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Friday, May 16, 2014

Town Hall Meeting on May 15

Chancellor Black Remarks
Town Hall Meeting
May 15, 2014
9-10 a.m.
Kirby Ballroom

Good morning and thank you for coming to today's Town Hall meeting. This is perhaps our busiest time of year, but I thought it was important that we gather before the end of the semester to celebrate our accomplishments and to review the progress we have made in solving UMD's budget challenges. It has been a stressful academic year, but it has also been a year of great achievements. Several other colleges and universities in our area are beginning to struggle with similar challenges and institutions across the country have been dealing with budget issues for some time which are much more severe than the ones we face.

You are all valued members of the UMD community and have an incredible impact on the lives of our students. There will always be internal struggles, challenges and disappointments. But there is also great joy in the impact we have on our students and there can be great joy in our daily work, especially if we can get beyond the hard feelings and lack of trust that comes from a lack of understanding and from a fear of the unknown. I continue to be dedicated to improved communication and collaboration. This is why I asked you to join me today in celebrating our accomplishments as we plan for the next steps in addressing our budget challenges.
I'm wondering how many of you saw the letter to the editor in the Duluth News Tribune on May 7 from Richard Beeson, who is chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. For those of you who missed it, Chair Beeson wrote this editorial after he, five other Regents, members of the Regents staff, and President Kaler's Chief of Staff visited UMD. I won't read the entire letter to you, but I will highlight a few points.
• He referenced how impressed he was with the academic and athletic achievements of our student athletes. Chair Beeson and our other guests attended the annual the Dinner With Champions, a partnership between UMD and the Duluth business community. He said, "These were Bulldogs who represent themselves and their school well, both in competition and as students. As importantly, they are dedicated to public service in the Duluth community. . ."
• He also applauded the firsthand look at some of the incredible work and important research being done on a daily basis across campus. . . and at the Natural Resources Research Institute. He said, "It's clear UMD continues to have a positive impact regionally and throughout our state." And while he was here, we made clear that our research also has a national and international impact.
• He said the Regents came away with a better understanding of the preparations we have made to address the dynamic challenges of higher education budgeting. He said that the Regents have the highest level of confidence the solutions moving forward will maintain UMD's critical value to the University of Minnesota system and the entire state.
• Chair Beeson's letter ended with this statement: "UMD's success on all fronts is paramount, and we will continue to ensure the necessary resources are available to advance the distinct mission of the campus and establish a strong foundation for the future."

I was so proud to read such a positive, thoughtful and upbeat letter from Regent Beeson, who as chair of the board literally oversees the entire University of Minnesota system.

The letter reminded me that while it is human nature to focus on the negative, we must remember to celebrate all of the positive work that you do each day for the success of our students. I am an optimist, but also a realist by necessity. For me, the UMD glass is WAY over half full.

Here are just a few examples from across campus of our successes during the 2013 - 2014 academic year:
• Celebrated an academic milestone that we'll be talking about for years to come: Brian Kobilka returned to UMD last fall to lecture and to be honored for receiving the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
• Alec Habig, UMD professor of physics, along with the other scientists working on the world's longest-distance neutrino experiment, announced in February that they have seen their first neutrinos.
• The UMD Theatre production, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, was one of only five productions selected to compete in the six-state Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival regional competition in Lincoln, Nebraska.
• A year of great artistic and academic success in the School of Fine Arts with the largest group of students honored for being on the Dean's list six or more semesters in their academic careers.
• We hosted the Sieur Du Luht Creativity Conference, a series of interdisciplinary lectures and discussions involving faculty, staff, students, community members and invited guests.
• The College of Liberal Arts launched the Cultural Entrepreneurship degree and hosted a lecture series organized by Dr. Scott Vollum on the topic of the death penalty in America. This series brought together students, faculty and members of the Duluth community and culminated in this year's Overman Lecture.
• Students in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics manage the Bulldog Fund, which is at the heart of our Financial Markets program. This year, the Bulldog Fund exceeded $1 million for the first time in its history.
• The Center for Economic Development and Northeast regional office of the Minnesota Small Business Development Center Network at UMD was named the Minnesota SBDC Center of Excellence of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
• In the College of Education and Human Service Professions, Psychology professor Aydin Durgunoglu received the system wide 2013 Award for Global Engagement for her work on adult literacy in Turkey.
• The College also began a new bachelor program in Social Work and a new master program in Psychological Sciences.
• We survived a pretty brutal winter! Facilities Management crews successfully supported campus operations by responding to 3 water main breaks, 12 frozen heating coils, 2 power outages, and the third most snowfall on record. Not to mention that we had more snow days and late starts than anyone can remember.
• We continued to take our sustainability efforts to the next level. We now have a charging station for electric vehicles, 36 water bottle filling stations, and a wind turbine at the Farm; supporting energy conservation by upgrading boiler controls, installing LED lights throughout campus, and replacing building control systems; and building a pedestrian/bike path to Woodland Avenue to better connect the campus and community.
• Incorporated local produce from the UMD Farm and local farms in Dining Services.
• The Dining Center went Trayless last summer, which led to waste being down by 4.5 percent as of February and water consumption down by 10 percent. That translates into more than $54,000 in savings.
• Launched Champ's Cupboard food shelf for students, and the UMD community has donated over 2,000 items since it began.
• UMD became an anchor tenant for a regional fiber optic hub established by the Northeast Service Cooperative. We now have five active learning classrooms with three more planned to be constructed this summer.
• Broadened campus involvement in creating an open, transparent environment through the implementation of the new Shared Governance process.
• Completed the campus master plan.
• Received ranking as one of the top 25 GLBT-friendly colleges in the country.
• In Alumni Relations, made contacts at events across the country and reached more than 30,000 alumni with a monthly electronic newsletter and through enhanced social media contact.
• So far, the Development Office has raised $6.7 million in new gifts and commitments for this fiscal year, with most of the gifts designated to specific departments, programs or scholarships. There is at least one very large gift that should be finalized before the end of the fiscal year. We will announce it as soon as the gift is official.
• By the end of June, 72 faculty and staff will have participated in the Intercultural Leadership Development training.
• The Swenson College of Science and Engineering Unit Change Team developed a free online course Math Prep to help prepare under represented students entering the STEM fields.
• UMD hosted the system wide Annual Summit on Equity, Diversity and Multiculturalism in February.
• Celebrated football Coach Curt Weise being named as the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year for Division II, with $50,000 distributed to local charities and to the Alumni Relations office.
• We had a banner year in athletic achievements, and about 400 student athletes achieved an average GPA of 3.1 or higher. We had three student athletes receive the Myles Brand award for a GPA of 3.75 or higher, and the women's basketball team won the Chancellor Cup for their combined GPA of 3.55.
• Revamped the UMD homepage and began navigating the campus website with the new UMD mobile app.
• The Learning Commons opened in the library, and the Supportive Services Program Tutoring Center was recognized in March as the outstanding program of the year at the national conference of the Association for the Tutoring Profession.
• Celebrated many successes at events throughout the year, from the Multicultural awards, to the faculty, staff and student awards to the Athletic Hall of Fame and the Academy of Science and Engineering in the Swenson College.
• Recognized the 10th anniversary of the College of Pharmacy Program at UMD.
• Learned that UMD has one of the best lifetime returns on investment, with AffordableCollegesOnline finding that UMD grads are among the most likely to have the largest earnings potential when compared to those who do not have college degree, and that UMD graduates earn more on average than graduates from many other peer schools.
• A UMD education is about much more than earning money. We prepare our students for life-long careers and fulfilling lives. At the same time, it's good to see data that attests to the economic value of a UMD education. We are more expensive than our primary competitors, and we need to narrow that gap. But the value of an UMD education in all respects is well worth the cost.
• This academic year UMD released its first ever completely online Bridge magazine. It resulted in 1) more than three times the amount of content including enhanced multimedia features, 2) a distribution to thousands more people than the previous printed issue, and 3) saved more than $20,000 in printing and postage costs.

Meanwhile, as we all know, we worked hard on solving budget challenges at UMD. Pending final approval from the Board of Regents, we are optimistic that UMD will be in a much improved financial position next fiscal year. As a result of the program prioritization initiatives, voluntary layoffs, new revenue generation, and a larger allocation of state funds from the University of Minnesota system, our structural and recurring deficit will hopefully be reduced to approximately $5.5 million, and our non-recurring $3.9 million deficit for fiscal year 2014 will be eliminated.

In very simple terms, President Eric Kaler's proposed allocation of recurring operations and maintenance funds for UMD will increase over $4.1 million, or 13.2 percent over fiscal year 2014. Of that amount, almost $3 million is an expected increase as part of the biennial budget approved last year by the state Legislature and Governor Dayton that allows UMD to continue to freeze in-state undergraduate tuition. The remaining $1.2 million is a recurring budget increase for UMD from the University of Minnesota system. That means state funding will contribute 26 percent of UMD's O&M budget, an increase of 3 percent over last fiscal year. We have reversed the trend of declining state support for UMD, and we will see additional new revenue through the MnDrive research initiative and through new capital projects. (At present $1.5 for CSAM design and $42.5 University-wide HEAPR)

I want to thank the entire campus community for coming together to find creative ways to operate more efficiently. This has not been easy, and we still have hard work ahead. We continue to work on implementing the suggestions from the Program Prioritization process and look for additional revenue sources. We will continue to work closely with the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee to determine how we will solve the remaining structural budget, and we will set a goal of resolving this issue over the next three years.

As you can see from my list of accomplishments, we are doing amazing things at UMD and are transforming this institution to be a premiere comprehensive university for the 21st Century. Now that the budget challenge is at a more manageable lever, we need to turn our focus to what is on the other side of solving these financial challenges. We need to further clarify UMD's distinctive mission and vision and find the strategic investments that will help us reach our goals. As you can see, we have the full support of President Kaler, his administrative team, and the Board of Regents.

Enrollment projections for this fall are strong, and for the second year in a row we will see a significant increase in the numbers of new students coming to UMD. I hope that you will join me in sharing with prospective students the good news about UMD and encourage them to join our community.

Thank you again for all the amazing work you do and have a wonderful summer!