President's Journal Entries
Cross-campus collaboration to serve rural Nebraskans
Kearney | Aug. 20, 2015One of the great strengths of the University of Nebraska is the impact we can make when we combine the resources and talents of multiple campuses for the benefit of our state. I had the pleasure of celebrating a powerful example of cross-campus collaboration at the recent grand opening of the new Health Science Education Complex on the UNK campus.
The health complex will house an expanded Kearney division of the UNMC College of Nursing, as well as Kearney-based programs of the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions. With significantly expanded capacity to train the next generation of rural Nebraska’s health care professionals, we’ll be able to better serve students and meet critical workforce needs in our rural communities. The facts are clear: Rural Nebraska faces key shortages of nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants and other health workers. The University of Nebraska has a responsibility to meet these needs, and the new health complex will position us to do that.
More than 700 Nebraskans joined me, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, UNMC Chancellor Jeff Gold, College of Nursing Dean Juliann Sebastian, College of Allied Health Professions Dean Kyle Meyer and many others for the grand opening. (You can read the Kearney Hub’s coverage here.) It was truly a day of celebration for all Nebraskans – because the Health Science Education Complex would not be possible without the support, leadership, commitment and hard work of many. These include my university colleagues, Nebraska policymakers who provided a generous investment in the facility, private donors whose support allowed us to construct a state-of-the-art complex that will prepare our students to be successful, and Kearney-area community members who have shared in our excitement along the way. The health science complex is a shining example of the power of public-private partnerships.
And, it’s a model of cross-campus collaboration that I want to see replicated many times over across the University of Nebraska. Each of our campuses has a unique mission and strengths, but we can achieve so much more when we work together as one university. In this case, we’re able to combine the talents of UNMC and UNK faculty to serve students and meet educational, health care and workforce needs across our state. I know there are countless other opportunities for our campuses to partner for Nebraska’s benefit.
Having toured the Health Science Education Complex myself, I can attest that it’s truly cutting-edge. More important than a building, of course, is the work that will take place within its walls – the education of the Nebraska’s future health care workforce. I am immensely honored to be serving as president when this facility is opening, and I’m excited for the students, faculty and staff who are filling its classrooms. Thank you again to all the Nebraskans whose support made the Health Science Education Complex possible.
UNMC: Improving lives in Nebraska & around the world
Omaha | Aug. 12-13, 2015Coming off my productive visit to UNO earlier in the week, I headed down the street to spend a few days at UNMC, our state’s only public academic health sciences center. I was already well aware of the incredible growth and momentum on campus, but even so, I was amazed by what I saw.
Of course, one of the most exciting projects underway at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine is the development of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. This project – the largest in the university’s history, an incredible public-private partnership made possible by support of generous donors and policymakers – will transform cancer care and research in Nebraska and position us as a world leader in battling a disease that affects every one of us. We recently celebrated completion of the structural framework for all floors of the research tower and patient care areas. I was honored to sign a ceremonial beam that was raised during the ceremony! We’re incredibly excited to open the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in 2017 and advance our work in improving the lives of people affected by this terrible disease.
Groundbreaking work is happening at UNMC in many other areas as well. We’ve earned international recognition for our work in treating Ebola patients – capped by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ recent announcement that UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will found and co-lead the National Ebola Training and Education Center. This designation is an incredible vote of confidence in the expertise of our medical center. In fact, not long after the announcement, Dr. Ali Khan, dean of our College of Public Health, was tapped by the World Health Organization to return to Sierra Leone, where the fight against Ebola continues. The headlines may have moved off the front page, but the University of Nebraska is continuing to answer the call when the global community is in need.
Cancer, Ebola, public health, vaccine development, transplantation, neurodegenerative diseases – UNMC is a leader in these and many other areas, and Nebraskans and people around the world are the beneficiaries. The opportunities for collaboration with other NU campuses and partners in the community and beyond are unlimited. As I told UNMC colleagues during my visit, it’s my duty as president to help tell UNMC’s story wherever I go. I’m proud to do that.
Thanks for UNMC for welcoming me to campus, and to the faculty, staff and students there who are helping improve lives in our state and beyond. Your work is an inspiration.
Feeling the ‘Mav Spirit’ at UNO
Omaha | Aug. 10 - 11, 2015What a great visit to UNO! I spent two full days meeting with students and campus leadership, learning about the exciting things going on in research, education and student life, and touring campus – including a sneak peek at the new Baxter Arena. I can’t wait to be back to see the puck drop at a Mav hockey game! It’s a great time to be a Maverick, and I’m optimistic about what the upcoming academic year holds for Nebraska’s metropolitan university.
It would be impossible to cover all the highlights of my UNO visit, but of course one of the bright spots was the opportunity to spend time with students. UNO is a place where students really do come first, and that comes through everywhere on campus… new academic programs that are meeting student needs and preparing them for the workforce, a commitment to affordability and access that keeps a UNO education within reach for Nebraskans, new facilities that are enhancing the student experience in and outside of the classroom. As UNO student-body president Brock Lewis told me on Twitter, there’s nothing better than a university that works for students – and UNO is a true model in this regard.
As just one example, UNO is widely known for its commitment to serving military students. Military Times magazine, in fact, has named UNO the nation’s best four-year institution for veterans – a testament to the campus’ efforts to make sure military students have access to the services they need to earn a degree and begin their careers. Of course, I also congratulate the students themselves, who have served us in a way we can never really repay.
UNO also does an outstanding job of serving students who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education, including first-generation and minority students. The campus is a great reflection of the community it serves. I support UNO’s goals to grow enrollment by expanding access to even more students and hope we will continue to see growth in key areas like business and information science and technology.
While on campus, I invited the Maverick family to tell me on Twitter what they love most about UNO – and the responses were incredible. Mavericks are incredibly passionate about their university and I loved reading their comments. Some discovered their career path at UNO, some found a club or team that matches their interests, some have a favorite spot on campus, and many spoke about the support they’d received from faculty, advisers or friends at UNO.
Whatever your reason for loving UNO, I’m delighted that the campus is having such a positive impact on our students and the community. Thanks to the UNO family for the warm welcome to campus, and I can’t wait to return soon!
On the road again
North Platte, McCook & Holdrege | July 29-30, 2015I was back on the road again this week! Getting to know Nebraska – our state’s communities and people – continues to be one of my favorite parts of my job. I loved my trip across the state during my first week as president, but my ‘listening and learning’ tour is far from over. Meeting Nebraskans, hearing about their hopes and dreams for their university, and visiting communities in the state my family and I now call home is greatly energizing for me and I’m already looking forward to my next road trip.
This week, I had the opportunity to stop in North Platte, McCook and Holdrege – the latter two of which I hadn’t visited yet. My visits offered me the chance to review my first 100 days as NU president and talk about where I think the university is headed. It’s hard to believe the 100-day mark has come and gone… The time has flown by!
In North Platte, joined by the Board of Regents Chairman Bob Phares, I got to speak to the Rotary Club, where I talked about my reasons for coming to Nebraska, like the important research and educational initiatives underway here. As I told Rotary members, this is a place where I can see myself helping to change the world, working closely with talented faculty who are leaders in their fields.
I also reiterated that Nebraska’s commitment to higher education stood out to me from the beginning. While other states have reduced funding for public higher education, Nebraska policymakers have continued to invest, and that’s helped us maintain our competitive edge. Combined with generous private philanthropy, Nebraskans’ support for their university continues to amaze me. To read more about my visit to North Platte, check out the North Platte Telegraph and KNOP TV’s stories.
From there, I headed to McCook, where I met with university stakeholders and stopped at the McCook Gazette and High Plains Radio, great opportunities to discuss topics like affordability and access and NU programs like Collegebound Nebraska that are keeping education within reach for students and families.
Next up was an appearance before the Holdrege Rotary Club, with a stop en route to see our friends at KRVN radio. In each place, I mentioned how important it is for our country to invest more in research and development, particularly in critical areas like water and agriculture. Feeding a rapidly growing global population is one of the most urgent challenges of the day, and universities like ours need to do much more to ensure the world is a safe and stable one for our children. The University of Nebraska, through our Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute, is well-positioned to play a leading role in addressing the challenge.
My thanks to university friends and constituents in North Platte, McCook and Holdrege for hosting me, listening to me and, most importantly, for sharing their thoughts on their university. I look forward to working together to make the University of Nebraska a giant in higher education.
UNK – a campus of “difference makers”
Kearney, NE | July 14-15, 2015One of the great joys of my job is getting to visit the University of Nebraska’s individual campuses. There’s nothing like meeting our students face-to-face, talking with faculty about their teaching and research, and getting a firsthand look at the dynamic growth happening across the university.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days at UNK – and what a great experience it was. Even with many students and faculty gone for the summer, it’s easy to get a sense of the momentum and opportunity on campus. As UNK approaches its 25th anniversary of joining the University of Nebraska family next year, it’s doing more than ever to serve as the educational hub of rural Nebraska, providing access to excellent education for students across the state and engaging with Kearney and surrounding communities in new and innovative ways. There’s never been a better time to be a Loper!
UNK is a terrific model for some of my university-wide goals. First, this is a campus where students come first. UNK is a close-knit community where students can find the support they need to be successful, from caring faculty to small classes to learning communities in the residence halls. These types of services are especially important for a campus that serves many students who are the first in their families to attend college, as UNK does.
And, UNK is partnering with other NU campuses in ways that I’d like to see replicated across the university. The new Health Science Education Complex, which will open later this year, is a unique partnership with UNMC that will expand educational opportunities for students in nursing and allied health programs and meet critical workforce needs in rural Nebraska. The facts are clear: Our state’s rural communities face a shortage of nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants and other allied health workers. The health science complex will help address those needs.
The best part of my visit was engaging with the campus community. Thanks to everyone who provided a warm welcome – in person or on Twitter, where many friends shared their favorite campus spots. I even got the chance to hop on a golf cart with Louie the Loper to see some campus landmarks! I can’t wait to return.
On the way back home, I stopped for visits with the Hastings Tribune, KHAS radio and NBC Nebraska. Fresh off my UNK visit, I had plenty to talk about! You can see the newspaper’s coverage here.
Agriculture—a foundational priority for NU
Lincoln | June 17, 2015There’s no question about the importance of agriculture to Nebraska and its public university. Agriculture not only fuels the economy and quality of life in our state, but around much of the country and world as well. If you eat, you are affected by agriculture!
Agriculture was a foundational priority of the University of Nebraska when it was established almost 150 years ago – and today our connection to agriculture, and the men and women who live it every day, has never been more important. The world’s population is expected to grow from 7.2 billion now to more than 9.6 billion by 2050. And that population will require twice as much food, which we will need to produce without putting more pressure on our already-stressed water and land resources.
The challenge of feeding the world’s growing population could not be more urgent. Hungry and thirsty people are dangerous people. This is an international security issue and one that is personal to me. I want to make sure my children, and my children’s children, grow up in a safe world. We have our work cut out for us. As the Omaha World-Herald noted in a recent editorial, one-third of the world’s aquifers, including those in the United States, already face severe distress.
The positive news is that the University of Nebraska is well-positioned to lead the way in developing solutions. Faculty affiliated with our Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources give us an important voice in this global conversation – a conversation we need to own. And our partners in Nebraska agriculture, including farmers and ranchers across the state, will be crucial to our success.
I was lucky enough to engage with these partners at a recent reception with the Ag Builders of Nebraska and Ag 40 groups. The packed room included many friends of the university, including Clayton K. Yeutter, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and NU alum who recently made a gift that, together with generous state support, will help us establish a trade and finance institute in his name. The Yeutter Institute will allow us to attract top talent and prepare students to meet the workforce needs of the future, and we’re excited to move forward.
I’m enormously grateful to our friends in agriculture for all they do to support the University of Nebraska. Working together, I’m confident we can develop solutions for feeding the world and improving lives in Nebraska and beyond.
‘Holding hands’ with the business community
Lincoln, NE | June 10, 2015I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Lincoln “Face the Chamber” about the potential for increased collaboration between the University of Nebraska and the business community. The room was packed and I had a great dialogue with key private sector leaders who are driving Lincoln’s economy – the people contributing to the city’s low unemployment, momentum and high quality of life.
As I told Chamber members, the University of Nebraska absolutely has the potential to be one of the world’s great universities. I truly believe the best days for the university – and the state – are ahead of us. But to get there, we’ll need to work hand-in-hand with the business community. We need to partner to make sure our students have access to competitive internships that prepare them to be successful in the workforce, to attract the best and brightest students from around the state and beyond, and to make sure Nebraska is a place where young people will want to stay after graduation.
This means doing a better job of telling the story of our state – Nebraska has so much to offer – and also making sure we’re offering the high-quality, high-paying jobs that will keep top talent here. Judging by the frequency with which Lincoln, Omaha, Kearney and other Nebraska communities are appearing on economic “best-of” lists, I think we’re doing a great job – and can do even more to ensure the economic competitiveness of our cities and state. This goal is personal for me. I want Nebraska to be a place where my children Will and Caroline want to live and work and raise families. I know other parents want the same.
For the university’s part, we owe it to our partners in the private sector to make sure they have a robust talent pool to choose from when hiring new employees. We need to stay sharply focused on our goals to significantly grow enrollment and improve retention and graduation rates so that more students are entering the workforce pipeline and meeting economic needs in our state.
You can read the Lincoln Journal Star’s story about my appearance at “Face the Chamber”, and KLKN’s coverage. Thanks to the Lincoln Chamber for hosting me. I’m excited to work with business leaders across our state on growing the economy and keeping Nebraska strong.
A thank-you to NU retirees
LaVista | May 27, 2015You might be surprised to know that the biggest event of the year – by far – for the University of Nebraska president’s office is our annual luncheon for NU retirees. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with more than 600 retirees who collectively gave countless years of service to the university over their careers.
Our retirees are a diverse group: former faculty and staff, representing all four university campuses and a wide range of academic fields. Some retired within the past year, while others left the university many years ago. What they share is a passion for the mission of the University of Nebraska to impact the lives of our students and people in our state and around the world. These former employees laid the groundwork for the momentum we enjoy today and I am grateful for their contributions – which certainly make my job a little easier!
I enjoyed the opportunity to share a few comments about my vision for the university to be a giant in higher education, doing even more to serve Nebraskans and others. I talked about the transformative power of higher education through a personal lens, recalling my upbringing on a small Mississippi farm where going to college seemed almost an impossible dream. College changed my life and I know it can change the lives of others.
As I told our retirees, the University of Nebraska has the potential to be a global leader. We need to pick a few areas where we think we can be the best – water and agriculture, early childhood, national security – and then focus our efforts accordingly. I like to say a rising tide lifts all boats. When we lead the global conversation in key areas, the entire university will benefit.
I sincerely thank University of Nebraska retirees for their ongoing engagement, interest and contributions to the university. Without them, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today. I hope they share my excitement for the future and that they will continue to support Nebraska’s public university. Our best days truly are ahead of us.
Nebraskans on Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. | May 18-20, 2015What an honor to visit our nation’s capital and spend time with members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation. I and members of the Board of Regents who joined me in Washington thank our representatives for meeting with us and engaging in productive and collaborative discussions.
I want the University of Nebraska to dream big – and I was thrilled that our congressional delegation displayed the same enthusiasm for our potential for leadership in areas like medicine, agriculture, national security and other areas that matter to our state and the country. Working together with our federal partners, I am confident the university will continue our upward trajectory. My vision is for the University of Nebraska to be a giant in higher education, and Congress – which makes vital investments in research and student financial aid – will play an important role in our success.
One of the highlights of my trip was when Congressman Jeff Fortenberry graciously yielded his time to me at the Nebraska Breakfast, the weekly breakfast our delegation hosts for constituents visiting the capital. By the time I wrapped up my remarks, we had run out of time for the Congressman to walk us through his presentation on the nation’s budget! I’ll make time for that on my next visit – and greatly appreciated the opportunity to say a few words about my excitement for the future of the university.
Meetings with other members of our delegation – Sen. Deb Fischer, Sen. Ben Sasse, Rep. Adrian Smith and Rep. Brad Ashford – were equally productive and engaging.
We also had the opportunity to meet with some key thought leaders in higher education, including Terry Hartle, senior vice president in the Division of Government and Public Affairs at the American Council on Education, with whom we discussed issues related to affordability, campus safety and financial aid. We met with Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, who provided excellent insights into our role in preparing the skilled employees who are more in demand every day.
Thanks again to Nebraska’s congressional representatives for all they do on behalf of the people of our state. I’m excited to return to Capitol Hill soon.
TEDxLincolnWomen – inspiring women and girls here and around the world
Lincoln, NE | May 28, 2015I was pleased to be a part of today’s sold-out TEDxLincolnWomen event at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The theme of “Momentum” perfectly fit our venue – the university’s research and development campus that will soon be bustling with activity by students, faculty and private sector workers. I joined 400-plus guests in listening to local leaders talk about the significant impact that women and girls can have in the world. We heard from Krupa Savalia, an M.D./Ph.D. scholar and former student regent from UNMC, about working with life’s unexpected outcomes.
Krupa is one of our best and brightest – exactly the type of student we want attract to the university – and it was a joy to hear her speak. Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird talked about the intriguing link between physics and city planning – showing that Lincoln’s success and development is no accident. Climate activist Kim Morrow shared her thoughts on being a moral leader and climate advocate, and Prairie Schooner managing editor Ashley Strosnider explained why it matters who decides what you’re reading.
The focus on women’s ability to make an impact was timely and relevant. Women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and are out-pacing men in educational attainment. Women and girls really can change the world…a fact made clear by today’s speakers. I left TEDxLincolnWomen feeling even more inspired and excited about the future of the university, our city and our state. We’ll need the talents and ideas of all members of our community to keep our momentum going. I am convinced our best days are ahead of us.
NCTA: Open access, high quality & Nebraska-focused
Curtis, NE | April 14, 2015Welcome to Curtis, Neb...where you can drink a glass of the best-tasting rural water in the country and ride your horse anywhere as long as you stay off the golf course. I’d been looking forward to my visit to the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture for quite some time, and the tour and luncheon with faculty, staff and students arranged by Dean Ron Rosati and his team didn’t disappoint.
NCTA plays a unique and important role within the University of Nebraska, offering affordable two-year programs that meet the needs of our state’s agricultural workforce. New and innovative academic programs are underway, including those in irrigation technology and urban agriculture, and the college’s growth – both in terms of enrollment and its physical presence – is impressive. Taken together, there’s a real sense of momentum and possibility on campus that came alive for me as I listened and learned from students and employees. Students showed me what they’re learning in horse training, equine care and animal handling courses, and I got a firsthand look at the work being done by talented faculty and staff…including a surgery on a cat who’d eaten a penny! While I was touring, it was bathtime for a large snake named Monte. I passed…this time.
With my own background in agriculture, I understand well the vital role agriculture plays in ensuring Nebraska’s continued economic strength. The 380-plus students enrolled at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture should be congratulated for choosing to pursue their education in a field where the jobs are good and demand is high. NCTA is enjoying great success in meeting workforce needs and forming mutually beneficial partnerships with industry leaders, including the Nebraska Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Corn Growers Association and the Wheat Board, that advance Nebraska agriculture. This campus is on an exciting trajectory. I can’t wait to return!
On top of the world…
North Platte | April 13-14, 2015What a treat to end Day 2 of my Nebraska tour with dinner at the beautiful Golden Spike Tower, which offers a panoramic view of the world’s largest railyard. The scenery was stunning, the food was delicious, and the conversation with university stakeholders was rich and engaging. My thanks to those who participated, including the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Bob Phares, who hosted us in his hometown.
The next morning, to kick off Day 3 of my tour, I had breakfast with faculty and staff from our West Central Research and Extension Center. WCREC was created more than a century ago to study water – and we’re still doing that today (along with many other disciplines). In fact, in 2015 our focus has never been more important. The world needs someone to lead the conversation about using our water resources more efficiently and productively, and I believe the University of Nebraska can be that leader. We need to own the global conversation on water. From what I saw in North Platte, we are in a great position to do that. I had the opportunity to hear from several faculty members about their research in beef nutrition and reproduction, entomology and other areas critical to the success of Nebraska agriculture. I even got to tour WCREC’s wind tunnel, which fosters important research related to pesticides, weather and more.
I’m grateful to the faculty and staff who joined me for dialogue, and in particular to those who took time to show me around WCREC and give me a taste of their research. The West Central Research and Extension Center, the university’s “front door” in West Central Nebraska, is meeting important needs in this part of the state and I am impressed with what I saw. The work being done here could not be more timely or locally and globally relevant.
Next stop: the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis!
Lexington & Gothenburg | April 13, 2015After leaving Kearney, we were back on the road, heading west toward North Platte. En route, we made a quick stop at KRVN radio in Lexington for a meet-and-greet with the news team and community leaders. I had a great time visiting with news director Dave Schroeder, checking out the station and meeting people who care about their university and its role in serving agriculture in particular. You can see more from my KRVN visit here.
Next, we visited the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg. Located on a 324-acre research farm, the learning center is focused on helping farmers achieve their yield and productivity goals with an emphasis on water use. It fosters important research in water and agriculture and also serves as a learning center for members of the media, the public and others interested in these critical topics. The sustainable use of water for agriculture, of course, is a high priority on the University of Nebraska’s research agenda and one in which we are positioned to take a global leadership role, through our Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and other efforts. Seeing the Monsanto center made me more convinced than ever that Nebraska can make a real difference in meeting the world’s water and food needs.
A jam-packed Day 2 continues!
Kearney, NE | April 13, 2015It’s a great time to be a Loper. That much was clear during my visit to the University of Nebraska at Kearney today, where faculty, staff, students and stakeholders gave me a very warm welcome. And I loved being greeted by the Archway on my drive into town! There’s a real sense of energy and momentum on the UNK campus, and for good reason. UNK is doing more than ever to serve the Kearney community and the region – meeting student needs, producing talented graduates, driving the economy and enriching the quality of life for Nebraskans.
The campus is an educational and economic hub for rural Nebraska. Many Lopers come from rural communities, not unlike the one I grew up in back in Mississippi, and are the first in their family to go to college. That 70 percent of UNK undergraduates receive financial aid is a testament to the campus’ commitment to access. The education that these students receive when they arrive on campus is second to none, thanks to talented faculty whose first priority is serving students. And we are working hard to expand their opportunities even further. The Health Science Education Complex, a joint effort of UNK and UNMC opening later this year, will make way for many more nursing and allied health students who can help meet critical workforce needs in rural Nebraska. Discussions are underway between UNK and UNL for joint engineering programs that will create a more robust pipeline of STEM workers for our rural communities. Both of these are excellent examples of cross-campus collaboration that demonstrate that the University of Nebraska really is one university.
The campus’ footprint is expanding, too. The new University Village, a public-private, mixed-use development which will transform the way UNK interacts with the Kearney community, represents an exciting opportunity for UNK to enhance its role as a hub of regional economic growth. The Board of Regents recently approved the anchor project for University Village, a student residence complex, and it will be exciting to see this development get underway.
Many thanks to Chancellor Kristensen for hosting me on his campus today, and to all the students, UNK colleagues and community members who joined me for an engaging discussion about UNK’s opportunities for the future – and how we can share the story of UNK’s success even more widely. Next year, UNK will celebrate its 25th anniversary of becoming part of the University of Nebraska system. I can’t wait to see what kinds of success stories we’ll be telling in another 25 years. UNK’s future is bright!
Raising Nebraska, and Nebraskans
Grand Island, NE | April 13, 2015What a way to start Day 2 of my Nebraska tour. The Raising Nebraska site in Grand Island – a collaborative effort of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the State Fair – was unlike anything I’ve seen. I hope every Nebraskan will take the opportunity to visit this facility to learn how food gets from the farm to our tables. The exhibits are interactive, fun and educational. I got to “walk” my 1,500-mile travel route on an interactive map…a less demanding experience than driving it! An engaged and impressive group of community leaders and university stakeholders joined me and our Regent host, Kent Schroeder, for breakfast at Raising Nebraska and we had a productive dialogue about the university’s momentum and opportunity.
My next stop was Grand Island Senior High School, where I talked to sophomores about the power of higher education to change their lives. This is a topic that’s close to my heart. I’ve been fortunate to experience a transformation in my own life because of education and now I want all young people to have that same experience – whether it’s at the University of Nebraska, our excellent state or community colleges (like Central Community College in Grand Island), or some other institution. The point is that students should work hard, find a school that meets their needs, and take the opportunity to discover their passions. I was fortunate to be joined at Grand Island Senior High by Kayla Lindell, an alum who’s currently a sophomore at UNK studying middle education. Kayla is the first in her family to go to college, an impressive young woman with a bright future, and her story was a great inspiration to the students in the auditorium. I thank Kayla for returning to her alma mater today to share her experience, as well as GISH Principal Jeff Gilbertson and his staff for hosting us.
Before I hit the road for Kearney, I stopped by the Grand Island Independent to meet with editorial leaders and staff. We had a great dialogue about some of the current issues in the community and my initial priorities for the university. My thanks to publisher Don Smith and his team for welcoming us into the newsroom.
Amazing how a short time in one community can introduce me to so many important stakeholders: community leaders, university friends and alumni, current and prospective students, members of the news media. It was time well spent. I look forward to returning soon – hopefully with my family to the State Fair in a few months!
A dialogue with Nebraskans
Fremont & Columbus | April 12, 2015After leaving Mead, we were back on the road to Fremont, where I was welcomed by a great crowd (and delicious treats from Alotta Brownies) at the beautiful Gallery 92 facility. I shared my thoughts on what attracted me to the NU presidency – starting with the deep connection the people of Nebraska have to this institution – and our responsibility to do even more to grow enrollment, help students graduate on time and with less debt, conduct research in relevant areas like water and agriculture, and continue the good work of Nebraska Extension in serving people across the state. I’m glad I came prepared with my pen and notepad, because our friends in Fremont gave me thoughtful ideas on how the university can be even more successful going forward.
Next up was Columbus, where the stunning Evans House hosted us for a roundtable discussion with local business and education leaders followed by dinner with university stakeholders. Our roundtable, which focused on opportunities and challenges Columbus is facing in growing its economy, provided me with some important insights. I learned, for example, that there are hundreds of available jobs in Columbus… we just need to make sure we’re producing talented workers who can fill those jobs. The University of Nebraska should be playing a leading role, building on the work of our colleagues in K-12 and partners in the community college system to produce skilled graduates who can meet workforce needs in our communities. I’m grateful to the Columbus leaders who took time on a Sunday evening to have a candid discussion with me. I look forward to continuing our dialogue about how the university can support their efforts to build a competitive economy and increase educational attainment in Columbus.
After dinner, we hit the road again, bound for Grand Island. On the way, I witnessed a gorgeous sunset… a reminder of how blessed I am to call Nebraska my new home. Tomorrow I have a full day of sessions with stakeholders, faculty, students, community members, the news media and others, including a visit to the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a stop at a local high school. I can’t wait to meet with current and prospective students, who are the primary reason I do what I do.
Thanks to new friends in Fremont and Columbus for such a warm welcome on Day One of my Nebraska tour, and a special thanks to Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus for hosting our activities and keeping the conversation lively. On to Day Two!
Solving the ag challenges of tomorrow, with research today
Mead, NE | April 12, 2015And we’re off! Today I began a six-day road trip across Nebraska that will help me get to know the state I now call home. Over the next week, I’ll visit roughly 20 Nebraska communities to talk to a diverse range of citizens about how we can work together to build an even stronger university. I have lots of ground to cover in the days ahead, but I’m energized by the opportunity to listen and learn from people who care deeply about the future of their university – faculty and students, agricultural and business leaders, donors and alumni, farmers and ranchers, and community members across this great state. Their passion for, and investment in, this university is inspiring.
It was fitting that I began my tour at our Agricultural Research and Development Center in Mead – the site of important research in crop production, horticulture, beef, forestry, climate and other areas tied to our goal to sustainably meet the global food, fuel and water challenges of the future. The University of Nebraska can and should be a leader in this effort. My tour of the facilities and dialogue with ARDC faculty and staff told me we’re headed in the right direction. Many thanks to Mark Schroeder, director of the center, and Dave Varner, interim director of the Southeast Research and Extension Center, along with many others, for showing me around and giving me a firsthand look at the work being done in Mead. I especially enjoyed the chance to get outside and see the feedlot research that Galen Erickson is conducting. I also got to check out the Mobile Science Lab – a classroom on wheels that serves the community. Innovative and fun! It’s just one example of the work of Nebraska Extension, whose role I believe has never been more important. Our Extension educators are helping farmers, ranchers, teachers, business owners and many others across Nebraska be more productive and efficient, and they play a vital role in the success of our communities. I thank them for what they do. We were joined for lunch by a number of NU stakeholders, including Sen. Jerry Johnson, and I appreciated the opportunity to dialogue with them about the opportunities and challenges they see for the university.
I’m honored to be joined on my Nebraska tour by Ronnie Green, vice president and vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and several members of his team. It became clear to me early on how highly Nebraskans regard the work of IANR, and I am fortunate to have Ronnie and Co. along to show me the ropes…and make sure I don’t get lost.
My Nebraska tour is off to a wonderful start. Thanks to my Agricultural Research and Development Center colleagues, and our local Regent, Rob Schafer, for hosting me today. I look forward to seeing you again soon. Next stop: Fremont!