Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. It’s always an honor and pleasure to share what’s going on at the university with our friends here in the West Des Moines area.

Our success at the University of Iowa is embodied in our community of dedicated and talented people who teach and learn, and who create new knowledge and spectacular discoveries. Through our work, we wish to make life better for people all across Iowa and beyond. So let me frame my remarks today around some of the people who are at the core of the university, including those with strong hometown ties to West Des Moines.

Let me start with where our primary obligations always lie—the education of our students. Just a few weeks ago, we welcomed one of our largest incoming classes ever—nearly 4,500 first-year students.

About half of our student body hails from Iowa, and we are very pleased that we saw a two percentage-point increase in our home state residents in the entering class this year. Every single Iowa resident student who applies to the University of Iowa and who meets the Regents qualification requirements is automatically admitted. Even with this guaranteed admission, we are redoubling our commitment to enrolling Iowa students through new initiatives such as earlier recruiting contact with students, expanded communication with Iowa high-schoolers, and enhanced scholarship opportunities for Iowans.

It seems that our efforts are working especially well here in West Des Moines. Any guesses as to which Iowa high school enrolled the most first-year students at the UI this year? You’re right if you said Valley High School! And if we take the four-county area of Polk, Dallas, Warren, and Madison into account, over 2,600 currently enrolled UI students hail from this area.

Let me share with you a little bit about some of these students who call West Des Moines home.

Nick Fetty is a quadruple threat who recently graduated with majors in journalism/mass communication and sport studies, and minors in music and sociology. Nick was very active as a member of the Hawkeye Marching and other musical groups. He also reported and did other journalistic work for the Daily Iowan newspaper, the student radio station KRUI, and the Big Ten Network. While he was a student, Nick interned back home in Des Moines with Big Green Umbrella Media, publisher of Cityview and a series of Living magazines for most of the suburbs in the area. For an honors project, Nick produced and edited a 40-minute documentary called Hawkeye Athletics—A History of Greatness, which you can watch on YouTube if you’d like. Nick aspires to a journalistic career and is currently the sports director for Daily Iowan TV in Iowa City.

West Des Moines pre-med engineering major Eric Mou took superb advantage of being an undergraduate at a major research university. He began looking for research opportunities during his first year at Iowa and quickly found a great position as a research assistant in a Carver College of Medicine lab studying the effects of drug treatments on breast cancer cells. Eric has said that interacting with faculty and graduate students as well as participating in cancer research itself helped him figure out what he wanted to do after graduation. As he said in an interview, “It was a real-world experience that I really couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.” Today, Eric is a third-year medical student in the Carver College of Medicine. And he’s obviously doing extremely well. In his first year in medical school, Eric won the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics McClintock Award in honor of Dr. John T. McClintock, recognizing the student who received the highest grade in physiology as a first-year medical student.

Peige Zhou another multi-talented young person from West Des Moines who is currently a colleague of Eric’s as a first-year student in the Carver College of Medicine. Peige studied both biomedical engineering and music at Iowa, served as a lead tutor for other engineering students, and played violin in the UI School of Music’s symphony orchestra. Peige’s career ambition is to develop prosthetics and medical devices. You can also catch Peige on YouTube in a short video about her undergraduate career produced by our admissions department—and you’ll get to see some of her awesome juggling skills, too!

These very talented West Des Moines students found success at the University of Iowa because they took great advantage of the many—and often unique—opportunities that are available to them at our university. We want even more students to reach this level of accomplishment, so one of our current major drives is our student success initiative.

To provide students with the best possible overall collegiate experience, we need to do much more than simply provide classes and turn students loose. We need to be partners with students in this great adventure of higher education, an adventure that takes a lot of planning, engagement, and support. Our student success programs include such programs as enhanced orientations, first-year seminars, college transition courses, and leadership programs. As well, the living-learning communities we offer in our residence halls extend learning through shared coursework, special programming, optional dinners with faculty, and trips to events on and off campus. Our communities at the UI focus on such areas as arts, business, education, health sciences, writing, engineering, sustainability, and the global village.

Experiential learning plays a crucial role in our students’ success throughout much of their study and career preparation.
Study abroad remains a very popular experiential learning choice. Approximately 20 percent of UI students spend some time abroad, whether it’s a full semester or year, or a shorter-term experience.

Entrepreneurship is another one of our most exciting experiential opportunities. The number of our entrepreneurship certificates continues to increase, in areas that range from management to technology to the performing arts. And the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center offers a wealth of programs for our students, including business plan and elevator pitch competitions, seminars and workshops, and actual start-up business support in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory. We will see in the video I will share with you in a few minutes how important the Bedell Lab has been to an ambitious and creative student like Tyler Finchum and his successful Farm Manuals Fast online business.

Student success equals community success. We see how we impact Iowa through the education we provide when we gather some remarkable statistics about our alumni across the state. For example, eighty percent of Iowa’s school districts employ UI-educated teachers and administrators. We also educate nearly 80 percent of Iowa’s dentists and 50 percent of Iowa’s physicians and pharmacists. To put that in a little more local perspective, let me share with you some numbers from the four home counties that West Des Moines straddles: Polk, Dallas, Warren, and Madison counties. A full 250 of your dentists in the four-county area are UI-educated. The university trained 675 of your pharmacists. And 1,344 of your physicians in the area were trained at the UI.

Overall, we have over 81,500 UI alumni living in our state, all contributing significantly to our economy and to our way of life. And nearly 17,000 of those alumni—over 20 percent—live right here in Polk, Dallas, Warren, and Madison counties.

Of course, numbers can tell only part of the story. As I said earlier, what we’re really talking about here is people. So let me share with you a bit about a few of the people from West Des Moines behind these alumni numbers.

As I suggested earlier, it seems West Des Moines is a hotbed for medical students. And UI-trained health care professionals bring those medical talents back home to you.

Dr. Joy Trueblood, originally from Knoxville, is Medical Director and Pathologist with the pathology laboratory at the Iowa Clinic here in West Des Moines. Dr. Trueblood was the first in her family to attend college, earning a nursing degree from Grand View College in Des Moines. While working full-time at a Des Moines hospital, she was encouraged to consider medical school by a colleague, a UI-trained nurse. After earning her UI medical degree, Dr. Trueblood considers her greatest achievement the opening of the anatomic pathology laboratory where she still works today after more than fifteen years. Giving even more back to the community, Dr. Trueblood is a member of the Iowa Clinic’s Healthcare Foundation Committee, which raises money for charitable causes in the area, and she is very active with her son in the school he attends here in West Des Moines. When asked what still resonates with her about her training at Iowa, Dr. Trueblood says, “The fairness and quality of the professional staff. . . . I felt surrounded by excellence and an understanding that the patient comes first.”

The College of Public Health is the university’s newest college. This past year, we opened the environmentally friendly College of Public Health Building, finally bringing together the college’s students, faculty, staff, and programs under one spectacular roof. One of those College of Public Health graduates is Robin Epp, who earned her master’s degree in Occupational and Environmental Health in 2006. Dr. Epp, who is also an MD, is occupational medicine physician and medical director at Iowa Methodist Occupational Health and Wellness in West Des Moines. Dr. Epp has shared with us how much she appreciates, even today, the broad base of training experiences she received through the multidisciplinary interactions at the university. That comprehensive education helps her every day as she treats injured workers here in West Des Moines.

Of course, not all alumni from the area are in the health care field. And we are also proud of the many West Des Moines natives who have brought their professional talents into the greater world beyond. A great example is Cassie Kloberdanz, a UI College of Engineering graduate from West Des Moines (and a 1998 Valley High graduate), who currently works for the Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space division in Louisville, Colorado. Before Sierra Nevada, Ms. Kloberdanz worked as a propulsion engineer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as well as in media and public relations with SpaceX in California. Currently, she is a systems engineer on the Dream Chaser project—a spacecraft that is designed to take the place of NASA’s recently retired space shuttle.

Sierra Nevada is vying with three other companies for a chance to build this historic space vehicle, which they hope will be powered by their own hybrid rocket motor technology. Cassie Kloberdanz not only took advantage of the tremendous opportunities that the University of Iowa provided her, but she also created them—and enhanced the university itself in the process. Cassie’s love affair with outer space began in elementary school, when she convinced her parents—who still live in West Des Moines—to send her to Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. As a student at the University of Iowa, she made phone calls and convinced NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, also in Huntsville, to renew a cooperative education agreement it had once held with the UI. As a result, Cassie spent 2½ years alternating semesters studying in Iowa and Alabama, where she had hands-on experience working on the space shuttle’s main engine systems. Cassie Kloberdanz is obviously a young woman full of talent, drive, and ingenuity. And we are so grateful that her efforts at the UI have also kept open the possibility for more remarkable educational opportunities for UI students.

I would like to close my presentation today with some visual stories of a few of our students at Iowa, but let me first share with you how we are excited about the changing face of our campus. We are in the midst of transformative times back in Iowa City as we create and renovate facilities for the education, research, creative work, and service of the 21st century.

Our commitment to student success 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.
And our new West Campus Residence Hall, now under construction, will emphasize the living-learning community concept. We’re also moving closer to bringing the hub of student life, the Iowa Memorial Union, back to its full use after the 2008 flood, including new student activity features.

Our arts campus renewal in the wake of the 2008 flood continues as well. This past spring, we held a very moving rededication ceremony for the reopening of that magnificent architectural gem, the Steven Holl-designed Art Building West. And as we move forward with building an iconic arts campus for the 21st century, we are inspired by our partnerships with world-renowned architects: with Steven Holl, who is back on board with us to design the new studio arts building; with Pelli Clarke Pelli, our Hancher Auditorium architect; and with the LMN architectural firm of Seattle, our downtown music complex architect.

The developments on our health sciences campus are also very exciting. The new, state-of-the-art Iowa River Landing clinic in Coralville has opened just this week. Our innovations in research are also rising from the ground as the Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building heads toward its 2014 completion. And we are eagerly beginning work on our new $270 million University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, which will further develop a statewide children’s system of care with state-of-the-art equipment and sophisticated health information technology.

I would like to close my talk today by presenting a brand-new video that our talented University Communication and Marketing team has produced called The Hawkeye Way.
This video features some of our remarkable UI students and highlights how they have taken advantage of the unique and exciting opportunities that our university offers them.

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.