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UConn Advance

Austin letter outlines changes ahead
March 7, 1997

President Philip E. Austin last week sent the University community a five-page letter outlining a number of changes being planned during the next few months. A summary:

  • Administrative organization. To make more time for meetings with elected leaders, the business community and potential donors, Austin has fine-tuned the University's administrative structure, as agreed upon by the Board of Trustees. Mark Emmert, chancellor and provost for University affairs, and Leslie Cutler, chancellor and provost for health affairs, will be the principal operating officers for day-to-day operations of their respective campuses and programs.

Wilbur Jones, vice president for finance and administration, will report to Austin as chief financial officer. His responsibilities include strategic financial analysis, planning and policy advice, and budget oversight for the University. Preparation of, and responsibility for, internal operating budgets will remain with the respective chancellors.

  • Statewide University presence. In his letter, Austin reiterated his opposition to moving the West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford, instead using those UConn 2000 funds for a Student Union addition. Still, UConn needs to be a part of a proposed higher education center in Hartford. The University's space would include an administrative office to be used by UConn officers, a visitors' center, and space to teach selected courses.

Because of the president's increased need to meet with policymakers in Hartford and greet potential donors throughout the state, particularly in Fairfield County, Austin and his wife, Susan, have purchased a house in Farmington. "The Storrs house will continue as our official residence and location of appropriate functions," Austin said in the letter. "The main campus in Storrs will always remain the heart of the University and the president's office here will continue to be the official location for my activities."

  • Students. "It goes without saying that our undergraduate and graduate students and their academic pursuits are and will remain our first priority," Austin said. While freshman enrollment in Storrs is up 7 percent, Austin said he is determined to end the flood of students leaving Connecticut to go to college.
  • Technology transfer. Austin pledged not to resurrect UCEPI, which attempted to build a research park in Storrs. "Instead, we must devise simpler means to transform the fruits of research and education into useful technology that creates jobs, products and industrial growth." Austin would like to link incubator space to the Critical Technologies Program to foster fledging businesses. Technology transfers at Storrs and the UConn Health Center will be coordinated at the new Center for Science and Technology Commercialization, based at the Health Center.
  • Budget requests. Despite proposed cuts to UConn's state appropriation, Austin said in the letter that he will still pursue new options to enhance academic quality, ensure access for a variety of students, and contribute to the state's economy. A matching grant program also is among UConn's requests.

"We will continue to seek restoration of the proposed reductions to UConn's budgets and the enhancements," Austin said in the letter. "Legislative leaders, editorial boards and major corporate officials have reinforced my conviction that public investment in UConn is the best way to provide high-quality educational offerings for Connecticut citizens, enhance their quality of life, achieve economic well-being and maintain the state's competitive advantage."

  • External communications. To improve the University's visibility, officials will soon hire a public relations firm to help UConn develop a communications program highlighting strengths. "A communications program cannot substitute for failure to address deficiencies," the president said. "However, many of our excellent programs are Connecticut's best-kept secrets."
  • Academic quality. Austin said he is "deeply troubled" by recent National Research Council rankings of graduate programs, a list UConn did not generally fare well in. He said Emmert and Tom Giolas, vice provost for research and the Graduate School, are working to implement recommendations for improvements made by faculty task forces. Among the planned actions are regular program assessments by outside teams of faculty and increased national visibility of individual faculty. "We must work to improve our program quality and rankings and to ensure that sufficient resources are provided to areas of excellence," Austin said.


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