BOT subcommittee discusses UI LABS, upcoming transitional period for University

By Andrew Nowak

The Board of Trustees subcommittee on Governance, Personnel and Ethics met Thursday to discuss updates on the search for the next University president and Chicago campus chancellor and the groundbreaking of the UI LABS innovation institute in Chicago.

Lawrence Schook, U of I Vice President for Research, presented a report on UI LABS, which recently broke ground on a new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute located on Goose Island.

Gov. Pat Quinn, State Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel were among several government officials who attended the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning in Chicago.

The interior of the current building will be modularly constructed. The 94,000 square-foot facility will house a digital manufacturing lab, instructional and meeting spaces and traditional office space.

Trustee Pamela Strobel discussed how the Goose Island area is currently experiencing a resurgence.

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“That area is being developed, it is like an economic corridor right now,” Strobel said. “There is still open space, so there will be some park land in front of the building, but there will also be other development that will continue to go on there.”

Strobel talked about how this development would act as a draw for this facility.

“It is surrounded by great residential areas, so it will be very attractive,” Strobel said. “Especially for the people we want working in there, which will be the younger people coming out of universities and new employees going to work for some of the new light manufacturing and advanced manufacturing firms that are being moved back to Chicago.”

Various partners provided $250 million to the project. The University is also working with the Department of Defense, which has contributed $70 million to the project.

Construction is set to start in mid-November and be completed by March 2015. Schook said that with all of the stakeholders involved and their various expectations, it is nice to be given a timeline to work with by the Department of Defense.

Donald Chambers, professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the Chicago campus, gave a presentation on shared governance as the University approaches a transitional period with presidential and chancellor appointments. Additionally, he briefed the University Senate Conference’s goals for 2014 to 2015.

“We have impending the appointment of a new president, we have impending the appointment of a new chancellor for the UIC campus, and we have impending the appointment of a vice chancellor for health affairs to deal with health enterprise,” Chambers said.

Chambers said these appointments will lead to an era of transition and change.

“Transition leads to stress, and stress leads to discomfort,” Chambers said. “And whatever we can do short of giving everyone Valium and other anti-anxiolytics, whatever we can do to promote and facilitate the ease of stress is something we want to do.”

Goals for the University Senates Conference included continuing work to “promote and enhance understanding and interactions between” the Board of Trustees, University administration and faculty, along with easing transition, completing the review of University Statutes, and participating “in the design of the impending University strategic plan,” according to Chambers’ presentation.

Strobel said the University continues to make progress in the presidential search and that the selection is on track to be announced by the end of the semester.

University President Robert Easter said that the search committee for the new UIC chancellor has narrowed down its candidates, who they plan to interview next week.

Strobel also announced the results of a self-evaluation survey completed by the Board of Trustees.

She said the scores were highest for the performance of the Board’s office and on the personal commitment of the trustees.

Lower scores were given when trustees were questioned about the involvement of the board in the work of the Alumni Association and University Foundation.

“It is not really saying anything terribly negative about either one of those (organizations), the question was phrased in a way ‘are they (Alumni Association and University Foundation) getting the trustees involved in their particular mission’,” Strobel said. “Raising funds, being involved with alumni, etc., and I think we gave lowest scores there.”

Trustee Karen Hasara ended the meeting stating she had just come from a press conference announcing that the first five games of the University’s men’s basketball 2015 to 2016 season would be played at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield due to ongoing renovations at Urbana’s State Farm Center.

“So Springfield is very, very excited about that,” Hasara said. “It will be good for our campus and good for our community.”

Andrew can be reached at [email protected].