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September 17, 2002 State of the University

 

Thank you for joining us today at this Convocation and giving me the chance to share some thoughts about where we are and where we can go. As I look back on my first six weeks here, it has been an exciting time of change and opportunity.

I’m in a new job with new colleagues, in a new city, at a University that is new to me. One of the wonderful experiences for me is the discovery and unlayering of this University. For all of you this is the first change of leadership in over 30 years. (I promise you that the next change will be nowhere near that long.) This is a new time at UB, and I am pleased to be a part of it.

I am grateful I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of you during these weeks, and I’m looking forward to getting to know so many more of you. I have met with members of our community and with people in the city, county and state of Maryland. I am thankful to have been here on September 11th to witness firsthand the strength, dignity and grace of our community.

As I travel within the University and outside, I’ve had discussions with our graduates, regents, elected officials and members of our extended community. And I am struck by the warm reception and numerous possibilities we have before us to grow and prosper that have been generated by these talks.

We have work to do to realize these goals. The challenge is to identify which opportunities best fit our strengths and our desires, which opportunities have the greatest chance for success, which opportunities will contribute most to our individual and collective growth.

We must have a SHARED VISION. Do we have the courage to come together and dream together to the reach for that shared vision, to realize the dream?

For this to happen, we need to recognize who we are. There is so much I don’t know about the students, faculty and staff at UB.

I do know this. I’ve been to the opening of the new semester at the Law School, student orientation activities in the Plaza, a faculty retreat at the Business School, a luncheon at the College of Liberal Arts.

And everywhere I go I hear of faculty awards, of books being published. I hear of student achievement, centers nationally ranked, first-rate scholarship, of students developing lives, staff making special efforts for students. I hear of learning and wonderful results. All this reminds me of why I came here.

My first weeks were very busy. I met regents, legislators, politicians, alumni, city, state and business leaders. Everywhere I go I hear two things. First, everyone has a good impression of UB. Second, they know very little about us. We need to do two things: 1. Reinforce that good impression, and 2. Change the second.

Here are secrets we shouldn’t keep:

  • Our fall enrollment is the highest since 1995.
  • We just experienced our largest one-year increase since 1991.
  • We exceeded our budgeted enrollment projections.

I will take credit for these outcomes, even though I wasn’t here. In fundraising, the Legacy Campaign achieved a final total of $24.5 million in gifts and pledges, exceeding our initial goal of $12 million. We need to let people know about us.

We will shortly announce and initiate a scholarship program with the City of Baltimore, The City of Baltimore Fellows at the University of Baltimore. I asked the Mayor to identify six city workers who demonstrated excellent potential in municipal government to be part of the UB community as full scholarship graduate students in Business, Public Administration or Criminal Justice. We do this in part to strengthen our ties to Baltimore, whose prosperity is linked to our success.

On October 30th we will open the Family Justice Building which will house the Center for Families, Children and the Courts and the Family Law Clinic.

We are in discussions with the City to partner with them in management training. We are also discussing with the Police Department to provide supplemental training for police officers.

This is all part of our renewed commitment to make the University an integral part of the community, building on the work of our centers and professional schools.

I hope you have noticed the new banners around our campus, part of our Points of Pride Campaign. We will soon add new banners to the effort. There are two things I like most about this Campaign. First, we highlight our greatest resource, the people who make up UB: staff, faculty, students, administrators and alumni. Second, THE BANNERS STAND OUT, instead of blending into the buildings, as if to say “Take a look at us. We’re right here.”

There are other improvements to acknowledge. There are new classrooms, wired for computer use. We have new food kiosks in the Academic Center and the Business Center. The continued, and endless, renovation of Charles Hall continues as we work to improve offices and classrooms. Recognizing our need for Saturday services, we are implementing changes to better support the almost 250 students who attend UB on Saturday.

At the same time, many challenges exist.

  • Improved infrastructure, buildings and services
  • Needs in IT and computer services
  • Need to improve quality of student services

We need to ask: can we be better at what we do? Our goal must be to make UB an outstanding place to learn, to teach, to work.

I spoke earlier of the need for a vision. Here is one dream:

  • An urban university with a focused core mission
  • A university that fully supports a diverse, engaged student body, staff and faculty
  • People who are proud to work here, to support teaching, research and individual growth

In order to reach our shared goals, we must be accountable for our actions. We need to ask, how close are we to our dreams? How honest, how genuine the effort? What is the next dream?

Here is what has to be done:

  • Focus resources to meet the technology needs that the present and future demands of higher education. We have begun a review and reorganization IT at the University.

I am committed to specific goals for the two buildings scheduled to come on line in the next few years.

1. 1300 North Charles

  • state of the art classrooms
  • computer labs and areas for student and faculty use
    faculty offices
  • “one stop shopping” for students; an entire floor where admissions, financial aid, etc. will be housed, making our students’ access to a wide range of our services as convenient and efficient as possible

Original plans for the building called for the President’s office to be housed there, along with other administrative use. I have changed those plans to devote the project entirely to student and faculty use. My office will remain where it is.

2. The proposed student center

  • enlarged bookstore, open and welcoming to our students and our community.
  • expanded and varied food services
  • state of the art computer labs
  • meeting rooms for student groups
  • added floor for additional areas for leisure, recreation, and study

Our priority will always be to provide for our students and faculty. WE WILL BUILD ONLY FIRST RATE BUILDINGS.

We are of course dependent on the state for funding. And there will be some budget shortfalls in our future. But only 1/3 of our support comes from the legislature. So, in truth, the vast majority of our financial future is in our hands. For example, if we increase enrollment by only five percent a year, that would result in an enormous difference in our lives.

We need to set enrollment goals now and be responsible for achieving them. We need to work together to reach these goals. A small amount of money can change our lives.

OUR POTENTIAL IS LIMITED ONLY BY THE BOUNDARIES WE PLACE ON OURSELVES. OUR FUTURE IS IN OUR HANDS.

However, what I say does not matter. What we do, what we deliver, matters. We need to be the absolute best at what we do. We need to select our targets, our dreams, and make them happen. We can do this. We can create an environment where unparalled learning happens in a rich, diverse open setting.

I spoke of the newness of my life here. But there are times I’ve surprised myself. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. And last week I approved a 40 foot Ravens banner for our Biddle Street garage. (I just hope they win a game). I was touched by the news of Johnny Unitas ­a legend in the sport and a man who always beat my teams.

I will always ask myself: am I doing enough?

And here I am. I am settling in. I finally got my home computer to work (it took longer than your UB computer). I’ve learned I can live in 100 percent humidity. (I need gills, not lungs) I’ve found new running routes — all of them apparently uphill. But hopefully, it’s making me stronger.

Here are my goals and desires:

  • we are known for excellence in teaching
  • known for leadership in selected areas of research
  • have 15 growing and leading programs acknowledged in our region and nationally, in law, business, and liberal arts
  • be understood, welcomed and valued for our vital contribution to our city and region
  • seen as a player in the rebirth of Baltimore

That our students:

  • receive a first-class education
  • are treated with respect
  • challenged to reach their full potential
  • feel they have grown through their experience at UB
  • welcome future connection to the University
  • increase in number, steady, solid growth to reasonable capacity, where we serve the need and demand of more students
  • that our administration is so proficient as to be almost transparent.

For students:

  • ease student transfers from community colleges
  • extend financial aid to all who need it
  • attentive, respectful service
  • an environment in which we value the people we serve
  • attitude and execution that shows we take pleasure in serving our students

For faculty:

  • administration is help, not an impediment
  • transparency so that decision making is understood
  • attitude of respect for faculty problems and needs

We must encourage administrative creativity to develop and use our resources, to do the best with what we have. We must never be complacent about what we can achieve.

Hopes for the faculty:

  • energy
  • respect
  • productivity
  • leadership
  • service
  • self-critical
  • supportive of each other, the students, and the University

I wish this convocation to be a moment when we all come together to celebrate possibility. I hope that when we look back at future convocations we will join in celebration possibilities jointly achieved.

I hope we can all commit to a relentless and purposeful striving for excellence.

As you strive, so shall I.

Thank you.