University Conference: State of the University Address

Below is President Glasser's State of the University address from the University Conference on August 18, 2009.

Welcome again, especially to you Bradley newcomers. Having been in your shoes just two years ago, I can tell you that Bradley is a very warm and welcoming place. The faculty and staff really do consider themselves a family. You will make lifelong friends and long-time memories. We’re so happy to have you as members of the Bradley family. 

There are two themes I want to focus on in my remarks, in what I consider the state of the university address.

First I want to look back at the past year and remind you of some of our accomplishments and the challenges we faced.

Next, and I suggest most important, I intend to look ahead at the new academic year. I will identify some key goals that we all can focus on for the next 12 months.

I firmly believe the state of our university is strong. Bradley is a leader in our region, in our state and, I maintain, in our nation in educating students and preparing them for life’s journey.

The university, its faculty and its students have been recognized by outside sources, including U.S. News and World Report and the recently released Princeton Review.

Beyond those surveys, I would invite you to think about what others – your colleagues, your friends, your acquaintances – say about our university. We are respected for what we do. Our reputation is strong. Our brand as a top-flight institution is embedded in the national consciousnesses.

We just have to do a better job acknowledging it, promoting it and supporting all the wonderful things we do here. 

Our Midwestern ethic sometimes makes it difficult to tout our own successes. But we should. … And we will. 

We are gathered in one of our most recent successes. The Markin Family Student Recreation Center is as modern and user-friendly as any rec facility in the country. It has become the social hub on campus for our students and it has been tremendously valuable in recruiting new students to campus. 

But the Markin center is just the first of our construction successes. Our new arena is rising from the footprint of the old Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse. It, too, will make a huge difference to our campus and our community. And I believe it will be just as spectacular as the Markin center. I am extremely proud of the ways in which these buildings have been done, and I know you will be too. 

In the fall we are planning two very exciting, and very long overdue, groundbreakings. On Founder’s Day, October 1, we will begin work on the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center behind Bradley Hall. Our signature building will now have two front doors, the new one opening an entirely new campus to the west and creating a brand new west quad.

Later in October, specifically, October 22, we will break ground on the renovation and expansion of our beloved Westlake hall. … Yes, it’s really going to happen Dean Sattler. Our new Westlake will help us prepare the next generation of teachers and health care professionals. It will make a significant difference on our campus.

Another exciting addition on campus to be unveiled is a coffee café in the library.  We will raise our cups of java to officially toast and welcome our café for faculty, students and staff on September 2 at 10 a.m.  A café naming contest will be held at a later date. 

This construction progress is possible because of our campaign for a Bradley renaissance. Despite the economic challenges in the region and the nation, the campaign continues to thrive. I want to thank each and every one of you for your tremendous support. You have put your money where your hearts are and encouraged your friends, family and our alumni to do the same.  

We have raised more than $123 million, a figure that doesn’t include millions in state and federal grants that we’ve received during our campaign. Overall the renaissance is progressing well, but there is much, much more work to do if we are to surpass our $150 million goal. … And we will. 

Speaking of dollars, the university faced a fiscal deficit this year. We asked each department, and each of you, to review spending…and you did.

We made significant cuts – perhaps not as much as some would like – but we weathered this storm … at least temporarily … while maintaining some modest salary raises for most employees. That was important. So I thank you for finding ways to economize and for continuing to look for savings. We will get through these difficult economic times together.

I also want to say how pleased I am with the first year results of our comprehensive alcohol action plan. The education and activities you are providing our students are going a long way toward helping them make better decisions. As a result, they are safer, our campus is safer and our community is safer.

None of us want to relive the tragedies that befell us two years ago. Please continue to spread our alcohol message this year throughout the campus and beyond. 

Finally, let me briefly mention a few highlights from the last year that I hope will bring smiles to your faces and warm memories to your hearts.

  • Four regional galas spreading the word about our renaissance campaign to St. Louis, Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.
  • One alumnus, Ray LaHood, becoming the first Bradley graduate to serve in the President’s Cabinet and another, Aaron Schock, extending a 52-year tradition in congress.
  • Another alum, Brad Cohen, being the subject of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.
  • The softball team’s journey to the NCAA tournament.
  • MBA students winning the national management competition for the second consecutive year.
  • New degree programs in biochemistry, nursing, finance and more.
  • Our EMBA program being named for Dr. Theresa Falcon, the first EMBA in the world to be named for a woman and by a woman.
  • The inaugural Inland Visual Studies Center.
  • Chris Roberts’ game winning basketball miracle shot.
  • Peoria robotics getting off the ground with the help of a federal grant.
  • The theatre arts department winning an Orion award.
  • U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald speaking at mid-year commencement.
  • The women’s basketball team having its best season ever.
  • The forensics team placing second in national finals with Vanessa Carranza winning a national championship.
  • U-Exchange winning our Springboard Competition
  • Nearly 200 of you joining me at the Race for the Cure. Thank you so much for supporting me during some difficult personal times this year. I will always remember your kindnesses.  

By any measure, that was some year. Congratulations to you all for your part in making it so eventful. 

But we cannot be satisfied. There is more to do.  The great American songwriter, Irving Berlin, once said: “the toughest thing about success is that you have to keep on being a success.” 

That is our challenge.  We have to build on our successes and we will.  Last year was a success; this year will be an even greater success—as Irving Berlin said: we will keep on being a success, only more so. 

So I am going to present you with six goals for next year. These priorities are intended to build on our successes and continue to elevate Bradley to become a university of national distinction.

First, we want to maintain the momentum from this year’s enrollment management successes. This year’s freshman class – 1,115 and 309 transfer students – was beyond our expectations.

You all did a phenomenal job promoting our university, advising prospective students and encouraging them to join our family. 

Just as it takes an entire university to prepare a student, it takes an entire university to recruit the best students.  

The faculty in this room are Bradley University’s best ambassadors. Staff and facilities may get prospective students in the door, but our engaged and talented faculty close the deal.  

You are the heart and soul of this university and we need your help in closing the deal with prospective students. You did exceptional work last year and I know we can count on you to help in our recruitment efforts this year. 

A key part of that recruitment effort is to continue to attract more students from the east and west coasts. Extending our reach to Seattle, New York and LA will make our campus better reflect the world we live in.

That will improve the experience for our students and for those of us who work here. 

One of the crucial indicators to determine if we are a university of national distinction is geographic diversity.

We are serious about attracting students from outside Illinois, we have dedicated resources to this task and we are going to stick to it until our campus looks more like it did 20 years ago. 

The challenge for enrollment management and everyone else at Bradley is to do what we did this year all over again. We succeeded this year and we need to succeed again next year.  We need another class of 1,120 and I believe with our new programs, enhanced facilities and talented faculty we can get it. 

Our second goal is to continue to develop academic programs that will meet the needs of our future students. As an institution, we must continue to develop new academic programs.  After all, that is part of our history.

Who would have imagined 40 years ago all the academic programs associated with computers?  Who would have imagined 100 years ago that we would no longer offer classes in horology?

A prime example is the new program in Sports Communication, developed last year.  Already sports communication has attracted 45 students who have identified themselves as Sports Communication majors.

Sports Communication is also attracting attention across the country from prospective students.  As we did with this new program, it is critical for us to develop academic programs that are both academically rigorous and meet the needs of our students. 

Similarly, our pre-law center, while not a major course of study, is a key component in our academic portfolio.

Many of our students from a wide array of disciplines attend law school. Our pre-law center and our full-time director make us competitive for these students.

We should at least consider making the same focus, the same identity, the same advising available to our students who are pursuing other pre-professional programs.  It is something to think about.

And just a reminder, the ROTC Military Science Program was revived last year.  It will be in full operation this year offering opportunities to students from all disciplines on our campus.

The program will be under the very capable leadership of Lt. Colonel Mike Kirkton – a 23 year veteran of the U.S. Army.  Please stand and be recognized.

While there were a number of other changes in our array of programs and degrees– more than in recent history – the last I want to highlight is the very important STEM center and our emphasis on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

These disciplines come from our core strengths. They will be in demand. It is these kinds of programs that we should expand and create to build on the strong foundation we have.

So my request is this: keep inventing. Keep looking to the future. Keep developing programs that are rigorous, programs that you will be proud to teach and that your students will want to study.

If we continue to develop our academic strengths, national recognition will follow.

Our third goal – and this will really involve each of us – is to pursue accreditation with unity and vigor. Once every 10 years we get reviewed and re-accredited.

The last visit was 2000. The first – and I found this fascinating – was in 1913, 96 years ago. 

The purpose of the accreditation is to review “quality assurance” and “institutional” and “programmatic improvement.” Much of this analysis is done with a series of self studies.

Dean Claire Etaugh and her team have been coordinating and documenting the studies that we will present to the north central association. 

A key component is our commitment to our mission and our mission statement. Let me read you a summary that describes who we are and what we do. I think it includes the key touch points in relatively few words: 

Bradley university develops leaders, innovators and productive members of society within a passionate and respectful community whose dedicated faculty and staff promote active, collaborative learning across academic, geographic and cultural boundaries.

Those are “powerful” words. They set a bold course for our university. Now I have to admit, sometimes we need a reminder.  

So your gift this year as you leave the conference is a framed copy of that summary. 

Please keep it in your office. Read over it occasionally. Reflect on its purpose. And then let’s carry it with us in everything we do on the hilltop. 

For we want to do more than pass this accreditation test. We want to grow from this experience.

To do so we must look at our university and see where she can improve, what changes we can make and how we can better serve our students.

That will require some introspection, some self-review. I know this will be a healthy, valuable experience. 

And I am confident that when the north central team arrives on campus on November 15, 2010, we will be ready with a first-rate presentation.

I am even more confident that going through this self-examination will make Bradley a stronger, better institution. 

Our fourth goal is to bring more nationally known speakers to campus to broaden the horizons of our students and our community. Institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to attract great minds– and not just on the faculty – to share ideas.

I think we can all remember a speaker that impressed and motivated us when we were in college.

We have an obligation to do the same for our students today.

We have a good start already. As you know, Elaine Chao is scheduled to be the first honoree as part of the Theresa Falcon executive speaker series.

We already have more than 500 guests coming to hear her speak on august 28 and she will be on campus to meet in smaller venues with our students. 

Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Bradley graduate, noted author and concentration camp survivor will return to campus to share her stirring story on Monday, September 14. 

She will be our constitution day appropriate!   If you haven’t heard Marion speak or don’t know her life journey, you will want to hear her riveting story. 

Another BU alum will speak at our graduate school commencement. Dr. Lindsey Rolston came to Bradley as a student and a baseball pitcher and left on his way to medical school.

He became an orthopedic surgeon and inventor, creating an artificial knee implant that speeds recovery. I can’t wait to hear him speak. 

Finally, and you are the first to know, for mid-year commencement in December we will be hosting Larry King. Larry has had a 50-year career in broadcasting and is the host of the longest running interview show on CNN. The recipient of an Emmy and two Peabodies, Mr. King is the perfect speaker when we are kicking off our sports communication program. 

I am confident there will be other celebrities and scholars on our campus this year. I look forward to them all. 

Our fifth goal is that we must continue our momentum in the campaign for a Bradley Renaissance.  In view of the fact that we have raised $123 million of the $150 million goal, we might think that the end is in sight and the goal is at hand. 

Remember—the toughest thing about success is that you have to keep on being a success.  We don’t want to just reach the goal; we want to surpass it.  Our future depends on it. 

If we are to have the kind of facilities we dream about, if we are to have the scholarship support to recruit the best students, if we are to have the resources to make Bradley a truly diverse academic community, we must succeed in the campaign.  You have played a key role in our success to date; with your support we will surpass our goal and create at Bradley a true university of national distinction. 

The sixth goal involves filling out our administrative staff. While this responsibility falls primarily on my shoulders, many of you will play an important part.

Your role is at the core of the shared governance philosophy that is the foundation of our university’s collaborative leadership. 

Specifically, there are three cabinet positions that we need to fill in the next year.

They are Provost, Athletic Director and Vice President of Enrollment Management. Each brings its own unique challenges and opportunities. 

A year ago I told the University Senate that we would do a nationwide search for a permanent Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. That process is moving forward. Along with Senate President Molly Cluskey and others from the campus, we will be assembling a search committee to evaluate the candidates.

This process will be thorough, fair and transparent. When it concludes, we will have selected the best Provost possible for our university. 

Dr. Bob Bolla has done a wonderful job as Interim Provost and I want to personally and publicly thank him for his leadership and his work ethic. Dr. Bolla has made a valuable contribution to the university and to our leadership team. I know he will appreciate your support during the coming year. 

Similarly, I want to tell you how pleased I have been with the work done by Virnette House-Browning since she became interim athletic director. She is a quick study who is providing the important leadership for our athletic department.

Yet as promised, as with all leadership positions, I will be conducting a national search for a permanent A.D. in the near future.  

Finally, we will continue to search for a VP for Enrollment Management. Dr. Alan Galsky has done remarkable work this last year, and the size of the freshman class shows it.

But it is unfair to Dr. Galsky and our students to continue to ask him to do double duty. 

So I have promised him and myself that we will find a permanent Enrollment Management VP before the 2010 class enrolls.

This position is vital to our future as we expand the geographical diversity on our campus. 

I have to admit, that is a full plate. I will need your help to accomplish each of these goals. But I know that if we work together, there is nothing we can’t do.

This ambitious agenda will keep us all very busy and could produce some strain. Anytime you step outside your comfort zone that is to be expected. 

So during this time of great change on our campus, I want to share this thought.  A university is a marketplace of ideas. 

It is the place where ideas, both new and old, are discussed and, most importantly, tolerated. 

If this critical exchange of ideas is to continue, as I think it must, it must be conducted with civility and respect.

The famous words always attributed to Voltaire say it best:  “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

Despite the pressures of our daily work and the deadlines we all must meet, let us continue to conduct all of our conversations with civility. 

Let us continue to treat each other with respect.  Let us continue to welcome all viewpoints and to discuss them in the true traditions of the academy:  with honesty, with openness and with civility.

What is most alarming to me in our national discourse is the increasing rancor with which it is being conducted.  Increasingly those who express divergent ideas are viewed as a threat, as someone to “smite hip and thigh” as the Old Testament has it (judges 15:8). 

In the academy, at Bradley University, that must not happen!  We must not disparage different ideas or be contemptuous of those who express them.

I firmly believe that we are in the business of human development and to help prepare our students to become tomorrow’s leaders. 

We must model for them how to consider ideas with which we might personally disagree with toleration and civility. 

We must continue to conduct our discourse here with respect for the “diversity of ideas” upon which the university is built. 

I am certain you will continue to be leaders in keeping Bradley an open and civil marketplace of ideas.

Finally, I want to share a few thoughts with you about the nature of Bradley University— what it is now and what it could become. 

The Carnegie classifications say that Bradley is a master’s level comprehensive university.  What that means, according to one definition (council on undergraduate research) is that Bradley is a university that offers a full range of baccalaureate programs and is committed to graduate education through the master’s degree. 

That means that Bradley is neither a liberal arts college nor a research I institution. 

I would submit, though, that Bradley combines the best of both:  we are and will continue to be a university with a strong liberal arts foundation.  We are a university that prizes high quality teaching of undergraduates in a total living and learning environment.  At the same time, though, our faculty remain active in research and creative activities. 

We do not view teaching and research as separate activities; at Bradley they are the two sides of the same faculty coin.

At the master’s level comprehensive university, as at Bradley, excellence in teaching builds on excellence in scholarship.  Unlike the research university, at Bradley we recognize that scholarship and creative activity comes in many forms.  In addition to the traditional peer-reviewed publication or the juried presentation or performance, scholarly activity might take the form of a business plan for an organization, or a patent stemming from engineering or business consultation efforts, or a paper on effective teaching strategies for mathematics in middle schools.

A key place where scholarship and teaching intersect at comprehensive universities is the involvement of students in the scholarly and creative work.  At Bradley we have placed special emphasis on faculty-student collaboration.  To cite just one example, last year alone this collaboration through our student engagement project resulted in 78 research or creative projects presented at expo. These projects engaged 167 students in collaborative work with 62 faculty members.

And that brings me to what I think the true role of the comprehensive university is… to produce tomorrow’s leaders. 

Bradley is uniquely positioned to be a force in that effort.  Reflect for a moment on Bradley’s combination of programs—the range of undergraduate degree programs in business, in communications and fine arts, in education and health sciences, in engineering and technology, in the liberal arts and sciences. 

Include with that our graduate programs with their distinctive emphasis on practical application—in business, in engineering, in education, in nursing, in the sciences, among others. 

Bradley cannot be all things to all people.  We must not lose sight of who we are and who we wish to be.  Permit me to refer again to the words summarizing our mission:

Bradley university develops leaders, innovators and productive members of society within a passionate and respectful community whose dedicated faculty and staff promote active, collaborative learning across academic, geographic and cultural boundaries.

“Preparing and nurturing tomorrow’s leaders” in an active and collaborative living and learning community is a noble cause and one we gladly embrace.  I firmly believe that we are on the brink of great things at Bradley. 

Bradley has enjoyed success, but remember what Irving Berlin said:  “the toughest thing about success is that you have to keep on being a success.”  National distinction for Bradley will come when we can build success upon success, when we can continue to develop “rigorous” new academic programs, when we can match those academic programs with dramatic new facilities, and when we can continue Bradley’s long tradition of having talented faculty and staff at the heart of the university. 

Together I know that we will make Bradley a university of national distinction. 

I thank you for all that you do for Bradley, for all you do for our students, for all you do to enhance learning and knowledge in our community.

I am proud of each of you and I am humbled to serve as your president.  Thanks for the privilege and opportunity to do so and thank you again for all of your support.