Chancellor Ronnie Green’s aspirational State of the University address on Jan. 15 received positive responses from many of the students, faculty, staff and stakeholders who attended.
The hour-long talk at the Lied Center for Performing Arts highlighted the university’s 150-year history before venturing into Green’s vision for the institution by 2025 and beyond. Following the address, those in attendance were invited on stage to talk about the presentation while partaking in a new N150 celebration Dairy Store ice cream and hot chocolate.
Megan Hunt, a state senator from Omaha representing District 8, liked that the speech was comprehensive and examined a variety of relevant issues.
“It dealt with so many questions that I have as a state senator about what’s going on at the university, what the priorities are, (and) how we’re going to tie the mission into getting results that help everybody in Nebraska,” Hunt said. “After seeing the address, I feel excited about the future of the university and everything it’s doing to enrich the future of the state.”
— Tala awada (@TalaAwadaUNL) January 15, 2019
Overall, more than 1,250 watched the address either in person or via a livestream online. Attendance at the Lied Center was 637, which included three University of Nebraska regents, at least nine state senators and two members of the Lincoln City Council.
Shirleena Terrell, a graduate student in educational administration, thought the chancellor’s focus on diversity and inclusion was important.
“It was a very inspirational address,” Terrell said. “He did an excellent job discussing the importance of inclusion and letting people know that all are welcome at Nebraska. I also liked the story at the end about how a female graduate could go on to win a Pulitzer and — maybe — become chancellor in the future.”
That message also resonated with Catia Guerrero, an administrative associate in child, youth and family studies. An El Salvador native who has lived in Lincoln for more than 25 years and worked at the university for four years, she attended the speech to be part of an important milestone in the institution’s history.
She was glad to hear Green discuss diversity and inclusion and savored learning about the university’s history. Guerrero also said she is extremely proud to work as a Husker.
“I have a job where I finally can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “What we do, everything, just goes beyond the university walls.”
Much of the forward-looking part of the address was built upon an N150 Commission visioning report that examined what the university should be by the year 2044. Green charged more than 150 members of the campus community and stakeholders to prepare the document for the university’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2019. The report was released along with the speech on Jan. 15.
William G. Thomas, professor of history, served as a co-leader of the N150 Commission. He said the document and chancellor’s address make him excited about the future student experience at Nebraska.
“His emphasis on the ‘glowing iridescence of possibility’ (in the address) was inspiring,” Thomas said. “When you walk this campus, there’s opportunity everywhere.”
Kay Woerner, a freshman from Bellevue, attended the speech out of curiosity about the future of her home state’s flagship university. She walked away excited about university outreach projects, including the Nebraska Preparatory Academy and the Gear Up initiatives.
“Typically, the more education people have, the better it is for the economy and the better it is for society in general,” Woerner said. “Building those education opportunities at a younger age is important.”
@RonnieDGreen UNL will be an engaged university with impact across Nebraska!!! The people of Nebraska need this and I am confident that UNL faculty, staff, students and alumni will deliver!!! #NebExt #N150 #IANR pic.twitter.com/WxErNgsxrE
— Chuck Hibberd (@cahibberd) January 15, 2019
Brittni McGuire, a sophomore fisheries and wildlife major and president of Sustain UNL, enjoyed the forward-looking portion of the address.
“It’s really good, in general, to be thinking about the future and what we can do to make it better,” McGuire said. “I definitely agree with all of the views (Green) has for the future. I’m excited to see what happens for the rest of my years here and when I’m an alumna. It’s going to be pretty good.”
Jim O’Hanlon, emeritus professor of education and human sciences and a retired campus administrator, said Green’s broad, aspirational address is important to the overall health of the university.
“Without a focus on important issues, a large institution like this one can become static and out of date,” O’Hanlon said. “If the university focuses on the issues the chancellor called for today, we will remain a vibrant, evolving institution for generations to come.”
Ken Nickerson, professor of biological sciences, agreed with O’Hanlon.
“What stuck out for me was at the very end, when the all-men’s choir came out and sang 'There is No Place Like Nebraska,'” Nickerson said. “It really felt inspirational rather than hokey. And, that feeling was set up by Chancellor Green’s speech, which was aspirational, giving us all a grand vision for the future of the university.”
Contributors to this story include Troy Fedderson, Deann Gayman, Sean Hagewood, Scott Schrage and Tyler Thomas.