Ole Miss Alumni Association Annual Meeting

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Saturday, October 6, 2018, 10 a.m.
The Inn at Ole Miss, Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom

It’s great to be here! And it’s so great to see many of our passionate Rebs today. With so much energy and commitment, it’s easy to see why Ole Miss is such a special place with extraordinary people!

Every week at our great flagship university is exciting and active. Let me take this week just to give you a sampling. The Department of Music’s Living Music Resource and Prof. Nancy Maria Balach marked the 20th episode of the LMR LIVE interactive talk show. Our Commission on the Status of Women and my wife Sharon hosted a lovely reception at our home in the Carrier House honoring women faculty, staff, and graduate students. Our Schools of Law and Pharmacy co-hosted an educational symposium on a heartbreaking issue facing our state and nation — the opioid crisis. We commemorated the 20th anniversary of the founding of our esteemed Croft Institute for International Studies with a wonderful celebration. And of course, today is Homecoming as we welcome to campus so many alumni and all the great activities that come with it!

I’d also like to take a longer view and share some of the exceptional things happening at the flagship.

  • We have more than 23,000 students this year, representing all 50 states and 90 countries for the 4th-highest enrollment in UM history.
  • We’re ranked among the top 12 fastest-growing universities in the country by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • We are ranked by the Carnegie Foundation as an R1 Highest Research Activity University — placing us in the top 2 ½ percent of colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • Our external research grants on the Oxford campus grew 23% in the last year to $71M.
  • All three degree programs in the Patterson School of Accountancy rank among the top 10 in the nation for the eighth consecutive year.
  • We were awarded a second national Language Flagship Program — we now have flagship programs in Chinese and Arabic.
  • Graduates of our School of Lawwho were first-time takers of the MS Bar Exam passed at a rate of almost 74% for the July 2018 cycle. That rate is substantially higher than the state average of just under 59%.
  • We’ve got a number of efforts that will start to see real results toward our goal of creating a Healthier Mississippi including our new medical education building, where weenrolled the largest class in the medical school’s history this fall with 165 first-year medical students, up from 155 last year. And we’re working on a $180M expansion of our renowned Batson Children’s Hospital, designed to care for the youngest Mississippians.
  • We generated over $100M in private giving for the seventh year in a row — a big thanks to our incredible alumni and supporters!
  • We have $709M in construction recently completed, ongoing, and upcoming.
  • For the 10th consecutive year, The Chronicle of Higher Education named UM a “Great College to Work For.”
  • We are serving more than 1,400 military-connected students.
  • At 84 percent, our student-athletes recorded the highest Graduation Success Rate in school history.
  • And we are SEC baseball champions for the eighth time in UM history.
Another area I want to update you on is our strategic plan, Flagship Forward, that we launched last fall. The plan is for the Oxford campus, but also contains for the first time a true university-wide mission and vision statement that encompasses UMMC as well. And it includes several university-wide transformative initiatives. Today, I’d like to share the status on a few exciting initiatives that will make a real difference for our university and around our state!

First, a key part of our never-ending pursuit of academic excellence is a university-wide initiative called Flagship Constellations. Each Constellation includes membership from both Oxford and the Med Center to combine unique insights and expertise from various disciplines. This initiative brings together the most competitive teams of scholars across all of our campuses to tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time in the areas of Community Wellbeing, Disaster Resilience, Brain Wellness, and Big Data. To share one example, our Brain Wellness Constellation is focused on the neuroscience behind disease, injury, & addiction to address issues such as the opioid epidemic.

The next transformative initiative I want to share with you today addresses our responsibility as a flagship university to build Healthy and Vibrant Communities. This past March, we launched an innovative and powerful initiative called M Partner that creates partnerships with MS communities to address core challenges & goals. With M Partner, we saw an opportunity to tap into the talents of our entire university, partner with communities, and make a difference across a broad range of areas.

Coming up on Saturday, October 13, we will hold the M Partner Community Day of Service. We’re sending 150 students, faculty, and staff into our M Partner communities of Charleston, Lexington, and New Albany.

Before I wrap, I want to share a little bit about the ways we’re supporting a very important part of our community — those who so nobly serve our country. We are a military-friendly campus! And we serve more than 1,400 military-connected students with programs like:

  • Purple Heart Parking and the opening of the Veterans Resource Center.
  • We’re an unlimited Yellow Ribbon school, which helps students with 100% VA benefits to pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. Yellow Ribbon also allows veterans who served at least 3 years of active duty since 9/11 to go to law school for free.
  • And this past spring, ourStudent Veterans Association and the Ole Miss Wish philanthropy provided a very special day for Colton, a patient at Batson Children’s Hospital, and his family.
  • Coming up in November at halftime of our game against South Carolina, the SVA will grant another Ole Miss Wish. I have the inside scoop that it will be a spectacular and heartwarming presentation. Make sure you are there to share in the special moment!
At the same time, we’ve faced a couple of recent challenges. Universities are dynamic places by design, and we will work through these challenges by adhering to what it means to be an Ole Miss Rebel. An Ole Miss Rebel is a Rebel with a cause. We make a difference as an innovator, a teammate, a champion for others, a mentor, an entrepreneur, a fiercely loyal family member, and a leader. Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another. We do not shy away from difficult discussions. We neither hide from, nor hide, our past. Every voice matters. It means we move forward together with a shared vision for our future. We will always be Ole Miss Rebels! As alumni and passionate supporters, I know these words resonate with all of you, especially as we look to uphold our hospitable and welcoming atmosphere on our campus.

Let me close with a big thanks to all our Ole Miss Rebels here today. I appreciate your time and support. Hotty Toddy and Fins Up, Rebels!