University presidents Tim Sands and Kent Fuchs discuss challenges of higher education

University presidents Tim Sands and Kent Fuchs discuss challenges of higher education

September 15, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


Good evening. I’m Virginia Tech provost
Thanassis Rikakis, and I’d like to welcome you
to tonight’s Beyond Boundaries presentational conversation. When Tim Sands gave
his installation speech as the 16th president
of Virginia Tech, he said we would be
an institution where dreams for a positive
impact mission would be realized through
innovation, commercialization, and the temperature. Did anyone here
imagine that I would check the form of Google drones
flying [INAUDIBLE] to faculty and students on campus? Did anyone imagine that some
of our top medical researchers would be establishing social
equity as a key predictor of the brain’s health? Did anyone imagine
that us as a university would establishing
digital humanities as a key predictor of success in
life, regardless of discipline? The pace of innovation
has reached the point where we must prepare for a
future in which our wildest dreams are possible. We are very fortunate to
have a president who’s developing a vision for
Virginia Tech’s next generation, process called
Beyond Boundaties. Tim Sands is a scientist and
the educator and inventor, who has dedicated
most of his career to advancing the impact
of research and innovation in public education. We are very proud to have
Tim and his wife, Dr. Laura Sands, a professor
of gerontology, and their four children, as
members of the Virginia Tech community. Tim is leading us on
an exciting journey, and I’m looking forward to
this evening’s conversation about our future. Please welcome Virginia
Tech’s president, Tim Sands. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Thanassis. It’s so great to see so many
familiar faces in our audience here. And I realize that
this time of day is a difficult one,
late Sunday evening. But I’m glad you’re here. And to our WebEx
group– there are a lot of folks joining us on
WebEx– we’re glad to have you, and we’re looking
forward to the Q&A after we have a bit
of back and forth. It’s my pleasure to welcome
tonight’s Beyond Boundaries speaker, Kent Fucks, President
of the University of Florida. From the day that we began the
Beyond Boundaries initiative, the dialogue has been an
important part of the process. And we’ve heard from many
great faculty, students, staff, alumni partners, and
community leaders over the last 10 or 12 months. But tonight, we
had the opportunity to add another voice
to the conversation. And I know, from my
experience, that we can benefit from his insight. Our speaker today
is in a position to understand our
current journey. Less than two years
ago, he became president of a major
public land grant university, one that traces
its roots to the 19th century agricultural college. He’s been engaged in rapid
innovation, hiring new faculty, developing new budget models,
and expanding programs beyond the original
campus boundaries. He’s a former provost. He’s an engineer
and a professor, having held leadership positions
in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers. He also enjoys engaging
in social media. His wife is a noted scholar,
and they have four children. So anybody who
knows me may wonder if I just introduced myself,
because all of those apply. But Kent has had a different
set of experiences than I have. We’ve overlapped
through our careers. But I’m really looking
forward to this conversation. Actually, Kent
recruited me to Purdue from Berkeley 15 years ago. And we had a chance over
dinner to reminisce. He told me some stories
about the backside of that that I didn’t know. None of them are
too embarrassing, but it was a good conversation. But it is very true
that Kent Fuchs and I have a lot in common. As president of the
University of Florida, he shares an understanding of
the modern land grant mission. As a former provost
of Cornell University, he has a deep understanding
of academic priorities. And as a former dean of
engineering at Cornell, and a head of Purdue’s School
of Electrical and Computer Engineering, he
recognizes the importance of innovation and discovery. Kent earned his doctorate
in electrical and computer engineering from the
University of Illinois. And something I find
very intriguing, and perhaps we’ll talk about
it, he has a master of divinity from Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School in Chicago. And I know we’ve talked
about that a little bit. I’ve often regretted that I
didn’t have the opportunity to earn a divinity degree
or something similar. Because as a former provost,
and now as a president, the kinds of conversations
you have sometimes make you think that should be
a requirement of the position. But Kent uses it well,
and he may tell us a little bit about that. Something that– those of
you in the audience who have been involved in Inclusive
VT, sort of a little back story here is that Kant
was one of the people that we called at the
beginning of that initiative to understand his experience. Because he had changed the model
at his previous institution, and we benefited
from his insight. So let’s give a warm Hokie
welcome to President Kent Fuchs. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. It’s good to be here. Well, it’s great to have you. And we have so
much to talk about. I have a long list of
questions that I would like to perhaps throw at you. We probably won’t
get to all of them, and we do want to save a
little time for Q&A. We’re going to have two microphones
set up, so at about 40 minutes or so, we’ll invite
you to participate. And we’ll also be taking
questions from the WebEx audience, as well. Let me start off, I want to make
sure we get to the social media thing later. But let me start off with
a very general question, and it’s something
we haven’t had a chance to really talk about. And I think I’m just curious
as to how you reflect on this. You’ve been a faculty member
at four of the great land grant institutions– at Illinois, at
Purdue, Cornell and Florida. Four of our really
premier institutions. In some ways, these are
very different institutions. And you know better than
anybody how they are different. But I’m wondering if,
because of your experience, you might be– I know
you’re in a position to be really uniquely qualified
to comment on what attributes these four institutions share
beyond their formal ties to the Morrill Act. Is there something– a way
of thinking, a culture, that you see that
stretches across all four of those very
different institutions? There is something special
about a public research university, and something
even more special about a university
that was indeed created with Senator
Morrill, and Abraham Lincoln, in the mid 1800s. And now I’m at one of the
top land grant universities as well. They’re now number five. There’s one more
connection to Virginia Tech that I should mention, that
President Sands didn’t mention. And that is that
my daughter-in-law is a graduate of Virginia
Tech, and my son is, as well. So I spend a lot of time
on your campus as a parent. I’ve been to commencement. I’ve been to the
introductory sessions– I don’t know what you call
them here– for parents. And so it’s really
good to be back. As well as, obviously,
a great admirer of your college of
engineering just on my own technical side and
having visited several times. So there really is both a
heritage, a mandate, and also a mission for the president
that comes with universities that share not only
the fact that they are the University of their
state, where students can get an education that’s equal to
any university in the world, and the faculty
are doing research that’s equal to any
university in the world. In addition to
that, the university has a mission to the state. And all of the five
places– Virginia Tech, and the four where I
worked, and one where I work now– all share that. And they all celebrate it. And each one a little bit
differently, but each one just really celebrates that. And I think we’re going to
talk about how that translates into the present. But it’s something that– when
I talked about the land grant mission at Cornell, or at
the University of Florida, I remind our faculty
and our students that it’s not limited
to agriculture. It’s not even limited to
fields like engineering. It’s even for the
Humanities and the arts that we have a special mission
to the citizens of the world, not just the state. And translating
that into something that the broad
public understands is something that I think all
of us share as a responsibility. So they understand why
it is so important for us to be within our states and
to be supported by the states. So it’s something
that I celebrate. I didn’t purposely pick
four land grant universities to work in. But I’m really grateful that
I’ve had that privilege. I have a similar
feeling about it. I started off with
an institution that had lost its
land grant charter. It had given it up to
some sister institutions. And I saw– because you
haven’t been at, I guess, a non-land grant. I did see a big difference when
I moved to my first land grant, in terms of the
sense of engagement, and the fact that the faculty
effort was divided differently. And part of it, we don’t
get credit for from, I think, the rest of academia. They don’t understand that
the outreach and engagement mission is really a
critical part of what we do, and we’re not going
to give that up. So that’s always a tension. I don’t know if you’ve
experienced that, but it’s very special
to be in a land grant. So you’ve had four
wonderful ones, and five if you include your
role as a parent. It is. It is. You know, there are about
4,600 colleges and universities in the United States. Of that group, only
1,600 are public. The rest are either private, for
profit, or private nonprofit. And then you narrow that
down to about 300 of those are doctoral research
universities. And then about 100 of those,
by the Carnegie Classification, are what they call the highest
research in their latest nomenclature. And then you divide that down
further to the land grants. It is literally a small
number, amongst the 4,600 in this country, and the tens
of thousands around the world that we are part of. You know, despite our very
strong role with the state– and I think our
states, typically, if you go around
the country, there’s a lot of respect for the
land grant institution, or institutions, in that state. So I feel I know when I go to
visit the general assemblies of whatever state I’m in,
there’s a respect for the land grant, or land grant
institutions, that get you in the door,
that I think is special. Nevertheless, over the
past 30 years or so, in most of our
states– and you may have a little bit of an
exception in Florida– but most of our states
have disinvested in the public universities,
including the land grants. And it’s all very transparent. We can look at the numbers,
and it’s talked about openly. But we’ve seen, for example,
at Virginia Tech, the amount of money the state
invests on a per student basis for in-state
students has decreased by about a factor of 2 in
real dollars over the last 15 or 16 years. It’s stabilized now. It’s kind of hit at
a very stable point. But it’s about a factor of two
below what it was 15 years ago. And I’ve been thinking
about this a lot, because it’s a major
subject in Virginia right now, a conversation
about affordability and access. And if you think about
the dynamic in here, this has resulted
in higher tuition rates for in-state students,
at least in many states. And I think Florida is an
exception, which is good. Hopefully it can stay that way. But it’s prompted a
consumer mentality among parents and the students. And if you think about that,
it’s a legitimate perspective. Because the students have more
skin in the game than they did 15, 20 years ago. So they expect more amenities. They expect more value
from their education. And that further drives
up the cost of education, which drives up the tuition. So this is a positive
feedback loop, I guess, to put it in
electrical engineering terms. And then we’ve got the
regulatory and compliance costs that are added on top of that. So I’m just wondering
if you– I’m sure you’ve thought about this. But how are we going
to break this cycle? Because this positive feedback
loop doesn’t end well. And we know that
disposable income, for many of our citizens, has
not increased at this rate. Can you share any
thoughts with how you’re thinking about the
long term for the University of Florida in this regard? Yeah. The institution where I
was before the University of Florida was the
model, as it is for many, many
privates, including non-research privates, was very
driven by a real high tuition, $50,000, but then a
lot of need based aid. Some privates are– the
aid is not need based. It’s just merit based. But at Cornell, it
was all need based. So it was high tuition,
but then a need based aid. That’s definitely one model. But there’s a huge debate
there about how hard you can push the tuition. And I think the publics are
beginning to see that, as well. Just to give you an example,
at Cornell, when I was there, each year it was
difficult to bring forward to the board of trustees
the proposal for the tuition increase. Harder and harder, because they
saw this compounding tuition rate. And one statistic
that’s interesting, in 50 years, 5-0
years, the university had never had a tuition
increase of 4% or lower. So it had always been
higher, for 50 years. And that’s how you get
from some low tuition, 50 years in the past, up to
something that compounds. So that was the model there. And again, the question
there is what’s the run rate? How much further? Can you get to
$100,000 per year? So that’s the challenge there. University of Florida
is almost the flip side. University of Florida has
the cheapest tuition around. Now, I wish it was higher. But it’s half of yours. It’s half of Virginia Tech’s. It is about 30% lower than
any university that we track. And Iowa State would be
the next one above us. That’s 30% higher, roughly. So that’s $6,000 a year. And then the students
there have merit based aid. So if you’re a family that comes
to the University of Florida, and you’ve sent your students,
and they’re doing well with advanced placement,
it’s basically free, because of the merit based
aid and tuition of $6,000. What’s dominating
us is just the rest of the cost of attendance–
the housing costs, the cost of living,
and food and dining. So tuition has become zero. I don’t know. Sometimes it makes
people feel better when you tell stories where
it’s more challenging elsewhere. The American Academy of Arts
and Sciences had a project. And I believe you had
Mary Sue Coleman here, as one of your speakers. She’s wonderful. She’s been a president at
the University of Iowa, and also the
University of Michigan. Neither of those are
land grant, but they’re wonderful universities. But she and former
chancellor Bob Birgeneau chaired that Lincoln project. And one of the five
books– the book list that they
produced– there is a chart at the end
of it, where they’re talking about the budget model. Or I should say
the business model, the business model for
public research universities. And they take the sum of the
state allocation per student, and the tuition per student–
those added together– and then sort it by state. State 50 was Florida. So that was our challenge. Now the state, in the
last several years, has not let us raise tuition. But they’ve been much more
generous on their side. So we’re no longer
at that number 50. We’re moving up. But it is something
that, for us, that’s the challenge for our
business model is very simply. Now when I look into the future,
which was your question, Tim, it is, to me– and we were
working on this at Cornell as well. We have to think about
revenues that we had not thought about before. So one example at
Cornell– and I know you all have been there
and done that to some degree. But at Cornell,
there were virtually no professional
master’s degrees. None. And our tracking appears–
that was something that other institutions were
using to bring in revenues, as well as [INAUDIBLE] society. So that was starting
as I was leaving, creating more robust
professional master’s degrees in the areas outside
of engineering– in the areas that
did not have them. With some resistance from the
faculty that– because this takes effort and time. And it doesn’t
necessarily contribute to your research productivity. And we were beginning to have a
discussion– and this, I think, is something that we
all should consider– about the model of what
kind of faculty member we’re going to
have in the future. When I was a young faculty
member many years ago, you had to be triple threat. You had to be good at teaching. You had to be great at research. And you had to do something of
significance outside of that that made a difference–
service to your technical area, or service to the
country in some way that people understood
that you were giving back. Do all three of those things. It may be, for the
future, that faculty will look a little different. And they may be faculty
that will indeed engage in one of those
areas more effectively. Or maybe they’ll be faculty
that engage in the public press. I took one of our–
one of our faculty just had a book on the long
list of the National Book Award. And he’s a brand new
assistant professor, so I– just been at the
University of Florida for a year. So I took him out for
coffee two weeks ago and was just talking to him. Because certainly,
now people are going to come try to steal the guy. And he was really worried
about whether the popularity of his book that he has,
this nonfiction fiction book in history, is going
to hurt his tenure case. It’s going to hurt it. And I said, well, it better not. Because you’re making us
famous by what you’re doing, taking your scholarship and
addressing a public issue. The issue is racism,
that his book is about. And that, to me,
should contribute to celebrating that
person’s success. But I think a different
type of faculty member. I also think– and there’s a
healthy balance, [INAUDIBLE] of, I believe, student loans,
as well as tuition, as well as financial aid. We all are working hard
on growing our endowments. And that is– both Virginia Tech
and the University of Florida are relatively young. And that’s a conversation
we may want to explore, Tim. But it is– our campuses
look like they’ve been here a long time. But in comparison to many
other universities that have been working on
growing their endowments and growing
philanthropy, we’ve only been doing that, at the
University of Florida, for several decades, while
many of the other universities have been out there doing it
for about a century or more. And that is a whole area,
I think, of opportunity, for University of Florida and
for Virginia Tech, as well. Well I think we’re
having almost exactly the same conversations
about the role of faculty, and creating new
pathways for faculty that may move from
a focus on teaching and learning to a focus
on research or vice versa. We’re trying to create a
more fluid system, so that we can use the strengths
of the faculty in the way that resonate
with the faculty’s desire to have impact. But one of the
things that I think is changing, in addition to
what you mentioned, is we’re seeing a receptivity,
especially in industry, but also with other organizations,
to forming long term deep partnerships
with the institution. And more and more industries
coming in and saying– and it’s consortia, usually–
coming in and saying– and they could be
formal or informal– we want to work with
you on this program, and we’re going to help
you with your curriculum. And we’re going to help fund it. And we’re going to give
internships to your students. And it’s hard to
say no, when you have a partner like that
that’s going to come in and sort of bridge
that gap for you. But there is that risk, and our
faculty discussed this as well, that we lose some
of our autonomy. We lose some of our ability
to be nimble and flexible. And I’m wondering if that
conversation has happened, or is happening, at
University of Florida or other campuses
you’ve been on. I suspect it was
happening at Cornell. But in different ways,
in different ways. We have a college of
Journalism and Communications. And we didn’t have
that at Cornell or– and I don’t think
Purdue had one either, right? Journalism and communications? And that was a college that
was at risk because of the way the world is changing
around journalism, of becoming irrelevant. And so before my time, they
did something really, I think, that was brilliant. They brought in a
person from industry, that really didn’t have
classical academic credentials, as the dean. As the dean. I’m not sure how I would have
felt as a faculty member. But she just really transformed
that college, made it relevant. She’s relying on
her associate deans to manage the academic piece. She doesn’t get involved
in those things. But she really has
added visibility, made them relevant in New
York City, and the media markets in Los
Angeles, in a way that is quite different than the
world I lived in when I was a young faculty member, where
it was just the classical way forward. And there are a lot of
risks in doing that. I’m glad University of Florida
didn’t hire an industry person as president. I’m glad they hired
a classical academic. But the dean was good. The dean was a good idea. That’s good. We could go on
and on about that. But I wanted to sort
of pivot a little bit, because it’s onto a topic that’s
really important for Virginia Tech, and was
certainly for Cornell, and I’ve learned, in
a brief conversation, also important for the
University of Florida. And that is that many of
our land grant institutions were founded on frontier
and agricultural land that was not only available,
but it met the mission. It was really there for it
to support the land grant mission– not just the
agricultural mission, but the engineering
mission, if you will. We needed land. We needed space. And while that
actually has continued to grow in importance– as a
matter of fact, in Virginia, the agricultural economy is the
biggest piece of the economy. So we’re doubling
down in what might be considered traditional
land grant areas, but with a modern focus. But that said, the
populations that we serve are moving toward cities. And the land grant
mission, if you look back to the
original concept– and don’t put it
in 1862 language, but put it in 2016 language–
we’ve got to be in the cities, too. We can’t just do it
all out in the country. And so I’m wondering
what you’re thinking is about that transition
from a strictly rural land grant to a– or even a
suburban land grant– to a mix of an urban
land grant, still retaining the rural and
suburban characteristic, but moving toward the urban. And you’ve been involved
in– as a matter of fact, were a key driver in the
Cornell Tech experiment, which is ongoing and actually
thriving in New York City. And many of you remember Mayor
Bloomberg giving– was it $100 million that he pledged? And then you got a very
large gift of $350 million, I believe, and have now
created an anchor for Cornell out in Ithaca, in New York City. We have the opportunity, in
the national capital region– and we’ve had roots
there for a long time, but we’re talking about
this binary star concept where Blacksburg and Roanoke
become one element of it, and the other element’s in
the national capital region. Not to discount the presence
in all the counties and cities, but there’s a real
opportunity for Virginia Tech. I’m just wondering if you can
share some of your advice, maybe cautions about– from
your experience with Cornell, and now your experience
with University of Florida, and how you make that
transition toward a footprint in an urban environment. Yeah. It’s a nuanced question. Because we are even in
discussions about our extension offices. We have an extension
program like you all do with– there are
67 counties in the state of Florida, and we have
offices in all of them, as well as 13
teaching and research stations around agriculture
scattered around the state. But one central campus, just
one campus in Gainesville, but all these other
programs, most of them agriculture, but
not all agriculture. And as we talk about just those
extension offices, beginning to develop programs that
are relevant, if they’re out west of Miami, or
in Homestead, you know, is there a way that
that could benefit Miami, or Fort Lauderdale,
or even further up the coast in
the other counties? We’re getting a lot of pushback
from the agriculture community. I just met with the Farm
Bureau, with their board of about 50 members
of their board. And there are 200 commodities
in the state of Florida, and they’re just
not so eager for us to start serving the city folk
with these extension offices. But I just feel that it’s really
important that we double down on serving the agriculture
community in ways that are going to be
relevant to the future, but also be really relevant
to the urban communities. Because that seems to be the
right mission for land grant universities– to do both,
and to do it well through, I would say, these
extension offices. And, in other ways, not
just classical agriculture. But we’re getting pushback,
and we’re working through that. I’ve lived in each of
these four universities. They’ve all been
rural communities, kind of like Blacksburg. The most rural,
though, being Ithica. Gainesville has about roughly
200,000 people, maybe slightly less. And when I first moved there,
the first year, everybody apologized about
how small it was. I think that’s 30,000 people. So it was a big city for me. And Urbana Champagne Illinois
and West Lafayette, Indiana aren’t much larger. I do believe, at least
for Cornell, and at least for the University
of Florida, they also need visibility in
the urban environment. So not just extension offices
serving the metropolitan areas, but some really high
profile visibility in a target urban environment. And what you all have with the
opportunities in the region surrounding Washington DC, to
me, sound really quite special. And for Cornell it,
indeed, was New York City. It was just crystal clear,
because of the programs that were already there, and it was
the closest urban environment. It was 4 and 1/2 hours
away, but still the closest. And through country
roads, not even an interstate for
the first part of it. So at Cornell, the
opportunity was to, indeed, take advantage of Mayor
Bloomberg’s vision. He saw the city of
New York as having 50-year cycles in its economy. The first 50 years was
it was a port city. Then the next 50 years was that
it was a manufacturing city. And then the current
50 years that it’s in, I’m not sure if it’s in
the middle or where it is, but that 50 years is
what we know today. It’s finance, it’s
media, it’s fashion, the things that we love–
entertainment in New York City. But he did not
believe that that was going to be what was going to
drive that economy of that city forever. And what he saw that was lacking
was a tech economy, a tech sector, or a tech ecosystem. And so he created what he
called, through the Economic Development Corporation of
the city, an applied sciences initiative. That’s how he
described it, and then had a bunch of universities
that competed for it. And the idea was,
very simply, not to take the intellectual
property that that would come out of an applied
sciences campus, and use that to start companies,
but to educate students that would create
companies in New York City and create this
ecosystem to grow. He wanted what we all
know about at other places around the country, and he saw
that missing in what was there. That’s a pretty bold
statement, to be the mayor of a city that has
Columbia University, and NYU, and City University of
New York, and to say, I’m going to bring somebody
else to town to help drive this. But for us, at
Cornell, obviously that was something we had to pursue. So we did that
really aggressively. At the Univeristy of Florida,
it’s not quite as clear that there’s one environment. A previous president at
the University of Florida thought Jacksonville was
going to be the city. It’s the closest. It’s a little over an hour’s
drive from Gainesville. It has great connectivity
with airports. And so we actually
have a hospital there. UF Health, it’s called. But it’s not working for us. It’s not– it doesn’t
have the luster. It doesn’t have the
opportunities, the business model. And Jackson was a wonderful
city, but it’s clear to us it’s not the city
that is going to drive the reputation of the
University of Florida that can have the core campus
being in Gainesville, then another urban site. So we’ve chosen
Orlando as the site. It’s complicated, because we
have– in contrast to you all, we have the second
largest university in the entire country
resides in Orlando. It’s called the University
of Central Florida. They have almost
70,000 students at UCF. But they have
welcomed us to come– UCF has– to be there
in the biotech area. And so we’re working on that. It’s complicated. We need approvals from
the city and the state, and we have about 90% of those. And we’re still optimistic
we’ll be able to do that. But there’s 30 acres of
land near the airport, and we, again, already have
a presence on part of that. But the idea was to
grow it significantly. And there, we’ll have to be a
partner with UCF and others. We can’t– because we’re
part of the same system, can’t be a competitor. But again, it’s the
same kind of idea. You have a marvelous
land grant university in a rural setting that’s just
an amazing place for students to come, to study, get a degree,
for faculty to live and grow their families and
do amazing things. But I just think you
need to complement that, when I look 100 years from
now, with an urban presence, as well. Not to have, per se, a
replication of the two campuses, but something
that’s focused, that’s a bright light that
brings luster and will give you connections that you
wouldn’t have otherwise. And I wish Washington DC
was closer to Gainesville. [LAUGHTER] Stay out. No, I’m just kidding. One of the things
with land grants is we’re kind of restricted
by our state boundaries. And so we have the city that
is in our state to think about and to engage with. So I think there’s a lot of
parallel opportunities here. And we’re fortunate,
I think, most states, to have that opportunity. Some states don’t have a major
city near their land grant. So we’ll have to follow each
other’s experiment and trade knowledge as we go. But it was wonderful to watch
you work into New York City, and I’ve had a chance
to visit Cornell Tech. And I’m very impressed
with the plans and with what’s been
achieved so far. But one of the things
you mentioned earlier is that, when you’re building
something from scratch, you can do some things that
are a little more modern, or a little more 21st century. But at the same time,
you have to keep it connected to the home campus. You can’t do it separately. And so these are the
kinds of conversations we’re having here. There’s a lot of
effort that went into convincing the
faculty in Ithaca that resources weren’t
going to get drained. I would say, though,
that there can be also a sort of magical combinations
of not just the opportunity, but also resources that come. So there was one large donor
that gave the $350 million. But this was an individual that
had given lots of resources in the past through
his foundation but had began to fund
other things outside of the university. But it was that campus
that attracted him back. And the campus would not have
happened without that gift. And secondly, I don’t
think the gift would have happened without the campus. And so that was one piece of it,
but a really important piece. And so things of those natures,
when they come together, can be quite special. So when we started,
we had no idea how we were going to fund it. And we knew the city had
possibly 100 million. They kept their
cards kind of close. We knew there was land. But that’s all we knew. And we had to make
huge commitments. And so coming out
of it, indeed, there was a gift to endow from
the Jacobs, the relationship with Technion,
over $100 million. There was a gift later, in fact,
from Mayor Bloomberg himself, in addition to what the
city gave, of $100 million. And again, it was
that synergy, where you have a special
opportunity that attracts a special
enthusiasm from people of means in this case,
as well as the city. So sometimes I think
we’re kind of limited– at least I have been in my
leadership roles– limited by what resources I have. And I’ve also been
on the side where we’ve overstretched on
our resources, spent money we didn’t have that
we shouldn’t have spent. So the magical
combination is when you have the vision that comes
together with the resources. Doesn’t always happen. But when it does, it– You have to jump on
it when it happens. You do, yeah. Little different
line of conversation. Virginia Tech, and I know
University of Florida is as well, strongly committed
to creating an inclusive campus environment that encourages
free but civil speech. But the national
dialogue, of course, is based on the premise, I
think, of offensive speech and free speech are
somehow connected. That in order to have
true free speech, you have to be offensive. That may be overstating it, but
there’s that sense out there. At the same time, our public,
primarily white institutions, our campuses, are
becoming symbols of economic and
racial inequality. And just wondering if that
keeps you up at night, like it does for me? And what are you doing at
the University of Florida to get ahead of
this growing sense that the reality on our
campuses and in our communities is far from what we espouse
as a societal ideal? Even going back to the
Morrill Act and its uplifting of what was called then
the “industrial classes,” albeit the white
industrial classes. Yeah. You all probably remember,
this past year, there was a horrific
shooting in Orlando, in the Pulse nightclub. And it affected all of the state
of Florida, but particularly those that had college students. And so that week, after that,
we had no students, or staff, or employees that were
harmed in that shooting. But it affected
our campus a lot. And so we had a–
and it was very much targeted at the LGBT community. The night of the
shooting was a night where there was Latino
young people there. And so it affected those
communities really profoundly. And then right on
the heels of that were the shooting of the
African-American young men by police and then the Dallas
shootings of the police. It was a tough couple of weeks
together there in the summer. We have a tower in the
center of our campus called Century Tower. So we lit that tower with
rainbow colors for a couple weeks, right up
until 4th of July, and then changed it to
red, white, and blue. But that week, that first
week after the Pulse nightclub shooting, I met with our
African-American staff that were– remember,
that was also the week of the
shooting by police of young African-American
men that was on Facebook Live and other things. So I met with the
African-American staff that were in our student
services, our student affairs. There are about 40 of them
that work with students in different ways. It was a tough
meeting, because they were relating all
the experiences they had at the University of
Florida of feeling unwelcomed. And these are the
people that are helping our students feel
welcome and are supporting our students. So it was a time, for me,
to just sort of reflect on the community that we have
at the University of Florida. And everybody was feeling
threatened or unsupported– staff, students, everyone else. Secondly, we took a– we did a
climate survey this past year. It was the first one ever taken
at the University of Florida. Took about a year
to get it ready. We’re still going through
town hall meetings to understand and talk
about what we’re learning. So we’re, as a community– the
community of the University of Florida– are
really wrestling with these issues of
race, of all the issues that you can imagine,
whether you’re a male Caucasian like me, or
no matter what your background. The community is really
wrestling with it. And both the faculty side, as
well as students, as well as all of the employees. And then the city of
Gainesville itself is really divided racially. The whole– East Gainesville
was founded in the early 1800s and is almost all
African-American. There are African-American
churches there from the 1850s. And then West Gainesville
is almost all Caucasian. So it’s a community that’s
wrestling with this, and working through it,
and trying to figure out how we can be open, how
we can be respectful, but learn from each other. It’s not a campus that
has a history of protests, although there
been some of them. So it’s just a matter,
for us, of learning how to have good dialogue where
we can learn from each other. We have work to do in growing
our diversity of our campus, just in terms of the numbers
of people that are there, including– including
the financial diversity of our students. So there’s work to be done. And I think we’re all
working through it, and we all have our stories. We don’t have like one incident. It’s like the whole campus
is involved in this. It’s a daunting challenge. But because the microscope
is on our campuses, whether we like it or not. And I think the
real opportunity is, if we can make headway on our
campuses, the rest of the world might see a model, at
least our communities. But we have to do it
with the community, too. The bubble is not real. We’re integrated
with our communities. Yeah. So I think we’ll both be
busy with this for many years to come. But it’s good work. The last question
that I have, and then we’ll turn it over
to Q&A, you and I are both fairly active
on social media. And I know when I became a
university president just a few years ago, my
kids basically told me, you have to be active
on social media. And I was not at the time. And I approached that
with quite a bit of dread, but it’s been a great
learning experience for me. I’m wondering what
your experiences are and how that has
changed the way that you interact with the communities
that you serve as a president. Yeah. So I checked out how many
followers President Sands has. I have to get to work, because
he has a lot more followers than I do. Well, I’ve been at it a
little longer than you have. OK, so not many months. So I’m envious. Although I should say,
I was really proud, at the University of Florida,
when I hit 5,000 followers. This is a while back. I have more now. Not a lot more, but more. And then somebody told me– this
was early, when I was there. They told me to check out
our basketball coaches. Yes, you don’t want to do that. At that time, our
coach was Billy Donovan, who had won a couple
national championships. So he had 100,000
some followers. So I was– that was going
to become my new goal. Then somebody said they
should– that I should check out our latest Heisman Trophy
winner, which was Tim Tebow. 3+ million. So I have a ways to go. One thing I have
found though is that, despite the numbers not
being that large– I mean, if you think about
it, we probably have 250,000 alums and maybe
2 or 3 million people who consider themselves Hokies. And my set of followers
is much smaller. But what I’ve found is that
the messages that go out on social media,
directly or indirectly, seem to propagate by ways that I
don’t understand, beyond that– They do. They do. several thousand. So have if you been
on Facebook Live yet? No, I haven’t done that yet. OK, so I did it Friday. Because I knew it was coming. I had to do something
you didn’t do. So last Friday, I
was on Facebook live. So you can watch it. It’s now been archived, if
you have nothing else to do. I fear that that’s going
to appear on my agenda soon. I don’t know what it is, but
you look at a little iPhone, and 10,000 people watch it. And they send you comments. They send you comments. [INAUDIBLE]. It does. But I’m sure you have found this
as well, Tim, that it really does enable you– I had never
been on Twitter until I started as a president, and they
convinced me to try it. And what I had seen before was
just presidents tweeting out what they had for breakfast,
and then lunch and dinner, and that they were going to bed. And I didn’t really think
that very presidential. But what I found out– because,
as you do, I live on campus. And it really allows you to have
a conversation in a way that allows you to connect. And it’s not so
much the president, it’s the president
represents the university. The president represents
the administration, represents the faculty. And so the students, which
are the majority– not all, but the majority
of those that are watching you and interacting–
say, wow, this person cares. So when I checked
into the hotel, the young lady asked
me why I was here. And I said, well, I’m going to
have dinner with your president tonight. And then I said, have
you met President Sands? And she said– she
said, oh yes, I met him. We love him. He’s awesome. Now, probably it’s just Twitter. Well, you know, I
was about to say that, that I probably have
met that individual. If they’re working at
the inn, I probably have met them in person. But one thing I’ve noticed
is that when I’m traveling, and I’m not on
campus, and I tweet– and, by the way, both
of us, we found out, manage our own accounts. We don’t have people
tweeting for us. Even though it’s pretty
clear that I’m not on campus, that doesn’t matter
to today’s generation. They feel you’re there. If you’re tweeting at them, and
they’re tweeting back at you, and there’s a dialogue, or
they just see what’s going on, they feel like you could
be 3,000 miles away, it does not matter. You are there. And that is invaluable. So that part of it I love. I also did something for
the first time last week. You may do this every week. Wow, you’re a few
milestones ahead of me. I did– this is
not social media, but I was on my first live
call-in sports show last week. Have you done that yet? I’ve been asked to do
those kind of things, yes. It’s been 17 years– 17 years
at the University of Florida since the president’s done that. And now I know why. Now I know why. [LAUGHTER] Somehow we can’t get
it into the schedule. I don’t know what– Well, let’s turn it over to
questions from the audience and also from WebEx. Yeah, since you guys were just
talking about social media, I’ll actually start
off with a question we’ve gotten off of our
@VTBeyond Twitter feed. And they ask, what
type of faculty will be the faculty
of the future? I think we touched on that. I’ll give it a shot. Both of our
institutions, as I said, are– in the scheme of
higher ed globally, and also secondly, here in the
United States– again, we’re relatively young. It’s been in the 1960s, 1970s,
when both of our institutions said, we’re not just
going to educate people, but we’re also going to
be scholars of the world. And we’re going to have not just
the best students in our state, but we’re going to
be a place where students from around
the world come, and we’re going to be equal
to any other university. So both the University of
Florida and Virginia Tech are working hard to raise what
I call our stature, our stature. So I think faculty
here at Virginia Tech, and faculty at the
University of Florida, are going to be,
in the future, ones that not only their peers
know about them nationally, but I would like to see faculty
that the general public knows about. Now not all faculty are going
to write columns in the New York Times or do things. But I do think more public
visibility and engagement with society by faculty
will become more important. So faculty will have to develop
those kinds of skills, which I’ve had to learn by doing it
by mistakes, by making mistakes, engaging with the
public– in whatever ways. It could be on social media, but
it could be more classically. And that will help,
I think, our case for why our society
needs to invest in these special universities. I couldn’t agree more. I think there’s a
diversity of ways that faculty can
fulfill the mission. We can’t expect
every faculty member to do exceptional work in every
aspect of what it means to be a faculty member at all times. They might do it
through their career, but not maybe all at once. But I’ve noticed– we had a
remarkable experience with Mark Edwards and his colleagues
in civil engineering going into Flint. And the last year
or so, we’ve talked a lot about that
experience that Mark had, that was driven by his passions
for clean and safe drinking water for everyone. And the conversation I think
that it’s– it’s not completely new, but it’s much
more elevated, is this sense of–
especially for land grants– of having an aspiration for
improving the human condition. Being very out about that. Not just something you talk
about around the dinner table, or with your graduate
group, but something that is publicly accessible. And in building your
depth, and your discipline, and your interactions with
teams across the disciplines, to allow you to go out
and attack real problems, alongside the necessary work in
building the base of knowledge. But I think that’s a great
frontier for all of us, especially the land
grants, where we already have that kind of mission,
or that DNA, or whatever. But just getting it
out, exactly like you described, just
getting it out there, making it more
visible to the public. This is why you fund
the public universities, is because they are actually
making a difference out there. They’re not just generating
knowledge, which is critical, but they’re having an impact
on the human condition, or having an impact
on economies. One of the things that I
noticed– and you may have had this experience
in Jacksonville. You mentioned that it’s
not big enough as a city. But we have a similar
situation with Roanoke. And when we make an
investment in Roanoke, it makes a difference. Because it’s a small city. And so you start to see
this feedback mechanism is a lot more transparent
than it is in a big city. But I agree with you. I think our future
is great, as we pivot toward being more
publicly accessible to those who pay the bills. I would say there are–
well, I’d make two comments. One is that there’s
a lot of risk– I’ll give you two
examples– in that we have had a very visible faculty
engaged in the GMO debate. And this is his
area of research, genetically modified organisms. And he’s a plant scientist. But he’s really been attacked. I mean, really personally. It’s tough. Yeah. In all kinds of ways. Because that–
particularly in Europe and other parts of the world. But even here in the US, and
even some of his colleagues don’t agree with him. But he’s been in that debate. So there’s a balance there. And then, secondly, there
can be political constraints. Particularly if
science may disagree with some political perspective. So you have to do it with care. And I don’t think all faculty
members have to have headlines in the papers every day. I don’t want to be in the
headlines of papers every day. But I do think all of us,
whether we’re presidents or faculty members, need to
communicate why– what we teach and what our scholarship is
about– why that’s important. Even if we’re a theoretician. Even if we’re in any area–
arts and sciences, humanities, social sciences. Why is it that we
teach a certain course? And hopefully what we work
on are important things. It doesn’t mean everything
we do ends up in a product. Not at all. But it’s important, in some way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t
be working on it. We want to all be working on
important things, whether we’re theoreticians or no matter
what areas we’re in. And I think communicating
that, why it’s important, is good for us. But it’s also good–
and our university. It’s good for universities, but
also good for society, for them to understand why liberal arts
and other areas are important. Well, a lot of what
we do is inspire. And our faculty in
astrophysics, and paleontology, and many other fields of
the humanities, the arts, inspire people. Those are the
ideas that generate the next product, if you will. So I think we’re heading
into a great future there. Well, let’s take
another question. Good evening. My name is Duane Taylor. And it’s been a unique
opportunity for me and my wife here
tonight, because we just came to Virginia Tech
earlier this summer. I’m a new member of
the facilities team, and we’re former
residents of Florida. And our daughter
is a new freshman at the University of Florida. So it’s been very interesting
to hear your perspective. Go Gators. Doe she follow President
Fuchs on Twitter? I’ll ask her. Ask her. It’s really exciting to
be here at Virginia Tech, as we explore what the Beyond
Boundaries notion means to facilities and
campus infrastructure and things like that. And I’m curious what your
perspective is at University of Florida with regard to that. The infrastructure
of the institution? A couple comments. I’m not sure that
they’ll add much. First off, I think Virginia
Tech’s campus is just gorgeous. I love your Hokie stone. Is that the word? I love that. It’s the only
place in the world where you can find our
version of dolomite limestone. Yeah, yeah. And that was part of what
attracted my son here. You can’t buy it. In 2002. It’s just the beauty
of the campus. And there’s something important
about a beautiful campus. I’m one of those people
that believes, indeed, we’re going to do a lot more
online education in the future. And I’m a huge
technology optimist. But I love residential campuses. And I’m biased, because
I’ve always worked at one. But there’s– the
physical beauty, as well as the function of a
campus, are just so important. The great challenge that
most universities have, and I don’t know
what it’s like here, but that have been at their
location 100 years or more, is our favorite term,
deferred maintenance. We have that in just
all kinds of ways. And it’s hard to address
that with philanthropy. It’s hard to address
it through any way, except for just
purposely addressing the deferred
maintenance piece of it. So we’re pretty successful
at the University of Florida in creating new buildings. We’re not so good at
maintaining our existing ones. And so that is just the big
bogey that sits out there that we talk about. And we don’t yet have
a solution for it. We’re working with
our state to help. But even then, it’s a hard lift. But that, for us,
is really important. But then there’s the
whole infrastructure of how do we become
even more efficient and effective in our missions
of education and scholarship? And what buildings should
look like in the future, and how sustainable
they’re going to be. So there’s just a lot of
excitement around that and how that integrates. It’s good to be on a
campus– and you all have this, to some degree–
where the weather is nicer in the academic
year than it was up north where I was before. It changes the environment
in a positive way. The students are out and about. Our summers are spectacular,
but we can’t– everybody takes a break. I’m just saying. I love Blacksburg
summers, but yeah. One more question. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I’m on the faculty in the School
of Public and International Affairs. And I’m very interested
in hearing your thoughts on international campuses. What is the strategy for
sort of growing [INAUDIBLE], expanding the land
grant mission overseas? We have campuses in Switzerland
and India and other places. What are you thinking about
taking that leap overseas and [INAUDIBLE] successful? Yeah. It is a area of, I think,
opportunity, when you look globally, internationally. But an area, no matter what you
do, you have to do carefully. You have to do carefully. We’re having some challenges
right now on campus in just managing some of the
engagement development projects that we had, that we
have federally funded. Because it’s so difficult
to have processes in place internationally and
watch those carefully. So we’re– on the
compliance side, which I hate talking
about or dealing with– just getting hammered right now. Because we didn’t have
the right processes in place in other
countries, where we’re doing some important
development work. So there’s a lot of
risk internationally. But there’s even more
benefit and upside. So I’ll start with
Cornell’s, and then I’ll mention the
University of Florida. At Cornell, there had been
one campus, internationally, that was significant. And that was that
the medical school had decided to go into Doha
and to Qatar and to have a campus there, which
exists and is flourishing. There were other
pockets of initiatives, as I’m sure you all have and
University of Florida has. Their architecture program had
a program in Rome in a building, but not a full campus where
they were giving degrees. There was only one place where
they were giving degrees. And we decided, purposefully,
when I was there, not to set up any
more branch campuses, but instead to have
targeted relationships. Targeted relationships. So we did that with the new King
Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. And then we’re working with the
School of Hotel Administration in Asia. It’s very focused, and
it’s not a branch campus. The one thing we did that
was unique at Cornell was to invite an international
university to come to the US and to partner with us. Usually, it’s the
other way around. We’re sending people– we’re
creating campuses elsewhere. So we invited to
this tech campus that we were talking
about earlier the Technion
university, which is the equivalent of Virginia
Tech, although much smaller, in Israel. And even that, even though
it was on our own soil, was not easy. It was challenging, when
you take two cultures and you’re working out–
giving dual degrees and doing all those things. But I think something that
it was worth the effort, worth the effort. I do believe it’s really
important that we give our students
international experiences, both by having them
study and learn overseas, but also by bringing
international students here, that they can learn from. We have a very small
international undergrad population at the
University of Florida. At Cornell, it was 11% of our
undergrads were international. At the University of
Florida, it’s been 1%. 1% of– and, to me, that means
that the undergrad population that at the
University of Florida doesn’t have the
benefit of interacting with international
students as they could if their roommate was
from a different country, or their lab partner was
from a different country. We’ll always have the
majority of our students be University of Florida–
or State of Florida students at the University of Florida. But I do think we have to grow
the international students. And then, obviously,
there’s just the initiatives of the
faculty, which are abundant. And how do we support
that as an administration is something we’re working on. Tim, did you have
any thoughts of that? Well, I had one thing. Of course, a lot of
our faculty are– as they are in most land
grants– are very engaged. Some of the people
in the audience here, I’m surprised
they’re in Blacksburg, because I thought they were in
Africa, or Europe, or wherever. Which is fantastic. And we have a lot of
student– faculty-led student opportunities. But one of the things
I just mentioned– because I would just repeat
what you said, for the most part– is we had a Beyond
Boundaries conversation with our graduate
students and undergrads. And our provost, Thanassis
Rikakis, and I were there. And the conversation
with hundreds of students around tables,
talking about Virginia Tech a generation from
now, around this idea of the global footprint,
was much more ambitious than any administrator, or
even faculty member, I think, would dare to think about. If I could summarize
what I learned is, our students envision
campuses on every continent, for Virginia Tech,
and the ability to move between them fluidly. So you’re taking a course
based in Blacksburg, but you may be in three
continents in the semester. And you have the
continuity of that course, because the
connections are there. Multi-modal delivery
of the course. You can take it at
any time of the day. And a sense of being able
to run around the world and always be at
Virginia Tech when you need to be in the
evening, or whenever, is something that– we haven’t
figured out how to do it, but it’s a student aspiration. And it’s an exciting one. It really, I think,
reflects the fact that this generation has
a much different world view than our generation. We think of going
and studying abroad as a good thing, which it is. You go, and you learn
about other cultures. You learn how to
immerse yourself. I think some of our students
are even beyond that, and they’re thinking,
I’m going to live in this global environment. I’m going to be bouncing around. I need– I want Virginia
Tech to make that easy on me. And of course I want
to be– they always want to be back in Blacksburg
on Saturdays in the fall. And I don’t know why, but
they always want to do that. But, well, I think it’s been
a fantastic conversation. Thank you, President
Fuchs, for taking the time. And I’m sure our
audience, WebEx audience, has been engaged, as well. And I’m sure we’re going to get
a lot of conversation started here, or we did
get a lot started. So looking forward
to keeping you close. And I know you don’t have
any more children coming to Virginia Tech, but
maybe the next generation, as it comes along, you
can move them our way. I did ask, as my
gift for coming, that I get some gear
for my grandchildren. So we’re taking it back. Fantastic. That orange and
maroon, really early, before they’re a year old. You’ve got to get them
an orange and maroon. Very good. Thank you, Kent. Thank you. Thank you.