Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The ascension continues.
I want to begin my comments this afternoon by talking a little bit about the importance of this day. As Louise Scott, Dean of Student Development, mentioned, this is the sixth annual Professional Development Day at Upper Iowa University. We have come a long way in the last six years; not to mention the fact that there are a lot more of us today at UIU than there were six years ago (that, in-of-itself, says a lot about the healthy state of the University). A lot of time and effort goes into this program. Earlier this morning, Louise recognized the individuals on the Professional Development Committee responsible for developing this program. Please join me in recognizing Louise for her leadership.
The important takeaway as to what this annual professional development day is really all about, is that it represents a significant investment, and a critical one at that. It is an investment in ourselves, by us, and for us. It is an investment not to be taken lightly, which may help to explain why relatively few of our contemporaries do what we're doing. This event takes an institutional commitment that you just do not find everywhere.
Next, I want to take a few moments and look out on the horizon of UIU's future. We could spend time reviewing all our accomplishments over the years, which would probably make us feel pretty good; but you can do that by going onto our website and finding the page that has the University's major accomplishments listed. I highly recommend you take some time to do that. Even though you all have been involved in making those accomplishments a reality, you will still be impressed by the sum of all your efforts over the years.
Instead, let's talk about where we go next. Let's look up at the next rung on our ladder of ascension. I want to talk briefly about six important rungs that are next up on that ladder:
1. Our reaffirmation of accreditation through AQIP
2. The refreshment of our strategic plan
3.The redesign of our enrollment management back-office operations (aka the ACCRAO project)
4.The start of our Phase 1B construction projects
5. The completion of our first comprehensive capital campaign
6. The continued expansion of our Academic Extension system.
1. Reaffirmation through AQIP. As most of you should know by now, UIU is nearing the cycle in the AQIP process when a reaffirmation takes place. This is a reaffirmation of the university's commitment to continuous quality improvement, and a reaffirmation of the university's accreditation. With or without participation in AQIP, all the positive improvements that you have made at this institution over the last several years leave absolutely no doubt as to your commitment to continuous quality improvement. The facts speak for themselves. The record is there, and it tells an extraordinary story of success during one of the most challenging times in modern higher education history. A group of our peers representing the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association will be here in February to affirm our commitment to continuous quality improvement and the positive changes that have taken place as a result and to celebrate our accomplishments with us. This reaffirmation represents an important milestone at Upper Iowa as it completes a full cycle of continuous quality improvement that began in 2005. A special group of our colleagues have been preparing diligently for this reaffirmation led by Dr. Dave Chown, our Chief Academic Officer. Would the members of the AQIP Steering Committee please stand? Please join me in recognizing them for their efforts and dedication.
2. Refreshment of our strategic plan. In 2008, the University officially adopted the current strategic plan that can be found on our website. We have begun the process of refreshing that plan, to review our progress, to review the assumptions that undergird it, and to continue to use it as a foundation for moving forward with a process that is inclusive and has widespread participation from stakeholders – a process that builds from the bottom up, and a process that has maximum transparency.
Since it has only been in existence for three years, I don't expect wholesale changes to the strategic directions represented by the nine areas of emphasis that currently make up the plan. However, there is a need to take measure of how far we have come in support of all nine areas and to assess where we need to shore up our efforts and prioritize our resources accordingly. Notwithstanding all of this, the greatest thing that could come out of this refreshment effort is to identify the next major evolution at Upper Iowa, at the most strategic level, which will continue to distinguish us in a profound way from the myriad of other institutions that compete with us for students. Some innovation, some development, some initiative on a par with those that have contributed to our success in the past, such as: the adoption of the two-course-at-a-time, eight-week term system, the move to take academic programs off the principal campus and deliver them in other locations, offering programs online, the development of international centers delivering complete degree programs in-country, and the move to NCAA Division II athletics. If we are to continue to be successful, we must identify next important innovation and pursue it or others will catch up with us and we will no longer have the distinct strategic advantage we currently enjoy. I think, right now, this is the most important question before us. Through your participation in the strategic plan refreshment process, you need to help find the answer to that question.
3. Redesign of the enrollment management back office operations. This is a matter of strategic importance as it relates to future resources (given that we are tuition-dependent for our revenue) and the enhancement of academic quality. As most of you know by now, UIU is undergoing a major reorganization of its back-office operations associated with enrollment management. Last winter the University commissioned a review of its enrollment management-related back-office operations, particularly as it relates to lead generation readiness.
In February 2011, the University received a final report and recommendations for improving the enrollment management-related functions at Upper Iowa University. The review revealed significant lost opportunities associated with our current methods of doing business. Shortly thereafter, this report was made available to all faculty and staff. I continue to encourage those who have not read it to do so. As part of the University budget for FY 11 – 12, significant resources were allocated to AACRAO-related projects and initiatives. Dr. Melik Khoury, Senior Vice President for Strategic Positioning and Chief Strategic Enrollment & Marketing Officer has been diligent about providing the University community with regular progress reports.
The AACRAO report featured an action plan organized into 90-, 180-, and 360-day objectives. It was clear that moving forward was predicated on making some key decisions regarding realignment of resources. Last month, a communication to all faculty and staff described the evolution of strategic enrollment management at Upper Iowa University and the assignment of responsibility for its functions. Additionally, this communication also charted a path for moving forward that is intended to keep the University on a reasonable timetable for implementing the AACRAO recommendations. The lost opportunity cost associated with a failure to do so is enormous.
Some may be asking at this point; what administrative, back-office, enrollment management-related operations have to do with improving academic quality at Upper Iowa University?
The answer is simple. The more administrative/staffing resources needed to grow the institution (due to a lack of seamless, automated, integrated, back-office operations), the fewer resources available for improving academic quality. Timely implementation of the recommendations in the AACRAO report will result in efficiencies that will enhance greater scalability of present administrative resources so that we can focus more resources on improving academic quality. Academics, after all, is the core business here.
I made a pledge to the university community back in March that the purpose of ACCRAO is not to achieve greater efficiencies and productivity for the purpose of downsizing. I made a pledge that no one will summarily and indiscriminately lose their job because of the ACCRAO project. I stand before you today to reaffirm that pledge. I will acknowledge, however, that as a result of the AACRAO project, some things will be done in a different way and within a different organizational architecture. Along the way, I ask for your patience, support and perhaps a little leap of faith as we make this important transition in the interest of the entire University.
I want to thank Dr. Khoury for leading this effort and ask him and the members of his advisory and integration teams to please stand so that we can acknowledge their efforts.
4. Start of Phase 1B construction projects. As everyone knows, the start of Phase 1B of the largest construction campaign in University history has now begun with the groundbreaking of the new football stadium thanks to a very generous gift from Steve and Diane Harms. The Board of Trustees has also approved moving forward with the construction of two more suite/apartment-style housing units in the South Village area pending the availability of suitable financing arrangements. The goal is to have these three projects completed in time for the start of fall Term I of next year. Meanwhile, planning continues for a new science/math facility, technology center, and facilities in the City of Fayette for additional retail outlets. Moving forward on these projects is contingent on three things: 1) fundraising; 2) favorable financial markets for lending/financing; and 3) achieving and sustaining a certain level of enrollment/revenue growth on the Fayette campus, as well as through our international centers and academic extension system.
5. Speaking of fundraising, let me talk little about the Comprehensive capital campaign. Friends and colleagues, we are now at $19.5 million toward our goal of raising $25 million as part of the first comprehensive capital campaign in the history of Upper Iowa University. We are only $5.5 million from accomplishing something many said was unrealistic and could not be done by this institution given our past record of fundraising. We are going to prove that, once again, Upper Iowa is not to be underestimated. We are going to prove, once again, that when we set our minds to it, we can accomplish amazing things. We are going to prove once again, that anything is possible because this is not just any institution of higher education, this is Upper Iowa. Lead, follow or get out of the way!
We want to finish this campaign early, as we are already thinking about the next one. And, if you think this campaign was something, you haven't seen anything yet. Meanwhile, be a part of making history. Find your cause. Find your passion and make a pledge. A good place to start would be the Linda Haines Scholarship Fund.
6. Expansion of Academic Extension. Over the last five years, UIU has opened up a record number of new centers: Rockford, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Fort Sill. Several are in the process of opening such as Baton Rouge; and reopening, such as New Orleans; and we have upgraded our facilities in Madison, Milwaukee and Des Moines.
Recently, UIU has been offered an opportunity to establish a new center in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. It's a market where funding for public higher education has been drastically cut and there is a huge demand for more higher education opportunities. It is a market that has an enormous number of community college students (about 260,000) many of whom are looking to go on to earn their four-year degrees. I can envision a UIU center in such a market with an enrollment of several thousand students. Strategically, this is the kind of market we having been looking for, both in the United States and overseas. If we are to take advantage of opportunities of this scale, the challenge will be to do so while still maintaining high standards of academic quality. The challenge will be to do so by streamlining key business processes getting as close to single data entry and multiple outputs as possible. The challenge will be to do so while maintaining an identity, culture and values that are unique to Upper Iowa. I am confident that under the leadership of Dr. Bill Duffy, our Senior Vice President for Academic Extension and his team, as well as all of you, we can meet these challenges head-on and be successful.
As I think about all that we have accomplished, and the many positive ways in which we are moving forward, I realize we are not really that far from a day when UIU becomes the third largest Iowa-based four-year nonprofit institution of higher education, after the University of Iowa and Iowa State. I can see the day coming, not that far off, when the average ACT/GPA for our incoming freshmen class exceeds the average among the other four-year privates in Iowa (incoming ACT scores for this year's freshmen class exceeded the national average), while continuing to remain one of the most diverse institutions in the region. Those of you who have been around awhile can appreciate the significance of reaching that particular milestone.
I can see an Upper Iowa that continues to lead its contemporaries in academics, athletics, and the quality of the living/learning communities it provides throughout the world.
Friends and colleagues, thinking about this kind of future and these opportunities really leaves just one question: How far do you want to go?
It's a great time to be a Peacock!