2017 News


Welcome Home, Bearcats

August 23, 2017
University Pavilion, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio



Dear UC Community,

Before we highlight several milestones behind UC’s remarkable momentum, I want to take a moment to reflect on the recent events in Charlottesville.

Foremost, our hearts go out to the loved ones of Heather Heyer as well as to those injured during this tragedy.  For me, the sight and sound of neo-Nazi hate was beyond troubling.  It was sickening.  Hate leaves no room for moral ambivalence.  At best, it poisons the human spirit.  At worst, it courts death and destruction.  We have a responsibility to speak up and out against any behavior that seeks to devalue our humanity and divide our democracy. 

As our nation struggles to find its true north, higher education must stand ready to point the way.  Because ours is a story worth sharing—about the power of inclusion, the promise of learning and the proliferation of hope.  Each of us, in our own way, must live these values into action, knowing that even a single courageous example can change the count.

Notwithstanding the gravity of this national moment, I hope you will join me in recognizing the excitement and energy associated with UC and our new academic year.


In welcoming 7,400 new students to campus (5,400 on the Uptown campus and 2,000 on the regional campuses), we celebrate the largest first-year class in school history.  That uptick will boost total enrollment to more than 45,120 students, marking a fifth straight year of record-breaking total enrollment.  Meanwhile, the academic achievements of our incoming students continue to impress with a historic high in our freshmen’s average ACT score.  We surpassed yet another record in welcoming 70 new National Merit and National Hispanic Recognition Program scholars to campus.  Notably, graduate student enrollment has risen 25% over the last 10 years and now stands at more than 10,800 students. I want to thank all of you whose time and talent contribute to our success as a destination campus.


Since starting my listening and learning tour, one question has topped the minds of most: Will you create another strategic plan from scratch?  My aim is to shift our mindset from strategic planning to strategic direction.  Strategic planning is driven by means, by activities.  Strategic direction is guided by ends, by impact.  When conditions change, as they invariably do, the former approach often fractures and fades, while the latter maintains momentum because its destination is clear and its priorities are curated.  In short, I want us to harvest the sound work that has already been done in previous strategic planning exercises and chart a strategic direction that is choiceful, focused and results oriented. 

Learning from the past, let’s pull forward the best ideas already in play or buried in previous plans.  Listening to the future, let’s discern which emerging opportunities hold the most promise.  Working together, let’s craft a shared vision that advances our mission of being a student-centered, faculty-driven, staff-supported, urban-based public research university.  Lastly, let’s make good on disrupting the status quo by setting a demanding implementation schedule beginning in January 2018, by distilling our direction into only a few pages and by building the resource base necessary to translate our vision into reality.  In the weeks ahead, I will engage the campus community in fully developing this strategic direction with input sessions to be announced. I hope you will participate.  


Knowing our strategy will only be as effective as our structure, we have been working to best position the organization for long-term success. 

As recently announced, we are delighted to welcome Peter Landgren, a distinguished alumnus and a highly respected leader in higher education, to his new role as President of the University of Cincinnati Foundation.  Peter will hold the dual title of Vice President for Advancement at the University.  In the weeks ahead, Peter will transition the role of Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost to Kristi Nelson.  Dr. Nelson retired from UC in 2015 following a distinguished career as a faculty member, interim dean, associate dean and, most recently, senior vice provost for academic affairs. She has agreed to serve while our search for a new provost continues.

While many universities push innovation into pockets or onto the periphery, UC has a unique opportunity to be a leader, not a follower, in weaving innovation into the very fabric of who we are, what we do and why we matter.  The creation of the 1819 innovation hub was a critical step forward.  We bolstered this forward-leaning vision by hiring the university’s first-ever Chief Innovation Officer, David Adams.  His charge is to partner with stakeholders, both on campus and beyond, to fully define and drive UC’s innovation agenda.

Having the benefit of returning to Cincinnati with a fresh perspective, I now see the relationship between the city and the university in a new light.  We are not simply a university in Cincinnati.  We are the University of Cincinnati.  One of the best ways to deepen our mission and heighten our vision is to become decidedly more engaged with the city.  To this end, we will establish an Office of Community Impact under the leadership of Bleuzette Marshall.  To reflect these new responsibilities, Dr. Marshall’s title has changed to Vice President for Equity, Inclusion and Community Impact.


Warren Bennis, a pioneer in leadership studies and former UC President, predicted over 25 years ago that the factory of the future would have only two employees, a man and a dog.  “The man will be there to feed the dog.  The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”  Behind this quip was Bennis’ sincere belief that modern leaders must be ready for a world that is faster, smarter and less familiar. 


Agreeing with his broader point, I would only add my own bias: No sector is better suited to prepare such leaders than academia.  Not least because we place an unyielding premium on exploration, discovery, analysis and understanding.  All of which form the building blocks of curious, creative minds capable of making sense of bigger patterns and bolder possibilities.  So when others struggle to manage the answers of today, it is our faculty, students, staff and alumni who will lead in shaping the essential questions of multiple tomorrows.

I look forward to partnering with you to make this academic year one of our best.

Neville Pinto