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Welcome Back: Spring 2016

January 11, 2016

Welcome back. 

The past few months have witnessed significant achievements for the University.

In July Vice President Biden presided at a ceremony in which it was announced that the University of Rochester had helped win a national competition to advance U.S. photonics manufacturing capability.  The new American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) will be headquartered in Rochester and will bring the nation’s leading talent from companies, universities, and federal research institutions together into one nationally organized system.

That same month the new Golisano Children’s Hospital, the largest construction project in our history, opened with a gleaming new facility with eight floors and 245,000 square feet of space dedicated to children and their families, including a greatly expanded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Construction continues on Wegmans Hall, a new 58,000 square-foot, four-story, state-of-the-art building named in honor of the Wegman family, which will house the Goergen Institute for Data Science.  The building will become the anchor of the new Science and Engineering Quad and provide much-needed space for collaborative research, conferences, workshops and special events.  The University will dedicate Wegmans Hall in fall 2016 and move into the Goergen Institute for Data Science and new building in early 2017.

Work also has begun on the renovation of the Frederick Douglass Building, which will enrich student life on campus.  By August 2016, we will have an upgraded dining facility and a dedicated events space for student group meetings, rehearsals, performances, and other programs.  It will also house the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center and the Language Center.

On September 8, 1,500 East High School students were welcomed by teachers and administrators who spent many months preparing for the new school year under the “All in, All the Time” model, committing their full professional efforts to a positive and successful educational experience.  The University, acting through the Warner School as the official Educational Partnership Organization, intends to transform the struggling inner city high school with a graduation rate of less than 35 percent in 2015 to a model for how to turn around our challenged public high schools. 

In December the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, co-chaired by Danny Wegman and me, won a $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative award in a nearly yearlong competition established by Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.  Among other projects we anticipate being supported by the plan are the University’s data science initiative, our Laser Lab, the Medical Center’s potential program in neurorestoration, and the Eastman School’s community music program. 

In December, further support for a key regional initiative, the Downtown Innovation Zone, was provided when the Federal Government awarded $42.5 million for New Market Tax Credits to the Sibley Building.

Strong Memorial Hospital was recognized as the only full-service hospital in upstate New York with specialty programs ranked as the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.  Four adult and three pediatric specialty programs made the list.  As of January 1, Jones Memorial Hospital and Noyes Health have officially joined UR Medicine.

With six months to go, our Meliora Challenge Campaign has reached $1.292 billion.  We are now in a race to the finish to join the most successful capital campaigns in exceeding our goal by 10 to 20 percent. 

This has also been an extraordinary year for our faculty.

A team led by Medical School professors Gretchen Birbeck, the Edward A. and Alma Vollersten Rykenboer Professor in Neurology, Michael Potchen, Brent Johnson, and Harris Gelbard was awarded $2.9 million by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes and the Fogarty International Center to study HIV care in Africa. 

James McMahon, Chair for Innovation in Health Care and associate professor at the School of Nursing, subsequently was awarded a $3 million grant to study a promising method of preventing the spread of HIV.

David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics and Director of the Center for Visual Science, was the 2015 recipient of the Sigma Xi William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement.  Past recipients have included Jane Goodall, Vannevar Bush, Margaret Mead, and Murray Gel-Mann.

Eastman School Professor Paul O’Dette, Assistant Professor Nathan Laube, and Assistant Professor Dave Rivello, along with six Eastman alumni, were nominated for this year’s Grammy awards.

The National Field Hockey Coaches Association named goalkeeper Tara Lamberti (2016) and Michelle Relin (2016) First Team All-Americans.  They are the first Rochester players to be selected as First Team All-Americans in the history of the sport at Rochester.

In November, a team of our students won the ACF Fall Quiz Bowl tournament and also received the Undergraduate Title.  The winning team included Henry Hawthorn, Jack Zhang, Paul Jaquish, and Jahvani Iyer.

Congratulations go to the Black Students’ Union for being awarded with the Boars’ Head at the 81st Annual Boars’ Head Dinner, in recognition of the organization’s work to promote student life on campus since last year’s dinner.

This academic year has brought some notable leadership changes to the University.  Peter Lennie announced that he is stepping down as provost at the end of this academic year.  He will continue to serve as the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering until June 2017.  Rob Clark, senior vice president for research and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering, will succeed Peter Lennie and become the University’s 10th provost on July 1, 2016.  On that date, Rob will end his service as Hajim School dean.

Ron Paprocki, our CFO and senior vice president for administration and finance, will retire on January 15 after 46 years at the University.  Ron has been a stalwart of our University and leaves an extraordinary legacy.  Holly Crawford, senior associate vice president for budgets and planning and who has served as deputy to Ron Paprocki, will succeed Ron as senior vice president for administration and finance.

Earlier we welcomed Elizabeth Stauderman as the University’s new vice president for Communications and Tony Kinslow as associate vice president for human resources. 

This also was a year in which the University has addressed some of the great challenges facing United States institutions generally.

On November 23, I announced the creation of the Presidential Commission on Race and Diversity.  The Commission was created after I received a petition from the Minority Student Advisory Board, the Spanish and Latino Students’ Association, the Douglass Leadership House, and the Black Students’ Union.  I have charged the Commission by the end of January to conduct town hall meetings and provide an initial assessment about the campus climate.  A final report, which will include recommendations for improvement, will be available later in the spring.

On November 20, I held an open forum to address sexual misconduct on campus and to solicit ideas from the University community for improving our campus climate.  While we have taken many constructive steps to address sexual misconduct on our campus, we will continue to seek additional ways to eliminate sexual violence on campus.  One incident of sexual misconduct on our campus is one too many.

          Several exciting events are scheduled for this spring semester, including:

          Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, will deliver the University of Rochester’s 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Address on Saturday, January 23. 

          Winterfest Weekend will take place during the final weekend in January, and will feature Winter Wonderland on Saturday, January 30, occurring inside and outside of Wilson Commons and offering free s’mores, fun, winter carnival activities, build-a-buddy, crystal imaging, indoor curling, cookie decorating, music by WRUR, an ice carving demonstration, and huskies.

On Monday, March 14, Charles Blow, New York Times columnist and CNN commentator, will give a talk sponsored by the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, the Susan B. Anthony Center, the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, the Intercultural Center, and the Office for Faculty Development & Diversity.

The 2016 Ferrari Humanities Symposia keynote speaker will be Jane Tylus, professor of Italian, comparative literature, and faculty director of the Humanities Initiative at NYU.  Her scholarship focuses on late medieval and early modern European literature, particularly Italian, and her interests are in the history of religion, translation studies, and women’s writing.  She will be on campus April 4-6.

An exhibition at Rush Rhees Library, Researching the Deguerreotype at the University of Rochester: Nanotechnology Meets Local History, showcases the results of the University’s nanotechnology research that explores the extraordinary qualities of the daguerreotype photographic process.

          Our seventh Annual Diversity Conference will take place on Friday April 8, and will feature Alicia Garza, cofounder of #BlackLivesMatter.

The University will host Distinguished Visiting Humanist Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, at MIT.  Professor Chomsky, one of the most influential thinkers and public intellectuals of our time, will be in residence from Wednesday, April 20 through Friday, April 22.  He will give a public talk, “Language, Creativity, and the Limits of Understanding” on Thursday, April 21 at 5:00 p.m.

It is a joy to welcome everyone back.  This will be an exciting semester.