State of the University 2014

Good morning! It’s a beautiful day on the Horseshoe! I am so pleased to be with you, and I appreciate your being with me. I hope you agree that this is an exciting time for our university.

My thanks to Student Government Association President Lindsay Richardson. Lindsay is from Lake Wylie and was recently included in the prestigious “Outstanding Women in Politics: College Edition.” And I thank Graduate Student Association President Brittany Walter, a doctoral student from Brandon, Fla., and a Presidential Fellow studying biological anthropology. I am appreciative of their exceptional leadership.

And the Mighty Sound of the Southeast really know how to set up a grand entrance, don’t they? Whether at Williams-Brice or on the Horseshoe, they kindle our spirit. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in thanking band director Dr. Scott Weiss and conductor Mr. Jayme Taylor as well as the 375 Gamecock students who represent our university so well.

I would like to recognize some important people who help guide and support the university across our 14 campuses: members of the Board of Trustees, led by Mr. Gene Warr, our University Board of Visitors Chair Tommy Preston, the Alumni Association Board of Governors President Paula Harper Bethea and the chair of the Faculty Senate, Jim Knapp.

Welcome also to members of state government — Attorney General Alan Wilson, Sen. John Courson, Reps. Beth Bernstein and Chip Huggins and All-City Councilman Moe Baddourah. We share a great love for this state and a commitment to her economic well-being. Thank you for coming.

Some of our good neighbors, representing both city and county government, have joined us as well, and we are appreciative of our great town-gown relationship with you.

Finally, I warmly recognize Patricia Moore-Pastides, our first lady, who does so much to lead on the issues of health, wellness and sustainability on our campuses. Welcome Patricia.

This morning, I plan to share with you my vision for the year and the years ahead. As always, I'll be frank, and I won’t sugarcoat the hard issues. But you’ll soon see that the central theme is one of great confidence and strong momentum. Let’s call it Carolina’s “championship attitude.” And it’s why I believe deeply that our university is extremely well prepared to excel.

As I did last year, I begin with our core mission, the quality of the education we provide to our 47,000 students in Columbia and across the system. With a sense of pride, I say simply that the Carolina curriculum, and our holistic strategy of linking learning inside and beyond the classroom, has become nationally recognized and is becoming a model for many universities.  

University 101, USC Connect, the First-Year Reading Experience, service learning, the Magellan Scholars Program, the Magellan Voyagers, residential living and learning communities, Capstone Scholars and graduation with leadership distinction are but some of the educational innovations that contribute to our growing national reputation.

The breadth of enrichment programs we offer is so large that students simply cannot sample all of them. But it’s my fervent expectation that they will continue to avail themselves of as many of these opportunities as possible.

Recently, a new student from Texas was asked if there was one particular thing that convinced him to come to the University of South Carolina. He looked up as though he’d been asked a crazy question. “The Honors College,” he said, adding, “It’s No. 1 in the nation.” (As if I didn’t know.)

Our student from Texas is right; our Honors College is No. 1 in the nation, as are our undergraduate international business program and graduate international business program. In fact, 47 of our academic programs of study are ranked nationally — the highest number in our history.

We will continue to use quantitative analytic tools to identify programs that deserve additional support to get them to the top, as well as to identify programs that may need to do more to increase student interest or to improve academic performance. Economic realities do not allow all majors or programs to be supported at the highest level, so we must continue to use excellence and efficiency as our guide.

I’m highly gratified that Carolina’s strategic efficiency has been noted by U.S. News & World Report, which ranks us as one of the 15 most efficient universities in the country. That’s remarkable I think: one of the 15 most efficient universities in the country, even though we rank far lower in financial resources available.

In the next few minutes, I'll highlight priorities for you, but none is more important to me, personally, than the fact that we are providing the best quality college education to the largest number of students in our history.

The proof is in the pudding with tangible results like more Goldwater, Hollings, Fulbright, Boren, and Magellan scholars. I’m also pleased that we have started an international business-Oxford scholar program, and two of our honors students have been selected to study for a year at the University of Oxford.

And our Leadership Initiative is a good example of how we continue to tweak our educational opportunities. Last year, in its inaugural year, 90 students graduated with leadership distinction. You could spot them during Commencement exercises as they were proudly wearing their leadership cords. This year will see a strong increase in the number of students who graduate with leadership distinction, and that will certify to future employers that our graduates are not only brainy, but have demonstrated the abilities necessary to lead in their chosen career 

Today, attending an Ivy League school is no longer the entry point to success that it used to be. What is? Being diligent, focused, spirited, creative, ethical, service-minded, innovative and prepared to lead. In short, students who graduate from our university.

This year we must continue the push to create an entirely new institutional culture or ethos regarding degree completion, and we will continue to develop new, flexible models for college access and affordability.

What better example of a fresh, new ethos than On Your Time? On Your Time is a commitment to our students that they can obtain a degree within a timeframe that meets their personal economic and life interests.   

We will continue to use the traditional academic calendar, but we will emphasize that eight semesters over four years is now only one of many paths to degree completion. Life is not made up of semesters; jobs aren’t either. Neither is military service, marriage or anything else in life.

This summer we offered an impressive 500 courses in 110 subjects, more than ever before, and, importantly, 153 of the courses were from the Carolina Core — the ones that can be difficult to register for during fall or spring semesters 

We filled more than 18,000 classroom seats — a 15 percent increase over the summer of 2013 — and we expect that next summer will see a significant increase again because this past legislative season USC led the way in asking for more flexibility in the use of lottery scholarships. Consequently, a proviso was passed allowing lottery scholarships to be used year round.

We have also realized that one barrier to on-time graduation has been the challenge of fitting in required laboratory sections from our many STEM courses, so last January and May we compressed these labs into a one-week timeframe.

And I’m pleased to announce a further development that I believe will accelerate degree completion and, for those who choose it, reduce student debt.

This year we will begin offering three-year baccalaureate degrees. Freshmen can begin working toward three-year accelerated Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in approximately 45 different majors — from economics to mechanical engineering, from psychology to marine science and from public health to tourism management.

With good planning and a strong focus on their studies, students can save significantly on the cost of their college education — a full year of room and board and reduced total cost of tuition.

If you think this is not revolutionary, let me ask those in the audience today to consider what you would do with an extra, unobligated year of your life? Now imagine that it’s an extra year of your youth. I think you get the picture.

I don’t mean to say that three years is a better number than four for completing college, but universities throughout America are saying that four is better than five or six, so why not give USC students a real shot at graduating on either a traditional or an accelerated path?

Also, we will start offering more accelerated joint baccalaureate and master’s degrees in 22 majors. You will be able to spend five rather than six years receiving both degrees. And in our medical school here in Columbia we will be starting a joint B.S./M.D. degree for students in the Honors College. Qualified students will be able to receive an M.D. in seven years of post-high school study rather than eight. This is another example of our commitment to flexible new models of degree completion.

I want express my thanks to Mary Anne Fitzpatrick, vice provost for special academic initiatives, and our deans, who are working creatively to make On Your Time a success 

But I’m also concerned about citizens in our state for whom getting out of college early is not the issue: getting in is. We also need to increase access to baccalaureate degrees in communities where access to college is not easy, particularly among people who have the ability but can’t drop their job or family life to return to school. That’s where Palmetto College comes in and where Palmetto College has come on strong, serving students in 43 of our state’s 46 counties during its inaugural year.

Currently, there are 675 students enrolled in Palmetto College. Since its inception, Chancellor Susan Elkins tells us more than 5,500 online classes have been taken. These numbers will only increase as students learn about the accessible and affordable Palmetto College. Thank you, Chancellor Elkins.

Naturally, a superior student experience depends on a superior faculty. As our Faculty Replenishment Initiative moves into its final year, we continue to develop a world-class faculty.

Since the 2012 fiscal year, we’ve hired more than 600 new faculty members. This includes the 92 new tenure-track and 60 non-tenure-track faculty members that we welcomed to the Columbia campus yesterday. The credentials of these professors are extraordinary. 

Our faculty members continue to obtain critical funding for their research efforts, and I could not have asked for better performance in securing external funding during such a difficult economy. I’m pleased to report that 2014 was a banner year as faculty members were awarded more than $230 million — a 4.5 percent increase from 2013!

Federal grants alone topped $150 million, and (excluding years of stimulus funding) it was our best year ever, including record awards from the NIH and NSF. And I would like to recognize Vice President for Research Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti and his team for their fine work. Clearly, Carnegie One universities like us compete well when times are good, but they also compete well when the chips are down.

Statewide business leaders often tell me how proud they are to have a top-tier research institution next door. They say it’s very good for business. They also tell me how pleased they are with our new Office of Economic Engagement and its open approach to collaboration.

Bill Kirkland and his team have had a great year. We now rank first in the state and 68th among the top 100 worldwide universities who were granted U.S. patents in 2013. As an example, Dr. Brian Benicewicz has an active research collaboration with PBI Performance Products Inc. — owned by Intertech Group CEO and USC philanthropist Anita Zucker. The group is performing advanced polymer research.

In addition, Inc. Magazine has named the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator as one of the “top three university-based incubators in the United States to watch.” Yesterday, the Economic Development Administration announced a $1.9 million grant to our USC/Columbia Technology Incubator to support the building of a new startup center to serve as a regional hub for entrepreneurial ventures.

USC’s McNair Center recently joined with several industry leaders to support the first Aerospace Industry Day in South Carolina. Attended by approximately 400 aerospace leaders, a highlight of the conference was the release of the Moore School of Business study revealing the huge economic impact the aerospace industry is having in our state: a $17.4 billion impact 

Aerospace job growth in S.C. grew more than 600 percent between 2008 and 2012. It’s clear that USC can lead the way, while working with our peers, to fill the employment gap that is predicted for this industry sector over the near-term future.

Now friends, I have no doubt that the economic pressures on higher education will continue. There will be colleges and universities that will fail. Some already have. Many others will simply survive. A small number will thrive.

I have every intention of ensuring that this university, the University of South Carolina, will thrive. But to thrive, we will need to secure new revenue.  

We are currently pioneering programs that will do just that. Specifically, we have started offering noncredit, online specialization programs to students abroad. These programs will lead to specialization certificates for our student customers, and this fall they have been launched in South America.

We are now planning to develop these programs in Asia and Africa as well. We think this can lead to an important new revenue stream for us, and we are collaborating with Academic Partnerships, a pioneering organization from the private sector. We do the teaching; they do the translating (if needed), marketing and registration. Everything that we do abroad will be marked by USC quality, including a new specialization in international business, which will be offered in both Spanish and Mandarin.

Last year at this time, because of our ongoing funding concerns, we started a serious conversation with those who govern our state about public investment in higher education. The discussion outlined our successes and highlighted USC’s annual $4.1 billion impact on our state.

There was certainly agreement that higher education is the key to workforce development and growing the economy. In fact, each state dollar invested in higher education increases South Carolina’s annual economic activity more than 25-fold; however, the conversation did not translate into new funding.

This year, I look forward to continued conversations with our legislators, business partners and students and their families as we prepare for what we all hope will be a good year for state revenues and productive discussion about funding public higher education in our state.

I was pleased to see the state provide support for a 2 percent salary increase this past July, and this year we will be working hard to advocate for an additional increase to support the staff and faculty members who are the university’s backbone.

In addition to advocating for healthy paychecks, we are always looking for ways to improve campus health and wellness. In fact, we recently conducted a faculty-staff leadership survey on that very topic. Many indicated a desire for additional training and support on stress management, financial education and other topics to enhance the overall quality of life.

Today, I’m pleased to announce a new comprehensive worksite wellness program called Gamecocks LiveWell. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this program soon. We must care about all members of the university family, and I believe that we’re only as strong as our collective health and wellness.

Now I would like to share good news about Carolina’s Promise, our ambitious $1 billion capital campaign. A billion dollar club is very exclusive. Nationwide, only 38 of the nation’s 4,599 degree-granting colleges and universities are currently in campaigns with goals of $1 billion or more. Only 19 of those are public colleges.

I express my gratitude to the many individuals and corporations who have helped us raise $870,855,302 to date. Jancy, has any more money come in this morning?!

A successful finish to our campaign is not a “no brainer,” however. There is still a lot of money to raise, and we can’t be lulled into complacency.

Carolina’s Promise has also set the bar high for future campaigns. Our most lucrative years now become the baseline for future campaign goals for Carolina. Fundraising is sort of like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: once you finish, you walk back to the beginning and start painting it all over again.

I thank Jancy Houck, our vice president of development and alumni relations, and her enthusiastic team for their ongoing hard work. Each dollar raised brings in support for research, scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, athletics and more, and I look forward to celebrating the campaign’s successful completion in late 2015. 

The writer Thomas Merton observed that “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” I believe that this is true. I am so grateful for the many artists among us who, through poetry, dance, music, theater and art, help us both find and lose ourselves.

Your creativity feeds our intellectual spirit, and you are essential to our community. I thank each of you for the rich texture you bring to Carolina, and I look forward to another year of inspiration.  

I am also grateful for students and staff and faculty members who devote so much time to community service. We have fresh numbers for our 2013-14 academic year that reflect the depth of our commitment: more than 32,000 USC volunteers, more than 266,000 service hours and a total economic impact on our communities of more than $6.5 million. Thank you for this tremendous record of community engagement.

At USC we also believe in the importance of sustainability, and Princeton Review has ranked us as one of the top 10 greenest schools during the 2012-13 academic year. I am extremely proud of this designation. From our Green Leadership Program to recycling efforts, from our K-12 outreach to our quest for sustainable foods, we are growing our very own advocates who will be essential to the health of our planet. On behalf of generations to come, thank you.

I’ve highlighted several key priorities already, but I want to assure each of you that the safety and security of our campus are among my highest priorities.

For the past several years we have been investing additional resources in the USC Division of Law Enforcement and Safety for new officers and equipment, and we have added many additional cameras and call boxes across campus. We have the Carolina alert system in place and the new Guardian app. This app will serve as a personal call box by putting users directly in contact with university police at the touch of a finger. You have my word that we will remain concerned and vigilant about any incident on or near campus 

We will also continue to be engaged in productive discussions with the city, the county, the Five Points merchants and the residents around us. 

Each fall our appetite to see new levels of athletic success is renewed. You might say that our appetite for victory is insatiable! What a year we had in 2013-14! And although our first football game didn’t go our way, there is no Gamecock malaise on campus. We have a champion attitude and high hopes for all of our Division I teams.

Of great importance, 92 student-athletes graduated from Carolina last year, and our student-athletes’ GPAs consistently rank at the top of the Southeastern Conference, with 181 on the dean’s list and 61 on the president’s list. Impressive and well done!

As everyone knows, big-time college athletics is under great scrutiny and even criticism these days, and some allege that we have lost our compass by not emphasizing enough the word “student” in the title “student-athlete.” I can assure you that this is not the case at our university 

While reform measures have been passed and new autonomy has been granted to the 65 universities in the higher-resourced athletic conferences, the road ahead remains foggy. For this reason, Athletic Director Ray Tanner has hired a distinguished former athlete, our own Fran Person, to guide our progress as we seek to create a new pledge to our student-athletes. You will be hearing more about this, and I believe we will be creating a new national model of student-athlete success.

They say that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and neither was the University of South Carolina! Over the last three years we have experienced tremendous growth, and while we don’t like the sound of jackhammers, we do like the end result.

It’s great to say, “the Darla Moore School is open for business!” Rafael Vinoly’s iconic design is inspiring our students with beautiful classroom settings that offer more than 2,000 classroom seats, a 500-seat performance and lecture hall and more. The Moore School provides a sense of pride for Carolina and a new landmark for Columbia.

As we complete this new academic project, we will soon break ground on another major structure, the new home for the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. I am certain this new home will continue to strengthen our reputation

But there’s much more. We’ve recently completed renovations on Women’s Quad (600-bed redesign), Petigru (classroom space), Sumwalt (instructional laboratory classrooms), upfits to finish Discovery and Horizon (research space), and Spigner House. And we have completed the Desegregation Garden and the softball stadium at the Athletics Village (which already hosted an SEC tournament).

And there’s more renovation and construction underway. There will be new student spaces: the Russell House Leadership and Service Center and the new Student Health Center. And we have a new residence hall, a public-private partnership that will add 850 new beds to the west campus.

Renovations are underway for the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, including a new broadcast studio, and also renovations at Hamilton College for the Colleges of Social Work and Arts and Sciences.

For our athletes and fans, we will be adding a new indoor football practice facility, the Athletic Village will see improvements for track, soccer and tennis, and, last but not least, there will be exciting new upgrades to the Williams-Brice Stadium plaza.

And next May, our 270,000-strong alumni will have the home they deserve! This privately funded Alumni Center will also be an exquisite addition to our west campus and to the capital city. Even better, it will provide a place for our students to tap into the wealth of talent our alumni have to offer. I’m sure Jack Claypoole, executive director of My Carolina, and Alumni Association President Paula Harper Bethea are looking forward to the grand opening.

There is a wonderful book; call it a book about life. It’s by Jack Cornfield and titled “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.” Borrowing that, I could say “After the State of the University, the Work.” So now I return to Osborne, many of you to your offices on the Columbia campuses, others to work at Aiken, at Beaufort, at Upstate, at Lancaster, at Salkehatchie, at Sumter and at Union 

We go back to work because we work for a high purpose: to serve the students of the University of South Carolina, the people of our state and of our world. And we go to work together, as a community and as a family.

Many challenges loom, but together, and with a championship attitude, we’ll continue the progress we’ve been making. I am so very grateful to you, and I wish you a great academic year.

Thank you everyone!

We will close our celebration by joining the Gospel Choir as they sing our Alma Mater.