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Colorado State University must accept nothing less than greatness as a major driver of Colorado’s economic prosperity and quality of life, President Larry Edward Penley said in today’s Fall Address.
"Why be normal?" Penley asked the crowd of faculty, staff, students and community members at his annual address, delivered on the historic Oval. "Let me try to answer that question by calling on us at Colorado State and the state of Colorado to realize our potential – to look ahead and seek greatness rather than what is normal. More accomplishments are ahead, but Colorado State must reject the normal and strive for its unrealized potential."
In his talk, Penley highlighted some of Colorado State’s achievements, including the launch of CloudSat, the world’s first cloud-profiling radar in orbit, and a $30 million gift from alumnus Ed Warner to support the Warner College of Natural Resources. He also spoke of ongoing challenges such as budget issues and the importance of access to education for Colorado residents.
Penley urged all areas of the university community to strive for excellence, highlighting particular areas of focus. He said the university must:
– expand faculty and continue to increase contributions to research and discovery;
– promote Colorado’s quality of life and economic prosperity through more rapid technology transfer, through developing "superclusters" built around multidisciplinary research areas where Colorado State already excels and with programs such as the Colorado State Diversity Conference, which begins Oct. 3 and aims to support a healthy, diverse community at the university and in Fort Collins;
– help shape a viable agricultural industry for the 21st century through its strong programs in agricultural, natural resources, water and nutrition resources;
– commit to excellence in athletics with a competitive program that builds on a solid financial foundation, graduates student-athletes and furthers the University’s mission and image;
– enhance Colorado’s global competitiveness in high-cost, technologically important majors by encouraging – through the governor and the Legislature – fundamental change to how Colorado higher education is funded;
– ensure access for all students, particularly those from lower income backgrounds.
"But access – alone – is not enough," Penley said. "Access without student success is a fraud. Colorado higher education must demonstrate that it can substantially raise retention and graduation rates, and Colorado State can lead the way in Colorado via programs like Ram Welcome that build relationships among students and between students and the university, via the quality of the teaching and learning experience that we have here and via sophisticated information that allows the university to individualize its services to students."
Penley also lauded state leaders for their continuing support of higher education this past year, particularly the passage of Referendum C, which helped the Colorado State University System increase its budget by $17.1 million and provided more than $11 million for the system’s controlled maintenance and capital construction needs. Penley said this funding forestalled further budget reductions and allowed the university to make some much-needed investments, including:
– the largest employee benefits increase in 20 years;
– the addition of 25 new faculty positions – the first net gain of faculty in 15 years;
– new fellowships to recruit and retain high-quality students;
– and further expansion of the merit-based financial aid pool. Penley noted that the university’s strong commitment to student aid over the past three years has brought about a 112 percent increase in need-based aid and a 69 percent increase in merit-based aid.
Other achievements in the past year include implementing the university’s strategic plan through a reorganization that created several new positions, including a coordinated outreach position. A new vice provost for outreach, filled by sociologist Lou Swanson, will help coordinate resources of such organizations as Cooperative Extension, the Water Resources Research Institute, Continuing Education and the Office of International Programs for all Colorado residents.
Additionally, for the first time in Colorado State history, research expenditures exceeded a quarter of a billion dollars – up nearly 10 percent over the previous year.
Last week, the university hired Bill Farland, the highest ranking career scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, as the new vice president for research.
"Let us continue to realize the greatness that inherently lies within Colorado State University’s capacity as the model land-grant university of the 21st century," Penley said.