‘UIC is thriving, and its best days are yet to come,’ UIC Chancellor says
In his final State of the University address April 5, UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis celebrated UIC’s successes and forward momentum over the past two years, despite facing unprecedented challenges during the pandemic.
“We worked together. We put people first. We placed our trust in science. And we led by example,” Amiridis said. “We faced the challenges head-on, and we succeeded as we continued to do what we do best: listen, learn and teach; take care of patients; serve our community; and innovate for a better tomorrow.”
Throughout the challenges of the pandemic over the last two years, UIC has continued to move forward and advance its mission as an urban, public research institution, Amiridis said. He shared his appreciation for UIC’s frontline workers, who treated patients and helped develop new therapies and vaccines.
“They worked tirelessly through uncertain and stressful circumstances,” he said. “There are so many who went above and beyond over the past two years. We applaud you all, and we are forever grateful to all of you.”
To keep the campus community safe, UIC implemented comprehensive on-campus saliva testing and contact tracing programs at the onset of the pandemic.
“These measures, coupled with a 95% vaccination rate, for which we should all be proud, have made our campus one of the safest areas in the city and state,” he said.
UIC has been at the forefront of COVID-19 research and efforts to find treatments and vaccines — receiving more than $88 million in funding for COVID-19 research, Amiridis said. Dr. Richard Novak, professor and head of infectious diseases at UI Health, launched the first vaccine clinical trial in Chicago for the Moderna vaccine and enrolled patients in the Johnson & Johnson trial.
“People ask me why UIC was selected for these trials, and there are two reasons: one is the excellence of our physicians/researchers, and the second is the diversity of the population that we treat. And I am very proud of both of them,” Amiridis said.
Once the vaccines were available to the public, UIC and UI Health opened the first mass vaccination center in Chicago at Credit Union 1 Arena. Nearly 180,000 people were vaccinated at UIC and UI Health, and 5,700 COVID-19 patients were treated at the hospital. A partnership with Protect Chicago Plus and Mile Square Health Center provided community vaccine clinics to vulnerable populations in Chicago.
While helping in the fight against COVID-19, UIC also supported its students throughout the pandemic while continuing to advance their education.
“Our faculty found creative and engaging ways to teach,” he said. “At the same time, our staff members made sure support services were available to students who needed them most.”
When in-person instruction resumed last fall, UIC welcomed back more than 34,200 students — its largest enrollment for the seventh consecutive year.
“I have never been happier to see so many students on campus,” he said. “And I know I was not alone.”
UIC faculty members continued to lead significant research initiatives. Over the past three years, UIC’s research funding has grown from $350 million to $450 million, supporting more than 3,500 research projects.
“A very important reason students are drawn to UIC is the national recognition of our faculty and the opportunities to work alongside top investigators in all fields,” Amiridis said.
“Our research impact spans the globe as we develop new treatments and vaccines, we reshape education equity and access, and we create more sustainable environments and we advance technology and culture.”
Other UIC accomplishments highlighted in the speech include:
- Advancing knowledge on long-term complications of COVID-19 through work with the National Institutes of Health to better understand the disease.
- Assisting faculty with the shift to virtual learning with the creation of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence.
- Supporting students with more than $52 million in undergraduate scholarships, grants, fellowships and traineeships.
- Launching a new online MBA and an online Master of Engineering.
- Starting the Chancellor’s FirstGen Flames Abroad Scholarship, which provides opportunities for first-generation students to study abroad.
- Celebrating strong national rankings, including being named the top 25 public universities and in the top 10 best value universities for four years in a row, according to the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education.
- Breaking ground on the Computer Design Research and Learning Center, which will provide much-needed space to accommodate UIC’s rapidly increasing undergraduate enrollment in computer science.
- Launching the DuSable Scholars program, which identifies and supports talented Black and Latino students studying STEM-related fields.
- Leading an alliance of the 20 Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the country with R1 status.
- Joining the Missouri Valley Conference, fulfilling the decades-long aspirations of UIC Flames student-athletes and fans.
- Representing the U.S. in the Venice Architecture Biennale with the work, “American Framing,” which was created and curated by UIC professors and architects Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner and their UIC-based team.
- Recruiting and retaining promising scholars with the second cohort of the Bridge to the Faculty program, which seeks to recruit, retain and promote tenure-track scholars from historically underrepresented backgrounds in academia.
- Generating about $35 million in licensing revenue in FY21 through UIC innovations.
- Exceeding the IGNITE campaign’s fundraising goal ahead of schedule by raising $774 million in five years.
Future projects of note include an expansion project of UIC’s Innovation Center; the development of the state-supported Drug Discovery and Cancer Research Pavilion; the development of two neighborhood centers, one in Auburn Gresham and another in North Lawndale; and the opening of the UI Health Specialty Care Building in late summer.
Amiridis thanked the university community for its support during his tenure as UIC chancellor.
“I want to share with you the immense gratitude I have for the experience of leading UIC. Through our collective action and resilient spirit, UIC is thriving, and its best days are yet to come,” Amiridis said.
Before the chancellor spoke, the UIC Jazz Band welcomed the audience to UIC’s Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum, and UIC junior Anandita Vidyarthi shared a spoken word performance. Donald Wink, secretary of the UIC Senate and chair of the Senate Executive Committee, introduced Amiridis before his speech and thanked him for seven “momentous years” leading UIC.
“I know I am not alone when I say that Chancellor Amiridis’ accomplishments have left an indelible imprint on UIC,” said Wink, professor of chemistry and learning sciences, and director of undergraduate studies in chemistry. “We have been the benefactors of his vision to make UIC a world-class academic institution second to none. His unfailing determination to have UIC serve as an example of social responsibility has made it a beacon of hope to the disenfranchised and pushed us all to levels we could have only dreamed of when he first took the leadership mantle in 2015.”
The UIC Pep Band closed the event with a performance.
Those in attendance at the event received a UIC souvenir spinning top created by faculty and students in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, including Sung Jang, associate professor and chair of industrial design; Sharon Oiga, professor and chair of graphic design; Kimberlee Wilkens, assistant professor of industrial design; Cristian Oiticica, fabrication lab specialist; Daniel Mellis, print lab specialist; Annabelle Clarke, Associate Director of the School of Design; Itzel Lopez, business specialist; and Marcia Lausen, director of the School of Design.
The bottom of the box holding the 3D-printed souvenir reads: “Embodied in the symbolism of this small spinning top are the multitude of discrete revolutions that continuously and simultaneously take place at UIC — discrete actions that collectively impact the city, the nation and the world.”