President’s Op-Ed: Federal partners play critical role in University of Nebraska’s success

July 13, 2015

By Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska

Recently several members of the Board of Regents and I had the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital and meet with Nebraska’s congressional delegation. I thank our representatives – Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, Adrian Smith and Brad Ashford – for taking time to visit with us about how we can work together to serve Nebraskans. I’m grateful for the work they do on behalf of our state.

As I told our federal partners, the University of Nebraska has the potential to become one of America’s great universities. Congress plays an important role in our efforts, and I’m delighted that members of Nebraska’s delegation share my goal for the university and state to dream big about the future.

“The University of Nebraska has the potential to become one of America’s great universities. Congress plays an important role in our efforts, and I’m delighted members of Nebraska’s delegation share my goal to dream big about the future.”

America has long been the gold standard for higher education around the world – and for good reason. Federal financial aid programs extend the promise of a college degree to students who might not otherwise be able to afford it, helping build a skilled workforce for our economy. At the University of Nebraska alone, thousands of students receive federal Pell Grants, a foundational source of support.

And, the investments Congress makes in university research in critical areas like agriculture, medicine and national security keep our country on the forefront of discovery. University research supported by federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and Department of Defense advances medical treatments, increases agricultural productivity, makes our country safer and improves the quality of life for people here and around the world.

As other nations step up their investments in research and development, America can’t afford to take our foot off the accelerator. Without sustained support for university research, our talented faculty and students will not have the resources they need to maintain our competitive advantage.

That was one message a University of Nebraska faculty member, Dr. Angela Pannier, shared during congressional briefings in Washington this summer. Dr. Pannier, whose research focuses in part on the potential for safer, faster and easier vaccines, joined other faculty from around the country on a panel discussion about how scientific research today will benefit the country 20 years down the road. Dr. Pannier noted the University of Nebraska has the potential to achieve vaccination goals of the future – but that long-term federal funding for research is critical because current progress in vaccine development will not keep pace with the growing threats posed by infectious diseases.

There are many other examples across the university. Faculty affiliated with the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute can lead the way in developing solutions for feeding a global population that is projected to grow from 7.2 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050. But their work depends in part on federal support for research that results in new agricultural and food science innovations that can be applied in Nebraska and around the world.

And our faculty are making discoveries in cancer treatment, public health, transplantation and other areas that are saving lives in our state and elsewhere. But they need support from the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies to stay on the cutting edge. I’m pleased by the current bipartisan support in Congress for increasing investments in the NIH – one step we can take as a nation to maintain our competitiveness.

I know members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation share my enthusiasm for our state’s potential to help address critical challenges of the day. Working together, the University of Nebraska and our partners in Congress can make a difference for Nebraskans and people around the world.