The University of Nebraska–Lincoln exists to create opportunity for Nebraska. That’s why it was chartered 150 years ago as our state’s land-grant university.
In the 1860s, leaders across Nebraska and the nation envisioned that the land-grant university — by bringing to life the idea of publicly-accessible higher learning to the masses — would be a game-changing endeavor. New doors would open. Lives would be changed. Previously untapped workforce potential would be unlocked.
Nearly 295,000 conferred degrees later, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is still delivering on its promise of serving Nebraskans with access to higher education, world-changing research and outreach. In fact, in 2018-19, we granted more degrees than in any previous academic year in university history.
Today, our state’s workforce not only needs more highly skilled graduates, it specifically needs more new talent in information technology fields. The number of IT jobs in the region has been flat for five years, while in nearby cities such as Kansas City, Denver and Des Moines, growth is more rapid. And the need for these jobs is projected to increase in the future.
The university is partnering with industry in a number of ways to develop IT-skilled graduates ready to go to work in Nebraska. We are proud to be aligned with the Aksarben Foundation-led Nebraska Tech Collaborative that is joining forces to grow and retain talent to support tech-related fields. And, UNL is uniquely aligned to support the initiative with nearly 3,000 of our 25,332 current students engaged in fields of study related to technology fields.
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We’re also growing our programs to develop more talent in these fields. Earlier this fall, with support from the private sector, we announced plans to build Kiewit Hall as part of our College of Engineering facilities and enrollment expansion. A big part of our investment into the College of Engineering is the proposed formation of a new School of Computing. In creating that school, we hope to at least double student enrollment in computer science, software engineering and computer engineering. This will lead to significantly enlarged cohorts of graduating students prepared to enter into Nebraska’s information technology workforce.
Our new Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts was launched this semester with guidance from global leaders in technology and creative industries. Carson Center students and future graduates — well-versed in speculative and iterative design, visual design, storytelling, code, systems and critical thinking, and entrepreneurship — make up another important talent pool for our state’s rapidly changing workforce.
These recent investments in key areas of study represent the dynamic impact our Big Ten, land-grant, flagship university can make working in concert with industry and state leaders to anticipate and respond to the needs of Nebraskans. But it isn’t the whole story of how UNL engages with our state to create opportunity. It’s not even close.
Our outreach and engagement mission through Nebraska Extension continues to be recognized as a national leader. Their important work is spread across all 93 counties of the state in areas such as agriculture and agribusiness, natural resource stewardship, youth development, STEM education, community development and vitality, human nutrition and well-being, and manufacturing.
The UNL-based Bureau of Business Research shares timely, relevant and insightful data on economic conditions in Nebraska. Through the Lied Center for Performing Arts’ Arts Across Nebraska program and Sheldon Statewide, UNL engages Nebraskans with world-class performances and exhibits.
Additionally, each of our academic colleges have elevated engagement with and across the state in everything from community architecture projects to the Nebraska Center for Children, Families and the Law to the Rural Futures Institute’s community service-ship program. Numerous specialized clinical and entrepreneurship partnerships are offered across all of our academic colleges for the state.
Every day, your university is hard at work — on campus and in all 93 counties — serving Nebraska’s interests. That’s the way it’s been for 150 years, and our commitment to Nebraska is only growing stronger for the future.
Ronnie D. Green is chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.