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President Gives State of University Address

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February 21, 2008
State of the University Speech

By Northwestern University President
Henry S. Bienen
February 21, 2008

Thank you for the introduction. I'd also like to thank the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council for its continued sponsorship of this speech and the Feinberg School of Medicine for hosting us this year in Baldwin Auditorium.

As has been done for several years now, this event is being webcast. In addition, NUSAC created an e-mail box for people to send in questions. Several people have said that they enjoy the question-and-answer period more than the formal remarks, so I'll keep my speech relatively brief so we have plenty of time for questions.

I do have quite a bit of good news to report, however. This has been a year of remarkable successes, which is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our faculty and staff and the outstanding achievements of our students. As president of this great institution, I represent Northwestern in many different settings, but I am always aware that it is your good work that makes me proud to do so.

We have several key new administrative leaders this year who I'd like recognize. First, Provost Dan Linzer, who took on the significant responsibilities of that position last fall and has been doing an outstanding job since then. Dan took over when Larry Dumas stepped down because of a medical condition and Dan has kept our academics moving forward without missing a beat. I appreciate very much his rising to the occasion as he has.

I would say the same about Jay Walsh, who has been vice president of research since November. Overseeing Northwestern's ever-growing research enterprise is a challenging task. We were very fortunate to have someone with Jay's academic and administrative background here at Northwestern, and he's rapidly become a valuable member of our leadership team.

I also would like to thank Aldon Morris for his work as interim dean of Weinberg, moving into that position when Dean Linzer became the provost. Aldon's steady hand has kept WCAS on track as we conduct our search for a new dean, and I appreciate his good work.

And since this is her first State of the University address, I'd also like to welcome Pam Beemer, our new associate vice president for human resources, who started last fall. We're very glad to have her on board Ð and Pam, an important part of your duties is answering any and all HR-related questions that may come up later.

I'm hesitant to talk first about finances, but I will do so because they are so foundational to our efforts to pursue the highest order of excellence in teaching, research and service. In higher education, the reality is that an institution's academic success is generally directly related to its financial strength. In order to provide outstanding academic programs, attract and retain top faculty and staff, offer financial aid to needy students and have first-rate facilities, we must have strong financial resources. Fortunately, we do. Northwestern's endowment has grown significantly in the past year and now totals approximately $7 billion. That is the result of sound financial management, generous gifts from donors and good investment strategies, including the sale of a portion of our royalties from the drug, Lyrica. The result is that Northwestern is in excellent financial health.

As some of you may be aware, there have been questions raised recently in Congress about whether universities are "hoarding" their endowments rather than using them to help students afford college. We're fortunate in that our endowment has been doing well Ð up approximately 14 percent for calendar year 2007. On the other hand, it's down a couple percentage points this year. But I can assure you that Northwestern is using a great deal of its endowment earnings to provide financial assistance for both undergraduate and graduate students, and we plan to do even more starting next fall. As announced earlier this month, we will provide grants instead of loans to our neediest undergraduate students, thereby eliminating all loans for those students. And we will cap the amount of federally subsidized loans for any undergraduate student at $20,000 over four years, thereby benefiting more than 1,000 students who otherwise would face a larger debt burden after graduating.

Also starting next fall, we will increase significantly the amount of financial support that we will provide to graduate students, including increased stipends in those fields where we may have been below that of our peers, especially science and engineering. We also will provide improved financial packages for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, additional funds to support independent, innovative research and additional travel funds. And we will dedicate significant funding to guarantee 100 percent health coverage for our Ph.D. students.

I'm particularly proud of the increasing levels of success we are seeing in our Ph.D. programs in many fields as the result of our already-increased support. Graduate education is, to a great extent, how universities evaluate one another. Northwestern has always been known for its outstanding undergraduate education and its strong professional schools. We are now gaining increased recognition for our graduate programs and our Ph.D. graduates are being offered positions at top universities more than ever before. New rankings of graduate programs by the National Research Council, the first in 12 years, are scheduled to come out later this year, and I'm confident that Northwestern will move up in those rankings in several fields.

I'm also excited about our new academic initiatives that will begin next fall, particularly the founding of Northwestern University in Qatar. As many of you know, we will offer undergraduate degree programs in journalism and in communication in Education City, a suburb of Doha. We will join five other American universities that have established branch campuses there in what should be an interesting new chapter in the history of Northwestern. I've just returned from Qatar and what is occurring there in the area of higher education is truly remarkable, and I think Northwestern will play an important part in its continued development. Many people throughout the University have been working hard at making this a success when it launches next fall, and I appreciate their dedication to this exciting endeavor.

At the Law School, during the past year, the school established a working group to update its strategic plan and to uncover the skills and competencies that its graduates will need in order to maximize their career success. The law school gathered input from faculty, students, alumni, and practitioners, including leading law firm senior managing partners, as well as corporate general counsels and leaders and general counsels of major government and nonprofit organizations. The Law School is now considering proposals to refine its programs in response to that process. Additionally, the school has had a banner year in its placement of graduates into federal judicial clerkships.

At Feinberg, this year saw the introduction of NUvention, a groundbreaking new course on medical innovation involving mixed teams of students from Feinberg, Kellogg, McCormick and Law. The goal of this course is to teach students about the process of medical device development from ideation to the marketplace by providing them with a compressed but highly hands-on version of the real-world process.

And of course, we are excited by two important developments by our hospital partners, the opening of the new Prentice Women's Hospital by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the planned construction of the new Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago on our campus. The new Prentice opened last fall and is a state-of-the art facility. The new Children's also will be a significant addition to our campus.

In regard to admissions, there's no question that a Northwestern education is in great demand. For the third straight year we received a record number of freshman applications for fall admission. At the end of January we had approximately 25,000 applications, a 14 percent increase from one year ago. Over the last three years freshman applications have increased by 54 percent, a performance matched by almost no other peer institution. I thank admissions for their excellent work again this year.

The Kellogg School of Management also continues to see a steady rise in applications, which are up more than 20 percent from last year. Additionally, in order to highlight faculty research, Kellogg recently launched Kellogg Insight, a Web-based research digest. It was developed in response to student and alumni requests for a digest that reflects an up-to-date account of what the Kellogg faculty is producing. Finally, BusinessWeek again ranked the Kellogg Executive MBA program No. 1 in the nation. Both BusinessWeek and U.S. News & World Report have bestowed this top honor upon Kellogg since their surveys debuted in 1991 and 1990, respectively. Additionally, in its recent global ranking, the Financial Times listed all four of the Kellogg School's global MBA programs in the top 20.

At the Law School, applications for admission are also bucking national trends with the Law School experiencing a slight increase, compared to a 2 percent decline nationally.

At the Feinberg School of Medicine, last fall's entering class had strong academic qualifications with an average undergraduate science GPA of 3.68 and combined mean MCAT score of 34.2. These credentials continue to exceed national averages. Significantly, 82 percent of the class engaged in research on the undergraduate or graduate level prior to entering Feinberg.

In all of our admissions work and in the recruitment of our faculty and staff, we remain committed to attracting a diverse group of students and faculty. Our new no-loan and loan-cap initiatives that I mentioned earlier should aid us in increasing the number of low- and moderate-income students who come to Northwestern. And we continue to seek to broaden our hiring pool for faculty and staff.

In other academic news, the School of Continuing Studies plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year by inviting SCS alumni, students and faculty to visit its newly renovated, state-of-the-art classroom and community space in Wieboldt Hall. SCS also expanded its physical presence with new locations on the Loop and Evanston campuses. Working with Feinberg, SCS developed graduate programs in healthcare. SCS also worked with the provost's office to seek extension of the university's accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of North Central Association to allow SCS to offer graduate degree programs online.

As always, construction continues on our campuses. Here on the Chicago campus in addition to the work in Wieboldt we are nearing completion of the buildout of the 10th floor of the Lurie Center with plans for occupancy this spring. In the law school, renovation continues in the McCormick building to create new seminar rooms and refurbish offices.

On the Evanston campus, we announced earlier this week that the University will build a new building for the School of Music on the south end of the lakefront. I'm very excited about this, as we plan for this to be a real signature building, and we plan a design competition to choose the architect for it. We hope to be able to announce a significant gift for the building in the near future, but we're still actively raising funds.

We're also beginning our planning for a major new addition to Tech for a new Analytical Services lab and to provide additional space for McCormick.

Several other major projects are underway in Evanston that I have mentioned previously, including the construction of Silverman Hall, renovation of Annie May Swift, the addition to Crowe Hall and construction of the new soccer and lacrosse fields on the north lakefront. Another key project is the expansion of the Central Utility Plant to accommodate the increased heating and cooling demands that result from all this new construction.

All of this construction is expensive and occasionally a bit of an inconvenience for those of us on campus, I realize, but the new facilities will greatly benefit our teaching and research activities.

As I hope most of you know, we conducted the first test of a new University emergency notification system last month and used it for the first time just a couple weeks ago for a weather emergency. Both times, the system worked very well. In addition, next month we will begin installing an outdoor loudspeaker system for use on the Evanston campus and looking at ways to improve cell phone reception on campus. All of these measures are designed to improve our communications capabilities in the event of an emergency.

Our Information Technology department also has undertaken several other major initiatives, notably establishing new student e-mail and calendaring services, increasing the available capacity by more than 50-fold, and several exciting new projects in the area of academic technology, including launching a Northwestern channel on YouTube this week.

In research, Northwestern's research volume exceeded $400 million for the first time in 2007, increasing 8 percent to more than $416 million from $384 million in 2006. This new total award volume is the highest in University history and comes in a year in which federal funding was tightening. We once again had several exciting developments. Highlights include:

• Phillip Messersmith, professor of biomedical engineering, and his research team apply the tools of nanotechnology and polymer chemistry to better understand these adhesives used by mussels and geckos and to develop new materials that capture the unique properties of their natural counterparts. The outcomes of this research include liquid surgical adhesives for tissue repair, temporary wet adhesives, and non-accumulating medical device coatings for prevention of bacterial infections.
• Our newest university research center, the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, or ANSER, brings the combined expertise of researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern together to focus on solar energy. ANSER — under the direction of Michael Wasielewski, professor of chemistry — combines and expands the research interests of both institutions to take on the challenges of economically viable solar energy use.

Feinberg saw a 17 percent increase in new grants last year. Significant awards include:

• A renewal from the National Cancer Institute for support of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.
• A national project directed by Wayne Anderson, professor of molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry to map a gallery of 375 proteins from deadly infectious diseases over the next five years.
• An important study of health and disease in Hispanic/Latino populations, led by Martha Daviglus, professor of preventive medicine.
• A landmark national research, clinical and education program that targets fertility threats posed to women by cancer treatment, led by Teresa Woodruff, the Thomas J. Watkins professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Northwestern faculty continue to be recognized for their outstanding achievements. Among those who earned honors this year were:

• Jan Achenbach and Tobin Marks were honored at the White House after receiving the National Medal of Science.
• Stuart Dybek, the first Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern was awarded a MacArthur "genius" award.
• J. Fraser Stoddart, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry, was selected by the World Cultural Council to receive the 2007 Albert Einstein World Award of Science.
• Robert Lamb, the John Evans Professor of BMBCB, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
• Carol Lee, professor of education, was elected to the National Academy of Education.
• Charles Taylor, the Board of Trustees professor of law and philosophy, received the Templeton Prize for Discoveries About Spirituality.
• Mary Zimmerman, performance studies, directed a "ghost-story-inspired vision" for a new production of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" that opened the Metropolitan Opera's season last September.

Our students also continue to earn top awards. Some highlights:

• Two students, Amber North, a senior in WCAS, and Andrew Gruen, a Medill senior, were awarded Gates Cambridge scholarships.
• Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a senior in political sciences was one of only 10 students nationally chosen for the USA Today All-Academic First Team.

Once again, our athletic program enjoyed success. For the third straight year, Northwestern finished among the top 30 universities in the country in NACDA's Directors' Cup standings, which measures overall athletic success. Our women's lacrosse team led the historic year by winning their third straight NCAA title. In addition, Matt Grevers, Mike Alexandrov, Kyle Bubolz, Bruno Barbic, swimmers, and Jake Herbert, wrestler, all won individual national championships. All told, 10 of our 19 varsity sports teams participated in NCAA Championships.

Among our staff, the 2007 Employee of the Year winners were Carrie Harper of the Feinberg School of Medicine on the Chicago campus, and Laura Gerety of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science on the Evanston campus.

We also had 69 Service Excellence Award winners this year, including six who received at least two awards. Those six were: Brenda Bryant of the Office for Research; and Julia Dell, Elizabeth Haley, Peter Livins, Jenny Pearson, and Jill Pfaendtner of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. We applaud the many other members of our Northwestern University community who also demonstrated outstanding service throughout the year.

There have also been important initiatives that enhance the university community and advance our efforts to embrace diversity as part of our mission. For the second year, classes on both of our campuses were suspended for the Martin Luther King holiday. A combination of compelling plenary speakers and smaller programs devoted to service and dialogue provided opportunities for members of the Northwestern community to engage King's legacy for our time.

Also for the second year, the University mounted the "One Book, One Northwestern," this year focused on James Baldwin's classic, "Go Tell It On the Mountain. "I sent copies of the book to our entering undergraduate students and the book served as a focus for the President's Convocation in Wildcat Welcome week.

We had a very productive year in our development efforts, raising a total of $192 million in cash and an additional $224 million in new commitments. Generous gifts from Patrick and Shirley Ryan and Ann Lurie have recently been made to support the Feinberg School of Medicine and its research partnership with Children's Memorial Hospital. Sam Zell has also been a generous supporter of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine. The Crown Family has recently made a very generous gift to support Middle Eastern Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences.

I'm also pleased to report that Kathy Jaharis, a generous alumna of the School of Communication has committed funds to create The Jaharis Family Foundation Endowed Fund to support a faculty chair in the School of Communication. Also last year, we completed our Athletics Initiative, raising over $17 million for endowment and facilities support.

In summary, during the past year Northwestern continued our steadfast pursuit of excellence in teaching, research and community engagement. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership of Northwestern, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation for your many outstanding contributions to this great institution.

Thank you. I will now answer any questions you may have.
Topics: Campus Life