KRVN Chat with the Chancellor
Ronnie Green talks about May commencement ceremonies in Memorial Stadium, part of the first in-person ceremonies UNL has held since December 2019. Ronnie also talks about plans to invite 2020 grads back for an in-person ceremony in August and the university's response to COVID-19 and plans for the fall.
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[00:00:00.280]Bryce Doeschot, with the Rural Radio Network
[00:00:02.150]and our weekly chat with a chancellor program.
[00:00:04.100]This week, we're pleased to be joined in person
[00:00:05.870]by the chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:00:07.870]Dr. Ronnie Green.
[00:00:08.890]Dr. Green, Good to see you.
[00:00:10.150]Good to see you, Bryce.
[00:00:11.680]Well, it's gonna be a-
[00:00:12.513]a big week for you ahead,
[00:00:14.020]we're actually recording this week's channel
[00:00:15.310]a little bit ahead of time, because on Saturday,
[00:00:17.380]the day this is being aired across the state,
[00:00:19.710]you have commencement ceremonies
[00:00:21.150]actually happening in Memorial Stadium this year.
[00:00:23.500]Tell us about that.
[00:00:24.850]Well, Bryce, we're really, really pleased to be
[00:00:27.690]for the first time in our 152 year history
[00:00:30.900]at the University of Nebraska,
[00:00:32.280]to be hosting our commencement exercises
[00:00:34.790]for our undergraduate students in Memorial stadium.
[00:00:37.970]So some people will remember, likely about 8 years ago,
[00:00:42.210]the time period that Pinnacle Bank Arena was being completed
[00:00:46.200]and the Vanee Centre was under renovation
[00:00:48.850]to be turned into the volleyball venue that we now have.
[00:00:51.640]And we had a year, with no venue,
[00:00:53.930]to have our normal commencement exercises, and in May,
[00:00:57.330]and we planned to have that ceremony
[00:01:00.330]in Memorial Stadium,
[00:01:02.370]and mother nature decided that day,
[00:01:06.180]that we'd have 4 and a half inches of snow that morning,
[00:01:09.200]so, we had to pivot a little bit and change our plans
[00:01:12.100]and we ended up not being able to do that.
[00:01:14.040]So we're really, really happy,
[00:01:16.570]that as this is airing on,
[00:01:18.230]on Saturday, that we'll be in Memorial Stadium
[00:01:20.790]with half of our undergraduate graduates
[00:01:23.470]and one commencement exercise
[00:01:25.010]and the other half,
[00:01:26.260]to follow later in the afternoon
[00:01:28.010]with their families.
[00:01:28.843]So just very excited for that opportunity to be there,
[00:01:33.290]and to be in person
[00:01:35.040]and to be able to celebrate that.
[00:01:37.090]For the first time with our graduates since December 2019,
[00:01:40.960]it's kind of hard to believe
[00:01:42.050]and put context around that,
[00:01:44.170]one of our larger graduating classes, even during COVID,
[00:01:48.890]and during the last 15 months, when we've all had to adapt
[00:01:52.660]and make changes in the way we live our daily lives,
[00:01:56.510]we've been able to continue,
[00:01:57.990]we've been able to have our students continue
[00:02:00.170]making the progress toward their graduation.
[00:02:02.880]I'm just so incredibly proud of them,
[00:02:05.800]proud of our faculty,
[00:02:07.070]proud of our staff,
[00:02:08.720]for being one of the few institutions in the country
[00:02:11.790]that has continued with our momentum to operate,
[00:02:15.300]while adapting to the conditions that we've had,
[00:02:18.870]to be able to be successful in graduating today.
[00:02:23.387]I do have to reminisce a little bit,
[00:02:26.070]about the 2020 class,
[00:02:28.540]who didn't have that opportunity
[00:02:30.490]and weren't able to have in-person commencement.
[00:02:32.740]We had celebrations for them
[00:02:35.290]and May of last year,
[00:02:36.860]and August of last year,
[00:02:38.180]and December of last year,
[00:02:40.220]we are planning to invite back all of the graduates
[00:02:43.970]from that 2020 class,
[00:02:45.920]to a special ceremony that we'll have,
[00:02:48.480]also here on campus in August.
[00:02:51.820]Yeah, just an exciting day to celebrate with our graduates.
[00:02:55.010]Well, it's great to hear
[00:02:55.843]those still get some recognition,
[00:02:56.806]the opportunity to do their walk,
[00:02:58.590]is that the special moment for them.
[00:03:00.460]Still talking about the events
[00:03:01.730]that are gonna be taking place on Saturday,
[00:03:03.830]those at the ceremony we'll be able to hear
[00:03:05.790]from Tom Osborne,
[00:03:06.680]the former a football coach, athletic director
[00:03:09.030]and congressmen, as he'll deliver the keynote address.
[00:03:11.350]That's gotta be a special event.
[00:03:12.600]It is a special event, you know,
[00:03:14.220]T. O. requires no introduction,
[00:03:17.310]to Nebraska, the legendary coach himself,
[00:03:21.010]and his history at the University of Nebraska,
[00:03:23.360]Dr. Osborne, a great mentor for thousands of students.
[00:03:28.014]A great role model for all,
[00:03:30.750]all people around Nebraska and beyond.
[00:03:34.320]You know, I got to know Tom, when he was in Congress,
[00:03:37.280]as a 3 term congressman representing
[00:03:39.330]the 3rd district of Nebraska, happened to be
[00:03:41.574]working in Washington during the same,
[00:03:43.910]part of the same time he was in,
[00:03:46.040]the House of Representatives.
[00:03:47.470]You won't find a finer human being, than Tom Osborne.
[00:03:50.780]And to have the-
[00:03:52.970]I guess, just the nice confluence of events here,
[00:03:56.930]of having our first graduation
[00:03:59.190]in Memorial stadium,
[00:04:00.500]on Tom Osborne field,
[00:04:02.660]and for our graduates and their families
[00:04:04.580]to be able to hear from Tom,
[00:04:06.860]with his words of wisdom for them
[00:04:08.860]as they launch off into the next stages of their lives is,
[00:04:11.910]is really, really special.
[00:04:13.410]So very, very pleased about that.
[00:04:15.840]I know he's excited about it,
[00:04:18.170]and as you're airing this,
[00:04:20.240]I'll be listening to some of his words,
[00:04:22.270]as along with our graduates.
[00:04:23.760]So very exciting part of our commencement today.
[00:04:25.843]What special day that's going to be.
[00:04:28.010]Dr. Green, now you mentioned
[00:04:29.400]keeping the momentum going at UNL,
[00:04:32.120]despite the ongoing pandemic.
[00:04:33.850]I want to dive a little bit more into that
[00:04:35.240]and talk about how you're able to do some of those things.
[00:04:37.720]And maybe let's start out with in-person campus experiences.
[00:04:40.850]People that are signing up to go to college at UNL,
[00:04:43.240]really any college, they are expecting the in-person
[00:04:45.800]and when they go to that expectation,
[00:04:47.530]it's taken away, it gotta be a tough transition.
[00:04:49.920]Talk about how you're able to work through that.
[00:04:50.827]You know, Bryce, you know,
[00:04:52.441]when we entered into this pandemic now,
[00:04:54.980]all 14-15 months ago last March,
[00:04:57.550]we knew that we were going to have to really change
[00:05:01.690]and adapt to the circumstances
[00:05:03.290]like the whole world
[00:05:04.440]has had to do and they're their own ways.
[00:05:07.660]And we, we really set the goal
[00:05:10.480]to be able to continue as much as we could,
[00:05:14.450]in the best way that we could possible with our,
[00:05:17.470]with our students, first and foremost in mind,
[00:05:20.630]you know, remembering that we have 25,000 students
[00:05:23.960]in progress toward their degrees
[00:05:26.370]and their ultimate
[00:05:27.990]educational attainment for them.
[00:05:31.830]And we, we really worked hard to
[00:05:34.550]to be able to bring our students back to campus.
[00:05:37.900]We were one of the few in the country who came back
[00:05:40.290]as a full community,
[00:05:41.970]last fall in August of 2020,
[00:05:45.240]even though we knew we wouldn't be able to have them
[00:05:47.570]in class as much and in person as much,
[00:05:49.760]it was important for them to be here,
[00:05:52.010]and to be in person as much as we possibly could make that.
[00:05:56.460]So we, we learned during the fall,
[00:05:59.290]some ways that work better than other ways to do that.
[00:06:02.500]We had a lot of hybrid instruction where students
[00:06:05.410]weren't all in the class together at one time,
[00:06:07.870]a portion of them would be
[00:06:08.927]and the rest would be online,
[00:06:10.880]with the instructor together.
[00:06:13.040]That worked well in some cases,
[00:06:15.340]it didn't work so well and others.
[00:06:17.570]So as we went into the spring semester
[00:06:20.430]that we just finished down this past week,
[00:06:23.320]we really made a change in thinking
[00:06:25.690]about having as many of those classes fully in person
[00:06:29.210]as we possibly could,
[00:06:30.480]while following all the health guidance
[00:06:32.410]for distancing and personal protection.
[00:06:36.120]And we were able to do that
[00:06:38.040]with about 60% of our sections of courses,
[00:06:41.530]across the institution,
[00:06:43.940]and still allowing our faculty
[00:06:45.830]and our students to adapt as the semester went on
[00:06:48.600]to the conditions and be able to do what was best for them.
[00:06:52.190]So we, we've been very very pleased
[00:06:54.330]with the ability to continue that instruction.
[00:06:57.750]We also, I know earlier on one of your other programs
[00:07:00.500]we talked about,
[00:07:03.070]in between the fall term that ended at Thanksgiving,
[00:07:06.260]and the spring term that started in late January,
[00:07:09.290]we were able to add two 3 weeks sessions for our students,
[00:07:13.570]never done that before.
[00:07:14.910]We've now began calling it the winterm session
[00:07:18.840]that allowed our students to take courses,
[00:07:22.600]to add to their portfolio and speed up their progress.
[00:07:26.060]Many of those in fact,
[00:07:26.893]were career preparatory kind of courses.
[00:07:30.540]We had over 4,000 students
[00:07:32.520]took advantage of that opportunity.
[00:07:34.230]And either the December 3 week session,
[00:07:36.270]or the January 3 week session,
[00:07:37.930]we were very pleased with that.
[00:07:40.990]And as a result,
[00:07:43.070]with commencement that we're seeing today,
[00:07:45.620]I think we'll see this in August as well,
[00:07:47.830]and again, in December of this year,
[00:07:50.410]we have seen students speed up their completion.
[00:07:53.930]More students are getting there sooner,
[00:07:56.000]and faster to their degree,
[00:07:57.490]which is a great thing.
[00:07:58.570]And we're very, very pleased about that.
[00:08:01.090]We also have been very pleased
[00:08:02.750]that our research mission at the university
[00:08:04.940]has continued, as uninterrupted as possible.
[00:08:08.700]Many of our colleagues around the country
[00:08:10.760]because of the conditions they were under,
[00:08:13.260]really shut their research programs largely down,
[00:08:16.690]across their institutions,
[00:08:18.770]we chose to not do that
[00:08:20.800]and to be able to continue as much of our research,
[00:08:25.100]and we're very successful in doing that.
[00:08:27.150]Last year, we hit another research expenditure record,
[00:08:29.910]for the university even as the pandemic was hurling,
[00:08:33.520]and our research momentum has continued up,
[00:08:35.950]you're going to be hearing in the next few weeks,
[00:08:38.170]about a couple of the largest research grants,
[00:08:40.340]the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has ever received,
[00:08:43.180]that will be coming to our faculty here
[00:08:45.440]as a result of that continued momentum,
[00:08:48.170]in moving forward.
[00:08:49.270]So that, coupled with extension
[00:08:53.000]and many of your listeners I know,
[00:08:54.770]know so well,
[00:08:56.120]that we continued our activities in extension,
[00:08:58.690]we continued our outreach in so much as possible,
[00:09:01.720]we continued those events
[00:09:03.170]and those educational opportunities across the state,
[00:09:05.770]through Nebraska extension.
[00:09:07.560]And now we're really excited about moving into this summer,
[00:09:10.399]when we'll be even fuller
[00:09:12.290]in those activities back to more of a norm
[00:09:15.430]across the state.
[00:09:16.540]So I, I just can't say enough about
[00:09:20.138]the team of people at the university,
[00:09:22.700]led certainly by our faculty,
[00:09:24.420]but also by our staff.
[00:09:26.440]Many of whom were on the front lines
[00:09:28.930]and working with our community throughout this past year
[00:09:31.947]and being able to have a community safely and successfully,
[00:09:36.450]here in Lincoln and on campus together.
[00:09:38.940]I look back and I think about
[00:09:39.831]how many times you've had a pivot,
[00:09:41.390]from your your normal programming,
[00:09:42.940]things like onsite testing,
[00:09:44.550]and building little sheds to be able to do that.
[00:09:46.312]It happens so quickly and it doesn't just happen,
[00:09:48.376]it takes those facts-
[00:09:49.334]Yeah, absolutely, you know, if you
[00:09:50.883]if you would have ever asked any of us in December of 2019,
[00:09:56.620]if we would be making these kinds of decisions
[00:09:59.150]to be able to continue that momentum,
[00:10:00.947]and be able to move through the time that we've had,
[00:10:04.820]and the team that would be required to do that in
[00:10:06.999]in something just as simple as you mentioned about,
[00:10:10.470]you know, testing 120,000 tests,
[00:10:13.550]which is where we're going to roughly end up,
[00:10:16.459]for COVID across our campus
[00:10:18.770]that we've done in the past year,
[00:10:20.670]and to be able to set up
[00:10:22.020]that kind of infrastructure, to do that,
[00:10:24.900]and do it seamlessly and successfully,
[00:10:27.470]and our students then adapt to that so well,
[00:10:30.810]and participate in that so well,
[00:10:33.179]all of that is just remarkable if you
[00:10:35.758]if you look at it from,
[00:10:37.710]from those viewpoints and not,
[00:10:39.331]you know, let's say, you know only in Nebraska,
[00:10:41.910]would you be able to see that kind of
[00:10:44.330]of stick to it, in this come together?
[00:10:46.870]And I mentioned our staff a minute ago,
[00:10:49.580]I mean, we've had a huge number of our staff
[00:10:52.820]who work on the front lines with our students
[00:10:55.297]and our programs every day.
[00:10:56.930]They're the unsung heroes in many ways,
[00:10:59.550]of the university
[00:11:01.070]and they never missed a beat.
[00:11:03.780]Never missed a beat,
[00:11:05.160]in keeping our facilities operating,
[00:11:07.110]in keeping our students safe,
[00:11:09.210]in being able to deliver vaccine clinics,
[00:11:11.820]and be able to work so well
[00:11:13.200]with the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department,
[00:11:15.410]that's been a great partner for us.
[00:11:17.873]You can tell from the way I'm talking about this
[00:11:20.290]I'm glad we're coming to a new stage of this.
[00:11:23.000]I'm glad that we're seeing the other side
[00:11:25.925]of the pandemic, hopefully now ahead of us,
[00:11:29.760]and looking at a fall that will be much more,
[00:11:32.650]of a normal semester that we expect to have
[00:11:35.280]back on campus,
[00:11:37.030]with, I should say,
[00:11:38.060]looking like a very strong freshman class,
[00:11:40.630]that is coming in above last year's class.
[00:11:43.160]So all of that combined,
[00:11:44.917]you know, is a time for excitement and celebration
[00:11:48.660]that we're doing today with our graduates.
[00:11:51.433]And we want to say congratulations to all those,
[00:11:52.497]that are graduating from the university of Nebraska-Lincoln,
[00:11:55.240]as we celebrate their commencement today,
[00:11:58.420]UNL chancellor Dr. Ronnie green, joining us.
[00:12:00.400]Dr. Green, always great to see you.
[00:12:01.540]Good to see you, Bryce.
[00:12:02.980]I'm Bryce Doeschot, with this week chat
[00:12:03.910]with the chancellor program.
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