Address to the University Community
October 12, 2009
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Reviewing a Great, But Challenging Year
Hello and Happy University Day.
Every October 12th, we commemorate the laying of the cornerstone of Old East and the beginning of American public higher education.
It’s always a good time for a quick review of the year:
- September 2008 … The market crashed.
- We beat Notre Dame in football, and the next day I took the oath of office. I got the cool silver medal.
- We got our 42nd and 43rd Rhodes Scholars.
- Women’s soccer won another national championship.
- We hired Bain & Company to help improve our operational effectiveness.
- We were ranked the best value in public higher education … again.
- It snowed, and the Harris-Teeter ran out of bread.
- The state’s revenue outlook was bleak, and we cut our budget.
- Anoop Desai made it big on “American Idol.”
- We won another national championship in men's basketball.
- Desmond Tutu spoke at Commencement.
- The Town Council approved plans for Carolina North.
- We cut the budget some more.
- Faculty brought in over $716 million in research funding – a new record.
- Our researchers decoded the structure of the entire HIV genome.
- The University had its second-best fundraising year ever.
- The final Bain & Company report showed options for becoming more operationally effective.
- We enrolled the best-prepared first-year class ever … again.
- And we opened a new cancer hospital for the people of North Carolina.
We had a great year because this is a great university. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, we’re achieving great things. That’s because of you – our students, faculty and staff. We’re actually a better university today than we were a year ago.
We’re Still Carolina
We all know that the University has not been immune from the economy. This year, we lost $67 million in state funds. Our endowment suffered and colleagues lost jobs. And 23 percent more students came to us with financial need than a year ago.
But there are so many bright spots.
Yes, more of our students struggled to pay for college. But, because we’re Carolina, we met all of their need. In fact, Carolina Covenant Scholars now make up 11 percent of our first-year class. And first-generation college students make up 19 percent of our first-year class.
Many North Carolinians have struggled, too. But because we’re Carolina, we provided Tar Heel citizens with $270 million in uncompensated health care.
We’ve also managed to offer undergraduates the same number of classroom seats they had last year. And we’re moving ahead with about 60 faculty searches. Those things can only happen because we’ve cut administrative costs and protected academics.
And our staff really stepped up, helping us figure out how to do more with less.
In spite of the tough times, we’re truly fortunate at Carolina. Many of our peers are really suffering.
To be sure, our University enjoys greater state support than just about every other public university. This year, Governor Perdue and the General Assembly continued to do what they've always done – believe in the power of higher education. Add to that the good work that all of you have done this year to do more with less, and we’ve got a university that’s still going strong.
Becoming the Most Collaborative, Best-Managed University
A year ago, even before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, we hired Bain & Company, to help streamline our operations and reinvest any savings in academics.
Now other universities are following our lead. Cornell and UC-Berkeley have launched similar projects.
This is happening because higher education is due for a qualitative change in the way we operate. The changes we’re making are not temporary corrections, but rather a permanent re-basing of our administrative budgets.
We can make Carolina the most collaborative and best-managed university in the country.
Joe Templeton, former faculty chair, and Mike Patil, former associate pharmacy dean, are analyzing the Bain report’s options as part of Carolina Counts. From that work, we’ll seize the rare opportunity to reinvent the University’s operations.
Make no mistake. We have legitimate administrative costs that are essential to running a great university. We must process student applications, pay the bills and administer research grants. These are important jobs. But it’s our responsibility to do them more efficiently.
Leading the Way in Higher Education
At the same time that state support for higher education is down, we’ve been called on to come up with the innovations that will get North Carolina and our country moving again.
It’s a privilege to show that William R. Davie’s model of accessible public higher education works. We will play to Carolina’s strengths – offering undergraduate students a great liberal arts education and the opportunity to experience the thrill of discovery alongside top scholars while fostering a collaborative, collegial environment that promotes creativity.
Why does this matter? Because our success is important to people across North Carolina and far beyond who are looking to us for answers.
Solving the World’s Problems with Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Innovation and entrepreneurship. Turning ideas into reality. That’s what we all do at Carolina. We are here to help solve the world’s greatest problems. And the bigger the problem, the more innovation is needed. We also need entrepreneurial thinking. The two – innovation and entrepreneurship – are inextricably linked.
Innovation is devising new solutions; entrepreneurship is getting those ideas implemented. Universities are the best places for innovation; I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that. Entrepreneurship requires understanding when universities are the right entities to implement innovations or when we need to work with partners better suited to carry out our ideas.
Some assume entrepreneurship only happens in the tech-transfer office or chemistry lab. But really, it’s not about commercialization. It’s about a mindset that empowers individual thinkers and teams to pursue their dreams. And it can just as easily happen in a creative writing class as in a pharmacy lab.
Or in the Pamlico Sound. Harvey Seim, Pete Peterson and Steve Fegley, faculty from our Institute of Marine Sciences, recently identified the sound as the best site for wind turbines. Now Duke Energy will build three turbines to test the idea. Innovation by Carolina; entrepreneurship by partnering with Duke Energy.
Making a Difference for North Carolina and the World
We can make Carolina the nation’s most collaborative and best-managed university. At the same time, let’s make Carolina the most entrepreneurial university so we can unleash our creative power. We can do both.
Think about the giant steps we’ve taken in cancer, thanks to teamwork in teaching and research.
Now we have the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.
And, by setting up the University Cancer Research Fund to support research and improve patient care, North Carolina’s leaders set a standard for other states to match. UNC Lineberger is now poised to become a top academic cancer center with state-of-the-art patient care: innovation in our laboratories; entrepreneurship in our hospital.
Carolina’s team approach benefits the undergraduates we educate on the same campus. Scientists and physicians work together and also help to train a future generation.
But ultimately, it’s about the people – cancer patients and their families – who come to our hospital, seeking help during some of the most trying times in their lives.
A few years ago, we got a new piano for the lobby of the hospital. Somehow I got invited to christen the new instrument. My last song was “Over the Rainbow.” Afterward, a woman who had been waiting in the lobby came over and hugged me and said, “I really needed to hear that today.”
On that day, I was in the right place.
And so are all of you.
Because together we’re making a world-class education available to the brightest, most creative, and most optimistic young people in the world.
Because together we’re making our citizens healthier and more prosperous.
Because together we’re finding solutions to our greatest problems and making them available to everyone.
We can make a difference for the people of North Carolina and the world.
We’re Carolina: we will.