2017 Speeches


Remarks for All-University Faculty Meeting

April 05, 2017
Tangeman University Center, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Oh.


(As prepared for delivery)

[Title Slide]


My thanks to the faculty for this opportunity to speak today.

Sally Moomaw, you deserve a round of applause for your leadership as your Chair.

I also want to thank faculty members Tracy Herrmann and Richard Miller, both past chairs of the faculty, for doing a great job on the Presidential Search Committee, Sally Moomaw, Rebecca Leugers and Greg Loving, who are the faculty representatives to the Board of Trustees who participated in the interviews.

This is my seventh week back home at the University of Cincinnati.

As you might imagine, I have had full days and full evenings.



[Image of photos]


I’ve been catching up on what might have changed since I left in 2011 – taking time to listen and learn about new people and priorities, our shortcomings and strengths, and our standing today and hopes for tomorrow.

Among many enjoyable and productive meetings, I have:

·      Met with Student Government leaders,

·      Started my visits to academic units; these will continue in the weeks ahead,

·      Met with direct reports and convened my first President’s Cabinet session,

·      Engaged with the leaders in our Cincinnati Cancer Consortium to move forward on the goal of NCI designation,

·      Participated in UC Health Board meetings,

·      Made multiple trips to our state capital to meet with the Chancellor, elected officials, and colleagues in the Inter-University Council of Ohio,

·      Met with the business school’s advisory council and other business leaders,

·      Met with UC Foundation leaders and staff,

·      Started to get acquainted with colleagues at other universities in the region,

·      Reached out to city and county officials,

·      Met with community leaders,

·      Engaged with students, not just here at UC, but also at two high schools.

·      At one, Oak Hills, one of my former students and a proud Bearcat, now teaches Ohio College Credit Plus courses in engineering.

·      I met with students in two of his classes and even sat in a cardboard chair they designed and built. The good news − it didn’t collapse under my weight.

The meetings have been very valuable for me to understand our challenges, opportunities and aspirations.  I expect these engagements, and meetings to follow, will help us collectively find a path to our future. They will help define how we should move our university toward greater excellence in fulfilling our mission to our students and to society.

One question that has come up frequently is: Are we going to create a new strategic plan?

It has become common in higher education to do that.

And it has become just as common for a new president to arrive and launch a new planning process and purge all evidence of the previous plan.

Benjamin Ginsburg, a professor at Johns Hopkins, has joked that a new college president’s “first commandment seems to be, ‘thou shall have no other plan before mine.’”

Rest assured that is not going to happen here.

There is no doubt that there is value to a planning and implementation framework with clear objectives and metrics for accomplishment.

But do we need to build out a strategic plan to accomplish this? From what I have heard about where we are today, I believe an alternative, more efficient, action-focused paradigm is in order.

We need a dynamic way of continually evaluating our future. It should draw on the strategic planning efforts that came before us, and build on what the University of Cincinnati has accomplished and learned from those plans. It should direct our time and resources to where they most need to be directed.

I suggest that we move from a cumbersome, time-intensive and resource-draining process of a Strategic Plan with a capital S and a capital P to a nimbler, action-based approach.

The new paradigm would be a strategic direction that builds on the listening tour already under way as well as the wisdom contained in all of the university’s preceding planning processes. It would also allow us to be more focused on what needs attention and to nimbly step up the game on other areas of need as we keep moving the needle.

I am not saying there is no value to planning. I do work from plans but I want to acknowledge that we are already moving.

The net result, I hope, will be impact. And so that is how I’d like to have it structured.


[SLIDE – Defining a New Action Paradigm]


You might ask: What is the difference between a strategic plan and a strategic direction?

Rather than framed on what, it would address the why.

Rather than a congested focus, it would be targeted with clear choices identified. It would recognize there are things we do all of the time no matter what.

Rather than a lengthy narrative, it would be action based and succinct – no more than two pages.

Rather than serving as explanation, it would accelerate implementation.

Rather than being exhaustive and taking a year to 18 months it would be inclusive and rapid – just six months ideally.

Rather than be resource-needy, it would be an investment.

The net result would be impact over busy work and activity.

While this approach would be swift and streamlined, we will not turn away from thinking boldly.

We absolutely must allow ourselves to think big.



I have always admired the work of our UC alumnus Joseph Strauss. He was the chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge, once thought to be an impossible idea. Strauss said:

“Our world of today revolves completely around things which at one time couldn’t be done because they were supposedly beyond the limits of human endeavor.  Don’t be afraid to dream.”

Let’s take his advice to heart.

Let’s imagine a future where the impossible becomes possible.

And as we aspire to bold change, let’s remember what is at the core of our core of our university’s mission.

I’ve borrowed the bridge imagery in keeping with Joseph Strauss.


[IMAGE OF Bridge with Unlocking Our Mission]


UC is:

·      Student centered − We cannot and will not forget that we are first and always student-centered. We must focus on what is best for them.

·      Faculty driven − Students need faculty to teach them. We would not be a university without our professoriate. And while faculty driven, our staff play a vital role in all that we do, education, research and service. It truly takes a village to educate, to discover and to create.

·     Urban serving − We are a global university with a hometown heart. We will be in Cincinnati for the rest of our third century; we will be rooted in Cincinnati.

·      A Comprehensive Research University – All that we do is undergirded and powered by our standing and responsibility as a comprehensive research university – It is at the core of our teacher-scholar model.

·      As a Research 1 university, UC ranks in a select group of 115 universities out of the more than 4000 colleges and universities across the nation. That is what makes this university so powerful in its impact.

·      And as a research university, we attract the best and brightest faculty to our campus.

All of these – student centered, faculty driven, urban serving and comprehensive research university – form the bridge upon which we buttress our aspirations, define UC’s unique identity and become an even better university. 



To begin shaping a strategic direction, there are key questions to consider:

  • What does student success mean to us?
    • What does that mean for student access?
    • What does that mean for student affordability?
    •  How do we improve the student experience?
    • What are our metrics for student success and what are the strategies to raise the bar on them?
    • What happens to our students once they graduate?
  • What will our faculty need to lead us into our third century?
    • How do create a regular and robust process to evaluate our curriculum and make sure it is up to date?
    • What are our priorities for academic programs of study?
    • What are our priorities and aspirations for areas of scholarship, creativity and research?
    • Is our governance process effective?How do we allocate resources to support our strategic direction?
  • How do we graduate from a diverse collection to an inclusive community?
    • Are we serving all of our students equally?
    • Is the campus safe for all our populations?
  • Is this a strategic, long-term priority?




  • How do we elevate the Academic Health Center to even greater heights?
  • How do we better integrate community impact into our mission, vision and values?
  • How can we reimagine co-op?
  • How do we build Uptown into the region’s innovation engine?


I look forward to working closely with the faculty, Faculty Senate, our senior leadership and our Board of Trustees on these questions. I propose that our conversations continue this semester and over the summer, with the goal of finalizing our Strategic Direction by October 2017.




Joseph Strauss built something that people said was impossible.

And it is one of the most admired and photographed bridges in the world.

In the end, rather than tear down our bridge and start all over again, we will strengthen it brick by brick, cable by cable, and make it more supportive, more sturdy, more innovative, and more effective than ever.

Strauss said “Don’t be afraid to dream big.” Our new paradigm of strategic direction will unlock our potential to do so.

I hope you will always remember I am a faculty member first and an administrator second. I look forward to moving forward together with you.