Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for being here today as we consider the State of the University.
Please indulge me as I play a short video for you. It was not produced for today’s event, or for this purpose, but you will soon understand why it sets the perfect tone for this State of the University Address.
[“THIS IS AKRON!” SOCCER VIDEO NARRATIVE:
This is Akron. Every day our legend grows, a soccer experience like none ever witnessed.
This is Akron, where our Rowdies’ march shakes the earth. Before you…a sea of the most loyal fans in the country, a place where loyalty and pride are not just words but are a way of life.
This is Akron. Our leader is fearless, and we will follow him anywhere. Know that, when you enter our field, you are stepping onto hallowed ground and you are playing on borrowed time
This is Akron. On the field, our skill is unmatched, and our passion is unwavering. Never has a place felt such perfection.
This is Akron, a place that for the next four weeks becomes the center of the soccer universe.
This is Akron, and we will fight to defend what is ours.
This is Akron, the understanding that it is a privilege to wear our colors and the knowledge of the responsibilities they represent.
This is Akron, where the sacrifice of a select few becomes the triumph of many. And when the fallen ask themselves— “How did our season end here?”—we will always answer, “…because, this is Akron.”]
I would venture to say that even if you have never set foot inside our stadium.... even if you don’t know one sport from another...you have felt the spirit of our soccer team permeate our campus, and our community at large. You have felt the pride. You know what it’s like to defend our turf, our banner . . . Akron.
You know that as we stake out what is rightfully ours – a reputation for excellence and innovation – it takes determination and sacrifice and a deep sense of responsibility. It takes a myriad of individuals who display extraordinary and passionate commitment to our region and to those we serve. I want to recognize some of them now, and although they may not be wearing blue and gold jerseys, they all are important players in reaching our shared goals and, yes, even in capturing a little bit of glory. I ask that they stand as their names are called; and that you please hold your applause until all have been recognized.
I especially want to recognize some special guests, the exhibitors representing our partners in the:
Please join me in thanking them for their participation today and for their ongoing collaboration.
No university could be celebrated without its faculty, staff and students. And so, I ask that our faculty, staff and students please stand and be recognized.
Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Akron! —a talented collection of individuals who hail from around the globe, each bringing a unique set of skills and experiences, all united by a common goal with individual success being both critical to and subordinate to our objectives, and all having the assurance that collectively we can meet any challenge.
“This is Akron!” is a powerful rallying cry, a proud and passionate response to those who have yet to experience our energy and innovation. It is our declaration of excellence and distinction.
Today, I will detail for you many accomplishments of the last year. You will have heard of some, but not all. And you, too, may even respond like so many: “Akron?” Yes, This is Akron! It is our collective celebration in the pride of accomplishment; and the realization of remarkable capacity and future potential.
So let us begin . . .
Just as Coach Porter has done in soccer, we are demonstrating that
Individual successes, programmatic achievements and exemplary outcomes are the hallmarks of this university. You may have seen them on the screen as you walked in, I will recite some of them now, and we will show them again at the end.
This is Akron! – a research university pursuing innovative solutions to some of the world’s major challenges. Indeed, discoveries on our campus could greatly improve the lives of millions. Just consider these remarkable opportunities:
Yes, This is Akron! Where students, faculty and staff earn accolades, set records, receive awards and improve the quality of life for thousands of people – further enhancing the momentum we have gained during the past decade.
This is Akron! Where we labor to secure the future for ourselves by taking a giant leap ahead of the competition at the same time that we are creating a Third Cycle of Expansion in our University.
You and I are part of that expansion, of that success! In this time of unprecedented challenges, we – the faculty, students and staff of The University of Akron, together with our partners – are innovating our way to growing prosperity!
II. The Akron Model:
Let me tell you how our University is helping to lead the way in the “new normal” economic realities of public higher education. You see, a relentlessly competitive and challenging global economy is radically revising how higher education and other services are funded, and this is happening at the same time that the importance of education has become the prerequisite for prosperity and well-being individually, regionally, nationally and globally.
In its most recent cover story, Time magazine states that “education is the engine of social mobility.” It is that because education also is an engine of economic development. And that’s why we developed the Akron Model and why we are accepting significant responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities and constituencies we serve. We are assembling talent and resources in order to become more connected, productive and relevant to our communities. (Zakaria, Fareed. When Will We Learn? Time. November 14, 2011)
And by bolstering the economic vitality of our region, our own institution’s long-term competitive and comparative advantages are themselves strengthened.
You can best understand the Akron Model by thinking of it as kind of “tool chest” for strengthening community; as a robust and broad-based platform for ensuring economic success in our region. Indeed, as you can see here, a growing number of components best illustrate the Akron Model – a model in which each initiative is the outcome of partnerships demonstrating the power of collective impact.
The two most recent examples of this growing platform include our strategic partnership with the Timken Company, announced in August, and our Lakewood Higher Education Center, which opened in September.
Our agreement with Timken is an unprecedented collaboration. Timken and UA have an open-innovation agreement to combine their expertise in materials and surface engineering, which should yield increased opportunities and developments. This historic agreement, moreover, has the capacity of becoming a new model for university-corporate collaboration.
The second example is a partnership with the Lakewood community, just west of Cleveland, where we have made it easier for adults to enhance their skill sets or return to college, while also expanding our network into Cuyahoga County. . . . Lakewood now has a university, and it is Akron!
Surely, most of you recognize some or all of the initiatives that are part of the Akron Model. And many of you have worked hard over the years to build and expand upon them. And in so doing, you have enabled our University to act as a convener, developer and anchor for clusters of innovation – clusters that generate knowledge and creative capital, train human capital, build social capital, attract financial capital and preserve natural capital.
[AKRON MODEL INITIATIVES:
University of Akron Research Foundation
New Landscape for Learning
University Park Alliance
Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron
Corrosion and Reliability Engineering Program
National Inventors Hall of Fame School/Akron Early College High School
Regional Innovation Institute]
As I reported to you last year, we are increasingly asked to share the Akron Model before national and international audiences. So far this year, we have been invited to tell our story in presentations from Akron to Cleveland, Washington to California and from Waikiki to Berlin and back again. This is Akron! . . . reaching out and becoming known well beyond the borders of our region and our state.
[2011 AKRON MODEL INVITED PRESENTATIONS:
Waikiki, Hawai’i, Jan. 13, 2011 – “E Kamakani Noi’I: Wind That Seeks Knowledge” symposium, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and University of Hawai’i
Akron, January 18 – “Building Prosperity in Greater Akron” forum, sponsored by Greater Akron Chamber, University of Akron, city of Akron, Summit County and Greater Ohio Policy Center
Cleveland, April 25 – “Building The Ohio Innovation Economy” symposium, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, NorTech and The University of Akron
Los Angeles, May 1-4 – “Shaping the Future” Milken Institute Global Conference
Berlin, Germany, May 24-25 – “Meeting Global Challenges: German-U.S. Innovation Policy” symposium, sponsored by the German Institute for Economic Development and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
Washington D.C., June 9 – “The New Role of Universities in the 21st Century: Universities as Engines of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Hubs” conference, sponsored by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies
Palm Springs, CA, Aug. 1 – “DoD Corrosion Conference 2011”, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense
East Lansing, MI, Oct. 2 – “Engaged Scholarship and Evidence-Based Practice” sponsored by the 2011 National Outreach Scholarship Conference
Akron, OH, Oct. 28 – “TEDxAkron 2011 ‘Rebirth’” event sponsored by the UA Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing]
What is the message we offer at these important gatherings?
We explain that a changing economy or changing technological underpinnings of any industry require the institutions, themselves, to change, and that the Akron Model provides a useful framework for such a transformation.
We demonstrate how, through innovative collaborations, initiatives and interactions, metropolitan-sited institutions can play a vital role in sustaining and growing their regions in this global, knowledge and conceptual economy.
And we tell them that, beyond the many statistics and facts that detail our successes, the most important outcome of the Akron Model is the least quantifiable and most intangible.
It is a kind of entrepreneurial optimism, a belief that our collective impact can achieve audacious goals and improbable outcomes.
The Akron Model enables us to believe that we can accomplish bold endeavors because we have accomplished bold endeavors, and we will continue to do so by using the Akron Model as our framework.
For more than a decade, we have advanced, nurtured and walked the talk of these ideas, . . . ideas whereby “We see that our location in Akron, at the heart of a thriving regional economy, is a significant competitive advantage . . .” that . . . the University of Akron is in, of and for Akron, and community engagement is at the core of our portfolio of opportunities.” (Proenza, Luis M. Charting the Course. 2001.)
And if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it certainly is gratifying to hear a number of universities across the country now echoing these same ideas and rallying their campuses and communities. Just a month ago, in his state of the university address, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee talked about engaging their external partners and communities in the work of the university. (Gee, E. Gordon. Innovating to the Core: Sustaining the University’s Mission. October 4, 2011.)
The new president of Drexel University in Philadelphia recently said that the “future of our university and our community are inextricably bound in a mutual self-interest that virtually dictates our support for one another. (Fry, John. Convocation Speech. October 5, 2010.)
And last month, the chairman of the Gallup Organization concluded that the “ . . . next economic breakthroughs . . .” would “ . . . come from . . . the combination of forces within big cities, great universities and powerful local leaders.” (Clifton, James. Excerpted from The Coming Jobs War, Gallup Press. October 2011.)
So we must move forward even more vigorously, and continue moving into an even closer stage of integration with our communities, a stage characterized by coordinated institution-scale engagement, linkage to a regional plan and the production of benefits for students, the region and our University – something we are well embarked upon already. (Arbo & Benneworth. Understanding the regional contribution of higher education institutions: A literature review. 2007.)
Indeed, through the principles of relevance, connectivity and productivity we are becoming one with our region—employing strategies of infrastructure investment and partnerships; and also serving as an anchor institution of substantial magnitude and continuing to grow so as to further engender a stabilizing influence on the economy.
This is Akron! . . . and the Akron Model is our path to increasing relevance, connectivity and productivity . . . and our roadmap is Vision 2020, our strategic plan.
III. Initiatives for Success:
Last year, in the State of the University Address, I discussed eight interactive steps being shaped in Vision 2020 that I thought would help us leverage opportunities, draw on uncommon resources in novel and optimal combinations and further develop the Akron Model. Those eight steps are shown on this slide:
So let me briefly tell you about the progress we have made:
Colleagues, through these and other efforts, we will achieve distinction, greater prominence and more effectively differentiate The University of Akron in this region and across the nation.
In the immediate future, as we move the University forward, you should expect to hear more about three vital initiatives:
In these and all other initiatives, success will be determined by our collective efforts, for this is indeed, our story to tell, a story of all of us, celebrated by us.
You are Akron.
We are Akron.
. . . a place where campus and community are one.
. . . a place where the challenge of opportunity is welcomed
. . . a place where you can dream, and dare, and do what it takes to make the world a better place,
Because . . . my friends . . . This is Akron!
Say it proudly – This is Akron!
Northeast Ohio has improved its talent dividend of citizens who hold college degrees. Dr. Proenza emphasized the importance of an educated populace and discussed methods to further improve the region's results.
In his last State of The University address as president of The University of Akron, Dr. Luis Proenza reviews the progress and returns on investments made over the past 15 years, and outlines necessary steps during this academic year to maintain this momentum .
Dr. Proenza advises graduates to no longer identify solely with their majors, but to also regard themselves as critical thinkers, communicators and problem solvers. Doing so, he said, will make the job market a more welcoming place.
Drawing upon his own experiences, Dr. Proenza encourages graduates to continue to seek the magic of learning throughout their careers.
In a lighthearted nod to J.K. Rowling's novels, Dr. Proenza offers graduates a final lesson of "A Defense Against the Dark Arts of Derision, Disrespect and Insult!"
If inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil is correct in his predictions for the near future, "a lifetime of learning" has new meaning for today's graduates.
Dr. Proenza offers graduates in the College of Health Professions a more expansive view of the effects of their work with patients and clients
Employers seek three specific qualities in graduates, and a common element to all is simplicity.
Dr. Proenza reviews the recent history of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, its current status and position for future growth.
Graduates are urged to "lean into the winds of changes and turbulence" in a commencement address on the nature of risk, emotional resiliency and "antifragility."