This year didn't come without challenges, but Chancellor Phyllis Wise says everything that's happened has helped the university grow. Just this year, we've seen it get a fresh re-brand, Alma Mater with a makeover and changes on the way for Memorial Stadium and the State Farm Center.
With all the buzz, Chancellor Wise says it's no surprise more people are taking another look at UI.
"We had a record number of applications this year; over 35,000."
As the face of the university, Chancellor Wise has been taking her message abroad, looking for even more opportunities to expand.
"We visited India this time because of the fact that we're thinking about opening an office in Delhi and we wanted to explore that a bit. What we really want to do is have a community that represents the world."
The world is listening, especially since the chancellor took on a leadership role for an online community.
"He asked me whether I would like to become an 'Influencer,' and I hate to admit I didn't know what that was."
She was hesitant at first, but decided to blog for Linked In.
"Although there were people talking about higher education, there were virtually no higher education leaders."
Wise says representing higher ed on a big stage is a great opportunity.
"What we do right will make the university more prominent, more respected, have greater impact."
But, with that comes responsibility.
"When we make mistakes, those also become more prominent so we have to be really, really careful. We've had some challenges."
Those challenges include a heated controversy after students wanted a snow day and protests against the chief on campus organized by a Native American student.
"We continue to work on issues of diversity. That's going to be a forever path, to be more inclusive and more welcoming to students who come from all walks of life."
In looking to the future, Wise says the university is still on track to hire 500 new faculty members in the next few years, including 180 just this year.
"Our primary responsibility is to be able to recruit and retain the very, very best faculty. We spend more time doing that than anything else."
But, even that doesn't come easily as the budget battle continues in Springfield.
"We would love to have at least flat funding."
All the bumps in the road have paved the way for what Wise calls, "a year of growth." It's one she hopes to build on in the years to come.
Chancellor Wise says she's looking forward to graduation which will be outside at Memorial Stadium this year. It's because crews are renovating the State Farm Center. Rain or shine, she's sure it will be a memorable event.
All this growth is part of the university's strategic plan. For more information, click here.
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