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  • The Research University in the World of the Future

    Dear Colleagues:

    The following three major goals for higher education were listed in the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ recent report titled “A Crucible Moment.”

    1. Education for a fuller realization of democracy in every phase of living.
    2. Education directly and explicitly for international understanding and cooperation.
    3. Education for the application of creative imagination and trained intelligence to the solution of social problems and to the administration of public affairs.

    These goals seem very appropriate for the times in which we live. After all, this great university is committed to graduating fully realized participants in democracy. As I’ve written about recently in this blog, we are most assuredly a global brand. Finally, we teach and practice innovation and creativity.

    Yet, as timely as these three goals seem, the President’s Commission for Higher Education established them in 1947.

    Sixty-five years later, as we celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Land-Grant College Act of 1862 that established this university and many others, I believe this is the perfect moment to lead in the effort to conceive and discuss new goals for higher education. As one of the great public land grant universities in the nation we want to be a leader in that effort.

    That is why as part of our Visioning Excellence Initiative we began a new seminar series, “The Research University in the World of the Future.” Professor Doug Beck first approached me with this idea last fall and I am so grateful to him. The series will give the campus community a multifaceted look at how higher education is changing to address society’s changing needs. As we envision our campus 20 to 50 years into the future, we are exploring how to best position our university for continued relevance and impact.

    The first talk in the series was on May 2 and featured Dr. Maria Helena Nazare, the newly elected and first female president of the European University Association. Dr. Nazare is a past president of Portugal’s University of Aveiro, has headed several committees as vice president of the EUA (including the Internationalization Working Group) and serves on the board of directors of Portugal Telecom.

    Please mark your calendar for the second speaker in our series. Wei Yang, the president of China’s Zhejiang University will offer a talk May 31.

    I am thrilled to be launching this series at this particular time in our history. Education must have a purpose. One of those purposes is to prepare leaders of the future equipped with the tools to create solutions to societal problems. The world needs critical thinkers. So how do we teach innovation? Some of the most innovative thinkers in our time did not graduate from a university. What can they teach us about cultivating creativity? How do we prepare our students to face the world with an open mind that focuses on solutions? How do we better partner with high schools and community colleges to build a pipeline for students who come prepared to succeed?

    As those of you who attended our Visioning luncheons experienced there is no shortage of fabulous ideas regarding the future of the research university and the future of higher education in general. A sea change is coming and we should be at the forefront of those changes.

    Have a wonderful week,


    Around the Campus: Our Illinois family continues to receive impressive recognitions. Alumnus Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was named one of Time magazine’s Top 100 most influential leaders in the world…Centennial Chair Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Huimin Zhao is a recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Dr. Zhao said, “I plan to use this award to support our ongoing efforts in developing new synthetic biology tools for discovery of novel bioactive natural products for treatment of human diseases.”…I am delighted to announce that we had two professors named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. Edward Diener, the Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Illinois and a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, and Jennifer Lewis, the Hans Thurnauer Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory…Finally, congratulations to coach Justin Spring and the entire Illinois Men’s Gymnastics Team for winning the NCAA title. What a great accomplishment for our university!