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U of I retreat to examine key higher education challenges
Trustee study session seeks innovative solutions

July 11, 2017

CHICAGO – Important academic and campus culture issues such as free speech and immigration that are currently facing higher education across the country will be explored during a retreat Wednesday hosted by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

President Tim Killeen said the board’s annual July study session is an ideal outlet for a thoughtful, collaborative discussion to foster solutions for complex issues that universities are often forced to address case by case as crises erupt.

“The retreat will allow us to take a step back and look at these critical issues in a less stressful, more strategic way,” Killeen said. “Our discussions will bring thought leaders together and lay the foundation to establish the values that will lead us forward and make the U of I System a model for others to follow.”

National authorities will join trustees, top administrators, faculty, staff and students for a dialog on three key issues in higher education nationally that also are a focus of the U of I System’s Strategic Framework, a roadmap to guide the System’s future.

Speakers and the topics they will cover are:
•    Julie Ellison, a professor of American Culture and English at the University of Michigan, who will discuss the role of public universities in promoting civic engagement. She is a lead organizer of Citizen Alum, a national organization devoted to building multigenerational communities of alumni involved in active citizenship and learning.
•    Na’ilah Nasir, former vice chancellor for equity and inclusion at the University of California Berkeley, who will discuss free speech in higher education and how it relates to campus climate and inclusion. She is an authority on issues of race, culture, learning and identity, and is now president of the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, which supports initiatives to improve education around the world.
•    Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), who will discuss globalization of high education and the impact of immigration policy. He served as president of Michigan State University for more than a decade before becoming president of APLU, a leading research, policy and advocacy organization that represents nearly 240 U.S. colleges, universities and higher education organizations.

The retreat begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday with public presentations by the three guest speakers in Michele Thompson Rooms B & C of Student Center West at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 828 S. Wolcott Ave.  

After their presentations, the public meeting will adjourn as attendees break into small, closed groups that will meet to discuss each of the three key issues. The open public meeting will reconvene about 3:20 p.m., when the groups will provide reports on their discussions.

Killeen said the reports will be used to develop value statements on what the U of I System stands for, as well as strategies that underscore its commitment to free speech, diversity and inclusion, globalization and civic engagement.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, and the largest educational institution in the state with more than 81,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I System awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.