Johnson at 2019 State of the U: 'University just keeps getting better.'

State of the University address, 'Big Goals Achieved – Realizing Our Vision,' included impressive numbers, University updates, a call for understanding and hearty congratulations and thanks to campus community

President Marc Johnson speaks at the podium during the State of the University Address. A live video of him speaking is playing to his right, and the caption reads, 'Higher Education rankings. Wow! The University keeps getting better in serving our students!'

Johnson at 2019 State of the U: 'University just keeps getting better.'

State of the University address, 'Big Goals Achieved – Realizing Our Vision,' included impressive numbers, University updates, a call for understanding and hearty congratulations and thanks to campus community

President Marc Johnson speaks at the podium during the State of the University Address. A live video of him speaking is playing to his right, and the caption reads, 'Higher Education rankings. Wow! The University keeps getting better in serving our students!'

President Marc Johnson detailed many of the notable achievements of the past year and how they relate to the future of the University during his annual “State of the University” address on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in the Glick Ballroom of the Joe Crowley Student Union.

Johnson congratulated the campus on achieving the Carnegie Classification of “R1,” or “Very High Research” in December, noted that a major goal of reaching an 18 to 1 student to teacher classroom ratio had been achieved, and said the campus is now at record diversity as students of color now represent 40 percent of the student body.

Other important numbers included:

  • The number of National Merit, Presidential, and National Hispanic Scholars enrolled this fall is 727, 200 more than last fall
  • This year, student financial aid and loans rose to more than $180 million
  • For the first time, the University awarded more than 5,000 degrees
  • 6-year graduation has risen to 61 percent
  • 4-year graduation rate has grown to 40 percent, more than double from a decade ago
  • In the last six years, annual research awards climbed by 54 percent and annual research expenditures, climbed by 73 percent to $150 million

“This university just keeps getting better for the students we serve,” Johnson said.

President Marc Johnson chats with campus constituents

Johnson also praised the campus for the actions taken in the wake of the July 5 Argenta Hall explosion, which injured eight, severely damaged both Argenta and Nye Halls, and left the campus scrambling to find residence accommodations and dining space for more than 1,000 students who would’ve been housed in the two damaged halls this semester. Students moved into the Circus Circus Reno’s West Tower, now called “Wolf Pack Tower,” in mid-August, and “Howler Village” has become a temporary full-service dining area near the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center.

“Selfless care and cooperation to achieve safety and accommodation were demonstrated as the character of this campus community,” Johnson said. “Many people in the community have mentioned what a miracle it was that the campus could respond in just six weeks to open the fall semester on time.  I respond that the miracle was produced by the miracle workers who came together with uncommon dedication to make ready a wonderful learning experience for our students.”

Johnson also recounted the key findings from the recently completed campus climate survey. He acknowledged that, “we have work to do to more fully develop this campus character of care and cooperation.”

President Johnson talking with a campus administrator

He added, “While a large majority feel comfortable and safe in their daily lives at the university, this feeling is shared significantly less by  those in the categories of our most diverse members –  including gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, low-income and some religious groups.  A significant portion of our students and employees do not have a sense of belonging here.  There are many expressions of incidents of conflict within units.  Our administration will develop programs to enhance awareness of these issues, and to help provide some of the tools that are needed for our campus to understand and remedy these issues.  It is equally important, that all of us recognize that everyone on our campus has an essential role in achieving our mission and that it is the responsibility of all of us to build a culture of acceptance, reinforcement, and inclusion.  All of us can be more aware of interpersonal conflicts and individual slights, and proactively intervene to protect and include one another.”

In addition to forum discussions that begin today and run through next week that will help develop a University-wide action plan in the wake of the climate study, Johnson encouraged the entire campus to participate in the upcoming planning process that will help drive and develop the University’s next strategic plan. Although the current strategic plan runs through 2021, it is expected that preliminary planning for the next five- or six-year block of the strategic plan will begin soon, with specific development of the plan to start during the 2020-2021 academic year.

“We soon will ask all of you to participate in the planning process,” Johnson said. “In drafting the new direction for our campus, we need all of your voices if we are to be successful in implementing our next six-year strategic plan.  This plan will chart a course to continue with our strengths, develop new directions to address grand challenges, and respond to the insights gained through our Campus Climate Survey.”

President Marc Johnson with wife Karen Penner-Johnson, a slide with a shot of the University and the words State of the University can be seen in the background
President Marc Johnson at the State of University with his wife Karen Penner-Johnson

In addition to developing actionable programming related to the climate survey, Johnson said that in general, after achieving a number of important institutional milestones over the past several years, the University’s focus will now turn to, “internal objectives, such as teaching loads, faculty salaries, and quality facilities equivalent to our R-1 peers.  In an environment of fairly flat revenues, this will take focused planning together with administration and academic and administrative units.”

Johnson also alluded to events earlier this week. On Monday, a student organization invited Turning Point USA Founder Charlie Kirk to campus to speak. Students, faculty and staff participated in counter-protest events throughout the day on Monday as well.

“Civil protests, challenging speakers’ assumptions and conclusions, and expressing opposing viewpoints are part of the strength of this country as we move culture and policy forward,” Johnson said. “Vilification and cyber-bullying do not add to understanding.  At a learning institution open to all, we stand together against bigotry, racism and hate, but it takes more than this. We must elevate the discourse to seek understanding to build a culture of respect and inclusion for everyone.”

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