President's State of the University Address

On Thursday, University President Jared L. Cohon delivered his biannual State of the University Address in the Posner Center conference room. His agenda included discussions about the student body, CMU Qatar, sponsored research, this year?s financial highlights, Phase I of the Capital Campaign, and recent highs and lows of the University.

President Cohon began his speech by addressing his concerns that Carnegie Mellon University was ?still largely a second choice school,? especially among competitors such as Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University. This year marked the lowest number of applications in five years, and a correspondingly high admittance rate of 42 percent. According to Cohon, Carnegie Mellon is still considered to be a ?selective? university, as the admittance rate is less than the requisite 50 percent, but admittance in the 2003?2004 academic year has been uncharacteristically high. ?Ultimately what really matters is the quality of the class of students,? Cohon said.

Among the concerns President Cohon addressed regarding the student body were the decreasing numbers of minorities, women, and international students. Cohon noted that although the number of minority applicants this year is lower than in previous years, ?we are still very diverse compared to other universities.? William Brown, a professor of biological sciences, noted that he was ?especially concerned with the population of women decreasing,? but he also took into consideration the fact that some of the low gender ratios in the last three years were due to ?trends in ... certain disciplines.?

?I believe, and I say this with confidence, that it is the perception of international students that getting into the country is difficult, not safe, unattractive, even unpleasant,? Cohon said. ?I say perceptions, not realities ... this is a national problem.?

Cohon then remarked on Carnegie Mellon?s newest branch in Qatar. ?I have two concerns about the student body [at the Qatar campus]: the less than adequate preparation ... and students? being overly passive,? said Cohon. However, he was pleased to observe that the students at Qatar are ?eager, engaged, and delightful,? and that classes thus far are ?going very well.?

Cohon continued by addressing sponsored research. He observed that the ?increase [in sponsored research] is very significant, especially since last year.? Cohon described this increase as the ?result of outstanding faculty.? Yet he noted that compared to other universities the revenue per square foot for sponsored research is still low due to the fact that the school has ?not built enough buildings.? Janusz Szczypula, an associate professor in Information Systems, commented that he ?was pleased that [President Cohon] addressed the need for an increase in space.?

Cohon was pleased to announce that the University?s net assets were up to $158 million for the 2004 fiscal year.Although endowment is up from $655 million to $768, he commented that ?[Carnegie Mellon?s] endowment is still small compared to other universities.? When addressing the first 18-month phase of the university?s Capital Campaign, Cohon declared, ?I want, and I think this university is capable of, raising one billion dollars during the next Capital Campaign.? He stated that the Tepper and Gates Foundation donations were ?exactly the results we needed.? In particular ?the [Gates contribution] puts us in a very small and select group of universities.?

Among the recent highlights addressed were the high rankings of Carnegie Mellon by Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and the Wall Street Journal. ?For us to rank this highly is a tribute to the school,? Cohon said. Also among the highlights discussed were the recent Presidential Early Career Awards for Science and Engineering to faculty members Yoky Matsuoka and Jennifer Lerner. He commented that the awards were ?cherished and prestigious.?

Continuing with University highlights, Cohon addressed the psychology department in particular by stating, ?I could single out a lot of the departments for kudos, but psychology has had a really remarkable few months.?

Cohon?s speech concluded with a brief question and answer period. Brown felt that President Cohon ?hit some of the really major highlights,? while managing to address the ?trends in [student enrollment] that are in the wrong direction?we just need to turn the curves around.?