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Chancellor Aiken to retire Aug. 20, 2001

Bill Murphy, associate chancellor for public affairs
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Michael Aiken
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Photo by Bill Wiegand
Michael Aiken

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Michael Aiken, the chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, announced today that he is retiring.

Aiken, who became chancellor July 1, 1993, intends to work through Aug. 20, 2001, when he turns 69.

"A decision such as this obviously comes with mixed emotions," Aiken said. "I have great fondness and deep respect for the institution, the students, the faculty, and the staff members I've come to know during the past seven years. Together, we have accomplished many goals, with others yet to be achieved.

"Knowing as I do the caliber of the people with whom I have been affiliated, I can say unequivocally that I have the utmost confidence in their ability to ensure a bright future for the University of Illinois. At the same time, I personally am at the point in my life where I would like to step back, reflect and enjoy with my family the years to come."

An internationally recognized sociologist and former provost of the University of Pennsylvania, Aiken has undertaken a number of major initiatives since assuming his position as chief administrative officer of the UI campus.

"Michael Aiken has been a terrific chancellor, working tirelessly and effectively to preserve and enhance the quality of the campus," said UI President James J. Stukel.

"Conceiving and implementing improvements in undergraduate education, vigorous pursuit of fund raising and public partnerships, success at rebuilding bridges to the Champaign-Urbana community and championing of competitive faculty salaries are the hallmarks of the Aiken era."

Shortly after becoming chancellor, Aiken initiated a comprehensive study of the campus's needs that grew into a strategic plan -- "A Framework for the Future." The plan led to many successful initiatives, including efforts to strengthen undergraduate education and maintain competitive salaries for graduate students and faculty members.

Aiken also has been intimately involved in efforts to raise more than $1 billion in funds, create Partnership Illinois, enhance the campus's involvement in international programs, strengthen relationships with Champaign and Urbana, and develop a research park that will promote beneficial relationships for students and faculty members.

Aiken believes that a key to success in undergraduate education is helping students make the transition from high school. During his tenure, a number of programs were created or given a higher profile with increased support, including the New Student Convocation, the First Year Impact and Discovery programs, and the campus's living and learning communities.

Similarly, Aiken has worked to strengthen the campus's advising program for students. Nearly $500,000 in additional funds has been allocated to improve undergraduate advising since Aiken became chancellor. The money is being used to fund new academic advising positions.

Other initiatives designed to enhance advising are pre-service and in-service training for both faculty and academic professional advisers, the development of a campus advising Web site; and supporting the activities of an undergraduate advising committee.

Aiken revived convocation after it had been discontinued for several decades. In one part of the event, a faculty member addresses the freshman class and encourages students to seek out faculty members.

First Year Impact (also known as FYI), an extended orientation program for selected students, exposes them to challenging issues and to university resources, and prepares the students to be resources for their classmates.

The popular and successful Discovery Program - in which faculty members interact with freshmen in classes of no more than 20 students - began shortly after Aiken became chancellor. The program has expanded from an enrollment of 1,857 in fiscal year 1995 to 4,194 students in fiscal year 2000 and currently serves two-thirds of the freshman class.

The number of living and learning communities has increased from one to five during the Aiken years. The original community, Unit One, is an enrichment program; the more recent communities focus on topics such as career exploration, and women in math, science and engineering.

The campus under Aiken's leadership also has addressed the issue of faculty salaries as part of a continuing effort to recruit and retain outstanding faculty members. While the state salary program averaged 3.35 percent increases from fiscal year 1995 to fiscal year 2000, faculty salaries on the Urbana-Champaign campus increased an average of 5.4 percent; UI faculty salaries rose from seventh to third in the Big 10 during that period.

Aiken also has overseen improvements in compensation and benefits for graduate assistants. The campus has increased the base stipend for all graduate assistants by 41 percent since 1995 -- from $7,500 for a nine-month 50 percent appointment to $10,600 in fiscal year 2001.

The campus also began providing dental and vision coverage for graduate assistants and fellows at no cost; began providing parental leave for graduate assistants; and provided access to McKinley Health Center for spouses of graduate students.

Since Aiken became chancellor, the number of graduate fellowships has increased significantly (61 were added in fiscal years 1995-96; 58 in fiscal year 98; and 20 in fiscal year 2000). The provost's office has provided $250,000 to match the income generated by the new fellowship endowments.

Aiken also has overseen improvements in the graduate college fellowship program for students from underrepresented groups.

As leader of the Campaign Illinois fund-raising effort, Aiken helped raise more than $1 billion for the campus. That money will be used for academic programs, student financial assistance, endowed academic positions and new facilities and equipment. The number of endowed academic chairs on campus has risen from 32 to 192 since Aiken took over.

The chancellor also led the effort to create Partnership Illinois, the initiative that serves as a catalyst for expanding the public service mission of the university.

Partnership Illinois grants have provided funding for such efforts as the East St. Louis Action Research Project, a national model for university-community cooperation; the Novice Teacher Program, a project to support and retain first-year teachers in Illinois; and the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education project online lessons database.

To strengthen the campus' international studies component, Aiken hired a new associate provost for international affairs; hired 13 new faculty members in seven colleges as part of the International Faculty Lines program; allocated $2.7 million to fund existing international programs and establish eight new multidisciplinary centers and programs; increased by 74 percent participation in study-abroad opportunities between 1993 and 1999; and implemented a bilateral research and exchange agreement with the National Center for Scientific Research (the French equivalent of the National Science Foundation).

Aiken helped establish the Campustown 2000 Task Force to enhance safety and improve the physical appearance of campustown. He also conducted meetings with representatives of Champaign-Urbana's African-American community as a means of fostering ongoing communication.

Additionally, Aiken has led efforts to create a research park on campus, which is now under development. Construction on several buildings in the park is under way, and negotiations with other tenants are taking place. The park is intended, in part, to create opportunities for UI students and faculty members to interact with high-tech entrepreneurs and develop the sort of symbiotic relationships that foster academic and economic benefits for those involved in the interchange.

A national search, the details of which will be announced later, will be conducted to find Aiken's successor.