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Faculty Senate: Report to the University Community

Joel Seligman
April 18, 2017

These are uncertain times for the University of Rochester and the nation generally, in part, because of uncertainty how the Federal budget and new administration’s legislative program will eventuate.  There are understandable concerns expressed about potential 18 percent cuts in the National Institutes of Health budget, material cuts to the Department of Education budget, the impact of transforming Medicaid to a state grant program and many other potential major changes.  I encourage everyone to wait and let us see how the budget and new legislation actually turns out.  In 2008-2009, when we faced a period of unexpected economic deterioration, I stressed that we would protect our core, meaning our faculty, staff, and students.  That remains our priority.  Many in the University appropriately are engaged in contingent planning exercises, but the dominant reality is that while there are significant risks, there also is not as much clarity as there will be later.   Whatever happens, let me assure everyone in the Rochester family, we are a strong institution and will continue to be one.   When material events occur that will affect our University, I will report to the University community.  We are in this together.

For now, let me address our future with a distant enough time frame that we can consider our University regardless of any election result, economic cycle or day-to-day event.  We have begun development of a new strategic plan that will run from 2018 to 2025.  Our task as a University in essence is two-fold: To be prepared for risks and changes that may occur and to keep our focus on where we are going as one of the nation’s leading research universities.

President Kennedy famously proposed on May 25, 1961 in remarks to a Joint Session of Congress that:  “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Even more significant to this goal were Kennedy’s remarks at Rice University on September 12, 1962, where he said in part:

We choose to go to the moon.  We choose to go to the moon in this decade … not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills and because the challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, one which we intend to win.

It is for that reason that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions of my incumbency in the office of the presidency.

To be sure, all this costs a great deal of money.  This year’s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961…

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall….made of new metal alloys, some of which have never been invented, capable of  standing heat and stress several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision greater than the finest watch, carrying equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half the temperature of the sun….and do all this, and do it right, and do it before the decade is out, then we must be bold.

This is an outstanding illustration of strategic planning.  In crisp, powerful words, Kennedy articulated a noble goal, made it a top priority of his administration, delineated a time table, acknowledged the challenges and costs involved, and inspired a nation to be bold, not because it was easy, but because it could change the course of human history.  Almost immediately, Kennedy’s two statements transformed the space program from one that was ineffectually competing with the Soviet Union to a program that ultimately became a model for successful execution of a strategy.

The concepts in Kennedy’s plan to send a person to the moon are relevant to our process of developing a University strategic plan for the years 2018 to 2025.

We have begun a new strategic plan to be approved by the University Board of Trustees in May 2018 that will address three great challenges of higher education today:

  • How can the University of Rochester be a leader in research and scholarship?
  • How can the University be an innovator in education?
  • How can the University be an international model for community leadership?

We believe that specific achievable objectives that address these great challenges will strengthen our ability to improve the world’s health and quality of life, attract and retain the finest students, faculty and staff, provide leadership in creating models to revitalize challenged urban communities, and inspire the greatest likely government and philanthropic support for our efforts.

Our current path is defined by five core University priorities, each of which explicitly or implicitly was articulated in the 2015 Next Level White Paper:

  • Data Science:  In 2015 and earlier the University made a $100 million commitment to developing best-in-class or near-best-in-class programs in the broad domain of Data Science.  We believe that Data Science is a defining discipline generally for research universities in the 21st century.  To date we have opened Wegmans Hall, which will be the University headquarters for the Goergen Institute for Data Science, hired 14 of 20 new faculty in computer science and cognate applications, and added new undergraduate and master’s programs in Data Science.  Our challenges in Data Science are to identify the areas which we can pursue at scale and be best-in-class or near-best-in-class and develop an operational plan through 2025.
  • Neuroscience:  The 21st century will be the century of the brain as health care and the life sciences seek to conquer some of the most intractable challenges of the human condition ranging from Alzheimer’s to stroke to aging.  We build on strong programs in Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences within our Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience.  We already are ranked among the Top 50 Global Universities in Neuroscience and Behavior, and in 2016 added eight new scientists in Neuroscience.  We have made several initial steps in Neuroscience, including hiring John Foxe as the inaugural research director of the Del Monte Neuroscience Institute and developing a major program in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  Foxe currently is leading an effort to develop a comprehensive Neuromedicine strategic plan, which will provide a blueprint for accelerated progress.
  • The Humanities and the Performing Arts:  We believe that the finest students are more likely to come to our University with aspirations for careers in health, law, business, engineering, or the variety of professions that require a graduate degree if we provide a broad education that introduces students to the breadth of human experience and comparative culture. Two consequential areas of our liberal arts approach to education are the Humanities and the Performing Arts.  We recently established a Humanities Center and an Institute for Performing Arts.  We anticipate a major effort focusing on the Eastman School, including fundraising campaign to celebrate the School’s 100th anniversary in 2021-2022.  We believe that the ability to provide a full liberal arts experience will be one of the decisive measures that we can take to fortify our University as one of the leading research universities in our country.  According to a 2017 World University Ranking, the University of Rochester already is among the top ten best universities in the United States in the performing arts.
  • Our Community:  Throughout our 167-year history, the success of the University of Rochester and that of the greater Rochester community has been inextricably linked.  In recent years these bonds have been strengthened. We are now the largest employer in the region and the sixth largest private employer in the State of New York.  Unlike the surrounding more affluent communities, the City of Rochester today is challenged with a declining population, high rates of poverty, and K-12 public school graduation rates perennially below 50 percent.  Consistent with our primary academic mission, the University is engaged in efforts to address job creation, workforce development, health and wellness community enrichment, and the arts and culture in the City of Rochester and our region.  Highlights of our current efforts include our efforts at East High School (including efforts with the School Based Health Center), new regional telemedicine initiatives such as Project ECHO, AIM Photonics, and the Mark Ain Center for Entrepreneurship.  We are now the safety net for health care in our region.
  • The Clinical Health Care System:  As we prepare for what may be substantial changes in health care delivery and finance in the years to come, our clinical health care system will be a core priority of the University.  Some 74 percent of the University’s $3.7 billion budget this year is for clinical health care.  In the past decade we have substantially expanded.  Where we once had two hospitals, we now have a five-hospital system as well as Accountable Health Partners with 1,954 providers, five urgent care centers, and three ambulatory care centers.  Last year affiliates Highland Hospital and Thompson Health were joined by Noyes Memorial in Dansville and Jones Memorial in Wellsville.  The Wilmot Cancer Institute now provides care through 11 regional locations.  The quality and cost efficiency of our health care is vital to patients and health care professionals throughout our region and in attracting and retaining outstanding doctors and scientists.  We have been recognized for our efforts.  Endocrinology and Neurology/Neurosurgery earned Top 50 clinical rankings from U.S. News and World Report.  Dentistry, Family Medicine, Neurology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Public Health Science, and Surgery were ranked among the Top 20 in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding.


map of western New York showing locations of current affiliates, management agreements, programs, and high performing networks

In addition to these University priorities, individual schools also are pursuing school priorities such as RNA Biology and National Cancer Center Comprehensive Care Designation in the School of Medicine and Dentistry; expansion of the Florescue undergraduate business program in the Simon School and Arts, Sciences and Engineering; and development of new online programs in Eastman and other schools at the University.

In March, the University Board, close to 100 volunteer leaders, and senior University leaders met in a retreat to begin a discussion of strategic planning aspirations.

Beginning in May of this year, the Board will focus on the feasibility of future aspirations, considering such questions as whether we have the resources to achieve what we seek, whether we as a University and a Medical Center are the right size to do so, what the risk factors are for our planning, what known trends and changes in the external environment are likely to affect execution of our plan, what our competitive sets are, and how we measure success.

We intend to spend the next year developing a full strategic plan that will be ready for initial review at our Board of Trustees retreat in March 2018 and for Board approval in May 2018.  We will engage all key constituents in our planning effort, including faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends.  We anticipate that strategic planning will be a key theme of National Council and other advisory group meetings during this period.

The University strategic plan will be coordinate with Communications and Advancement strategic plans.

The Communications strategic plan was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2016 and explicitly delineates its purpose to support both the University and Advancement strategic plans.

Advancement’s goal is to build on the success of The Meliora Challenge campaign and to continue to strengthen University engagement and fundraising efforts.  The Rochester Model Advancement 2021 strategic plan established specific measurable ways for the University to become more effective in generating and sustaining private giving, advocacy, and engagement in support of the University’s education, research and health care missions.


Let me frame our consideration of these topics by describing the University from the perspective of the past 12 years.  When I arrived in 2005, the University had notable fundamental strengths:

  • Some great faculty and administrators.
  • A strong spirit of collaboration across department and school lines illustrated by the recent creation of Biomedical Engineering.
  • Some best-in-class programs such as the Eastman School of Music, the Institute of Optics and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics.
  • Recognition as the leading health care provider in the region.
  • And a Board and senior leadership determined to make significant steps forward.  There was a palpable hunger to be ever better and more widely recognized for our achievements and talents.

We also had fundamental challenges:

  • Our endowment was declining relative to peers primarily because of our levels of endowment payout and relatively low levels of fundraising.
  • The small size of our academic programs was a mixed blessing but in recent years had been accompanied by a decline in academic rankings.  In the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, this had prompted the Renaissance Plan, which had reversed the decline of quality metrics for our undergraduates and improved AS&E’s finances.  But by decreasing the size of AS&E’s faculty, we were not well positioned to embrace important new research and teaching areas and were below effective size in some departments.
  • We did not have well developed University programs in areas such as Advancement and Communications.


Our most significant response was a series of strategic plans that emphasized quality growth.  In 2008, the Board of Trustees adopted a five-year plan, whose ambitions were summarized in a single paragraph:

By 2016-2017, we aspire to be one of the 20 most outstanding research universities in the United States; with a material growth in our tenure and tenure track faculty, particularly in the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering; a student body which has grown from 8,300 to approximately 10,000 students; a long-term investment pool [that grew from $1.39 billion in Fall 2005 to] approximately $3 billion; and an aggregate endowment draw that has declined to no more than 6.1 percent [from 6.7 percent in Fall 2006].  Within the Rochester community, we will be the leading employer and engine of economic development, building on our current base of approximately 19,000 full-time equivalent employees.  Our campus by 2016-2017 will be amplified by College Town like developments at Brooks Landings and along Mount Hope Avenue between Elmwood and Crittenden.  Our Medical Center will have completed a substantial expansion of clinical care and research facilities, beginning with the PRISM [later the Golisano Children’s Hospital] and CTSB [later the Saunders Building] projects.

The 2008 strategic plan and separate strategic plans adopted simultaneously by the Medical Center, Arts, Sciences and Engineering, the Eastman School of Music, the Simon School of Business, and the Warner School of Education were meant to change the University’s trajectory.  The 2008-2013 University Plan was highly ambitious.  We achieved most of its aspirations, notably facilitated by the public phase of TheMeliora Challenge campaign, which began in October 2011.


 The aspirations of Aiming Higher: The 2013-2018 Strategic Plan were intended to build on the momentum of the 2008-2013 University Strategic Plan.  There were six broad objectives:

  • Be one of the nation’s leading research universities
  • A university that emphasizes quality education
  • A university known for improved health care
  • A university known for service to the community
  • Complete the Meliora Challenge capital campaign
  • Develop fully sustainable financial models.

These objectives were to be achieved through 40 specific goals.  A substantial number of the specific goals already have been achieved, including:

  • Successful completion of the capital campaign.
  • Construction of Wegmans Hall, the location of the new Goergen Institute for Data Science, added new bachelor’s and master’s programs in Data Science, and expanded the data science faculty.
  • Implementation of a new University research strategic plan.
  • Opening Golisano Children’s Hospital, Brooks Crossing, and College Town, all in 2015.
  • Accountable Health Partners was established to link the University’s health network with community providers to engage in value-based care contracts.
  • The East High School partnership became fully operational in Fall 2015.
  • Added 19 new majors in Arts, Sciences and Engineering.
  • Substantially increased use of digital technology, especially in master’s programs.
  • Increased six-year retention rates in our undergraduate programs.
  • Substantially increased two-score equivalent undergraduate SATs for new students and other quality metrics.

In some instances, the goals of Aiming Higher have been only partially achieved, notably in terms of diversity and inclusion, renovation of classrooms, laboratories and library space, and increasing the Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty from 350 to 380.

In a few instances, we have not or will not succeed at achieving Aiming Higher goals, at least for the foreseeable future, most notably with respect to the new branch campus in New York City and maintaining or increasing patent licensing revenue.


Where does this leave our strategic position today?  In strategic terms, during the past 12 years, we have stabilized the trajectory of the University and in several specific instances accelerated our progress.

The University today has seven schools, a Medical Center with significant clinical operations, the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, a Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Memorial Art Gallery, and our University libraries.

            University of Rochester – Schools Fall 2016 ($000)
Revenue Total Endowment Use Full-Time 
Arts & Sciences and Hajim SEAS $399,716 $22,790 362 5,304 1,242
School of Medicine & Dentistry 395,354 39,561 738 851
Simon Business School 48,169 5,086 39 806
Eastman School of Music 42,917 15,933 91 539 339
School of Nursing 22,606 1,312 17 214 86
Warner School of Education 15,972 1,346 22 349


 In budgetary terms, for FY 2017, our consolidated revenues are $3.7 billion, of which 74 percent is from hospital and patient care; 15 percent is from core revenues, transfers and endowment to support the University’s schools, libraries, and central expenditures; 7 percent from sponsored research; and 4 percent from auxiliary and other uses.

The Medical Center in aggregate, including clinical, education, and research, currently accounts for about 85 percent of the University consolidated budget.  This is up from 80 percent in 2004.

two pie charts showing consolidated revenues and consolidated expenses

In 2004, we had 8,300 students; we now have more than 11,200 students, an increase of 35 percent.

We have grown from 2,009 total tenured, tenure track and clinical faculty in 2004 to 2,662 today.

We have grown from 20,041 full- and part-time employees in 2005 to 29,473 full- and part-time employees at the end of 2016.

Our budget has grown from $1.66 billion in 2004 to $3.63 billion today.

Our endowment payout has decreased from 6.9 percent in 2000 to 5.7 percent this year.

University Aggregate Core Budget Endowment Spending Rates

two line charts showing 5 year average rate and market value rate 

The  Meliora Challenge capital campaign ended on June 30, 2016 and raised more than $1.373 billion, 14 percent above our initial $1.2 billion goal.  The campaign resulted in adding 103 endowed professorships, deanships and directorships, and providing more than $225 million in student support, creating 406 new endowed scholarships and fellowships during the campaign.  Since the campaign began in 2005, we have increased annual cash giving from an average of $65 million to more than $105 million; annual gift commitments (including outright cash and future pledges) have doubled from $70 million to more than $140 million.  In all, since 2005, we have completed or initiated 28 new facilities, with a budget of $891 million.

Our faculty’s distinction is one of the most important determinants of the University’s reputation.  Each major new contribution, whether it is a scientific discovery, an invention, or a new mode of artistic expression, helps to fortify our position as a positive force in society.  The greater our distinction in research, the more successful we have been in attracting and retaining outstanding undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and staff.

Between 2010 and 2016, we have received $343 million to $408 million in sponsored research, the large majority of which comes from federal programs at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, with its key support for our Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

Sponsored Research Expenditures

bar chart showing research expenditure from 2012 to 2017

The University’s reputation also is based in significant part on our seven schools.

In 2016, the University had 1,261 full-time tenured and tenure track faculty, of whom 59.5 percent were in the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and Nursing, 28.5 percent were in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and 7.2 percent were in the Eastman School of Music.  In 2016, of our 9,730 full-time students, 67 percent were in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and 19 percent were in the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and Nursing.

During the past 12 years, Arts, Sciences and Engineering has increased its tenured/tenure track faculty from 312 to 362, increased its undergraduate student body from 4,057 in Fall 2006 to 5,534 in Fall 2016, and increased its master’s students from 152 in Fall 2006 to 353 in Fall 2016, seen a substantial increase in undergraduate engineering students from a total in all classes in Fall 2006 of 681 to a total of 1,749 this year, and master’s and PhD engineering students from a total of 412 in Fall 2006 to 585 in this year’s class.  Key programs such as data science, optics, photonics, computer science, the humanities, earth and environmental sciences, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, and dance have been amplified as has the associated program in the Laser Lab.  The six-year graduation rate has increased from 80.7 to 86.0 percent in the past 11 years.  This year the undergraduate program received its highest recent ranking in U.S. News & World Report of 32nd in the National University ranking. Arts, Sciences and Engineering’s primary objectives include “future proofing” undergraduate education by providing education that is distinctively valuable and tailored to develop undergraduates prepared for positions for which they will be among the most talented.

To the extent that applications provide a measure of how a key market judges a program, Arts, Sciences and Engineering has been a success.  Applications for next year’s class have exceeded 18,000, up 63 percent from the 11,293 applications in 2005, and up significantly from the 16,428 at the same time for last year’s class.

AS&E Freshman Applications

bar chart showing increase in freshmen applications from 11,293 in 2005 to over 18,000 in 2017

Simultaneously, our two-score equivalent SAT among all matriculants for the Fall 2016 entering class was 1391, compared to 2005 when the two-score equivalent SAT for entering students was 1304.  In the past decade, our students on average have improved from the 86th to the 96th percentile on the two-score equivalent SAT, simultaneous with increased diversity (underrepresented undergraduate minority students have increased from 9.9 to 13 percent), larger total enrollment, and larger numbers of international students.

Two-Score Equivalent SATs

bar chart showing rise in SAT scores from 1304 in 2005 to 1391 in 2016

Over the last 12 years, the School of Medicine and Dentistry has seen improvements in selectivity, has been tapped to lead a national transformation of trainees’ education, and has established itself as a leader in inter-professional education.  Applications have risen by 50 percent in that period, resulting in an acceptance rate of 4.2 percent in 2016, making Rochester’s medical school among the most selective in the nation.  Progress has also been made on gender and racial diversity.  Within the graduate school, the number of applicants has also risen.  Rochester also was recently chosen by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education as one of eight “Pathway Innovators” to restructure the residency learning environment to better prepare new doctors to practice in tomorrow’s settings.  Together with the School of Nursing, the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, and Strong Memorial Hospital, the School of Medicine and Dentistry formed the Institute for Innovative Education (IIE), which is driving a focus on experiential, team learning.

Over the past 12 years, the School of Nursing, currently ranked third in New York state for master’s nursing programs by U.S. News & World Report, has increased the size of its clinical and research faculty by 171 percent, from 62 to 168, while student enrollment has increased 56 percent, from 340 students to 532—driven in large part by a 176 percent growth in the accelerated program for non-nurses (APNN).  As part of the school’s education mission, new degree programs include a Doctor of Nursing Practice and several master’s programs.  To accommodate growth, the Loretta Ford Education Wing was constructed with additional classrooms, lab space, and a state-of-the-art simulation center.  The school made significant investments in developing online course offerings to meet student needs and increased scholarship offerings to help fill gaps in the region’s nursing workforce.  The school’s strong commitment to research faculty and investments in infrastructure has resulted in a rise to a ranking of 19th in research support from the NIH in 2016.

The University of Rochester and Eastman Institute for Oral Health have, for 100 years, trained dentists and other qualified individuals from throughout the world for academic careers in oral health and disease-related research.  Today, 131 trainees are enrolled in the Eastman Institute, 66 of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents from 19 states, and 65 of whom originate from 24 countries; 42 percent are women, 11 percent are underrepresented minorities. The Institute is among the most competitive in the world with an acceptance rate below 5 percent.  The Eastman Dental Center has seven fixed locations, largely in underserved areas of our home county of Monroe, and four SMILEmobiles.

The Eastman School of Music is considered one of the premier music schools in the world and intends to continue being the school that shapes the future of music.  Several recent initiatives are positioning the school to remain at the forefront of innovative university-level music education, while holding fast to the school’s core values of artistic and scholarly excellence.  These include the creation of the Eastman Audio Research Studio and the Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media; the implementation of new programs in film and video game composition, improvisation, and music leadership; reimagining the traditional concept of music education in the Department of Music Teaching and Learning; redesigning the curriculum of traditional music offerings such as music history and providing a new online certificate program; and committing to a comprehensive plan to increase the diversity at Eastman.  The greatest challenge for Eastman is the school’s long-standing structural deficit.

The MBA program is the most visibly ranked program in the Simon Business School.  The School has determined that key areas where efforts will achieve the highest overall gains for the school include 1) the student experience, 2) increasing salaries of recent graduates, and 3) reputation development among fellow deans and recruiters.  The full-time master’s programs are very successful, with the Master of Finance program receiving 2,100 applications last year.  Simon enrolls more than 600 master’s students.  The priorities for the Simon School balance programs to strengthen faculty and rankings while reducing the draw on endowment to fiscally sustainable levels. This year the Simon Business School is again listed among the world’s best business schools in an annual ranking published by the Financial Times of London.  In specialty rankings, Simon is second in the world for finance and fifth in the world for economics.

During the past 12 years, the Warner School has grown significantly, increasing its student enrollment by more than 40 percent and its faculty by more than 20 percent and doubling external funding.  Raymond F. LeChase Hall, the new home of the School, was opened in 2012.  Several new programs have been launched, including an accelerated Ed.D. to address the needs of practicing educators, a program to teach English abroad that has attracted many international students and an interdisciplinary Master in Health Professions Education offered in partnership with the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Nursing.  Since 2013, Warner has offered a significant number of online courses as well as programs to prepare online instructors.  Warner has led University efforts in the new Educational Partnership Organization at East High School.  Warner also has launched the Center for Urban Education Success as a means to build on its work at East by studying what works and what does not and why and to disseminate new solutions for urban education nationally.

Viewing the University of Rochester as a whole, in relative terms, the University is one of the smallest private research universities with medical centers in the Association of American Universities (AAU) in terms of faculty and students, with faculty size at approximately 60 percent of the average of 19 peers as of the most recent data and our student size at approximately 52 percent.  Two of our private university AAU peers are outliers – USC with about 42,500 students and NYU with more than 49,000 students.  If we exclude these two universities, our faculty size today is 63 percent of the average of our AAU peers and our student size is 60 percent.

table comparing University of Rochester to 14 other AAU schools.

Our Long-Term Investment Pool, principally including our endowment, is currently $2.2 billion compared to a close peer mean of $4.0 billion. This places us 44th overall.  In recent years, we have made some progress, including doubling the rate of additions to our endowment in the past 10 years.

Long-Term Investment Pool ($Billions)

bar chart showing changes in value from $1.26 billion in FY04 to $2.1 billion in FY16

Our peers are not standing still, and increasingly we face stronger international competition as well as the reality that larger endowments grow larger in absolute dollar terms when markets are up than the University of Rochester’s does.  To illustrate, Harvard’s endowment, the largest domestic endowment with $35 billion, will grow by $3.5 billion if markets are up 10 percent this year, while the University of Rochester’s endowment of $2.2 billion would grow by $220 million.

As with all leading research universities today, we face significant challenges.  There is a transformation in health care that is likely to continue and is unpredictable.  In recent years, it has moved slower than we expected, but is a challenge for all research universities with medical centers as health care ultimately may transition from a fee-for-service payment model to population health management, with greater risk shifted to University hospitals.

The rising cost of higher education has received considerable attention.  In 2016, some in Congress discussed mandatory payouts from endowments.  In New York state, the legislature has enacted a “free” tuition program for SUNY and CUNY students in families earning less than $100,000 in 2017-2018, rising to less than $125,00 in 2019-2020 in the SUNY and CUNY systems.  It is uncertain how that change will affect other state or University resources, but we do not anticipate a major impact on the University of Rochester.

Between 2009 and 2016, our long-term debt grew from $644 million to $1.2 billion, providing financing for strategic expansion and improvement of facilities and infrastructure.  At the same time, total net assets increased approximately 44 percent from $2.2 to $3.2 billion.  Because of the strength of our overall financial management, operating performance, reduction in endowment draw, and philanthropic success, we simultaneously have seen credit rating upgrades.  In March 2017, the University issued $256 million of tax-exempt bonds through the Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation.  The issuance was well received and over-subscribed seven times.   Coincident with the debt issuance, the ratings agencies reaffirmed the University’s Series 2017 debt as Stable with ratings of Aa3 (Moody’s), AA- (Fitch), and AA- (S&P).

stacked chart comparing total net assets, expendable resources, and total debt

In analyzing strategic opportunities we also will have to take into account proposed capital projects that will involve long-term debt and other resources.  In the 2019 debt issuance, debt likely will be used in part to fund a major Strong Memorial Hospital Emergency Department expansion, among other projects.

All research universities today are subject to known trends and likely future events including:  1) the increased reliance on United States research universities for basic and often applied research; 2) the accelerating and ubiquitous digital revolution; 3) the increasingly international nature of faculty and students at leading United States colleges and universities; 4) the transformation of health care from a fee-based model, significantly served by community hospitals and independent primary care physicians, to a managed care system, increasingly served by health care systems; and 5) the aging of the population, with implications for lifelong learning and increased health care needs.

We face a longer than usual list of material political risks today, including:  1) Potential changes in the 340B Drug Discount Program, which now accounts for a substantial percentage of the Medical Center margin; 2) Potential changes in Graduate Medical Education, which also accounts for a significant percentage of the Medical Center margin; 3) Medicaid block grants, which may result in a reduction of Medicaid; 4) Possible, but now less likely, Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement initiatives; 5) Cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, which may negatively affect sponsored research, financial aid, arts, and the humanities; 6) Immigration and visa programs as well as concerns that foreign relations with specific nations may result in a diminution in the number of international students attending the University of Rochester, where currently 2,923 or 26.1 percent of our students are international.

These risks are real, but the nature of a large, complex institution such as the University of Rochester is that we always face risks.  We anticipate that by May 2018 we will be able to calibrate the likely impact of these political risks and articulate mitigation plans to address them.  Our success in recent years has been based on staying ahead of the curve as federal and state law and funding changed. We intend to continue to do so.

Universities are among the most long-lived institutions in the world because of their capacity to assimilate change.  We believe that the resiliency that has characterized the University of Rochester and the other leading research universities in our country will continue.

As we navigate our way through challenges and risks that all research universities face today, I believe it is vital to a keep our eye on our strategic objectives.  A well-crafted strategic plan raises our sights, provides an inspiring and common ambition for our entire University family, and, when effectively implemented, will inspire greater potential commitment from our faculty, students, alumni, and friends.

These are not just theoretical beliefs.  During the past 12 years we have repeatedly progressed because of our development and implementation of strategic plans.


Let me also highlight much else that has happened at the University since I last addressed our community.

In June of this year, after 11 years of outstanding service, Peter Lennie will step down as Senior Vice President and Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.  Peter will continue on our faculty.  Peter’s career as Dean will be remembered for a successful and comprehensive effort to strengthen Arts, Sciences and Engineering, an effort that included simultaneous expansion of the student body and faculty with marked qualitative improvements in facilities, diversity, programs, and global engagement.

Peter set a very high bar for this deanship.  The search for his successor is ongoing.  Next academic year, Rick Waugh, founding chair of our Department of Biomedical Engineering with 35 years’ experience at our University as a member of our faculty, researcher, and administrator, will serve as interim Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

In June of this year, Dean of the College Rich Feldman also will step down as Dean after 11 outstanding years of service in that role and will return to our faculty.  Rich has been a tireless champion of excellence in undergraduate education and has greatly strengthened virtually all aspects of the undergraduate experience at the College, bringing about consistently stronger outcomes for our students.  He has also led several important University initiatives, including co-chairing our most recent institutional reaccreditation and co-chairing the Commission on Race and Diversity.

Let me warmly salute two great deans.  Each also is a great scholar, and I anticipate we will hear much more from each of them in the years to come.

In December, Wendi Heinzelman was formally installed as dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  In her prior role as dean of graduate studies in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, Wendi worked with AS&E faculty to develop innovative specialized and interdisciplinary graduate programs, such as a master’s degree in alternative energy, a program in photographic preservation and collection management with George Eastman Museum, and a graduate degree program in technical entrepreneurship and management.

Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries, was reappointed to a new five-year term in February.  She was also elected the vice president-president elect of the Association of Research Libraries.  Under her leadership, Evans Lam Square has been opened and the Barbara J. Burger iZone at the River Campus Libraries is currently under development.  She also closely collaborated with AS&E on the Humanities Center, providing space for this initiative in Rush Rhees Library.

The Presidential Diversity Council began meeting in December 2016 to address how most appropriately to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Race and Diversity.  An early decision of the Council was a unanimous vote to make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a University holiday beginning in January 2018.  The Council now is systematically reviewing the recommendations of the earlier Commission on Race and Diversity concerning faculty, students, staff, and campus climate.

Our eighth annual Diversity Conference occurred on March 31 and featured keynote speaker Shakti Butler, PhD, founder and president of World Trust Educational Services, a non-profit transformative educational organization.  Dr. Butler served as diversity consultant and advisor on the Disney animated film, Zootopia, which focuses on challenging bias and systemic inequity.  Her current film/dialogue project, Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging, is intended to popularize a national conversation about justice, responsibility, and healing.

Strong Memorial Hospital was named to Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2017 list of 100 Great Hospitals in America.  This is the fourth consecutive year the hospital has earned this honor.  Hospitals included on the top 100 list are renowned for excellence and industry leadership in innovation, quality patient care, and clinical research.

In December, the Strong Memorial Hospital Nursery, a state-of-the-art facility that provides care for newborns in the Finger Lakes region, opened a renovated space as part of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Gosnell Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU.  The unit will house 24 beds that are predominantly single family spaces.

Highland Hospital’s new two-story, $28 million building addition, which includes six new operating rooms and a 26-bed observation unit to help enhance patient care, was dedicated on October 26.  The expansion significantly improves the hospital’s perioperative area and creating a dedicated space for observing patients.

On March 29, 2017, we celebrated the opening of the Neuromedicine and Behavioral Health Center for Pediatric Patients, home to the new William and Mildred Levine Autism Clinic that provides specialized care for patients with autism spectrum disorder.  This is the region’s first stand-alone center to integrate care of autism with pediatric neuromedicine and child and adolescent psychiatry services, and will serve more than 25,000 patients each year.

Next fall, Genesee Hall will open, adjacent to the University’s Brian F. Prince Athletic Complex, featuring four residential floors that will house approximately 150 freshman students, as well as meeting rooms for study groups and workshops, a new locker room facility, and training rooms for athletic programs.

The Eastman School of Music’s faculty and alumni were again recognized in the annual Grammy awards.  Sean Connors ’04E, Geoff Saunders ’09E, and Shane Shanahan ’05E were members of ensembles that won Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, Best Bluegrass Album, and Best World Music Album, respectively.  Charles Pillow, assistant professor of jazz saxophone, won the Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom.

In March, we welcomed David Skorton, the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, for a panel discussion on “Humanities, Art, and the Future of the City.”  He joined Bruce Barnes (George Eastman Museum), Kate Bennett (Rochester Museum and Science Center), and Jamal Rossi (Eastman School of Music) for the event, sponsored by the University’s Humanities Center.

The Photonics Venture Challenge, a priority project for the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, will launch an annual startup competition based at the University of Rochester’s High Tech Rochester Business Accelerator in the Sibley Building.  This will be the largest startup accelerator and competition in the world that focuses on growth in the emerging field of optics, photonics, and imaging.

Late in 2016 the Memorial Art Gallery received a $3.5 million commitment from a generous patron for the expansion, renovation, and perpetual support of the museum’s Grand Gallery.  This gift was the largest the museum has received in its 104-year history.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation approved a grant of $1 million to the University to support a multi-level initiative designed to increase undergraduate interest in the humanities.


Several of our faculty received outstanding recognition, including:

Lynne Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Service Alumni Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, in June will receive the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International RNA Society for her pioneering contributions to understand RNA, her commitment to mentoring researchers, and her advocacy for young women in the sciences

Nina Schor, the William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics and the pediatrician-in-chief at the Golisano Children’s Hospital, has been named the recipient of the Child Neurology Society’s 2017 Hower Award, the organization’s highest honor.  She was named a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

Philip W. Davidson, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Medical Center, has been elected President of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the largest and oldest scientific organization of its kind in the world.

Joseph H. Gilmore Professor of English James Longenbach and Roswell Smith Burrows Professor of English Joanna Scott are recipients of fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation, awarded for notable achievement in the arts and humanities.

Gretchen Birbeck, the Edward A. and Alma Vollertsen Rykenboer Professor in Neurology, has been chosen to serve on the Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center, which supports basic, clinical and applied medical research and training for investigators in the developing world.

Eli Eliav, Director of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, accepted the William J. Gies Award for achievement among academic dental institutions at the American Dental Education Association Conference in March.  The Gies award is considered the profession’s foremost recognition for individuals and organizations that exemplify the highest standards in oral health and dental education, research and leadership.

Stephen Sulkes, professor of development and behavioral pediatrics and co-director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, received the first-ever Golisano Global Health Leadership Award.

Sally Norton, the Independence Chair in Nursing and Palliative Care at the School of Nursing, has been awarded the Distinguished Researcher Award from the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.

LaRon Nelson, assistant professor of nursing and the Dean’s Endowed Fellow in Health Disparities, has been selected to serve as a member of the Adolescent HIV Prevention and Treatment Implementation Science Alliance, a new initiative launched by the Center for Global Health Studies at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center.  The alliance will seek to overcome implementation challenges related to prevention, screening, and treatment of HIV among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

John Tarduno, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, received the 2017 Petrus Peregrinus Medal from the European Geosciences Union.

Kevin Parker, the William F. May Professor of Engineering, and Miguel Alonso, professor of optics, each have been named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Nature Photonics picked its six all-time favorite textbooks for its 10th anniversary edition, and three of them are by Institute of Optics faculty members: Principles of Optics by Max Born and Emil Wolf, the Wilson Professor of Optical Physics and professor of optics; Nonlinear Optics by Robert Boyd, professor of optics; and Principles of Nano-Optics by Lukas Novotny, former professor and now adjunct professor of optics, and Bert Hect.


This also has been a period of outstanding student recognition and achievement.

Eleven Rochester students won Fulbright awards for 2016-17, earning Rochester the honor of being named to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright U.S. students.

Crystal Colon ’17, Brady Scholar, was awarded the Independent Sector Student Community Service Award for her commitment to community service and positive impacts on the local community.

Soprano Laura Sanders won the Friends of Eastman Opera’s annual competition for Eastman School of Music voice and opera students, held February 10 in Kilbourn Hall.  She received the Lynne Clarke Vocal Prize, donated by John Clarke in honor of his late wife, a founding member of the Friends of Eastman Opera.

Several sports teams competed on either a team or individual basis in the NCAA Division III Championships, including field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s cross country, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s indoor track and field.

Rochester men’s basketball concluded its fifth best season in more than 100 years of the team history in a loss to top-ranked Whitman College in the sectional final of the NCAA Division III tournament.  The Yellowjackets had rallied from a 12-point deficit to defeat Marietta College to advance to the Elite 8.

Our women’s basketball team also had a great season and competed in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

Alexandra Leslie, who had one of the most statistically dominant seasons in the history of women’s basketball at the University, was selected as a First Team All-American after voting by members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

Kylee Bartlett ’19 won the individual national championship in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III national championship meet.  She is the first woman in 32 years to win an NCAA title in a multi-event championship.

The University’s squash team achieved a No. 1 ranking by the College Squash Association for the first time in the Yellowjackets’ 59-year history.  Senior Ryosei Kobayashi, one of the most decorated squash players in University history, also received CSA’s Skillman Award, intercollegiate squash’s highest honor.

For the first time in University history, the Mock Trial team will advance to the national championship at the University of California, Los Angeles after qualifying in the Opening Round Championship Series in March.  Two teams of eight students will compete against the top ranked teams in the country from April 21 to April 23.

A team of University undergraduates was among six finalists at the Hult Prize regionals in San Francisco in March 2017.  The Hult Prize is the largest social entrepreneurship competition in the world and is co-sponsored by the Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative.  The Rochester students who presented as Team Meliora were Edgar Alaniz ’17, who holds the John H. Barrows Scholarship; Carlos (Yuki) González ’17, Handler Scholar; Ibrahim Mohammad ’17; and Omar Soufan ’17.  The team’s startup company, Meliora Homes, will build homes for refugees from recycled plastics.

Freshmen Emmanuel Gweamee and Aime Twizerimana were awarded a Davis Peace Project grant of $10,000. They will hold a one-week workshop in Emmanuel’s native country of Liberia this summer to teach disabled youths of voting age about the need to vote in this fall’s general election.


There is a common element both in the incredibly high quality work being done in the University community by our faculty, staff, and students and in our ongoing implementation of strategic plans.

The key to our success is people.  Let me express my gratitude to all those who make the University of Rochester the great university that it is.  Our greatest strength is our ability to watch out for each other, welcome all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, military status, or disability, honor the entire spectrum of individuals who work, research, teach, and study here. Together in recent years we have accelerated our progress as a University.  Together we will build an ever better future.