University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis talked with our board about the complexity of each of his daily decisions, choices about what to fund and where to set priorities. Daily Chancellor Amiridis must juggle the variant and consistent needs of the University of Illinois at Chicago, coping with the challenges UIC faces and maintaining the momentum they have gathered since his arrival three years ago.
As Chancellor, I have been focused on a few key issues both looking back over the past few years and now that Spring 2018 graduation lies just ahead.
First and foremost is momentum. Enrollment surpassed 30,500 students in the Fall of 2017 for the first time in UIC’s history, and that included an increase in freshmen enrollment of 23%. That is unprecedented especially during a time when statewide enrollment in public Universities has significantly decreased. In fact, UIC had the strongest undergraduate enrollment growth in Illinois over the last five years by a wide margin. Prospective students are paying attention to the value and quality that UIC offers, and they are voting with their feet.
Momentum includes the Engineering Innovation Building, the first academic building under construction on the east campus since 1991, which will help the university accommodate one of the fastest growing colleges, and the Academic and Residential Complex, which will provide more student housing and state-of-the-art classroom space. Discussions are also progressing to fill the one remaining gap in UIC’s academic enterprise – the establishment of a law college via a merger with John Marshall Law School. That is momentum.
This momentum has been reflected in the positive press stories featured in the Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business. Higher visibility brings greater attention and that in turn propels our momentum forward, and as the numbers look now, UIC is set to surpass its enrollment record for the 4th year in a row this fall.
However, UIC also faces challenges. Due to the 2-year budget impasse in Springfield, UIC cut important staff positions and held back on hiring, and the University needs to focus on rebuilding both capital and human infrastructure. There are upgrades and repairs needed all across UIC’s buildings and systems, including the IT systems that are two generations short of current standards. And as far as human capital, the University needs to invest in more tenure-track faculty who in turn invest in UIC with their research and the visibility they bring. UIC currently has a small faculty-hiring program to recruit and retain greater numbers of high-caliber tenure-track faculty but as with all challenges, this requires resources.
UIC has continued and will continue to focus on its number one mission: access to the highest quality education at Chicago’s only public research institution of higher learning. And in order to meet the needs of UIC’s unique student body, the University needs the resources to support them both financially and programmatically.
I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of UIC, but there is a lot of work ahead in order to balance and prioritize the needs of all members of the UIC community in an environment with limited resources. With your support, our momentum will continue to increase, creating a bright future for our students, our communities, for Chicago, Illinois and the world.
/// Return to the spring 2018 newsletter