Fall 2009 State of the University Message

Dear Mines colleagues,
 
It is a pleasure to welcome you all back to campus as we start a new academic year.  I was delighted to see so many of you at the M-Climb Send-off Celebration on Monday morning.  I hope that this will become a new tradition for the campus, as it is a tangible demonstration to the newest members of our academic community that we are here to support and encourage them.
 
I want to take some time as we embark on Mines’ 136th year to reflect on some of last year’s accomplishments as well as look forward to the opportunities and challenges facing us.  Fundamentally, I believe we are facing the future from a position of strength.
 
A world-class reputation
 
The School’s reputation for excellence continues to grow.  Applications at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are at an all-time high and the quality of the incoming class of freshmen, transfer, and graduate students is excellent.  Despite the most challenging economy of our lifetimes, Mines’ students are still in high demand as evidenced by the outstanding placement rates for last year’s graduates.  You may have seen the excellent media coverage of Mines’ ranking by Payscale.com as first among all the nation’s public universities in terms of the starting salaries of our graduates with bachelors’ degrees.
 
We took a number of proactive steps to help market the School and foster our world-class reputation last year.  If you traveled through Denver International Airport, you saw two very creative sets of ads displayed there throughout the year.  A new research magazine was published and is being widely distributed to showcase the depth and breadth of the research being conducted by our faculty.  Our new website projects a much more contemporary image for the School, and our new graphics standards will ensure we present a consistent and integrated public image electronically and in print.  Beginning next month, if you tune into Colorado Public Radio, you’ll hear messages about Mines and our important role in the community.  As always, we continue to push for increased national media attention for Mines.
 
Of course, at the heart of our reputation are the people who truly are the Colorado School of Mines – our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – and I’m pleased to be able to share just a few highlights of their accomplishments here:
 
An impressive student body
 
Our students are an impressive group. The depth of their scholarship was on display in full force at both the Senior Design Fair and the Graduate Student Association Research Fair. In addition to academics, Mines students are engaged and active in their co-curricular activities.  They participate in professional associations and recreational sports in record numbers. Our SWE  section was presented with the “2008 Outstanding Collegiate Section Award” at the national SWE conference.  The Mines Blue Key chapter hosted the National Blue Key Conference on campus last spring.  Our student athletes continue to achieve excellence both academically and athletically, with 68 of them recently receiving academic achievement awards from the NCAA for the 2008-09 academic year.
 
Mines students are also involved in a variety of community service projects – from organizing a science fair for Children’s Hospital patients to tutoring at local schools.  Blue Key showed exceptional leadership in their project to install LED lights on the M, and then creating holiday ornaments out of the old lights and donating the profits to provide energy assistance to low income families.
 
A distinguished faculty
 
Our faculty continue to receive accolades too numerous to list here, but which may be viewed on our website at http://www.mines.edu/academics/2008-2009-Faculty-Accomplishment-Highlights.  I would like to take this opportunity to share just a few highlights from among the many achievements. Last December, Tom Furtak received the Board of Trustees Outstanding Faculty Award in recognition of his distinguished teaching career at Mines.  Nationally, three of our young faculty members received prestigious NSF Early Career Development Awards – Christian Ciabanu, associate professor of engineering; Tony Petrella, assistant professor of engineering, and Sumit Agarwal, assistant professor of chemical engineering.  Ryan O’Hare, assistant professor of metallurgical and materials engineering, was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers – the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.  
 
Producing world-class research
 
Research awards were at an all-time high last year, exceeding $50M for the first time in the school’s history.  Among the largest awards were the NSF’s first Materials Research Science and Engineering Center grant to focus on renewables and new funding for the Fuel Cell Center. And, after a great deal of effort, the School finalized a research development contract with the Petroleum Institute focusing on upstream technologies. Last year also saw the much-anticipated opening of biology labs on the third floor at the General Research Laboratory.
 
Industry continues to be a primary sponsor, accounting for more than half of our grant awards, including a $5 M multiyear sponsored research award from ConocoPhillips with C2B2 and the creation of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research (COSTAR) with funding from Total Exploration and Production, Shell Exploration and Production, and ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.
 
Fostering a vibrant campus
 
As part of our goal of fostering a vibrant residential campus environment, last year saw a large number of distinguished visitors to Mines:
  • The Faculty Senate hosted former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm and Robert Repetto, Senior Fellow of the United Nations Foundation, at forums to discuss sustainability issues. 
  • The student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers brought Rep. Terrance Carroll to campus to speak.
  • Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was the keynote speaker at the Oil Shale Symposium.
  • Former Colorado governor Bill Owens was the 2008 William H. Erickson Distinguished Lecturer.
  • Peter Gleick, Director of the Pacific Institute, was featured at the 2008 Herbert L. and Doris S. Young Environmental Symposium.
  • The Executive Lecture Series brought a number of corporate executives to campus, including Steve Hinchman, executive vice president of technology and services for Marathon Oil; Matt Simmons, Chairman of Simmons and Company International; and Andy Swiger, Senior Vice President of ExxonMobil Corporation.
  • Barack Obama’s presidential campaign selected Lockridge Arena as the venue to host a speaking engagement in September 2008.
 
Addressing financial challenges
 
As we all know, the past year was brutal for the financial markets.  Our endowment was certainly impacted, with a decline of 15% in the fiscal year.  While painful, these losses were not as severe as those suffered by many other organizations. The Foundation’s endowments provide nearly 8% of the school’s annual operating dollars.  The decline in assets combined with changes in the Foundation’s payout policy have translated into a decrease in Foundation funding of $2.8M, which we have had to budget from other funding sources.
 
The State’s financial picture remains difficult and uncertain.  Governor Ritter has called for a higher education strategic planning summit to be held on September 21, and state funding of higher education will of course dominate these discussions.  
 
Given the level of uncertainty surrounding state funding, we must continue to be prudent in managing our expenditures.  While we will continue to implement a hiring policy that requires my approval for any hires, including for vacant positions, I have instructed our senior administration to prioritize adding strategic faculty lines in order to support our research goals as well as to support the recent enrollment growth.  To achieve this it is imperative that we all continue to be disciplined about discretionary spending, look for ways to save money wherever possible, and be innovative throughout our entire enterprise. 
 
Despite some of the negative financial environment surrounding us, there is much positive news to report as well.  Last year was a record year in terms of fundraising, with over $30M raised in gifts and pledges.  And, as I referenced earlier, last year was also a banner year for the school in terms of research volume. Clearly, despite the pressures of a chilling economic downturn, our alumni, donors, corporate and foundation partners, and government funding agencies clearly recognize the value of the work we do here. 
 
Positioning ourselves for the future
 
There is no doubt that we are living in a time of dramatic change.  I have been reflecting a great deal recently on the fact that the best organizations are the ones that are most responsive to change.  The landscape may be shifting around us in ways that we cannot control, but it is incumbent upon us to nimbly react to – and anticipate – the changing environment in which we operate.  And I am confident that we are doing so:
 
  • The re-structuring of the Foundation Board of Governors and development of a new operating agreement between Mines and the Foundation, coupled with this year’s very successful fundraising efforts, have positioned us well for future success in our fundraising efforts.
 
  • The new position of Senior Vice President for Strategic Enterprises, filled by Nigel Middleton, will enable us to put focused attention on the development of new potential revenue sources for the school, with the goal of diversifying as well as expanding our financial base.
 
  • We are actively seeking to strengthen our collaborations with key strategic partners such as the national laboratories.  With the selection of the Alliance for Sustainable Energy as the manager for NREL, Mines is now represented on the Alliance board, building on our long-standing successful partnership with NREL.  Efforts are underway to similarly strengthen our ties with the other national laboratories.
 
  • We are moving forward with our plans to invest in the campus infrastructure.  While the economic downturn and lack of funding from the state for capital construction have certainly affected some of our plans, we are committed to finding creative, but prudent, ways to undertake important campus projects. Funding is now in place to allow us to begin construction on the long-anticipated addition to the Brown Building early this spring.  While we have raised nearly $25M in cash and commitments for the Marquez Hall project, we have taken a cautious approach to moving forward on construction to ensure that we have more cash on hand and therefore can limit required debt.  I anticipate that we can begin construction on Marquez Hall within the year.  Several major grant applications have been submitted for federal stimulus funding for other academic building construction projects.  And we are moving ahead with planning for the development of Earth Energy Institute to take advantage of Mines’ unique energy portfolio and emerging leadership in water resources. 
 
  • We will also continue to focus on the goal of making Mines a truly residential campus.  We plan to move forward this year with the construction of new residence halls, which will add 291 beds, and program planning has begun on a badly needed renovation for Weaver Towers.  We are working closely with the City of Golden on a number of projects to enhance the campus, including the extension of bike paths along 6th Avenue and the south side of Clear Creek.  Mines and the city have both submitted grant proposals for major improvements to the intersection at 6th Avenue and 19th Street.   We are also in discussions regarding the possible development of a pedestrian mall on 16th Street between Illinois and the Recreation Center.
 
  • And we will continue to put renewed focus on strengthening the ties between Academic Affairs and Student Life in order to enhance our students’ educational experience, particularly during that first critical year of their time with us.
 
As we embark on this new academic year, I am pleased to welcome all our new faculty and staff members to our community, including our new Provost, Steve Castillo.  I look forward to the contributions I know each of you will make.  
 
Each year when I prepare this “state of the university” message, I am struck by all that has been accomplished.  It is extremely gratifying to see the steady progress the university is making toward achieving its goals and advancing its global reputation for excellence.  This progress, of course, comes directly through your individual and collective efforts and through the support of our large and dedicated network of alumni and friends.  I have the utmost confidence that this academic year will continue to add to Mines’ stellar reputation.
 
Together we are engineering the way.
 
Best wishes,
Bill Scoggins
 

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Last Updated: 04/25/2017 08:37:31