President and Provost: Fall Welcome

To:  Members of the University Community
From:  Robert J. Zimmer, President, and Daniel Diermeier, Provost
Subject:  Fall Welcome
Date:  September 25, 2017

As we begin the new academic year, we would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new and returning faculty, students, and staff.

Those of you arriving on campus for the first time have joined an intellectual community with a distinctive history, built on the ideals of open discourse, intense and challenging inquiry and analysis, and diversity of perspectives. Those of us who have spent significant time here recognize our uncommon environment of constant intellectual challenge, an environment that has supported free and open investigation and questioning by generations of faculty, students, staff, and visitors. Our challenge is to continuously renew this environment, balancing the stewardship of an extraordinary institution with the ambition and energy to see our enduring values instantiated in new ways, reflecting the scholarly, scientific, societal, and cultural questions of our times.

Driven by the ambitions of our faculty and building on the leadership of our deans and directors, the University has approached its dual responsibilities of stewardship and ambitious evolution in multiple ways. Our educational and scholarly environment is broad and complex, and the initiatives of recent years and those underway today reflect this diversity of activity. We are successfully building powerful programs in molecular engineering and data science, connecting to a wide range of fields across the University. Expanding the departments of economics and political science, the evolution of the Harris School, and our work in the multiple areas necessary to advance school education for all children address a broad range of questions in policy and understanding social structures. The significant expansion of our arts programs as well as programs in the humanities extending the reach of this core area of the University are salient examples of the dual nature of our common task. These are but a few examples, and we would like to acknowledge the great ambition, effort, and commitment of the faculty and leaders who have made these and many other developments possible. All of our efforts contribute to specialized education, but importantly to education in the College as well, which remains a centerpiece of the distinction of the University and a reflection of its values.

One of the great challenges of leading universities throughout the world is that the excellence they strive for requires adequate financial resources. We believe that ensuring access for students independent of financial status is critical for the University to fulfill its mission. We need to continue building substantial financial aid programs to ensure that students are admitted to the College independent of their financial resources and that every student can graduate from the College without debt. Thanks to the generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends, we have been able to achieve this goal for domestic (including DACA and other undocumented) students. It is our ambition to achieve this for international students as well. Similarly, we have worked, and will continue to work, to improve our financial support for graduate and professional students throughout the University. The commitment of our alumni, parents, and friends is indispensable for providing our students with financial support and we are grateful for their philanthropic investment in our students’ success.

The University of Chicago is a citizen of the City of Chicago and very specifically of the South Side of Chicago. We continue major efforts that reflect our commitment to work with the City and the citizens, organizations, and leadership of the South Side. These initiatives support and train people in the creation of small businesses and local nonprofits, expand educational opportunities for children and adults, act in partnership with government agencies to develop evidence-based policies to address multiple urban challenges, provide outstanding medical care, spur innovation and local economic development, expand contracting with minority and women owned professional service firms, and provide important opportunities for our faculty, students, and staff to act in partnership with communities to improve the quality of life on the South Side.  Many of these initiatives have implications far beyond the City of Chicago, both nationally and internationally. We remain deeply committed to these partnerships and this work.

We are successful only to the extent that faculty, students, and staff provide the energy, imagination, and commitment to see the University flourish in ways that respect and build upon our values and history and simultaneously bring these forward to define new opportunities for research, education, and impact. We thank all of you for your ongoing efforts, contributions, and accomplishments, and wish you a productive and fulfilling year.