The View from T-Hall

Finding Surprises

A COLLEAGUE RECENTLY ASKED ME, "Did you find surprises at UNH?" The question prompted me to recall my first few months here, when I was just getting to know the university. Because my entire career has been spent at public land-grant universities, I came to UNH with considerable understanding about how these institutions work. But New Hampshire is a different setting than the Midwest, and I was in for some surprises.

Strength of Programs
Because I was a division director at the National Science Foundation for three years in the early '90s, I was familiar with the reputation of many UNH programs in science, mathematics and engineering. I was not as familiar with other programs, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find that so many at UNH are equally strong. The programs in writing and the teaching of writing, childhood development, families and community, health policy and management, human aging, disabilities, early American history, entrepreneurship, applications of technology--all are at or near the top of their field. Indeed, UNH has many distinguished programs in each of its colleges.

Outstanding Undergraduate Education
Within a university, one expects graduate programs to reflect the quality of research done by faculty. Undergraduate education doesn't often benefit from research to the same degree. I have been delighted to discover how much undergraduate instruction at UNH reflects the high quality of the research done here. Unlike other research universities I have known, UNH has senior faculty teaching lower-division students. In addition, undergraduates have extensive research opportunities--more than 75 percent of our undergraduates have research experiences. Although most undergraduate research is conducted on the Durham campus, a growing number of students conduct research around the country and the world. For example, we currently have funds from the U. S. Department of Education that permit 12 to 15 students to undertake research in other countries each year through the International Research Opportunities Program. Many students participate in study-abroad programs, and that number is also increasing each year. In addition, undergraduates have many options for internships with industry and participation in co-op programs. The opportunities for undergraduates are truly exceptional at the University of New Hampshire.

Leaky Roofs
I pored over budget numbers extensively before coming to UNH. I knew that the university was educating its students at a per- student cost substantially below that of other public research universities--in fact, 16 percent below our peers. I knew that the ratio of tuition revenue to state funding was unusually high, that external research funding was increasing at an impressive rate, and that fund raising was only beginning to be a key revenue source. I did not know that necessary expenditures were being pushed ahead. Maintenance of our physical plant is a primary example.

Many buildings at UNH are now quite old and should have had attention years ago. The total physical plant includes some 200 structures, of which approximately 80 are core academic and administrative buildings that require state funds for restoration. We have now completed a careful study of the condition of these 80 buildings. Over the next few months, we will work with the trustees, the governor and the legislature to develop a plan to restore and protect these important facilities.

Alumni Support
When I came to UNH, I knew a small number of alumni, some of whom were among those encouraging me to come. What has surprised and pleased me is the large number of UNH alumni who retain a deep affection for the university and are committed to its future. Our graduates assist us with student recruitment and career advising. They serve on program advisory boards. They are supporting our major financial campaign, The Next Horizon, with enthusiasm. They help us to explain the university's financial needs to the legislature. They provide role models for our undergraduate students--models of people who combine successful careers with strong families, civic leadership and a continued love of learning. The true measure of a university is in its graduates. I have been delighted, but not surprised, to find that UNH gets an "A+" in this column.

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