Chancellor Ronnie Green has officially set a strategic course intended to — in the next 25 years — transform the University of Nebraska–Lincoln into an “unparalleled” public research institution in areas of access, opportunity, innovation and lifelong learning.
In his annual State of Our University address — delivered Feb. 14 at Nebraska Innovation Campus to a standing-room-only audience of more than 400 — Green outlined how the creation of the N2025 strategic plan was a first step in a long-term visioning of what the institution should be like by its 175th year in 2044. The five-year, N2025 plan — inspired by the university’s sesquicentennial year in 2019-20 and crafted through an inclusive process that featured an N150 Commission of students, faculty, staff and stakeholders — calls for growth in graduation rates, increases in research expenditures and experiential learning opportunities for all students.
“We are sitting at a tremendous ‘inflection point’ in 2020 — achieving great things, attracting incredible people and building momentum,” Green said. “We are full of hope and poised for a huge future. And, N2025 gives us a great road map for achieving the N150 vision.
“Now, it’s off to the races we go.”
The keystone of the N2025 strategic plan is that, “Every person and every interaction matters.” That theme was a repeated concept throughout the N150 Commission’s visioning report and elevated to support the aims, strategies, expectations and targets outlined in the N2025 plan.
Around that keystone theme are six aims that deal broadly with student success and learning, research excellence, creative activity, engagement, diversity and inclusion, and investing in students, faculty and staff.
Every aim includes a series of targets that — if achieved — will allow the university to build toward the 25 year vision of the N150 Commission.
“This plan gets it right and it hits on the right notes,” Green said. “(The theme) speaks clearly and loudly to the aims, strategies and targets of the plan. And, it resonates so personally with who we are.”
Key student-centric targets in the plan include increasing the current four-year graduation rate of 46.9% to 55%, and the six-year graduation rate of 67.8% to 72%; boosting retention rates between first- and second-years of study from the current mark of 84.1% to 88%; and, starting with the class of 2025 (which begins study in fall 2020), ensuring that all Huskers participate in an experiential learning opportunity before graduation.
“That focus on providing an experiential learning portfolio for each of our students is perhaps the audacious goal, the biggest one in the whole (N2025) document,” Green said. “Before graduation, we want every student to have engaged in internships, apprenticeships, international engagement, community problem solving opportunity or a research experience.
“We do some of this today, but we don’t do it across the board nor do we track it effectively.”
Other key targets in the N2025 plan include:
- Achieving $450 million in annual research expenditures. The university tracked $317 million in recent expenditures in the most recent year, which is an increase of 26% in the last decade.
- Earning designation as a Carnegie Community Engagement Campus. The classification recognizes academic institutions that demonstrate a commitment to partner with the community. Learn more about the classification.
- Aligning at least 50% of strategic investments with key issues that impact Nebraska, the nation and world. These include water and food security, early childhood education and development, and climate change resiliency.
- Increasing the number and retention of students, faculty and staff from underrepresented groups — including a 7% increase in students from underrepresented ethnic/racial groups and an 8% expansion of enrollment of Pell-eligible, first-time-entering students.
Increasing diversity across all areas of the university is pivotal to the success of the university and the N150 Commission visioning, Green said.
“I reiterate our commitment to creating a climate that emphasizes, prioritizes and expands inclusive excellence,” Green said. “We will not be successful if we do not work to reduce barriers and increase diversity. We must increase the participation and success of underrepresented groups across our university.”
Additional areas of importance Green outlined in the speech include the need to offer and track professional development opportunities for all students, faculty and staff; the creation of a long-term road map that ensures sustainability, environmental resilience and stewardship of natural resources across all university operations; recent changes in university leadership; key investments made by the Department of Athletics in campus education programs and scholarships; renaming a shared computer science and engineering program the School of Computing and shifting it solely into the College of Engineering; investing more than $500 million in new facilities within the next three years; and the development of a new incentive-based budget model for the university.
The format of the State of Our University address was also expanded to allow deans and leaders from each college to provide brief reports on recent successes and future goals. Read about those presentations here.
To keep the strategic plan moving forward, Green said the university will soon assign leaders who will monitor progress and be accountable toward the achievement of N2025 targets. Lead organizations will provide guidance on the targets, marshaling a collaborative, universitywide effort to achieve related goals.
University leaders will also release regular progress reports to campus.
“I’m confident, folks, that if we can achieve these six items and hit our targets, that we will be well on our way to realizing the tremendous future laid out in the N150 Commission report,” Green said. “Our success means this university will have a greater impact in stature nationally and internationally. And, we will have done far more to achieve our land-grant mission for the people and state of Nebraska.”