Installation remarks - William N. Ruud, 10th President, University of Northern Iowa

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fred, thank you very much for those kind words.  As a key architect of my academic and administrative career, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I can never repay. So, in the same manner that you helped me, I’ll continue “paying it forward” to help others. I hope you know how important it is for me to have you join us today—thanks my friend.

Governor Branstad; Lt. Governor Reynolds; Senator and UNI alumnus Grassley; Representative Braley; Regent President Rastetter; Regent President Pro Tempore and UNI alumna Mulholland; members of the Board of Regents; Distinguished Members of the Platform Party; Institutional Representatives; Representative Rogers; Mayor Clark; Mayor Crews; students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the greater Cedar Falls/Waterloo community, and the many friends and supporters of the University of Northern Iowa; thank you for joining us today. I am very honored by your presence and the opportunity you’ve given me to serve as the 10th President of this great university.

 First, I want to thank my out-of-town family and friends for traveling so far to join us today:

  • Bev and Louie Kish, Judy’s brother and sister-in-law from Orange County, CA.

  • Milt Richards and his wife, Amy Bublak from Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Milt and Amy are long-time friends who I worked with at CSU-Stanislaus.

  • Jerry Korb and his wife Loree.  Jerry was my college roommate at the University of North Dakota and, NO, you can’t ask him any questions.

  • Keith Anderson and his wife, Patty from Minneapolis, MN.  Keith is my fraternity brother from UND and, NO, you can’t ask him any questions either!!!

  • Bob Boylen, a good friend from Grand Rapids, MI… thanks for coming Bob.

  • Of course, my very good friend and mentor Fred Luthans and his wife, Kay from Lincoln, NE. Fred thanks a million for coming. And thank you for teaching me early in my career that universities are student-centered and learner-centered environments. 

  • Judy’s Mom and Dad, Linda and Louis Kish from Boulder City, NV. While they couldn’t join us today, they’re watching us via live video streaming. Mom and Dad, thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for me.

  • Three people who I think about daily and who I know are watching from above: my Mom and Dad, Marjorie and John Ruud, and my brother Marty. I can’t thank them enough for shaping me into who I am today.

  • Finally, and very specially, my wife and best friend of 37 years Judy, thanks and I love you.

I also want to thank the Installation Committee led by chairs Jan Hanish, John Vallentine, and Jennifer Yarrow. Along with their team, they’ve done an amazing job organizing this Installation. Thank you!

I am also pleased that my fellow Regents’ university Presidents, Sally Mason from the University of Iowa and Steve Leath from THE Iowa State University are here today. Together, our three public Universities under the great leadership of the Board of Regents give Iowa students three great first choices for their public undergraduate and graduate education. While I’ve only known President Mason and President Leath a short time, we’ve already worked collaboratively to serve Iowa’s citizens and I know that we’ll continue this great partnership.

In 1970, I had the opportunity to begin my College Education. And, as I often told my mother, I loved it so much that now, 43 years later, I’m still in college!!!! Like many of you, I feel very fortunate to live in a country that provides educational opportunities to help us develop our passion, think critically, fulfill our dreams, and adapt to change. While those opportunities are equally important, seeing how quickly things have changed since 1970 shows the importance of teaching future generations about adapting to change. For example, since 1970 we’ve gone from:

  • Boom Boxes that played music from tapes—to iPod’s that instantly download music;

  • Mainframe computers-housed in room-sized metal frames to laptop sized iPads with WIFI connections;

  • Landline telephones—to cellphones;

  • Paper Maps—to GPS systems;

  • Gas cars-to hybrid and electric cars-and now to solar powered cars;

  • Surgery performed by human hands-to robotic surgery;

  • Medical advances, including organ transplants; and, of course;

  • On-line Shopping and E-Commerce.

Rapidly advancing technology requires that we continue positioning the University of Northern Iowa to help students not only adapt to change—but also to lead it. We must continue providing students who pass through UNI’s hallowed halls with a high-quality education that allows them to succeed and excel in an ever changing global environment.

To put that in perspective, sometime in their career, the vast majority of today’s kindergarten students will hold a job that has not yet been invented. Additionally, many of today’s college graduates will have ten or more jobs before they reach age 40. Today, many of those jobs are in fields that did not exist years ago. Fields like:

  • E-Business;

  • New Media and Social Media;

  • Nanotechnology;

  • Organic Agriculture; and

  • Homeland Security

Tomorrow, many of those jobs will be ones that don’t exist today. Jobs like:

  • Robot Mechanic;

  • Space Tour Guide;

  • Drone Dispatcher;

  • Earthquake/Tornado Predictor; and

  • Hydrogen Fuel Station Manager.

Knowing that, we, as educators, must prepare students for a future that is certain to change—and help them embrace that change.

Maya Angelou said, If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, then change your attitude!”  Similarly, Karen Kaiser Clark said, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”

We must take that advice and share it with our students. We must continue giving our students the tools... problem-solving and critical thinking… and the skills… reading, writing, math, and science, to live in our current environment and adapt to new environments. Embracing those changes requires continuing to help our students not only become educated and skilled professionals, but also to become compassionate and ethical people who are engaged in improving our world. At UNI, every day, both inside and outside the classroom, our outstanding faculty, staff and administrators do those things as they challenge students to do their best, learn from mistakes, and become better citizens.

At UNI, our philosophy of caring for students is deeply embedded in the education we provide. We teach students things they can’t, or won’t find simply in textbooks, computers, or other technology. We help them learn how to care for one another in this rapidly changing—and technology-centered world. One of the many ways we do that at UNI is to provide students different opportunities to live and learn together. Those include opportunities to join over 250 different student groups-like our debate teams; our musical groups; and our athletic teams. Those include opportunities to attend academic seminars, engage in faculty-student research, and participate in work-study programs where students learn to collaborate with and support other students and professors. While there are many examples, one of our more recent examples involves fourteen (14) University of Northern Iowa Students were joined by eight (8) students from the University of Toledo and two UNI Faculty Members in presenting an 8 hour workshop directed at sharing the leadership and program methods utilized in the Camp Adventure™ Child & Youth Services program at the Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa's Congress held September of this year in Durban, South Africa. 

At UNI, the care for our students is apparent in the sense of community that gives life to campus. It is the personal connection I just mentioned between and among students and faculty, staff, and administrators. While technology is important, we must always remember that these relationships are the hallmark of UNI. No electronic communication or computer technology, can provide that relationship. Technology may move at the speed of light, but it can never move at the speed of the heart.

Shortly after I joined UNI last May, it became clear that the campus community... the faculty, staff, students, and alumni community—are very proud of this outstanding university. I quickly understood that when people say “Purple for Life”—it’s more than just a saying. Among other things, it shows they’re committed to UNI and the UNI Panther Family. This UNI spirit is not just empowering and inspiring; it’s transformational—it enhances our motivation, morale, and performance.

UNI has had many successes over the past 137 years, and I know it will have many more successes in the future. As Sir Isaac Newton said in his letter to Robert Hooke in February 1675, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” As we embark on our future successes, let us always remember that we do it by standing on the shoulders of some very special giants, like: James C. Gilchrist; Homer H. Seerley; Orval P. Latham; Malcom P. Price; James W. “Bill” Maucker; John Kamerrick; Constantine “Deno” Curris; Robert “Bob” Koob; and Benjamin “Ben” Allen. These past Presidents have used their skilled leadership, foresight; and love for UNI to make it one of the best universities in the Midwest and the Nation. These past Presidents have positioned me to lead this University forward from a position of strength and—for that—I thank them. 

One thing that has made every one of the last 127 days since I arrived so wonderful and worthwhile is seeing the many accomplishments of UNI and its diverse members. While those accomplishments are too numerous to mention, I’d like to highlight a few of them:

  • In the latest US News and World Report—we retained our #2 ranking among Public Regional Midwest Universities, and our ranking in the category of the combined Private and Public Regional Midwest Universities improved from #22 to #13. 

  • UNI has been included in the 100 Best Values in Public Colleges by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

  • Our receipt of a $1 million gift from the Gerdin Family Foundation to establish the Ben and Pat Allen Endowed Scholarship fund. 

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education named UNI as a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars—three in 2012-13 and again three more in 2013-14.

  • Our Physics teacher education program was cited as one of 11 outstanding programs in the nation, in the report, “Transforming the Preparation of Physics Teachers: A Call to Action.”

  • The Center for Social and Behavioral Research has conducted over 600 research projects on health, crime, education, and public policy and it annually generates dozens of successful reports and publications.

  • Our College of Education is the largest of Iowa’s 32 teacher education programs. Nearly 33% of all the current teachers in Iowa and almost 40% of all the superintendents and principals in Iowa are UNI alumni.

  • In May, 2013 it was self-reported that our students in the masters in accounting program had a 100% pass rate on their first attempt of the CPA exam within 30 days of graduation and an overall 60% pass rate on their first attempt of the CPA exam by all accounting graduates.

  • The NCAA reported five UNI sports teams posted multi-year Academic Progress Rates in the top 10% of all squads in their respective sports—the most of any school in the Missouri Valley Conference.

When this fall semester started, I shared my four major goals for 2013/2014 with our faculty, staff, and students. I’ll list those four goals, and then tell you something about each of them.

They are:

  1. Recruitment Efforts and Focus

  2. Quality, Efficiency, Effectiveness & Accountability

  3. Accessibility, Affordability, and Student Success

  4. Relationships with Key Stakeholders

My First Goal: Recruitment Efforts and Focus: Give the past two years of enrollment challenges, a top priority is recruiting and retaining students—and we’re seeing some success. This year – our total enrollment is 12,159. That’s 359 more students than our budgeted enrollment projection of 11,800.  

Additionally, we improved our student retention rate. This fall, the rate of students returning for a second year is 82.9%—that’s an increase of 1.6% from last year, and it is the highest retention rate at UNI since 2007. Comparatively, the national average for retention at institutions similar to UNI is about 10% lower—or 71.7%. 

Our students also continue to graduate sooner and with less debt. Relative to this, we had an Eight percent Drop (8%) in student indebtedness—nearly $2,000 per student—during the last (2012-13) academic year.   

Each of you plays a key role in these efforts—particularly the faculty. Research shows that often times, in fact, most times, students succeed if we put them first. At UNI We Put Students First.  Research also shows that it’s often the relationship a faculty member has with a student – that makes a difference in that student’s decision to challenge him or herself, engage in research and stay enrolled in college.   From a recruitment perspective, we also know that students who connect with a faculty member—whether at a UNI open house, a scholarship competition, or somewhere else, are more likely to apply and enroll.  Students are wise; they know and understand how important it is to have opportunities to work closely with faculty.   That’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the UNI faculty for their commitment to helping us recruit and retain students. 

We are also improving our enrollment management structure and processes. That includes having more robust in-state and out-of-state recruitment and retention efforts; especially in states bordering Iowa. To recruit students we are also actively engaging the help of alumni who reside inside and outside of Iowa; involving current UNI students to help recruit students from their hometown high schools; and expanding and strengthening our partnerships with Iowa Community Colleges. 

My Second Goal:  Quality, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Accountability:  We must maintain and enhance the quality of our academic and non-academic programs. Any new and reallocated resources must be intentionally distributed to strategic areas of demand and emerging importance. 

There is a clear and distinct need for a new budget model for distributing state appropriations. To address this, the Board of Regents has appointed a Task Force to review a new budget model. That task force is led by former Regent, David Miles. 

We are hopeful that the Task Force is considering a new model, based partially on our current incremental model of funding a base amount, and including some incentive-based funding to promote innovation and growth. This new model must also be transparent, inclusive and strategic. 

My Third Goal:  Accessibility, Affordability, and Student Success:  We will continue to implement strategic efforts to increase student access and student success. Awarding financial aid assistance based on a student’s demonstrated financial need and recruiting high-quality students will remain priorities. We will also improve our marketing efforts to support and positively impact enrollment and brand recognition of UNI. To address Affordability and Accessibility for students, in September our Board of Regents approved a proposal to put forth to the Legislature – that includes:

  • Freezing tuition for undergraduate resident students for the 2nd consecutive year, provided the General Assembly approves an additional 4% or $3.7M for inflation

  • We are seeking our current base appropriation of  $83.2 M

  • And funds to address our fiscal stabilization (disparate impact) of $10 M. This is one-time money for this year—and we need to make these funds a permanent part of our base appropriations. The result is that we would have a FY 2015 General Fund base budget of $96.9 M. Again, this is proposed. I know the Governor and the Legislature will weigh in and decide on this request next spring.

We are also seeking funds for:

  • A Bachelor of Applied Science Program -- $3.0M for two years

  • An Entrepreneur Outreach Program for Iowa Small Business that includes a Business Concierge, Network Iowa, and AppsLab, Local Foods Entrepreneurship Support, and the UNI MarketPlace)—$1.5M

  • And we are again seeking funding for the very successful Governor’s STEM Advisory Council Initiative—$5.2M

And, my final goal:  Relationships with Key Stakeholders: I will continue working to strengthen the relationships with and among faculty, staff, and students. In addition, I remain steadfast in my commitment that external relationships among alumni, donors, state legislators, the Governor, other elected officials and friends of the university must remain a top priority. 

We will also continue our ambitious external fundraising and friend-raising. After we completed our Imagine the Impact Campaign a year early with $158M on a goal of $150M, we continue with our Focus on Students Scholarship Initiative and have successfully raised nearly $11M toward a $40M goal. As we begin to craft our 2015-2020 University Strategic Plan, we must also examine the next two fundraising timeframes: 2014-2019 and 2019-2026. (2026 is UNI’s 150th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the Campanile.) 

As my last goal shows – transparency, inclusion and collaboration are important to me. I’m doing several things to foster those goals, including sending messages to campus more frequently and sharing more information.  Information is powerful, and sharing it is even more powerful. It is important to me—and I will work tirelessly—to keep all of you informed and engaged in the process and our strategic goals.

I am optimistic and excited for this year. We have made some structural organizational changes to help implement the goals I just discussed. In addition to our Executive Leadership Team, we increased our Cabinet – the principle information distribution, discussion, and deliberation forum for UNI—from 9 members to 43 members. That Cabinet group now includes the academic deans,  administrators, the faculty senate chair, the united faculty president, representatives of all our staff organizations… Professional & Scientific, Supervisory & Confidential, and Merit/AFSCME. Our students will also have their voice heard on that cabinet as well. I am committed to working with everyone, faculty, staff and students to better this great university. Together, we will move forward.

Today, I began my remarks by discussing technology and change. Within Iowa and the entire Midwest region, our students’ needs will change; while businesses, communities, non-profits, governments, and other employers will seek individuals with a great work-ethic, a solid core of talent, and the ability to change. The citizens of Iowa will continue to demand more of its Regents universities. Change is good. And, as we continue to embrace it, we must continue to build our solid partnerships and forge new and more successful partnerships to meet those demands…today and into the future.

As a realist, I know that while my words will be preserved as part of UNI’s history, gradually memories of this event will fade. But, I hope that we remember our shared passion for education; our belief in our students and their impact on the future; and the successes that will be the University of Northern Iowa’s for years to come. The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta; Mother Teresa said; “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have today. Let us begin.”

Indeed, let us begin. I accept the responsibility and challenge for UNI. I promise to do everything possible to work collaboratively with you to uphold and enhance the legacy of this magnificent institution.

Remember, we are UNI!!  We are UNIQUE, UNIFIED, and UNITED!! We are THE Regional Comprehensive University in the state of Iowa.

Thank you for your support; thank you for your trust; thank you for being part of the UNI family; and, thank you for believing in UNI. We are more than the University of Northern Iowa, we are:

The University FOR Iowa

Go Panthers!!!!!