We are drawn to the University of Chicago as an intellectual destination because of a distinctive culture and environment where accomplished and promising scholars, ambitious students, and dedicated staff choose to pursue their highest aspirations. Our devotion to rigorous inquiry and an intense and open exchange of ideas, and our comfort with complexity and multiple perspectives, also make us an intellectual destination for those beyond the community on campus. Interesting thinkers, many alumni, and those with particular experiences and perspectives, whether they come as faculty, students, staff, visiting scholars, or research fellows, or to speak on campus or participate in one of our workshops, add to the energy and constant flow of ideas and argument that are characteristic of the University.
This concept of intellectual destination is reflected in many of our recent endeavors. The Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society has launched a program of research, discourse, and events that extend the boundaries of humanistic inquiry. Likewise, the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics has conducted an array of workshops and conferences that draw scholars from around the world who are interested in the intersections of economics, law, business, and society. The Institute for Molecular Engineering has recruited its initial cadre of outstanding faculty members and continues to attract faculty to the University with the possibilities of a new discipline-defining integrative approach to design from the molecular scale. The Institute of Politics has brought speakers and experienced public officials to engage with our students.
We are an intellectual destination not only in Hyde Park, but increasingly around the world. Our Center in Beijing has fostered novel projects and inquiry in areas across the University and has attracted thousands of scholars, students, and collaborators from China and beyond. In 2014, the University will open a broad-based Center in Delhi that will support a growing body of faculty and student work as well as engaging with our alumni and building new collaborations in India. Plans are also underway for a University Center in Hong Kong, which will include the Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA program in Asia. And the University’s new affiliation with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, itself a major intellectual destination, will increase our ability to pursue promising areas of inquiry and new modes of education in the biological sciences.
One of the University’s fundamental missions, in addition to education and research, is to ensure that our scholarship, when appropriate, can be brought to bear on the complex challenges facing society. One very particular example is in the field of clean water technology, where the Institute for Molecular Engineering is joining scientists and engineers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel to develop new technologies for purifying water and enhancing the world’s fresh water supply. The Pritzker School of Medicine continues to be a leader in understanding how large scale computation can directly lead to better outcomes in clinical care. The Urban Education Institute is having an impact not only on the lives of children in our charter schools, but through the dissemination of its findings on improving schooling more broadly.
Through our collective work and commitment to our distinctive intellectual and educational environment, we renew the University every day. However, creating and renewing this environment also requires continuous attention to infrastructure. Around the campus you can see visible signs of our investment in the facilities that support faculty and student work, including laboratories, libraries, classrooms, residence halls, and hospitals. We have made it a priority to raise funds for student and faculty support, including scholarships, internships, and professorships. We also continue to make significant investments in the Laboratory Schools and in the retail and cultural environment in and around Hyde Park, which enriches our community as well as helping us to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, staff, and students.
None of this would be possible without the vision and generosity of the University’s trustees, alumni, and friends, whose philanthropy has made a key contribution to the University’s momentum. More than 45,000 donors gave a total of $459 million in new gifts and pledges in the past year, a 48 percent increase over the previous year. That is a remarkable statement of confidence in the University and a commitment to its ongoing eminence.
Robert J. Zimmer
Adapted from President Zimmer’s fall 2013 welcome and update to faculty, students, and staff.