Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center, Monticello, Iowa

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. It’s a great pleasure to visit with our friends in Monticello and Jones County, and it’s a special honor to speak with you this evening at your annual banquet.

Communities like Monticello are the heart and soul of our state. Jones County is Grant Wood country, so your area plays an important role in the cultural life and heritage of our state. But we all know that Iowa’s rural areas, small towns, and small cities face some of the state’s biggest economic challenges today. Monticello is leading the way in showing us how a smaller community can not only survive but thrive in today’s economy. Monticello was one of the few smaller communities in the state that actually grew between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. In the past couple of years, local businesses like custom medical and industrial products manufacturer M-C Industries, and furniture manufacturer Oak Street Manufacturing have expanded with major additions. This wonderful new facility that we are gathered in tonight on the Great Jones County Fairgrounds houses major organizations that serve area communities in important ways: the Jones County ISU Extension, the Great Jones County Fair Offices, and 4-H of Jones County. The Monticello Airport boasts a new terminal building, and the Monticello Golf Club has a new clubhouse. And Camp Courageous, one of our state’s most important nonprofit organizations providing respite care and recreation to Iowans with special needs, continues to flourish, serving over 6,500 people a year.

The University of Iowa has been proud and honored to interact with Camp Courageous over the years.One tremendous way that we are able to serve Iowans through the camp and provide excellent educational opportunities at the same time is through the service learning program for our graduate physical therapy students. And we can’t wait for this weekend’s Iowa women’s basketball game against Nebraska at Carver Hawkeye Arena.  Ticket sales will benefit Camp Courageous, so I encourage you all to come down to Iowa City to cheer on Bluder’s Bunch! All of these remarkable achievements could not have been realized without a lot of hard work, dedication, and, most of all, community spirit. Community and progress are alive and well in Monticello, and you have much to be proud of.

Monticello’s achievements also are a result of a lot of good planning. And like all good businesses, we at the UI have a strategic plan.  Among our highest priorities in that plan 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 429 University of Iowa alumni living in, working in, and contributing to their communities here in Jones County.  And no doubt some of those alumni are in this room tonight!

Let me share with you a few more numbers. We are very proud that across the state: statewide, 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 Jones County? Nine UI-trained physicians practice in Jones County. For example, among the 8 physicians at the Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa, 5 are University of Iowa MDs, and the Center’s Physician’s Assistant is also UI-trained; 7 UI-trained dentists serve the Jones County area. That crosses generations as well. Monticello native Dr. Richard Wolken of Wolken Dental is a 1975 UI College of Dentistry graduate. And both Dr. Brian James and Dr. Nathan Hall of Monticello Family Dentistry are UI dentistry graduates, with Dr. Hall receiving his degree in 2002. Dr. James founded Monticello Family Dentistry and two other practices in Eastern Iowa starting from scratch, and he also founded the Mentoring Dentist Dental Assisting School in Monticello, which has graduated 160 dental assistant students.

Eleven UI-trained pharmacists practice in Jones County. Linda Nightingale, who owns your local Prescription Shoppe pharmacy, is giving back to her profession by participating in a fairly new UI College of Pharmacy mentoring initiative that connects alumni and friends of the college with entering students.  This program builds connections that can last through four years of study and beyond.

And 93 UI-trained K-12 teachers and administrators are providing a great education to Jones County children.  That training continues well into teachers’ professional development as well.  This has been the case with Shannon Guyer, a special education teacher at Monticello High School, who participated in the STEM Entrepreneurship Leadership Institute for K-12 Teachers this past summer in Iowa City. The UI College of Education and Tippie College of Business are partnering to develop STEM entrepreneurship curricula as part of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Initiative, and the institute was one of the first projects for our southeast region led by the UI and Kirkwood Community College. The group who participated in this institute was charged with designing activities and curricula that could infuse K-12 STEM education statewide with an entrepreneurial spirit and build connections between district and community partners. Shannon developed an interdisciplinary project that could bring her whole school together to design, produce, promote, and sell soap. Project SOAP, which stands for Synthesizing Opportunities Across Professions, would involve her special education students as “general contractors” and leaders on the project, which also included agricultural, math, manufacturing, language arts, art, and accounting students.

And by the way, Jones County also seems to be a hotbed for UI-educated engineers, with 24 engineering alumni living and working here in the county.

The University of Iowa directly impacts the quality of life in Monticello and Jones County in many other ways, too. In terms of direct economic impact, last year, the UI supported 85 Jones County companies with purchases of nearly $132,000.

The state’s public health and environmental laboratory, the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa, serves all of Iowa’s counties through disease detection, environmental monitoring, and newborn and maternal screening. Last year, the lab performed 901 tests in Jones County.

And in the past year, 245 Jones County residents received service from the UI Hospitals and Clinics. An additional 7,509 people from the county received services through our Outreach Specialty Clinics and UI Home Care, a visiting nurse program. In an especially dramatic example, it was wonderful to see the Monticello community support twelve-year-old Chase Sternhagen and his family so generously when Chase had his kidney transplant at UIHC last fall. We are proud that we were able to provide the absolute best care for Chase at our nationally ranked UI Children’s Hospital, as well as some comfortable amenities for Chase’s family during the surgery and recovery.

Our relationship with Iowa communities works both ways.  Not only does the university provide education and services through outreach, but we look to the ingenuity and success of places like Monticello to improve our own programs and services to others.

A great example is the new Kirkwood Regional Center, which is being built on the UI Research Park and is a significant collaboration with Kirkwood Community College, as well as area school districts and AEAs. 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. But as you know, Jones County was ahead of us in this game, and we are drawing inspiration and lessons from you. The Kirkwood Regional Center on our campus is being modeled after Kirkwood’s Jones County Regional Center here in Monticello, which is already serving students from eight different school districts so wonderfully.

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.

In today’s economic and educational environment, 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 all of Iowa’s community colleges from east to west and north to south to expand the promise of education statewide. 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.

We are clearly working hard to make sure that students from all around the region and state are receiving exceptional educational opportunities. Sixty-eight students from Jones County are benefiting from our student success efforts as currently enrolled UI students.

One of those talented students is familiar to many of you, I’m sure.  First-year student Logan McQuillen is a pre-physical therapy major, but he’s probably more widely known as a member of our nationally ranked Iowa wrestling squad. We cannot maintain our national wrestling profile without the best team members, and we don’t have far to look. Logan, as I’m sure many of you know, was the first wrestling state champion in Monticello High School history.  He was also team captain and team MVP as a junior and senior. But at Iowa, we take the student-athlete balance very seriously, and Logan is a perfect example. He came to us from Monticello this year not only as a wrestling champion, but also as an academic all-state winter and a two-time member of the National Honor Society. Engagement with the greater community is also very important to being a well-rounded student and community member, and Logan has been that, too, as his stints as 4-H Club president and student council representative demonstrate. We wish Logan well in his career at Iowa and beyond, and as a university, we are doing all we can to support the success of students like him and thousands of others.

Another local student who has seen athletic success as a Hawkeye is current Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, who played for Coach Ferentz in 2005 and 2006. Marshal’s path to Iowa City was a bit different from Logan’s. Marshal grew up on a rural Jones County farm with a strong work ethic and a dream to play for the Hawkeyes. But Marshall himself admits that he didn’t take the classroom seriously in high school. He started his college career at North Iowa Area Community College, and after success there was recruited to Iowa by Coach Ferentz. Marshal is still proud of being part of Hawkeye Outback Bowl and Alamo Bowl teams. Marshal’s dream to be a Hawkeye came true because, as he himself says, “When I went to NIACC, it was like, bust my butt for two years and see if I can get a scholarship to play for Iowa.” That dedication and determination obviously paid off past Iowa, too.  Marshal was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007, has played on three Pro Bowl and one championship Super Bowl team, and in 2011 was re-signed to the Ravens with a $32 million five-year contract.

As you can see, the University of Iowa engages with our state’s communities in all kinds of different ways. As Chamber of Commerce members, you know that economic development is a critical type of engagement for the future of our communities. I am proud that the University of Iowa is moving swiftly and robustly to strengthen and diversify our regional and state economies through entrepreneurship, new venture creation, and innovation.

Some of you may have already had the opportunity to interact with our new Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Dan Reed, who came to us a little over a year ago with broad experience in academics and industry. Dan has a great entrepreneurial perspective stemming from a dual academic and industry background, with teaching, research, and leadership experience at the University of North Carolina, the University of Illinois, and Microsoft. Along with our Associate Vice President for Economic Development David Hensley, Dan has affirmed the university’s commitment to, as he himself has said, “a new, more robust partnership with the citizens of Iowa, state and local organizations, and our sister universities, bringing all of our assets to bear on the challenges ahead in this rapidly changing, globalized world.” I could not agree more, and those words are exactly why I hired Dan Reed.

One mark of our progress in finding new, imaginative ways to advance the university’s role in the state’s prosperity and well-being is another new hire that completes our economic development team. David Conrad is our new economic development director, and he 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. These integrated 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, training, and retention, all directed toward the specific needs of the local area.

We could not have realized all these remarkable achievements 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 $1.182 billion for this historic campaign. 

I would like to wrap up my talk tonight 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 Monticello and Jones County.