Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thank you for inviting me to join you at lunch today and to speak with you.

It has been a whirlwind couple of months for me. I have been undergoing a “crash course” in The University of Iowa 101—not to mention my tutorials in the Iowa City community, the Corridor, and the rest of the state of Iowa.

One thing that my husband Ken and I have found all across Iowa is kindness. We have been greatly touched by the kindness, generosity, and enthusiasm with which our state’s citizens have welcomed us. I know that Iowans have a reputation for wide-open hands and hearts, but it all doesn’t truly sink in until that reputation becomes experienced reality. So I thank all of you great Iowans who have welcomed us so warmly. And I promise to approach my new leadership role with the same spirit of giving and optimism that you have extended to us.

I have been saying that my first and most important job as President is to listen. I have been doing that, and I am continuing to do so. I am listening to our campus community’s hopes and dreams, our problems and our successes, our goals for the future. I am also listening for the same things from our community members and citizens around the state, our alumni and friends, and our business and political leaders. I must do this before I map out an agenda for moving forward.

As I talk with our campus community, I see common threads among all our units: enthusiasm for teaching and research, passion for excellence, imagination and innovation, dedication to the institution, and commitment to professional and community service.

I have often said I am enthusiastic about The University of Iowa’s current strategic plan, “The Iowa Promise.” It is an excellent plan in large part because it ties together these common threads of excellence throughout the institution. And in the end it cuts to the heart of what the University is all about—its promise.

One important aspect of our promise is the pledge we make to the people of this state. A major promise is that our education, our research, and our service extend beyond the campus. We desire to make an impact on the lives of all citizens, not only here in Iowa, but across the nation and around the world. And one of the most important commitments we have to Iowans and the world is leadership in a vibrant 21st-century economy. As with so many aspects of the Iowa Promise, we will do this in partnership with the state, its friends and alumni, and the private sector.

We are indeed in an age when universities, especially public universities, are expected to do more to support and enhance our state’s economies. I worked hard on these issues as Provost at Purdue University. And I’m very proud of the development and growth of that institution’s Discovery Park while I was there. The buildings and programs there focus on such areas as nanotechnology, entrepreneurship, and biosciences. I have already seen that we have a very strong infrastructure for business incubation, technology transfer, and corporate partnerships here at the UI.

Creating a highly educated work force is and will always remain our primary economic development contribution. But our research enterprise also contributes significantly to our state’s economy. Our faculty, staff and students generated an all-time record $382.2 million in grants and contracts for UI research, education and service during fiscal 2007. That’s a 4.8 percent increase from 2006. In the last six years, we have brought more than $2 billion into the state’s economy. Many of those dollars are dedicated to purchasing goods and services in Iowa. Many of those dollars go to job creation—research projects often require hiring of lab and other employees.

The University of Iowa in and of itself is a job-creating juggernaut. You may be surprised to learn that out of about 15,000 full-time equivalent non-student jobs here, more than 11,500 of those are funded with University-generated revenue. We deeply appreciate the state support that funds more than 2,500 jobs, but we want all Iowans to know that we are leveraging that support to an exceptional degree.

We have opportunities to contribute to the economy in many other ways, too. And we are working hard to take advantage of those opportunities, as well as create them. Technology transfer, commercialization of research, and academic entrepreneurship are exciting possibilities in the world of the university today. Not all faculty and staff at The University of Iowa should be expected to consider the commercialization of their research. But for those who do have that interest, I know that you—our state’s citizens, business leaders, and political leaders—are eager to join with us in bringing ideas to the marketplace. Working in the marketplace is not just an exciting extension of research activity. I see it as a very important aspect of our public engagement obligations.

We continually reorganize and reinvigorate our economic development activities at the UI for the best effect and the greatest impact. For example, we are working hard to build our capacity to engage fully in Iowa’s economic development through two legislatively supported investments: the Grow Iowa Values Fund (GIVF) and the Battelle Funds. Let me share with you some successes so far thanks to these funds.

We have created a joint-venture partnership among The University of Iowa, Ryan Companies, and the City of Coralville to build a new technology incubator facility—the BioVentures Center at the Oakdale Research Campus in Coralville. In this exciting new facility, the UI will sublease to biotechnology and other technology-based new business ventures. The center is planned to include wet and dry labs, offices, a shared laboratory equipment room, a multi-purpose room for presentations and events, board and conference rooms, a break room, and other amenities to meet the needs of growing technology companies.

We have already created the IOWA Centers for Enterprise. This is an integrated organization that embraces outreach, workforce development, technology transfer and commercialization, entrepreneurship, and research- and education-driven economic development. I invite you all to stop by the IOWA Centers for Enterprise “front door” at the University Capitol Centre on the second floor of the Old Capitol Mall.

We continue to expand the University of Iowa Oakdale Research Park. Recent growth has been responsible for a 140 percent increase in new private-sector jobs, to a total of 1,695. The average salary for employees in these new jobs is nearly $60,000. Most of these employees are Iowa residents representing 20 Iowa counties and 60 Iowa towns.

One of the most exciting developments on our main campus is the new University of Iowa Institute for Biomedical Discovery. We are preparing an exciting groundbreaking ceremony this coming Friday. This institute will be built on our medical campus. The innovative facility will be dedicated to high-risk, high-reward interdisciplinary research at the frontiers of biomedicine. It will be an organization that beautifully illustrates how academic research and economic development can work hand in hand. The Institute will not only conduct groundbreaking research in such areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and blinding eye diseases. But the IIBD also has the potential to create 500 new, high-paying science and technology jobs and could result in $40 million in economic development by attracting and retaining bioscience companies, as well as by generating patent revenue from new discoveries.

Of course, we could not succeed in the area of economic development without the strength of our College of Business. I have been very impressed by the many ways the Tippie College has forged relationships that benefit the business community in our state. The John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, for example, provides innovative programs in entrepreneurship for students all across our campus. We have excellent programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. But their reach extends downward (in age) to K-12 students with summer camps and specialized curricula. And it reaches outward to the state, to Iowans interested in business education and ownership. The work that JPEC Executive Director Davd Hensley and Associate Provost and Dean of the Division of Continuing Education Chet Rzonca have done with Iowa community colleges in western Iowa is stellar. UI agreements with a growing number of community colleges—as well as the Entrepreneurial Institutes at the Lakeside Laboratory in Okoboji—provide entrepreneurial education to students in those regions. They also help everyone there more easily access business and economic development resources offered by the University. With programs like these, it’s no wonder that Iowa is ranked in the top 10 entrepreneurial universities by the editors of The Princeton Review and, and among the top 25 according to Entrepreneur magazine.

In the area of workforce development, The University of Iowa and its College of Engineering enjoy close relationships with numerous Iowa business and industry partners. Many of these partners—many of you in this room—rely heavily on the academic excellence, research talents, and service commitment of our students, faculty, and staff. For example, Rockwell Collins, Inc., is one of more than 100 Iowa corporate partners that have benefited from many of the collaborative opportunities we offer. These partnerships have ranged across co-op and internship experiences, full-time career recruitment, student design projects, guest seminars, faculty consulting, sponsored research, and much more.

We also are part of a team involving school districts, Area Education Agencies, community colleges, and corporate partners that is advancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math initiatives—or STEM initiatives—at the K-12 level. The UI needs to help shift the culture and mindset around science, technology, engineering, and math. We want Iowa to be recognized as the premier state in delivering this important brand of education through ambitious, focused, and measurable activities. We are working to do that through the Corridor STEM Initiative coalition.

I believe the efforts I have outlined today lay a strong foundation for us to work together to improve the public—private partnerships that are essential to Iowa’s future and competitive edge. Thank you very much once again for inviting me today. I very much appreciate the opportunity to lead The University of Iowa. As I said earlier, I have been visiting with many community and state business leaders since I began as President in August. I appreciate the opportunity today to meet more of you, to answer any questions you may have, and to continue the dialogue that will help strengthen our communities here in the region and statewide.