21, No. 13, Feb. 7, 2002
Q&A with Chancellor Nancy Cantor
By Sharita Forrest,
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
Urbana campus Chancellor Nancy Cantor took time to talk with Inside
Illinois assistant editor Sharita Forrest recently, answering questions
about the budget, campus initiatives and child care.
by Bill Wiegand
do you hope to maintain the quality of education given the financial
constraints of the reduced budget?
I think it is absolutely important that we remain competitive on faculty
salaries. Obviously in a tight budget year, it is going to be very hard
to do that. But it is very much on our minds. Over the last decade,
we have had some significant losses in faculty numbers at the same time
that our enrollment has been growing steadily. So I think it is absolutely
critical that we continue hiring and increasing our faculty size to
meet the demands of our enrollment.
We are asking students for more tuition, and we know it is a hardship.
Obviously, we will take the brunt of the cuts and figure out ways to
make choices but also to keep investing in new things. We cannot slide
How will big projects like UI Integrate and
the Post-Genomic Institute be affected by this?
There may be some slowing of progress, but we absolutely have a responsibility
to keep those projects going, to make as speedy progress as we possibly
can. We need to be garnering new sources of revenue by capitalizing
on exciting intellectual areas where we can prepare future citizens
and address critical societal needs.
Can you talk about the four initiatives for
the campus that were given to faculty members recently?
We gave the faculty, and ultimately the students as well, four broad
areas where we thought there were substantial intellectual discoveries
to be made, where critical societal issues could be addressed, where
the educational opportunities were particularly ripe. Those areas are
biotechnology/bioengineering in a "nano" world, the humanities
in a globalizing world, American institutions in a demographically changing
world and arts in a technology-intensive world.
We are going to hold a retreat on Feb. 27 and ask faculty members to
consider first those four areas and how they could see themselves written
in those. Then we want them to suggest ways we could tweak those areas
or for them to suggest alternative areas that they see as particularly
exciting. I think that the main point behind this exercise is to create
startling combinations: arts and technology, humanities in a global
world, democracy when we have such a demographically multi-racial and
aging population. Out of that we think Illinois will come to a set of
areas where we can make real progress and be leaders.
Can you talk a little about the Exploring the
Human Experience initiative?
One of the things that is so important to do on any campus is to bring
everyone together as a community and think about the challenges of the
human experience. As scholars, we are in a world where we need to consciously
and reflectively think about what diversity means in all of its respects.
The Human Experience semester is organized with
[Commencement speaker] Maya Angelous work as a capstone and as
a focus to bring in all the different facets of how a university thinks
about the human experience, from performance to communications courses
to joint readings to visual culture to analyses of international security
and the changing demographics of this country.
How do the diversity initiatives fall into
In the diversity initiatives, we are specifically recognizing the Brown
vs. Board of Education jubilee celebration and the huge ramifications
it had. Brown was one of the major jumping-off points in history where
people thought about opportunity and access in all its forms. Well
go back and use Brown as a touchstone for thinking about what our life
is like today and where the points of opportunity or obstacle to opportunity
The Center for Democracy in a Multiracial Society is a very important
example of the way in which questions of diversity interweave themselves.
We do not really know in this contemporary period what it means to be
a democracy because everything is going to get rewritten as the diversity
of our country changes.
One of the criticisms that is lodged against the university sometimes
is that there is too much emphasis on research at the expense of teaching.
How do you respond to that?
I think this institution has had a very distinguished history of late
of a very strong commitment to teaching. The teaching academies, the
living and learning communities, and the discovery and capstone courses
are formal examples, but there are informal ways too. One of the things
that a major research university wants to do is make research and education
seamless so they are positively intertwined. That is not always easy
because there are pressures to raise revenues and support for research.
But I think that is the trend of the future to really bring the great
intellectual resources of the research enterprise to bear on undergraduate
education rather than seeing those as being at odds with one another.
How does economic development fit into the
educational mission of the university?
It fits very well, and I think one of the great examples of this is
the Caterpillar Simulation Center in the Research Park where we see
engineering and commerce students deeply engaged with creating and transferring
discovery to the market. It is very exciting. These students are getting
a firsthand, hands-on exposure to the workings of one of the country's
major corporations. Think about economic development as another form
of engaging with the public and of testing our ideas and our learning
in a public forum.
People tend to think of economic development in terms of new technologies
or scientific discoveries and that is very important, but there is also
a side to economic development that has been very active in the arts,
fostering expression and unity and providing a positive atmosphere that
allows for enormous growth and creativity. That is economic development
What is the status on the child care issue?
The Provost and I are really trying to make progress and address needs
for infant care, sick-child care, drop-in care and extended service
hours. We are going to be putting together a set of joint programs with
the United Way, which has an initiative called Success for Six. We're
going to try to join the resources of the campus and the community in
this. We're very excited about pushing that forward.