‘State of the university is excellent,’ UIC Chancellor says

“These are really exciting times at UIC,” says UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis. Photo: UIC Creative and Digital Services

UIC leaders are building a university for the future, Chancellor Michael Amiridis told the crowd gathered to hear his State of the University address Oct. 1 in the Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum.

Amiridis recalled joining UIC in 2015, at the beginning of the state budget crisis. In his 2017 State of the University address, as the budget crisis endured, Amiridis said that UIC must “escape forward.”

“And boy, did we escape forward,” Amiridis said. “We broke barriers and records, and we emerged stronger than ever before, as our core values and our strategic priorities guided our run for the future.

“Today, we have built a strong momentum that is the envy of higher education in this state and in the entire region.”

The address emphasized how UIC’s accomplishments and future plans reflect UIC Strategic Priorities in the areas of student experience and success; national and international impact and visibility; Chicago and community engagement, and entrepreneurial university.

For the fifth year in a row, Amiridis said, UIC enrollment has climbed to record numbers — topping 33,400 students this fall. He remembered welcoming new students at the beginning of the year at UIC’s annual Convocation and picnic.

“I couldn’t help but think that every other university would love to be in our position,” he said. “They would also like to know how and why. And the answer may sound simple: it is quality, it is value, it is our campus environment and it is our location, but it is extremely difficult to duplicate the unique institution that all of us and our predecessors have created here, in the heart of Chicago.”

UIC has remained an accessible and affordable choice for higher education, Amiridis said. More than 50% of undergraduates receive Pell grants, and UIC is the largest recipient of MAP funding in Illinois, with nearly 60% of undergraduates receiving the grants. UIC awards more than $140 million in grants and scholarships to students.

“We are proud to be the social elevator school for our students and graduates, and we are proud to remain true to our mission,” he said.

As UIC’s enrollment grows, new buildings have opened on campus to meet students’ needs. The new Academic and Residential Complex provides more student housing options on campus in addition to state-of-the-art classrooms.

UIC’s new Engineering Innovation Building, which opened this summer, provides more facilities for UIC’s rapidly growing engineering programs. The building also is home to Chicago’s only high-bay structural research laboratory, which supports UIC’s civil engineering and structures programs, as well as new wet labs for chemical and mechanical engineering, Amiridis said.

UIC also welcomed its first class of law students this fall with the acquisition of its 16th college, the UIC John Marshall Law School — Chicago’s first and only public law school.

“This is a big deal for Chicago and for UIC,” he said. “A public institution guarantees access to an affordable legal education, and it also guarantees a scholarly and service focus on the critical legal issues of this city and this state. That is what the big deal is.”

Other UIC accomplishments highlighted in the speech include:

  • Supporting student scholarships through naming agreements for the Credit Union 1 Arena and Dorin Forum
  • Advocating for the “Rise Bill,” signed into law at UIC this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, which makes undocumented students and transgender students — regardless of whether they registered for selective service — eligible for MAP grants and institutional aid at public universities
  • Training more male students of color to become licensed elementary school teachers through the “Call Me Mister” program
  • Boosting UIC’s international undergraduate student enrollment to nearly 1,600 through a partnership with Shorelight, known as UIC Global
  • Growing UIC’s study abroad programs
  • Opening three new health care simulation centers in the College of Nursing, College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy
  • Creating new learning opportunities for students through the student-run Starbucks in the Academic and Residential Complex and the Northern Passage Project, a research expedition to the Canadian Arctic
  • Providing opportunities for student-athletes to appear on the national stage during postseason play as UIC won four Horizon League championships
  • Bringing results of research and scholarship to practice with therapeutics on the market, licenses and patents
  • Advancing UIC discoveries with the translational research funding through a $65 million commitment from Deerfield Management
  • Improving communities and supporting health and wellness for all
  • Conserving resources through the Climate Action Implementation Plan
  • Encouraging civic engagement as a Voter Friendly Campus

Amiridis also recognized individual students who won prestigious awards and fellowships; alumni who have had noteworthy success; faculty who have received significant grants for their research or were honored by their peers and professional organizations for their achievements; and new campus leaders who have helped to steer UIC with innovative thinking.

Forward momentum will continue this year, Amiridis said. Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Poser will lead a revision of UIC’s core curriculum. Campus infrastructure will continue to be improved with the construction of new facilities: a Computer Science building, Advanced Chemical Technology building, Robotic Surgery Training Center, Drug Discovery and Innovation Building, and Outpatient Surgical Center, as well as an expansion of the Innovation Center and a renovation of the Student Centers.

New degree programs will be introduced in several colleges, and the College of Business Administration will establish its real estate department.

UIC also will launch four university research institutes to further drive discovery; continue its pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation for the Cancer Center; enhance efforts in support of the thematic areas of Discovery Partners Institute, and initiate an internal grant program to support scholarship in the arts and the humanities.

UIC’s efforts have been recognized in national rankings, too. For the second year in a row, the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education have ranked UIC in the top 10 list of “Best Values” among national universities. Money magazine also listed UIC in the top 10 list of “Most Transformative Colleges” in the nation. U.S. News ranked UIC No. 14 in “social mobility.”

“In doing so, they recognize what a strong and broad social ladder of advancement UIC has been and continues to be,” Amiridis said.

UIC’s achievements have been supported by creating new public-private partnerships as the university reduces costs and aligns resources with institutional priorities, Amiridis said.

“I believe that one of the main reasons we have built the momentum we currently have and we are in our current position, is our ability and willingness in the last few years to innovate as we build a more entrepreneurial and resilient university for the future,” he said.

“I can say today, confidently, that we are succeeding in building an entrepreneurial university in support of our mission.”

UIC’s future is bright, Amiridis said.

“I believe that the current state of the university is excellent,” he said. “We are improving the student experience as they are becoming successful professionals and active citizens. We are recognized as a hub of research innovation performed by world-class faculty. We continue to expand the meaning of community engagement as we improve the quality of life around us. And we are adapting to change as we build a more entrepreneurial university for the future.

“Not only have we escaped forward, but we have become trailblazers in the higher education landscape. We challenge the status quo. We forge new paths. And we set an example for others to follow. These are really exciting times at UIC.”

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