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Provost Newsletter

News and Highlights for Faculty & Staff on the Urbana-Champaign Campus  |  April 2015


Dear Colleagues,

On April 9, Chancellor Phyllis Wise and I hosted the annual Town Hall meeting in the Illini Union Ballroom. I hope that many of you were able to join us. If you were unable to attend, you can view a recording of the meeting here.

About three years ago, we held the first Town Hall meeting. At that time, I said I believed it was our responsibility as a comprehensive land-grant university to strive for three things – excellence, impact and visibility.

Like our peers, we continue to face many challenges, but we continue to make steady progress towards the goals we established in our strategic plan. With new budget challenges ahead that will require us to think about our future in new ways, we will continue to consult with all the stakeholders on our campus. Together, we will develop ways to address those challenges while remaining focused on strengthening our excellence and fulfilling our teaching, research and service missions.

While budget cuts are more than likely, we must protect our core educational and scholarly missions, but to do so will mean carefully examining all of our operations and considering fundamental changes to them. In spite of budgetary challenges that we will face, we must stay focused on advancing our long-term vision. We will take the critical actions that are necessary and implement initiatives that will ensure our unwavering status as a pre-eminent public research university. We must work together to continue moving forward.

Even in the midst of our economic uncertainty, we still have so much to celebrate. The end of the academic year historically marks a time of celebration of accomplishments on our campus, and this year is certainly no exception. Departments, colleges and the campus will recognize the achievements and excellence of our faculty, staff and students with honors for instruction, education, service and leadership. These celebrations are critical reminders of the loyalty, dedication and strength of the people that make up this great university, and I applaud you all.

With gratitude,

Ilesanmi Adesida, Provost

Sloan Foundation Grant to Support Minority Doctoral Students in STEM

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of three institutions awarded a grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's expanded Minority Ph.D. Program to support underrepresented minority doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

The competitive three-year, $3 million Sloan Foundation initiative, announced March 24, asks each institution to create a Center of Exemplary Mentoring, a campuswide center that would provide scholarships to minority doctoral students in the physical and mathematical sciences and engineering. With the expansion, the Sloan Foundation will have eight centers nationally.

View the full story here.

 Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation.
$12 Million Gift Launches Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation

Last week, Illinois announced a $12 million commitment from engineering alumnus Sidney Lu to build the Sidney Lu Center for Learning and Innovation.

Located at the intersection of Green Street and Goodwin Avenue in Urbana, the five-story, 36,000 square-foot addition will feature an open-architecture innovation and design commons. It will include state-of-the-art tools and equipment, active learning classrooms and expansive areas for student collaboration that will support study groups and project team work. Construction is expected to start in early 2017.

View the full story here.

Guggenheim fellowships. 
Two Faculty Members Awarded Guggenheim Fellowships

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 2015 Guggenheim fellowships to two University of Illinois faculty members: Wendy K. Tam Cho, professor of political science and of statistics, and Philip W. Phillips, professor of physics.

Cho and Phillips are among 175 fellows chosen for “prior achievement and exceptional promise” from a group of more than 3,100 applying scholars, artists and scientists. To provide creative freedom, fellows are awarded unrestricted grants that they can apply to work of their choosing.

Read the full story here.

Campus running. 
Updates on the Campus Conversation on Undergraduate Education

The members of the Lecture & Discussion Coordinating Committee are now seeking nominations for their 2015-16 series, "Prioritizing Undergraduate Education" —the extended deadline is May 1. To nominate speakers, please visit this link. For more information contact Co-chairs Clare Crowston (History) or Chris Higgins (Education).

The three-year pilot on Grand Challenge Learning Tracks announced last month is moving forward with the launch of 6 “proto-pilot” experience courses in Fall 2015. The Sustainability, Energy, & Environment track will be led by Gillen Wood (English) and Jonathan Tomkin (School of Earth, Society & Environment) with advisory assistance from John Abelson (Materials Science and Engineering) and Frances (Ming) Kuo (Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences). The Inequality and Cultural Understanding track will be led by Terri Weissman (Art & Design) with advisory assistance from Lauren Goodlad (English/Criticism & Interpretive Theory) and Kevin Jackson (Accountancy).  Samantha Frost (Political Science/Gender & Women’s Studies) will lead the Health & Wellness track with advice from Laura DeThorne (Speech & Hearing Science) and Frances (Ming) Kuo.  The Grand Challenge Learning Leadership Committee that oversees the pilot will soon be accepting nominations for teaching fellows for the official pilot launch in Spring 2016.

In addition, a committee on Service Learning chaired by Mike Andrejasich (Architecture) now joins the campus-wide groups on Learning Outcomes, Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programming, and Gen Ed Curricula. 

 I Hotel.
Register for Pre-Tenure and Mid-Career Workshops

Two workshops for faculty members planned by the Provost’s Office will take place on May 7, 2015 at the I Hotel and Conference Center.

The first is for pre-tenure faculty members and is from 8:30-11:00 a.m. This workshop, “Managing Mentors,” will discuss how pre-tenure faculty can build support networks in their departments and in their disciplines, be proactive about getting and giving feedback and make the most out of review processes.  A panel of Illinois faculty will lead the discussion. Register for this workshop here.

The second is for mid-career faculty members and is from 2:00-4:00 p.m. This workshop, “Embracing Interdisciplinarity as a Career Strategy,” will focus on the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary research. Whether faculty are already engaged in interdisciplinary work or curious about how to get started, a panel of Illinois faculty from the natural and physical sciences, social sciences and humanities will provide practical advice for connecting their research agendas to broad interdisciplinary themes across campus and beyond. Register for this workshop here.

If you have questions, please email Bill Bernhard, Associate Provost for Faculty Development, at

Building a Diverse Class and Community

Illinois is continuing to develop opportunities to increase diversity. About 16% of this past fall’s undergraduates were students from underrepresented populations. We regularly rank second or third among four-year universities enrolling Chicago Public Schools' graduates, and we enroll 61% of the CPS graduates who attend highly selective universities. We are seeing steady increases in the academic success of underrepresented students – with a 5% one-year increase in their four-year graduation rate. We also graduate more underrepresented students than any of our Big Ten peers.

We have also increased our efforts for the future. Illinois has increased funding by $3 million for the President’s Award Program, a scholarship program that assists very promising students who have been admitted to Illinois and are members of historically underrepresented groups. The campus has also made a $1.5 million commitment to our faculty-led EDGE and DRIVE diversity initiatives. This fall, we are establishing a new Chancellor’s Access Grant Program that will add another $1 million in financial assistance for underrepresented students.

Clearly there is still more progress to be made. We will keep you updated on other campus diversity initiatives.

Other Resources

Campus Strategic Plan • Campus Academic Calendar • Campus News

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