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President Pinto's State of the University address

University of Cincinnati leader lays out challenge to build resource base

In his 2019 State of the University Address, President Neville Pinto pointed to UC’s Bicentennial this year as a time to reflect on the university’s past and present, but more significantly to honor those who came before us by leaning “aggressively into the future to make this institution more impactful for the generations yet to come.”

He asked the UC community to consider what its future legacy will be and what the lasting impact of the strategic direction, Next Lives Here, could be. He laid out a big idea: to underpin the university’s academic vision by building its resource base by $500 million from $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion in the next 10 years. 

See full text and presentation below (as prepared for delivery):

State of the University of Cincinnati Slide 1 - State of the University Address | Next Lives Here | Neville G. Pinto

Presentation slides from President Pinto's April 18 State of the University speech.

Thank you, Cynthia Nitz Ris, for leadership as Faculty Chair. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the upcoming academic year. Please give a round of applause to our board members in attendance, Chairman Wym Portman and Margaret Valentine.

State of the University of Cincinnati Slide 2 shows image of original UC building from 1800s and the UC Bicentennial logo

The 2018-19 academic year has been a hallmark year as the University of Cincinnati has celebrated the major milestone of its 200th anniversary.

We have hoisted our red and black Bicentennial banners, eaten Boldly Bearcat cupcakes, put on an amazing light show, created a virtual reality experience, awarded grants to nonprofits in our community, and offered community education sessions, with more celebratory events still to come this fall.

Celebrations matter and I am delighted with our efforts to recognize two centuries of UC impact. One of my favorites was the halftime at Homecoming. I’d like to share a musical interlude from that (below).

Video link:

There is another reason I showed this video. I will come back to this later.

For me, the most significant aspect of our Bicentennial has been the opportunity to reflect on our past and present, and be guided by these reflections on our responsibility to the future of this great institution.

If we are truly to honor the accomplishments of those who came before us, we must lean aggressively into the future to make this institution more impactful for the generations yet to come.

 And that is what I want to talk to you about today.

As you know, over a year ago, as a campus community we launched Next Lives Here, our strategic direction, the framework to propel us forward.

Slide shows male student wearing backpack and an aerial view of campus | Next Lives Here

Today, I’d like to highlight our progress and invite you to be actively engaged in building our future together.

As we create that future, our 200th anniversary inspires us to ask ourselves some questions: What will be our legacy? Put another way, about thirty years from now, what will our vision have accomplished? What will be Next Lives Here’s lasting impact?

What can we do to make sure that the Carnegie Research 1 institution that the University of Cincinnati has grown to become − 46,000 students, 6,000 faculty, 4,000 staff, 300,000 living alumni − will firmly be a leading public university?

As a university community, we decided that the answer to that question lies in Next Lives Here.

Slide shows platforms and pathways for Next Lives Here strategic direction including Innovation Agenda, Academic Excellence and Urban Impact

With our nine pathways organized around the three key platforms − academic excellence, urban impact and the innovation agenda – Next Lives Here is primarily an academic planning guide.

Our strategic direction remains intentionally flexible, so that we encourage bottom-to-top ideation and impact.
We have borrowed from the outlook of Amazon’s founder, who has advised his own organization to be “flexible on details,” but “stubborn on vision.”      

Leading urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact

Our vision is doggedly set on UC leading urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact.

For today’s discussion, let me briefly review the key words in our vision statement. 

In the context of the Next Lives Here update, let me highlight three words. I will then come back to two other key words when I discuss the work ahead. 

First, “urban”: Urban reflects our advantage as an urban-located university in a rapidly urbanizing world. The urbanizing globe provides a rich tapestry of opportunity for impact. Think of challenges that lie ahead as an additional 1 billion people will live in dense cities by the year 2050: Public policy, economics, security, transportation, energy, water, food, health are just a few  of the areas of study and scholarship that will define the quality of urban life in the future.

Secondly, “innovation:” This is about the way we need to perform our work to stay on the leading edge. It speaks to a cognitive and methodological paradigm we can leverage to accelerate the translation of knowledge and ideas into solutions and opportunities. It touches every aspect of the work we do as a university – but, arguably, none is more profound for the long-term than the way we educate our students. Are we preparing them with the skills they need to be leaders in the accelerating, technology-infused world into which they will graduate and live?  

In many aspects, innovation is driven or influenced by technology. But we see innovation more broadly, and that, I believe, could be our significant advantage.

For us, the untapped opportunity is studying and impacting the interface between humans and technology. And therefore, innovation is also part of our pursuit of inclusive excellence and the arts, humanities and social sciences to impact social transformation as a whole.

Now let’s look at the word “public”. To me, “public” is one of the most important words in our mission. Public education and public universities have been, in my view, the single most important underpinning for the success of our democracy. 

Our nation’s higher education system is the envy of the world. It is the differentiator that has made us the leading nation on the globe.  And that difference is derived from two core tenets – quality and access. 

Our mission as a public university calls on us to make college affordable and available to all who are willing to apply themselves, and to provide them an educational experience that is second to none in quality. This concept remains immensely important to the democratic ideals of this nation, and we must continue to do our part to pursue and fulfill our public mission.

My purpose for this preamble to the progress update on Next Lives Here is to remind you of the rationale for the three foundational platforms for our strategic direction:

  • Academic Excellence 
  • Urban Impact
  • Innovation Agenda
Slide shows cover of Next Lives Here strategic direction annual report

To help us track our progress on our vision and our pathways, the Provost’s Office has created a Next Lives Here annual report – the first one will be released in the days ahead.

I will not be covering everything that’s in the annual report in the time that we have today, but it will soon be made available on the strategic direction website: under “Updates”.

We expect the report will also be distributed in an email from Provost Nelson.

slide shows names of each chair and co-chair of Next Lives Here strategic direction
slide shows names of leaders and co-leaders of Next Lives Here pathways

I want to take a moment to thank Provost Nelson, Next Lives Here Project Manager Jessica Donovan, Michele Ralston and Vice Provost Chris Lewis, and the Pathway co-chairs for their work (listed above). 

slide shows example photos of Academic Excellence

Highlights of our progress

Bearcat Promise

The Bearcat Promise pathway is focused on creating a stronger institutional ecosystem that supports student success and satisfaction. Each unit on campus is working to impact student success in their own way – college plans are expected in June.

Our project work to roll out integrated academic and career planning technology, processes and experiences is making strides. During Bearcats Bound orientation this summer, four colleges are piloting new academic planning software, with a goal for it to be available to all students starting this fall.

We’ve also increased scholarship and fellowship expenditures as part of Next Lives Here  by $9.2 million this year – a very critical need on which we must keep working on.

Faculty Investment

In our Faculty Investment pathway, the Faculty Enrichment Center is under construction in Langsam Library and a search is underway for an executive director. A grand opening is scheduled for September 2019.

Staff Enrichment

In the Staff Enrichment pathway, our Board of Trustees approved the creation of a Staff Senate. Elections for its first elected members will be held next month.

This is an important step in bringing a more diverse set of voices to the table to provide advice and expertise.

Our Staff Success Center, opened last spring, has attracted immense interest and has already had more than 2,800 course completions by staff and faculty across all of our campuses.

Slide shows Urban Impact examples

Urban Futures

Our Urban Futures pathway aims to leverage our talent, faculty and students, and substantial research capabilities in partnerships to overcome barriers and apply innovative, scalable solutions to the challenges urbanization poses to our region. Our goal is to accelerate economic growth and socio-economic mobility to create a better future for all.

This year, UC hosted the first faculty Pitch Day, and Industry Reverse Pitch Day, designed to allow faculty to share research expertise and interests in the areas of Digital Futures.

This effort identified teams of interdisciplinary researchers needed to take on emering and challenging developments that no single discipline can address effectively on its own. 


This slide shows areas of focus for each of the six teams selected from the pitch days and the colleges collaborating on them. Topics range from smart drones to bio-inspired computational intelligence.

Seven other teams that did not make the first selection are now engaged with the Office of the Vice President for Research to strengthen their capabilities for a future inclusion.    

Rendering of proposed new Digital Futures building

Earlier this month, we broke ground on a new Digital Futures building that will provide a synergistic space for this collaborative research, right across the street from our 1819 Innovation Hub.

Urban Health

Our Urban Health pathway objective is to partner with and build on the resources of the community to work together to improve equitable health and to develop a diversified, culturally-competent and interdisciplinary healthcare workforce.

One example in development is the student-instigated and Student-Run Free Clinic, organized out of the College of Medicine dean’s office.

The clinic will operate in Tri-County and will serve people without health insurance, including the undocumented and refugee population.  It has recruited two medical directors, Joseph Kiesler and Megan Rich.

Today we just learned that the Department of Health and Human Services announced a major effort in four states to reduce opioid deaths by 40 percent over the next three years. UC is receiving a $15 million grant to take on this epidemic, and Theresa Winhusen, here in the College of Medicine, is the state of Ohio’s co-PI on this initiative.

CPS Strong

One of this year’s greatest highlights is our strengthened relationship with the Cincinnati Public School District. Our CPS Strong Pathway has a goal of increasing the number of CPS students who graduate from UC. One stellar example is the Early IT Program in CECH. It is on its way to becoming the paradigm state-wide for inclusive, career-oriented education.

UC Blue Ash streamlined processes to ensure that all 280 first-year students from CPS high schools receive a mentor or success coach, resulting in improved retention, course completion and GPAs. 

Innovation Agenda

1819 Innovation Hub

On the 1819 Innovation Hub pathway, 1819 opened its doors in October. Already, 10 partners have co-located in the building. Four partners are major employers, four are not-for-profit organizations, and two are privately-owned enterprises.

Innovative thinking also has resulted in 1819 reducing the startup launch timeline so that four startups launched in less than one year, compared to the previous timeline of seven startups over four years.

All across our campus, faculty, staff and students should take pride in the fact that UC earned accolades as a “Top 100 World’s Most Innovative University” from Reuters.

The world is beginning to take note of the University of Cincinnati and our presence as an anchor in the city’s Innovation District. And the digital futures building I mentioned will further enhance our innovation ecosystem.

Co-op 2.0

The Co-op 2.0 pathway has developed a more inclusive definition of co-op that allows any undergraduate student to obtain a paid experience.

One curricular innovation was to embed career learning outcomes into our General Education requirements to assure curricular career preparation for ALL UC undergraduates.

Another step was to introduce a new technology platform called Handshake for co-op placements for all students. There are currently more than 9,100 companies and 65,000 students and alumni connected.

Finally, the Co-op 2.0 pathway is partnering with Bearcat Promise to launch career education to incoming students at Bearcats Bound Orientation.

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusivity is increasingly becoming evident in the work of the other pathways. We are looking at inclusion through an expanded lens — as Vice President Bleuzette Marshall would say, “moving toward making people count rather than counting people.”

We are taking a more mindful approach to ensuring inclusion is part of our active planning and implementation processes.

For example, UC’s new Performance and Coaching Model will be the first time in UC’s history that all staff will proactively take ownership for inclusion goals and measures. 

Leading urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact

Now back to our vision statement, to define what we need to do additionally to ensure success within the Next Lives Here framework.

I will now focus on the words — leading and impact.

The word impact stresses making a difference.  We take pride in changing lives and life as we know it. It’s not just pursuing a long list of actions. It’s about the difference our activities make. Quantity means little if it’s not creating an outcome for the better. If we have impact, it will demand high quality in education, research and service.

And now the word leading. How do we become a leading public university in this nation?

We can find the answer in studying public universities that are considered to be leaders today.
If you consider two or three of our nation’s highly regarded public universities these institutions have annual budgets that are six to nine times greater than UC’s — with enrollments about the same or less than UC’s.

The same goes for their endowments. The gap is much the same despite the fact the enrollment sizes are nearly equal or lesser.

Recognizing this, makes me enormously proud of our faculty and staff at the University of Cincinnati. With a significantly smaller resource base our university is holding its own with much more richly resourced universities.  

With that in mind, imagine how our impact on students and society would increase if our annual budget was larger say by 30 percent or 50 percent?

In part, our capacity to lead is influenced by our resource base.

If we want to lead, then we need the resources to do it.

And that’s why I am laying out to you today the big idea to build our resource base by $500 million over the next 10 years. That would be a legacy to be remembered! More importantly it would be a legacy that makes a difference.

Imagine what kind of impact we could have with $500 million more in our research base.

More faculty, more scholarships, more studio space for students to work and better laboratories for research.

Overarching responsibility

Next Lives Here is our strategic academic vision. This, on the other hand, is about providing the underpinning to support our academic mission and realize our vision. Primarily it’s about ensuring the overall health of the university and making UC progressively stronger in fulfilling its mission.

As a student-centered university, our main mission is student success – more students graduating to lead the future.

To create an environment of student success, it takes two critical ingredients:  one is the resource base, as I have mentioned already;  the other, equally essential, is a culture of engagement and ownership.

What do I mean by ‘ownership culture’? Each of us is called to “own” our university’s culture. We are not renters. We all share a responsibility in student success and making students feel at home at the University of Cincinnati.

Ownership means that no matter what our position or title, each of us is called to be a leader of innovation and impact, and to work toward the common good of the university as a whole and the good of its students.

Toward this end, Provost Nelson and I have charged our deans, associate deans and department heads with working together to create charters on how we can achieve our goal of increasing our resource base to $1.7 Billion.

The Provost recently hosted an historic first meeting, gathering all of these academic leaders into the same room to begin this conversation. 

It was the first of what will be more to come. And a great first step toward encouraging ownership in UC’s legacy across all units.

We want this to come from the bottom up.

Next Lives Here Framework

This is about increasing our resource base so that we can re-invest in our core mission of student learning and teaching, research and community impact.

This is what we are calling strategic sizing.

It’s not about increasing enrollment. It can mean greater enrollment, but only if it makes sense for your program or college. It is not one size fits all.

Building our resource base will mean not just one approach but many to increase our revenue: attracting greater research funding, increasing our endowment, increasing philanthropic contributions, and enhancing our auxiliaries.

Ultimately, this will allow us to augment our impact by investing in growth in access and quality, growth in research and creative works, and growth in community impact.

In short, to be successful in achieving our academic vision, we must provide the financial underpinning that will support and propel our trajectory.

If we move the needle on the university’s resource base and create a culture of leadership in innovation, our trajectory to the future will be one that we can all be proud of. 

Even more, it will be one that sparks our passion and our sense of fulfillment.

UC band performing at halftime inside UC's Nippert Stadium

I showed you our marching band in the video at the beginning of my remarks. Their beautiful formations are possible because of perfect alignment and ownership.

Strategic sizing demands a growth mindset and a culture of alignment and ownership, if it is to successfully underpin the attainment of our academic vision. 

If we can accomplish this, I am confident we will put the University of Cincinnati on a trajectory that will bend the future in our direction.

Aerial view of campus | Next Lives Here

Looking Ahead to the Coming Academic Year

Before I close, I also want to look ahead to the coming academic year.

After six consecutive years of record enrollment, we anticipate another record-breaker this fall. 

The figures are very preliminary so we cannot declare a record yet, but Admissions indicates that in August 2019 our total enrollment may hit in the range of 47,000 students.

We will also have some new deans on board.

Most recently, we named our very own Verna Williams, who has been serving on an interim basis, as our new dean at the College of Law. She is the first African American to serve as dean of law at UC.

Marianne Lewis, a faculty member and associate dean who left UC to become Dean of the Cass business school at the City, University of London, will be returning to us to become dean at the Lindner College of Business. She is the first female to lead our business school. Her appointment takes effect July 1. Thank you to Nick Williams for his service as interim dean.

In the College of Engineering and Applied Science dean’s search, the finalists have just finished on-campus interviews. 

And at Arts and Sciences, Dean Larry Johnson is heading the search for a new dean to replace Ken Petren who completes his term on June 30. On-campus interviews with finalists began this week with an expected appointment effective before the beginning of the fall 2019 term. 

This September, we will also celebrate the ribbon cuttings of two great new buildings: 

The $61 million new home of Allied Health Sciences and the $120 million new home of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

Our Bicentennial will come to a close with a flourish as we celebrate on Nov. 8th and 9th with our Bicentennial Bearcat Bash, Homecoming and the launch of our next comprehensive campaign.


Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss our current state and look ahead to the future.

Two centuries ago, our predecessors had a bold vision. Out of their foresight, UC has grown into a public urban research university with immense impact, both locally and globally.

Now it is our turn to take it to the Next level.


Featured image at top: UC President Neville Pinto speaks at UC's State of the University address inside Great Hall on April 18, 2019. Photo/Jay Yocis/UC Creative Services