Thursday, September 26, 2013
Danny’s Sport Stop, 1013 S. 2nd St., Cherokee, Iowa

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It’s a great pleasure to visit your wonderful community, and it’s always an honor to share what’s going on at the university with our friends here in western Iowa.

This is an exciting time at the University of Iowa, as a new academic year has begun. Not only do our students return to campus, but our mission of learning, discovery, and engagement kicks back in with full force.

Among our highest priorities are student success and making life better for Iowans.  And, in fact, those two priorities are closely related. The most powerful way for us at the university to make life better in communities like Cherokee is to educate students well for productive professional and civic lives that raise the quality of life for all. In fact, a lot of Cherokee natives return home here after their education and continue contributing to the community they know and love.

A great example is Cherokee native Kayla Koch, who completed her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at Iowa just last December and earned a Mentor Scholarship while she was with us. Kayla and her husband, Jared, also from Cherokee, moved back home this past winter, and Kayla is now on the team at the Cherokee Regional Medical Center (CRMC) Physical Rehabilitation Department.

Another Iowa-trained Cherokee native is Doyle Kruger.  Doyle worked in the Emergency Room at CRMC for many years but decided to further enhance his medical career and service to the community. An important step along the way to his Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner training at Creighton was a nursing degree from Iowa in 2006.  Doyle now contributes even more to emergency medicine at CRMC.

Kayla Ludvigson is a 2006 Iowa graduate in athletic training, who then went on to earn a doctorate of chiropractic in Minnesota and also become a certified acupuncturist. And then Kayla returned to her hometown, Cherokee, with her husband, Kellen, a UI-trained pharmacist. Kayla opened up Ludvigson Chiropractic and is active in the community as a Chamber of Commerce member—and as a member of this Rotary Club, I believe!

Health care is not the only area where Iowa graduates make the Cherokee community a great place to live and work. The multi-generational Loughlin Law Firm is currently staffed by Cherokee natives Jay and John Loughlin. Both Jay and John received business degrees from Iowa before moving on to law school at Hamline and Creighton and then returning home.

The Cherokee Community School District includes a number of Iowa-trained teachers. And a good representation of your local dentists, physicians, pharmacists, and nurses here in town and in the county received their education at the University of Iowa. Many other businesses and organizations throughout the community—as I’m sure many of you here today can attest—boast Hawkeye alumni as well. In fact, there are currently 115 University of Iowa alumni living in Cherokee County.

Let me share with you just a few general numbers, too. We are very proud that across the state, 50% of Iowa physicians are UI-educated, 80% of all Iowa dentists have been trained at Iowa, 47% of all pharmacists in the state are UI-trained, and 80% of Iowa’s K-12 school districts have UI-educated teachers and administrators.

Currently, we have 32 students from Cherokee County enrolled at the UI, including 10 graduate and professional students.  And I do hope we will see a number of them return home to build your community as so many other hometown Hawkeyes have done.

Those Cherokee students—and their many fellow students—are benefiting from a deep commitment to student success that we are enhancing each year at the University of Iowa. But what do we mean by student success? To provide students with the best possible overall collegiate experience, we need to do much more than simply provide classes and turn students loose. We need to be partners with students in this great adventure of higher education, an adventure that takes a lot of planning, engagement, and support.

Our student success efforts include such programs as enhanced orientations, first-year seminars, college transition courses, and career and leadership programs. As well, the living-learning communities we offer in our residence halls extend learning through shared coursework, special programming, optional dinners with faculty, and trips to events on and off campus. Our communities at the UI focus on such areas as the arts, business, education, health sciences, writing, engineering, sustainability, and the global village.

Experiential learning, especially, plays a crucial role in student success today. Study abroad remains a very popular experiential learning choice. Approximately 20 percent of UI students spend some time abroad, whether it’s a full semester or year, or a shorter-term experience. Often these study abroad experiences are combined with service.  A great recent example is two industrial engineering students—a couple of young women who spent their winter break in Cameroon making solar cookers for rural villages.

Entrepreneurship is one of our most exciting experiential opportunities. The number of our entrepreneurship certificates continues to increase, in areas that range from management to technology to the performing arts.

And the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center offers a wealth of programs for our students, including business plan and elevator pitch competitions, seminars and workshops, and actual start-up business support in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory. One of our exciting success stories from the Bedell Lab has been Tyler Finchum, an ambitious and creative Iowa native who is running his successful Farm Manuals Fast online business.  This imaginative venture provides easy access to those old farm equipment manuals that a lot of people have no doubt lost or misplaced over the years.

Programs like these—from orientation events for incoming students, to support programs making sure students have the resources they need, to experiential learning all the way through the graduate and professional student level—keep students not only learning but engaged and persistent in their education.

We are very proud that these initiatives are realizing success in our graduation and retention rates. The national average for retaining students between the first and second years of college is 76.7%, and we at Iowa have raised that to over 85% for several years in a row. And thanks to our Four-Year-Graduation Plan and other programs, we are nearing our 52% goal for graduation in four years. We are also maintaining an approximately 70% six-year graduation rate, which is well above the 54% national average.

Broad accessibility to our high-quality education remains a paramount concern. The world is swiftly changing, and we realize that not everyone can devote four or more years to resident study in Iowa City, especially people with jobs and families who want a college education.  So we are doing all we can to increase access to our programs directly in people’s home communities. 

Over the past several years, we have signed agreements with Iowa’s community colleges from east to west and north to south to expand the promise of education statewide, including Western Iowa Tech. In addition to making it easier for students to transfer from local community colleges to the university, these agreements are creating collaborative on-site and distance-learning degree and certificate programs that allow students to get a UI education right at home. These programs include associate’s-to-bachelor’s degree completion programs, RN-to-BSN completion programs for nurses, bachelor of applied and liberal studies degrees, and certificates in entrepreneurial management, nonprofit management, and public health.

No matter how we deliver our educational programs, we always strive for excellence and the highest quality possible. Recently, we were proud to learn that once again, the University of Iowa is among the top 30 public universities in the country according to U.S. News & World Report.

And we rank highly nationally in a vast array of subject areas. We are among the top ten in the nation among all colleges and universities in speech-language pathology, audiology, creative writing, nurse practitioner in geriatrics, nursing service administration, physicians assistant program, rehabilitation counseling, social psychology, printmaking, physical therapy, ophthalmology and visual sciences, rural medicine, and otolaryngology.

And we provide this excellent education at a very reasonable price.  For the ninth straight year, the University of Iowa has been designated a “Best Buy” in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, one of only 21 public universities from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Canada. This special designation recognizes high academic rankings, an inexpensive or moderate price, and a high quality of student life.

Today, I have mostly emphasized our education, our students, and our alumni in the state’s communities.  But as a comprehensive research university, we offer much more as well. In addition to our graduates who have come back to serve your community, we provide a lot of direct outreach to Iowa communities, including here in Cherokee County.

In the past year, 378 Cherokee County residents received service from the UI Hospitals and Clinics, with an additional 31 county residents receiving services through our UI Specialty Outreach Clinics and UI Home Care, a visiting nursing program. And our College of Public Health conducts numerous outreach activities here in the county, including agricultural health studies, breast and cervical cancer screenings, the Certified Safe Farm program, educational outreach in occupational health and safety through Worksafe Iowa, and more. And of course, the State Hygienic Laboratory, headquartered on our campus, serves the county through disease detection, environmental monitoring, and newborn and maternal screening.  In the previous year, over 1,500 tests were performed for Cherokee County.

And while we’re extremely pleased to provide meaningful localized services to communities like yours, we’re also always proud of our world-class research and discovery breakthroughs. For example, in our highly ranked eye disease programs I mentioned earlier, we are making major progress in curing certain types of blindness, including retinitis pigmentosa.

But our innovations have literally broken the bounds of the earth, too. You may have heard in recent weeks that the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched 36 years ago, has now reached interstellar space, the first human-made object to do so. And how do we know it has done so?  Because on April 9, the Voyager 1 Plasma Wave Instrument, built at the University of Iowa in the mid-1970s by renowned UI faculty such as Professors James Van Allen and Don Gurnett, began detecting locally generated waves that indicated the craft was in the interstellar medium.

We could not have realized all these remarkable achievements without our close partnership with our alumni and friends and the citizens of Iowa. We are currently moving that essential partnership forward with the most ambitious comprehensive campaign in the university’s—and the state’s—history. “For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa” not only will benefit generations of UI students, faculty, and staff, but also people throughout the state. Our goal is ambitious—we aspire to raise $1.7 billion. And we are very pleased that, thanks to generous alumni and friends, we have already raised $1.104 billion for this historic campaign. 

My goal as president is to ensure that we successfully fulfill—and exceed—the prospects before us in the coming years, and to lead the university in directions that will help us fulfill our mission of teaching, research, and service in the best ways possible. We want to make—and we do make—a tremendous impact on the lives of every Iowan and on people throughout the region, nation, and world.

I thank you for the opportunity to share my excitement over the University of Iowa’s bright achievements and prospects with you today here in Cherokee.