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Timothy Killeen Prepares To Step Into Job As U of I President

Incoming University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen talks with WILL's Jim Meadows on Thursday May 14, 2015.

Incoming University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen talks with WILL's Jim Meadows on Thursday May 14, 2015. Michael Owen Thomas/WILL


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Well Timothy Killeen first of all I want to welcome you to the University of Illinois where you will be starting as president on Monday. That’s exactly right thank you so much. Is there a ceremony for this thing.

There will be a transfer of the chain medallion that will signify the transition. Yes in Springfield but no great ceremony the ceremonial we’re looking forward to is commencement. And and that’s when our graduates finish and that’s the that’s the big deal this week.

So you’ll be there in time for your first commencement just a week after taking the office

. Yes I’ll be attending the commencement ceremonies and all the ones that I can get to. I’m really looking forward to that.

What are your plans during your first week as well.

As you know I’ve been I was announced in last November so there’s been a six month period of transitional work with President Bob Easter and so I’m not exactly new but I really want to use this first week to to be out at the campuses including the medical campuses Rockwood in Peoria the Chicago Springfield and and here and the way we’ve designed the first week is to a little bit of a traveling road show the three chancellors and myself are going to travel together. We’re going to be speaking together in town hall settings on each of the campuses answering questions from the community and spending quality time together because I think one of things I’m very excited about is the synergy across the three campuses of the University of Illinois as and we’ve got great leadership and I I really want to. Help create that cohesive team building on what what’s already here so we’ll be doing that next week in the visiting of the various campuses and you’ve done so far what are you finding out about the vine.

What what what particular strengths do you does that you have I have that you’d like to build on .

Well first of all people have been asking me what surprises you most about the vibe but I’ve been paying attention for many years. You probably know from my background as a professor and administrator I’m I mean or as I like to say of the University of Illinois I know a lot about it. Certain areas better than other areas. It’s a it’s a magnificent institution. It’s got an incredible legacy one hundred fifty years almost of contributions on all kinds of fields. It’s got. A tremendous faculty. A great student body. Seven hundred thousand alumni . You know almost four hundred thousand of them in Illinois contributing to the Illinois economy. So none of that surprised me. I kind of knew the facts and figures but if the things that have been most striking in my transitional months is the depth of the loyalty of the stakeholders I’m talking about alumni students faculty staff stakeholders of different types and I I wish I could brand that and bottle it and sell it because that loyalty is is deep and profound and I think it’s one of the most important assets that this university has and want to take advantage of that there. Other things that I have learned more about in in my my visits to labs. I think for example the ability to work across disciplinary lines in scholarship is remarkable. At the University of Illinois and I think that’s something we can also take great advantage of if you think about the challenges that society has and the need for human capital the training and the skills and competencies that are needed. That’s a great asset too. So among the things that I would cite is loyalty and ability to work across disciplinary boundaries. You know in a seamless kind of way and I think that’s a great asset there’s a great assets but there are also hallmarks of what’s needed going forward for a land grant university.

And are there particular areas where you think the university now areas you’d like to see the university grow and develop more.

Yes I think the. Certainly I see growth and impact as important components of the future.

There are clearly some budgetary challenges that are being faced currently but if you think about the University of Illinois as a real great exemplar of the land grant mission where forged under President Lincoln’s signature the Academy was connected to the economy and economy of the day it was agrarian way back then. Now we’re dealing with a knowledge economy it’s fast paced competitive global multifaceted economy and so for the langar and university to participate fully in a leadership the shaping role. We need to take advantage of our scale and I think one of the characteristics of the University of Illinois is is it scale it’s got expertise in all of these areas it’s got a very distinctive three very distinctive truly excellent campuses that are different in type but truly excellent some taking advantage of that scale . I think it’s what the state of Illinois needs now particularly connecting new knowledge creation and dissemination to the economy which is about human welfare and prosperity through goods services intellectual capacity discoveries inventions but also probably at the core human capital. The student body it’s all fundamentally about the students and giving them real rich educational experience that then they can take on the great citizens and great contributors in the future that optimally requires a scale commensurate with the importance of the University of Illinois. This is the heavyweight flagship university of the state of Illinois which is. Very important state. So I think you know Illinois has to take that that outlook that world view that we’re in the heavyweight class here and need to act that way so that certainly some growth in areas but we don’t want to swell. We want to focus on excellence and impact and students the student experience is sort of at the core so they’ll be guiding principles behind decisions that are taken as we move into the future and that’ll be done as it should be in full in full collaboration with the faculty and the sort of traditional shared governance mode which I think is very important very strong here in Illinois and I am very excited about working with the faculty governance structure to to make some of these choices and decisions as we move forward.

Tim your own background is in research you were a researcher in physics space sciences you many minutes trader and I guess facilitating research projects. Can you tell me what insights you bring out a position as a new university president from that background from from from working in research and with Riggs OK OK so I know to use the past tense I used to be a researcher on that question.

So she said Well I hope that the discipline of inquiry and new knowledge creation and discovery curiosity is part of who I am and part of what what builds research so I think it’s it is an important base of experience and I was as you know in a way involved in space science is building its mentation for satellites and one of things I learned there is it’s doesn’t do much good if it doesn’t work. So having things that work well that where there are outcomes that are meaningful and functional is very important. I think one of the lessons from my background experience both actually is an active research of that but also as a research administrator is is the sort of importance of project management and good delivery and effective stewardship of resources so the outcomes are healthy and vital and work so things that work well I think is something that gives you a lot of internal satisfaction. I think the ability to work in teams is something that I’ve picked up along the way. Collaboration is incredibly important and I think it’s it’s always been important that it’s of increasing importance I think as particularly some of the more complex problem areas come into focus which need realistic solution sets that are derived from expertise that has to be can join from lots of different directions so I think collaborative spirit is very important . And in order to get that and I may be talking too lengthy here your shot you look at the sign if I’m going on too long. As a as a professor I am essentially. Well it might but I think collaboration also needs respectful listening and discernment that where diversity is important to the sea of opinions to the city about look people coming together looking at issues with from the different facets and then designing strategies that are holistic and and those are the most successful they’re also it’s fun to work in teams as well. Those are among the things that I think I’ve picked up along the way.

As a researcher and in talking about I was thinking of the research work done at the university. Some people would see a little tension between the research work and the instructional work. But can the information is there. Is there a way that the research work can be part of the student’s experience including the undergraduate student.

Absolutely yes and that’s been something I’ve been passionate about and interested in for many many years is you know it’s been demonstrated pretty conclusively that hands are an authentic learning in team settings doing engaged work scholarships be it in a library or in a lab or in out in the field adds to the student experience creates better outcomes for students able to solve problems able to think creatively. So I think this this combination of research enrich learning which some people call applied learning is incredibly important and I think it should be available to all students to have these sorts of experience experiences which. Really Help help them with their scholarly education as well as their competencies that they go forward with . So I don’t see it as one thing pitted against the other I think in the academy we need to recognize that new knowledge creation which is about research and new knowledge dissemination which is about instruction and education are two sides of the same coin.

And to be an A in a setting such as the University of Illinois where where the teaching and learning is excellent and the research and scholarship is excellent is just a wonderful place for students to thrive and prosper and I think so. We can always do better on all of these things we can always have more we can have more careful engagement more opportunities. We need to make some evidence based decisions on how to use our resources best that that that connection of research and scholarship to teaching and learning is central to the University of Illinois and very much a strong suit.

Two facilities at the U. of I things like the research park here at the abandoned campus are the new U.I. labs being developed in Chicago. Do they play a role or are they part of applying the concept of Applied learning.

Yes I would say so. I think as I suggested earlier the the the modern twenty first century langar mission is about research universities and particularly public research universities contributing to the public good through economic revitalization.

I believe that Illinois could benefit from and in fact needs higher levels of participation in economic revitalization and that can benefit the students by providing opportunities internships reference letters from key people exposure to to what their future careers might be and look like. And so there’s a there’s a really a virtuous cycle here in terms of. A participation of a public research university in the economic well being of the state it’s in the genome because of the language and mission. It’s in the mission as of about the year two thousand I remember reading all about Illinois the University of Illinois a commitment to this and it benefits the students and it benefits the faculty too because they also have opportunities to gain access to resources and support that might not otherwise happen.

And as I said earlier I think Illinois to prosper and succeed in a twenty first century economy it needs to grow it needs to grow in terms of its economic throughput. And by that I mean good jobs for where you know our students can raise families and have careers and have opportunities. So I think that as well. Part of the overall mission of the university and you mentioned U.I. labs which had a big event last week which I attended and the research park I think they’re both important aspects of this because if you’re thinking about an innovation ecosystem. That the University of Illinois can support. It’s about teaching preparation training human capital development it’s about new knowledge new ideas it’s about new fledgling companies that can succeed. It’s about connecting to the lifeblood of the state and that ecosystem has to be nurtured and obviously I’m voting with my feet.

But the centerpiece of it all is the public research university and I’m going to make that case and I’m going to make that case strongly as often as people will listen to me and make it yesterday in Springfield.

Yourself are you going to be keeping your hand in as it were doing any research or doing any teaching along with your work as president.

Yeah I would love to get into teaching again it’s been a few years since I’ve taught an actual lecture course but I’ve been doing guest lectures so I got my lecture notes from way back when. I’m going to the first order of business is to get. To start work and we’ve got some issues to work through in terms of budgets in particular that I think is going to consume my initial energies and I really want to get out and meet meet faculty staff and stakeholders family members and I think that’s important to be really taking in information from all the key stakeholders groups but I would love to get back into teaching to some extent.

And in terms of research I think I have two hands on research that I was doing. I don’t think I’m going to have the time for so I can do it maybe through through my colleagues I can pay attention I attend meetings I read the technical journals which is a joyful thing to do and perhaps at some point I’ll be able to to to get back into the lab settings. I still think of myself as I sort of indicated earlier as a researcher and professor and scratch me hard enough that’s what you’ll find.

So what inspired you to take on the work of administrator.

I think if you look back on my career I I I moved into administration pretty early on but kept my feet in both. A scholarly pursuits as well as administration.

I do find the administration very creative and very rewarding . And particularly if you recognize the skills and attributes of others. And and. And you can help others achieve their dreams in terms of scholarship and so forth and then have the credit flow to them and watch careers unfold it’s very rewarding. And then as we mentioned earlier this idea of team building and collaborative design and larger scale attack on social technical problems that need to be resolved. That’s extremely rewarding too. So my career is unfolded a little bit without a lot of planning I have to admit I didn’t know I was going to be sitting in this chair seven months ago. So there’s a little bit of serendipity about what happens in your career. But each step has been a broadening and a larger landscape in a larger horizon and that’s been extremely rewarding and I’ve been extremely fortunate with the opportunities I have but it’s all in Illinois all the time I can tell you that from now on.

Can we ask our audience this week to suggest some questions for you and this is one of them about online instruction and its role in the university as it becomes a larger part of what the University of Illinois offers a student or what do you think you can do as you were by President to ensure that online and online learning provides the same value and earns the same respect as a classroom learning.

That’s a great question I really like the way you posed that question.

Clearly there are disruptive technologies that have importance for pedagogical delivery in education. Coming out of this quickly distance education is is one of those things and it’s a growing field and I think that the implication in your question is that what do you do about the quality assurance and the. To make sure that these distance curricula products really state of the art world class. And and I think that needs work and careful design and as all curricular elements their faculty product so we got to you know university presidents don’t create curricula faculty create curricula and manage curricula so I think opening the doors for that kind of conversation I’m particularly interested in in hybrid models where you’re looking at a combination of as we were talking about earlier applied learning strategies as well as distance learning strategies and of course the campus the campus experience is very important too. So there’ll be a mix of learning styles I think that it’s an Emmy a larger portfolio of learning styles and methodologies that will be in play in the future . I think our commitment to the University of Illinois is going to be to do it at the highest level of excellence. So the the. The learners that interest their time and energy and resources to come to our university are given the best experience that’s most meaningful for them in their lives and affordability is part of that too and accessibility affordability is all part of that equation too so I think I think I.T. technologies for education are very important and we don’t only want to apply them at the university.

We want to be leaders in the design and the technologies that underpin them as well so it’s a research field as well as an educational field this is one of those instances where research and education of the two sides of the same coin news accounts I’ve seen about your work at S U N Y I note that you came there after an ethics scandal at that institution involving the previous administration and the U. of I has its share of scandals and controversies in its recent history the admission scandal and of the dispute between a former president and faculty over government as you’re getting to know the people here at the U.N. Why are you finding that that these events are essentially all in the past or do they still leave an impression that you have to contend with as an incoming president.

I think I appreciate that question of course I’ve done a lot of reading and I’ve talked to a lot of people about these institutional challenges in the past and I did live through a transition from one state to a much better state at the State University of New York a research foundation there and could talk a little bit about what you need to do it’s mostly common sense in fact in terms of policies standards of integrity transparency accountability careful stewardship disclosure and complex and that those sorts of things are all part of what I in terms of the University of Illinois . My sense is that Professor Bob East president Bob Easter who has become a firm friend over the last several months and has been extremely gracious graceful gracious with his time has really done the institution a service in terms of creating a platform from which now I as the incoming president can can move beyond outs in terms of embracing this concept of the modern lion grand the American University for the twenty first century at scale the kinds of things we touched on earlier and so I think the scene is set for wonderfully great things to happen. I also feel that. The many students faculty and staff at the University of Illinois are ready for that. I think some sometimes some of these issues that consume a lot of newsprint can set institutions back to Little little low or aspirational settings and so. So what we’re going to do next week is we’re going to try to initiate a process that the board has asked for for a new strategic plan. And my intention is to take this opportunity to co-create this strategic plan that will take advantage of this platform the president Eastern I think is bequeathing to the next president and really move to another level move up to another level of excellence and integrity connectedness and the way I feel about this is it’s about shared vision. And there’s nothing as strong as a shared vision to create a shared vision you have to have a lot of conversation and dialogue and discussion and so that’ll be part of the early taskings that I’ll undertake so we’re going to do this round robin tour next week but then we’re going to go through a. A process of consultation tive collective shared visioning that will lead to implementable strategic plan that will. My hope is we’ll define the University of Illinois as the model of a twenty first century Langridge university I’m not I’m not catching up with anybody. I’m talking about the best university.

And and it’s I think that’s what the legacy kind of calls for.

I think that’s one of the great staff and faculty need and demand and deserve and I certainly want our students need to need to experience.

And so let me go for it and you’re going to be trying to do this at the same time when the governor of Illinois has proposed substantial cuts in state funding for public universities. What do you want to do to prepare for these cuts are perhaps lobbied to prevent them.

Right OK So that’s that’s the you know what when somebody else asked me this question and I’ll repeat my answer it’s OK to I think repeat yourself sometimes but you win the Tour de France when the going gets tough on the uphill legs so the budget environment here is clearly. Or problematic and difficult and obviously I am going to work I hope tirelessly I do get tired occasionally but I’m going to work as hard as I can on advocating to those decision makers the importance of the value proposition of the University of Illinois for the people of Illinois for its impact not just in educating the students but creating prosperity for the for the state as well and to public private governmental partnerships so that’s the case to be made that we deserve the university deserves access to resources from the taxpayer. I think it’s a strong case to be made. And so we want to avoid negative things but. But I can tell you that no matter what level of resources we have we’re going to be committed to excellence and to embracing the the future no matter what the level is we’re going to argue for the best possible level with the most cogent arguments that we can come up with. And we’re also going to look hard at ourselves because I think that’s part of our responsibility the state has an authentic problem. We recognize it. We’re going to be realistic about making our contributions to the resolution of these things. The University of Illinois again is a heavyweight and I think those contributions can be important but that means that we need to look at ourselves we need to make sure that we’re efficient we’re good stewards of resources we are effective. We have an emphasis on excellence. We hold each other and ourselves accountable. And this abiding commitment to excellence I think is going to excellence and integrity are the critical critical things. So yes the budget outlook is problematic. I’m personally an optimist. I don’t know how to be anything other than that so we are going to work on making it as optimal for the university and all the stakeholders through advocacy. But then we’re going to actually no matter what we’re going to move forge ahead with this. This embracing the twenty first century because that’s what that’s what we have to do.

Even aside from the budget problems Illinois is seeing right now the trend over the last several years seems to be towards a decline in state funding for public universities in the US. Jewish and rates go up. Do you see this trend continuing. What other potential funding models exist to take the place of what is on the decline now.

Yeah I do think that this is the time where some of the models that worked for decades are kind of reaching the end of their shelf life in terms of the business model for universities and it’s reflected in the declines not just here but in many states have state funding for the public universities and the tuition is part of that whole business model. And of course it directly. I’m impacts the accessibility and affordability for students. So we’re going to we’re going to look carefully at that model and we’ve been talking about and developing a conceptual new compact between the university and the state in terms of what we provide the states and what the state provides us. And the interest here is in a multi-year outlook so that we can plan effectively. So that was we wouldn’t be moving from you know crisis to crisis event but planning effectively. I think that new business model will require looking at deficiency effectiveness as I was alluding to earlier it will also need looking at potentially new funding sources and resources notably of course philanthropy and research funding connecting with public private partnerships it’s cetera. And then with the state. So I think we need to. Being in a mode of looking ahead optimistically and a new model of operation where our guiding principles will include importantly affordability accessibility and quality of education . And as you probably noticed there was a commitment to freeze tuition this year that I was part of those conversations. And and I think it it demonstrates a commitment to to the mission of a public university providing opportunities for Illinois youth and we need to continue doing that we can’t cost our way despite the budget pressures that we’re not going to just turn on a faucet and negatively impact Illinois families. Without without really really looking at this new business model so affordability is going to be part of our thinking going forward it’s going to coal part of this new strategic plan.

I was wondering about that with the words of the former chairman of the University of Illinois board of trustees Christopher Kennedy who told Crain’s Chicago business shortly after stepping down that the university should keep tuition high. He didn’t think that a wishin freeze was a good idea. He said that the rich can afford the higher tuition and that the system needs the money to compete with Harvard Dartmouth and Brown for instance and that financial aid with that exist for middle and low income households . So I guess in looking at that does does does he have a point and is it possible for a major research university like the you are vying to be affordable and highly competitive as you’re seeking.

Well Mr Kennedy was a wonderful board chair and I would love to have this conversation directly with him I think you can do both. I’m to believe that you can be affordable and excellent that they actually are intertwined concepts and we can attract great faculty and provide the reward systems and be ranked nationally and be preeminent and still be accessible. Now in order to do that we’ve got to work hard. And there will be instances where we with fees and tuition rates may have to go up because of other eventualities and certainly there are some differentials there between students who come from abroad where there are legitimate high costs on the institutional side to do that. So it’s a as I would suggest I’m new here in a way. So we’re going to take this on as a business model looking at all of the factors in this complex equation and I think what what I’m trying to impart is that there are guiding principles behind the decisions will take which will be rooted in excellence integrity and contributions to two Illinois families as really important components of this for this overall structure I’m not sure if that answers your question in detail but on day minus two that’s what that’s what I’m giving you.

I wanted to go on to a question about a new project here at the Abana campus and one big new research development the launch of the engineering focused College of Medicine here at the Abana campus it was a program that was launched over the objections of the Chicago campus where the existing college of medicine is based of course you are going to be the president of the entire university. How do you make sure that two colleges of medicine work smoothly and perhaps even cooperatively.

Yes it will be on my watch and I’m very excited about this challenge I come from the State University of New York where we had four medical colleges. So it’s not like you can’t have more than one in a state.

Was there a rivalry or friction you want what I would say healthful healthy competition some rivalry but a lot of complementarity two and a mutual infusion of best practices and lessons learned and so I come from a state where. You know there’s been considerable work done with hospitals and with medical colleges . The thing that I wanted to get to though with this is that the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School is a tremendous medical school it has fantastic faculty it has a reach and scale and emphasis on what I would call population health and community health nursing social work etc That is really beautifully poised for the new era of managed care as we move away from E.R. visits to trying to have preventative medicine in clinical settings to lower the cost to make it more so I think the University of Illinois Chicago has a fantastic future in its medical school. Wonderful students scale opportunities and of course is in a world city. With a tremendously diverse population and some aspects of this vantage populations too which is a branch of medicine in and of itself. Then we have now is a very exciting new college an engine of Medicine in Havana champagne that’s going to be obviously take a few years to evolve and develop but the concept of bringing in engineering and biomedical research together in a in a setting for training next generations of physicians who have a strong technical I think is very complementary to what we have in Chicago. And if you read the small print of the of the of notifications on this collaboration is going to be built into the design of the new medical school. So it’s not it’s not going to just happen and after the fact will say Can these two organizations work together.

We’re committed to creating.

Having it be designed for collaboration. And as I just described I think there’s a degree of complementarity here that will enable really significant synergies particularly with the way medicine is evolving now with high tech you know census and neuroscience capabilities and robotic surgery all these intervention strategies that rely on really modern and cutting edge engineering and the cutting edge of what it means to have a healthy population. And I see that as not intellectually as intellectually challenging as anything and I think the assets that we have in Chicago are five innocent plus is a very strong bio engineering school there as well so I am excited about having an embarrassment of riches. It’s not a bad place to be.

I want to ask you about the role of the Springfield campus it’s the newest addition to the NG or by it’s been with it for just twenty years. What role does it play in the university system and do you see in it specific strengths to leverage our weaknesses to address.

Yes this was probably to be honest the part of the university and I that I knew about the least six months ago and I’ve learned a lot about it and I’m just very excited and delighted at what I see the commitment to teaching and learning and distance education we talked about earlier is very very strong there.

There are a great strengths in research as well I think in terms of public policy is very important connections to where Illinois needs to go as a state in terms of tax policy pension policy it’s a it’s a it’s a a university I think that is young.

It’s it’s got growth potential. It’s in the state capital. The leadership which is wonderful there has very concrete strategic plans for developments that I think very exciting too so the combination of a sort of excellent liberal arts school small school which is growing in the state capital with a world city major research university in Chicago twenty thousand students Contiki one classification.

Biggest medical school in the country cited in a world city that’s I think of as the final for a third of the G.D.P. in the country in a way with this magnificent event like campus here where you have one hundred fifty years of legacy and high ranking departments everywhere you look and tremendous Eelam in the faculty to work across disciplinary boundaries.

Something like myself coming in it’s Couldn’t be better.

The faculty unions I want to ask about those because they’re at various stages of development in the in the in the three campuses.

I don’t know to what level they exist at S U N Why do you welcome I think I’ve been I’ve lived in both unionized faculty and unionize faculty and what I really care about is excellence and mission delivery and more than happy to work with either type of organized faculty. We cannot go off the boil. That’s the one thing I would say and I think we care. About the faculty. Universities were sort of created as faculty guilds in a way so the faculty are at the core of the essence of the university and I think that that collective. A combination of intellectuals who are devoting their professional careers to teaching learning research and discovery is what the universities are all about self organization is a right. So I welcome and I welcome all models and would work in all kinds of settings. But I think excellence and key mission delivery and respectful and nurturing of and recruiting retention of great faculty is what I’m going to be particularly interested in fostering.

I wanted to ask about the level of students at the your high who are African-American on the Abana campus. It’s under five percent . That’s I believe lower than it has been in some recent years it’s lower than the other two campuses in terms of percentage. The university administration has said it has programs in place to improve those numbers. What can the U. of I do to be more effective in rolling and graduating African-Americans.

Well I think this is a very important question. I think diversity of all types is needed for a university. Not just ethnic diversity diversity of background approaches etc I think in terms of the African-American student dissertation in U.I. You see I think that’s something that needs work or common fact I do know that the chancellor promised this week because I have visited a Chicago high school in order to work on this very problem and I I’m tracking this I’m looking at it. I have some experience in other settings of pipelines and that are important and I think we need to be concerned about this . We need to work on it and there are many factors of course as you must know in this kind of a question but I would like to see a university where we are reflective of our population and provide opportunities and access and opening doors to to all of all of our under-represented groups and. I will say that we need to improve those numbers and I’m optimistic that you will see an uptick in this in this particular year. I’ve been tracking the admissions and the applications etc to see what’s how this is unfolding and it’s something I’m going to be paying very close attention to and in fact just the other day I was also working in a visiting high school in the Latino community and in Chicago some of the reasons we need to be connected to communities of all types appropriately effectively and from what you just said to him Are you saying that perhaps the fall twenty fifteen enrollment numbers could be better than fall two thousand and fourteen in that regard African-American Wellman you’re pinning me down Jim I am an optimist as I told you but I’ve looked at the numbers and we’ll see when the final records are provided but of course you students who say yes may turn around say No I’ve changed my mind later on so I think well let’s wait until we see the final numbers but it’s these are numbers that I’m going to be looking at and talking about and thinking through and we. These these are and that’s an important question .

One of the big news stories this week a big sports story as well has been the charges from a former U. of five football players Simon is out of the church about his treatment regarding care for his injuries by coach Tim Beckman. The university is bringing in a law firm to do an investigation . Can you lay out the policies you believe the university should have in treating its student athletes especially when they get hurt .

Well I think I probably can’t get into the student athlete policies because maybe you know and it’s a first order this is an issue that the athletic director and the Chancellor are dealing with and I’m being informed as what’s going on as as is President Bob East being informed. We need to take such allegations if I can call them that seriously and look into them and I think the appropriate response has been to delve deeper into into that question in terms of policies if I could step back to students just generally I think student safety. It’s an incredibly important issue I think respectful workplace in all settings is an incredibly important issue we need to be competitive we need to be inquisitive and demanding etc But I think there are some fundamentals that also need to be in policy and that is respect for each other as individuals and I think the faculty should model that and I think we hope that the students benefit from those kind of settings.

It doesn’t mean you take the edge off the competitive drive for the tolls I would just put it in the larger context of of what I would call a respectful work place that we want you know listed on my to be a university has has had recent controversy over the hiring of James Kilgore who served a prison sentence for his activities with the radical group and currently Stephen satellite whose faculties of faculty appointment was withdrawn following his controversial postings on Twitter . There are strong opinions on both sides both sides raise policy questions going on from from this point regarding how faculty and other employees should be hired. How do you want to address those questions.

Well I read a lot about. Being exposed to a lot of these discussions in my transition period so it’s not a brand new discussion for me. The way I am personally thinking about what I need to work on when I arrive next week and this strategic planning is to do is to think about what it means to be a citizen of planet Earth in the twenty first century with things like respect for the Academy an academic freedom and the Constitution and things such as we talked about a moment ago in terms of respectful listening and so forth and not pick pieces of that against each other so that we have an Illinois model that is wholesome and that is healthy moving forward and some of the issues that you talked about are some examples of that discussion. Breaking out and I think the discussion is actually very healthy because yes there are passions and. I held in both in All in all aspects of this but I think this is the debate of our times. What do we know. What does it mean to be a university in the twenty first century. What does it mean to be a faculty member. What does it mean to be a student. What does excellence in classroom and in scholarship mean and as I said earlier on I think I want to focus on is University of Illinois faculty it’s all about it’s for the students but it’s by the faculty and so we have to have this commitment to excellence in faculty as well. So the strategic planning process will my hope is and we were going to start this in a consultative fashion so I’m not going to impose a blueprint I’m going to come up with ideas as my colleagues will have but I think civic engagement is an important piece of what it means to be educated you know and what what I think you know east of Illinois brings to the table in a full richness. And that has many aspects and attributes and also the core of of freedom of inquiry and academic freedom is really the work of what it means to be a professor and I am completely right here into those fundamental principles. The discussion is a healthy discussion and when it gets into policies and policies should be as clear as possible. A lot of very smart people have thought about this and there are articulated versions of that that well regarded and respected and so I don’t think we need to start from scratch. I think we’ve got a lot to call on. But I’m interested in the University of Illinois being the model for for some of these things that I would call civic engagement and also global engagement is also important to we need to connect out as well as within. I wanted to bring I’m not sure if I’m helping you.

I’m trying. OK Tim I want to bring in one more another another question that was sent in to us and I was asking about a proposal that a local lawmaker had this year. State Senator Bill Brady who proposed as a way to save money for state universities to have them privatized that essentially the idea is that they would still receive state funding the state would still own the campuses but the universities would be private institutions and thus would be exempt from state procurement rules which require extra expenses there. Is is is that a viable idea that would help. Do you think would it change the nature of what a public university is.

Well I think the short answer would be it might change I think is a very creative idea and I think it’s part of the overall discussion I referred to a little bit earlier I think we do need to find a new model for public higher education in the twenty first century because some of the older models have run their course a little bit and we need to be as I was emphasizing. A forward leaning on these things. Personally I like the public aspect of the public university. I think public good is inherent in our D.N.A. in our makeup and that’s an important value to project.

So there are many excellent private universities of course as you know that have their own internally coherent business models and so forth. I think the connection of the University of Illinois and its land grant mission and its public outlook requires attention to the public good. And of course that means we need to be held accountable to ensure the public good to human capital development all these other things we talked about.

There’s also a private good of course that somebody gets when they get a degree and they have opportunities that wouldn’t be afforded to somebody without that education so families prosper as well so I think the debate is really private good but I would be really tilt towards a public good because I think. At the scale in which we’re operating with the provision of twenty thousand degrees a year and many of them going to happen next week and I one thing I want to say is congratulations to all the seniors . I hope that gets out on your airwaves because they deserve their time there are moments of joy and celebration .

Twenty thousand graduates a year is a tremendous contribution to the public good of the state of Illinois. I think about it. They don’t just graduate. They live here they stay here they pay their taxes they they participate in the economy with all the credentials and the expertise that they’ve derived from this. That is a contribution to the public good. That for me is really important so I love the word public . And. So there’s something in me that says well let’s not privatized that on the other hand we need to need to look at our business model with care and attention due diligence so it’s viable with these guiding principles that I mentioned before. So all of these are great questions and so I got to congratulate you on the questions you are probing the the essential characteristics of a public research university and I think sometimes you have to step back a little bit and take stock of what’s just happened the world is changing around us. We’ve reached this platform which is a really great platform you know where do we want to go next. And these are the questions I think what it means to be a student I mean to be a faculty member what it means to be participating in the economic lifeblood of the state what it means to be globally engaged what it you know all of these things I think are essential to where we go next and I’m just looking forward to this this discussion and the faculty voice is going to be. Very very important and not it was going to agree on all topics but that discussion and that and that inquiry based debate I think will provide us with what we need to move forward and viciously and aspirational E..

Tim I have one last question and I was struck by when your appointment as you were vice president was announced you were quoted as saying the job looked like a good right hand a capstone for your career and a member of our audience wants to know. What do you consider to be. I guess when your term is over as University of Illinois president what would you consider to be as marks of a successful term that you can look back on set with satisfaction.

Well that’s a good question and I probably wouldn’t like some of my former colleagues to hear this but I think most of my experience has been training for this job. This job I’ve been in lots of different settings and I cause I gave my heart and soul to it. But I do think that this is the summation of my experiences and so forth and so I’m going to as I said I’m going to give it my all. What would I see as the lasting contributions. I would. I’d like to see the University of Illinois better appreciated more visible stronger more aspirational more influential have greater impact then and I think some of the issues that we talked about a little bit earlier which are sort of in the way of being self-inflicted issues held back that sense it. So restoring that sense of ambition that aspiration that sense of belonging that we’ll see in spades next week at commencement and if that could become obviously would be great to be a pioneer in pecking orders ranking orders et cetera and impact in that all the metrics in terms of participation in scholarship and discovery and economic impact etc and so there are many ways to assess progress. But for me the watercooler metric is pretty important you know I would like people to say Well have you seen what the University of Illinois is doing. Oh my God You should check that out. That would be a nice little finding a few years from now because I think the scene is set as I said right up front for us. And greater levels of magnificence. OK I’m not taking anything away from what we have now but I think the future is ours to embrace and it’s not catching up with any other model. It’s creating a new model of the public research university world city Big Ten Springfield liberal arts biomedical training Global Engagement distance education at a scale and with affordability accessibility and excellence . Those are the those are the pieces that I think I hope would be would be cited at the end of a successful presidency.

But I’m just really geared gearing up right now and I’m I’m ready to go and work with our many colleagues and friends across the across the three campuses to to move move forward. Well Dr Killeen thank you very much for talking with me.

Thank you very much for the time and the interest and the best of luck as you start your term as president. Thank you so much.

Incoming University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen will assume office on Monday, May 18. He succeeds Robert Easter, who's served as the top administrator for the three campuses since 2012. Killeen spoke with WILL's Jim Meadows about his vision for the future of the three campuses, his strategy for dealing with state budget cuts and his reaction to recent scandals at the U of I.

For the last 2.5 years, Killeen has been the head of the Research Foundation at the State University of New York (SUNY). Prior to that, the Wales native and three-time NASA award winner spent time at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Michigan.

Killeen also worked at the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that provides hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research money to the University of Illinois every year.

Killeen said his own background in research has complemented his role as an administrator.

"The discipline of inquiry, new knowledge creation, curiosity and discovery is part of who I am," said Killeen.

The future president said he will draw heavily on the lessons he has learned as a researcher, most notably the notion that "it doesn't do much good if it doesn't work" approach. 

But Killeen faces uncertainties over dwindling state support for the three university campuses and rising tuition, though trustees recenlty approved a one-year tuition freeze.

"I think we need to find a new model for (funding) public higher education, because some of the old models have run their course a little bit and we need to be forward leaning."

Although open to considering new sources of revenue, including a recent proposal from a state senator to privitatize state universities, Killeen said he's committed to the public aspect of the public university system.

"At the scale at which we operate, 20,000 graduates a year is a tremendous public good to the state of Illinois if you think about it. They don't just graduate, they stay here they pay their taxes here and they participate in the economy with all of their credentials and expertise."

The new president said the public good that the University of Illinois provides to the state is very important to him.

Killeen said this appointment to U of I president will be his last job and says he wants to dedicate his presidency to the students of the University of Illinois. Killeen referred to himself as a "genetic optimist" ... not a field of science, but a nod to his positivity, he said.

Killeen has a Ph.D. from University College London in atomic and molecular physics and will earn a $600,000 base salary, plus a $100,000 performance bonus.