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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chancellor Black's Welcome Speech to Faculty/Staff 2014

Chancellor's Welcome
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
3 p.m., Marshall Performing Arts Center

Good afternoon and Welcome! I appreciate you being here today as the faculty, staff and administration of UMD gather together to begin another academic year, which will be my fifth academic year at UMD. While summer was a bit late in arriving, I hope you had some time off to relax and to refresh.

My summer was a little different from the norm. For those of you who don't know, I had my right knee replaced in May. It was at times a challenging recovery, but all is well, even though this experience forced me to practice patience and to depend on others more than I like. I had wonderful help from my family, and outstanding medical care here in Duluth. The variety and quality of medical care in this area is another reason I'm glad I live here. But I was particularly thankful for the assistance I received from my family.

My wife Connie put up with a lot from me, although I tried not to whine too much.
She saw me through surgery and stayed with me at home for the first two weeks.
Since Connie is in heavy demand as a lecturer and consultant focusing on Montessori training, teaching and community outreach, she had a number of commitments nationally and internationally this summer. Connie is also Director of Outreach Programs for the Montessori Center of Minnesota and project director for a grant to place quality Montessori schools in areas of poverty and other underserved places where children need quality early childhood education.
I was blessed to have my sister, Cindy, visit from Memphis and help take care of me for a week while Connie was gone. Cindy threatened to "get back at me" for the way I treated her in high school. As I was in my recliner with a swollen knee, I had images of Kathy Bates in the film Misery. But, Cindy was a great care giver when I needed it. Plus, my memory of how we treated each other in high school is different from hers.

I also had some good times this summer to spend with our grandkids in the Twin Cities, where we went to a Twins game and had a few excursions and with our grandkids in Boston, where we attended a game at Fenway and spent a day on a Massachusetts South Shore beach. My four-year-old grandson Max is fascinated that I have metal in my knee, especially when I set of metal detectors, and he likes to check out my scar. His older sister Sarah, who is eight, just says, "That's gross!"

This year, we continued what we started last year by holding this one event for faculty and staff in the spirit of building community while also being stewards of our limited financial resources. I hope that you will join us after my remarks for a reception in the lobby to help us greet each other and network, as we kick off the start of another academic year.

I would like to thank you for all that you have done to get ready for the start of the academic year. Working together, we make an incredible impact on the lives of our students. Tomorrow, members of the Chancellor's Welcome Team will be greeting the new students and their families as these new students move into the residence halls. Whether this is our first or 40th year on campus, we need to remember that it's the new freshman's first day at UMD. Please do what you can to welcome them, to challenge them, and to help them be successful.

It is also a new beginning for the faculty and staff who have joined the campus community this year. I would like to ask all the NEW faculty and staff members to please stand. We welcome you into the UMD community, and I would like to thank you in advance for joining your colleagues in providing an outstanding educational experience for our students.

It is important to also remind ourselves of the incredible impact we have on students' lives. Last week, Alumni Director Lisa Pratt and her staff hosted a reunion for members of the Class of 1951. That's right, the Class of 1951, which was the first class of students to graduate from UMD. Here's a short history lesson. We began as the Normal School at in 1895 and became Duluth State Teachers College in 1921. Since we became part of the University of Minnesota system in 1947, the students who were members of the Class of 1951 were the first group to graduate from UMD. Most of these alumni are retired educators, and they gather each year to celebrate their connections to UMD.
Many of you might have seen the story in the Duluth News Tribune this summer about Janet Petersen, a member of the UMD Alumni Association Board of Directors. Janet has just celebrated her 100th birthday, and is a proud member of the Class of 1936 of Duluth State Teachers College. Janet continues to be one of our strongest ambassadors. I keep reminding myself that if we do our jobs well as faculty, staff and administrators, the students we meet this week will remember their time at UMD for the rest of their lives. Our potential impact on these students is huge. Let's take full advantage of this opportunity and work together to provide them the deep and high quality education they deserve and we aspire to offer.

Overall this fall, we anticipate that total campus enrollment will remain around 11,000 total students. We are welcoming a new freshman class of about 2,200 students, which is up over 7% from last year and last year was up over 9% from the fall of 2012. I thank the staff in admissions and all faculty and staff across campus who assisted in our recruitment efforts. Your good work and our new recruiting and enrollment management strategies are making a difference. The academic profile of the new freshmen remains strong, with an average high school GPA of 3.45 and an average ACT composite score of 23.9. The new freshman cohort is representative of the increasing diversity we want here at UMD, with students of color comprising about 12.5 percent of the class, an increase of 4% since 2010.

Even though new freshman enrollment is up again this fall, both continuing undergraduate and new transfer student enrollment is down. We anticipate that overall undergraduate enrollment will be down between 2 to 3% this fall, primarily due to the large fall 2010 entering class graduating this past spring, our increase in graduation rates, and the small fall 2012 class progressing through.

As I shared with you last fall, we had a collaborative plan for dealing with our budget deficits, and I'm pleased to tell you now that our strategies are working. Much effort and some controversy characterized our work over the past 12 months to address the budget challenges at UMD. But we are in a much better place now, because of those efforts. As I shared during last May's Town Hall meeting, UMD is in a much improved financial position compared to last year. Since that Town Hall meeting, the Board of Regents has approved our budget for this fiscal year (FY 15) and President Kaler has shared with us his budget expectations.

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 has been cut in half since this time last year and reduced from $11.9 million to approximately $6 million. In addition, through the combined efforts of UMD working in partnership with President Kaler and his budget team, the non-recurring deficit of $8 million for fiscal year 2014 was eliminated.

The trend of declining state support for UMD and the entire University of Minnesota System has been reversed, and UMD will see additional new revenue through the MnDrive research initiative and through new capital projects. Although it's too early to know for sure, we are optimistic that our net tuition revenues will be higher than budgeted, primarily because of the larger new student enrollment.

I will review the details of our remaining budget challenges and opportunities next month with the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee. We still have some hard work to do in order to have a true structural budget for UMD that supports our academic priorities. We have also implemented a new budgeting process that puts more control and responsibility for managing budgets in units across campus and holds much less money centrally. Within our faculty, staff and administration we have the talent and time to solve the remaining budget challenges and to focus on the future and on achieving our strategic goals. Our external stakeholders in the legislature, the Governor's Office, and on the Twin Cities campus are important partners. We will continue to be assertive and collaborative with them as we continue to enhance support for UMD. Our alumni, donors and supporters throughout the U.S. are also critical in assisting us with the resources we need to reach our full potential.

Through the voluntary workforce reduction program, restructuring, cutting expenses, increasing revenues, and increased University of Minnesota support, we have addressed our budget challenges while continuing to maintain academic excellence, to be relevant, to be mission-driven, and to be fiscally responsible. To thrive in the future, we must continue to seek new populations of students, and continually re-evaluate how we provide our students with the premiere educational experiences they expect and deserve.

While we have faced financial challenges the last year, we need to remember to celebrate our successes. I am very optimistic about UMD's future. Compared to many higher institutions around the country, UMD is positioned to prosper and to thrive.

There has indeed been much good news to share over the past year, especially in the areas of academic excellence, advancing our stature in research and creative activities, and making a difference in our local, national and international communities. We all need to be proud for what we have accomplished. I'll not repeat all of the accomplishments I shared with you in May, but will highlight a few things here we need to be sure we celebrate:
• The new constitution and bylaws were approved in May and we began implementing our new shared governance process last fiscal year. I want to thank all of you who worked so hard the last year to weave this new governance structure into the fabric of the campus, and I look forward to beginning a new academic year with our new shared governance in place.
• The Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation recently awarded an $8.97 million grant to UMD to construct a new drilling platform for research in Antarctica. John Goodge, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, is the lead principal investigator. Congratulations to Dr. Goodge! The new drilling system will be able to penetrate the Antarctic ice sheets in order to take cores of the deepest ice, sample across the glacial bed, and continue coring into bedrock below. This type of technology has never been tried or deployed in either Greenland or Antarctica, but it will provide a critical first look at the interface between the major ice caps and their sub glacial geology.
• I just learned this morning that a literacy program in Turkey, which was founded by Psychology Professor Aydin Durgunoglu, has won the U.S. Library of Congress International Literacy Award. Congratulations to Dr. Durgunoglu!
• UMD's international reach continues expand in other ways. Students and faculty members from the Foreign Languages and Literature were invited, all expenses paid, to the University of Tomsk in Russia. CLA is also connecting to Ocean University in China to expand study abroad opportunities across the Pacific. International health policy expert Dr. Jeremy Youde was quoted in the Washington Post addressing the Ebola outbreak.
• A delegation of faculty from CEHSP and SFA went to Cuba in June to explore the potential for partnering with a sister institution and establishing community-based programs.
• In recognition of the legacy of strong faculty in the college and to continue that tradition, the Swenson College of Science and Engineering received a $1 million commitment for an endowed professorship in Mathematics and Statistics.
• SCSE launched a new 10-week intensive summer research program in Biology called BURST (Biology Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology) and celebrated 20 years of the Swenson Scholars and the Swenson Summer Research program in Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
• The Center for Economic Development was recently named the Minnesota SBDC Center of Excellence of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
• We have either developed recently or are developing a number of new degree programs that demonstrate the integration of disciplines and the integration of our curriculum and co-curriculum. Examples include the Bachelor of Tribal Government Administration and Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship.
• We are proud of the MMAD Lab (Motion + Media Across Disciplines). An interdisciplinary group of researchers in the Viz Lab has been awarded an Infrastructure Investment Initiative grant for research investment in the Viz Lab. This high definition video production and motion capture studio will foster faculty collaboration and research in biomechanics, ergonomics, animation, performing arts and computer generated virtual environments research. The Viz Lab and MMAD Lab will continue to evolve with faculty collaboration from theatre, digital arts, exercise science, mechanical engineering, and computer science.
• We are extremely proud that UMD was recently recognized again as one of the top 50 Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender-Friendly Colleges and Universities in the country. Last year they recognized the top 25 LGBT schools, and this year they expanded it to fifty. We remain among the leaders of top LGBT friendly campuses in the country who receive top ratings on the Campus Pride Index.
• Our work on issues of equity, diversity, and social justice continues in many other ways as well. The campus climate change teams at the unit and university-wide levels are doing great work. The Diversity Commission and the Campus Climate change teams invite the campus community to again share our stories with one another under the theme of Creating Inclusion: One Story at a Time. In the words of Parker Palmer, "The more you know about another person's story, the less possible it is to dislike, distrust or dismiss them." We need to build trust, or in some cases re-build trust among faculty, staff, and administration, and by sharing our diverse stories and perspectives we can build greater understanding, as well as trust.
• In September, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Multicultural Center and celebrate the many contributions our Multicultural Center continues to make on behalf of our students, faculty, and staff.
• As I was reading articles this summer about higher education, several of them dealt with the issues of sexual assault on college campuses. We have also made progress at UMD in addressing this issue, but much more needs to be done. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month last April, Lisa Erwin, Vice Chancellor for Student Life, and Tim Caskey, Director of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and UMD Title IX Coordinator, sent a communication to the campus community describing several initiatives at UMD and within the University of Minnesota. I encourage you to read it or re-read this article to understand many ways we are approaching this serious issue. I also want to recognize the work of the UMD Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Stalking and Dating Violence Task force, a group of dedicated faculty, staff, students and community members that I have charged with the mission "to lead campus change that strengthens victim-centered services, fosters an environment where reports are taken seriously and appropriate actions occur, expands campus-wide prevention education and training, and provides feedback to the administration about safety in campus facilities." I want to acknowledge the work of the UMD Women's Resource and Action Center, UMD Health Services, and the Sexual Violence Response Team, which is initiating a "Know Something, Do Something" campaign. These and other groups across campus are helping us make sure that sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence have no place at UMD, and when they do occur, we address the issues in an assertive and transparent manner. This fall, UMD will play an active role in the university-wide initiative on the prevention of sexual assault. Vice Chancellor Erwin and I, along with representatives of the other four campuses, are presenting on this topic to the Board of Regents in September.

• During the Kirby Lounge renovation, our focus was on giving maximum value to the student body. By tearing down staff offices, making better use of student organization space, and being more efficient with our Welcome Desk space, we were able to give back over 1,200 square feet of lounge space to the general student body without increasing our overall footprint. The renovation was also done with sustainability in mind, including use of local materials, energy-saving LED lighting and controls, and providing new recycling and composting bins.
• The Rec Sports and Outdoor Program staff and activities played a prominent role in Duluth being named "Best Outdoors Town in America" by Outside Magazine. UMD staff was the first to promote the social media campaign and were pictured playing among the icebergs when the News Tribune broke the story.
• UMD students continue to be highly successful in finding jobs after graduation, according to a recent Career Services survey of nearly 2,000 alumni from the class of 2012-13. About 95 percent of the graduates surveyed are employed or are continuing their education, a year after graduation, demonstrating the economic value of a UMD education. Of course there are many values to a UMD education beyond economics, but this study verifies you can get a job with a theatre degree.
• UMD's Supportive Services Program, a partner in the Learning Commons, was awarded the 2014 Award of Excellence at the national conference of the Association for the Tutoring Profession.
• The UMD campus was featured in the spring 2014 Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges for the fourth time, which profiles schools that have shown notable commitments to sustainability.
• In transportation, the UPASS provided over half a million rides to campus commuters, UMD built a new bike and walking path connecting campus to the Woodland Avenue neighborhood, the first Electric Vehicle Charging Station was installed (and has been used nearly 100 times), and UMD Bike-to-Campus members burned a million calories and biked over 30,000 miles!
• Last academic year, UMD's 417 student-athletes posted an average GPA of 3.14, an all-time high. Of that group, 95 achieved GPAs of 3.5 or above and 10 turned in perfect 4.0 figures. Football, Women's Volleyball and Soccer all went deep in the NCAA playoffs and Athletics set a fund-raising record of $1.3 million.
• Our many club sports programs remain strong, and the UMD Dance and UMD Men's Rugby Sport Club teams both achieved National Championships.
• In Cina Hall, I understand faculty and staff were pleased with the new furniture in the offices and classrooms. At last, we are beginning to address the facility issues in Cina, and I hope we will see significant progress this year.
• We will also see major improvements in the Tweed Museum soon and will announce in September a major foundation grant for the Tweed.
• UMD's campus writing center - the Writers' Workshop - will open for its second year next week, once again offering writing support to the entire campus community.
• Employee Engagement Survey work continues and the survey will be updated this fall. The campus learned a lot from the survey, and action plans are being developed. The results support the campus climate initiative of creating inclusion one story at a time, with each individual playing a unique part in the big picture.
• I also want to thank you for giving back to the greater Duluth/Superior community. UMD makes an amazing impact on non-profit organizations, religious groups, civic organizations and social clubs across the area. As I've said often, we are not just located in Duluth. We an integral part of Duluth and fully engaged in the progress and challenges of this region. LSBE's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is the largest university-sponsored VITA program in Minnesota. Student volunteers completed more than 1,000 tax returns in spring 2014 for low-to-moderate income households, generating more than $1 million of tax refunds for those clients.
Often we are so busy that we do not take time to recognize our accomplishments. What I have listed for you today is a small representation of the progress we have made recently in moving our great university forward. Let's give ourselves a round of applause for these and the many other UMD achievements!

Now I would like to introduce to you the following new campus leaders:
• Josh Hamilton is the new dean of the Swenson College of Science and Engineering. Dr. Hamilton comes to UMD from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he served from 2008-2013 as the Chief Academic and Scientific Officer. In this role he oversaw five research Centers and Programs and all educational and outreach programs. He received his Ph.D. in Toxicology and M.S. in Genetics from Cornell University and his BS in Biology from Bridgewater College in Massachusetts.
• Rolf Weberg started in March as the new director at the Natural Resources Research Institute. Dr. Weberg was previously with DuPont, starting there in 1990 and leaving in 2014 as Global R&D Manager in DuPont's Building Innovations, Surfaces Division in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Weberg has a Ph.D. in Synthetic & Mechanistic Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Colorado in Boulder and a Bachelor of Science degree from UMD in Chemistry.
• Robert Sterner is the new director of the Large Lakes Observatory. Dr. Sterner comes to UMD from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where he served in several capacities since 1994, including professor, and head of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Concurrently, from 2007-09, Dr. Sterner was the director of the Division of Environmental Biology for the National Science Foundation, where he was responsible for a $110 million budget.

Thank you to those who brought food today to donate to Champ's Cupboard, the food shelf for students created by Student Life.

Welcome to the beginning of another academic year at UMD. We all make a difference in our students' lives. We are all integral members of the UMD community. Thank you for coming today and Go Bulldogs!

Please join us for that cupcake reception in the lobby!