Chancellor Message 1/16/09

Message to Campus
RE joining the UIC community

Dear UIC Students, Faculty and Staff,

I am honored to officially join the UIC community as your new chancellor. I am eager to lead this great university, to take full advantage of the opportunities before us, and to take on the challenges that face us.

The author Thomas Carlyle once said, “In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.” Becoming chancellor certainly marks a beginning for me - one to which I have looked forward with great anticipation since being named to this position last summer. But I recognize that many decades of work by many thousands of people have gone into building UIC into the life-changing institution it is today, and I am privileged to be part of that. Like my predecessors, I want to periodically communicate to you to share highlights about the important work being done all over campus by our faculty, students and staff. A brief overview of some recent significant achievements will help to explain why, despite the economic challenges facing UIC, our state and our nation, I am so filled with optimism as I become chancellor:

  • UIC’s ImpacTeen project has been awarded a four-year, $16 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The grant will be used to study policy and environmental factors that influence youth behaviors related to nutrition, physical activity, obesity and tobacco use. ImpacTeen is one component of Bridging the Gap, a partnership between UIC and the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. ImpacTeen has focused primarily on adolescent tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use. Frank Chaloupka, distinguished professor of economics and director of the Health Policy Center, is principal investigator of the study.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a five-year $7.5 million grant to UIC's Monarch Center to prepare special education teachers. The grant is the second round of funding for the national center, which is the only one of its kind. Established in 2003 and directed by Norma Lopez-Reyna, associate professor of special education, the center supports teacher and principal preparation programs and works to increase the number and quality of their special education graduates.
  • UIC is a leader in autism research and now is taking part in an international effort to gather DNA samples from 2,000 autism patients and their families over the next three years. The initiative, called the Simons Simplex Collection, is the first coordinated effort to create a database of information about families with only one autistic child. Psychiatry professor Edwin Cook, director of the UIC Autism Center of Excellence and principal investigator, says the collection of DNA will allow researchers at UIC and other institutions to identify genetic factors that increase the risk of autism. The new research could also potentially develop interventional therapies and new drugs for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
  • News media around the world have reported on research by Professor Robert Bailey of the School of Public Health and colleagues demonstrating that medical circumcision dramatically reduces a man’s risk of acquiring HIV. UIC recently received an $8.6 million grant from Family Health International to take part in the Male Circumcision Consortium. The consortium was established by a five-year, $18.5 million grant to Family Health International from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The consortium will improve and expand voluntary medical circumcision services throughout Kenya as part of an overall strategy to reduce HIV infections.
  • “Obession: a History”, by Lennard Davis, professor of English and disability studies, was named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the five best books by Chicagoans in 2008. Meanwhile, English Professor Luis Alberto Urrea’s book “The Hummingbird's Daughter” is the city of Pasadena, California’s choice for its 2009 “One City, One Story” program, which encourages the entire city to read and discuss a single work of fiction.
  • The fifth annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum will be held April 27 at the UIC Forum, and this year’s theme - “Economic Recovery: Cities Lead the Way” - could not be more timely. The Daley Forum has become a signature UIC event and I encourage you to attend. A dedicated team of UIC staff, faculty and administrators work year-round to plan the Daley Forum and I thank them for their efforts.
  • Attendees at last year’s Daley Urban Forum heard a fascinating presentation by Kheir Al-Kodmany, associate professor of urban planning and policy, about his work to prevent deadly stampedes during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Professor Al-Kodmany was the only American invited by the Saudi government to join a team of 25 urban planners and engineers that planned crowd control during this year’s Hajj, the annual pilgrimage that ended in December. The multilevel pedestrian bridge system designed in part by the UIC urban planner allowed 3 million Muslims to complete the 2008 Hajj - an increase of 50 percent over 2007. Crowding at the bridge entrance caused stampedes that resulted in the deaths of about 250 pilgrims in 2004 and 363 in 2006.
  • Victoria Kolkebeck, academic skills specialist in the Academic Center for Excellence, is the winner of the Luminary Award as UIC’s most inspirational employee. Chosen from among 12 nominees by the chancellor’s office, the Alumni Association and the Alumni Relations Council, Ms. Kolkebeck was cited for her great devotion to the students she tutors.
  • The UIC men’s soccer team concluded an outstanding year by advancing to the NCAA “Sweet 16” and for the first time, we had two first-team All-Americans - Baggio Husidic and Jovan Bubonja. Mr. Husidic also was named a Soccer America Men's First Team MVP. Congratulations to all the players and to Coach John Trask.
  • In the best tradition of UIC student-athletes, junior Katerina Hanackova was named to the Academic All-Horizon League Volleyball Team. An economics major, Ms. Hanackova carries a 3.87 grade point average and had an outstanding year on the court.

Let me close by saying again what a privilege it is to be part of the UIC community.


Paula Allen-Meares