Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Longbranch Hotel, 90 Twixt Town Road NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It’s always a great pleasure to visit our friends in Marion and Linn County, and it’s an honor to share what’s going on at the university with you, especially how the University of Iowa contributes to your community. As time goes on and as the business, educational, and cultural ties in the Corridor become more important, the partnership that we have with Linn County only grows stronger.
Like all good businesses, we at the UI have a strategic plan, and among our highest priorities are student success and making life better for Iowans. Those two priorities are closely related. The most powerful way for us at the university to make life better in Iowa communities is to educate students well for productive professional and civic lives that raise the quality of life for all. Right now, there are over 11,000 University of Iowa alumni living, working, and contributing to their communities here in Linn County.  And I know that many of those alumni are in this room today!
Let me share with you a few more numbers. We are very proud that across the state: 50% of Iowa physicians are UI-educated, 80% of all Iowa dentists have been trained at Iowa, 47% of all pharmacists in the state are UI-trained, and 80% of Iowa’s K-12 school districts have UI-educated teachers and administrators. How does that translate to Linn County?: 292 UI-trained physicians, 109 UI-trained dentists, 180 UI-trained pharmacists, and 1,739 UI-trained K-12 teachers and administrators.
The University of Iowa directly impacts the quality of life in Linn County in many other ways, too. In terms of direct economic impact, last year, the UI supported 398 Linn County companies with purchases of nearly $63 million.
Economic development is a type of public engagement critical to the future of our communities, and I am proud that the University of Iowa is also moving swiftly and robustly to strengthen and diversify our regional and state economies through entrepreneurship, new venture creation, and innovation. I know that some of you here have already been working with our Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dan Reed and Associate Vice President David Hensley, who is also the Director of the UI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.
I am pleased that we have now completed our economic development team with the hiring of David Conrad, our new economic development director. David will direct the university’s engagement activities throughout the state, including support for workforce training and expanding our partnerships with Iowa’s business and economic development agencies. One important initiative that David will be involved in is setting up a new “engagement center” in Iowa City and then expanding these centers throughout the state. During my budget presentation at the governor’s open hearing in Des Moines earlier this year, I proposed new investments in Iowa’s knowledge economy, including a statewide network of integrated engagement centers. These centers will leverage University of Iowa expertise and assets onsite to meet the needs of Iowa businesses and communities in such areas as information technology, leadership, entrepreneurship, and workforce development and retention.
Education and economic development go hand in hand. The University of Iowa’s most important contribution to the economic vibrancy of our communities across the state is to graduate well-educated students ready for lives of professional excellence and community engagement.
One way we’re advancing that mission is by developing an important educational partnership with a major Linn County institution, Kirkwood Community College, as well as area school districts and AEAs: the Kirkwood Regional Center, which will be located on the UI Research Park. When completed, the Kirkwood Regional Center will bring together educators from the university, community college, and K-12 levels to coordinate research and educational improvement, particularly in STEM areas. Students will benefit from career academies and college-level courses for area high school students.
One of our major goals in the coming years is not only to educate our students at all levels in new, innovative ways, but also to keep our best and brightest students here at home in order to build Iowa’s knowledge economy. Another new initiative to do just that is our proposed STEM residential academy through the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Through the academy, high-ability STEM students would complete their final two years of high school simultaneously with their first two years at the UI. These high-achieving students will have the opportunity to graduate from the university two years early while giving them a leg up on their future and, we hope, contributing to the state’s highly skilled workforce.
As I’ve suggested, our main goal as a university is provide an accessible, high-quality education, and we are working hard to make sure that students from all around the Corridor are receiving exceptional educational opportunities. Over 1,700 students from Linn County are benefiting from our student success efforts as currently enrolled UI students.
One of our more prominent students in recent years is from right here in Marion, Nic Pottebaum. Nic graduated from the UI just last year and is now one of four Field Directors for Governor Branstad’s re-election campaign committee. Nic majored in economics and political science and gained a lot of great political and leadership experience at Iowa. He was involved in the UI Student Government since his first year at the university, served as speaker of the senate, and ultimately won election as UISG president.
I met Nic during his first year as a member of my President’s Leadership Class, a highly selective group for high-achieving incoming students focusing on leadership development. Nic obviously took those lessons and ran with them. He also has participated in the Iowa Policy Research Organization, served as an Honors Peer Advisor, interned with the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee, served as a communication and policy intern for Governor Branstad, and worked for a number of political campaigns from the 2006 Jim Leach Congressional campaign until today. 
It’s not surprising that Nic has earned major recognition for his achievements. In 2013, he was selected to serve on the 2013 National Campus Leadership Council Steering Committee for the annual National Leadership Summit. And that same year, Nic’s senior year, I was very proud to present to him the prestigious Hancher Finkbine Undergraduate Medallion for 2013, the university’s highest student honor, which recognizes outstanding leadership, learning, and loyalty. Nic is the kind of exceptional student who will become one of tomorrow’s leaders, and we are proud that he comes from our own backyard right here in Marion.
Athletics plays a central role in the life of our university and the life of our state, and Marion has been an extraordinary source of Hawkeye student-athlete excellence in recent years. Wrestler and Marion native Matt McDonough claimed two national NCAA titles. He finished his Hawkeye career with the 11th best winning percentage in school history (.931) and earned the J. Donaly McPike, Sr. award for highest GPA by a Hawkeye senior.
Our women’s basketball superstar Jaime Printy graduated last year and hails from Marion as well. Jaime was one of 35 student athletes invited to try out for Team USA and the World University Games between her sophomore and junior seasons, and she became the youngest player in Iowa history to earn All-America honors, earning her award as a sophomore. I’m sure Marion was delighted to welcome Jaime back this past year as assistant girls’ basketball coach at Linn-Mar High School.
And current Hawkeye senior Drew Clark has made an impression both on the football field and in track and field. Marion sent Drew to us as a two-time elite all-state football player as well as a state and Drake Relays champion in the shot put. Drew finished his Hawkeye football career as an offensive lineman this past season, and, not quite ready to give up Hawkeye Athletics, he signed onto the Hawkeye track and field team this year and has placed well in the shot put. Next year, Drew will trade the pigskin and the shot put by putting his mechanical engineering degree to work as a manufacturing engineer at John Deere in the Quad Cities.
In today’s economic and educational environment, however, not all students are able to spend four or more years in residence on our campus. Broad accessibility to our high-quality education remains a paramount concern, and more and more, we need to respond to the learning needs of people who are place-bound, usually with jobs and families. So we are doing all we can to increase access to our programs directly in people’s home communities.  
Over the past several years, I have signed agreements with Iowa’s community colleges from east to west and north to south to expand the promise of education statewide, including, of course, Kirkwood Community College. 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.
A great example of a student who has completed her education in these new, nontraditional ways is Linn County resident Kaci Maire. Kaci is a pioneer, our first student to graduate with an online Tippie College of Business Bachelor of Business Administration degree in entrepreneurial management. Kaci actually began her Iowa education on campus, but her daughter was born prematurely, and she also had a young son with health problems. Kaci needed to take a break from schooling to tend to her family. Her entrepreneurial ambitions never left her, though, and the UI’s online BBA presented a perfect solution for her. Kaci is still taking care of her children, but, with her newly minted UI degree, she is now exploring freelance consulting jobs and business opportunities that fit her interests and skill set.
While Kaci is at the beginning of her career, many Linn County Hometown Hawkeyes are well-established in prominent positions in the community. We were all very proud when Linn-Mar art teacher and UI alumna Gloria Zmolek was awarded the Outstanding Secondary Art Educator of the Year Award by the Art Educators of Iowa just over a year ago. Gloria has been teaching design, painting, and Advanced Placement Art History in Marion for over 15 years and is known by her students for her dedication and passion, including bringing students to Chicago to see its many architectural treasures.
Another prominent UI alum here in Marion is Jean Hammill, who was a physical therapist at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids and started Marion Physical Therapy in Marion in 1996. Jean played Hawkeye women’s basketball while an undergraduate and went on to earn her master’s in physical therapy at the UI in 1993, then her clinical doctorate at St. Ambrose University in 2005. Jean has gained statewide prominence in her physical therapy career, serving on the board of directors of the Iowa Physical Therapy Association as vice president and president. We are very grateful that Jean and her husband, Walt, have been so generous in giving back to the UI. Over the years, they have donated to scholarship funds such as the Tracy Dahl Class of 1979 Scholarship and the Dr. Christine Grant Scholarship. In 2010, Jean and Walt went one big step further and established the Jean Hammill Scholarship for Physical Therapy. Again, we are very proud and grateful to Hawkeye alumni like Gloria Zmolek and Jean Hammill, who give so much to the Marion community in so many ways.
We could not achieve all we do at the university without our close partnership with our alumni and friends and the citizens of Iowa. We are currently moving that essential partnership forward with the most ambitious comprehensive campaign in the university’s and the state’s history. “For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa” not only will benefit generations of UI students, faculty, and staff, but also people throughout the state. Our goal is ambitious: we aspire to raise $1.7 billion. And we are very pleased that, thanks to generous alumni and friends, we have already raised $1.229 billion for this historic campaign.  
I would like to wrap up my talk by sharing with you a video that highlights the ambitions and aspirations that we aim to realize through the “For Iowa. Forevermore” campaign. Please enjoy. [Video is shown.]
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.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my excitement over the University of Iowa’s bright achievements and prospects with you today here in Marion and Linn County.