The chancellors of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and UNL presented to the NU Board of Regents on Jan. 24 an integrated strategic plan for the Peter Kiewit Institute that positions PKI to meet the needs of engineering and information technology businesses in Omaha and throughout the state.
The plan was presented by UNO Chancellor John Christensen and UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. It was developed by an Academic Advisory Council that includes the deans of the two colleges that comprise PKI – the UNO College of Information Science & Technology and the UNL College of Engineering – the interim executive director of PKI, and the senior vice chancellors for academic affairs at UNO and UNL.
The regents requested the strategic plan last fall, following an external review that concluded that PKI, while successful, has not yet achieved its full potential.
“The plans presented today represent the most ambitious agenda for engineering and information technology in Omaha in the University of Nebraska’s history,” said NU President James B. Milliken. “These are bold goals, but with commitment by the faculty and leadership of both campuses and new investments in talent and facilities, I believe we can achieve them. I’m very pleased with this collaborative vision set out by the PKI advisory council, which will benefit Omaha and Nebraska well into the future.”
Milliken noted that a recently completed university/Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce assessment of workforce demands found that engineering and IT hiring in the Omaha area will be “robust” in the coming years. He said the university, through PKI, is in a position to do much more to meet these workforce demands.
Chancellor Perlman said: “I think for the first time PKI has a chance to fulfill the high expectations that animated its founding. Through the work of the senior vice chancellors, deans and interim director of PKI, there are real collaborative efforts underway to provide exciting educational opportunities for students in Omaha, to provide valuable engagement of the private sector, and to construct a research agenda that could put Omaha and the University of Nebraska on the map.”
Chancellor Christensen said: “PKI is an important organization that supports business, industry and P-20 education in Omaha and throughout the region. Our collaborative efforts outlined in the Institute’s new agenda will better serve the needs of our area. UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology is well-positioned for growth and has an exciting future. And, Omaha will benefit greatly from an expanded College of Engineering presence.”
The strategic plan lays out an ambitious agenda for expanding teaching, research and outreach activities within PKI, charging the campuses with making significant progress in building partnerships with leading Omaha companies like Kiewit, Union Pacific and HDR as well as state and federal agencies; ensuring PKI’s facilities align with its teaching and research missions; developing cross-disciplinary academic programming; hiring significantly more faculty and growing enrollment; increasing research and internship opportunities for students; and expanding outreach to K-12 STEM programs across the state.
It sets specific benchmarks for success by which PKI will be measured, including:
· Growing Omaha-based undergraduate enrollment in the College of Engineering from about 780 now to 1,200.
· Improving freshman-to-sophomore retention among Omaha students in the College of Engineering from 66 percent to 90 percent, and improving the six-year graduation rate from 42 percent to 70 percent.
· Expanding an Omaha-based Master of Engineering degree for working professionals.
· Growing Omaha-focused research expenditures in the College of Engineering from just over $3.3 million to about $30 million.
· Adding 30 new engineering faculty positions in Omaha.
· Growing enrollment in the College of Information Science & Technology from 1,000 now to 1,500 by 2020.
· Increasing freshman-to-sophomore retention in the College of IS&T to from 77 percent to 90 percent, and improving the six-year graduation rate from 55 to 70 percent.
· Increasing research expenditures in the College of IS&T from $3.6 million to more than $10 million.
· Adding more than 20 new faculty in the College of IS&T.
Regent Bob Whitehouse, chairman of the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee, said: “The Peter Kiewit Institute is a critical driver of education, research, service and workforce development for Omaha and Nebraska, and the Board of Regents is fully committed to its success. I commend the chancellors and the Academic Advisory Council for the ambitious agenda they have developed for PKI. Looking ahead, the Board will regularly monitor PKI’s performance to ensure that benchmarks set today are met. We look forward to seeing PKI do even more to serve students and businesses in Omaha and throughout the state.”