Thursday, November 12, 2009

I’m especially thankful to be here today to help launch the planning for what may be the most important fundraising campaign The University of Iowa has ever undertaken.

As I contemplate the University’s needs during the next seven years, I’m struck by what our world will look like at the end of the campaign, which we’ve tentatively set for 2016. We’ll have even more tech tools that instantaneously connect people and ideas. Business, education, health care, and culture all will be more global in scope. We’ll see more biomedical breakthroughs (especially in genetic engineering). Concern will grow about the environment and dwindling energy supplies. At the same time, we’ll experience more uncertainty about economic stability. And we’ll be challenged by more competition for education that’s affordable, accessible, and relevant.

In this kind of environment, the organizations that will be successful in the next decade will be nimble, entrepreneurial, technologically savvy, closely attuned to society’s needs, and adept at showcasing their achievements in order to build what our marketing faculty would call “brand equity” and “mindshare.”

The University of Iowa must prepare for, respond to, and take advantage of these trends. And, we must pay closest attention to how the state of Iowa will change by 2016. Iowa will be older (unless we can reverse the brain drain – and I think we may have some ideas about that). Iowa will be more urban (unless families find reasons to stay in the country and on the farm – and we might be able to assist there as well). Iowa will be more diverse (and that will be good for us, if we can help create meaningful opportunities).

As we take advantage of and respond to the future’s trends, here in Iowa and across the globe, we must do so by fulfilling the mission of a great university – we must not just follow developments to come, but we must lead in the very creation of our society’s future. The university isthe place where cutting-edge thinking, research, and learning happen. It is our responsibility, our privilege, and our aspiration to shape a better life for everyone on this planet. The University of Iowa is one of the premier public universities in the world, and it must move forward as it always has. As I said in my inaugural speech two years ago, we are, and must remain the pole star that leads the journey of discovery for those who look to us for direction and guidance, that embodies the hopes and dreams of the citizens of our great state and nation, and that defines for all the farthest horizon where our vision and aspirations reside.

As we aspire to further greatness, though, this University is at a crossroads. We survived the worst natural disaster in Iowa history, and we’re managing arguably the worst budget situation in the University’s history. At the same time, we are undergoing a strategic reorganization that will empower our excellence - by identifying what we do best, envisioning new opportunities for bettering our society through discovery and learning, and putting our resources toward those priorities that will allow us to excel. And in the present moment, we have more than $700 million in federal funds to rebuild our arts campus, giving us the opportunity to create a state-of-the-art center for creativity for the 21st century. And our partners at the UI Foundation—who successfully led the University through the billion-dollar Good. Better. Best. Iowa. campaign—are telling us we have the capacity to raise well over that amount in private gifts.

But let’s not just celebrate survival – this University is actually thriving in many respects, as evidenced by accomplishments ranging from our record-breaking research funding of $429.5 million, to Tim Barrett’s recent MacArthur “genius” grant, to senior Ali Keenan’s inclusion in Glamour magazine’s “Top 10 College Women” list this fall.

Flood recovery, stimulus funding, and the unwavering dedication of all of you in this room—along with your students, faculty, and staff—have created a great deal of forward momentum. It’s that momentum we seek to harness, amplify, and accelerate in planning and implementing this historic campaign. We owe it to ourselves … our campus community … and the state of Iowa to do this right—to invest these resources in a vision of The University of Iowa that anticipates, embraces, and maximizes what the future holds for us.

But before we can embark on our next comprehensive campaign, we must describe for alumni, contributors, and all other stakeholders in clear, concise, and compelling terms where we are going. That process will help us define our future and craft the strategic priorities that—with sufficient resources—can move us forward.

Each of us here today is deeply committed to The University of Iowa and to its long-term success, although each of us may define “success” in different ways. Ultimately, the University of Iowa that emerges at the end of this campaign will be the result of many voices and visions, and today begins the process of listening and weaving those voices into one. So let me begin with my own vision of the future, and let’s see if it resembles your own.

The University of Iowa that I foresee in the year 2016 will be recognized worldwide for hallmarks such as these:

Iowa City will become known as an artistic hub of the hemisphere—not only a well-established UNESCO City of Literature, but also home to the nation’s most innovative university arts programming, blending visual and performing arts education with performance and gallery spaces that attract students and patrons from across the country and around the world.

The University of Iowa’s health sciences enterprise—our outstanding colleges of medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, public health, and our top-ranked hospital —will continue working across disciplinary boundaries to develop new cures and higher standards for care, becoming fully established as a “destination” medical center for patients, families, and the next generation of health care providers

The UI will be widely acclaimed for the creative and fruitful ways in which we partner with the state of Iowa to spur border-to-border economic development, through start-up ventures … training for budding entrepreneurs … links to global partnerships … and of course, supplying the state with one of the country’s best-educated workforces. We will help our state halt the brain drain, and we will foster a “brain gain” of young Iowans and others eager to settle in our “fields of opportunity.”

The University of Iowa will become a leader in sustainability, as we expand our ability to tackle the environmental challenges of the future. UI is already ranked as one of the nation’s top 20 onsite green power users by the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2016, we expect to be ranked in the top 10. And we are well on our way to becoming an academic leader in sustainability, with a new undergraduate certificate, a vibrant graduate-level wind power management program, and new research and teaching interdisciplinary clusters in the most critical environmental areas.

As an educational institution, our primary responsibility is to our students and to fulfilling the trust and financial investment they place in us. But exceptional faculty, facilities, and academic offerings are not enough – we must work harder to fully engage students in their educational experience. By 2016, I believe the University of Iowa will be known as the most student-centered university in the Big Ten through our living/learning communities, enhanced advising, peer mentoring programs, and other proven strategies for student success.

None of the hallmarks I’ve mentioned thus far would be possible without a final and most fundamental key to our successful future: a diverse, dedicated, and internationally recognized faculty that shares our ambitions to excel and to move the University of Iowa into the top tier of public universities—to a top 20 ranking.

These are some of the things I see in the University’s future. But this institution is the sum of its parts, and it’s those parts—your individual colleges and other major units—that we’re going to focus on today.

I’m eager to hear your vision and your aspirations for the future. What will your college or your unit look like in 2016? How will your people and programs adapt to a future that’s even more fast-paced than today? How will your unit help our state succeed? How might your college or unit incorporate some of the themes I’ve suggested—such as sustainability, student-centeredness, and economic development—into your vision for the future?

Your role in this grand undertaking is to translate our vision for the future into workable and achievable priorities. Martin, Lynette, and other members of the Foundation staff will outline that process. It begins in earnest with the initial planning meetings already on your calendar. I hope, and expect, you will accept this responsibility with enthusiasm and purpose.

Before I close and turn this over to Lynette, I want to add a personal note of appreciation for our partners here at the UI Foundation. I can’t tell you how much it meant for Ken and me to arrive here at Iowa two years ago and find such a mature and productive fundraising organization in place, with top prospects ready to be seen and solicited, and with considerable experience in running the kind of campaign we’re able to begin. Lynette and her colleagues have been a joy to travel and work with, and I feel as though our working relationship with the Foundation has never been stronger. So I am confident that we have the absolute best fundraising leadership for this pivotal moment in the University’s life, and I’m very grateful. I am also confident that we have the talent, the will, and the loyal donor base necessary to achieve our goals.

So as we move through our agenda today, and you begin to think about what your college or unit might achieve in the next seven years, remember to ask yourself this key question: What’s in this for our donors? Will our vision excite them … motivate them … give them a stake in our future … make them proud of their alma mater … and help them make a difference in the world? Most of you in this room have worked with truly visionary donors who are used to “dreaming big.” As we plan our next campaign, we owe them no less.

Thank you for your participation today. With the help of the University of Iowa Foundation, our vision for the future will become reality. Our Foundation colleagues have the experience and expertise to guide us to success. I encourage you to take advantage of these invaluable resources throughout your planning process. By working together, we have the power to truly transform lives.