Undisputed excellence: The state of the University


President Luis Proenza delivers the State of the University Address

In his final State of the University address, President Luis M. Proenza praised the campus community for its collective accomplishments over the past 15 years, and issued a strong challenge for continued growth: 

“The past 15 years have witnessed perhaps the most substantive and dramatic transformation of this University since its founding in 1870. Our collective efforts have achieved far more than even we envisioned when we began. And yet, we have new opportunities ahead and the responsibility to continue this upward momentum.”

Proenza detailed how the investments made over 15 years—in the physical and academic infrastructure of what is now widely regarded as “the public research university for Northeast Ohio”—have produced returns “both tangible and intangible.”

  • Returns like the pride of our students, faculty and staff when bringing visitors to campus.
  • Returns like a sea change in the community's perception of our University.
  • Returns like the effect this attractive environment has on our own productivity, engagement and happiness.

From the growth of the Landscape for Learning, to the expansion of distance learning, to the dramatic impact of the University of Akron Research Foundation, the “state” of the University is strong.  Today, we are recognized as a regional catalyst for creating collaborative public-private partnerships, a theme captured in the new Report to the Community, unveiled at the address. Titled, “UniverCity: Our Community. Our Priority,” the 2012-13 report details how we are “the University in, of and for Akron.”

Video: State of the University Address

President Proenza told the audience that our “highest priority in 2013 is improving student recruitment, student retention, and student progress to degree completion so they can have a more effective and efficient path to their success.  These challenges are not new, nor should we think them daunting.  We encountered enrollment declines in 2000 and again in 2003-2004.  Both times we emerged stronger and more vibrant, and I am confident we shall do so again.”

Proenza highlighted several strategies and goals for implementing positive change in the year ahead:

  • Encourage and reward interdisciplinary research and teaching
  • Create a series of interdisciplinary institutes or centers based on our strengths, opportunities in the marketplace, and challenges that now hinder economic development in Northeast Ohio
  • Ensure a successful implementation and innovative outcome of our Academic Program Review process.
  • Implement the proposed revision of our general education curriculum, including the reduction to 120 credit hours to graduate with a baccalaureate, accompanied by the assessment of learning outcomes

Proenza closed his address with inspiring words from an 1862 message to Congress delivered by President Abraham Lincoln:  “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.  We must disenthrall ourselves….”  President Proenza added:

“We, too, must think anew to meet the challenges and needs of these times.  We, too, must act anew, to leverage the strength of our collective talent and creativity as we find new answers and answer new opportunities. And we, too, must disenthrall ourselves from misperceptions or apprehensions that hinder our ability to think and act with boldness and confidence.”

Transcript of the address