State of the University Speech by Northwestern University President Henry S. BienenFebruary 9, 2006
Thank you for that introduction and my thanks also to NUSAC for sponsoring this event each year. I always appreciate the opportunity to share this overview of the University with the Northwestern community. I know that there generally are questions on a variety of topics, so I’ll keep my remarks relatively brief so we have time for interaction afterward.
First, I’d like to extend my thanks to Northwestern’s faculty and staff for their constant and consistent work to make this such an exceptional institution. We have more than 7,000 members of our faculty and staff. In my 11 years as president, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with many of you and I’m always impressed by your dedication to Northwestern.
To our students, while your time at Northwestern is shorter than that of faculty and staff – at least we hope you don’t stay for a decade – I know how important this time of your life is. This should be a time of exploring new ideas, making new friends and gaining new knowledge. You are now in a community of some of the brightest and most hard-working students and scholars in the country, so we hope that you are finding your academic endeavors at Northwestern to be both intellectually challenging and personally rewarding.
As you know, this is officially the State of the University address. So I’m pleased to report that the state of Northwestern University is very, very good. Northwestern stands today among the very best universities in the country and in the world. Our faculty members continue to uphold Northwestern’s tradition of excellent teaching while doing important research in a variety of fields. Our students are earning national and international fellowships and awards, going to the nation’s top graduate and professional schools and succeeding in their chosen professions after graduation. Our staff members excel in providing the “human infrastructure” to support our teaching and research. And thanks to our strong budget management and the excellent stewardship of our endowment, Northwestern is in sound financial shape.
The Highest Order of Excellence, our planning framework for 2005-2010 states, “Northwestern University, in Evanston and Chicago, is a progressive, innovative institution where committed scholars and teachers pursue cutting-edge work in many forms, a vibrant microcosm of a creative world. In this midsize research university, 11 independent schools, each with relatively small departments, offer academic programs high in quality and remarkably diverse in portfolio; the environment for cross-fertilization of ideas is rich and challenging, yet collegial.”
This provides a guidepost for us as we strive to improve all areas of Northwestern. To be sure, we face challenges in our pursuit of the highest order of excellence. Other universities constantly attempt to poach our stellar faculty members. The competition for top students is growing nationally. Our best staff members are sought after in the marketplace. And major costs over which we have little control, such as utilities, compliance with federal regulations and health care, continue to increase dramatically. For example, our utility costs this year are expected to increase by 22 percent to nearly $46 million. We’re doing all we can to manage that, but it’s still a big hit financially.
One of the ways that we’re trying to manage those costs is to make our new buildings as energy efficient as possible. The new Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center was recently recognized for its energy-efficient design and use of recycled materials by the U.S. Green Building Council with a silver level certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. We have adopted a policy to design future buildings in a similar manner as much as possible.
As was announced earlier this year, Northwestern is making significant efforts to reduce our energy impact, including turning down the thermostats and turning off the lights in buildings during off-hours. I’m pleased to announce today that, effective this month, the University has contracted to purchase renewable energy certificates for 20 percent of its electricity; the certificates will use as their source wind energy producers in the Midwest. This purchase puts Northwestern in the top 25 renewable energy purchasers in the country and ties us with the University of Pennsylvania for the top spot in higher education. This purchase and our new building policy demonstrate clearly Northwestern’s commitment to reducing our impact on the environment as much as possible.
We’re in the midst of developing next year’s budget, which is always a somewhat arduous process. Every year, we are forced to choose among the many excellent proposals for new academic initiatives and enhanced curricular offerings, along with handling increases in more prosaic, but important areas, such as maintenance. Fortunately, Northwestern is in a relatively strong financial position, so we can fund at least some of these new initiatives while augmenting our continuing efforts.
Turning to undergraduate admissions, I’m very pleased to report that this year we had a record number of applications – more than 18,400. This represents a 13 percent increase from last year and nearly 2,000 more than our previous record set some 10 years ago. As has been the case for many years now, those applicants have outstanding SAT scores, high school GPAs and class ranks. Those numbers show that the best high school students in the country know of Northwestern and understand clearly the value of a Northwestern education. Our enrollment management staff is now hard at work considering the applications, and we anticipate welcoming an extremely strong class of new students next fall, just as we did this year.
In our admissions efforts, we are committed to enrolling diverse groups of students at all levels – undergraduate, graduate, professional and continuing studies. As I have stated previously, I believe that having students, faculty and staff from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds is important to making Northwestern a vibrant institution.
We also are having very good years in our professional and other schools. At Kellogg, applications and quality for the in coming classes of MBA students, across all levels – full-time, part-time and the Executive MBA -- are up year over year. Also launched in January was the first class of the Kellogg-Miami Executive MBA program with 42 executives enrolled. International students represent 52 percent of the class coming from countries such as Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kellogg continues to be ranked as having the number one MBA and executive MBA programs by Business Week.
In the Law School, applications are currently up 11 percent over last year. In comparison, the national average is down 12 percent. The Law School also continues to expand its international reach. By partnering with universities in Seoul and Madrid, the Law School offers working professionals in Europe and Korea the opportunity to earn a Northwestern degree while continuing to work.
At the Feinberg School of Medicine, last fall’s entering class was the strongest ever, with an average undergraduate science GPA of 3.68 and combined mean MCAT score of 33.8. Those scores continue to well exceed national means.
The School of Continuing Studies also is expanding its offerings. Since Fall of 2005, the School of Continuing Studies has successfully launched two new professional graduate programs - the first is a master's degree in medical informatics in partnership with the Feinberg School of Medicine and the second a master's degree program in Sports Administration in partnership with Northwestern's athletic department.
Turning to research, our total sponsored research volume increased 7 percent to $381 million. We received some significant research awards and honors, including:
• A $3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Program of African Studies to support innovative social science and community-specific research that is expected to lead to the creation of more successful HIV prevention efforts in Nigeria.
• A significant five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. The new center, which will be directed by Chad Mirkin, the George Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, will develop innovative nanotechnology approaches and devices to combat cancer. The center will capitalize on the existing partnership between the University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, directed by Steve Rosen, the Genevieve Teuton Professor of Medicine.
• A $3.6 million grant and being named a Center of Excellence in Translational Human Stem Cell Research by the National Institutes of Health. The center, one of only two to be recognized, will bring together stem cell experts, disease experts and other scientists to explore ways human stem cells may be used in the future to treat a wide range of diseases, such as blood cancers and blood disorders, kidney disease and neurological disorders. The principal investigator at Northwestern is John A. Kessler, chair of the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurological Sciences and Benjamin and Virginia T. Boshes Professor of Neurology. Kessler’s co-investigators on the Center of Excellence grant are: Robert D. Goldman, Stephen Walter Ranson Professor and chair of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School; Thomas Meade, professor of chemistry, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; Jame Hulvat, research assistant professor of materials science and engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Samuel Stupp, Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry and Medicine. In addition, last year, those researchers, along with several other colleagues received a $7.5 million grant over five years from the National Institutes of Health to create research teams applying an integrative, systems approach to develop knowledge and methods to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat disease. Both of these awards demonstrate how Northwestern’s interdisciplinary focus has allowed it to wed nanotechnology and biomedicine and thereby receive national recognition.
I’m also pleased to share some truly exciting news relating to our research efforts. As we announced yesterday, a collaboration of Northwestern, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois-Chicago called the Chicago Biomedical Consortium has received a $25 million grant from The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. This grant will fund a collaborative effort of the three universities in pathbreaking areas of biomedical research. And if the collaboration goes well -- as we certainly hope and expect that it will -- The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust may award an additional $25 million for a five-year extension of the program. Northwestern has been fortunate enough to have a member of the Searle family on our board of trustees for many years. The philanthropic leadership and vision of the Searle family have benefited Northwestern and the entire Chicago region, so we are very pleased to be a partner in what promises to be an exciting research enterprise.
I also want to mention another grant from the Ford Foundation, one that reflects our missions in undergraduate education, interdisciplinary pedagogy and the importance of diversity to our institution. The Ford Foundation has selected Northwestern as one of only 27 higher education institutions to receive grants for projects that promote constructive dialogue on campus. Northwestern will assemble a select group of faculty members from a wide range of departments to teach twelve seminars focusing on multicultural issues.
As I mentioned earlier, our faculty have received several major honors in the past year. Among them are:
• Jan Achenbach, the Walter P. Murphy Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest engineering honor for research leading to improved aircraft safety.
• Larry Jameson, professor of medicine, was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine, which honors professional achievement in the health sciences.
• Douglas Medin, professor of psychology, and George Schatz, professor of chemistry, were elected to the National Academy of Sciences for their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
• Eric Friedlander, professor of mathematics, Barbara Newman, professor of English, and Samuel Weber, professor of German, were elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the country’s oldest and most distinguished learned society.
Also in the past year our students or recent graduates have received 16 Fulbright scholarships and four of the only 30 Luce scholarships awarded for international research. We just learned this week that we had two seniors, Laura Hughes and Rachel Pike, and two graduates from last year, Benjamin Gross and Thomas Johnson, named Gates Cambridge Scholars. In addition, a Kellogg student, Amit Bouri, received a Soros Fellowship.
On the athletics side, as I’m sure you know, our women’s lacrosse team captured the national championship last spring after a thrilling, undefeated season. We also had a successful football season and currently six of our teams are ranked in the top 25 of their respective sport: women’s tennis, men’s golf, fencing, men’s swimming, wrestling and softball.
Among our staff, we had 57 employees receive Service Excellence Awards last year, including two who received two awards, Anne Clements of Human Resources and James Jaeger of the Instrument Shop. Our employees of the year for 2005 were Charlene Thomas of the School of Continuing Studies for the Chicago campus and Kryszstof Kozubski of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences on the Evanston campus.
There are many other faculty, students and staff other than those I’ve mentioned today who do much to contribute to Northwestern. For example, we are making significant progress on the top priority administrative systems initiatives at Northwestern: the project to improve access and integration for research data, the financial management systems replacement project and the data warehouse effort. More than 300 staff and faculty are involved in helping the project teams move toward successful implementations. These individuals are giving their time to help make these projects successful, and I thank them all for their participation and dedication. Other members of the faculty and staff have participated in our planning effort for our health care programs, helping to study how we can control cost increases for both individuals and the University, while still providing care and protection against high-cost medical events.
I also would urge all members of our community to continue to “do the right thing” in regard to ethics and compliance with applicable regulations. As you know, Northwestern has invested a great deal of time and effort in improving its compliance mechanisms, including establishing an ethics hotline and web page and developing additional training for the appropriate faculty and staff. It’s important for us to continue our efforts in this area, not just in order to comply with federal regulations, but because it’s the right thing to do and in the best interests of the University.
As has been announced previously, two key leaders of our administrative team, David Bishop, the University Librarian, and Steve Fisher, the associate provost for undergraduate education, are stepping down from their senior administrative positions. Both have served with dedication and commitment in their respective positions, and they will be missed.
In what is definitely a first for me, I must recognize a retiring administrative leader for the second year in a row. Jim Elsass, associate vice president for budget planning, analysis and allocation, had planned to retire last year, but when our search took a bit longer than anticipated, he agreed to stay on through another budget cycle. We have benefited greatly from Jim’s wisdom, and I thank him for his willingness to stay on for a time.
I’m also pleased to welcome John Lavine as the new dean for the Medill School of Journalism. As founding director of Northwestern’s Media Management Center, John brings significant strengths to this position and a strong vision for what Medill should be in the 21st century. Provost Dumas and I look forward to working with him in the coming years. . We also appreciate the dedicated service of former dean Loren Ghiglione, who stepped down earlier this year and will become the first Richard Schwarzlose Professor of Media Ethics at Medill.
In conclusion, let me say that one of my key duties as president is to represent Northwestern University in a variety of forums. Thanks to the good work, dedication and success of you, our students, faculty and staff, I am proud to do so and to continue to lead an institution committed to the pursuit of the highest order of excellence. Northwestern truly is a remarkable place and I am honored to represent you as its president.
Thank you. I will now respond to any questions you might have.