In my first week as president of the University of Nebraska, I traveled 1,500 miles, visited more than 20 communities, and talked to hundreds of Nebraskans about their hopes and dreams for the future of their state and its only public university.
I met with faculty and students, state and community college partners, farmers and ranchers, business leaders and educators, donors and alumni and many others. I stopped at university campuses, research and extension facilities, rural high schools and numerous community venues. And, as I drove from the eastern part of the state to its westernmost corners, I saw firsthand the spectacular diversity of Nebraska. I know now that you can’t appreciate the beauty of the Sandhills until you have been there.
My “listening and learning” tour of our state is far from over. But already, you have taught me a great deal. I am indebted to the many Nebraskans who have taken time to engage with me during my initial days as president of this great institution. Two weeks in, I’m even more excited to serve in this role than when I accepted the job. I’ve dreamed of having an opportunity to be in a place where I could help change the world. In the University of Nebraska presidency, I have found that opportunity.
“The people of Nebraska care deeply about the success of their university. They want to see us working to improve their communities and making sure a college education remains within reach for all Nebraska students and families.”
It would be impossible to cover everything I learned during my travels across the state. But this much is clear: The people of Nebraska care deeply about the success of their university.
You want to see us working to improve your communities – producing more skilled graduates, meeting workforce needs in health care and agriculture and business and other areas, attracting new talent to our state and keeping the bright young people we have.
You want to see us working hand in glove with our partners at Nebraska’s state and community colleges, doing all we can to make sure students can transfer smoothly between institutions and stay on the path to a degree.
You want us to make sure a college education remains within reach for all Nebraska students and families. You want your children to be able to earn a four-year degree without taking on too much debt. You want to know that we understand higher education is an investment and that we are taking steps to keep the university affordable. As the parent of two young children myself, I assure you: We do understand, and we are taking those steps.
You want to see our campuses working together as one university, combining our talents and resources in ways that best serve the state.
And you want to see us do more to tell our story – to share more about the good work the university’s faculty, staff and students are doing and how Nebraska is benefiting.
As president, I am committed to doing all these things, and many more. I continue to be humbled to serve in this role and I’m grateful for the input that so many Nebraskans have provided. I look forward to meeting many more of you in the weeks and months ahead as we work together to build the University of Nebraska into a true giant in higher education, changing the lives of people in our state and around the world.