Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Provost Ilesanmi Adesida host town hall

By Maggie Sullivan

After a year of both struggles and successes, the University is looking ahead to a new year and new initiatives. 

Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Provost Ilesanmi Adesida held a town hall meeting Thursday to address the community on the past academic year and the University’s future.

“We are a destination, a global destination, for education and research,” Wise said. “I am very privileged to serve as your chancellor.”

Wise and Adesida announced construction of one of the largest new solar farms in the nation, 150 new faculty hires, a campus wide expansion of fundraising activities and a five percent rise in four-year graduation rate for underrepresented students over the last year.

“We have accomplished some amazing things in these past couple of years,” Adesida said. “We must move forward strategically and steadily, especially in these difficult times.”

Wise also announced a partnership with Edelman, a marketing firm, to work on the University’s image.

“One recurring statement I hear every time I talk with someone about our University is ‘I didn’t know Illinois did that,’” Wise said. “We need to figure out together who we are, what our big distinctive ideas are, what we want to be in the future and how we get from here to there.”

While the University has made strides in fulfilling its strategic plan for the next five years, Wise said, there are still big concerns for the future – namely, the University’s budget.

“This looms heavy on us,” Wise said. “It’s been a topic of discussion at all of the council dean meetings, all of the faculty meetings and the academic senate.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner has already approved a 2.1 percent reduction of fiscal funds for the current fiscal year, ending June 30. Wise said these reductions will likely be absorbed by the University administration and the campus administration, to protect colleges and students.

Wise said now the University is focused on Rauner’s proposal to cut the University’s state funding by 31.5 percent, or $208 million.

“We will continue to work with legislators and the governor to stress what a huge impact this will have on our mission as a University,” Wise said.

Legislators will visit the University in May to discuss the “drastic” budget with administrators, Wise said.

“Thirty-one point five percent is truly Draconian,” she said. “We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best, but it’s really important for us to stay focused on our long term vision and strategic plan to maintain our position across the globe.”

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