University on ‘front edge’ of innovation, talent

On Tuesday, Aug. 28, I had the distinct pleasure of participating in the “Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce” panel during the Governor’s Conference on Small Business at the Grand Sierra Resort. The conference was attended by several hundred representatives of small businesses from throughout Nevada. Below is text from the Nevada Today story regarding the conference:

Johnson to conference: University on ‘front edge’ of innovation, talent

President, during panel discussion at Governor’s Conference, explains University’s value to business community

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Best wishes for a banner 2013-2014 academic year

Dear Colleague,

Visiting with students, as well as their families and friends, during our residence hall move-in day is always a wonderful experience and serves to remind all of us of a significant campus milestone: Today and tomorrow clearly represent a personal rite of passage as these young men and women embark on the journey toward their future careers and their lives as citizens who will have a profound impact on our state and our society. On a personal level, this was, once again, the case for me this morning as I joined faculty, staff and students in welcoming more than 2,600 students to our halls. I heard many stories from young people who see nothing but possibility and excitement regarding their upcoming time as students at our University. We seem to always be at our best when the pace quickens and there are smiles and laughter in the air. So it was for me this morning.

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Finalists for athletic director, with campus visits, announced

Following a national search and interviews conducted by the Search Committee with a highly qualified, diverse pool of candidates, three individuals have been identified as finalists for the role of Nevada Wolf Pack director of athletics. They will visit the campus on March 4-6 for a day-long series of interviews to allow athletics coaches and staff, faculty, staff, students and community representatives to meet them. The schedule includes an open forum in the Auditorium of Legacy Hall with each finalist.

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Forecasting a brighter future for our University

On Feb. 7, I addressed our campus community as well as a statewide audience during a town hall meeting in the Joe Crowley Student Union. I stressed several themes during my talk, including ways that we can utilize new, less state-dependent revenue sources as we re-invest in our University. We will need to be more entrepreneurial and rely more on our wits and creativity as we build enrollment, increase research capacity and conduct our most comprehensive capital campaign in 20 years. As I noted during the meeting, I’m confident we can achieve all of these goals because of the great people we have at our University.

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Winter Commencement wonderland

I wish to offer my congratulations to the 1,166 bachelor’s dgree and 382 advanced degree or certificates recipients from our 2012 Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 8 at Lawlor Events Center. I always consider Winter Commencement one of the true highlights of what we do at the University. Winter Commencement always feels like an intimate gathering among good friends. During Saturday’s ceremony I encouraged our graduates to find careers they love and to conduct their lives in such a way that reflects the rich historic values that our campus holds so dear. Based on what I saw and experienced on Saturday, this Class of 2012 is well on its way to achieving this and much more. Congratulations to all who were part of a wonderful day.

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Three COBRE projects: Building prestige, capacity and learning

We are very pleased to now have three Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) projects, the most any institution may have at one time. This competitive National Institutes of Health program supports promising, growing research programs and acknowledges a multidisciplinary approach that brings together researchers from various disciplines, colleges and schools.
These COBRE projects recognize and build on the accomplishments and expertise of our faculty. The projects build biomedical research capacity which has important implications for our University and our economy. They result in new learning opportunities for students, strengthened infrastructure and development opportunities to support faculty and, of course, discovery that benefits society. Besides the new Integrative Neuroscience Center, discussed below, the University is proud to have two additional COBRE-supported centers, the Cell Biology Center and the Smooth Muscle Plasticity Center. Behind these programs is a combined $28 million in grant-funded support through COBRE.

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A smart city adds some horsepower

In mid-November, it was announced that the City of Reno has been selected as one of only 100 recipients of IBM’s prestigious Smarter Cities Challenge grant for 2013. Partners in the project include the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, our University, EDAWN, the Desert Research Institute and the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization. The day commemorating the selection was important, as it was a signal to our region, state and nation that our community is beginning to realize its potential for a knowledge-based economy.

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A semester full of accomplishment

This semester the University of Nevada, Reno serves our largest enrollment ever, and our student body again includes our highest ever number of National Merit Scholars and University Presidential Scholars. In recent weeks, we have seen several facets of our commitment to create a quality student experience that leads to student success.
Outside magazine recently named the University one of its top 25 Outside Universities. This acknowledges the beauty and recreation opportunities of the Reno-Tahoe region, and it also highlights the outdoor, experiential learning opportunities available to our students. More and more, experience-based learning opportunities are becoming ingrained in our campus culture. I am proud to report that our team of undergraduate biochemistry students won a gold medal in the regional genetic engineering competition, and also competed in the international competition at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Another group of engineering students is part of an impressive exchange program in China. On our web site, you can learn more about the work of journalism students featured on Forbes.com and about the renewal of federal funding to the GEAR UP program which supports “first generation” students from low-income settings in their pursuit of a college degree. These students are identified in middle, and we are pleased that many GEAR UP students have successfully persisted through high school and are part of our campus community today.

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Thank you


On Sept. 28, I was formally inaugurated as the 16th president of the University of Nevada, Reno. I was, and still am, moved by the events of Friday, most particularly the good wishes and support I received from our faculty, staff, students and friends. It was quite simply overwhelming. The words that were spoken, by a number of special speakers, made my heart swell with gratitude and humility. Thank you to the entire campus community for making Sept. 28, 2012 a date that my family and I will always look back on with pride and fondess.

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Chamber presentation: University as a catalyst for realizing the future

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, I had the distinct pleasure of previewing the “year in education” before members of the Northern Nevada Chamber of Commerce. Along with Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the Washoe County School District, and Maria Sheehan, president of Truckee Meadows Community College, I presented several areas of emphasis for the 2012-2013 academic year. I stressed two overriding themes: how we are creating a remarkable student experience on our campus, and how, through the excellence of our faculty, staff and students, we are part of a remarkable University that is critical to the success of our community, our region and our state. As northern Nevada continues to look to find ways to diversify its economy, our graduates and human capital represent high-quality, well-trained individuals who will provide leadership and know-how in realizing our future. In addition, I also shared Superintendent Martinez’s and President Sheehan’s sentiment that cooperation and collaboration between the University, TMCC and WCSD has never been higher.

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