The View from T-Hall

New Beginnings

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No matter how many years one has spent in higher education, the start of a new academic year is always exciting. This fall, we welcomed the most ethnically and racially diverse freshman class ever to enter the institution. In addition, approximately a third of the 2,850 entering students are first-generation college students.

Among the other new faces UNH is proud to welcome this fall is our new vice president for advancement and president of the UNH Foundation, Peter Weiler. Peter comes to us from Ohio State University, where he has served as the senior vice president for development and president of the Ohio State University Foundation; before that, he spent nearly 20 years at Penn State in several positions, including vice president of development. I am confident Peter's leadership and expertise will take UNH to a new level of alumni engagement and fundraising, which is crucial to the future of this institution.

We are working hard to implement the 10-year strategic plan for the university, "The University of New Hampshire in 2020," which I shared with you last winter. As you may recall, the plan prepares UNH for the future by rethinking how a major research university can and should operate in a climate that has seen college costs rising much faster than the ability of students and families to pay. At the core of our plan is the commitment to find new ways to teach, learn, discover, create and engage.

In September, Provost John Aber and members of the faculty and administration joined me in providing the campus community with a progress and priority report that highlighted some of the specific actions we have taken and will take to move the plan forward.

In support of our efforts to continue to make UNH more diverse and international, we will soon celebrate a new relationship with our Szechwan province partner, Chengdu University. As one of a very few universities with a Confucius Institute, UNH becomes a center for the study of Chinese language, arts and culture, not only on campus but throughout the state. The application process for becoming a Confucius Institute is extremely competitive. Given that New Hampshire exports products to more than 160 countries every year and that China is one of our top trade partners, we are proud to have earned the opportunity to provide the state and our students with broader exposure to Chinese culture and the skills to thrive in the global market.

"UNH in 2020" also calls for making a UNH education more affordable. State aid is already a small and declining source of support for higher education, and we cannot continue to ask our students and families to shoulder the burden of rising costs. We are committed to raising significantly more private support, and we will. We are also committed to being innovative in creating new revenue streams and getting our intellectual property to market, and we are taking steps to make that happen.

This summer, the first five businesses to participate in an intensive business accelerator called the Green Launching Pad were chosen from 71 applicants. The initiative, which is a partnership between the university and the state, is helping innovative companies bring new, green products to market and will, we hope, also create jobs in the state. Another business incubator with a strong UNH connection, the New Hampshire Innovation Commercialization Center, selected its first resident company, Holase, Inc., a wireless technology company in Newmarket, N.H.

Our affiliation with the Franklin Pierce Law Center is now official. In fact, the newly unveiled University of New Hampshire School of Law opened its doors in Concord this fall to faculty and students happily decked out in Wildcat regalia. This partnership adds an entirely new dimension to the university, providing exciting opportunities for joint programs and interdisciplinary study as well as ready access to world-class expertise in the realm of intellectual property.

Our first January Term, which offered classroom and online courses during the traditional intersession lull, was highly successful. This year we will offer study-abroad opportunities in Costa Rica, London and Quebec; and we anticipate that three or four other destinations will be added soon.

A commitment to interdisciplinary study and research is at the heart of the strategic plan. Accordingly, the Office of Sustainability has been reorganized as the UNH Sustainability Academy, signaling a broad extension of UNH's signature commitment to sustainable curriculum, operations, research and engagement. The plan also mentions a marine school as one likely area of interdisciplinary development. In May, the marine faculty voted overwhelmingly in favor of such a school and is now exploring ways and means for moving this exciting work forward.

Please take the time to visit to watch a video of the Sept. 21 strategic vision update and to learn more about the many efforts underway. ~

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