Virtual Town Hall – Featuring University of Illinois System President Timothy L. Killeen

Virtual Town Hall – Featuring University of Illinois System President Timothy L. Killeen

Good evening everyone. This is Tim Killeen president of the University of Illinois System, and my thanks to all of you for taking the time to join this evening’s Virtual Town Hall, hosted by the University of Illinois Alumni Association in collaboration with the UIC Alumni Association and the UIS in Springfield Alumni Relations. This idea grew from brainstorming sessions among our alumni association staff, board members and friends on how we can bring your alma maters to you, directly and even more than we have in the past. This call gives us a chance to make another connection with some of our more than 750,000 alumni and to have a dialogue that will augment your regular updates from your alumni association. it gives us here a chance to share first-hand some of the many highlights from across the University of Illinois System, and gives you a chance to ask questions or offer feedback or suggestions. So if you would like to ask a question or make a comment at any point during this conversation Just press *3 on your telephone keypad. You will then be connected with the university staff member who will get your name, question or comment and place you in queue to share it with me and our listeners. At any given point during tonight’s call there could be an estimated 7,000 alumni listening in. Graduates from each of our universities of all ages and backgrounds and from all cultures, careers and corners of the world. But each and every one of us has something very important in common. We’ve all hitched our wagons to a star. The U of I System is riding on a rocket ship of momentum that is perhaps unmatched in its long more than 150 year history. More and more people are jumping on board to join us all the time. I’ve been saying in public that we’re the most dynamic university system you will find anywhere. But you don’t just have to take my word for it. Here are just a few of the many signs. On Enrollment and affordability: look at the record waves of students that keep flowing into our three best-in-class universities. This fall, just recently enrollment climbed to an all-time high for the seventh straight year. Nearly 89,000 students system wide enough to populate. What would be Illinois’ ninth largest city. Enrollment set a record for the ninth straight year in Urbana more than 51,000 students, and for the fifth straight year in Chicago where fall enrollment topped 33,000. Add in an all-time record freshman class in Springfield, and it keeps us on pace to reach our ambitious goal of pushing system-wide enrollment past 93,000 by the fall of 2021. Even as many of our peer institutions are struggling just to tread water. Our gains here have been supported by a commitment to student access and affordability that netted a fifth straight year of tuition freeze for in-state students this fall. And that incidentally is the longest run of back-to-back freezes in more than half a century. And the gains have been supported by many of you, the generous alumni and friends who have helped fuel a three-fold increase in institutional scholarships over the last decade to 230 million dollars annually. Remember, press *3 at any point to get in line to leave a question or comment, and a staff member will answer the phone to confirm your name and information. On faculty, more evidence of momentum: You can also sense this through the ongoing additions to our already extraordinary faculty ranks. Last year, the first cohort of a new three-year, 60 million dollar hiring initiative brought in more than a dozen of the very best professors in their fields. Acclaimed experts in critical disciplines such as electronics innovation, cancer treatment regenerative medicine, public finance and history. The next class will be announced soon and we will ultimately bring in up to 50 of the very best educators and researchers in the world. Those exceptional faculty who will define us and increase our power as a magnet for both students and research funding. There’s momentum on facilities and programs also. To get a feel for this, you can look at the new academic opportunities we are creating to serve both the needs of students and the needs of society. And here are just a few of the many examples: Urbana-Champaign partnered with Carle Healthcare to launch a pioneering new medical school last year. The first ever created at the crossroads of engineering and medicine. In Chicago we welcome the first class to the UIC John Marshall Law School this fall, giving the city its first ever public law school and offering a high quality affordable law degree to students across the city and beyond. And in Springfield, just two years ago students were given the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. And in those two years the program has already doubled in size. We have also added new state-of-the-art physical facilities. Last year, the new first ever student union opened in Springfield. A 21 million dollar campus centerpiece that gives UIS a new hub of student activity and as yet another drawing card for new students. This fall, UIC opened it’s 100 million dollar academic and residential complex. A two-story academic building and a 10 story residence hall built through the U of I Systems first ever public-private partnership. You can see this from Chicago’s roads. Next fall Urbana will open its new 48 million dollar Siebel Center for design. A unique new hub of student focused learning, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship, wrapped around design thinking. Many more such augmentations are in the pipeline. Including renovation of Urbana’s Altgeld Hall for a new data science center, a new computer design research and learning center for UIC’s College of Engineering and a new facility at UIS that will replace the existing library. They are just a few of the 340 plus projects totaling 4 billion dollars that we intend to complete in the next 10 years, from repairs and remodeling, to new classroom buildings and laboratories. Remember, please press *3 at any point to get in line to leave a question or comment, and the staff member will answer the phone to confirm your name and information. On DPI, and IIN, our momentum is also reflected in the partnerships that are fueling remarkable progress towards our Discovery Partners Institute and the Illinois Innovation Network. If you are unfamiliar with these the Discovery Partners Institute or DPI and the Illinois Innovation Network or IIN, are pioneering new education and research initiatives that the U of I System is leading to drive workforce development and economic growth in our state and beyond. Top universities and corporations from around the world are signing on to work with DPI, a world-class research and education center in downtown Chicago. And Every public university in Illinois will be part of IIN system of related academic and research hubs across the rest of the state. Working together and sharing their distinctive knowledge and expertise DPI, and IIN will cultivate the human and intellectual capital that is now so critical to drive progress and economic growth. And like our academic enterprise, they will do it at a massive scale. Hundreds of world-class researchers working with thousands of students and countless businesses, investors and entrepreneurs. They together will foster the breakthrough innovation and the entrepreneurial know-how that will create new products, new businesses and a new era for prosperity for Illinois, the Midwest and beyond. Remember, press *3 at any point to get in line to leave a question or comment and a staff member will answer the phone to confirm your name and information. On donors, the incredible generosity of our alumni and stakeholders. You can also get a sense of our momentum by looking at the phenomenal success of the University of Illinois Foundation’s current fundraising effort. It’s the largest and most ambitious fundraising effort in our more than 150 history. A 3.1 billion dollar initiative comprised of three unique campaigns at each of our universities. When it was launched in late 2017 it was just one of eight public university campaigns anywhere in the nation with goals greater than 3 billion dollars, So very ambitious. But less than halfway into the five-year initiative the campaigns are already nearly 77 percent towards the goal with 2.38 billion dollars already raised. That already exceeds the total of our last campaign, which was called Brilliant Futures, which topped its 2.25 billion dollar goal when it ended in 2011. So I’m so grateful to our partners at the Foundation and to all of our generous donors for the support that helps make the U of I system a cut above, not just one of the pack. And across our universities and in every phase of our operations, we’re moving forward at rocket speed. But we have absolutely no intention of resting on our laurels. We will keep reaching higher and higher towards our goal of making the U of I System the gold standard of higher education in the 21st century. No less, the gold standard, the launching pad for progress and prosperity. Lifting the state and its many communities and the Midwest and the Country and the world. And the commitment of loyal alumni like all of you is why we are never afraid to always dream bigger in our push to better serve the needs of our students and the public good. Commitment, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, is what transforms a promise into reality and we are committed. So on behalf of the entire University of Illinois family, thank you again for your support and for participating in tonight’s call. Now, let’s get to our first question Remember that you can press *3 at any point to get in line and leave a question or a comment and a staff member will answer the phone to confirm your name and information. Okay, we have a question from…. Remember you can press star 3 at any point to get in line to leave a question or comment and a staff member will answer the phone to confirm your name and information. I see a question from Julia that talked about how we can increase diversity in STEM education. Thank you, Julia for listening in and asking that question. It’s a very important point. I think in everything we do we need to reflect the strong and growing diversity of the citizenry of our country and notably in STEM fields. It’s important to do that. So we are working hard to make sure that students are well prepared for post-secondary education. We’re working with the K through 12 system in Chicago and downstate. We’re recruiting strongly upstate, downstate, in the northern part of the state and southern part of the state annually with with other colleagues from public universities. And we pay close attention to the diversity and inclusion imperatives to make sure that our campuses are a welcoming space where you can get a world-class education at an affordable price, and that access is ensured. So in STEM education in particularly, we’ve made significant gains. In engineering for example, in both in gender representation and in underrepresented minorities, but also in the in the diversity of thought and cultural background, and in all of the dimensions of diversity, which we feel very strong strongly about so I appreciate that question. Thank you. Okay, there’s a question here from Patrick that’s asking how can you maintain excellence of the centers with extra focus on the DPI? Are you online, Patrick? Yes Did I get that right? could you re-ask the question perhaps? Yes, with the emphasis on the DPI, and also you how do you balance the focus on that versus on campus? Funding, focus, activities… Yeah, it’s a good question. The DPI and the IIN are designed to lift the whole state up. Every region, the city upstate and downstate, and of course all of these developments have to be based on the expertise and capability of our campuses. Notably at UIUC, UIC and University of Illinois at Springfield. But we also have many partners now including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Illinois Institute of Technology. So it’s a big concept and in fact significant resources will be devoted to increasing the capacity of research actually physically on the campuses. I think in your question you refer to UIUC in Urbana-Champaign and for example over a hundred million dollars of the DPI and IIN funding is designated to increase capabilities in Urbana-champaign. Notably in the general area of digital transformation and digital expertise. So we’re connecting the the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to the computer science department and we’ll be recruiting experts to help with that. So in many ways Urbana-Champaign is going to be benefiting directly monetarily from the DPI/IIN initiative, but will also provide opportunities for the students and the faculty to work collaboratively across intellectual boundaries and physical boundaries. So it has very strong support from faculty from the administration in our three university campuses. But we’re also very excited about the international reach of this initiative. Any one institution on its own can’t really do it all, so collaboration is the name of the game. Authentic collaboration where the partners are able to work across institutional and intellectual boundaries to make rapid progress in solving the problems. Not just addressing the problems. Assessing the problems, but solving the problems that society faces. So we see direct benefits, but also many indirect benefits to the individual campuses from this initiative. Thank you very much. Okay, Susan McLeod has a question. Could we asked you to pose it please Susan? Okay and reading it It’s what is the U of I’s plan to combat the brain drain to keep bright kids in state?That’s another great question. It turns out that our state has been losing through an out migration of college-ready high schoolers to the tune of something between 16,000 to 20,000 individuals a year. They go to other states to get their post-secondary education, and many of them don’t ever return to the state of Illinois. So we made this investment in young people and And then when they leave the state they don’t come back. So we need to be competing fiercely. We need to be competing on grounds of quality and and on cost and on marketing frankly. We need to be making sure that college ready youngsters know exactly their options to stay in Illinois, and to participate and to have careers, great careers and have great opportunities for world-class educational outcomes right here in Illinois. And to that end we’re working closely with our other public university partners to recruit, and we have several recruitment efforts as I mentioned before upstate and downstate to target college ready students. We need to be marketing more effectively and frankly many of these decisions are made on the basis of family cost. You know bottom line numbers, kitchen table considerations. And that is essentially why we have kept our tuition down and we’ve had five years of an in-state tuition freeze. So that means that the incoming student in 2021 will be paying the same tuition as the student who has started in 2014. It’s the longest tuition freeze. So we’re working hard on the cost competitive aspects so that students don’t leave the state of Illinois on the grounds of cost. But we frankly need to be doing more marketing to so the real costs are assessed. We’ve also been increasing our financial aid too as I mentioned, over 230 million dollars and that’s an important contribution. All of that said, I’m very proud of the fact that the U of I System’s enrollment is at an all-time high. So we are doing what we can and that’s an all-time high for Illinois residents. And that means that we are actually making a difference in preserving our talent, our human capital in the state of Illinois, and we intend to continue that emphasis and to do ever more along those lines. I appreciate that that is a concern, and frankly it’s a concern for the long-term fiscal viability of the state. If we’re going to resolve the issues of the state budget and pension issues we need to build the tax base up. it’s our appointed role as a large land grant public university system to make sure that our graduating students not only have the skills and credentials and competencies to participate in society and effective ways, but they have those opportunities right here at home. Frankly the DPI/IIN is going to help us with that. Our students as they graduate will be able to have track records of experiential learning. They’ve maybe done projects working with companies. They may have the opportunity to start a small company, to have the mobility across different kinds of work opportunities right here in Illinois. So there’s a lot of work to be done on this in this regard, and I think the whole state has to recognize it as a the challenge. But as we build wealth and prosperity In Illinois and catch up to where we need to be. We need to address this brain drain issue that you bring up. Thank you for that question. I see a question from Reginald Fortune. Can you come online and provide the question, Reginald? Now, Reginald probably called you. He’ll call you back, I guess sir. This is Reginald’s mother calling, Blanche Fortune. Blanche. Hello, how are you? I’m very well Blanche thank you for calling. There is a note here that I can read and I think it’s the essence of the question that Reginald had. If I get sick, can I use the U of I Hospital? The answer to that is absolutely yes. We have a wonderful hospital as part of the UI health system in Chicago. It’s a it’s a broad hospital, we never turn any patients away, and It’s very effective in its In its treatment and we’re very proud of it. We have some 17 clinics as well where there are opportunities to get help from physicians. We have strong programs in dentistry and social work, in pharmacy, etc. So, please consider your University of Illinois as a healthcare asset, Blanche. Thank you for your question. Hello, sir? Thank you. Thank you very much. Jennifer Parkhurst has a question. She’s been waiting a little while in line. Hello, Jennifer. Hello Do you you need me to ask my question again? Well, you put it on your own words. I think I got the essence of it, but would you would you mind? Yes, I’d like to know to what extent the teaching is done by sort of fully hired and salaried professors? And what what part of the teaching is done by adjuncts who simply are teaching a course here and course there? But are not… Go ahead go ahead. Yeah. Well, thank you. I’ve got the question. We have adjunct professors who teach courses, we have tenure-track professors who teach courses and we have teaching assistants who are graduate students. We try to optimize everything around the student experience. Everything we do, Jennifer, is designed to optimize the student’s experience. So where you know, some people might put on the wall “It’s the economy stupid.” For us, We put on “It’s the students stupid.” So we get excellence throughout. Now, we do emphasize the roles of tenure-track professors who are fully salaried professors, and of course we pay adjunct professors as well at regular important rates when they when they do that. So we have a little bit all of the above, but compared with other other places our emphasis is very strongly on that on the tenure-track regular professors. But we’ve got wonderful instructors and teachers who are not on that track as well. Who add magnificent components to our educational experience. As I suggested, it’s all about the excellence of the educational experience, and it’s about the students in the classroom, the labs and in the libraries. That is what we care mostly about, and I think if you saw the quality just broadly, you’d be proud. But thank you for your question. Thank you. Cecille Steinberg You have a question? Yes, I was just wondering there was so much discussion about all the wonderful technology and advances that our campus is making. But I still want to know if there’s any concern for keeping the humanities into our curriculum and making sure that our students have access to learning about arts, and literature, and history and all of those things. Thank you so much Cecille for that important question, and the answer is resoundingly yes. The role of the arts and the humanities and the social sciences are central, not peripheral, are central to our university system. If you think about our mission to engage an informed citizenry with expertise and credentials and competencies, that includes things like discernment, articulation, appreciation. All of the things that are central to what you might call a liberal arts educational experience. But in a setting like ours where all of the disciplines are represented. You know when we think about DPI and IIN and taking on the big challenges of the next century. For example, just to give you a quick example, we are placing humanities in the core of that. For many pragmatic reasons as well as the moral reasons of it’s part of the human intellectual experience. We need to celebrate it, but if you think about artificial intelligence and and how it might evolve without ethics and without the humanities and without deep understanding of history and all the appreciation and then the celebration of the human experience with arts and music. So all of these fields are Intrinsically part and parcel of what we do. That doesn’t mean that we don’t work hard on STEM and engineering and biophysical and biology Etc. We want to do it all in an appropriate way as a full-service comprehensive university system. And just to demonstrate that this is more than just work, with Barb Wilson’s leadership, she’s the executive vice president, we have funded a two million dollar initiative in celebrating the role of the arts and humanities. Across the University of Illinois System. And we have funded 16 projects in dance and in art and in history that faculty have proposed. Which are very multidisciplinary and very exciting to watch. So don’t worry, that the role of the Arts and Humanities are central to our mission, and we need to keep saying that and you need to keep asking that question. Thank you. That’s reassuring. I got a question from Hunima Gupta. Could we ask you to be on? Yes, hello Hello I can agree that a lot of undergraduate students might be leaving the state, but there’s a lot of graduate students especially are coming from not only other state but also from other countries. So how much do they make up, and how much brain drain we can really call it? Well, thank you for bringing up the role of international students. I may have emphasized the role of Illinois students in my remarks earlier, but we feel strongly about the diversity, and the cultural backgrounds and just the role of our international student body in enriching the education experience for everybody. We’re so proud of our international students. They bring tremendous vitality to our university system. I’ve had the opportunity to travel in the last few years of my time here and I know that the University of Illinois is revered in countries like India and the Far East and in Mexico and in Canada and around the world. We want to embrace those connections without displacing our Illinois student body. In fact we’ve grown that in the last few years. We’re concerned about the loss of Illinois raised high schoolers to adjacent states frankly. Because they leave Illinois, but we need to actually celebrate and in fact continue to emphasize our international connections. Which are of long-standing and high value, and if you look at the role of people from abroad who come and had an education at the University of Illinois. Whether they stay in Illinois or the United States or go back home, they carry the banner for us in important ways and I’ve seen that firsthand. So that’s a that’s a very important aspect of what we believe in. So thank you for that question. Thank you. Peter Korst has a question. Peter? He’s not live, but it says “Could you expand on strategy for online degrees for enrollment growth and certifications for professional education?” Thanks for that question, Peter. We do have a strategy for online degrees. In fact, we have a whole strategy for student enrollment that’s quite detailed and sophisticated, and it’s what I like to think of as a bottoms-up strategy. So each department, each college in our whole system has identified the demand/ supply side, but also the opportunity space for degrees. We are following along on the strategic enrollment plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees three years ago now. We’re actually exactly on on the planned trajectory, and it does include online learning in notable ways. In fact, our three universities have different perspectives because of their different needs and attributes. At UIUC in Urbana-Champaign, for example, online education is a major part of the enrollment growth and is proceeding accordingly. I would say notably at the master’s degree level and the huge success of the iMBA, which is an online mechanism at half the cost of a residential MBA. Those things are going forward. So we have many many online programs, more than 120 online programs. We’re a powerhouse in online education and have been for many years. So we do have a strategy. Again, it’s not to displace any other component of the strategy. For example, at UIC our enrollment strategy actually has a focus on undergraduate enrollment. UIC has been notably a commuter school for many years. And now we have some opportunities to build residential opportunities for for students who could have the residential experience at UIC including international students. There’s an emphasis there. So each of our three universities has a slightly different approach to the mix of degree programs and other programs that would be made available. Online is a major piece of it, and it’s a growing piece of it. We like to feel and we know that our products are really superb in that space. And so we want to continue doing that. Now the second part of your question was certifications for professional education. That’s also an interesting question because it’s our belief that into the future, student enrolls at the University of Illinois System. It’s not a four-year experience. It’s a lifelong experience. We want to ensure that our alumni are connected to our university, can access skilled services that will help them as they move through society, maybe changing job categories, maybe multiple times. And professional certification I think is extremely important for that kind of future, and we’re working hard on that in creative ways. Let’s see, I see a question from Joette Storm. Joette, are you online? Okay, I can read that too. “Can you provide an example of a problem the DPI will address?” Well, there are a bunch of problems that the DPI will address. The thing that pops right into my head is there’s going to be a strong emphasis on drug discovery. We have tremendous capacities across our system for medical invention. Devices, implants, wearable devices, wireless devices that can that can communicate back and forth what’s going on with individual patients. We have had a lot of success in the past with discovery and commercialization frankly of drugs. For example, UIC was the birthplace of the new shingles vaccine. Which has been very important and and very successful. So drug discovery. We’re looking at things like use of stem cells, and we’re working on things like how do we work on Alzheimer’s? So, disease issues. So there’s a big medical biomedical biomedicine, with a lot of engineering brought in. There’s one family of examples. We’re looking at things like farming production and urban agriculture. We’re looking at environmental issues. We’re looking at Fintech, financial technologies, and there’s going to be a big underpinning of what we call predictive analytics. How do you take quantitative knowledge of systems and optimize them around future activities and future job creation going forward? So there’s just a few examples of the kind of thinking. They’re big. Crime in cities, another major problem set that’s going to need humanities as much as it’s going to need the statisticians and the criminal justice folks. So I think it’s going to be a broad set of important problem sets that require the kind of intellectual heft of a university like ours. where you have all of the expertise, whether it’s in biology or in chemistry or material science or in the humanities to come together to address these issues. So I hope that gives you a little flavor of what the kinds of things we might be taking on. Chuck has a question. Are you online, Chuck? Okay, I can read this one too. Many of our listeners are leaving their questions, and I’m reading them out. Can you highlight legislative priorities and how they will assist the university with its priorities? Yes, we have a strong legislative office in Springfield. We’re working very closely with state legislators, and also in Washington DC. We have a, I would say, a very vibrant legislative agenda that we work with. We’ve instituted a U of I caucus in Springfield, which is now I believe 65 members who have a connection. Either they’re alums, or they are the parents of alums or some connection with the University of Illinois system. 65 members of the state legislature, bipartisan fully bipartisan, we have regular meetings with them. They have been very helpful in helping us dissect and comment on pending legislation, but we’ve also created legislation frankly that has been helpful to the university in several ways. For example with regulatory reform. The timing of lease arrangements with those kind of nitty-gritty practical things that are helpful. We have a major bill that we have been assembling. It’s called Prosper Illinois, that you’ll be hearing about in the spring that we’ve been working on. And frankly we also work in tandem with state legislators to try to improve pending legislation that may have unintended consequences that might be deleterious to the university, and we work just as hard on that dimension too. We’re also working more closely in Chicago, but also in in DC where of course with the research volume that University of Illinois has which is about a billion dollars a year. These are funds from federal coffers and foundations that come in to conduct research. We obviously have keen interests in influencing the national agenda. For example, with the discussions that are underway right now on the Higher Education Reauthorization Act. We have inserted multiple comments. We’ve been working with our state representatives, our delegation in DC. So I would say we’re very active on the legislative front, and that includes helping the state, or at least, supporting the state’s emphasis on funding for public higher education. Obviously, that’s a big emphasis for us, and we are delighted that our work which is relied heavily on people like yourselves to advocate for public higher education particularly during the impasse of the last several years. We’re delighted to see that the state appropriation in this most recent budget went up rather than going down and it’s been in decline for decades. And so I think that’s indicative of the trust and confidence in the role of public higher education showing up in the budget discussions as a priority. And we need more of that frankly because any state like ours its prosperity its well-being is dependent on education as you all know. Dis-investments there are not really warranted. So we need to be investing more in public higher education. And our legislative priorities are regularly described, discussed in Springfield, but also in the home offices of these legislative members. And I think we’ve made significant progress with that. We’re trying to serve our appointed role not going beyond what we’re supposed to do, but we’re clearly advocating strongly for all of public higher education. Now is the time to recognize, and this is how we say it: that this is not a cost center for the state, It’s a profit center! Every dollar invested in higher education returns manifold to the state’s economy and back to the tax base. Which is obviously the way we’re going to get out of pension conundrums and into the future. So we’re working hard on the legislative agenda. We have a talented team in Springfield. We have presence in DC as well, and we try to fan out but we take advantage of our large alumni base. If you’re not a member of Illinois Connection I would encourage anybody online to look at Illinois Connection. It takes a click or two to join and then you could be, from that platform, helpful with this kind of legislative activity. Okay, Jerry has a question. Can we get you online Jerry? The question I have here is from Jerry. “What are we doing to increase alumni engagement and thereby increase giving?” Another great question. I was bragging earlier about our large alumni base. 750,000 living alumni over 300,000 in Chicagoland, many in far-flung countries. When I visited Taiwan, the National University of Taiwan has like 60 alumni who have professors there who came came from the University of Illinois System. So we’re very interested in building the engagement with alumni, and we have a number of Initiatives to do just that. Frankly, what we’re trying to do is utilize digital means of connecting, social media sites. We’re building up on that. We’re increasing our marketing. We’re doing things like this telephone conversation to engage and re-engage with our alumni, and it will increase giving over time. But frankly in my mind, that’s a byproduct, not the major product. We have a family, it’s a big family of loyal and connected alumni who want to be connected to their alma mater. Who, when they are engaged, are happy to be engaged and I think that just gives rise to trust, confidence and good feelings and it will naturally help us with giving. We’ve been delighted to see, as I mentioned earlier, the financial contributions from our alumni growing. Some very large gifts, but many many many smaller gifts as well, that are deeply appreciated. Took us in the last year the last full fiscal year to 465 million dollars of donations. So, and just a few years ago that number was more like 230 million dollars. So we have seen an uptick in giving and I think it’s attributable to many things. it’s attributable to the fact that University of Illinois System is a great system. As I said right up front the most dynamic university system You’ll find anywhere and I mean that! Rankings don’t always show what’s really going on. We have tremendous skills, we have a fantastic professoriate, we have growing and important facilities and we have loyal alumni. When I travel around and we go to alumni events whether it’s in Taipei in Taiwan or Phoenix or in San Francisco, we have just wonderful warm conversations about the University of Illinois. Now, can we do more to engage alumni? You’re dead right! We can and we will and we’re working on it and that’s almost a topic that comes up every week if not every day actually. How do we do a better job now that we’re living in a more digitally connected world, so thank you very much for that question. Before I move to the next question then, I hope all of you will just take a second to vote in a quick poll that will help us gauge interest in alumni call and events like this one. Our question is, would you be interested in participating in a future virtual Town Hall to learn more about the University of Illinois System? If you press one on your keypad for yes or two for no, then we can get a sense of your thinking there. So again, Press 1. If you would join future town halls like this or 2 if you’re not interested in attending future town halls like this, and thank you for very much for sharing your opinion. Now, let’s move on to maybe we’re getting close to the end. Is Robert Rapp who has a comment… Robert are you online? Can I hear your voice or shall I just read your comment? I absolutely love the improvements that are going on at the UIUC engineering campus. I graduated in 1981 and I am a bit jealous of the students who get to go to Illinois today. Keep up the good work. Alright, that’s a great comment. I I completely agree with that. Actually each of our three campuses is seeing major uplifts in the in the facilities, but the UIUC engineering campus is simply magnificent and there’s a big building going up right now, which is going to help us with the modern pedagogies and so forth on that north campus. It’s going to be wonderful. I graduated before you but I share your sense that these students are benefiting from these developments and they will continue to benefit but as I said right up front, it’s all about the students. That’s our focal point. Everything we do including fundraising, including facilities, including our strategic planning is all about optimizing the student experience. And that’s going to help us in the long run. It’s going to help the state of Illinois, it’s going to help the world. It’s going to help the solving of these kind of problems. Our students will go out and make it happen and they’ll get good jobs and have low debt and pay down their debt if they have any. They will carry the banner for the honor and integrity that is deep in the University of Illinois. So I couldn’t agree with you more on that comment. Thanks so much for that. So we’ve come to the end of our hour so unfortunately we’ll have to wrap up our conversation. But thanks to everybody for joining us this evening. if you are waiting online to answer a question, please stay online, leave a message with your question or comment. We’ll try to get back to you. If you’ve enjoyed this evening, please know that there are more virtual town halls to come. To find out when and to stay on top of other alumni activities, please go to the alumni association’s website at You can also share if you like tonight’s conversation with fellow alumni or friends by going to the alumni association’s website or the U of I system website, which is The recording of this event will be posted by early next week, and so you can share it if you’d like. Needless to say, I’m a believer. I’ve never seen a glass that’s not half-full. I’ve never seen a half-empty glass But so maybe you can discount some of what I say because of that optimism, but I think objectively your University of Illinois System is on a roll. But we’re always looking to add support, especially from alumni and friends who want to see our universities continue to grow and benefit our state and the world. So I’d like to invite you here at the end become advocates for joining our grassroots legislative advocacy Network, which we call Illinois Connection. Illinois Connection makes it easy to call, email or tweet your elected officials on behalf of the University of Illinois System. It’s easy for you to become an advocate right now. You just take out your phone, go to your text messenger and send a text to the number 52886. with the letters- UI -no space That’s again 52886 and the letters UI. You will get an automatic response back with a link to register and become an advocate of the University of Illinois System. And we’d be so grateful if he did that and joined a big community. My thanks again to the University of Illinois Alumni Association for hosting our conversation tonight. And my thanks to all of you for the pride that your success has brought to your alma mater, and for the support of yes, the most dynamic university system anywhere on our planet.

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About the Author: Emmet Marks

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