UNH Logo

2023 State of the University Address

President James W. Dean Jr.

Feb. 14, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to the 2023 State of the University address.

  • Thanks to all of you here in person or watching online.

  • A special welcome to the members of the Granite State College community, who are joining the UNH family this year.

  • And greetings to everyone at the Franklin Pierce School of Law and UNH Manchester who have gathered together to watch. 

As I begin my formal remarks, I’d like to share a short video that shows some of our highlights from 2022. It is a remarkable tribute to our community. 


Thank you to everyone who contributed to the video, and to the entire UNH community for all of the accomplishments portrayed.

I am consistently inspired by your dedication and by your
contributions to our university and to the great state of New Hampshire.

Traditionally, the State of the University address is when we look back on the past year, consider the present and share our plans for future success.

Today, I would like to look back a bit further -- to our birth, and to our original mission and purpose as an institution.

When UNH was founded in 1866, our mission was to offer education in agriculture and the mechanical arts to serve our state.

In fact, our original name was the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanical Arts. This was consistent with the purpose of the Morrill Act, which established the nation’s federal land-grant college system.

One hundred years ago, in 1923, we became the University of New Hampshire. It’s interesting to look back 100 years ago, and to consider how far we have come.

Although our founding mission remained, the state law that recognized us as a university added a clause stating that we would “prosecute such researches as may be necessary and desirable in the education of youth and the advancement and the development of the arts, the sciences and the industries.”

I should immediately note that “prosecute such researches” means to carry out research. Nobody actually wanted to prosecute researchers, at least as far as I know.

But what did it mean to officially recognize research as part of our mission – and to expand the scope of our education more broadly in the sciences and the arts?

In short, it was an enhancement of our calling.

  • It meant that we made a deeper, broader, more enduring commitment to expanding the excellence of our undergraduate and graduate education.

  • It allowed us to fully embrace a diverse and growing number of disciplines.

  • It directed us to pursue the highest levels of excellence in our research, and in the quality of the faculty and staff that we attracted.

  • It challenged us to create new and innovative solutions to the biggest challenges facing New Hampshire as well our nation and the world.  

Our mission as a university has served us well ever since. It has guided and united us through eras of tremendous turmoil and change:

  • The Great Depression, several recessions, two world wars and other conflicts.

  • The vital, and as yet unfinished, fights for civil rights, equality and justice.

  • More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we are not out of the woods yet, our successful response reflects the proud tradition of innovation and compassion across our community.


As 2023 begins, UNH and the nation’s higher education institutions are confronting unprecedented and existential challenges. Headwinds that are causing many to question the relevance, value and sustainability of higher education institutions.

I don’t imagine that they are new to you…

  1. Demographics – The nation’s college-going population is expected to drop roughly 15 percent from 2025-2029. And the Northeast will be one of the hardest hit regions.

  1. Other challenges include:

  • increased competition and alternative paths to a degree,

  • the impact of high inflation on the budgets of families, businesses and institutions like ours

  • and challenges to international enrollment caused by COVID and changes in US visa policy.

All of these represent significant challenges to us as we continue to pursue our mission and strategic priorities.

Yet, I am filled with tremendous confidence and faith in our community. And I continue to be excited about the bright future that we are creating together.

Today, you will hear about some of the powerful work that we are pursuing across our university. The planning we did as a community several years ago has given us a clear and enduring blueprint to drive our success.


In 2019, the UNH community convened across our campuses to help us to prepare for the headwinds that were gathering on the horizon. This was one of the most inspiring community-wide efforts that I have ever been part of, and it showed what an exceptional university this is.

The result of our efforts was The Future of UNH strategic plan. It is rooted in our university’s founding mission, and it focuses our efforts in four priority areas.

Each priority area has an aspiration, along with detailed initiatives, which you can find on The Future of UNH website.

In the interest of time, I won’t read each aspiration, but they will appear on the screen here. I will also share a few of the initiatives and accomplishments under each.

Embrace New Hampshire 

We will begin with the Embrace New Hampshire priority, which is our commitment to the Granite State.


UNH will work hard to make everyone in New Hampshire incredibly proud of their flagship public university. Students will grow up here wanting to come to UNH, and it will be the first choice for the best and brightest students from New Hampshire and around the world. UNH will build collaborations that support New Hampshire’s economy and quality of life, sustainability and resilience and will be a trusted, valuable and consistent partner.

  • I’ll illustrate this priority with a video that shows some of the remarkable UNH partners and projects that several UNH leaders visited during a two-day bus tour of New Hampshire last fall.

In all, we made nine stops, from the Great Bay to Rochester, then north of the notches to Gorham and Littleton and, finally, south to the Lakes Region and Concord. It was an extraordinary opportunity to better understand how deeply UNH supports our state, and to meet the people who work with us in partnership to Embrace New Hampshire.

Let’s see the video.

I love how the tour reflected the reach of our mission today -- education, research and outreach that we deliver across so many diverse sectors and regions of the Granite State.

Enhance Student Success and Well-Being 

Our next priority, Enhance Student Success and Well-Being, focuses on the entire student experience and our work to support them in becoming healthy, engaged citizens in their communities after they graduate.


UNH will ensure that all students graduate on time and are engaged and ethical global citizens. They will be prepared to thrive in their first jobs and throughout their careers. UNH will become a national leader in designing the educational experience from the first year to graduation.

  • Last spring, Governor Sununu signed bipartisan legislation that will complete our merger with Granite State College in July of this year. This is an important step forward in our work to increase academic and professional training options for students throughout their lives, and it will help us to grow New Hampshire’s workforce in areas of high demand.

  • Graduating from UNH into a great career is a clear measure of success. I am proud to say that an increasing number of employers are coming to UNH to recruit our students. In fact, 94 percent of our recent graduates are working, in public service or pursuing advanced degrees shortly after they graduate.

    Here is a
    brief video that shows how our Career and Professional Success office works with partners across New Hampshire to hire UNH students.

  • In addition to preparing students for great careers, we want to ensure our students’ overall well-being, which includes their mental health. As you know, the challenges associated with COVID included a tremendous increase in student mental health issues across the country, including here in New Hampshire. We are launching this year a comprehensive support system for student mental health, in coordination with Plymouth State University and Keene State College.

Expand Academic and Research Excellence 

Our Academic and Research Excellence priority calls on UNH to be recognized globally for our outstanding teaching, learning and research.


UNH will attract increasingly strong and diverse students and faculty from across the country and abroad. The university will be known and respected for the high caliber of teaching, research and advising in its academic programs. Its distinguished research, scholarship and doctoral education will be recognized worldwide, including its contributions to global sustainability challenges.

  • We have attracted record support and recognition for our research excellence from NASA. Early last year, UNH gained national attention when NASA awarded us $250 million to study turbulence in solar wind and space plasmas. This is our largest grant ever from NASA. And it will engage our faculty, students and staff in the coming years in studying the effects of solar forces on the space around our planet.

  • This past year, we also received a generous gift from YAS Foundation. This will establish the Nossrat Yassini Poetry Festival, a UNH poet in residence position and a graduate student scholarship in poetry. It is wonderful to see this kind of support for the humanities. Thank you, Rouzbeh and Pamela.

  • Today, it is my honor to announce that Dana Hamel is contributing $20 million to renovate Huddleston Hall, the new home for Hamel Scholars and Honors College students, and to provide additional scholarship funds for the Hamel Scholars. Because this astounding gift greatly benefits our students and enhances the future of New Hampshire, we are pleased to name the Honors College for him, and his family.

  •  I met recently with Dana. It was incredibly moving and inspiring to talk with him about how important his contributions are for UNH and for our state. I would like to share a brief video of Dana sharing his vision for the new honors college.

  • Thank you, Dana! The generosity of you and your family has transformed the lives of thousands of UNH students. And it will support generations to come.

Build Financial Strength 

Financial strength is a priority that challenges us to use our resources wisely, sustainably and with a focus on delivering value to our students and partners. It is the foundation on which our other priorities rest.


UNH will be a national leader in long-term cost management, sustainable investing and aligning its budget and resources with its strategic priorities. UNH will become more accessible and affordable for students by diversifying revenue sources and managing resource use and expenses. UNH will meet the full range of student needs by providing world-class faculty, facilities and organization.

  • In 2022, we raised a record $79 million, supported by one of the highest rates of alumni participation in our history. Thank you to our donors and to our Advancement team!

Here are two examples of what generous donors are helping us to make possible:

  1. For the fifth year in a row, we are offering the Granite Guarantee, which provides free in-state tuition to New Hampshire students whose families are Pell-eligible. This covers roughly 2,000 students who might never have been able to afford to attend college otherwise.

  1. The USNH Board of Trustees recently voted to freeze in-state tuition for the academic year beginning next fall. This will mark the fifth year in a row that we have frozen in-state tuition. That means that any New Hampshire undergraduate student who graduates next year will have paid the same tuition over the last four years.

  • This past year, we revamped our budget process for the 2024 fiscal year. We also established a new financial organization for future years. This effort will transform our business systems to a modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Planning and contracting has already begun, and we expect the ERP to be fully implemented in 2027.

    I understand there will be a lot of questions about this change. My promise to you is that we will collaborate with stakeholders across the university system on their key needs. This is already happening. We will complete comprehensive system testing and offer detailed training. And we will keep you posted on our progress.


I opened this State of the University address with a look back on our founding mission as a university. Along with our Future of UNH strategy, our historic mission continues to inspire remarkable success for UNH and for the state of New Hampshire.

We are outperforming expectations in virtually every area, including enrollment, philanthropy and research. I encourage you to learn more about our plans at the Future of UNH website.

There, you can also find updates on the key metrics that we are using to show progress toward our goal of being one of the top 25 public universities in the nation in the most important measures of academic performance.

I am particularly pleased, for instance, to see that our national rank for students participating in internships and other high-impact opportunities rose from 36th to 21st over the past year. This is great confirmation of the results that our strategy is inspiring.

In 2023, we will continue to deliver remarkable achievements with ongoing and new initiatives that are guided by our strategic pillars. I will share a few highlights:

  • We will do everything possible to continue to make UNH more affordable for our students, especially those with the greatest financial need.

  • We will continue to plan for an exciting project to expand our research enterprise, workforce development efforts and business partnerships. The Edge research complex would expand a partially developed commercial site on the western edge of campus. It could also provide room to add housing for graduate students and young professionals.

  • This project has tremendous potential to be one of the most exciting research and job-creating initiative for UNH in years.

I would like to show you one final video to help you envision The Edge.

These are just a few highlights of what our community can, and will, accomplish together.

The Edge research park, the Hamel Honors and Scholars College, our ongoing efforts around workforce development and our continued focus on making UNH more affordable for students are part of a bigger, brighter future for us and for our state.

As Dana Hamel has said, “New Hampshire’s strongest asset is the University of the New Hampshire.” I could not agree more. 

These initiatives, along with many others across our campuses and in our outreach programs, make us stronger as a community. They will help us to meet, and to overcome, even the strongest headwinds. Together, we will build a great Future of UNH in 2023.

Here are a few points of pride and new initiatives:

  • On April 4 this year, our community is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pride and Pancake Breakfast as well as the 50th anniversary of UNHs first Gay Student Organization. These anniversaries reflect our historic support of the LBGTQ+ community. I would also like to remind everyone that February is Black History Month, and you can find a robust schedule of opportunities to participate on the UNH DEI website.

  • In 2022, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Sustainability Institute, which was the first endowed program of its kind in the nation. I am delighted that we are carrying forward the momentum in 2023 to engage UNH alumni with a new Alumni Sustainability Webinar Series. This series brings together alumni who are experts in sustainability across a wide range of industries and sectors. The next session is tomorrow, February 15. These monthly webinars are open to everyone, and there is still time to sign up. There is also a LinkedIn group for UNH Sustainability Alumni. This is a great indicator that our graduates are pursuing careers in this field.

  • In Manchester, the reputation of our research and faculty excellence recently helped the city to win a $44 million federal grant to support the development of the BioFabrication Cluster. This will be a game changer for the city and southern New Hampshire, helping it to become a global leader in the biomedical manufacturing industry. It will also create great academic programs, research opportunities and internships for our students, who will be prepared to fill thousands of new jobs at BioFab.


If we could go back in time to 1923 and show the university community – as well as the people of New Hampshire – what UNH is today, I believe that they would be both proud and astonished at the breath, depth and excellence of our work together.

I trust, too, that they would recognize the thread of the mission that they gave to us in 1923 – and see it running boldly through our greatest achievements.

And 100 years from now – in 2123 -- I believe that the UNH community will look back with pride on how we envisioned and carried out our work through the headwinds of this era. I believe in my heart that they will be even more impressed by how we, as a community, stood together – and triumphed.

We are all carrying on a proud legacy and tradition.

As you go forward from today, I encourage you to share this State of the University address widely, along with our progress on The Future of UNH.

Celebrate UNH here on campus, in your social media, in your families and your communities.

Let everyone know how proud you are to be part of the University of New Hampshire. Honor and celebrate our history.

And let us go together toward a bright, bold and promising future.

Thank you, everyone! This is a great day for New Hampshire, and it is an especially great day to be a Wildcat.


State of the University 2023 – Online questions and answers

Will the Granite Guarantee be extended to students whose family income exceeds federal Pell grant eligibility? What is UNH doing to support students who don’t qualify for significant federal aid or subsidized loans, but still struggle to pay for college? UNH has one of the highest in-state tuition rates in the country. What is being done to make our public university more affordable for New Hampshire residents?
We know the cost of college is a major concern for students and families. In New Hampshire, largely due to limited state support, our published tuition rates are particularly high. The university has invested significant institutional funds into the Granite Guarantee and other aid programs for non-Pell eligible students, to reduce the price New Hampshire students pay in tuition. Coupled with a five-year freeze on resident tuition, New Hampshire students' average net tuition price has declined in recent years. We continue to work with our lawmakers to increase state support to maintain the tuition freeze while making further investments into scholarships and aid for all our students.

How are members of the USNH Board of Trustees selected? Are there term limits? What is the diversity of the BOT? Are appointments politically motivated to assist our efforts in the State House??
USNH is governed by a 28-member Board of Trustees, including:

  • The governor
  • A member of the State Senate
  • A member of the House
  • 10 members appointed by the Governor and Executive Council
  • 7 alumni-elected members
  • 2 student-elected members
  • The Commissioner of Education
  • The Commissioner of Agriculture
  • The Presidents of USNH’s four colleges and universities
  • The Chancellor, who is the chief executive officer of the University System
  • Terms of the elected and appointed members are for four years, except for the student-elected trustees, who serve for one year. In selecting officers, USNH bylaws require the nominating committee to consider the skills, experience, interests, aspirations and recommendations for each board member. You can read more here: https://www.usnh.edu/trustees

What are the initiatives or actions the university is taking to continue to combat racism? Now that we are a few years removed from 2020, the message isn’t always top of mind. How can University staff/faculty get involved with UNH's mission to end racism?

  • There are many new and expanded efforts in this area. The best place to follow them is on the Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion website, where you will find great resources and reports about our ongoing work.
  • Another great source is our first-ever Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Annual Report, which was published last summer.
  • Many of the colleges have department-level diversity committees that work to address the specific needs of their areas. Please reach out to them and see how you can become involved.
  • The Office of the Provost continues to fund the Postdoctoral Diversity and Innovation Scholars, which helps attract qualified diverse postdocs to the UNH professoriate. It’s noteworthy to mention here that 100% of the PDIS participants have been hired in tenure-track positions, with 50% of them choosing UNH.

Is the university and/or university system considering banning TikTok?
Currently, there are no plans to ban TikTok from UNH social media or open networks. However, the conversation about TikTok in the United States is a developing issue with national security, data security, and political implications. The university continues to monitor this topic closely and will apply security controls as required to ensure the protection of its data and cybersecurity posture.

Does UNH have a masterplan to install more wayfinding signs on campus?
UNH began a multi-year wayfinding signage upgrade program in 2018. The program was paused after three implementation years due to COVID and budget concerns. A proposal is under consideration to restart the program in July 2024. Building name signage enhancements are included in the next phases as well as further enhancements to traffic, parking and campus destination signage.

Will parking passes have an increase in price?
Currently, there is no plan to increase parking pass prices. However, the Transportation Policy Committee, which includes 20 members of the UNH and Durham community, will be meeting in April to review staff input and policies, and it may then make a recommendation on fees. Updates, policies and benchmarks of comparators are posted regularly on the Transportation Policy Committee’s website.

Many perceive that your position as both chancellor of the USNH system and president of UNH presents conflicts of interest. How do you intend to address this concern?
President Dean serves as the interim chancellor of USNH while the board of trustees considers options for filling the chancellor’s position. State statute requires USNH to operate a “well-coordinated system of higher education.” That coordination benefits USNH’s students, employees and the state. The campus presidents work closely on decision-making for the system. In his role as interim-chancellor, Pres. Dean is responsible for chairing the President’s Council, and serving as the primary spokesperson for USNH to the board of trustees and the state.

How do you ensure that both liberal and conservative students feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns?
UNH is committed to steadfastly supporting free speech. In recent years we have hosted speakers from across the political spectrum, including events with Turning Point USA.

New Hampshire is a “purple” state. Our students come from families with varying political backgrounds, and they are developing their own opinions about politics. Our responsibility is to create opportunities for students to consider a broad range of ideas and make their own decisions. We do that by ensuring free expression.

Here are a couple of resources that may answer questions and provide resources about free speech, political activity and public advocacy for faculty and staff:

Is anything being done to increase state funding for UNH?
The University System of New Hampshire has requested increases in state support for the USNH operating budget. As interim-chancellor, Pres. Dean has been meeting regularly with the governor and lawmakers discuss the need for more state support. The state legislature is in the early stages of its budget deliberations, and a final state budget is expected in July 2023.

What is your plan to help increase funding within the performing arts/visual arts program at the university?
In his 2023 State of the University address, President Dean highlighted that UNH received a generous gift from YAS Foundation, which will establish the Nossrat Yassini Poetry Festival, a UNH poet-in-residence position and a graduate student scholarship in poetry. Supporters of the arts are also encouraged to contribute through the Giving to UNH website, where donations can be directed within the College of Liberal Arts.