A little over a year ago, I was honored to become the seventh president of the University of Nebraska.
I spent my first week on the job on a 1,500-mile, 20-stop trip across the state. I visited our campuses, spent time with students and faculty, met stakeholders, and asked Nebraskans about their hopes for their university. It seems fitting that this week I’m again on the road, talking with our partners in Western Nebraska about the many opportunities I see ahead for our state and university.
One thing hasn’t changed in the months between these road trips.
In interviewing for this job, I said the University of Nebraska had the potential to be a giant in higher education, doing even more to serve students and people in the state and around the world. I saw that this university – with four unique campuses bound by a common mission of service; thousands of talented faculty, staff and students; and support from Nebraskans in both the public and private sectors – was in a position to be one of the nation’s best.
Today I am even more convinced that our best days are ahead of us. My conversations with Nebraskans over the past year tell me they too know we can reach higher.
Being a giant doesn’t mean we will be the biggest university, or the best in every area. Nor will becoming a giant be easy, particularly when you consider that we are operating in the most competitive marketplace of our lifetimes. But I believe we can do it, by relentlessly pursuing the following four cornerstones that will separate us from the rest of the higher education world:
The University of Nebraska will be the best place in the nation to be a student. It’s not by accident that students come first on my list of priorities. We will focus on continuing to provide excellent education for a great value, expanding access especially for underrepresented students, ensuring quality advising and timely graduation, enhancing diversity, and doing whatever we can to improve the success and well-being of our students.
The University of Nebraska will transform lives through research and innovation. We will invest in targeted hiring, modern facilities and an entrepreneurial culture, with an eye on elevating our reputation and impact in key areas where we think we can make a real difference. These include water and agriculture, early childhood education, national security and defense, rural development, cancer, public health, engineering, information technology, and the arts and humanities.
The University of Nebraska will work hand-in-hand with our partners. We’re fortunate to have productive, mutually beneficial relationships with state and federal policymakers, business leaders, colleagues in K-12 and higher education, private donors, and all Nebraskans. Most of us, after all, share the same basic goals for excellent education, health care, quality of life and economic vitality. We’ll continue to work side-by-side to advance our shared priorities.
The University of Nebraska will win with people. We will create an environment that allows our employees to succeed, through competitive compensation, inclusive workplaces and increased efforts to share and celebrate the good work of our faculty and staff.
I am grateful to the Board of Regents for the trust and confidence they have placed in me to lead an institution that can become one of America’s great universities. I’m humbled by the advice and support that Nebraskans across the state have offered since I arrived.
And my wife Susie, our children Will and Caroline, and I continue to be touched by how warmly Nebraskans have welcomed us to our new home state. We are thrilled to be here – and can’t wait to see what we will all accomplish together.