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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chancellor Black's Fall Welcome to Faculty and Staff

Chancellor’s Welcome
August 24, 2015

       I.         Points of Pride slide loop (click here) is being shown as people arrive – slides are a compilation of major achievements over the summer and the past several months. 

    II.            Welcome – Motivated and energetic welcome to UMD for the new faculty and staff and welcome back to the returning faculty and staff.  Marching Band plays, enters, and exits.  I move onto the stage.  “Thank you, Dan Eaton and the UMD Marching Band!”
a.     Welcome everyone and thank those who contributed to Champs Cupboard. If you did not bring items today and would still like to contribute, you can make contributions at the Student Life Office, 245 Kirby Plaza.
b.     Have new faculty and staff stand
c.      Reference note cards for questions

 III.            New faces at UMD
a.     VCFO: Steve Keto, Associate Vice Chancellor at North Carolina State University and oversees the Budget Office, Controller's Office, Office of Contracts and Grants, and Office of Cost Analysis. Steve will join us October 1
b.     HR/EO: Melissa Honkola, Assistant Human Resources Director, St. Louis County.  Melissa will join us August 31
c.      Alumni Relations update: Tricia Bunten, our Chief Development Officer, will take on the additional duties as interim director of Alumni Relations until a new director is identified, and the search for the new director will begin soon.

IV.            New Structures at UMD – We had a difficult year last year for a number of reasons, and I have received much feedback from you regarding things I could or should do differently.  Although I do not agree with some of the comments I’ve received, I do realize there are some things that need to change.  I understand the frustration and confusion some of you are experiencing, and I was already aware of most of the areas you identified as needing improvement.  As a result I am focused primarily on the following areas for this academic year:
a.     Being more transparent
b.     Providing clear direction, and increase the pace and clarity of decision making
c.      Opening additional lines of communication
d.     Being more visible to faculty and staff on campus.  This last one will be a challenge, since many of my job responsibilities are external and require me to be off campus.  However, I will make it a priority to be more visible on campus.
                                                             i.      Fund-raising for UMD is one of my areas of responsibility that takes me off campus regularly.  I’m pleased that our UMD development team has again exceeded its goal for fiscal year 2015.  Our goal was $10 million.  By the end of the fiscal year, we had raised $10.5 million and we were informed recently by the University of Minnesota Foundation that an additional $525,000 was given to UMD in an estate gift to endow scholarships for UMD students graduating from Duluth high schools.

   V.            Some of the actions related to my primary focus areas include:
a.     I am changing the Chancellor’s Cabinet structure and creating a Chancellor’s Senior Leadership Council.  There has been too much confusion and mystery about the cabinet.  We need a fresh start.  The new council will discuss major campus initiatives and issues and will provide an important additional communication link to the campus.  This Council, like the former Cabinet, will be advisory to me and the vice chancellors. I will continue to be the primary decision maker with close collaboration with the vice chancellors.  There are some decisions the vice chancellors make on their own, especially when the issue is primarily in their units.  But, like me, they depend on the advice of others and they join me in a commitment to greater transparency and communication.  Current Cabinet includes:
                                                             i.      3 Vice Chancellors
                                                           ii.      Chief of Staff
                                                        iii.      Chief Development Officer
                                                        iv.      Director of External Affairs
                                                           v.      Director of Athletics
                                                        vi.      Director of Alumni Relations
                                                      vii.      Two Faculty Fellows for Intercultural Initiatives and Strategic Planning
b.     I am adding the following positions to the current cabinet members:
                                                             i.      Chairs of the faculty and staff councils,
                                                           ii.      A representative from the deans council,
                                                        iii.      Director of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, and
                                                        iv.      Director of Information Technology Systems and Services.
c.      I will create meetings each semester with the department heads and unit directors to improve communication and transparency.
d.     Lynne Williams, our new Director of External Affairs, is off to a great start and will be assisting me closely with campus, as well as external communications.  We will be pushing out many more stories about the great things happening at UMD and solidifying relationships with legislators, and other external stakeholders.
e.      I will continue to work with faculty council, staff council, student association, and the University Coordinating Council to continue our improvement of campus governance, and I will regularly attend meetings of each of these groups.

VI.            Higher Education Macro Issues & Trends for 2015-2016
a.     There are many macro issues and trends at the national level in higher education, and here are some of those that were discussed this summer at meetings of the Presidents/Chancellors Councils of the Association of Public and Land- Grant Universities (APLU) and from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
                                                             i.      Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, Chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, met with the APLU presidents and chancellors in June and emphasized his focus on simplifying rules and regulations for higher education.  He also supports legislation from Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, also a member of the HELP Committee, and others have proposed to help make higher education more affordable and allowing former students more attractive options to refinance student loan debt; Senator Alexander supports reducing the long FAFSA form to a postcard; his FAST Act (Financial Aid Simplification & Transparency) program would  simplify student grants and loans, the re-paying of those loans, and restoring year-round Pell grants; he is distressed about decreasing state support in higher education (In spite of our challenges, in Minnesota, we are the one of the lucky states that has seen continued investments in higher education.  No doubt, we would still like to see more state money coming to the University of Minnesota and to UMD.); We in higher education know we need to be regulated and held accountable, but the costs for “accountability” need to be reduced and the processes need to be streamlined, and I am supportive of the reforms Senator Alexander proposes.
                                                           ii.      Another topic we discussed this summer was the Higher Education Act Reauthorization – President Obama and his Department of Education has been calling for a rating system for higher education, which both APLU and AASCU oppose.  As proposed, the rating system is far too complicated and links ratings to things like net price, graduation rates, student loan default rates, percentages of low-income students enrolled, etc.  One problem is that the data to do what they want to do is not readily available in ways that make a true rating system feasible.  For now, this rating system has been placed on the back burner, which I see as good news. Some say the ratings proposal is dead.  We shall see.
                                                        iii.      Performance-based Funding/Accountability are topics that continue to gain traction and attention at the national and state levels, so part of our tasks as university leaders is to advocate for ways to meet the demands of performance-based funding and accountability and lessen the cost and burden these issues have on our campuses.  For example, earlier this month, I joined with presidents and chancellors across the country in signing a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan advocating for the use of the Student Achievement Measure in assessing graduation rates, instead of the more limited federal graduation rate calculations.  SAM uses data from the National Clearing House and is able to track the progress and completion of transfer students, part-time students, full-time students, and the outcomes of students who enroll in multiple institutions.
                                                        iv.      National and state concerns about Student Debt continue to increase.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has proposed lower interest rates on student loans and moving towards a debt-free undergraduate education.  Last year she proposed a bill which would allow students to pay the same interest rate on their government loans as big banks. She asks why student loans interest rates continue to climb and range from 2.25% to 9%, while banks can borrow from the Federal Reserve’s discount window at a rate of approximately .75 percent?  Federal student loan rate for 2015-2016 is 4.29% for undergraduates and 5.84% for graduate students.  So far, Senator Warren’s proposals have not been successful, but she is one of many federal legislators calling for significant reforms to address student debt.
                                                           v.      Technology-Enhanced Instruction was a major topic at both APLU and AASCU meetings. Three major topics included:
1.     Improving learning outcomes through technology-enhanced instruction,
2.     Using technology-enhanced instruction to design and implement new learning experiences based upon learning science, and
3.     Promoting dissemination and sharing of information globally.
4.     There is great interest among some current BOR members in MN about making greater use of online and other types of technology-enhanced instruction.
5.     I applaud the increased interest in online offerings at UMD, as well as explorations of flipped classrooms, and of other ways to effectively use technology-enhanced instruction.  Technology-enhanced instruction will not solve all our problems.  Our focus needs to be on what we can do well with a strong focus on academic excellence and student success.  How does it help us meet the changing needs and demands of our students?
                                                        vi.      Federal Legislation regarding Sexual Assaults on college campuses – I spoke about this topic last year, and UMD continues to be up-to-date on both federal and state legislation.  When new legislation concerning sexual assault was passed this past session of the Minnesota legislature, we were pleased that UMD is already in compliance with the majority of new requirements. We employ many best practices in responding to and in encouraging members of our campus community to report sexual assaultsWe have also increased prevention and education programs for our students. Our efforts include a bystander intervention program called Got Your Back! UMD. To date, over 3000 students have completed bystander intervention training through the program. In addition, new undergraduate and graduate students are required to participate in on line training in sexual assault prevention. Finally, HR&EO and Student Life teamed up to provide 8 training sessions for faculty and staff. This year, we’ll also be offering online training for all employees.
b.     Issues such as state funding challenges, greater competition for students, calls for accountability, performance-based funding, how we move forward with technology-enhanced instruction, how do we address sexual assault, alcohol and drug abuse among our students are Minnesota issues, as well as federal issues.  These issues and others are part of macro trends that are driving the world of higher education today and in the foreseeable future.  As we pursue our vision and goals at UMD, we need to be aware of these trends and frame the re-engineering of UMD around the issues that we cannot ignore and that have the greatest impact on who we are and where we are moving.
VII.            At the first meeting of the Chancellor’s Senior Leadership Council this summer our focused theme was academic excellence and student success.  Action items with timelines were determined on the following topics:
a.     Communication Action Items – Focused on campus internal communication and pushing out more stories and social media about the great things happening at UMD.
                                                             i.      Increasing regular communications from leadership, such as frequent Chancellor newsletters and three Town Hall meetings that will be scheduled for this academic year.
                                                           ii.      Encourage cascading messaging at the end of meetings so that people understand the main points or takeaways from the meeting and the messages they are to take back to constituent groups
                                                        iii.      Conduct a communications audit throughout campus followed by a gap analysis to see what’s missing and needed for formal and informal communication.
                                                        iv.      One area that we will be communicating clearly internally and externally is that we have now submitted all teacher education programs for review by the Board of Teaching.  These academic programs remain strong and the students in these programs will continue to receive full licensing upon graduation.
                                                           v.      Reaffirm our commitment to our vision of becoming “a premiere comprehensive university recognized as world class for its learning-centered student experiences, research, creative activities, and public engagement.”  This year we will begin a new examination of our strategic plan to see what changes we may wish to make in our goals and action steps.
b.     Budget Action Items
                                                             i.      Clarifying for the campus our final budget picture at the end of FY2015, including identifying areas that were reduced, new investments, and what else has changed.  Continue our development of real budgets that are all inclusive and sustainable and complete the transition away from the squishy budgets, or non-existent budgets of the past.
                                                           ii.      With leadership from our new Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations, and in collaboration with UMD campus governance and the system budget and finance office, complete a budget plan that addresses the remaining structural imbalance and that establishes a sustainable budget framework moving forward.
                                                        iii.      Explore investment opportunities in areas of excellence that capitalize on our strengths in teaching, research, and public engagement. 
c.      Morale & Engagement Action Items
                                                             i.      Within departments and units, maximize use of the system-wide engagement survey. I have asked my senior leadership to submit employee engagement plans.  That’s occurring now and I’m pleased with the depth and breadth of the conversations happening at the grass roots level.  We will again this fall join in the system-wide employee engagement survey.
                                                           ii.      In addition to the employee engagement survey, we will conduct a campus-wide climate survey administered by Sue Rankin and Associates, which will 1) identify successful campus climate initiatives, 2) uncover any challenges facing members of our community, and 3) develop strategic initiatives to build on the successes and address the challenges.   We have made much progress over the past five years in campus climate issues, but because of some of the challenges we have faced, especially last year, I felt it was time to have an external group to help us assess where we are and where we need to make changes to maximize our campus climate work.  It is important to our success for us to have a high completion rate on both surveys.  For the Rankin survey, departments and units need at least a 30% completion rate to receive feedback specific to their unit.  Please complete the survey yourself and encourage your colleagues and students to complete it also.  The engagement survey is for only faculty and staff, not students.  I encourage you and your colleagues to complete this survey also in order to give the departments and units a more complete picture of engagement among departmental and unit members.
                                                        iii.       Work toward greater commonalities among us, across academic disciplines, across disparate units throughout campus, and among faculty, staff and administrators.  Explore greater ways to connect with each other as Helen Mongan-Rallis stated last spring at the UMD Women’s Luncheon: “I think there are some lessons that may help us to break down the walls that we are building between groups and that may enable us to seek to create a campus climate that is kinder, gentler and more humane.”  The Commission on Women has expressed interest in working on these issues and Paula Pederson, Faculty for Intercultural Initiatives will continue to provide leadership in this area also.
                                                        iv.      I was thankful for the Supreme Court decision this summer that our U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage, and I am thankful that I live in a state where the voters had already taken a stand to support marriage for all people.
                                                           v.      But I was saddened at the news a little over a week ago that civil rights leader Julian Bond had passed way.  He was a major impact on me during my college years by the way he approached civil rights issues.  He was tough, thoughtful and assertive, but calming.  He was strong, but able to bring people to compromise.  Of all the college speakers I heard in the early 1970s, he was one of the most memorable and inspirational.
VIII.            Theatre Experiences
a.     The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime  
                                                             i.      This award-winning play is based upon the mystery novel by British writer Mark Haddon.  A major theme of the play is difference and how we deal or do not deal well with people who are different from the norm.  It focuses on Christopher, a 15 year-old boy who is a mathematics genius with Asperger’s or Autism Spectrum Disorder, or perhaps Savant Syndrome.
                                                           ii.      Focus is not on his specific condition, but on his difficulties in dealing with a world that expects normalcy and a world that is uncomfortable with difference and with things that people do not understand.
                                                        iii.      A mother who cannot deal with him; a father who tries to raise him, but falls short in a number of ways; law enforcement and people on the street who are afraid of him or irritated by his “odd behavior” and difficulties in interacting with people – he can’t stand to be touched, responses strongly to loud noises, etc.
                                                        iv.      People who help him because they can see beyond his unusual external behavior and try to understand him.  People who are also seeking understanding and searching for a life and society that is kinder, gentler and more humane.

b.     Fun Home
                                                             i.      An award-winning musical based upon the graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel.  The plots of the memoir, subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” and the musical focus on Alison’s discovery of herself and her challenges of growing up in a family with a domineering father and distant mother.  Her complex relationship with her father is the primary focus of the story Alison narrates, and the Alison character is played by three different actresses at different ages in her life.  Her or their relationship with the father is made more complex when Alison discovers that her father is gay and has numerous secret relationships with men. 
                                                           ii.      Alison’s life journey includes her struggles, understanding, and embracing her own sexuality and identity as a lesbian, and ultimately arriving at some understanding of her father.  This is not your typical Broadway musical.  However, it is an outstanding theatre piece that explores dealing with different types of difference, and like The Curious Incident how one can move toward understanding in spite of great challenges. 
c.      I share these theatre experiences with you because they struck me as applicable to many of the challenges and opportunities facing us here at UMD.  We have had and will continue to have multiple challenges, some created by our own mistakes, and some beyond our control.  For me, part of the power of the theatre experience is what it teaches us about the human experience.  I like to be entertained in the theatre, but I am most drawn to theatre experiences that lead me to grow in my understanding of others and of myself. 
d.     We have a high calling as teachers, researchers, artists and public servants.  We truly make a difference in the lives of our students, in others at UMD, and in our communities.  But we will not reach our full potential until we can see beyond our differences, assume the sincerity of others, and respect the dignity of all people.  Quoting from Helen Mongan-Rallis again, “So instead of rushing to judgment about what others do, let us start by assuming their sincerity and decency, and then lean in and really listen.”

IX.            You have my best wishes for an outstanding year at UMD.  Thank you for all you do to make this an incredible place to work, to learn and to grow.

I will now answer your questions both written questions and questions from the floor