Saying that public universities are entering “a new financial environment” and a decade of turbulence that will create “a new order of excellence for the first time in 50 years,” Interim Chancellor Richard Herman outlined his vision for ensuring that the Urbana campus emerges as a pre-eminent institution during the coming decade.
Herman, who spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Faculty on Sept. 20 at the Illini Union, said that universities will no longer be able to depend on state support for the majority of their operating funds and to succeed they will need to become innovative, agile risk-takers who anticipate and lead transformative developments and marshal and reallocate resources to create novel multidisciplinary venues for research and education. These qualities have been a hallmark of the UI throughout its history and will enable the university to flourish during a turbulent period, Herman said.
“I propose that there is no reason for us to be content with continuing to be a top 10 or even top five public research university. It is time for us to move up, to become unambiguously equal to the best of our competitors. The only aspiration that is worthy of our history is pre-eminence. Our great strengths make it possible for us to bring within reach this most ambitious goal in our history,” Herman said.
Herman announced a four-step process for achieving this objective:
First, he reinstituted the Faculty Excellence Program to help units recruit outstanding, experienced faculty members who can provide scholarly leadership.
Second, Herman said he would restore funding for the Critical Research Initiatives program, which will support groundbreaking projects and initiatives in all fields.
Accordingly, the campus will be strengthening interdisciplinary research centers and institutes and expanding the themes they support by establishing “new webs of faculty connection.”
Third, the campus will focus on accelerating and deepening its internationalization, bolstering recruitment of minority students, ensuring that undergraduate academic and support programs foster understanding of diversity and globalization, and recruiting a permanent leader for the Center on Democracy in a Multiracial Society.
Fourth, the campus will place renewed emphasis on the arts and humanities, supporting them as “full intellectual partners” in the university and building upon achievements of the past few years.