Tuesday, August 30, 2011

 Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It’s a great pleasure to visit the wonderful community of Dubuque, and it’s always wonderful to share what’s going on at the University with our friends here in the Key City.

This is an exciting time at the University of Iowa as a new academic year begins. Not only do our students return to campus, but our mission of learning, discovery, and engagement kicks back in with full force. The strategic priorities that guide our efforts not only include student success and advancing knowledge and practice in our academic pursuits, but also our commitment to making life better for Iowans. That last priority emphasizes how we strive not only for excellence and service on our campus in Iowa City, but also throughout our state’s communities. I’d like to frame my remarks today by sharing with you today a few examples of what we’re doing to make life better for Iowans.

Let me start with where our primary obligations always lie—student success. Just this past week, we welcomed one of our largest incoming classes ever—approximately 4,500 first-year students. It’s notable that we are increasing quality as well as quantity—this entering class, like last year’s, is one of our most diverse, most international, and best-prepared academically ever. And even as we welcome students from across the country and around the world, our largest number of students by far remains those from our home state of Iowa.

I am also proud to tell you that among this class is a large cohort of students who are returning military service members. Last year, we had over 500 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts attending Iowa as students. This is one of the largest veteran groups at any university in the country, and, although our numbers are not final yet for this year, we have anticipated an additional 250 to 500 returning troops to be enrolled.

We see how we impact Iowa through the education we provide when we gather some remarkable statistics about our alumni across the state. For example, we educate nearly 80 percent of Iowa’s dentists and 50 percent of Iowa’s physicians and pharmacists. Dubuque County hosts well over 100 of those UI-trained doctors, about 50 dentists, and about 75 pharmacists. Eighty percent of Iowa’s school districts employ UI-educated teachers and administrators, including Dubuque County. Overall, we have over 81,500 UI alumni living in our state, all contributing significantly to our economy and to our way of life in Iowa—and nearly 2,000 of them live and work in Dubuque County.

Accessibility to our high-quality education remains a paramount concern. People with jobs and families who seek a college education cannot necessarily devote several years of their lives to living in Iowa City. So we are doing all we can to increase access to our programs directly in Iowans’ home communities.
Over the past several years, we have signed a number of agreements with community colleges from east to west and north to south to expand the promise of education statewide. 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. In fact, just yesterday, I signed our latest agreement with Northeast Iowa Community College right here in your greater community. And last week, we did the same at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington. These partnership agreements with our community college districts put our institutions at the forefront of educational innovation, and they open up an affordable, accessible education for many more Iowans.

Iowa’s communities are an important part of the excellence in the knowledge and practice that we pursue as part of our academic mission. In recent years, flooding has become a major focus of the University’s goal to gain new knowledge and directly improve lives at the same time. And, unfortunately, Iowa was once again victim to major flooding, from the Missouri River at the western edge of our state to the devastating flash flooding here in Dubuque this summer.

In the wake of the 2008 floods, the Iowa Flood Center, housed in the UI College of Engineering and under the direction of Professor Witek Krajewski, was formed not only to increase our understanding of floods, but also to develop ways for our communities to prepare for and handle flood events. For example, with participation by UI engineering students, the Flood Center is developing both underwater and stream-level sensors. The latter can be attached to the underside of Iowa’s many bridges to provide an online database for monitoring rivers.
The Iowa Flood Center at the UI is currently the only state flood center in the nation. While our intentions have always been to make sure our flood research has widespread value, we are now involved with more proactive efforts to establish a national center on our campus. The Iowa Flood Center recently applied for a federal grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a Science and Technology Center to research what it would take to start a national flood center. And we are enthusiastically supporting the newly introduced National Flood Research and Education Act, which would establish a National Flood Research and Education Consortium to allow for more comprehensive flood research and, ultimately, the National Flood Center we hope to become.
Our expertise and experience at the University of Iowa, we think, make us the ideal leader for this important center of research collaboration. Flood issues also relate to another one of our most important strategic focuses, sustainability. Sustainability is a defining issue of our age. As the creator of new knowledge, the University must remain at the forefront of the extraordinary environmental challenges that we all face.
A major aspect of our sustainability commitment is to sustainable practices throughout our campus facilities—in saving energy and in recycling, for example. As a matter of fact, we are proud that we have already reduced our overall energy use at the University by 9 percent, giving us $1.5 million dollars in annual savings. But sustainability extends into our academic mission as well, including a sustainability certificate and other new programs like wind power management.
One of our newest and most exciting sustainability initiatives, though, is taking place right here in Dubuque, and one that wonderfully combines our teaching, research, and service missions. A new program in our Urban and Regional Planning program is the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, a community-based outreach program. Starting this year, the program will focus on one city in a deep and intensive way. And that first city is Dubuque.
Thirty-five master’s degree students will partner with the city on nine sustainability projects in the next two years. The first five projects will launch this year, all related to your city’s Sustainable Dubuque Initiative. The projects include: indicators and indicator measurements for the city’s 11 sustainability principles, renewable energy asset mapping in anticipation of the closing of Alliant’s Dubuque power plant, a portrait of poverty in Dubuque, the design of a Green and Healthy Homes program, and a local foods and local institutions project. This last project will collaborate with four colleges and other major institutions in the area, linking them with local food producers.
We are proud and delighted that the University will be able to provide important assistance that will make Dubuque a better place to live. But this partnership is a two-way street. We are also very grateful that our professional students will have such a unique opportunity to learn from your community. Dubuque’s holistic approach to sustainability—which includes environmental and ecological integrity, economic prosperity, and social and cultural vibrancy—is a tremendous model for our students to learn from. As well, working with Dubuque’s professional planners and community foundation will help our students see, hands-on, how planning is integrated within a city. This innovative collaboration got off to a great start within the last couple of weeks when our students attended the Sustainable Dubuque Field Camp. We can’t wait to see the great things that come to Dubuque and to our students as a result of this visionary and significant partnership.
One of our most important areas of emphasis in creating a better life for Iowans is health care. On our campus, the construction of the new Pappajohn Institute for Biomedical Discovery is under way. Here, we will unite scientific expertise and resources from across the University to address some of the world’s most devastating diseases and conditions. The Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center—which has been made possible by an extraordinary $25 million gift commitment from the Eagles—is one great example of a Pappajohn Institute initiative that will make a difference in millions of lives. This summer, we were very excited to announce the first round of research grants for innovative pilot projects by young investigators and to name our first Diabetes Faculty Scholar—Dr. Christopher Adams—all as a result of Eagles support.

But we also continue to provide health outreach and services to the people of our state. Over 14,000 Dubuque County residents receive care through UI Hospitals and Clinics each year, and that includes at several clinics right here in Dubuque itself. These include an ophthalmology clinic and a pediatric clinic with cardiology, gastroenterology, and neuromuscular specialties.

As President of the University of Iowa, I am proud that our institution makes a significant impact on the lives of so many people in our community, region, and state in many different ways—and that includes a direct economic impact. Within the past year, we received the results of an economic impact study conducted by TrippUmbach, a nationally renowned provider of economic impact analysis for universities and academic health centers. This study quantifies the UI’s impact in dollars-and-cents terms. We were pleased to learn that The University of Iowa brings $6 billion into Iowa’s economy. This comprises $2.6 billion in direct expenditures by the University, its employees, students, and visitors, and $3.4 billion in indirect re-spending within the state by those who receive these direct expenditures, including businesses across Iowa who provide us with goods and services that we purchase. Each year, over $1.5 million of that goes to Dubuque County vendors. This means that $1 out of every $30 in the Iowa economy is generated by The University of Iowa.

The UI is also one of the state’s largest employers. With the indirect jobs that we support, our employment impact on the state is nearly 52,000 FTE jobs. More than 1 out of 30 jobs in the state is attributable to The University of Iowa. That’s 3.3 percent of the total labor force in the state. Our appropriations from the State of Iowa create the foundation of the education we provide and the core of our operations. In the year of this study (FY 2009), our appropriations were $379.4 million. If we look at our total economic impact on the state as a return on Iowa citizens’ investment, for every dollar, the UI returns $15.81 to the statewide economy. A 1500-plus percent return on investment is certainly something to be proud of.

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.

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