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Henry S. Bienen, President of Northwestern University

Dear Northwestern Alumni,

We will soon begin another academic year, the start of my fifth full year at the University.

It's a particularly exciting time on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. We are in the midst of the largest building program at Northwestern since the construction on the lakefill in the 1970s. Over the next two years, we will begin work on more than a dozen capital projects totaling more than $250 million. These new facilities will enhance our academic programs, provide critically needed research space and help us better serve our students.

The projects range from the James S. Kemper Hall, a beautiful, apartment-style undergraduate residence on the lakefront that has opened, to state-of-the-art research laboratories for medicine and biomedical research in both Chicago and Evanston. Blueprints have also been drawn up for a broadcast journalism building for the Medill School of Journalism; additional classroom, office and meeting space for the Kellogg Graduate School of Management; a new nanofabrication building for the chemistry department; and an expanded Mary and Leigh Block Museum.

We are able to take these ambitious steps because of the success to date of Campaign Northwestern. Publicly announced in May 1998 with a goal of $1 billion, the campaign already has reached more than $730 million in gifts and commitments. The remarkable level of support and enthusiasm among our alumni and other friends of the University has been extremely gratifying.

More important, this support will allow Northwestern to educate its undergraduate, graduate and professional students better and do more cutting-edge scientific research. We want to intensify undergraduate education at Northwestern. This means creating opportunities for students to enroll in more seminars throughout their four years and not just in first-year and senior-year formats. It also means more independent work undertaken by undergraduates.

A good example of transforming education has been the Engineering First program in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. This innovative curriculum immerses first-year students in a project-based class -- creating situations similar to those that students will face in the real world in which they must use communication skills, teamwork and management, as well as engineering know-how. A pioneering effort in new course design, Engineering First has been a signal achievement and one that has been extraordinarily well received by students.

We also have recently opened an office specifically to help our students make plans to study abroad and thereby gain firsthand exposure to other cultures, something we feel is important for the success of our graduates in an increasingly global economy. In addition, we have added an office for fellowships and scholarships to help our top students compete for prestigious fellowships. The result: a bumper crop of Marshalls, Trumans, Goldwaters and other national and international fellowships.

Another key goal for undergraduate education is to improve our cross-disciplinary curriculum. Knowledge is not created or disseminated solely within the administrative frameworks that universities constructed many years ago. Thus, it is imperative that we facilitate cross-school and cross-disciplinary initiatives and that we strengthen links across schools for students and faculty. Our professors have been meeting in what we have called "domain dinners" where the faculty both formally and informally exchange ideas. It has been stimulating to see and hear academicians from different backgrounds holding different intellectual perspectives and challenging each others' premises and modes of analysis.

We also plan to further strengthen our professional and graduate education. Our professional schools rank among the very best, but we do not intend to rest complacently. Instead, we are undertaking significant efforts to strengthen our faculty, improve our research capabilities and work in partnership with business to further improve our professional education.

In addition, many of Northwestern's doctoral programs are quite strong. Others, however, need to be improved. We are taking a careful look at our graduate programs to determine where our resources can most effectively be deployed to attract the finest faculty and provide an outstanding education for top-notch graduate students.

I have stressed, naturally, the many good things that are happening here at Northwestern. However, there is much to do in the coming years to realize our dreams and ambitions. We want the Northwestern of the next century to hold on to the best of its traditions, its fairness and openness, its culture of mixing theory and practice. We want to hold on to the variety of disciplines -- engineering, the performing arts, the professions and the liberal arts and sciences. Yet we cannot do everything, and we must invest wisely and selectively in new programs and faculty. This will be a challenge.

A key element in Northwestern's continued success is the involvement of you, our alumni. Your many outstanding accomplishments redound to the credit of the University, and your volunteer support enables us to provide a better education for all of our students. I deeply appreciate the efforts of all of our alumni who provide this assistance in so many different ways.

In summary, I am very encouraged by where Northwestern stands today, and I am confident of our future. The year 2001 will mark the 150th anniversary -- the Sesquicentennial -- of Northwestern's founding. We have already started planning how to celebrate that occasion, which will give us the opportunity to reflect on the heritage and strength of this University and its future.

I hope you'll return to campus this year to see our progress for yourself and enjoy Evanston and Chicago. In addition, I look forward to the opportunity to meet with you at alumni events around the country.

Best wishes,

Henry S. Bienen