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State of the University: UNO chancellor says it's time to 'tell our story'

State of the University: UNO chancellor says it's time to 'tell our story'

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University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor John Christensen on Wednesday talked about the value the university brings to students and to the community.

Christensen delivered his State of the University address to faculty and staff a day after UNO's 105th birthday. He said it became apparent to him after a conversation with Union Pacific Chairman Jim Young, a fellow UNO alumnus, that the university was one of higher education's "best-kept secrets."

"This is a campus of enormous value and vision," he said. "It is time to abandon that rather pervasive Nebraska modesty and tell our story."

He then laid out UNO's "value proposition," a term from the business world for a statement that explains an institution's worth.

"Defining the UNO value proposition does just that. It tells our story," he said.

UNO, he said, should be at the top of the list for students and families, those with university credit but no degree and professionals seeking to continue their education.

Christensen said UNO's greatest asset is Omaha, home to five Fortune 500 companies as well as many others that value education and provide internships and other job-related experiences for students.

Enrollment increased 7 percent over the summer and 3 percent this fall. The fall numbers represent the largest freshman class in UNO's history. Twenty-nine percent of those first-year students are minorities and 44 percent are first-generation students.

Graduate school enrollment has increased 9 percent, including a 40 percent increase in minority students.

At the same time, the campus' face has changed significantly, with about 1.8 million square feet of new or completely renovated space, such as Mammel Hall, the Peter Kiewit Institute and the Biomechanics Research Building.

All of that, Christensen said, supports the activity at the heart of UNO – teaching and learning.

After the speech, Christensen said he heard a number of people say "I'm amazed" when they came to UNO for graduation ceremonies this year. Many had driven by for years but didn't know what was going there until they had a student enrolled.

"My hope," he said, "is that the community can appreciate and become involved in what we do here."

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