State of the University 2013

Good morning! What a beautiful day for gathering on the historic Horseshoe! This is my sixth State of the University address and I continue to look forward to this occasion with great enthusiasm. As I look out, I can see that we have converged from many points across our campuses and from our communities as well. I thank you for joining me as we take a look at the past year, celebrate high achievement and, of course, look into our future together.

Thank you, Chase, for your thoughtful introduction. Chase embodies the leadership spirit that I hope to see in all of our students. He is using his leadership skills to launch important programs like Gamecock Pantry (a USC food bank), and Walk Home Cocky, another effort to assure the safety of our students.

Our university is also fortunate to have Danielle Schoffman, a doctoral student in the Arnold School of Public Health and president of the Graduate Student Association. She is a clear voice for our graduate students’ welfare. Welcome Danielle.

Wow! From the piccolos to the sousaphones the band looked majestic marching up the Horseshoe! I can’t imagine a better way to herald in the day — this past Saturday I loved their rendition of Queen’s “We will rock you!” and they did rock us! Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in thanking Dr. Rebecca Phillips and the Mighty Sound of the Southeast.

I would also like to recognize the people who help guide and support our five universities and 14 campuses, members of the Board of Trustees – led by Mr. Gene Warr, our Board of Visitors and the Alumni Association Board of Governors. I thank each representative for being with us today.

And a special good morning to members of the General Assembly from both the House and the Senate who are with us. I have a tangible proposal for higher education in my remarks today. I’m appreciative that you are here.

I also welcome our representatives and good neighbors from both city and county government. We are appreciative of all that you do for Columbia, the Midlands, and all the communities of which we are privileged to be a part.

Finally, I warmly recognize Patricia Moore-Pastides, our First Lady, who tirelessly advocates for healthy living within the university and the broader community and who is a constant source of love and guidance for me and our family. Welcome, Patricia.

This past August marked two major milestones in my professional life. On August 1, 1998, I joined the university as dean of the Arnold School of Public Health, and exactly 10 years later, I became Carolina’s 28th president.

I think that a five year milestone provides an opportunity to assess where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished. Of course these have been very turbulent times for our society. We have had our struggles, but as with an individual or a family, overcoming struggle makes one stronger and leads to progress.

Fortunately, as the nation’s economic calamity approached, we had already started planning and Focus Carolina was starting to guide our progress in seven specific areas: scholarship, leadership, innovation, diversity, access, global competitiveness and community engagement. Adhering to this plan during the worst recession our nation has seen in seven decades has made our university stronger and more confident.

This morning I will amalgamate these seven focus areas that into our university’s identity, and then, chart the year ahead. Our identity springs from our existing strengths and from our reputation.

I believe that, our identity can be captured in the following four statements:

The University of South Carolina is a globally recognized, high impact, research university.

The University of South Carolina is recognized for a superior student experience.

The University of South Carolina is committed to developing flexible new models for college access and affordability.

The University of South Carolina is a vital part of South Carolina’s economic and overall wellbeing.


Let’s take one at a time.

The University of South Carolina is a globally recognized, high-impact research university.

Carolina’s national and global rankings are exceptional in several significant areas, none more relevant than our Columbia campus designation as the state’s only Carnegie top-tier research university. This ranking recognizes the University of South Carolina in the same category as the “Ivies” and all the other top private and public research universities. We are in good company.

For the 17th year, the Darla Moore School of Business remains the premiere undergraduate school for international business and continues to attract extremely bright students from around the globe.

You’ll be pleased to learn that the Moore school’s new home is scheduled for completion in the spring. The building’s open and flexible design will foster interaction and collaboration and I predict that it will quickly be recognized in academic circles around the world as the preeminent place for teaching and learning business.

Graduate rankings are essential in determining a university’s standing. U.S. News and World Report gives the College of Education a No. 5 ranking for selected graduate education programs and names seven other graduate programs—business, library science, public health, criminology and psychology—among the nation’s best.

The National Research Council has ranked our Electrical Engineering department first in the South, and seventh in the nation among public and private in program quality.

Members of the University of South Carolina’s faculty continue to attract global recognition. And while there are too many honors to mention individually, I will note that a significant number of faculty was honored this year by being named fellows of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science. We now have 23 AAAS fellows of whom we are extremely proud.

University 101 earned Carolina a spot among the best first-year experiences in the nation in the “America’s Best Colleges” guide. And of course you know that the South Carolina Honors College was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the 2012 “Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.”

The University of South Carolina is recognized for a superior student experience.

Forty-six thousand future leaders, critical thinkers and problem solvers are enrolled across our USC system today. Nothing I will say today makes me prouder than the students we enroll and those that we graduate. Students are the reason that we are here. By creating opportunities for our students to flourish we invest in our collective future.

It’s clear that USC has become a destination point for top performing high school seniors near and far. As our application rates steadily increase, we are able to serve larger numbers of qualified South Carolinians, more than ever before as a matter of fact, as well as top students from out of state and around the world.

Let me share a little more detail.

Applications and enrollment are at an all-time high. This year more than 23,000 students applied to the Columbia campus, and of those 5,000 were enrolled. Last year 349 freshmen enrolled in the Honors College, this year our scholars increased to 411 with an average SAT score of 1431 and an average High School GPA of 4.61. Last year 537 freshmen were named Capstone Scholars, this year we have 760.

But it takes a lot of resources to support the financial needs of the students who choose to attend. And with the help of Carolina’s Promise, our unprecedented capital campaign, we’ve experienced growth in our scholarship programs. For example, with the help of a generous gift from the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, we have added five Stamps Carolina Scholars, to our most prestigious in-state scholarship program.

It is so clear to me that we are becoming known, year-by-year, as a university that produces leaders as well as graduates.

Kirk Randazzo, associate professor of political science, joined us last year as director of the Carolina Leadership Initiative, where he works with Dean Helen Doerpinghaus and many others to develop leadership programs. For the first time, undergraduates have the opportunity to leave Carolina with a new distinction: “Graduation with Leadership.” One of these students is Amy Hartman from Maryland and I’m pleased that she is here today.

Amy and many others will be recognized at commencement—and on their transcript—as having fulfilled stringent requirements in one of four targeted areas of leadership: community service, global learning, professional and civic engagement and research.

The desired result of an exceptional liberal arts, sciences and humanities education is a student who graduates with an intellectual curiosity, who thinks critically, can analyze a problem and is able to suggest solutions. These are all attributes that employers tell us they really want and in USC graduates, they can find that.  

Of course, a superior student experience requires a superior faculty, and Provost Amiridis and the academic deans continue to develop the profile of our faculty as our Faculty Replenishment initiative moves forward. One hundred twenty-seven outstanding new professors were introduced to the community at the general faculty meeting of September 4, joining the 120 new faculty appointed last year. This group brings us closer to our goal of 500 new faculty by 2015. And may I add that the caliber of these professors is very strong.

The University of South Carolina is committed to developing new models for college education to provide greater access and affordability.

We continue to be innovative in developing programs that increase access, affordability and flexibility for our students. Let me quickly review four of these distinctive programs:  

Gamecock Gateway is a partnership with Midlands Technical College that brings 168 selected students to live on our campus while preparing them for direct transfer to USC as sophomores. It has been a great success.

Gamecock Guarantee – covers the cost of undergraduate tuition and technology fees for a first-generation college freshman from a low-income family (making less than $17,000 a year).

Palmetto College – is South Carolina’s public online baccalaureate completion college. In January, we brought Susan Elkins in to be the first chancellor of Palmetto College and USC’s online degree programs officially launched at the State House on April 18, 2013. Palmetto College now allows place bound and rural students to complete their baccalaureate degrees with the quality of USC - online. Over 500 have enrolled, with almost no marketing effort. Palmetto College is a great idea at the right time.

On Your Time Graduation – provides incredible flexibility by opening up a third full semester in the summer. Spearheaded by Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, Vice Provost for Special Academic Initiatives, On Your Time Graduation was successfully piloted this past summer. Approximately 11,000 seats were filled. Students were extremely receptive, telling us the new full semester makes their education more efficient and more affordable. This summer we offered a business institute for non-business majors, which included core classes in economics, accounting, marketing and management. Classes were filled to capacity as were highly sought science courses such as organic chemistry offered in a six week-format. Year-round college attendance is not for everybody, but if it’s right for you, we will support your goals, whether it is to graduate in four years or to graduate earlier in order to save money and jump start your career. This year, we’re asking the CHE to support the use of lottery scholarships for credits students take in the summer. That is a simple and obvious action that will support flexibility and allow students to get their degrees in a more affordable time frame.

Access at USC, of course, means access for all qualified students, not just for some. On September 11, we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the desegregation of our university. It was an emotional day and it was a strong reminder that while we have come a long way in half a century, we still want to go further. Professor and Poet Nikki Finney got it right when she said, baby steps won’t work.

So, I have recently hired Dr. John Dozier as our new Chief Diversity Officer. He will build on the recognition we received from INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine which designated USC a top national university for diversity and inclusivity.

The University of South Carolina is a vital part of South Carolina’s economic and overall well-being.

Friends, let’s not mince words. Our future and the state’s future are married to each other. It has always been that way. When people around the nation hear a reference to USC, they immediately think about other characteristics of our state. And when people think about higher education in our state, they first bring to mind its flagship university—the university with the state’s name embedded in its own.

We are already making a $4.1 billion annual impact on the state. That is huge—it is 30 times more than what we receive in direct appropriation—and we plan to have an even greater statewide impact in the future.  

Recently, I consolidated all of our economic outreach efforts under the banner of the Office of Economic Engagement and I appointed alumnus and entrepreneur Bill Kirkland as its executive director. Bill now oversees our economic outreach efforts including faculty technology and commercialization. You may be surprised to learn that more than 400 invention disclosures have been filed by our faculty over the past five years and 86 licenses representing 120 USC-developed technologies have been issued.

And more innovations are being worked on by the 45 tenants of our Technology Incubator on Main Street. On my most recent visit, I saw emerging companies developing phone apps, creating fuel cell technologies and doing so much more. It raises the spirit to see what is happening at our technology incubator.

With aviation companies moving to the state, USC is positioning itself to provide the R & D partnership they need. The McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research focuses on research that will not only bring recognition to our university, but will also ensure South Carolina’s position as a global aerospace leader.

Zafer Gurdal will be recognized as the first McNair endowed chair on September 30, and Martin Keaney is serving us ably as the center’s executive director. Stay tuned for a lot to come from this center.

If companies can’t find the workforce and talent that are critical for their work, they simply won’t come to our region.

Fortunately, the College of Engineering and Computing has rapidly increased enrollment in engineering. The College of Arts and Sciences is expanding STEM opportunities for students included in science programs, especially women and underrepresented minorities. We are doing more for our state than ever before.

But now that I’ve outlined our identity and our ambitions, let me say emphatically that it is time to make a new compact with the state of South Carolina. Let’s agree to stop the finger pointing and to stop the blame game for escalating tuition. Let’s agree to meet state government halfway.

Let’s find a formula for fairly funding a public baccalaureate education. Let’s not consider a college degree from Carolina a luxury but rather a necessity for our state and let’s invest in higher education at levels that make common sense. The public wants that, I believe.

South Carolina is a manufacturing state, an IT state, an aerospace and automotive state, a deep port state, and if it’s a land of smiling faces and beautiful places—that also makes it a tourism state. But we are not a higher education state and that is a missing link in our economic future.

This year, I plan to ask state government to work with us —and all public universities—to commit to a Fair Funding strategy. This will help us make higher education accessible and affordable and it will stem the deplorable trend of fewer Americans and fewer South Carolinians attending college.  

We should look to other states that have recently adopted new funding models—including Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado. None of these models may be right for us. But we can certainly come up with a model that puts the brakes on tuition increases by providing fair funding for higher education. It would send a strong signal to the nation that South Carolina has big plans to be a higher education state.

Let me be very clear. Fair funding will require new money, fresh dollars, or it will not work. We know that the economy is still tough. However, over the last two years, state government has budgeted almost $1 billion dollars in new recurring monies. However, higher education received only a small fraction – 2.7%— of those dollars. So there must be new money appropriated.

I will ask state government to agree to a three year moratorium on tuition increase in return for increased state funding. I’ll ask the state to recognize that unfunded mandates relating to government determined faculty and staff raises, increases in employer health insurance contributions and increases in energy costs have been borne by our students and their families and this is not fair.

I am even willing to take the lead and call for a moratorium on new earmarks for specific university projects. Again, I would do that in favor of stable and fair funding and all of our chancellors have agreed that this would be best.  

Students, friends and colleagues this may be the best time in our recent history to address the funding of public higher education and if you agree, I’ll be asking you for your support and advocacy in the months ahead. Achieving our goal won’t be easy but it is the most worthy cause that I can bring to you for your consideration. Please be a part of a sustainable solution to the funding of higher ed. Let’s not stand idle while the sons and daughters of our state debate with their families whether they can afford a college education. Surely it will cost much more for them, and for us, if they turn away from college.

I’d now like to turn to Carolina’s Promise, our historic $1 billion capital campaign. Simply put, we have set a new standard for fundraising in our state. To date, friends and alumni of the university—people who know that the University of South Carolina is taking its place on the world stage—have given or pledged $756.5 million. This includes another record-setting $149.1 million in fiscal year 2012-13. Our totals for each of the last five years, in fact, are the five largest annual totals in South Carolina’s history.

There are many people who deserve thanks, including the new members of the Horseshoe Society, and the significant number of individual and institutional major gift donors, but this morning, I want to personally thank the Carolina Family, system wide, for contributing over $5 million dollars through the Family Fund last year. Your generosity reflects a deep commitment to USC even during hard times. And it is a source of inspiration to Patricia and me. And I offer a special thanks to the staff and faculty at USC Aiken who had a stellar participation of 94 percent last year! And USC Beaufort and USC Sumter had over 50 percent participation. That is absolutely wonderful.

A great university is able to attract great talent and we are delighted to welcome our new vice president for development and alumni relations Jancy Houck. Today is Jancy’s third day of work and she is fresh from a successful fundraising campaign at Yale. I can’t wait for the campuses to get to know her; she brings lots of experience and also creativity, warmth and enthusiasm to USC.

I want to also express my thanks to Susan Lee and our development team for not missing a beat during this time of transition.  

A great university ultimately is judged not by what it gets but what it gives and I am appreciative of the very many staff and faculty who commit to community engagement and civic responsibility. Our work with surrounding communities builds both a good rapport with our neighbors and a foundation for responsible citizenship.

During the 2012-13 academic year, USC volunteers were involved in hands-on community service, philanthropic fundraising, community-based research and more. In fact, we had 23,000 USC Volunteers completing ½ million in hours of service, last year! What a record!

Speaking of records, the university is having a great time in athletics and I’m proud to be a member of the Southeastern Conference. I am particularly happy that we have no need to subsidize our athletic teams – in fact; it is USC Athletics that helps subsidize the educational mission of this university. I’m pleased that several of our coaches and our AD are here with us this morning.

I know we continue to be in awe as the Athletic Village unfolds. In addition to the beautiful Dodie and Rice Athletic Center, the complex gained a new state of the art softball stadium and new tennis courts. Construction of five sand volleyball courts on the north end of the Athletic Village is underway.

The track is to be expanded to allow for nine competition lanes plus stadium seating, restroom facilities and more. And the Athletics Village promenade walkway will be expanded to connect the softball and track facilities.   The tennis complex will continue to evolve with a men’s and women’s team meeting, film and locker room.

I know you agree that the university’s Athletic Village promises to be one of the best student complexes in America.

Also, in the next few years we’ll see an indoor football as well as new outdoor practice fields that will include lighting, film towers, goal posts and more.

As important as athletics are for raising our spirits and our profile, I want to be unequivocal about my support for the arts and cultural contributions made by Carolina faculty and students.

Our actors and dancers and artists and writers and musicians are the embodiment of our intellectual spirit. From Theater South Carolina to our dancers collaborating with the stars of the NYC Ballet, to Chamber Innovista to our Strings Project to our Student and Faculty Art shows and to our poetry readings, to our McKissick Museum galleries, and to everything in between, and there is a lot of everything in between, each of us is sensitized, humbled, and elevated, recognizing that the individual is but a small being indeed, in a very large and often beautiful world. I ask you to celebrate the arts at Carolina with me this year.

I am particularly impressed that on the weekend of September 27-28, USC Salkahatchie, supported by our Department of Theater and Dance, is participating in the reopening of a renovated Carolina Theater in Allendale, South Carolina. What an incredible rebirth of culture and life that will be.

All of what we do is built on the great legacy of the students that came before us—our alumni. We have a revitalized My Carolina Alumni Association and it is led by an energetic executive director, Jack Claypoole.

We have over 270,000 living alumni and they are greatly anticipating the opening of our beautiful new Alumni Center. Slated for completion in early 2015, this 60,000+ sq. foot facility will be the perfect place for alumni and students to network, hold conferences and even host wedding receptions.

Last year we unveiled the university’s first-ever integrated marketing plan and branding campaign. How wonderful to see our students, faculty and staff embrace the notion that there are “No Limits” to what we can achieve at USC individually and collectively.

Now, as Steve Jobs used to say, there’s just one more thing. Today, we are introducing the new I am enthusiastic that the website is getting a new look and a new content management system. It represents a new way of thinking about our website. All who visit will get a true feeling of what it’s like to be right here at USC.  Please take a closer look.   

In closing, let me say that it is an honor to serve as your president. In looking back over the past five years, I see a university that continues to grow in confidence. While there are so many milestones I could crow about, I believe that the number 45,910 holds great significance for me because it is the number of degrees that have been awarded system-wide during my presidency. That’s 45,910 graduates who have an impact on our state and nation.

The University of South Carolina is vital to our lives. I pledge to you that, as your president, I will continue to fight for our progress and to keep our forward momentum going strong.

I appreciate your being with me this morning – Go Lancers, Go Indians, Go Fire Ants, Go Bantams, Go Pacers, Go Sand Sharks, Go Spartans and Go Gamecocks! Thank you everyone!