UC President Neville Pinto shares 2024 State of the University address

Hundreds of UC faculty, staff and students gathered at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business and online to listen to UC President Neville Pinto share a detailed update on progress the university is making on its Next Lives Here vision. Read President Pinto’s  remarks below.

State of the University Remarks

UC President Neville Pinto shares State of the University address inside Lindner College of Business

UC President Neville Pinto spoke at the Lindner College of Business. Photo/Kelly Bennett

Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for being here. Thanks also to those who are joining us online. I’m told we have more than 440 people online, so welcome. My thanks to Dean Marianne Lewis for hosting us as well. Always a pleasure to be in Lindner.

The State of the University talk is valuable to me because it forces me to pause and reflect – take stock if you will — on the preceding academic year. It also allows me to project forward and share a bit about how our leaders are thinking about the future.

Thanks to the hard work of our faculty and staff — with this vision and our growth aspiration — we have had an incredibly positive year. Throughout the year I have been touring our colleges and major units. That tour has included 11 of our colleges and nearly all the major units, so roughly 20 stops in all. I have two colleges remaining — CCM and Medicine.

I must tell you it has been truly inspirational and informative for me to hear from our students, our faculty and our staff on the front lines of this university. I could not help but be inspired. We are just a couple years removed now from a global pandemic. It was an enormous test for all of us, but we have emerged on the other side of that challenge in a very positive position — thanks to our faculty — thanks to our staff — and, because of the resiliency of our students.

Today, I want to celebrate some of our major achievements over the last year. These are examples of the progress we are making on our vision. Each is a credit to our UC community including the many leaders across our institution.

I must tell you it has been truly inspirational and informative for me to hear from our students, our faculty and our staff on the front lines of this university.

President Neville G. Pinto

University of Cincinnati celebrates its Summer 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

Student success

Our students and their academic success are the reasons we are here. Last academic year, we set the record for the number of degrees awarded with 12,523. Since we launched our vision in 2018, we’ve seen our number of degrees awarded increase by roughly 14% — that is, more than 1,500 additional students a year who are graduating now relative to the base year.

Because of your hard work, they are seeing our Bearcat Promise come to fruition — walking across our stage with a diploma in one hand and a career plan in the other. Ninety-six percent of our graduates are employed or continuing their education a year after commencement. This is truly impressive.

At our core we exist to educate the next generation and to expand knowledge. I’ll say more about our scholarly growth in a bit, but when it comes to graduating students into the world, we are making amazing headway toward our Next Lives Here vision.

The good news for our future is that we are on track to continue this high level of student success. Last fall we topped an enrollment of 50,000 students for the first time in our history. We now serve 50,921 students across our 13 academic colleges. This represents a 15% increase in enrollment since 2017.

As many of you know, this growth is an outlier compared to the national higher education landscape. In the United States, there are 900,000 fewer undergraduates in college today than there was in Fall of 2019. This decline is a threat to our nation’s long-term competitiveness.

In order to secure Ohio, and consequently the nation as a global leader, we must expand our talent base. We need all public universities to grow aggressively. We are certainly delivering in this regard. STEM degrees at UC have grown above our average growth. The increase has been 29% over the last five years. As you know, this continues to be a high-demand segment for our economy.

Our growth overall has been fueled by our efforts to grow our student population by opening our doors wide to attract qualified students who otherwise would not have pursued higher education. We have 9,200 first-generation students — defined as the first in their family to go to college. And, we now have more than 12,000 graduate students.

Along the way, our students have become more diverse, with 27% of our population being students of color, an increase of 6% since 2017. As I shared with state legislators during my testimony at the Ohio Senate Higher Education Committee hearings last week, our growth, and our increasing diversity, is driven by our public mission. In fact, we believe increasing our diversity is a strategic imperative.

We are investing heavily in resources to ensure that as we increase our enrollment the student educational experience continues to be strengthened. We have invested heavily in hiring faculty, academic advisors, career advisors, and in our infrastructure.

In September, we officially opened Clifton Court Hall, the largest ever academic building in UC’s history. This beautiful new 185,000 square-foot building in the northwest corner of west campus now houses several departments within the College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to 24 classrooms and 230 faculty and staff offices.

Clifton Court is a wonderful addition to our beautiful and evolving campus. As you have seen, we also have cranes up around Old Chem, which is getting a complete makeover, along with a massive new addition on its northern side. This project, to be completed in 2025, will bring cutting-edge technology and facilities, upgrading STEM instruction for undergraduates in engineering, biology, chemistry, and anatomy & physiology. It also will allow for the eventual demolition of Crosley Tower, currently set for Summer of 2025.

Next Graduate Pathway

We are also investing in our graduate students. Dr. Rose Marie Ward, dean of our Graduate College, is leading a Next Lives Here pathway called Next Graduate Scholars, which is focused on enhancing the quality of the graduate experience at UC. We recently committed to Investing $1.1 million per year to expand grad student health insurance to 100% coverage.

We also launched the Presidential Doctoral Fellowship program in the Fall of 2023. The goal is to recruit, annually, 10 to 15 high-achieving and diverse students into our research doctoral programs. The fellowship will enhance the usual stipend award by $10,000 per year for up to 5 years. The program is funded by a generous gift from a donor, with an initial investment of $750,000.

Next/Now reaches $2B

This takes me to our Next/Now campaign. Thanks to the support of more than 131,000 donors, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati reached its $2 billion goal in the fall, in advance of its planned June 2024 close. Donors from across the country have changed the lives of generations of Bearcats through investments in scholarships, research and life-changing initiatives at UC.

I want to thank our donors, along with the UC Foundation team, led by Peter Landgren. Peter is retiring from his role leading the Foundation, and we’ve hired Richard Bundy, who I’ll say more about a bit later.

Andrew M. Waters, PhD (Assistant Professor, MED-Surgery-Oncology) in his lab with colleagues and research assistant (Grace Goodhart).

Record research

As teacher-scholars, our faculty continue to deliver very impressively. This year we learned that UC faculty had achieved yet another record year in research productivity — with annual research expenditures nearing $700 million. This represents an increase of more than $240 million a year since 2017 — a 54% jump.

These numbers also place us on a path to reach our Research 2030 goal to become a top-25 public research institution nationally. We are currently ranked 31st by the National Science Foundation. As you know, UC is designated as a Research-1 institution by the Carnegie Foundation, which signifies the highest degree of research conducted at an institution of higher education.

Overall scholarship at UC is also at a record high, with UC researchers publishing over 5,800 scholarly publications last year, a 42% increase since 2017. In the latest report on the “Top American Research Universities” from the Center for Measuring University Performance, UC ranks 26th in the nation among public universities.

Bioscience Center

As we moved forward this year with our plans for the Acceleration Phase of Next Lives Here, a thematic focus area is Biosciences. We see this as analogous to the focus we had these past six years on digital futures.

The first manifestation of this work is the new Bioscience Center, which opened inside the former Hamilton County Coroner's building on our Academic Health Center campus. The UC Bioscience Center serves as another cross-disciplinary facility for discovery, innovation and education — one that unites our biomedical engineers with our academic health campus researchers. The initiative has placed for the first time a portion of our engineering college on our east campus. We are optimistic that the collaborations that result from the new proximity will ultimately lead to advances that will benefit patients in our city and beyond.

Top unicorn farm

1819 Innovation Hub

As you know, a substantial focus for our university during the past six years has been to build out our innovation agenda. Our 1819 Innovation Hub now hosts 14 companies, providing new collaborative opportunities for our students and faculty. It is also the home of multiple Venture Funds and start-up accelerators as well as our Next Innovation Scholars program. The hub is humming with activity.

This year we also learned an exciting fact to boost our confidence going forward. A business professor at Stanford recently set out to answer an intriguing question about higher education: “Which universities are most likely to ‘produce’ a unicorn?” The term unicorn is given to start-up companies that have grown to be valued at more than $1 billion that are not publicly traded. The University of Cincinnati tops the list of America’s unicorn farms — outpacing the likes of Stanford, MIT, Penn and Yale.

These findings reveal that founders who studied or worked at UC are 3.3 times more likely to achieve unicorn status than average. In total, 11 Bearcat founders have beat unimaginable odds to bring a unicorn company to life. To be clear, the UC founders of the unicorns that led to this result preceded our concerted work on innovation. But I cannot but feel very optimistic that with the systematic efforts that we are now making to build out the experiences and opportunities for our students and faculty in this regard, the results will only get better. What this result does tell me is that UC attracts the type of talent that is necessary. We need to redouble our efforts in educating and nurturing this talent.

The challenge that we still need to meet is to root new entrepreneurial companies, that hopefully will grow to be unicorns, here in our region, and that is why the Cincinnati Innovation District has been established, to purposefully build out the ecosystem that is necessary for this to happen.

$10.6 billion impact

All of the progress and activity that I have described in education, research and innovation, has a major economic impact on our city. Last year, the Inter-University Council of Ohio shared an incredible report. The University of Cincinnati’s financial impact on our region totals $10.6 billion dollars. That's a billion with a "B." Our work creates positive ripple effects across our community. The report shared that one out of every 12 jobs in the region are supported by the activities of the university. We are also proud of our role as a major employer. In the last fiscal year, we employed more than 12,000 FTEs in our faculty and staff, making us the fourth largest employer in Greater Cincinnati. If you combine UC with our clinical arm, UC Health, we are, in fact, the largest employer in the city. 

As I said at the outset, it has been a historic year in the life of our university. Our successes are thanks to our incredibly talented and dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors. I can’t thank all of you enough for your efforts to build out our institution and pursue our Next Lives Here goals.

As we look ahead, I’m also excited about our future. Nothing encourages me more than our people. It is the people — our human capital — who make all the difference at our university. Our faculty, our staff and our students truly set us apart. What also distinguishes us are the academic and administrative leaders who invest their heart and soul into our success. And we have many new leaders who have joined us.

Leadership updates

We have recruited several new deans this academic year. They bring an impressive amount of academic and leadership experience and real passion for public higher education. Among them are: 

  • From the College of Arts & Sciences: James Mack, who started July 2023
  • From the College of Law: Haider Ala Hamoudi, who started August 2023
  • From University Libraries: Elizabeth Kiscaden, who started August 2023
  • From the College of Allied Health Sciences: Charity Accurso, who was named dean March 2024, after serving as interim since July 2022

Three more deans will begin this Summer:

  • From the College of Nursing: Alicia Ribar begins July 1, 2024
  • From the College of Education, Criminal Justice & Human Services: Lisa Huffman begins July 1, 2024
  • From the College Conservatory of Music: Peter Jutras begins August 1

Congratulations to each of these leaders on their appointment. My thanks, especially to our Provost, Valerio Ferme, for overseeing these important searches and for leading our academic mission. Admirably, I believe that at the start of this coming year we will for the first time in a long time have no interim deans. 

I need to acknowledge and thank two deans who are retiring this year after many, many years of service to our institution. Dr. Andrew Filak, senior vice president of health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, has been in his current role since 2018, but in total he has served our university for more than 45 years.

Dean Larry Johnson has served as dean of the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services for 25 years, and more than 30 years total at UC. Combined, they have served for three quarters of a century. Could we just acknowledge and thank them for giving their life’s work for the good of this university?

We are narrowing in on our candidate for the next senior vice president of health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine. Following a national search, we’ve now met with incredible finalists candidates. I expect that this search will be successfully completed within the next few weeks.

I mentioned him earlier, but I want to say a bit more about our new Vice President of Advancement and President of the UC Foundation — Richard Bundy, who started earlier this month. Rich comes to us from Penn State, where he successfully completed a $2 billion campaign. He comes to us with fabulous experience in fundraising and leadership. This is imperative because fundraising will be key to so many of our initiatives, and I’m confident we’ve found our next talented leader to help us get there.

The coming weeks and months give us so many additional reasons to have hope in our future. At the end of this month, we’ll add several thousand more alumni to the ranks of more than 340,000 proud graduates who call themselves Bearcats. There’s truly no better time to see our mission and vision come to life than during the ceremonies when our grads cross the commencement stage to begin the rest of their lives. We’ll have 4 ceremonies over three days on April 25, 26 and 27.

Blood Cancer Healing Center

Rending of the University of Cincinnati Blood Cancer Healing Center

Rendering of the new University of Cincinnati Cancer Center's Blood Cancer Healing Center, expected to open Summer 2024

And finally, we are pursuing a level of cancer treatment in this city through our academic health system that will be second to none. The growth of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center is a goal of our Community Health pathway in the Acceleration Phase of Next Lives Here, and we are making investments to attract and retain world-class cancer researchers and clinicians. To that end, we have implemented major investments to build out a comprehensive cancer center.

Specifically this year we have invested heavily in the Blood Cancer Healing Center, which will open in the former Shriners Hospital this summer. The work there is being led by Dr. John Byrd and a team of clinicians, researchers and specialists. This will be a gamechanger in our city for patients with blood cancers. This state-of-the-art facility will address the critical needs of the 1.6 million individuals affected by blood cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, annually in the U.S. Care will be given around the clock in both the inpatient and outpatient settings, featuring 30 inpatient beds, outpatient and infusion clinics, survivorship and supportive services, and a dedicated clinical trials unit.


Impact Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

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