State of the University 2012

Good morning! What a beautiful time of day to be on the Horseshoe and I cannot think of a better place to be or a better group to be with, than with you right here, right now, to review the State of the University.

Thank you, Kenny, for that gracious introduction. It's a privilege to be joined by you and other student government leaders including Andrew Dorsey, president of the Graduate Student Association. Carolina is so well served by our student leaders and I consider you an integral part of the university's leadership team.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking Rebecca Phillips and the Mighty Sound of the Southeast, our exceptional marching band, for creating just the right ambiance for this occasion.

I would also like to recognize the people who help guide and support our eight universities and 12 campuses. Members of the board of trustees, including Chairman Warr, Tommy Cofield, Thad Westbrook, Eddie Brown, our Board of Visitors and the Alumni Association Board of Governors. I thank their representatives for being here and ask that you help me recognize them.

I'm also pleased that representatives of city and county government are with us. We are appreciative of all you do for Columbia, the Midlands and the communities we are privileged to be a part of.

Finally, and enthusiastically, I recognize Patricia Moore-Pastides, your First Lady who, as you know, is a strong advocate for the university and for our broader community.

Welcome, Patricia.

Friends, as a university, we have many reasons to celebrate, but none greater than the 45,000 students who are pursuing their degrees throughout the USC system - including 30,000 Gamecocks here in Columbia. Without hesitation, I say they are the reason we are here and they are the motivation for my presidency.

To the students, I say that we are here to help you realize your potential as professionals, as citizens and as leaders. And know that you provide the direct inspiration for the work we do. Serving you, our students, is our duty, of course, but also our honor.

The high quality education that the university provides takes financial resources and I'm pleased this morning to state clearly that the operating budget of our university remains in balance and the university is in a sound financial position. By every measure, including those of the nation's leading financial rating agencies, Carolina is solid and strong.

We are appreciative of the support shown by the General Assembly during the 2012 legislative season, but state support is now less than 10 percent of our budget and we must continue our vigorous advocacy for better funding as our legislators prepare for their 120th session.

In the last session, we were well organized and supported by our various boards, alumni and many friends.

Some of our mission critical needs, including the new Palmetto College, were funded by both chambers with bipartisan support. TheGeneral Assembly also helped us realize a long-term goal as $10 million dollars was appropriated towards the construction of a worthy home for South Carolina's only public law school.

Of critical importance, university employees received a 3 percent salary increase. I know this felt like a welcome rain after a long summer drought but I also know that it is not enough - relative to the work and dedication you exhibit every day. Please know that I will continue to seek additional increases that are more in line with the rising cost of living that everyone faces.

I will advocate for this, because it is through your efforts that our university keeps advancing.

Our university continues to enjoy many prestigious rankings and USC remains the only university in South Carolina with the Carnegie top-tier designation for very high research. This is a coveted ranking that puts us in the company of the most elite public and private universities in the United States. This year we will endeavor to maintain this ranking under the leadership of Provost Michael Amiridis and Vice President for Research Prakash Nagarkatti.

This past year also saw the first rating of public Honors Colleges and programs and I hope you were as pleased as I was to learn that we were designated as the nation's best.

Of course, there are many other academic distinctions and individual honors received last year and I salute the many award winners who are too numerous to highlight here.

Our faculty continues to shatter their own enviable record in research productivity and last year, the quarter of a billion dollars they were awarded was a major stimulus to the local and regional economies.

Our Carolina's Promise capital campaign also had a record breaking year for fundraising. We raised $146.8 million and we are now 60 percent of the way to our $1 billion dollar goal. While there were larger gifts, no gift was more special than the $3.8 million contributed through the Family Fund and I thank you, my Carolina family, for your generosity.

We remain appreciative of our committed corps of alumni volunteers and supporters. I'm excited about our Alumni Association's new leadership, Jack Claypoole as executive director and Eddie Brown as president. They have the right strategic vision for My Carolina - from mobilizing Gamecocks across the globe, to plans for the new Alumni Center. It almost doesn't seem possible that a campus as gracious and hospitable as ours hasn't had a home for returning alumni. Together, we will rectify that and we will also expand membership and provide more value to our global network of one quarter of a million alumni.

I wish to tip my cap to several athletic highlights here and around the system. You remember, of course, last year we rocked Williams-Brice Stadium as our mighty Gamecocks realized our first 11-win season ever. We then celebrated a raucous Capital One Bowl victory over a strong Nebraska team.

I was nervous before that game, given some prior bowl game outcomes. But afterwards, I celebrated around the trophy with Coach Spurrier and the team. He seemed to be like a first time coach. He didn't act like a coach who had won nearly 200 college football games; I like leaders who don't take things for granted; I think that being around students prevents you from feeling jaded or feeling like you're part of a redundant routine.

Other athletic success was abundant: women's basketball made it to their first-ever Sweet Sixteen; women's soccer won the SEC season title; men's soccer became the Conference USA regular season co-champion, women's tennis went to its 18th consecutive NCAA tournament, and our equestrians jumped to new heights winning the 2012 Southern Equestrian Championship.

And around the system . . .

The USC Beaufort Sandsharks baseball team qualified for the NAIA World Series, the USC-Aiken Pacers' men's basketball team won the Peach Belt season championship and the women's basketball team won the Peach Belt tournament.

USC Upstate Spartans' men's basketball coach Eddie Payne was named Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year and the Hugh Durham Award as the Nation's Top Mid-Major Coach.

The USC Salkehatchie Indians' men's basketball team went to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 10 finals and the USC Lancaster's men's and women's tennis teams were named Region 10 champions. Go Lancers.

And, oh yes, our Gamecock baseball virtuosos made their third consecutive trip to Omaha and the College World Series Championship finals in June. I was there and not one fan gave up the hope of a 3-peat until the final out.

Confidence defines the University of South Carolina in 2012. In the past, confidence has not been in great abundance around here but it is part of what defines us today. Our confidence extends to the academic performance of athletes as well, as 121 of Carolina's student-athletes made the SEC's Spring Academic Honor Roll. Our new Athletics Director Ray Tanner and I agree on many things, and one is that the phrase "student-athlete" means exactly that: student first, athlete next.

Today, we are unveiling our university's first-ever integrated marketing and branding campaign, "No Limits."

You can see the colorful banners behind me, on the McKissick, and on the lanterns around the Horseshoe. "No Limits" defines the individuals who work, study, teach and graduate from our university. Each of you has a unique story and I am going to share a few of these stories this morning.

I begin with Kevin Stam, one of our students and soccer team members, who is joined today by coach Mark Berson. Kevin, will you stand? (And Coach, congrats on your great win last night.)

Kevin knows that the soccer field can be a battleground of tackling, shoving, attacking and counterattacking. You might think that those things wouldn't appeal to someone whose ultimate goal is international mediation.

But Kevin knows that just as competition is fierce, conflict resolution can be just as intense. Kevin, who is at the heart of his team's defense, is also getting the skills he needs to practice the art of peace.

As a Gamecock and a student who balances academics and athletics with focused career plans, Kevin's goals have no limits. Thank You, Kevin.

Julia Rhodes, will you please raise your hand?

A motorcycle crash, multiple surgeries and months of rehab altered Julia's plans. But the recovery made her stronger, more resilient.

As the reigning Miss Wheelchair South Carolina and a pre-med student, Julia is bringing awareness to painful conditions that are often invisible, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Julia knows people face these problems and often visits and advocates for them.

As a Gamecock, Julia's perseverance and courage have no limits.

I'm pleased that we have many impressive students, like Kevin and Julia, who will be representing Carolina as part of the new branding initiative. Our integrated marketing communications plan will allow us to convey the University of South Carolina to a global audience. We are not only South Carolina's flagship university; we want to be known as one of America's great public university beacons.

In many places, near and far, we are of course already a beacon. As a case in point, last week, I returned from Beijing and Hong Kong where I advanced partnerships with two of Asia's most prominent universities, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Beijing Language and Cultural University. They made it clear to me that they are proud to be partnering with USC and they help make our presence felt worldwide.

I'm pleased that we have experienced a 68 percent increase in study abroad participation in the past five years and also that this year we have a record-breaking 12 Fulbright Scholars who are currently ambassadors of the Gamecock nation in Asia, Europe and South America.

But now friends, we also need to face some tough realities together. This is a pivotal time in the history of higher education. While the nations with whom we compete are investing staggering sums of public funding to bring the opportunity of college to more of their people, American college enrollment is declining.

American cannot sit back and I'm pleased that USC is doing its part and that applications and enrollment are up here in Columbia.

Our USC system awards more baccalaureate degrees than all private institutions in the state combined and accounts for nearly half of all the baccalaureate degrees awarded by public universities. Still, we can't be complacent. We must do more and I'll be asking you, this year, to unite in a commitment and effort to provide greater access to college, and not just in an incremental way, but with a powerful push.

Our powerful push is known as Palmetto College and through a new array of online baccalaureate degrees, including nursing, teacher preparation, business, criminal justice and human services, Palmetto College will allow students who are place bound by family or work responsibilities or by the economy to earn a full USC bachelor's degree. Short of a massive infusion of new state funding in higher education, nothing will have a greater impact on college access in South Carolina in this second decade of the 21st century than Palmetto College.

I am grateful to the General Assembly for providing $5million in funding for Palmetto College and I'd like to recognize Senator John Courson, who is here this morning, for his leadership.

Palmetto College also comprises Back to Carolina which invites older students, who have completed 60 hours of college to complete their degree from home. The first cohort began this semester with 28 students.

Going forward, we will do more to increase access and degree completion. Our push this year will be to work with the faculty to find ways to make earning a degree as flexible as possible, especially with respect to time management. Students, you should be able to work toward a college degree on your time, rather than, on our time. The college semester schedule that encourages a long summer break is a remnant of an agrarian society where families needed labor to till and harvest fields unencumbered by schoolwork.

I foresee a more flexible road map to graduation; one that is tailored to the individual. For example: a young woman may come to Carolina with substantial Advanced Placement credit. Why shouldn't she be able to graduate in 3 or 3 1/2 years if she desires?

A young man may need to take a semester off to earn money in order to better manage his educational debt. Why shouldn't he be able to still graduate in four years?

And another student might be looking for a great summer internship in advertising in NYC and finds that one is available in the fall but not in the summer. Shouldn't he or she be able to take a full load in the summer and then take the internship in the fall?

The answer to all of these questions, of course, is yes, absolutely, but the American college experience has become rigid and inflexible and this year we will work to recreate the academic calendar to have greater flexibility and options, especially in the summer, so that students, you will be allowed to graduate on your time.

I am also very proud that this fall we introduced the Gamecock Gateway program, a partnership with Midlands Technical College that has brought 165 students to live on our campus while preparing them for direct transfer next year to Carolina.

And the Gamecock Guarantee continues to provide college access to families whose average family income is less than $17,000.

Today, 450 students receive funding through this program and it's humbling to me that these students have an outstanding retention rate. In fact, 96 percent of last year's Gamecock Guarantee freshmen returned this year.

Of course, affordability affects access and I know that our Board of Trustees and our administration was proud that this year our tuition increase was the lowest since 1999 and at 3.15% for in-staters, the lowest increase among all SEC public institutions. Students can be reassured that we will continue to be conservative and restrained when planning for next year's cost of attendance.

Access and affordability will continue to be among our highest priorities this year. And replenishing our faculty will continue to be a high priority so that access will be key not just to a degree, but to an outstanding quality education.

We are in the midst of hiring 315 tenure and tenure-track positions by 2015. This includes 120 superb faculty members who joined us this fall and, because I know there are some in attendance this morning, I warmly welcome each of you to the Carolina family.

I also offer my congratulations to faculty members who continue to bring us honor and recognition. As one example, the Guggenheim Foundation presented School of Music assistant professor Fang Man with one of the nation's most prestigious fellowships. She has been hailed as "inventive and breathtaking" by New York Times critic Steven Smith. She plans to use the fellowship to compose an opera based on the life story of a British-Chinese pianist.

And faculty like Marjorie Spruill, epitomize the essence of "no limits." She is an excellent role model and representative of our outstanding faculty. Professor Spruill, will you please stand?

In 1972, Marjorie Spruill entered a voting booth, pulled the lever and cast a ballot for president. And though that was 40 years ago, she remembers voting for the first time as if it were yesterday. For Marjorie, voting is a civic privilege that should never be taken for granted. An expert in Southern women's suffrage—Marjorie and her students—have documented the battles to vote. They've come face-to-face with those who fought for that right. And time and again, they've proven that history is alive; that we are the products of our own personal histories.

They know that today's ideas shape tomorrow's actions. As Gamecocks, responsible citizenship has no limits. Thank you Marjorie.

Our students are fortunate to have professors like this and also to have USC Connect that offers leadership opportunities through research, internship, international experience and community-service.

I could stress any of these but I'd like to focus on community service. Last year, Carolina was the only university in the Palmetto State to earn a spot on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. We were recognized because we partnered with dozens of local, national and global organizations that specialize in helping individuals and communities.

In fact, in 2010-11, 24,000 students, faculty and staff volunteers contributed 331,000 hours of community service.

Wilyem Cain knows all about community service. He is a wonderful example of the power to be found in USC Connect. Wilyem, will you please stand?

Wilyem lost his great-grandmother and felt lost. But when a seven-year-old child asked for friendship, Wilyem realized a renewed purpose. He became active in the local Boys and Girls Club, serving as a role model to area kids. Wilyem, a political science major, is now planning a future committed to children' advocacy and public service. As a Gamecock, Wilyem's community engagement has no limits. Thank you, Wilyem.

Our graduate and doctoral students are also critical to our university and this year we will review best practices for improving pathways to doctoral degrees by increasing fellowships and the number and amount of stipends. We are also working to facilitate timely graduation in the grueling pursuit of advanced degrees.

A good example of a graduate student embracing a "no limits" approach is Presidential Fellow Audrey Duke. Audrey, will you please stand?

Audrey's family of English and philosophy majors may not quite understand Audrey's fascination with chemistry, but they couldn't be more supportive. Audrey is excelling in a still-male dominated field with the goal of improved modeling of catalytic-systems. Audrey knows that our ability to reduce dependence on fossil fuels—while safeguarding the environment—requires an understanding of surface chemistry. As a Gamecock, Audrey's scientific exploration has no limits.

Safeguarding our campus environment and moving toward a more sustainable educational community continues to be a high priority for Patricia and me. We are so impressed that our students are leading the charge! Did you know that Carolina has the distinction of being the only university in South Carolina to make the Princeton Review's Green Honor Roll with the highest possible score?

We've been working on being garnet, black and green for a while.

In November 2009, under the leadership of Associate Vice President Derrick Huggins, we launched the "Genesis 2015 Initiative." We pledged to reduce the carbon-dioxide emissions from Carolina's vehicle fleet by 90 percent within five years. We determined to cut our use of petroleum by using ethanol, biodiesel, liquefied petroleum gas, electricity or hydrogen fuel cells. And we are on track.

Here's an interesting fact, the university has received two grants to produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil and grease after it's used on campus. Last spring, we purchased a mobile trailer and started producing biodiesel from waste fat from dining halls and kitchens. Now it's being used in USC vehicles. So next time you get on a USC vehicle, and it smells like the State Fair, well, you'll understand!

As our time remaining is brief, I want to make a round-robin notation of the facilities that are being renovated or developed all around us. Our own "big dig" — the Darla Moore School of Business building is proceeding on budget and on time with the goal of creating the world's largest net zero building.

Maxcy International Residence Hall, Harper Elliott, Spigner House, and Booker T. Washington have all undergone significant renovations, and the biomedical engineering lab construction on Catawba Street is well underway. And, I have heard first-hand, that the Gamecock nation is thrilled with both the new videoboard installed at Williams Brice Stadium and the beautiful new parking and tailgating facility at the Farmer's Market development.

We received some funding for deferred maintenance from the state but we have much more to do. This year we will engage state leaders in a conversation about funding reform, and I look forward to a higher education summit called by Governor Haley on October 10.

I feel strongly that meaningful funding reform must be addressed this year. We are nearing a perfect storm for higher education, high tuition, high debt loads, poor state funding, limited financial aid — at what point will South Carolina take on the hard issue of looking at how institutions are fulfilling their mission of educating South Carolinians and rewarding those that do a good job?

Significant funding disparities now exist between our state universities and the amounts appropriated to each university are arbitrary and only vaguely related to SC resident enrollment and quality of effort.

Reform, through performance, transparency, accountability and affordability metrics, must be the solution to providing critical and necessary state support for public higher education. This year may be our last chance for reform. We must also protect the vital role of the SC Education Lottery in providing the support to our students that, in many cases, means the difference between attending and not attending college at Carolina.

Ladies and gentlemen, by now, I hope you have increased your confidence in our ability to address the challenges we face this year by recognizing the many successes we had in the very challenging year we now leave behind. I hope that by now you also know the honor that I feel in continuing to serve you — the faculty, staff, students and communities of our university system, the eight stars of our USC Constellation. Whether you are in Aiken,Beaufort, Columbia, Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter, Union, or Upstate, we are one university, we are one community and we are one family.

I am ready to lead us toward the challenges we face, as long as I have your trust and confidence. In turn, there is no limit to the deep respect and appreciation that I feel for each and every one of you. Thank you very much for sharing your morning with me.