Chancellor: ‘great time to be a Maverick’

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By Michael Wunder, News Editor

During  his  annual State-of-the-University address, University of Nebraska Omaha Chancellor John Christensen declared the current moment as the greatest for Mavericks.  

For nearly an hour, Christensen espoused on the university’s recent achievements and future aspirations.

Referencing a popular Bob Dylan song, Christensen told more than 250 students, faculty, staff, donors and alumni that times are a-changing at UNO.  

“We were willing to seize the moment and embrace the future,” Christensen said of the past year at UNO, which saw the opening of two state-of-the-art buildings—Mammel and Roskens halls—, a move to Division I athletics, the completion of an Elkhorn River research center and on overall increasing quality in campus achievements.

“We are a campus of wise women and men who refuse to rest,” Christensen said.

After praising the university for adapting well in it’s mission to become a leading metropolitan university, Christensen announced future plans, including achieving a staggering enrollment figure of 20,000 students in 2020.  A new enrollment management plan in the works for 2012 would bolster an “underfunded” and “unfocused” program by increasing UNO’s ability to compete with top-tier schools for valuable students.

An additional 1,900 beds would be needed, and any additional housing would most likely be built at the Pacific location, Christensen said.

Christensen said UNO will be adequately prepared for such a tremendous number of students by 2020, referencing the last time the university hosted a record number of students.  In 1993, 17,000 students attended UNO—many of them underserved due to paltry infrastructure.

“One of the critical factors was inadequate infrastructure to serve a student body of that size,” Christensen said.  “And I suspect we all agree that growth without quality is untenable.”

Christensen also wants to double or triple of credit hours, secure funding for a new community engagement center and utilize UNO’s new branding program to attract interest at a national level.

The university has been given an “unprecedented” opportunity to grow the campus for the future, Christensen said.

A biomechanics lab and new childcare center are also in the works.  An addition to Weber Fine Arts Building is also planned.

Christensen has also asked faculty and staff to identify top priorities and report back to him.

Christensen made sure to stress the importance cooperation and determination play in achieving the university’s goals.

“I realize these very fluid targets are nine years away and my thoughts today are certainly not intended to be a comprehensive vision for tomorrow,” Christensen said.  “Hopefully, however, each of us are encouraged to reach higher, push harder, and imagine what was previously deemed impossible.”

The Chancellor’s address can be read in its entirety at http://www.unomaha.edu/news/releases/2011/10/05_convo11.php.

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