Thursday, October 25, 2012

I am delighted to welcome you to the University of Iowa campus and to the Iowa City community. We are pleased and proud to host this important meeting, and I know you will enjoy your day with us.

Both the functionality and the aesthetics of our facilities are crucial to the academic mission of our institutions. Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” Architectural style and detail can inspire us as teachers, learners, scholars, and creators. Attractive and inviting facilities can help lead the best and brightest students, faculty, and staff to join our institutional community. And the symbolism of great buildings can define our heritage, our identity, and even our future. But on a very practical level, as well, our success in learning, discovery, and engagement also depends on the fact that we aren’t too hot or cold; that the air in our offices, labs, libraries, and studios is clean and fresh; that the lights illuminate what we are doing well; and that we are safe and secure in our environments.

Even in these days when online environments, distance education, and computing clouds are burgeoning, bricks and mortar remain important as well. I thank you, our facilities professionals, for doing such a tremendous job of ensuring the highest quality experience as we do our work in all of the spaces and environments that are part of our institutions.

This is certainly an exciting time for the academic facilities field, and I see three particular areas that define the current innovation and future prospects of college and university campuses.

The first is collaboration. Our teachers, students, researchers, artists, and staff members understand more and more that working together can lead to excellence. The same goes for our colleges and universities throughout the state on an institutional level. Our proverbial ivy-covered walls have become much more open and permeable, and that benefits everyone. Computer technology and cooperative spirit have aligned, for example, to create wonderful partnerships between the University of Iowa and Iowa’s community colleges that provide community college students the opportunity to earn a UI degree right in their hometowns. Just last month, I was very proud to sign our final agreement, and now students across the state can earn a University of Iowa four-year degree or a certificate at any community college in the state through collaborative on-site and distance-learning programs. These agreements are just the latest collaborative endeavor between the UI and community colleges, as our 2-plus-2 transfer programs have been in full swing for a number of years now.

Another remarkable collaboration that has me very excited is the UI’s partnership with Kirkwood Community College on the new Kirkwood Regional Center, to be located on the UI Research Park campus and planned for an early 2015 opening. This innovative center links the spectrum of education sectors: research university, community college, and K-12. It will serve high school students from seven districts as well as community college students with technically focused career academies and advanced college courses in STEM. The center will also serve as an incubator to develop and assess new STEM education curricular models and teacher preparation programs at the UI and Kirkwood, and it will strengthen pre- and in-service teacher preparation in STEM fields. And, of course, this aligns well with the STEM hubs that Governor Branstad has established and that many of us are participating in. These significant collaborations will enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education all across the state.

The second area of significance and innovation in our facilities is student success. Many of us are implementing new programs for greater student success. Here at the University of Iowa, those include more living-learning communities in the residence halls, first-year seminars, and stronger orientation programs. But facilities play a major role as well. Our commitment to student success here at the university 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. Our new West Campus Residence Hall, now under construction, will emphasize the living-learning community concept. And our new TILE classrooms—which stands for Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage—are redefining teaching and learning with collaborative, interactive setups and technology. I know that we are seeing this same commitment to new and innovative learning spaces at your own institutions across the state.

The third major area that characterizes the facilities of today and tomorrow is sustainability. In 2008, I challenged the University of Iowa to make sustainability an integral part of our academics, our operations, and our aspirations. Since then, we have developed a sustainability certificate program and academic programs in such areas as wind power management and water sustainability. We have created an Office of Sustainability and have established sustainability targets through our 2020 Vision initiative.

Facilities play a central role in our sustainability commitments. All new construction and renovation at the university now follow LEED principles. In the past year, we have been delighted to add LEED Gold ratings for both the new State Hygienic Lab building and the Stuit Hall renovation project. And we were especially proud to receive the news that the new UI Information Technology Facility (ITF) has become the first building on campus to earn LEED Platinum certification—the ultimate standard for green design. The Information Technology Facility will house and protect computing and network equipment that is vital to the operations of the university and our hospitals and clinics.

We at the UI are also very proud of the many recognitions we are receiving that demonstrate our successful commitment to sustainability. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership has recognized the UI on its Top 20 On-Site Generation list for our generation and use of renewable electricity. And relatedly, POWER magazine has selected the UI Research Park’s Tri-Generation Power Plant as one of its “Top Plants,” the most noteworthy gas-fired power plants worldwide. In addition to natural gas, this new plant currently burns biomass waste products, and it is also outfitted to burn landfill gas to level our campus’s peak demand. I know that many of your own institutions are making strong sustainability commitments, too, and we are proud to join you in helping to ensure a clean and green future.

Iowa’s educational institutions play a critical role in Iowa’s economy. Within our facilities, we make the new discoveries that advance our culture and prosperity, and we educate the workforce who will lead our state into the future. And, of course, as we build, renovate, and maintain our facilities and our infrastructure, we create good jobs that add to Iowa’s prosperity. Following through on Churchill’s strong link between our buildings and our character that I mentioned earlier, we also keep in mind that affordability and high quality are essential hallmarks of higher education in Iowa. For the best learning experience, we must provide the best facilities. But we must also be good stewards of the resources that support us—whether they are public appropriations, tuition revenues, or private donations—and I am proud of the responsibility our institutions demonstrate as we continue to build and update our campuses.

The success of our college and university campuses in Iowa is possible only through the dedication and commitment of those who work in the facilities management profession in higher education. I have come to appreciate this fact in the most dramatic way here at the University of Iowa since the 2008 flood impacted two dozen buildings and caused nearly a billion dollars in damage. As we rebuild for an even stronger and more vibrant future on our UI campus, I see the amazing talent, vision, and dedication of our facilities management staff every day. Luckily, not all of you have had to deal with historic flooding on your campuses. But I know that you all are fortunate to share the same kind of commitment and professionalism among your own facilities professionals.

Thank you again for all you do to keep our institutions strong, vibrant, beautiful, and inspiring. And I offer you my very best wishes for a successful and enlightening meeting today.