Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

It is difficult for me to believe that nearly five months - 150 days today - have passed since I began my tenure as chancellor here at Illinois.

I want to thank all of you who have so warmly welcomed me and my wife Lynn into the University of Illinois family and into this community. Your patience, good will (and good humor) and support have helped us go from feeling like visitors here to knowing that we are among neighbors and friends. Thanks for making our transition so easy.

I have spent much of these first 150 days trying to meet as many of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and supporters as I could fit into my schedule. I knew when I arrived that leadership of one of the top 10 public land grant universities in the nation brings a steep and long learning curve. While I can find the facts and figures in books, articles and reports I can only get a true sense of the personality, spirit and will of this university through the voices of the people who know it best and who care deeply about its future.

I’ve been trying to hear as many of those voices as possible through hundreds of meetings – with individuals, with small groups, with large gatherings and with people who just stop me on the street to talk. I’ve visited our colleges, been in our residence halls and had backstage tours from the Krannert Center to the shops of Facilities and Services. I’ve spoken with our students who care about such a wide range of issues. I’ve talked with our deans, department heads, academic senate members and faculty from units across the campus. I’ve been fortunate to meet alumni in Chicago, on both coasts and many states in between. I’ve had conversations with our state and federal legislators, our local government officials, community and business leaders and representatives of some of our most important federal funding agencies.

What has emerged in every conversation is a profound and honest belief in the potential and the responsibility of this university to make a difference in the world around us. There is a common and vocal pride in our status as a public, land grant university. While there is not necessarily universal agreement on how we should deliver on our promises of access, educational opportunity, scholarship and research and public engagement, we as a university community are in strong agreement that respecting and reinvigorating our land grant charge needs to drive our strategic plans and actions. We diverge in our definitions and ideas of what it actually means to be a land grant university for the 21st century. As we get set to launch our Sesquicentennial Celebration and our comprehensive campaign, this is the perfect time to consider what we will achieve and how we will position ourselves for the next 150 years.

Helping us come together to answer that question is where I will be turning my focus in the coming weeks and months. I will be asking my leadership team and our deans to help us determine the best ways to convene the campus and collectively determine our next strategic actions and priorities. We have scheduled a campus-wide town hall meeting on April 19 in the Illini Union to discuss the state of the campus and to outline the initial steps we will be taking to lay out our plans for the future. I hope you will plan to attend or to watch it streamed.

Thank you all for making my first 150 days at Illinois productive, memorable and thoroughly enjoyable. I know we are just getting started, but I am excited about what we are going to achieve together.

With gratitude,

Robert J. Jones

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