University leaders looking for 'Big Ideas'

November 08, 2018

Image with caption: Hank Bounds, Ph.D., president of the University of Nebraska

Hank Bounds, Ph.D., president of the University of Nebraska

On Wednesday, university leaders shared the following message with the university community:

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this year, 38 outstanding faculty members from across the University of Nebraska gathered to talk about the future.

Their charge: Build a framework for university fundraising priorities by articulating what makes an institution of higher learning great.

After a day of conversation, we had a list of characteristics that would inform our next steps. A great university is relentlessly focused on students, our faculty told us. A great university actively embraces diversity in all its forms. A great university does work that is relevant locally, but with potential for global impact.

We're grateful to these faculty members for their initial vision and leadership. Now we're ready to expand the conversation.

You may have recently received an invitation from Provost Susan Fritz, Ph.D., to participate in the university-wide "Big Ideas" Initiative, a faculty-driven approach to private fundraising. We hope you'll get engaged. Over the years we've seen time and again the power of philanthropy to elevate the reach of your work. Private gifts have allowed for new academic programs, cutting-edge facilities, and scholarships for thousands of students. They have been vital to our momentum, allowing us to do things that would not have been possible with state dollars alone.

We are now at a critical moment in our university's history. For almost 150 years we have served the people of our state, educating the workforce and conducting the research that have grown Nebraska's economy and quality of life.

What do we want to be in our next 150 years and beyond? At a time when public universities are uniquely positioned to solve the great challenges of the day-workforce shortages, inequities in access and opportunity, hunger and disease, international security -- how should the university of Nebraska focus its energy to not only adapt to the future, but create it? How can a university like ours continue to recruit and retain the very best talent, drive and measure student success, and sustain vibrant economic growth across rural and urban communities? And how might philanthropic gifts advance our work in these and many other areas?

Our faculty, who carry out our missions of teaching, research, and service every day, are well-suited to answer these questions. This represents a new, more inclusive approach to fundraising for our university -- one that relies first on the expertise of those who know our institution and the unique mission on each campus best.

We're asking for your boldest ideas on how the University of Nebraska, with help from private fundraising, could dramatically elevate our work and impact. We're interested in ideas that draw on the talents of multiple disciplines, departments, or campuses; ideas that could require investments of $25 million or more. We want your best thinking on what the University of Nebraska of tomorrow should look like and what steps we should take today to get there. We invite your proposals, which, following a vetting process, could be used by our NU Foundation partners to attract and inspire private giving in the years ahead.

You may ask why we would undertake an initiative like this when we are still managing the effects of multiple rounds of budget cuts. There is no question we have faced significant challenges over the past few years. It is precisely for that reason that we think it's especially important to look ahead. Because of you, we are on a remarkable upward trajectory in spite of our challenges. Now the young people of our state, the business leaders who hire our graduates, and people around the world who are healthier and more productive because of our research and outreach are counting on us to lead the way forward.

We're excited to have this conversation with you. Thank you for your ideas, and for all you do for the University of Nebraska.

Sincerely,

Hank M. Bounds, Ph.D.
President
University of Nebraska

Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.
Chancellor
UNMC
University of Nebraska at Omaha

Ronnie Green, Ph.D.
Chancellor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Doug Kristensen, J.D.
Chancellor
University of Nebraska at Kearney

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