Thursday, October 14, 2010

It is always a great pleasure to join you at the joint service clubs luncheon. It truly is a highlight of the year for me to share with you some of the exciting things happening at The University of Iowa. And I am always grateful to thank you for the support you give to the UI, and for the generous ways that you contribute your time, talent, and treasure to the entire community.

It’s harvest time in Iowa. We see combines in the fields, Iowa’s farmers gathering the fruits of their labor. In the course of just a few short months, those farmers planted tiny seeds and then nurtured them to grow into the food on our tables and the prosperity of our state.

I sometimes like to think that this is what The University of Iowa is all about. Not about growing corn and soybeans, of course. Another university down the road does that. But our University is certainly about planting seeds, nurturing them to fruition, and helping them grow to provide a better life for Iowans. I’m talking about the intellectual, creative, and economic seeds that are the core of our mission.

Perhaps we see this most readily in our work with students. Our primary contribution to the state is and always has been providing a high-quality, accessible education in order for Iowans to pursue prosperous careers and to contribute fully to their communities. This year, we are educating nearly 31,000 students. In fact, we welcomed our largest first-year class ever, as well as our most academically prepared and most diverse ever. That diversity includes a record number of international students as well. As we educate our students on campus, we are planting the seeds of knowledge, discovery, and economic prosperity for individuals and communities throughout Iowa and the nation.

Currently, we have 81,535 UI alumni living in our state, all contributing significantly to our economy and to our way of life in Iowa. 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.

We are certainly concerned about keeping as many of our young people in Iowa as possible, and I’m pleased to report that the UI has shown a steady increase in the number of graduates remaining in the state each year since 2005. In 2009, a majority—54%—of our students stayed in Iowa after graduation. Those graduates are not just our doctors and dentists, but students working in all sectors of our economy.

In the past year, for example, English graduate Ryan Venem went to work for in Cedar Rapids as part of their technical sales and support staff. Communication studies major Shannon Kane is working for Hy-Vee as a human resources manager trainee. And finance major Jon Raftis, who also earned a risk management and insurance certificate, parlayed his internship at Arthur J. Gallagher & Company Risk Management Services in West Des Moines into a full-time job. Those graduates who do move elsewhere plant their own kinds of seeds, showing the world what the excellence of Iowa education is all about, and they influence the nation and globe with a permanent Iowa connection.

We are planting important seeds of education in the teaching and learning process throughout the state, not just here in Iowa City. More and more, we are extending UI educational opportunities to place-bound Iowans through partnerships with our community colleges across the state. Just yesterday, I visited Mason City to sign our latest agreement with North Iowa Area Community College. In August, I was in western Iowa to formalize our partnerships with Southwestern Community College in Creston and Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

These agreements are creating collaborative on-site and distance-learning degree and certificate programs, as well as making it easier for students to transfer from local community colleges to the University. Of course, our very fine local Kirkwood Community College is one of our most significant such partners. These agreements put our institutions at the forefront of educational innovation and open up an affordable, accessible education for many more Iowans.

Research and creativity, of course, are central planks of our institutional mission. But, especially as a public university, we always aim to have our scholarly and creative endeavor make life better for the citizens of our state as well. We often do that by making sure we cultivate the seeds of research opportunity that come before us.

It’s ironic to extend my seed metaphor to flooding, but the flood of 2008 did allow us to respond to that disaster in a way that benefits the people of Iowa. And in fact we were able to do so because we already had the seeds on campus—the world-renowned IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering program in the College of Engineering. The Iowa Flood Center, housed in IIHR, 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. During its first year, the Center, for example, has laid the groundwork for a new, $3,000 stream-level sensor—developed by UI engineering students—that can be attached to the underside of Iowa's many bridges to provide an online database for monitoring rivers.

One of the most important projects under way is the Iowa Floodplain Mapping Project. The project will develop floodplain maps for the 85 Iowa counties declared federal disaster areas following the 2008 floods, including our own. Laser radar data will be used to describe Iowa's river and stream networks, develop computer-based flood simulations, and delineate floodplains. This project also exemplifies a public university working at its best—combining teaching, research, and service. Both undergraduate and graduate students will also be trained to develop and use the innovative mapping tools of the floodplain project. When complete, the maps will help guide floodplain regulation and management and will be available to the general public through the Internet.

The UI is known for its leadership in creativity as well as traditional scholarship. The early days of creative writing at Iowa in the 1890s planted the seeds that have bloomed into not only world-renowned writing programs at the University, but a community-wide, globally recognized “City of Literature.” With our first executive director for the UNESCO City of Literature organization Jeanette Pilak in place, we are moving forward on enhancing our writing excellence in the University, throughout the community, and throughout the state.

One of the organization’s first activities happened last spring when the City of Literature partnered with the UI football program and the Iowa City Community School District to bring Hawkeye football players into elementary schools to read with students. Our student-athletes served as great role models as they talked about the importance of reading, work, and athletics, and read from favorite books.

This past spring, the UI was excited to learn it had earned another Pulitzer Prize relationship. Paul Harding, a Writers’ Workshop alumnus and visiting professor last semester, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel, Tinkers.

And to demonstrate that we are truly a global “City of Literature,” the UI was very proud to announce recently that the International Writing Program has been recognized as a model for arts-based cultural diplomacy programming by the International Cultural Engagement Task Force and the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy. This honor recognizes international cultural engagements that help enhance mutual understanding, respect, and trust. The IWP's activities will be highlighted as a "Best Practice" at the upcoming U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy, which will be held in November in Washington, D.C. We offer our congratulations to IWP Director Chris Merrill—who led our UNESCO “City of Literature” application—and all the staff and writers affiliated with the International Writing Program.

Another important literary accolade came to the City of Literature in recent weeks: fiction writer Yiyun Li, an alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the UI Nonfiction Writing Program, was named a MacArthur Fellow, informally known as “genius grants.” Professor Li, now teaching at The University of California, Davis, came to the U.S. from China in 1996 to pursue a graduate degree in immunology at the UI. She eventually shifted her studies over to writing in her adopted language of English. And we were very fortunate that Professor Li returned to Iowa City earlier this month for a reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore.

Yiyun Li’s MacArthur Fellowship was all the more remarkable for our City of Literature as it followed last year’s “genius grant” to Center for the Book staff and faculty member in papermaking Tim Barrett. Mr. Barrett’s work is notable from a scholarly perspective, but it also has profound public importance. He demonstrated his originality once again by helping bring the Combat Paper Project to The University of Iowa last spring. This project was also made possible through partnership with our state humanities council, Humanities Iowa, whom we host on our own campus. Through the Combat Paper Project, U.S. combat veterans are able to transform their uniforms into paper on which their stories can be told.

The visual and performing arts are another area where the seeds of adversity are growing into great opportunity. We now are in the very exciting early stages of a full-blown renaissance of our arts campus after the 2008 flood. When we are finished, we will have the most innovative, advanced arts campus in the country, a model for what creativity in the university looks like in the 21st century.

The big news of the moment is our thrilling announcement that the world-renowned Pelli Clarke Pelli firm will be our Hancher Auditorium architect. They have built spectacular performing arts centers throughout the world, and are perhaps best known for the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and New York’s World Financial Center, which surrounds where the World Trade Center twin towers stood. We are also very excited to have Steven Holl back on board as an architect for the new studio arts building, which will be built adjacent to his award-winning Art Building West, also now under renovation. And we are poised for major progress on a new Museum of Art with the exciting hire of a new director, Sean O’Harrow, currently executive director of Davenport’s Figge Art Museum.

Of course, our music, theater, and visual arts programs continue their excellence in teaching, research, and creative endeavor right now, and I do want to urge everyone to continue to support these programs and performances even as they take place in other venues throughout the Corridor. Hancher Auditorium has another spectacular slate of programming throughout the area, pieces from our Museum of Art collection continue to be exhibited on campus and elsewhere, and our music, theater, and art faculty, staff, and students continue to bring their talents to the public in performances and exhibitions.

The University’s arts programs are very important to the vibrant cultural scene that makes our community and region such a wonderful place to live and work. But they also bring significant economic impact to our community. In fact, more than 100,000 patrons attend our performances and visit our museums annually. Many of them go out to dinner in our communities before or after performances and visits, and out-of-town visitors stay in our hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts.

We saw the dramatic economic impact of University visitors to our communities recently 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.

We also can count on important economic benefits when University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics records nearly a million clinic visits and patient admissions each year. And we are excited to soon be serving those clinic patients even better through our partnership with Coralville and the construction of the Iowa River Landing Clinics.

We’ve been very interested in the University’s economic impact on our state recently. You’ve probably heard about our economic impact study in the news in the last couple of weeks. What I find most important about this study harkens back to my seed and harvest metaphor. The state of Iowa invests appropriation dollars in our University each year. We nurture that “seed money,” so to speak, and grow it into an enterprise that puts billions of dollars back into our state’s economy.

Let me share with you some highlights of this study, which we commissioned from Tripp Umbach & Associates, a nationally renowned provider of economic impact analysis for universities and academic health centers.

Let me start with the upshot. Our annual direct economic impact on Iowa is $2.6 billion. This includes direct expenditures for goods and services by the University, its employees, students, and visitors. These expenditures support local businesses and in turn employ local individuals to sell the goods and provide the services that University constituencies need. Our indirect economic impact is $3.4 billion—that’s the re-spending within the state by businesses and individuals that receive direct expenditures. What we get is an incredible number: The University’s overall economic impact reaches $6 billion. This means that $1 out of every $30 in the Iowa economy is generated by The University of Iowa.

The UI is one of the state’s largest employers, with more than 20,000 direct full-time equivalent positions. In fact, 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.

The State of Iowa gives us annual state appropriations approaching $400 million. In the year of this study (FY 2009), that number was $379.4 million. Our state appropriations create the foundation of the education we provide and the core of our operations. If we look at our total economic impact on the state as a return on investment for the citizens of Iowa, what does that look like? For every dollar of state investment, the UI returns $15.81 to the statewide economy. A 1500-plus percent return on investment is certainly something to be proud of.

Here are just a few examples of how that return breaks down.

For every $1 in state funding, the UI returns $1.28 in tax revenue to state and local governments by employees, companies who receive payments from the University, and various taxes paid by visitors. The state’s return on its investment in the UI is 28 percent in tax revenues alone. Roughly speaking, state investment in the UI leads to a direct bonus of over 100 million extra dollars annually into the state’s tax base. That $100 million is extra money our state legislators can allocate across important state needs.

UI research injects almost $963 million in direct and indirect dollars into Iowa’s economy each year. As well, our sponsored research and programs support 9,000 full-time equivalent jobs, ranging from supply and equipment vendors to research professionals.

The UI also provides more than $300 million in community benefits. These include $232.5 million in free care provided by UI Hospitals and Clinics; $31.3 million donated to local charitable organizations by UI faculty and staff; and nearly $37.5 million worth of volunteer time provided to area communities by students, faculty, and staff.

Although we are about much more than dollars and cents, it is still more than gratifying to quantify the great extent to which the University contributes to the health and growth of Iowa's economy. Through the seeds of knowledge, creativity, and economic impact that we plant here in Iowa City—among our students, our academic and public engagement programs, and our community collaborations—we are proud to help nurture and cultivate a better life for all Iowans.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak with you at this important annual gathering, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have