To the Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of Nebraska System:
Last week, a faculty member wrote to me that she knows students who are able to attend our university only because of the Nebraska Promise.
It was a powerful reminder of why we do what we do. The University of Nebraska has always been about opportunity, and that mission rings as true today as it did when we were founded nearly 153 years ago.
As I reflect on 2021, I am struck by the passion, creativity and talent with which you are delivering on that mission. It has been an extraordinary year, marked by extraordinary achievements – even as we have continued to manage a pandemic that is as challenging as it is unpredictable.
To name just a few:
We celebrated positive enrollment trends, thanks in part to steps like the Nebraska Promise and our two-year tuition freeze that have protected the value and quality of a University of Nebraska education. This year we welcomed our most diverse student body in history.
With hard work and discipline, and support from elected leaders, we were able to bring the Board of Regents a budget that includes investments in financial aid and salaries to bring our talented faculty more in line with their peers.
A historic partnership with the state has made investments in building renewal and repair possible across our campuses – a win for students, faculty, staff and Nebraska taxpayers. We are already moving forward on more than $200 million worth of facilities projects that will ensure we have quality spaces in which to teach, learn and work.
Your research is transforming the lives of Nebraskans and growing our economy. For the fourth straight year, we ranked among the world’s top institutions in earning research patents. We continue to break new ground in areas like water and agriculture, national security, cancer and public health – including our medical center’s world-leading role in the treatment and study of COVID-19.
Just this week, UNL announced a $51 million grant from the National Science Foundation – one of the largest in university history – to lead the operations of cutting-edge subatomic physics research. This is a tremendous achievement and a strong vote of confidence in the leadership and talents of UNL researchers.
We are working hand-in-hand with colleagues in higher education, business, the philanthropic community and government, with the goal of creating opportunities for students and meeting the urgent workforce needs of our state.
A new system-wide partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to grow the national security workforce of the future is one example, building on the leadership role we have established through the UNO-based National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education Center. Expanding student internship and job opportunities will be a high priority in 2022.
Students are playing a vital leadership role in efforts like our sustainability planning. A newly formed team including students from all campuses is guiding the development of a system-wide sustainability plan that we expect to take to the Board of Regents next year. The plan will build on your good work and signify our commitment as a system to being responsible stewards of all our resources.
And, we are thinking boldly about the future. Our proposals for American Rescue Plan funding – a new rural health complex in Kearney, an agricultural research and development facility in Lincoln, STEM education in Omaha, and a new pancreatic cancer research institute, to name a few – represent unique opportunities to change the trajectory for Nebraska’s workforce and future generations of leaders. We will work closely with state leaders in the months ahead as they consider how to invest these precious dollars.
As remarkable as this year has been, I believe we will accomplish even more in 2022. Our faculty, staff and students are among the world’s best – true to our founding mission, dedicated to service to Nebraska – and I am humbled to serve alongside you.
I wish you a restful holiday season, and thank you for all you do for the University of Nebraska.
President, University of Nebraska System