UNH in 2020

UNH in 2020 from UNH Video on Vimeo.


Mark W. Huddleston Remarks
President, University of New Hampshire

February 2, 2010

Johnson Theatre, Durham, New Hampshire
“Breaking Silos, Transforming Lives, Reimagining UNH: 
The University of New Hampshire in 2020”

Welcome to you all. I’m Mark Huddleston and I’m here this afternoon to present an overview of the University’s new strategic plan, our vision for—and roadmap to—the future of the University of New Hampshire.

Actually, it is more than that.  Because UNH touches so many people in New Hampshire and beyond—on farms and in forests, in libraries and theaters, cities and towns, in schools and hospitals, businesses large and small, in government and nonprofit organizations, and many, many other venues—this is a broad vision, one that imagines strengthening and expanding partnerships that stretch far beyond the confines of our campuses in Durham and Manchester.

It is also a bold vision, indeed an audacious vision, one that says that what we do here at UNH in the next ten years will provide a model for rest of higher education in America.

But let’s start by recognizing the people who made this vision possible by contributing their time, intelligence, and passion through a year’s worth of what could have been soporific planning meetings but were instead inspirational collaborations.
I would ask that the following people stand and remain standing:

• Members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee 

• Members of the Strategic Planning Working Groups

• Participants in the Strategic Planning Round Tables

And finally, participants in our Strategic Planning open forums

Before I tell you exactly WHAT these people have wrought, let me say a word about WHY they were willing to devote so much time and energy to the task.

It is a reasonable question to ask why otherwise busy and intelligent people would be willing to do this. After all, strategic planning isn’t on the face of it a particularly attractive assignment; nor is it one that resonates to usual academic frequencies.

The answer is that we all were persuaded—still ARE persuaded—that UNH is poised at a genuinely historic juncture.  The reigning paradigm of higher education, hallowed and beloved though it is, is broken.  It is not equipped to withstand the turbulence to which it is being subjected, turbulence created by economic, political, and demographic forces far beyond our control.

The paradox is that to preserve that which we most prize, including our commitments to the values of discovery, engagement, resourcefulness, effectiveness, and community embedded in our existing Academic Plan—we have to change.

Predictions of crisis are easy to come by, of course, and thus easy to dismiss.  In fact, I know that many people at UNH, having heard year after year how bad things are, probably suffer from Chronic Crisis Fatigue.

But this really is different.  I’m not talking now just about whether or not we can make our budget targets next year.

Instead, I’m talking about the survival of institutional character and the values at the heart of who we are.

Let me show you a simple graph, one that literally keeps me up at night, to help make my point.*

The scale on the bottom, the x-axis, displays time, while the y-axis running up the side shows dollars. What this graph IS GOING TO SHOW you is UNH’s affordability—or loss of affordability—over the past 30-odd years.

In 1978, the cost of attendance for a year at UNH for a New Hampshire resident was less than $2,600.  For a typical New Hampshire family sending a student to UNH, that would have meant paying about 40 percent of their after-tax income for tuition, fees, room and board.

Over the past three decades, IF the cost of attendance at UNH had tracked with that figure—40 percent of after-tax income—that same UNH alumna or alumnus from the Class of ’82, might now be sending a son or daughter to UNH and expecting a bill of about $13,700 in 2010.  Again, that’s $13,700 for tuition, fees, room and board in 2010.

In fact, we know the reality is rather different.

This YELLOW line is based on real data through 2010, and then data extrapolated through 2020. As you can see, THERE IS A LARGE AND GROWING GAP between that constant 40 percent buying power and the reality of our actual cost curve.  Instead of a bill for $13,700, the family is facing one for just under $22,000. This means they will spend around 60 percent of their after-tax annual income for their son or daughter to spend a year at UNH. And that’s BEFORE they factor in paying for food, shelter, healthcare and other necessities. By 2020, other things being equal, that number jumps to 75 percent of disposable income. And, again, this is just for a SINGLE child.


Real optimists in the audience may think that the state or federal government will come riding to the rescue.  But that sort of optimism is borne out neither by the historical record in New Hampshire nor by any serious analysis of the fiscal condition of American government. 

Well, how about bold and aggressive fundraising?  Can’t private philanthropy bridge this gap?  Certainly fundraising has a role, and I’ll talk more about that in a minute.  But here’s a sobering statistic:  Even if our endowment were five times larger than it is now—and even if it were dedicated to nothing except financial aid—it wouldn’t be big enough to pay even our CURRENT financial aid budget.  Fundraising alone, therefore, is not the answer.

So, where does that leave us?  There are really only two choices.  Either we change the paradigm and bring the curves together through a creative combination of new revenue generation and meaningful cost containment, OR…we go out of business.

Let me repeat that:  Either we change the paradigm or we go out of business.

Again, this is not simply another year-ahead worry about UNH’s budget.  It is about our ability to remain viable in the face of a gap between cost and ability to pay that grows into a true chasm when one looks ahead more than a year or two.

Personally, I’m not keen to disappear, nor I suspect are any of you in this room.  Neither are any of the many people outside this room who depend directly or indirectly on the good work that UNH does. 

Our missions are too important.

But mission alone doesn’t guarantee survival. Nor do any of our past accomplishments. As John Temple might point out, no institution, no matter how revered and storied, can afford to be complacent.

And who is John Temple?  He was the last editor of the Rocky Mountain News, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, founded in 1859, seven years before the University of New Hampshire.  The Rocky Mountain News closed its doors for the last time last year.

Even institutions with important missions need to adapt to turbulent environments.

I don’t mention these examples—or show you these graphs—in an effort to keep YOU up at night, too.  But I do want you to know what has so focused my attention, and the attention of the people who shaped this strategic plan, on the first choice—on changing the paradigm.

We have got to get beyond asking our students and their families to work more days each year to pay our bills. We also need to get beyond asking one another simply to make do with less.

We need to re-imagine our future.

That’s what this strategic plan is about.

Let’s start our re-imagining now, and cast our minds forward to a day in June 2020 in Durham, Manchester, and beyond.

Student voiceover #1: “It’s the summer term in the year 2020 and
a Carsey Institute intern is preparing to
go to Ghana…”

Student voiceover #2: “Meanwhile, a marine science graduate
student just back from field work in New

Faculty voiceover: “At the new Center for the Arts, faculty from
across the university work with staff and
student volunteers...”

I LIKE looking at that vision of the future.  It sure beats my depressing graphs.

This strategic plan has three sections.  I think of them, in shorthand, as first, requisites for change; second, programmatic initiatives and third, brick and mortar investments.

Some may be tempted to flip quickly through the first section because it doesn’t call for spending any new money or launching any sexy new programs.  That would be a mistake.  In many respects, this first foundational section is really the heart of the strategic plan.  Included here are what we call FIVE REQUISITES FOR CHANGE

These are five categories of things—hard things, because they involve changes in culture and practice—that we believe we need to do before we can be successful at anything else.

What are these five things?

First, we call for a deep and meaningful commitment to INTERDISCIPLINARITY.  As one observer put it, the world has problems, universities have departments.  Neither we nor our many constituencies can afford such siloing any more.  Not only do we need to be seriously institutionally interdisciplinary, we need our interdisciplinarity to be fluid and plastic, so that we do not break up one set of silos simply to build another.

Second, we call for a REDEFINITION OF SCHOLARLY PRACTICES AND SCHOLARLY REWARDS, one that genuinely integrates the worlds of teaching, research and engagement.  Two decades ago, Carnegie Foundation president Ernie Boyer wrote:  “The aim of education is not only to prepare students for productive careers, but also to enable them to live lives of dignity and purpose; not only to generate new knowledge, but to channel that knowledge to humane ends; not merely to study government, but to help shape a citizenry that can promote the common good.” 

As we begin a new century, we need more fully to realize that vision.

Third, we ask that everything we do at UNH be rededicated to the SPIRIT OF ENTERPRISE, by which we mean that we challenge ourselves in everything we do to adopt fresh perspectives, seize promising opportunities, tackle new problems, reward innovation, and recognize untapped markets. One member of the strategic planning group said that UNH needs to become known for its “nimbility.” That’s not actually a word, but it probably should be—and it DOES capture the essence of this requisite.

Fourth, we need to think differently about TIME AND SPACE. The current academic calendar, where we meet two or three times a week, fifteen weeks per semester, two semesters per year, is not, in fact, derived from an immutable law of nature or embedded in the U.S. Constitution.  Instead, it is an increasingly dysfunctional throwback to the agricultural needs and pedagogical styles of an earlier century, serving no one particularly well. Our students—and even some of us—live in a 24/7 world that almost fits in an iPhone. We need to put that new reality at the heart of how, when and where we do what we do.

Finally, we need to REALIGN OUR BUDGET SYSTEM.  Responsibility Center Management has done a fine job pushing responsibility for managing resources out to colleges and other line units, which is where most responsibility belongs.  RCM has failed, however, to give us sufficient capacity to steer the institution as a whole.  We are like a ship with scores of independently operated rudders.  We require greater balance if we are to achieve our strategic purposes.

So, those are the foundations, the requisites for change.  When you read the plan, I would urge you to ponder them carefully, and, in the months and years ahead to embrace them, because it is there that our real salvation lies.

Now, I’d like to talk about the second section of the plan, which outlines specific INITIATIVES, really categories of initiatives, all of which are meant to extend and give structure to the spirit of the foundational elements. There are eight.

The first, we call the New Ventures Fund.  This is, as the name suggests, a fund for new ventures, administered by the provost, with the advice of a faculty council, designed to seed promising, innovative, enterprising, and interdisciplinary teaching, research and engagement projects.  Examples of such projects are endless, of course, but suggestions have already been made for new interdisciplinary schools in marine science and ocean engineering, earth systems science, and public, community, and international service.  Another possibility, a “sustainability academy,” would extend the university’s leadership in the “greening” of American higher education.

A second set of initiatives provides some balance to the first.  Although we clearly have a strong and growing commitment to collaborative research, we also recognize the obvious: that many of our faculty and students will continue to work alone, within and across the bounds of current disciplines.  For many of these scholars, especially those in the arts and humanities, external funding is rarely available.  To ensure continued strength in these areas, which are core to the university and its missions, we will increase and stabilize funding for both faculty and students for travel, summer support, and internal grants to provide uninterrupted time for research and writing.

Our third category of initiatives is aimed at making UNH an even more global institution.  We will accomplish this both by expanding programs and funding that bring New Hampshire to the world, and by expanding those that bring the world to New Hampshire. Study abroad, enriched language offerings, recruitment of international students and faculty, exchange programs, alliances with partners abroad:  All of these and more must become routine elements of life at UNH.

As the face of our nation changes, so must the face of UNH. A fourth set of initiatives is aimed at reinforcing our commitment to greater inclusive excellence.  We need to redouble our efforts to recruit a more diverse faculty, staff, and student body.  This commitment serves many objectives, including ensuring that the University of New Hampshire fulfills its obligations to historically underserved populations, providing opportunities for all members of our community to engage with people whose cultures and life experiences are different from their own, and positioning UNH to take advantage of sizeable demographic shifts in the nation’s college-going population. 

Our fifth set of initiatives is aimed at ensuring that UNH lives up to the commitment we make to every incoming student:  Namely, that we are a learning-centered institution.  Students are, and always will be, our raison d’être. We commit to fueling the fire of their curiosity and enriching their learning, in class and out, providing new, enhanced, and integrated academic, travel, research, engagement, and professional experiences for all UNH students.

One specific—and very exciting—way to keep our commitment to be a learning centered institution is through a sixth initiative, which is the creation of what we call a LEARNING PORTALor the LeaP, as we’ve styled it.  LeaP is best thought of as a virtual, or digital, repository of “learning objects”— theme‐based lectures, exercises, assignments, data, or digitized media that can be accessed, adapted, and used by anyone on campus through a wide array of creative interfaces. 

Need some background on climate-change in New Hampshire for your English 401 presentation on New England history? Just LeaP BEFORE you look!

The seventh set of initiatives recognizes that higher education in the decades ahead will be even less restricted to the traditional college-age cohort than it is presently.  UNH needs to strengthen its longstanding role as the state’s flagship public university and valued Partner for Life with the citizens of New Hampshire. In the coming decade, we will build on our missions as a land grant, sea grant and space grant institution, enhance our wide array of outreach programs and multiply opportunities for people to interact with the University and its boundless resources.

Closely associated with the need for UNH to be a partner for life, is the imperative for UNH to turn its considerable intellectual capital into commercial opportunities, both to expand our own resource streams and to enhance economic development and job creation for the people of New Hampshire.  Herein lies our eighth set of initiatives.  Although we have a lot more work to do in this regard, I’m pleased to report that, as with many of our other initiatives, we’ve already made some real progress, strengthening our research office, working to build new incubator capacity, and exploring an affiliation with Franklin Pierce Law Center, one of the nation’s most highly regarded programs in intellectual property law.

So far, what I’ve been describing to you is a university without bounds, an institution committed to innovation and “nimbility.” But a university without bounds needn’t be a university without place. Indeed, we are, if nothing else, a rooted university, planted firmly in the flinty soil and rich culture of northern New England.  Thus, the critical third component of our strategic plan is a commitment to improve our PLACE, to make the capital investments essential to do our good, innovative, and enterprising work.

Let’s face it: whether we grew up in New Durham, New Hampshire or New Delhi, India, most of us chose to come to—and stay at—UNH at least in part because . . . it is beautiful. We love this place, its look and feel.

It inspires us to walk across the Great Lawn, to study for the hundredth time the murals in Ham Smith, to see our history reflected in the brickwork at the Millyard, to listen to the snap of the flag in the wind while playing Frisbee in front of T-Hall, to ponder the soaring magnificence of Stoke Hall at sunrise. 

Just kidding about that last one. 

Seriously, when I first came to UNH, I was awed by the campus’s beauty, its built and natural environments.

But I also quickly became aware of what we still need to do.

Fortunately, I was not alone in that awareness.  

Less than two years ago, alumnus Peter T. Paul committed $25 million to the creation of a new business college at UNH. Peter’s generous challenge is important both because we desperately need the facility and because it elevated our collective awareness of the transformational impact that private support can have on the University of New Hampshire.  We are scheduled to break ground on the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics in the summer of 2011. 

Other priorities—and this is NOT an exhaustive list—include the construction of modern facilities for our Psychology Department, a much needed expansion of our urban campus in Manchester, completion of the Parsons Hall project, and renovation of one of our existing architectural gems, Hamilton Smith Hall. We also need, at last, to realize the master plan for athletics and campus recreation, building out the stadium and creating a new Performance and Wellness Center for the entire community.

But that’s not all.  The University of New Hampshire has rightly prided itself on being a center of arts and culture in New Hampshire.  Our choral groups, theater programs, musical ensembles, and dance troupes are exquisite.  They feed the soul, not just of UNH, but of everyone who experiences them. 

But think about where this great talent performs. Our arts community deserves better.  We all NEED better.  No one should have to have advanced proficiency in geo-caching just to find our outstanding Museum of Art.

Consequently, I am delighted to report that the most universally embraced goal to emerge from our planning process is the construction of a new Center for the Arts. Imagine that:  A venue finally worthy of its inhabitants, with studio, exhibit, teaching, and performance spaces that encourage and celebrate creativity, a venue that connects, like a high power line, the artistic talent of our faculty and students with the artistic hunger not only of the Seacoast community, but of the world.  That’s inspiring.

That’s also, some might say, staggering.  How can the University of New Hampshire, an institution that runs on fumes at the best of times, contemplate such initiatives?  Isn’t this a bit like Cinderella dreaming of going to the Prince’s ball—without the help of a fairy godmother?

If I believed that, I wouldn’t be standing here.  Let me remind you:  The most important tasks before us—granted, the HARDEST tasks before us, those foundational elements I ticked off earlier—don’t require any money.  They require resolve, a steadfast commitment to change our culture.  We can do that.

And when we get that right, we’ll find the resources to do many of the other things that we want to do.

Ultimately, though, it is true that only a broad, unprecedented capital campaign—an infusion of new dollars from committed alumni and friends—can make all of our visions a reality. And that, too, will require a massive cultural change, one that sees us CREATE at UNH a culture of philanthropy.  I’ve been talking about building a culture of philanthropy for the two and a half years that I’ve been here and I will continue to talk about it—and work at it—until we make it happen.

Today, only a handful of universities can plan and execute capital campaigns capable of raising hundreds of millions of dollars — even a billion dollars — over the course of a decade. UNH must now join that circle.

Is that really possible, given UNH’s rather modest record of fundraising in its first nearly century and a half of existence?

Yes, it is.  It emphatically is.

Let me cite three facts, which I find bracing to recall:

First, UNH has over 123,000 living alumni, almost all of whom love this place.  They have simply never been asked in any sort of systematic or compelling way to help.

Second, beyond our loyal alumni, New Hampshire is home to a lot of people whose quality of life is buoyed by the good work undertaken at UNH. Again, we need to do a much better job than we have done to date connecting those individuals to the university.

Third, many other colleges and universities, including flagship publics in New England and other comparators, routinely raise far more private dollars than we do.  Although disappointing to report in one sense, I actually draw hope and sustenance from that fact.  If they can do it, we can do it too. In fact, once we get our culture of philanthropy fully in place, we can do even better.

We have to.

I could go on, but for now, I won’t.

Instead, let me address what is probably the main question on many of your minds:  So what exactly are the next steps? What do we do with this vision once we leave this room this afternoon?

You know, this is a hockey savvy university in a hockey savvy state, so let me launch a metaphor from just across the blue line. 

What we could do now is make a dash for the puck, which is what the crowd, including the higher education crowd, is always inclined to do. 

Instead, what we at UNH must do is follow Wayne Gretzky’s immortal advice:  We need now, and always, to “skate to where the puck is GOING to be.”

That’s sort of a Zen idea, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it.  We need to stay loose, but focused.  We need to adapt.  Anticipate.  Forge our own future through game-changing speed, teamwork, and . . . “nimbility.”

That’s the spirit we are taking away from the strategic planning process and the spirit we will apply to what follows.

That spirit is real.  The “buzz”—and that’s the word that people routinely used—generated among the participants in the planning process was palpable.  And it wasn’t just excitement about the product that created the buzz.  It was the process itself.

I lost count months ago of the number of people who told me that their involvement in the planning process was a singular—and very positive—experience.  They said that it was the first time since they had been at UNH that they had met so many colleagues from so many different departments, the first time they had seen faculty, staff, students, trustees, and community members work together so seamlessly, the first time such large, consequential questions about our collective future were addressed in such an open, democratic, bottom-up fashion. 

This was shared governance in action—the key to the strength and resilience of American universities.

We are going to hold on to that process and keep that buzz going.  In the weeks and months ahead, you are all going to be invited to come together and take these initiatives to the next level.  Whether your passions include diversity or internationalization or performing arts or athletics . . . we have a place for you. All of you. Provost John Aber, working with other members of the cabinet, leaders of the Faculty Senate, staff councils, student government, directors of our governing and philanthropic boards, folks in the community, will be organizing task forces in each of these areas, to put flesh on bone.

And it IS critical that you say “yes” to this invitation to participate.  This planning process has never been about a small group making “to do” lists for other people. It’s about all of us making a common “to do” list for ourselves.

Where will I be?  Well, in spirit, always here, on each of those task forces, helping to move this strategic plan forward.  My body, though, is likely to be sending you dispatches, wistfully, from elsewhere, as I take to the road to share the excitement of what is happening at the University of New Hampshire and ask for the support of our many alumni and friends.

Meanwhile, I want to thank you for coming today.   Thank you for all you have done to make this such a special place.  And thank you for all you WILL do to make it even better.

*The information showing the unsustainable increase in the cost of a UNH education in the president’s strategic plan speech and corresponding chart showing the unsustainable increase in the cost of a UNH education was based on “per capita disposable income” rather than “household disposable income.” The amended information provides a more accurate comparison of the relative cost of attendance in 1979 and 2009, but it also illustrates a more dramatic rate of increase in cost of attendance relative to median family income. The updated information is below:

In 1979, the cost for a NH family to send their child to UNH was $2,750 which comprised approximately 16% of their household income. In 2009, a family living in NH would have to spend 28% of their household income to send their child to UNH and if trends continue, in 2020 the cost to attend UNH will comprise over 40% of their family’s household income.