Chancellor issues welcome back message, outlines key issues

Chancellor Harvey Perlman
Chancellor Harvey Perlman

Dear Colleagues:

As we begin the new year, I want to thank you again for everything you do for the university and to encourage you to continue your efforts in 2013. While we may have had less drama in 2012 than in some years, our progress remains steady and our trajectory upward. I thought I would burden you with a short report on what lies ahead.

University Goals — Our ambitious growth objectives remain achievable. We have increased our admissions and recruitment infrastructure and early numbers for enrollment growth are promising. We are seeing increased faculty leadership in pursuing our research agenda, and initiatives such as the University Affiliated Research Center position us well for growth. We are trying, where possible, to make careful investments in new faculty, but this will intensify as enrollment increases. And there are several initiatives within Academic and Student Affairs to address our retention and graduation rates. In all, I’m very pleased with how you have all responded to the challenge of growing the university.

Innovation Campus — There has been much hard work done on this project but progress seems slow. Developing a research campus takes time and while on any objective measure we are ahead of expectations, I know many of you wonder if anything will happen. Now with ConAgra our first partner and the Phase One buildings under construction, I hope you will see more tangible progress and more effort to engage the campus in its development.

Master Planning — This will be the semester where we move toward approval of a master plan for the physical environment of the campus. There are a lot of interesting issues that will have long-term impact. Thanks to those of you who are engaging with our consultants.

Budget — Beginning this week the Legislature will begin its “long” session in which it approves a two-year budget for the university. We will not know the final outcome until the June meeting of the Board of Regents.

Board of Regents — We welcome three new members to the Board of Regents — Lavon Heidemann, Jim Pillen, and Hal Daub. All three are friends of the university and have expressed a keen interest in getting to know us better. So don’t be surprised if you see them exploring the campus and asking questions in order to be prepared to exercise their responsibilities.

The Important Things — Students will be taught, will grow and mature and surprise us with their accomplishments. Important research will generate innovations that will make the world a better place. Faculty and others will engage with the people of Nebraska to the benefit of both. Not a bad agenda!

There are challenges ahead. We will try to figure out what to do about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). We will continue to explore ways to generate additional revenue or to create efficiencies so more of our resources can be invested in the core academic enterprise. And if history is any guide, our careful planning and our adopted agenda will be disrupted by the unexpected.

The drought in Nebraska is real and we should all hope that it ends in a timely fashion. My footnote to that is I hope it doesn’t end suddenly on May 4 when we will hold an outdoor commencement ceremony in Memorial Stadium. Anyone want to place bets?

Hope you enjoyed your holiday and you have a very productive second semester.

— Harvey Perlman, Chancellor