Last week I had the opportunity to be on stage as 734 new University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduates earned their degrees.
Seeing the pride on their faces and hearing the cheers of their loved ones reminded me once again of the life-changing power of higher education.
I know that impact firsthand. I’ve seen it time and again in my own life and career.
“I have every confidence our best is yet to come. This place – and the people it binds together – are truly special.”
As a first-generation student at UNL, I didn’t know what to expect from college, except that it would open doors for me beyond what might have otherwise been possible. As a faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, I got to watch the next generation of young people discover their own paths. As a parent, grandparent and farmer, I’ve been personally touched by the university in more ways than I can count.
And now, as president of my alma mater, I have the privilege of serving side-by-side with faculty and staff who are building Nebraska’s future through the education of 52,000 students, research that improves the human condition, and outreach that touches every corner of the state.
It is a great honor and responsibility to serve our students and the people of Nebraska in this way. I will do all I can to help maintain the trajectory that Nebraskans have built for their University.
We begin a new academic year with remarkable momentum and opportunities for continued growth and discovery.
At UNL, my former colleagues in agriculture have announced innovations that will help feed a global population expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, like a sensor that could measure crops’ water use in real time.
UNK is transforming the workforce not just in the Kearney region, but across the state. A recent analysis showed 1 of every 7 Nebraska teachers holds a UNK degree.
UNO’s national leadership in biomechanics, the study of human movement, continues to attract attention and investment, including a new federal grant that will fund a study of slips with a hope of reducing falls, the leading cause of injury in the U.S.
UNMC scientists were part of a recent breakthrough in HIV research that marked a significant step toward a potential cure.
Faculty expertise across disciplines has solidified our position as an exclusive partner to the Department of Defense in conducting research to protect our men and women in uniform. We have attracted world-leading talent in early childhood education with a goal of making Nebraska the best place in the nation to be a baby.
We have shown what it means to be a partner to our state in the aftermath of devastating flooding, with students spending their summers serving in impacted communities, faculty and staff lending their expertise, and UNK opening its dorms to those in need.
And we have done all this while fulfilling our fundamental responsibility to Nebraskans: Providing an excellent education at an affordable price. Tuition and fees across our campuses remain well below peer averages, a credit to support from state policymakers and our internal efforts to cut costs so that we remain accessible for students and families.
Our commitment to access and quality is as critical now as ever. Nebraska’s workforce needs are urgent and growing. Higher education will be a critical part of the solution. Going forward, we will work closely with our partners in education to enhance and rigorously track student outcomes to make certain we’re producing a skilled workforce that keeps Nebraska competitive.
Nebraskans expect and deserve no less from their University. And as I told our newest alumni last week, I have every confidence our best is yet to come. There’s a reason I have built a lifelong connection to the University of Nebraska. This place – and the people it binds together – are truly special.
I thank every Nebraskan for their support of their University, and I look forward to listening and learning from them in the months ahead.