In the last few months, I’ve had several opportunities to represent the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a national stage. Even though I’ve been in the role of chancellor for more than three years, I feel so honored each time I have the privilege of broadcasting our pre-eminence. And no matter the venue, it is clear that we are using our expertise to address the critical issues facing our nation and world.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Washington D.C. There are numerous members of the Illinois family who work in the nation’s capital, and the goal of our trip was to further strengthen our ties with them, as well as to demonstrate our leadership across a variety of disciplines.
Illinois co-hosted a symposium with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to share about our current and potential breakthroughs at the convergence of biology, medicine and engineering. The event featured three of our faculty members (Gene Robinson, John Rogers, Rashid Bashir) and was attended by more than 80 professionals from agencies, industries and congressional staffs. It also drew attention from The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post. It was a great opportunity that acted both as a space to interact with other industry leaders as well as a platform to tell the Illinois story.
I also had a chance to talk with several Washington leaders to discuss specific Illinois initiatives that aligned with their priorities. Illinois receives more National Science Foundation funding than any other university, and I met with director France Cordova to share the strategic and impactful research that has been done through their investment. I met with Illinois alumnus Robert Work, who is now the Department of Defense Deputy Secretary, to emphasize our leadership in defense research. And I met with Chaka Fattah, the top Democrat of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF and the chief legislative architect of President Obama’s BRAIN initiative. I shared with him about the amazing neuroscience work we do at the Institute for Genomic Biology, the Beckman Institute, the Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory, NCSA and our departments.
While I was in D.C. I was also asked to record a “thought leader” video for The Science Coalition’s Science 2034 campaign. In the video, I explain how big data and engineering will change global healthcare. I also discuss the broader importance of investing in our nation’s universities. It is critically important that Congress works to close America’s growing innovation deficit, and I hope my video will encourage the federal government to invest in education and research that has the potential to change the world.
I also recently had the opportunity to represent Illinois on a much different (literal) stage as I presented our alumnus Mannie Jackson with the Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor given from the NCAA. In accepting the award, Mannie emphasized how his experience at Illinois prepared him for the leadership roles he has played in several arenas and his sense of how philanthropy is such a critical element of his life. It was wonderful to participate in honoring his legacy.
It’s been such a joy and honor to represent our university at each of these events. But I also want to emphasize that these events are not merely appearances - they are highly strategic. When I attend various events, I do not attend only as Phyllis Wise, but as an ambassador for Illinois. And I hope that exposure would, ultimately, further strengthen our reputation in people’s hearts and minds.
Around the Campus
Congratulations to chemistry professor Marty Burke on the formation of REVOLUTION Medicines, Inc. The company has received a $45 million Series A financing to discover and develop new therapies derived from natural products. Learn more about his research here.
The 2015 Community and Campus Day of Service will be held on Saturday, April 11 this year. As always, it is a wonderful opportunity to volunteer to help the community around us. Register to volunteer on their website here.
The Provost’s Office has created several awards for excellence in faculty leadership that will be given annually. The award categories are Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award, Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award and Outstanding Faculty Leadership Award. The deadline for departments to submit to their college is March 1. For more information, click here.