Innovation and Impact

Message from the President

The University of Chicago has consistently held as its first objective a determined focus on the highest level of scholarship and education, fueled by rigorous and open inquiry. Our distinctive culture is the collective product of faculty, students, and staff, as well as the leadership our alumni bring to the world. As a result, the University of Chicago sustains an environment that challenges and encourages scholars to produce their best and most innovative work, and that leads to a direct and measurable impact on our surrounding community and across the globe.

An Intellectual Destination

We are defined by the quality of our outstanding faculty, students, and staff. As our University, like other institutions, encountered the economic turbulence of the past year, we were faced with difficult decisions about resources and positioning the University, both programmatically and financially, far into the future. We faced this challenge with clear priorities: attracting and retaining talent, and supporting the work of our scholarly community. I am gratified to report that the University of Chicago, through the work of the provost, deans, vice-presidents, faculty, and staff, met the challenges of the recent economic downturn with decisive action, and we have emerged with the ability and intent to invest in the University’s programs.

With our core mission in mind, we announced this year that we would begin systematically expanding our faculty for the first time in nearly three decades. Additionally, we increased financial aid to help qualified students, and continued to expand opportunities made available through the Odyssey Scholars program and the Graduate Aid Initiative.

In order to support the highest levels of scholarly research, study, and creative endeavor, we have made targeted investments in our facilities. Construction continues on the Mansueto Library, which reaffirms the University’s commitment to giving scholars ready access to original texts. A new residence hall and dining commons have opened just south of the Midway Plaisance, with modern accommodations that expand our highly successful House System, creating community for more than 800 students. Additionally, construction has begun on the Medical Center’s new hospital pavilion, a state-of-the-art facility that will enable our faculty to provide high-quality, complex patient care and to build upon their research discoveries to produce advanced, life-saving medical treatments. Finally, the design has been unveiled for the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, which will break ground in 2010. The Logan Center will serve as a valuable, multipurpose hub for the thriving campus arts scene.

Historically, the combination of an unwavering commitment to inquiry and a vibrant campus life has fostered wonderful individual accomplishments, for which members of the University community have often been recognized. This year has been no exception. Professor Yoichiro Nambu was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics. Economics professor and Nobelist Roger Myerson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Among her many significant honors in the past year, Janet Rowley was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to our understanding of cancer. College student Antonia Clifford was selected as a 2009 Truman Scholar, and 30 University students received Fulbright fellowships. These individuals, along with their colleagues and peers, contributed to the renewal of the diverse and dynamic intellectual culture that defines the University of Chicago.

A Thoughtful and Engaged Partner

The University of Chicago continues to expand an active partnership and engagement with the community, nation, and world. In particular, we benefit from our location in a dynamic city and a historic urban neighborhood, and from the contributions and rich perspectives of our neighbors. Over the past year, we have continued to look for ways to increase that engagement and to invest in our surrounding communities.

As part of the Urban Health Initiative, the new South Side Community Health and Vitality Studies began tracking the experiences of 5,000 South Side families, with the goal of increasing access to primary care and improving the health and well-being of residents on the near South Side. The Urban Education Institute is now serving more than 1,500 students through our four charter schools. Scholarly research informed by the needs of students, teachers, and school administrators has created new methods and insight for prekindergarten-to-12 education and contributed to our expanding knowledge of how to produce reliably excellent schooling for children in Chicago as well as urban areas across the country.

Additionally, the University has provided academic expertise to support community leaders in the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Zone project, and has partnered with the City, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and community groups in a plan for redeveloping Harper Court, a key section of Hyde Park at Harper Avenue and 53rd Street.

An Ambitious Path Forward

The challenges of the last twelve months have been a reminder that one of our enduring strengths is the University of Chicago community. Last January, at a Washington, DC, event, I overheard a remark about the distinctive nature of University gatherings, how they were always characterized by people who were passionate about ideas. As members of this community, we share common values, ideals, and intellectual energy. We share traditions and pride, as well as an obligation to support one another—fellow classmates, faculty and trustees, current and prospective students, and alumni around the world—in our pursuit of new knowledge as well as personal and career achievement. And we share a sense of optimism as we look to the future with a continued sense of purpose and commitment to outstanding scholarship and education in all its forms.

Robert J. ZimmerPresident