The Investiture, a ceremony to welcome presidents during their first year, also served to officially open the state-of-the-art performance hall in the new Campus Commons.
It is hard for me to believe that this time last year, I was just starting to pack up my office at San Jose State. What a year this has been — everything I expected and more. We hired Mark Anderson as our Provost, tackled our $10 million structural deficit head-on, started work to improve retention and graduate rates, opened the Campus Commons, celebrated raising over $54 million with our Campaign for UNC, and got about 10 inches of snow in April (definitely more than I expected). I thank you for your engagement, commitment and hard work. I am energized by how much we care for our students and how hard we work to support their success.
In my early discussions with the campus last summer, four themes quickly emerged as focal points for us to address this year:
- Work more collaboratively and transparently.
- Focus on student success, addressing retention and graduation in particular.
- Resolve our $10 million structural deficit.
- Better articulate what makes UNC special.
We kept our sights on these four areas all year and made significant headway. We’ve done difficult, transformative work, and when you’re focused on getting things done, you don’t always notice how far you’ve come. So, I want to recap some of the highlights.
Collaboration and Transparency
From the moment I arrived in Greeley, I made it a priority to get to know the people of UNC. I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn about this community — and for you to learn about me. I met with numerous students, staff and faculty this year, and have standing meetings with leaders of the Student Senate, Professional Administrative Staff Council, Classified Staff Council and Faculty Senate.
As planned, I met with the faculty of every academic department and school — all 41 of them. The meetings were fascinating and incredibly valuable. You’ll be hearing more about what I learned after I find some time this summer to put my thoughts together. I plan to meet with administrative departments next academic year.
We started the fall semester with a series of Budget 101 presentations, convened the President’s Leadership Council, created task forces on student success, student affairs and our academic portfolio, and held multiple campus-wide forums. We’re also engaging our Board of Trustees more. This spring they formed standing committees on strategic enrollment management, student success, external engagement and change management.
I’ve also been spending time with our city partners. I am on the Greeley Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, and I meet regularly with Aims President Leah Bornstein, District 6 Superintendent Deirdre Pilch, City Manager Roy Otto and Mayor John Gates. We have mutual interest in forging strong and lasting partnerships. The investiture ceremony we held three weeks ago was a great opportunity to showcase our university and new performance hall for state and local dignitaries and distinguished guests from universities around the country. To everyone who showed up to represent UNC, thank you.
We have adopted an integrated approach to student success that will support students from the moment they arrive on campus until the day they graduate. Working with Huron and building on recommendations from the task forces we convened in the fall, we created and are starting to implement a Strategic Enrollment and Student Success Plan. Implementation Team co-chairs Professor Joan Clinefelter and interim Associate Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Sean Broghammer have convened action teams that will work through the summer and engage campus more broadly in the fall.
After much discussion this year, we are moving forward with transforming our Campus Community and Climate division into a Student Affairs division, which will continue to take shape as we work with Huron to identify structural and operational changes to better serve students. Working together, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs will unify our efforts to promote student success.
Resolving the Deficit
To kick off our budget work last fall, about 800 staff, faculty and students attended Budget 101 discussions and over 300 participated in open forums to offer feedback on cost-saving options vetted by our newly created President’s Leadership Council. We received over 4,000 comments that informed which university-wide cost-saving options we decided to pursue.
To reach our cost-savings goal, we increased the faculty and exempt staff contribution to health insurance, modified our employee/dependent tuition waiver benefit, offered a faculty retirement incentive and agreed to identify significant savings at the division level. Those division-level decisions included the elimination of 77 vacant positions and 11 layoffs — by far the most difficult part of this work. Every division and college met its cost-saving goal and we are on track to resolve the deficit by fiscal year 2021.
We are also working with Huron on organizational and structural changes to make us both more effective and more efficient. My decision to combine University and External Relations with Development and Alumni Relations to create a University Advancement division is an example of this kind of thinking. This will more effectively integrate our communication, marketing and development efforts while also generating cost-savings.
We were fortunate to receive a state funding increase of $4.3 million for next fiscal year, with the expectation that we keep our resident undergraduate tuition rate flat. I’ve been working throughout the year with our legislators, the governor’s office, Joint Budget Committee, Capital Development Committee and other presidents to advocate for funding. I will continue to be a proponent of collaborating for the greater good of higher education in the state.
Many of my meetings with faculty this year affirmed the things we often say about UNC. We are big enough to give students a wealth of opportunities and small enough to let them work closely with faculty. Our professors are genuinely committed to the teacher-scholar model, purposefully connecting their research and teaching. We prepare students to be lifelong learners and promote their upward economic and social mobility. Our students’ diversity is one of our great strengths.
We will have the opportunity to build on these ideas next fall when we come together to reaffirm our vision for UNC. Our strategic enrollment and student success work, as well as the market research we’ve been doing, will help us zero in on our distinctiveness and sharpen our story about what makes UNC stand out in a competitive marketplace. I’m looking forward to doing that work with you and plan to expand the President’s Leadership Council to help guide the process.
But, before you start really thinking about next fall, I hope you will find some time to reflect on how much we accomplished this year. It is truly remarkable and could not have been done without you. Thank you for your time, dedication and hard work to advance UNC. I look forward to next year and hope you have a relaxing and fulfilling summer.
Rowing, Not Drifting,
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