State of the University: ‘We are a cornerstone of the community’

President Johnson emphasizes work of University’s people in creating partnerships and power of “big ideas”

University President Marc Johnson speaks to the future of the University in the upcoming year.


9/27/2018 | By: John Trent |

President Marc Johnson stressed the maturation of the University in several key areas during his annual "State of the University" address on Wednesday, noting that, "All of this impact is a result of the efforts and creativity of the people at our University and in the community."

"Intentional University investments in people, partnerships and big ideas over the past several years are maturing and generating dividends," Johnson said during his address in the Glick Ballrooms of the Joe Crowley Student Union.

Even with numerous institutional achievements - including record graduation and diversity numbers, improving graduation rates, increased graduate enrollments and growth in research and what Johnson termed the "innovation ecosystem," he admitted that the past year has also been one of challenge for the campus.

He cited the events of Charlottesville, "in which the public face of that demonstration was a student from our University," as well as other events and incidents on campus during the 2017-2018 academic year which reminded the institution that "... had these incidents only occurred at another university, we might have been satisfied with showing empathy for what happened there. But this was not another university; this was here. We did not always respond well, and certainly not to everyone's satisfaction, and some of the conversations were uncomfortable.

"As I reflect back on last year, I believe this institution has benefitted from being ‘in the arena.' Our faculty and students responded with active conversations and principled actions, from the faculty letter to freshmen last fall, to the ‘I am the real Nevada,' T-shirt campaign, to the many activities and forums held throughout the year.

"Our campus has resolved to support an environment of inclusion and equity for all."

Director of The Center. Every Student. Every Story. Jose Miguel Pulido Leon

To that end, Johnson said the University will conduct a campus climate study in the coming months.

"We have contracted with Rankin & Associates Along with a University Climate Study Working Group to help lead this effort," he said. "The results of this study will help develop programs and policies to increase inclusivity, equity and diversity. We want all of you to know that your voices on defining campus climate issues will be heard. What's more, we wish to learn. If we take seriously the many experiences that will be shared, applying them with care and compassion, there is no doubt we will become a better, more understanding institution."

Johnson also shared the University's priorities for the 2019 session of the Nevada State Legislature, which included a continuation of funding for faculty, graduate assistants and other professionals centered around the Governor's Office of Economic Development's identification of Advanced Manufacturing as a key driver of economic growth in northern Nevada; a supplemental proposal, over the next three biennia, to address salary compression; support of an effort that would count Summer School credits as part of the state's higher education funding formula; additional operating support for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Small Business Development Center, Nevada Seismological Laboratory and the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Johnson praised the gains that have been made the University over the past year.

They included:

38 percent of the student body is now associated with underrepresented groups; the 8,200 students in this group is now double the number of a decade ago.

While undergraduate enrollment is down a little under one percent, at 21,463, graduate enrollment has surged, with a 6.9 percent increase. New master's students are up 7.6 percent, total doctoral students are up 13.5 percent and new doctoral students are up 29.8 percent. "With 951 doctoral students, compared to 838 in 2017, we are rapidly closing in on our 2021 strategic goal of 1,000 doctoral students," Johnson said.

ASUN President Hannah Jackson

In the last academic year, the University awarded 4,930 degrees, a record. Student to faculty ratio on campus has dropped from 22 to 1 from four years ago to 19 to 1. The 6-year graduation rate is up three points to 58 percent, while the 4-year graduation rate, which five years ago was at 23 percent, has risen now to 37 percent.

"The 14-percentage point increase in the 4-year graduation rate was achieved with intentional efforts of caring people who support student success to graduation as a value embedded in the culture of this University," Johnson said, calling the increase "phenomenal."

Research has grown its portfolio to $144 million, with the projected R&D expenditure amount to be reported to the National Science Foundation having grown to $118 million - up $23 million from two years ago, Johnson said.

Johnson said intertwined with the growth in research has been the advent and implementation of "big ideas" that have "led to gains in commercialization, the creation of new businesses, and a whole new way of looking at University research, innovation and development."

He cited the University of Nevada, Reno InNEVation Center, Powered by Switch, an off-campus building located near downtown Reno which has created 119 jobs, 57 companies and six-venture funded companies which "started here (on campus)," Johnson said. He added that it is estimated that several high-growth venture companies residing at the InNEVation Center have raised in excess of $42 million in investment capital. The Nevada Center for Applied Research (NCAR) has seen similarly impressive gains, Johnson said, including $8.3 million in grant proposals, the creation of 108 jobs and 15 start-up and spin-out businesses "that have found a home on our campus."

Johnson said the University is reaching out to the community in other ways as well. He noted that University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, newly accredited and celebrating its 50th anniversary, is adding new programs, partnerships, departments and rural residencies "to meet the needs of our growing state." He cited participation and engagement numbers from several programs, such as the School of the Arts bringing 300 public performances and arts events, 1,800 seniors involved with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, 55,000 youth involved in 4-H activities through 17 County Cooperative Extension offices, 1,300 clients counseled in Nevada's 14 offices of the Small Business Development Center, and numerous non-credit, professional development courses offered face-to-face or online.

"Our people, the partnerships we develop within our campus and within our community, and the power of the big ideas we create, show they world why we are a cornerstone of the community," Johnson said.

Read the full transcript of the 2018 State of the University Address.

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