Report of the N|150 Commission

Donde Plowman
Will Thomas

Co-Chairs

Submitted on behalf of the
THE NEBRASKA COMMISSION OF 150

Overview

As the campus prepares to mark its 150th year, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is poised to chart a bold and distinctive course for the next generation. UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green appointed more than 150 stakeholders of the university – faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members – to the Nebraska Commission of 150 to envision how the university can best serve Nebraska and the world for the next 25 years.

The university’s inaugural charter in 1869 as a land-grant institution offered a sweeping vision for our founding:

To afford the inhabitants of this state with the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of literature, science, and the arts.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has grown into one of the major public research universities in the country. The Commission recognizes and celebrates UNL’s record of accomplishments. Few institutions in higher education have served so many so well for so long. We honor our role and responsibility as a public land-grant university. And we seek to re- envision and renew our founding charter for the 21st century.

Chancellor Green charged the N|150 Commission with articulating UNL’s boldest aspirations, determining what must occur to achieve them, and recommending a course of action. Eight committees studied and debated a broad range of issues, and their recommendations form the basis of this report.

Throughout our yearlong journey, as ideas were being developed, the Commission held numerous listening sessions for the larger university and state community to participate and offer feedback. These sessions provided extraordinary opportunities that few institutions experience in higher education. We heard about our values and capacities, our talents and opportunities, our dreams and aspirations.

Universities today shape the identities and transform the lives of students but they also do the same for the communities, states, and regions they serve. The Commission submits this report aware of the many challenges that face higher education institutions, particularly public universities. Uncertainties regarding funding, technology, changing demographics, and shifting market demand create challenges but also opportunities.

The N|150 Commission looks to the future with excitement and confidence. Knowing our core values, anticipating what the next generation of students will need, and steering the university toward the breakthroughs in research that will make a difference in the lives and communities we serve, we will fulfill our historic mission and create a better life for generations to come.

Vision

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is unparalleled among public research universities in access, opportunity, innovation, and life-long experiential learning.

Mission

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln attracts bold thinkers in the quest for knowledge and the search for truths greater than ourselves. Nebraska provides one of the world’s premier learning environments because we:

  • Seek new ways of knowing, understanding, and improving our world;
  • Empower our students to co-create their learning experiences;
  • Instill a life-long desire to learn, inquire, and explore; and
  • Ensure a diverse and inclusive culture where every person and every interaction matter.

Core Aspirations Over the Next 25 Years

To achieve the N|150 Vision and Mission the university focuses on four core aspirations that will guide our path over the next 25 years:

Nebraska students co-create their experience – Common transformative learning experiences that equip each student for their future distinguish a Nebraska education. Working together with faculty, staff, and community members our students co-create experiences that spark curiosity, lead to demonstrated achievement, and deepen the capacity for analysis and reflection.

Our research and creativity transforms lives and learning – By advancing knowledge, solving the world’s challenges, and deepening our understanding of humanity, we enhance quality of life in the State of Nebraska and beyond. By connecting everything we do to our research, scholarship, and creative activity, we ensure these innovations shape the education we provide to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

Every person and every interaction matter – We aim to lead U.S. public universities in affordability and accessibility to a world-class education, inviting students from Nebraska, the nation, and world to join us in creating a better life. In our community we are committed to ensuring a deep appreciation for diversity, inclusive excellence, and the contributions of each individual - faculty, staff, and student - to the greater good. We will attract, educate, and support students whose talent and work ethic will shape their communities for decades to come.

Engagement builds communities – We serve as a catalyst for growth, prosperity, and cultural enrichment for Nebraska and beyond in ways that redefine relationships between 21st century research universities and their communities.

Achieving Our Core Aspirations

Nebraska students co-create their experience

The signature of a Nebraska education is common transformative learning experiences that equip each student for their future. Working together with faculty, staff, and community members our students co-create experiences that spark curiosity, lead to demonstrated achievement, and deepen the capacity for analysis and reflection.

Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are:

  • Builders who shape their own future and the future of society;
  • Includers who participate in a compassionate community that encourages and promotes the well-being of every member of the community;
  • Connectors who engage people and ideas in meaningful and constructive ways;
  • Influencers who develop and sustain diverse personal and professional networks across the university and the community; and
  • Explorers with the capacity for deep, meaningful reflection and self-awareness.

Our students are, first and foremost, learners whose intellectual progress extends throughout their lives based on the active role they take in their own, co-created experiences, including:

  • Experiential learning for all Nebraska students - undergraduates, graduate, and professional students alike;
  • Dedicated, long-term research experiences;
  • Cohort-based interdisciplinary learning groups of 25 or fewer students - led by students;
  • Opportunities for community-based research in every college.

Through these experiences and others, every student at Nebraska benefits from the purposeful integration of curricular, co-curricular, and community experiences aimed at developing their skills in critical thinking, imaginative creativity, communication, social consciousness and resilience. Common course experiences complement the co-created aspects of student learning with:

  • A University 150 Innovation Academy—emphasizing imagination, creative expression, and the convergence of disciplinary and design thinking;
  • A series of University 150 Common Courses on broad concepts, such as “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “What is Well-Being?” “Performing Arts and a Better Life,” “Being Human in the Digital Age.”
  • A series of certificates (taken in place of or in addition to disciplinary studies,) demonstrating sets of skills, methodologies, aptitudes, and perspectives.

Our Research Transforms Lives and Learning

By advancing knowledge, solving the world’s challenges, and deepening our understanding of humanity, we enhance quality of life in the state of Nebraska and beyond. By connecting everything we do to our research, scholarship, and creative activity, our innovations shape the education we provide to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

To transform lives and learning we:

  • Realign and connect all aspects of academic, student, and business affairs to our research, scholarship, and creative activity;
  • For the next 20 years commit sizable resources to grand challenges that require the work of multiple disciplines to achieve breakthroughs in critical areas;
  • Emphasize basic and translational research, humanistic inquiry, and creative activity to advance knowledge, promote public good, and stimulate economic growth;
  • Engage with local, national, and international partners in mutually-beneficial ways that enhance innovation and our overall capacity for research, scholarship, and creative activity;
  • Transform and strengthen policies and structures to stimulate interdisciplinary, synergistic research, scholarship, and creative activity, including:
    • Commit a certain percentage of strategic research investments and/or new tenure-track hires to interdisciplinary research.
    • Create and incubate new emerging areas of strength in research, scholarship, and creative activity.
    • Build a Global Center for Open Science/Research and sharing of new knowledge.

At Nebraska we are known for a culture of intensive research collaboration and inventiveness, and for producing and disseminating research of exceptional quality and significance. Emphasizing entrepreneurial partnerships on and off campus, we tailor our research and creative activity around and through multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary collaborations. We recognize and support the full capacity of students as participants and colleagues in ongoing research at the university. Doctoral students, in particular, play a crucial role in our research, scholarship, and creative activity. We aim to:

  • Drive new interdisciplinary efforts by establishing new centers and reviewing current ones around five-year strategic assessment and re-direction cycles;
  • Offer compensation, career development, and research opportunities for graduate students and Post-Doctoral Fellows that surpass norms for the top 50 U.S. research universities; and
  • Emphasize basic research that connects globally and translational research that builds partnerships for public good and economic growth; and
  • Develop all students as research partners by continually engaging them in research and creative activity that enhances lives and learning in Nebraska and beyond.

Every Person and Every Interaction Matter

We aim to lead U.S. public universities in affordability and accessibility to a world-class education, inviting students from Nebraska, the nation, and world to join us in creating a better life. In our community we are committed to ensuring a deep appreciation for diversity, inclusive excellence, and the contributions of each individual to the greater good. We attract, educate, and support students whose talent and work ethic will shape their communities for decades to come.

To lead in affordability and accessibility we:

  • Become the first university to offer one base tuition for all—in state or out-of-state—to welcome students from across the country and around the world who want to join our university and whose creativity and determination will enrich Nebraska.

To ensure that Every Person and Every Interaction Matter we:

  • Embed our emphasis on excellence in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and all that we hope to do, specifically
    • Increase the recruitment, retention, and success of domestic and globally diverse students, staff, and faculty members;
    • Provide everyone at UNL with meaningful and ongoing opportunities to develop and grow, personally and professionally, in a culture focused on inclusive excellence; 
    • Promote research and practice around issues of diversity and inclusion that provide expertise to institutions and communities on inclusive approaches for solving problems;
    • Encourage individuals, programs, and units to cooperate in interdisciplinary activities that foster inclusion, innovation, and increase global prestige of the University of Nebraska’s inclusive approaches for solving state, national, and global problems;
    • Ensure that all students engage in meaningful experiences around diversity and inclusion before graduation; and
    • Make clear our commitment to diversity and inclusion within all campus communications, including public postings, job descriptions and offers, mission statements, syllabi, evaluations, social media platforms, and buildings.
  • Inspire and empower everyone to create and sustain pathways and networks that enable everyone to belong, interact, and thrive, including
    • Create a strong sense of individual and team identity that leverages and builds on the University’s strengths; and
    • Create intentional success pathways and professional development opportunities to encourage each member of our staff, faculty, and administration to fully develop their talents.
  • Develop and enhance the institutional structures and culture for participative decision-making that give meaningful voice to each member of the University community;
    • Develop a University Council that fosters the holistic well-being and belonging of each team member as well as the success of the University; and
  • Invigorate the faculty’s role as intellectual and community leaders, especially through shared governance (in the Faculty Senate and other bodies).

Engagement Builds Communities

We serve as a catalyst for growth, prosperity, and cultural enrichment for Nebraska and beyond in ways that redefine relationships between 21st century research universities and their communities.

We create a university without walls by:

  • Viewing every community across Nebraska as a key part of the University’s extended campus for the purpose of establishing engaged learning and research opportunities that advance the mutual interests of the community and the University;
  • Expanding the experience of every student beyond their classrooms, laboratories, and studios;
  • Ensuring that every student has an experiential learning opportunity and credential these learning experiences in innovative ways that convey to employers and other institutions of higher learning the knowledge and skills students gain as a result; and
  • Implementing a system of capstone experiences for students and empowering them to pitch capstone experiences in collaboration with faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

We bring Nebraska to the world, and we bring the world to Nebraska by creating a university where students, faculty, staff and alumni are actively engaged across Nebraska and beyond. To accomplish this, we embrace opportunities to strengthen our relationship with people and organizations throughout the communities we serve. The University creates a culture of engagement and partnership that generates genuine mutual benefit both in Nebraska and across the globe while creating extraordinary opportunities for students, alumni, industry, community partners, faculty and staff. To redefine relationships between the university and our communities we:

  • Build and implement an initiative promoting substantive lifetime student engagement [i.e. "Huskers for life"];
  • Establish meaningful connections with business partners that help align relevant research with societal needs and stimulate the creation of knowledge-economy jobs;
  • Build and support experiential learning facilities to allow diverse groups of people to more naturally mesh and collaborate;
  • Make engagement a fundamental part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s culture;
  • Establish a university-level office and council charged with championing the engagement mission;
  • Support a strong mentorship culture within the university and with our partners; and
  • Support a campus-wide ethos of informed risk taking.

To achieve the N|150 mission and vision, and to implement these core goals, the University ensures that:

The operations and infrastructure of the University are dynamically structured, optimized, and accessible to continually build excellence and ensure a safe, sustainable, and inclusive environment. We facilitate interactions, engagement, and innovation in physical and virtual spaces and through technology for the global Nebraska community of life-long learners.

To make the University dynamically structured, optimized, and accessible we:

  • Engage all stakeholders to collaboratively align organizational structures and policies with the N|150 vison and mission;
  • Connect learners wherever they are by leveraging technology and our physical and virtual spaces;
  • Allocate resources transparently and incentivize actions that align with the mission, goals and values of the University;
  • Empower decision making at the appropriate levels through input from our diverse colleagues; and
  • Invest resources intelligently and sustainably with an emphasis on continuous improvement through anticipating needs and delivering service.
  • Value and promote the environmental, social, and economic well-being of Nebraska through the socially responsible stewardship of natural resources and creation of resilient systems that are adaptable and recoverable to short- and long-term environmental and technological changes.

Key Indicators of Success

This blueprint for our next 25 years outlines far-reaching goals and the initial strategies we will implement to achieve our vision and mission. While considerable work remains to be done identifying more detailed benchmarks, the following overall key indicators will be used to assess our progress toward realizing our vision of becoming Unparalleled among public research universities in access, innovation, opportunity, and life-long experiential learning.

  • Access: Every Nebraskan who meets our admission criteria and desires to join our learning community will have the access to the funding necessary to complete their studies regardless of program on a timely basis. Our increasing yield rate amongst students from Nebraska will serve as a key indicator of success. While ensuring access for our Nebraskan students, we will also increase our enrollments from out of state and international students through competitive tuition rates and funding models. We will gauge our success by increasing the geographic breadth of our students.
  • Future-ready Skills: We believe that through the purposeful integration of curricular, co-curricular and community experiences our students will develop future ready skills necessary to become the leaders of tomorrow. At critical intervals in students’ time at Nebraska we will gauge their progress in critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, social consciousness, and resilience through appropriate assessment measures. Our goal is to be recognized as a leader among public research universities on these dimensions.
  • Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity that Transform Lives and Learning: Research, scholarship and creative activity are at the core of making the world a better place for all. A key indicator of success is measuring the impact of our research and creative activity on society through the number of solutions to grand challenges and major societal problems; the number of improved practices; and number and diversity of people and communities helped. More quantifiable and immediate measures include, among others, increasing our research funding metrics, the number of national and international awards, number of publications in high impact journals, and citations our faculty receive compared to our Big Ten peer institutions and the number and success of national and international research collaborations in grand challenges and strength areas. Additional qualitative indicators will be developed by units.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Across the University: A key goal of our N|150 plan is to significantly increase our diversity and inclusion across the university. We will measure our progress on the following dimensions:
    • Each year the equity and economic graduation gap will decrease until it is at least equal to that of the overall university population. In doing so, we will increase our six-year undergraduate student graduation rate to 80% and thereby maintain or exceed outcomes at our Big Ten peers.
    • We will recruit, retain, and promote diverse faculty, staff, and students in percentages that reflect or exceed national demographic trends with the expectation that each year over the next decade will show increases from the prior year.
    • We will utilize pre and post student surveys to measure students’ engagement with and understanding of diversity and inclusion issues with year over year increases in engagement and understanding.
    • We will assess our climate using appropriate surveys to ensure that diversity and inclusion climate are increasing until we are recognized as a leader among higher education institutions.
  • A Strong University Community: Our goal is to create a community where everyone has a voice. A key measure of the strength of our community is the involvement of faculty and staff in their appropriate governance structures and the effectiveness of these structures in supporting the University’s vision and mission. We will use engagement surveys to measure faculty and staff workplace satisfaction as well as retention rates as indicators of success. We aspire to be at the top of the ranking of Great Colleges to Work For.
  • Reach and Impact: Our university widens opportunities and extends its reach throughout Nebraska, across our nation, and around the world. Measures of our success include increasing the number of opportunities our students have for experiential learning within the community, and documenting year over year increases in mutually beneficial partnerships with our community partners. Another key indicator will be the increase in our non-degree life-long learning initiatives (on-site, off-site and through technology) that attract our alumni, state residents, and individuals outside of Nebraska. We will also track annual increases in faculty, staff, students, and alumni involved in mentorship, entrepreneurial ventures, and job creation.

Next Steps

The chancellor will convene a ‘Committee of 15’ to carefully review this report and identify the immediate areas of focus for our campus. Specifically, this group will identify the initial strategies needed to enact the four core aspirations outlined in this report. In addition the committee will propose success indicators for each strategy.

This committee will include the chancellor, N|150 Commission co-chairs, one N|150 chair from each of the 8 committees, the vice chancellors, Faculty Senate and student representatives. In this way we ensure a smooth transition from the ideas in the N|150 process and the selection of next steps.