Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I have now officially been on the job here at Illinois for seven days. It was a week that saw both sadness and tragedy, followed by a powerful display of hope and support. And it was a week that demonstrated what a tremendously caring community I have just joined.

It is my privilege to serve as the 10th chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As I said on the day when the Board of Trustees made my appointment official, this is my dream job. And in many ways it brings my life and career full circle.

It has everything to do with one day in a field in southwest Georgia when I was 9 years old. I was supposed to be picking cotton. Instead, I was distracted thinking how in the world this green plant could create this fluffy white ball. That was the day I started on the path to becoming an agronomist. That path led to degrees from Fort Valley State College and the universities of Georgia and Missouri and to a 34-year faculty career at the University of Minnesota.

The land-grant mission is in my blood, and I am a proud product of it. And as chancellor at Illinois, one of the original land-grants established by the Morrill Act, I have the opportunity to help ensure that my experience is one that any student can have in this century of higher education.

We need to find ways to make that story possible for everyone – no matter where they start, what their parents do, or how fast the technological, economic and political changes come at us. And we need to find ways to make that story one that isn’t limited to four or five years of life, but to the educational needs of a whole lifetime.

It’s perfect timing as we begin the sesquicentennial year at Illinois that we turn our focus on our own academic future. In a time of financial uncertainties and demands for greater accountability, and when questions around social equity and social justice are forcing fundamental reevaluations of everything from our admission policies to our investment strategies, we have an opportunity to demonstrate different paths forward.

We have to respond to the realities on the ground here – but no one says we have to do so in ways that are expected or “status quo.” This is a time for educational innovation. And this is a place that knows more about innovation and invention than any other.

I know I have plenty to learn and I am excited to be here and to get started. In keeping with the 150-year milestone Illinois will begin celebrating in February, I am spending my first 150 days here on what I’m calling my “Shaping the Future” tour at Illinois. I’ll be out meeting you, the students, faculty, staff and alumni and listening to what you believe makes this a great university today and how we can ensure that excellence continues for another century.

Together, we have the opportunity to redefine what the world can and should expect from a great public research university.

I’m excited to get started and I look forward to all that we will achieve together.

Best wishes,

Robert J. Jones


This mailing approved by:
Office of the Chancellor

sent to:
Massmail Archive   .   Massmail powered by WebTools