Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. The joint service clubs luncheon is always one of the highlights of the year for me. On behalf of the university, I thank you all for the part you play in making the Iowa City-Coralville-North Liberty community such a tremendous place to live and work.

When I gather with this group, I like to talk about the impact the university has on our community and state. As we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the university’s economic impact remains a matter of major concern and interest. A couple of years ago, we released an economic impact study that I’m sure many of you heard about, which showed how the UI contributes $6 billion to the state’s economy in both direct and indirect spending. But how do some of those numbers translate here closer to home? A year or so ago, we were all pleased when the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau released their study showing that Hawkeye football fans bring with them an astonishing $100 million to Johnson County each season. Our hosting of the Olympic wrestling team trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last spring generated $5.6 million for the Iowa City-Coralville area. And the university is certainly a major contributor to the $80 million economic impact of the arts on our region each year—a figure recently released in the Arts and Economic Prosperity study conducted by Americans for the Arts.

But the university’s operations make up a tremendous portion of the area’s day-to-day economic activity, too. With nearly 16,000 employees from Johnson County alone, the university payroll puts almost $1 billion into the hands of county residents each year. Businesses prosper as well thanks to the UI—last year, we purchased almost $150 million in goods and services from over 800 Johnson County vendors.

As I often say, however, our greatest economic development role is educating a skilled, talented workforce who will make significant contributions to the local and national economy, the innovation of our society, and the social and cultural strength of our communities. About half of our student body at the UI hails from Iowa, and we are very pleased that we saw a two percentage-point increase in our home state residents in the entering class this year. Every single Iowa resident student who applies to the University of Iowa and who meets the Regents qualification requirements is automatically admitted. Even with this guaranteed admission, we are redoubling our commitment to enrolling Iowa students through new initiatives such as earlier recruiting contact with students, expanded communication with Iowa high-schoolers, and enhanced scholarship opportunities for Iowans.

I’m sure it’s no surprise that we enroll a lot of Johnson County students—4,638 this year, to be exact. Earlier this week, I spoke with the West Des Moines Rotary, and I was pleased to tell them—though maybe you won’t like to hear this—that Valley High School in West Des Moines sent the highest number of first-year students to the UI this year. The good news, though, is that Iowa City’s West High and City High came in at numbers two and, so our town certainly comes in as our number-one Hawkeye student community.

Among our highest priorities—always—is the educational success of our students. We are currently engaged in a significant student success initiative that is meant to enhance the collegiate experience of our students and to help ensure their academic achievement and their graduation into lives of prosperity and service.

What exactly do we mean by “student success”? More and more, colleges and universities are realizing that to keep as many students as possible in school, to support them in excelling in their studies, and to provide them 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.

Therefore, we have developed programs and opportunities for students that integrate them into campus life; keep them engaged with their studies, their co- and extra-curricular activities, and their university community; and give them the best access to the facilities, faculty, programs, and opportunities that will help them succeed in their classes, their careers, and their lives in general.

Let me share with you a few examples of the kinds of things we are offering students to support them in their success at the University of Iowa.

We start first-year students off right away with a welcome and orientation program before classes start called “On Iowa!” Our new students connect with their peers and are immersed in the culture of the university over several days through thoughtful, fun, and inspiring activities, including a spirit-filled Kickoff at Kinnick, an opening convocation ceremony, and the annual block party at the President’s Residence. No doubt many of you heard some of the spirit rising from our first-year students this past August if you live near campus! Throughout everything, we call our students to rise to the five expectations of the Iowa Challenge: Excel, Stretch, Engage, Choose, and Serve.

Most of our first-year students live in the residence halls, and living-learning communities are becoming more and more central to that experience. In their infancy, these sometimes used to be called “special interest floors,” but living-learning communities have become much more than that. The concept extends learning as much as it puts like-minded students together in a social setting. Some living-learning communities include shared coursework, special programming, optional dinners with faculty, and trips to events on and off campus. Our communities at the UI include those focused on areas such as arts, business, education, health sciences, writing, engineering, sustainability, and the global village.

Student success goes far beyond the first year, of course. Experiential learning plays a crucial role in our students’ success throughout much of their study and career preparation.

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. A great example of the latter is our India Winterim, headed by Professor of Geography Raj Rajagopal. The India Winterim is a three-week program in which students interact with leading social entrepreneurs, environmental and nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions in India. Recent Winterim courses have focused on such areas as sustainability, biodiversity, women’s health, social entrepreneurship, and the arts.

Entrepreneurship is another 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. We will see in a video I will share with you in a few minutes how important the Bedell Lab has been to an ambitious and creative student like Tyler Finchum and his successful Farm Manuals Fast online business.

Another great new student success initiative comes from my office, our Center for Diversity and Enrichment, and our Chief Diversity Office—the First-Gen Initiative. We have many programs for a variety of groups of students, but one important student cohort is first-generation college students—about 25 percent of our undergraduate class, or 5,670 students. As I know from personal experience, being the first in the family to go to college presents many challenges and opportunities in the lives of our first-generation students. The recently launched First-Gen Initiative will expand our support of these students. Our first activity last spring was reaching out to faculty to identify themselves as first-generation college students and share their memories as a first-gen student. We have compiled these responses to share with our current first-gen students. Last month, we had a very successful opening event—the First Generation Hawkeye Reception. The goal was to give our first-generation students a sense of community and motivation by interacting with each other and first-generation faculty. A grill-out and information fair occurred the following week, and a first-generation student organization is up and running. I look forward to the growth and further success of this very important student success initiative.

As I said earlier, though, our students especially make their economic and community impact when they graduate and move on to leading productive lives in their communities. 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. Eighty percent of Iowa’s school districts employ UI-educated teachers and administrators. Overall, we have over 81,500 UI alumni living in our state, all contributing significantly to our economy and to our way of life.

Now, schools like ours, especially in a state like Iowa, come under some criticism for sending too many graduates away to other places. As a sub-point response to that, let me just say that we all benefit greatly when Iowa-educated students bring their talents to the nation and world. They demonstrate the excellence in education that is our pride in our state, and they build fruitful linkages and collaborations that can certainly rebound back home to Iowa. But back to who stays here. There are a lot of hometown Hawkeyes right here in Johnson County. Among those 81,000-plus alumni in the state, about 24,000 of those—over a fourth—live right here in Johnson County. And among those many UI-educated health professionals I mentioned earlier? Well, here in Johnson County, they account for 132 dentists, 305 pharmacists, and 1,040 physicians.

Let me shift gears a bit to another way that what’s happening at the university has a big impact on our community as well as our students—construction! With our campus renewal after the 2008 flood, big changes on our health sciences campus, and much more, we are literally raising the roof over and over again in our community. Let me share with you how we are excited about the changing face of our campus.

Our commitment to student success will literally take shape as we complete the new Learning Commons in the Main Library next year, which will feature well-equipped study areas, an innovative and technologically sophisticated classroom, and a renovated café. And our new West Campus Residence Hall, now under construction, will emphasize the living-learning community concept I mentioned earlier. We’re also moving closer to bringing the hub of student life, the Iowa Memorial Union, back to its full use after the 2008 flood, including new student activity features.

Our arts campus renewal in the wake of the 2008 flood continues as well. This past spring, we held a very moving rededication ceremony for the reopening of that magnificent architectural gem, the Steven Holl-designed Art Building West. And as we move forward with building an iconic arts campus for the 21st century, we are inspired by our partnerships with world-renowned architects: with Steven Holl, who is back on board with us to design the new studio arts building; with Pelli Clarke Pelli, our Hancher Auditorium architect; and with the LMN architectural firm of Seattle, our downtown music complex architect.

The developments on our health sciences campus are also very exciting. The new Iowa River Landing clinic in Coralville just opened this week. UI Hospitals and Clinics hosted over 300,000 visits by Johnson County residents alone in the past year—but as many of you know, that leads to a lot of human and vehicle traffic on our campus. The new IRL will alleviate a lot of congestion on the main campus, provide state-of-the-art services to our patients, make room for big changes at the main hospital site, and boost further economic development in the IRL district. Our innovations in research are also rising from the ground as the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building heads toward its 2014 completion. And one of those big changes on the main campus I mentioned earlier—we are eagerly beginning work on our new $270 million University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, which will further develop a statewide children’s system of care with state-of-the-art equipment and sophisticated health information technology.

Getting back to our wonderful students at the University of Iowa, I would like to close my talk today by presenting a brand-new video that our talented University Communication and Marketing team has produced called The Hawkeye Way. This video features some of our remarkable UI students and highlights how they have taken advantage of the unique and exciting opportunities that our university offers them.

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.

As always, it has been a joy and an honor to spend a little time with you, the generous and talented members of our community’s service clubs.