President in annual address: Universities are key to preserving American dream

September 24, 2013 | News, UToday
By Meghan Cunningham



The American dream is in danger of disappearing and it is up to great 21st-century universities such as The University of Toledo to preserve it, UT President Lloyd Jacobs said during his seventh annual address to the community Sept. 19.

Jacobs

Jacobs

“Much of what constitutes the strength of our communities is comprised of, or connected to, the idea of the American dream and that dream is disappearing. That dream is weakening,” Jacobs told a crowd of more than 350 in the newly renovated Doermann Theater.

Universities that became an active, permeating presence in their communities and migrate toward the “cloud university” model represent our best hope for securing the values of the American dream, Jacobs said.

“I do believe that a great university like this University has a role in the preservation of the American dream,” he said. “To elevate what it is to be a human being, to improve the human condition, requires some irreducible level of prosperity and health, both strongly influenced by the 21st-century university.”

The American dream is dependent upon mobility, he said, with opportunities that allow those who work hard to achieve a more comfortable present and stronger future. But a confluence of factors negatively impact that dream, including the “hollowing out of the middle class” and possible characteristics of the millennial generation such as the need for near-instant gratification when perseverance and tolerance for delayed gratification are essential in the pursuit of the American dream.

Education continues to be the single most important means for attainment of the dream, Jacobs said.

“So, in a real way, universities not only enable individual students to value and realize the dream, but strengthen the fabric of our society in a way that facilitates the preservation of the dream,” he said. “The influences of a university upon a society should include emphasis on prosperity and distributive justice for all, good health and longevity for every segment of society.”

UT is doing its part with a number of relationships with local, regional and global impacts.

The University’s Confucius Institute and its relationship with the Hanban, a Chinese public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, shares culture and language and strengthens connections between the United States and China. Similarly, UT has entered a collaborative agreement with the PSG Institute of Management and PSG Institute of Advanced Studies in India that will contribute to our culture of diversity and broaden our understanding of global culture, the president said.

The University also is making strides on student retention with a specific collaborative effort called “Brothers on the Rise” to positively impact retention and self-efficacy of black male students.

An existing relationship with the Discovery Channel for access to a 4.3-meter telescope near Flagstaff, Ariz., and a new partnership with the Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics and Atmospheric Science at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil are expanding our cosmological exploration.

Locally, UT remains committed to economic development through Rocket Ventures and UT Innovation Enterprises working with local and regional organizations. And opening in spring 2014, the Simulation Center on Health Science Campus is forming partnerships across education, research and clinical care that will continue to bring distinction to the University.

UT continues to work closely with community college partners and the Toledo Museum of Art, as well as businesses that include Chrysler, where the University helped organize a consortium to train workers in the fundamentals of world-class manufacturing.

Jacobs thanked faculty throughout his address, attributing the success of the institution to their great work.

“I know full well that these are stressful times. It is, however, your work and your commitment that have brought us thus far and your work and commitment that will allow us to thrive in the difficult days ahead,” he said.

“I urge you to think of your beloved University as a cloud — infiltrating, strengthening and inspiring all who are near. I am deeply grateful to you and honored to be joined with you in pursuit of the American dream.”