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UC Magazine

State of the University

UC 21

UC President Nancy Zimpher's address at the All-University Faculty meeting on Oct. 20, 2004

The Year In Review

Last October, I gave a plenary address in my second week on the job. One year later, I can truly say, it has been a very productive first year!

Already this year, I have survived my first freshman convocation. Where else can you face 3,500 discerning 18-year-olds, dragged inside on a beautiful fall afternoon, and still receive what I consider to be a compliment of the highest order, opined by one freshman at the picnic afterwards: "Well it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be."

Today's State of the University Address provides an opportunity for us to look back on the year's accomplishments and set a direction for the year which we have begun.

Looking first at UC's many successes, it seems like almost every day this past year we celebrated another one:

  • We welcomed the largest freshman class in a decade, with this year's class almost as big.

  • We announced major funding for several new research projects, with total research funding setting another record at $320 million.

  • We dedicated our fabulous new Genome Research Institute.

  • We opened key MainStreet facilities, including the Tangeman University Center and the Joseph Steger Student Life Center.

  • We accepted an invitation to join the Big East Athletics Conference and hosted the commissioner of the Big East just this week.

  • We celebrated the announcement of an American Nobel -- the Lasker Award -- to our distinguished faculty member, Elwood Jensen -- the second UC faculty member in history to win this award, the first being Albert Sabin. We can also be proud of the fact that Ohio's only two Laskers have been awarded to scholars right here at the University of Cincinnati.

  • We announced the results of our annual economic impact study showing more than $3.5 billion dollars spent and 51,000 jobs provided in the Uptown Campus area alone.

  • We formed a new Uptown Consortium with four other nearby employers (including Children's Hospital Medical Center, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Health Alliance and TriHealth) to improve the quality of life in our surrounding neighborhoods. Toward this end, we hired Uptown Consortium CEO Tony Brown to initiate activities, partnerships and investments that will increase safety and provide better transportation, more parking and exciting retail opportunities and housing options.

  • We have begun discussions with OSU and CASE about a 3-C Collaboration, a cooperative effort across the academic interests of biomedical research, advanced manufacturing and neighborhood renewal, wherein we can help power economic development across Ohio.
President Nancy Zimpher

President Nancy Zimpher

We opened up some of our new Varsity Village facilities, including our new baseball stadium and the new Ben and Dee Gettler Stadium for soccer, field and track. While these are major accomplishments, we cannot overlook the biggest success of all -- the pursuit of knowledge that happens each and every day on campus, thanks to our distinguished faculty, our hard working staff and diligent student body. Today, for example, a typical Wednesday, there are more than 2,400 classes meeting on our campuses, both undergrad and graduate. That is truly an accomplishment to celebrate.

Moving Forward
Vision trumps everything: One of my top priorities last year, and the main topic of my plenary address to you last fall, was our Comprehensive Academic Planning Process. At that time, I expressed to you my belief "that vision trumps everything." I said that organizations are most effective when a well-articulated and ambitious vision for the future exists, reflecting the rich traditions of the past, as well as our aspirations for the future.

It would be hard to imagine that anyone in our UC family doesn't know that today we have that vision: a vision of the University of Cincinnati leading in the 21st century. For short, we call this plan UC|21, which speaks directly to a new century and our ambitions for the future. It celebrates the dreams and aspirations of the broader UC family and commits us to a set of core values that will keep our vision focused and true to these aspirations. Witness our Just Community Quilt in TUC, woven at the hands of our entering freshmen and suspended three stories high to remind us of these core values.

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UC|21 also lays out an ambitious set of goals and actions for the University of Cincinnati to define the role of the new urban research university in this dynamic new century:

  • Placing students at the center of our universe and becoming a destination campus for student success;
  • Growing our research capacity, building on our greatness as innovators and inventors, creators and designers;
  • Achieving increased academic prominence by placing liberal education at the core of both our academic and professional programs, prioritizing programmatic investments to maintain and expand academic excellence;
  • Forging key relationships and partnerships focused on education, health care, technology and neighborhood development, to name but a few;
  • Establishing a sense of place on our Uptown campus, transforming our institution into one that is truly "UC anytime, anyplace," with 24/7 services and activities; and
  • Creating opportunity, not only for students with potential who once nurtured can blossom into successful graduates, but also serving as a vital economic engine for our local and global economies.

We have also put in place a set of benchmarks that will define our activities going forward, and yes, we intend a direct assault on the national rankings milieu.

I also said, "Vision is derived at the hands of many": Many people know how inclusive our visioning process has been: More than 240 individuals from both campus and community worked together in a series of Town Hall Meetings, 2,400 more attended over 80 input sessions at early and intermediate stages of our planning, more than 300 people voiced opinions online, and more than 24,000 viewings were accrued to our UC|21 Web site. So many people worked so hard for so long.

UC|21 is in every sense of the word our vision, crafted at our hands, with our imprint on every value, goal and strategy.

But we also know that "collective vision can only derive from collective action": Since the announcement of UC|21 to the broader community on the occasion of my May 21 inauguration, many people have worked tirelessly on a strategy for moving forward. Listen to this litany of activities initiated since last May:

  • A review of our administrative structure, resulting in a more streamlined cabinet and executive reporting lines, plus more integration of East and West Campus functions.

  • The development of an extensive technical report that documents our planning process and includes the action plans developed by many working groups within that process. The draft is on our UC|21 Web site. http://www.uc.edu/uc21/

  • In addition, the implementation of UC|21 calls for major changes in the way we operate as an institution -- and likely some necessary shifts in the decision-making process. Moving feverishly, Faculty Senate chair John Cuppoletti is working closely with my office to assess relevant committee structures that can contribute to a more effective decision and consultation process across campus.

  • Still, the work of UC|21 requires that a separate entity be created, called the UC|21 Strategic Planning Council. Provost Tony Perzigian will chair this council, and medical Provost Jane Henney will serve as its vice chair. Three key committees have been established to report to this council.

  • First, the Implementation Committee will develop and present plans to realize actions reflective of the ideas generated in last year's visioning phase.

  • Second, a Resource Support Committee will enable UC to move to a performance-based budgeting system and to implement a plan to increase revenues by 50 percent in the coming five years, called "50 in 5."

  • And third, the Support and Accountability Committee will work toward the development of clear and measurable benchmarks that are linked to implementation timelines, assessment indicators that measure progress and the continuous improvement infrastructure needed to carry out implementation plans.
  • These committees are broadly representative of the constituencies who participated in the visioning process, and all of these structures are described in more depth on our UC|21 Web site.
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The UC|21 Council will hold its first meeting next week. Not only must this council manage the work of UC|21, it must also assist in removing any institutional barriers to success and confer with appropriate deliberative bodies to ensure advice and consent relative to ongoing institutional decision-making.

With these actions under way, I hope it is patently clear that we will, with your help, move to implement as many aspects of UC|21 as there are creative ideas therein and resources.

Recall as well my commitment that "we must ensure we have the pocketbook to match our aspirations":
The referenced UC|21 Resource Support Committee has primary responsibility for formulating revenue generating strategies and bringing them to the President's Budget Committee for implementation. Clearly, we must continue our trajectory of increased R&D funding, and once again this year, revenue targets are being met. Also, our commitment to private fund raising and the very considerable efforts of our UC Foundation trustees and staff makes this goal a very plausible reality.

Still much work needs to be done in enrollment planning, and toward that end, we announced recently that Dean Fritz Russ would transition from the College of Business to Dr. Perzigian's office to lead enrollment planning. He will work hand in glove with the enrollment management staff in Student Affairs and with the Office of Planning, Finance and Community Development to ensure that we have "the pocket book for our aspirations." We have a plan. We believe this plan will work with your help. And the work has begun.

Of course, I have also learned about "the persistence and constancy of message":
We must all tirelessly tell the story of the University of Cincinnati. Toward that end, I have called for a "comprehensive communications plan" to be developed under the Division of Governmental Relations and University Communications, soliciting input and involvement from communications specialists across the campus. Our message must be clear, focused, differentiated and inspiring, and fall within a plan to be initiated early in 2005.

Over the past year, I have logged more than 170 formal speaking engagements and appearances at campus events, ceremonies, receptions and gatherings to tell the UC story. I have spoken to civic organizations, clubs, professional groups, student organizations, parents -- frankly, anyone who would listen. And the word is getting out. Follow-up letters often wish us well, using the term UC|21. And often in unsuspecting places, I encounter loyal friends of UC who stop me just to say they like what they're hearing about UC. You can't buy that kind of enthusiasm.

Defining the New Urban Research University of the 21st Century

As many who participated in the academic planning process know, we struggled mightily over the so-called "tag line" for UC|21. Each word in the after-the-colon debate mattered to someone. In the end, we agreed to the phrase, "defining the new urban research university" for the 21st century. I am reminded that we began our planning process with a bibliography. Recall we even distributed business cards with references to recent books on the topic of the university of the 21st century.

Ours is a vision that truly defines "new" ways of going about the work of higher education.
Here are some important examples:

First, UC|21 is in and of itself a new way of examining our vision for the future. It develops within us a "capacity for change" and a strategic way to realize future dreams. The visioning process also positions us to respond strategically rather than reactively to challenges, like budget reductions, when they do happen.

Second, our university of the future can better embrace paradox. For instance, UC faces the challenge of living up to seemingly diametrically opposed goals. A primary example is our call for top-ranked academic programs within a top-ranked research institution while at the same time remaining committed to clear opportunity pathways for those historically denied access to equal educational opportunity. Sometimes, we have been trapped into thinking that we must choose between access and excellence in order to do them both well. But our new vision refuses to fall victim to either-or thinking and instead affirms that we will do both and do them well.

Third, our newness is reflected in UC becoming more "transparent."
In a recent interview with the Cincinnati Post, I admitted that I am perhaps in danger of over-using the word "transparent," but it's my way of saying that we strive for openness, collaborative discourse and decision-making, as well as honest conversation amongst ourselves and with our external audiences. In this way, our constituents can hold us accountable and will keep us motivated to do the best we can; the faculty, staff, students and trustees can hold me accountable, too.

Fourth, our "newness" is also reflected in new performance incentives. UC|21 will work to develop a new performance-based budgeting system for the university. Already the university's agreement with the faculty's collective bargaining unit, negotiated by the AAUP and the administration, includes a commitment to salary increases tied to specific enrollment increases.

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I have commented on necessary new ways of generating revenue. Given recent trends of dwindling state support, our vision also commits us to exploring new avenues for generating financial resources. Our future lies in a more entrepreneurial and strategic approach across the institution as a whole.

I know, as well, that we have a new pace at the University of Cincinnati. We moved rapidly as we created our strategic vision last year. As we move into implementation and the future, we will continue to move fast. Speed is not typically associated with academics, but UC|21 is working to reset the "academic" timetable.

We're using technology in innovative and new ways, as well. During our Town Hall and input session process, the Internet served as an integral tool for us. As we move forward, we are developing two new strategy centers -- or meeting rooms -- for decision-making using the full power of the latest information technology.

Such strategy rooms may be common in the corporate world, but are rare in the academy. Thanks to a partnership between the offices of Institutional Research and Administrative and Business Services, evaluation data and other measures of our progress will be just a click away when key groups gather to make decisions about our future.

I've mentioned already new ways of communicating. Soon we will be mailing our UC|21 report on a miniature CD-ROM to hundreds of peer presidents, provosts and other academic leaders nationally with the invitation that they let us know about their strategic vision and tell us what they think of ours.

There is much within the UC|21 plan that is cutting edge, and we think asserting our engagement in creative planning and change strategies can play a significant role in enhancing our national reputation among our peers.

Is a new day dawning in higher education? At UC, it certainly is. A new day is dawning for UC nationally, as well.

During this past year, with the help of the UC Foundation and the Alumni Association, I have traveled from New York to Washington, D.C., from Chicago to San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego; back through Austin, Florida, Northern Kentucky, Middletown, Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland, with almost weekly trips to Columbus, making friends and building commitment for UC. There is much excitement among our national cohort of alums and friends to engage in regional recruitment, to better tell the UC story and on the East Coast especially, to enjoy a very positive entry into the Big East. I can't say enough about our process of reengaging alumni in support of our ambitions for the future. We are greeted with great enthusiasm and personal offers of help, which will truly enable us to realize our dreams.

Here at home and on a weekly basis, the UC Foundation and I also host downtown breakfasts with corporate leaders in the region who need to get to know us better and advise us on our future.

I have asked our business friends, "Do you have the appetite for moving UC from great to premier?" Unequivocally they have replied in the affirmative. Our aspirations will require much hard work, much investment and, I dare say, a collective will to realize our vision for the future.

This year, we will begin making the kinds of decisions that will show the way, taking very tactical first steps to new admissions policies, more responsibility-based budgeting, a set of metrics to measure our progress and financial rewards for follow through. That makes the goals of UC|21 the guidelines, or as some would say, "the rules for success at UC." Follow this pathway together, and I believe together we will realize our ambitious dreams in the decade to come.

UC|21 is the scaffolding toward realizing these dreams. I encourage each and every one of us to identify at least one way in which our individual capabilities and dreams can enable us together to move this great university forward.