I sent this message out to the UNO community last week as we began a new academic year.
I would like to welcome everyone back to campus for the 2015-16 academic year. It’s always thrilling to meet our new students, faculty and staff, and it’s a great pleasure to reconnect with others who I have not seen since the spring semester.
As we prepare for the upcoming year, I would like to get everyone caught up on some of the headlines of the past several months. As many of you are already aware, the most dire predictions about state budget cuts for Louisiana’s colleges and universities did not come true during the spring legislative session. We are thankful to state lawmakers for their creative and difficult decisions to spare higher education. We also realize that the amount of state funding budgeted for the University is never a guarantee, and we continue to look for ways to be more efficient in our operations. Rest assured that our goal is to maintain the quality of our academic programs and our student experience.
It’s been a busy and productive summer for many of you. Please allow me to cover a few highlights. To read more about each of these topics, click on the embedded links.
Some of our civil engineering and environmental engineering students returned home to Nepal to help people still suffering from April’s deadly earthquake that left hundreds of thousands homeless. In addition to raising money for the victims, these students helped design and build corrugated metal shelters before the country’s rainy monsoon season began. Under the direction of the UNO students, the Nepalese army built 27 dwellings. I am in awe of their resourcefulness and dedication.
On the academic front, English professor Anne Boyd Rioux won a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her book about the classic American novel “Little Women.” For the second straight year, computer science professor Golden Richard conducted an intensive cybersecurity training program for high school teachers from around the country. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency, has been used as a model for other universities. Mark Kulp, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, won a $225,000 grant from the U.S. Geological Survey to continue to study Louisiana’s evolving coastline. Norma Jean Mattei, professor of civil and environmental engineering, was named president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers. When she becomes president in 2017, she will be only the third woman to hold the post in the 163-year history of the organization. These are only a few of the recent accomplishments of our outstanding faculty.
I had the privilege of attending the opening ceremonies for the 40th anniversary of the UNO-Innsbruck International Summer School in Austria. Since its inception, more than 10,000 students have participated in our signature study aboard program. It was incredibly satisfying to see how our European friends celebrated the University of New Orleans and its contributions abroad.
In our continuing efforts to support our community, the University announced that the New Orleans Police Department will train its recruits at the UNO Lindy Boggs International Conference Center in the Research and Technology Park over the next two years. The NOPD will take advantage of the facility’s work and meeting space while it remodels its permanent police academy building. We are happy they’ve found a temporary home here on the Lakefront.
You may have also noticed that we have a new provost. John Nicklow began his tenure as UNO’s chief academic officer on July 1. He brings exceptional leadership and an innovative approach to his job, and I am confident that he will strengthen our institution.
The University of New Orleans has a few new rankings that validate what we already know: UNO is a superb university with outstanding people. We were named one of the world’s top universities by the Center for World University Rankings as well as one of “The Best 380 Colleges” by The Princeton Review.
Whether you are a student, a faculty member or a member of our professional staff, I would like to thank you for the part that you play in our university community. The University of New Orleans occupies a singular role in the city of New Orleans and the region’s higher education landscape—and it is a vital one. I wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling academic year.