way around the place. In appropriate academic style, I will provide these observations according to a sophisticated taxonomy created by Professor David Letterman as found in his collected works published by Worldwide Pants.
Yes, here we go with my Top 10 Presidential Observations:
10. More so than any other institution I know, there are a lot of guys around named Val.
9. It is technologically possible for an email box to consistently receive more than 200 emails a day.
8. One Stop and the men's room are NOT the same thing.
7. UVU has more acronyms than the army. ("Hey Kyle! Let's go to the SDAC and talk PBA after I've finished meeting with the SBDC in SC 213.")
6. The total number of calories I've consumed in UVU desserts is a figure roughly equal to the national debt.
5. Those who claim Linda Makin is a genius are seriously mistaken. She's much smarter than that.
4. Cory does not laugh when you ask him, "What's a duck worth these days?"
3. There is a reason, and a good one, why some, and only some, of Chuck Allison's fingernails are longer than Liz Hitch's.
OK, on a more serious note:
2. One thing I have noticed and absolutely love about this place is that this campus is abundantly populated with smart and generous personnel who give so much more than is typically asked, especially when it appears it will make a difference in the lives and development of our students.
1. I have also noticed that no matter what seems to hit this university, say, for instance, massive budget cuts in the face of record levels of enrollment, it remains an institution undaunted, an institution forging ahead, getting better at what it does every single day.
I truly stand in awe as I look back and see what has happened just during the brief time I have been here, with most of the credit for these accomplishments due to other people. Highlights here include the following.
The new Losee Center for Student Success opened its doors to provide much needed space to the Student Affairs Division. This state-of-the-art facility welcomes students to a wide range of student support opportunities in very modern and comfortable surroundings. Personalized, seamless, and intentional advising is moving forward in this structure to ensure that students, from acceptance to career placement, have every opportunity to realize their educational objectives.
Budget adjustments last year required the restructuring of the Wasatch Campus. At that time we made promises that essential services would not be cut and that all appropriate academic offerings would be maintained. I am happy to report to our important constituents in Wasatch and Summit counties that our promises have been kept and enrollments have actually increased slightly. We have also arranged for food services to be available at the campus site. Special thanks to those dedicated employees who currently wear many hats in meeting the needs of our students.
Over a brief span, and in the midst of one of the most challenging economic times in recent memory, we raised approximately $1 million in donations to secure an All-Steinway designation for our music department. Adding the Steinway name, and more importantly adding many of their finest pianos, to our university has instantly enhanced the quality and reputation of our music programs and made recruiting top notch faculty and students an easier task.
You may have seen the marketing campaign that has helped generate excitement about our third master's degree. This fall we will welcome 40 students to the new MBA program, which I am confident will quickly become a signature program for our institution.
This April, we will award our first master's degrees in education. In producing 15 highly trained teachers and leaders for our public schools in this first graduating cohort, Dean Briant Farnsworth and his outstanding faculty in the School of Education have set the bar high for all subsequent graduate programs at UVU.
Our athletic program has enjoyed remarkable success in its first official year of NCAA Division I competition and membership in the Great West Conference. We have already won several conference championships in track and soccer and will likely win more in other sports before the end of the year. Just last weekend, the wrestling team recently defeated eighth-ranked Boise State last and gave stiff competition to top-ranked Iowa. And if you missed Ronnie Price's induction into the UVU Athletic Hall of Fame, you missed a great example of all that is good and right in intercollegiate athletics. Ronnie is a tremendous person and a wonderful ambassador for UVU.
I have also been impressed and gratified by how quickly we have been able to take a large load of material concerning our mission, vision and values, and integrate that rich but somewhat unwieldy substance into a more simplified set of core themes and administrative imperatives. After some very healthy, campus-wide dialogue and given-and-take, a fairly broad consensus has emerged concerning our efforts to be, as an institution, “serious” in our quest for academic and professional excellence, “inclusive” in the way we reach out to students, staff, and faculty, and “engaged” in hands-on-learning as well as in the issues, problems and opportunities of our local, national and global communities. What I find most exhilarating about this is that these are not themes we just talk about but themes that are daily shaping the activities and direction of the campus.
At this point I would like to speak directly to a couple of organizational moves I am making in order to foster even great integrity to our themes and imperatives. As I have indicated, central to our institutional mission and aim is a commitment to engaged learning and community engagement. In its first two years of operation and four rounds of grant funding, the Center for Engaged Learning has facilitated many extraordinarily successful projects that have involved our students, faculty and staff in community- based learning. When the Center was first established by President Sederburg, he located it in the Office of the President in order to signal the importance of community engagement for Utah's newest university. Under Jack Christianson's leadership, and with some very helpful assistance from Vince Fordiani in the last six months, the Center's partnerships and granting functions have matured nicely and their profile is established. At the same time, the foundation of community engaged learning in our academic units has grown and the need for better coordination of the Center's activities with departments and colleges is even more apparent than it was at the Center's inception. Thus, it makes sense now for the grants operation of the Center, as supported by Vince Fordiani, to be fully integrated into Academic Affairs. I have asked Vice President Hitch to consider the best organizational fit for the grants program within Academic Affairs and to begin the Fall 2010 semester with that component of the Center reporting appropriately within her division. During the interim phase, Vince will continue to run the grant process out of the executive division, reporting to my office and acting in counsel with the grant approval committee. I would note here that as we make this move, we will ensure that however the particular arrangements develop in Academic Affairs, the grant process will remain committed to involving staff and the community.
Of course, this move invites the question of what happens to Jack Christianson's position? As the CEL grant process matured, Jack was increasingly spending his time at building new, long term, and robust community partnerships that would provide a pipeline of engaged learning opportunities for the institution. This remains a critical task, and the personnel needs required to fulfill it dovetail very nicely with another move we must make.
As I explained in the integration sessions I conducted last fall, securing additional resources for the institution is one of three critical, administrative imperatives. While our main supply of financial resources will continue to come from tuition and tax funds, it is absolutely critical that we become more focused, coordinated, and sophisticated in our private fundraising efforts. Consequently, I will use Jack's line to establish a new vice presidency focused exclusively on development and alumni—the two, key organizational pillars of any effective fundraising school. Within the next couple of days, we will open a 45 day, national and local search for candidates. I am pleased that Dean Bruce Christensen—a man with years of not-for-profit, national fundraising experience under his belt from the days when he headed up PBS—will chair this search.
The remaining components of the current Advancement portfolio, namely, Marketing, International Diplomacy, and Special Events, will remain with Val Hale, who will become Vice President of University Relations. In addition to these existing assignments, Val will pick up Jack's mandate to go out and establish solid, new community partnerships conducive to appropriate engaged learning projects. He will also pick up many of the duties Jack assumed as Special Assistant to the President—namely, helping with presidential level hosting, communications, and community interactions. To those concerned about adding another Vice President at a time of budget reductions, I hear you but note the following. First, I am not adding any new line to the executive division. Rather, I am simply rearranging existing lines and resources, and will do so in a way that does not require an additional PBA request even for additional administrative support. In fact, the sum of these moves is that one of the reporting lines in my office—that held by Vince Fordiani—now moves from the Executive division to Academic Affairs. But even if this were not the case, I am convinced this move is the right one to make. Precisely because resources are scarce, we must energetically invest in those efforts best designed to secure us more resources. A focused and first rate fundraising team will do just that.
While we are on the subject of securing resources, let me give you an update on where things stand with respect to recent and anticipated legislative action. As university leadership predicted, last year's 17 percent reduction in state tax fund revenues was not temporary. The actions implemented last Spring (including reductions indentified by divisions and the central administration, 2nd tier tuition increase, and a voluntary separation incentive program) fully responded to that 17 percent reduction and maintained the structural soundness of UVU's operating budget. To soften the blow of this cut, the 2009 Legislature appropriated over $5 million of one-time funds to UVU for 2009-10. Unfortunately, as a result of continued decline in state tax fund revenues, the Governor needed to order, at the end of last year, a one-time reduction of just over $2,000,000. As communicated to campus last month, UVU's response to this one-time cut includes:
A. Implementing hiring restrictions
B. Using prior year central carryforward funds
C. Allocating tuition revenue from Spring 2010 enrollment growth
D. Implementing a temporary employer medical premium reduction
We do appreciate that the Governor recommended these one-time cuts be restored in 2010-11 and we are hopeful that legislature will support that recommendation.
New tax fund revenue projections are expected on Tuesday, February 16, which will influence the direction of the final weeks of the legislative session. What we know today is that the legislature has adopted a very cautious approach to the budget. In fact, this past week, the legislature passed a base operating budget bill for 2010-11 which included an additional 2 percent tax fund reduction for higher education. That reduction equates to just over $1,000,000 for UVU. Should that reduction stand at the conclusion of the legislative session, higher education institutions will have realized a 19 percent on-going reduction to tax fund revenues since July 1, 2008. Beyond that, the Executive Appropriations Committee ordered each legislative appropriations committee to identify reductions equivalent to 5 percent (meaning 3 percent beyond the bill that has passed.) As mentioned earlier, the Governor's budget recommended no additional cuts to higher education and the legislature's Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will recommend to the Executive Appropriations Committee next week that higher education receive no additional cuts. We remain hopeful that the most recent 2 percent reduction will be restored, we also appreciate that the Higher Ed. Appropriations subcommittee is recommending that institutions be allowed flexibility in responding to any cuts. Should the current, or additional, base cuts occur, and we retain flexibility in making decisions, we will consider additional minimal expenditure reductions, use of a 2nd tier tuition increase, and/or use of tuition revenue from enrollment growth to balance the operating budget. With what we are currently anticipating, we are predicting no further programmatic or personnel cuts.
In fact there is some good news in all of this. While tax fund revenue remains uncertain, UVU is realizing positive growth in tuition revenue due to our increased enrollments. These growth tuition dollars combined with additional tuition revenue planned from a 2nd tier tuition increase for 2010-11 will allow the institution to allocate resources to support enrollment growth and fund some initiatives (both one-time and base) that support our mission and core themes. I and the Cabinet, in consultation with UVU's leadership team, will be identifying initiatives presented during the PBA conversations for funding. Please join me on April 14 for Lunch with the President where the final outcomes of the legislative session and funding allocations will be presented.
The other issue of keen interest, with respect to securing resources, is the status of the science building. I continue to expend considerable effort on this project, convinced it is our single greatest need at the moment. For a reminder of why, we will now watch a short presentation I had prepared to share with legislators and potential donors. SHOW VIDEO
Despite the powerful arguments in our favor, just over a month ago key figures in both the legislative and executive branches indicated that we had little to no chance of getting this building funded during this year's legislative session. However, today there are some signs of life for this project. Along with Val Peterson, I have had numerous meetings with the Governor, members of the legislative leadership team in both the House and the Senate, and the chairs of the capital facilities appropriations committee. Along with Val Hale, I have made the rounds to various news outlets, including KSL which ran a prominent editorial last week calling upon legislators to fund our Science Building. We have also been hard at work with trustees, foundation members, and existing and potential donors to raise some private funds to help lower the costs associated with this building, which the legislature always appreciates. I am proud that our student leaders have also gotten involved with this project. Altogether, we have raised over 1 million dollars in donated monies or hard pledges toward the science building and appear to be close to having that figure doubled. This is no mean accomplishment in our current economic climate, and a real tribute the generosity of our schools great benefactors and the power of teamwork that exists on this campus.
Currently, we are hopeful that our science building will be one of four projects which the capital facilities committee will be recommending the legislature should fund this year. Things look promising at least for that recommendation, which we hope to hear about soon, perhaps even by the end of this speech. That said, we still have a long three and a half weeks ahead of us before the legislature closes on March 11 and final decisions are made. In order to fund those four projects, the legislature will have to bond and do so with extremely limited funds to pay back the debt service on that bond. The hurdles here are multiple and remain high. But we will forge ahead every single day explaining that there is not a more critical capital facilities need anywhere in the system of the Utah Higher Education. I want to thank all of you that have taken the time to contact your legislators with your letters, phone calls, and e-mails. As long as these messages avoid incivility and whining, they have great, positive effect.
As I close, I would like to return to our core themes and raise two points. First, as Utah Valley University forges ahead into the future, it is confronted with a challenging dilemma. A genuine commitment to being a “serious” university would seem to require, inevitably, the introduction of some kind of enrollment standards, a gradual escalation of those standards, and greater focus on high-end educational programming and faculty scholarship. Increasingly, such moves will be essential for UVU to attract and retain exceptional students and outstanding teaching faculty so essential for providing the kind of rigorous and well rounded university education that more and more of the students in this region will need to compete and flourish in here in the 21st century. I say this recognizing that such a shift in institutional culture will be welcomed by a good number of you, but it will also likely evoke trepidation for many of you concerned about remaining “inclusive,” and adequately serving the large numbers of students at different levels of preparation who continually enroll at this institution. With the state currently headed in the wrong direction with respect to the percentage of students going on to get college degrees, UVU's historic role of providing meaningful, career-oriented education to a wide spectrum of citizens through open enrollment seems more critical than ever. The burgeoning population base and economic diversification of the region requires a renewed emphasis on creating ever more access for associate degrees, career and technical education, and non-credit job training programs. These are primary, even fundamental, educational alternatives that should be celebrated for the significant earning potential and quality of life enhancements they offer.
So, the dilemma facing us today—a dilemma made all the more acute by our record breaking enrollments—is this: How do we avoid having the university's "serious" trajectory completely overshadow its efforts to remain "inclusive," or visa-versa? As I see it, no easy answers to this question exist. However, I call upon the full university community to join with me in the days and months ahead in thinking about this dilemma, and to consider what steps could be taken in order to bring these sometimes competing forces into a greater degree of complementary alignment here at UVU. While I am under no illusions concerning the difficulty inherent in figuring out how to shore up both sides of this delicate educational equation, I am absolutely energized by the challenge. And, I also want to say here that my great optimism and energy for such a task resides significantly in you. As I look out in the audience—which I can't really do because of the blinding spotlight—but if I could look out into the audience, I know what I would see: a magnificent and unique collection of faculty and staff, so many of whom have voiced a great desire to see the university get better and better while continuing to serve as broad a population of students as possible. I simply cannot think of and certainly have never been to another university where such otherwise dueling sentiments rest so firmly together among so many. Given that fact, I believe we are well positioned to do something unique on this campus. That is, I believe we have a distinctive set of physical and human assets that leave us positioned to explore and creatively develop a model of higher education that could be looked to across the nation—an institution that figured out how to become a truly great university while still providing tremendous levels of access to populations of students who perhaps need the leg up of higher education the most. I relish the chance to see if we cannot go figure out how to do just that.
The final point I wish to make about our core themes, is that while I hear a lot of productive discussion about engaged, serious, inclusive, the fourth and central part of our integration model sometimes seems to get lost. Recall that at the heart of the integration model I rolled out last Fall, engaged, serious, inclusive, were all centered around one thing, student success. This is a critical point we should not lose track of rhetorically. On the other hand, I must say that even if we do not mention it as much, I believe our practices underscore our values here more than our words. Just this week I was told a story that underscores this point.
One of our fine UVU employees (police) and who is also a student in our Emergency Services Administration deployed with the Utah National Guard, 116th Security Forces Unit in March, 2007. Following four months of training, this fine man was deployed to Iraq. On March 15, 2008, he was on a humanitarian assignment... delivering food, school supplies, and other necessities to local villagers. Sometime during the mission the driver of his armored vehicle got stuck in the mud, over-corrected, and went into a four-foot tall concrete barricade. In what should have been his final mission following a year-long deployment, our student sustained a traumatic brain injury and was medically evacuated to Mosul (Iraq), Balad (Iraq), Ramstein (Germany), Landstuhl (Germany), and finally Fort Sam Houston. He arrived home in July 2008.
Despite partial paralysis on his left side, difficulty with speech, seizures, and PTSD, this student has spent the last two years finishing the remaining three courses for a BS in Emergency Services Administration. The last hurdle was using PHIL 1250 (Logical Thinking and Philosophical Writing) to fulfill the quantitative reasoning requirement of the degree. After discussing this issue with the Philosophy and Humanities Department, and meeting with Ed Martinelli (Director, Accessibility Services) a plan was in place. What Dennis Potter of the Philosophy and Humanities Department did for our student this past semester was not part of the plan. Dennis met with him privately for two hours each week and tutored him on a personal level. Thanks to this added, personal effort, and thanks to countless more hours offered by family, coworkers, UVU advisors, staff and faculty, this student has now met all requirements for graduation and plans on continuing a career in emergency services.
A student serving his country and the people of another. A faculty member reaching out, giving more than expected to a student focused on a field quite remote from his own. A teamwork of individuals determined to maintain institutional integrity to certain academic standards but finding a way to make it work for the one in an unusual set of circumstances. Engaged, inclusive, serious, student success. It is all right there. And, I know this is just one of countless stories I could share that captures the absolutely heroic efforts that you faculty, staff, and students engage in every day. And so, I end where I began. It is an honor, a true and distinctive honor, to work with such diligent, intelligent and good hearted individuals who give so much in the cause of something so grand and good: the shaping and lifting of these great students who grace our halls.
Thank you very much.