I arrived at the University of Miami in August to serve as its sixth president and have spent the last six months immersed in listening, learning, and leading.
I have learned that we are immensely proud of our roots and our humble beginnings. Like the city we call home, we are resilient and have an extraordinary capacity for renewal — reinventing ourselves and leaning in to hurricane-strength forces that reshape our landscape, literally and figuratively.
Just 10 years from now the university will celebrate its centennial. Where should we set our sights for the next decade? What must we do to fulfill our potential in our new century?
At my installation on Friday I shared what I see as our greatest aspirations — four defining visions for our future. We aspire to be the hemispheric university; the excellent university; the relevant university, and the exemplary university.
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Being hemispheric means capitalizing on our distinct geographic endowment — our unique capacity to build bridges that connect the Americas.
Our founders spoke of a Pan American spirit that should imbue their new university. Today that early aspiration continues to unfold — even as the bridges that span cultures and continents grow in number and strength. We will develop a hemispheric strategy based on broad partnerships that will include research collaborations, an innovation hub, and exchange programs for students.
Next: the excellent university. Our drive for excellence permeates every domain of our work — from research to public service, from teaching to athletics, from health care to the arts.
I am delighted to announce a major new initiative to support basic and applied science and engineering, thanks to an extraordinary gift of $100 million from Phillip and Patricia Frost. Their generosity will carry us further and faster in our quest for excellence across all domains critical to 21st century advances.
If education is to fulfill its crucial function of expanding opportunities, we must build a bridge between excellence and access. While it may take a while, I am committed to boosting financial aid to meet 100% of student need.
Along with excellence, we must commit to relevance — from the beginning, this university has served the local and global communities to which it belongs. More than ever, we must build a bridge that connects scholarship to solutions.
For instance, rising sea levels are a major threat to Miami as well as the rest of the world. Climate change is an arena where virtually every academic discipline has something to contribute and one where our institution is already showing the way forward. In the coming months, we will announce a new university-wide effort to expand our considerable expertise in sea level rise. This is exactly the kind of transformative, global contribution that Miami can and should be making to the search for sustainable solutions.
We are enormously proud of our academic health system, but this is a time of profound change. Only health systems that successfully navigate this uncharted territory will thrive in the future. The University of Miami will lead the way in the new era of value-based, integrated health care.
Finally, we aspire to be an exemplary university. One of the most important ways to be exemplary is by embracing diversity, whatever form it takes.
I must stress that diversity by numbers is not enough. We will develop policies and practices that foster inclusive, respectful, and safe interactions throughout our campuses.
Diversity can only flourish in a climate of tolerance. In our turbulent times, universities must lead the way by intentionally cultivating the free expression of diverse perspectives.
I am proud to be this university’s first Hispanic president. I am also keenly aware that each of us holds diverse identities. Each of us is all of us. I commit to serve this university as everyone’s president.
I have often thought how fitting it is that a force that once threatened our existence has become the symbol of our strength. We are Hurricanes — now and always.
I have no doubt this same spirit will fuel our work as we chart the course to our new century. Together, we will build bridges — new and necessary bridges — to become a truly hemispheric, excellent, relevant, and exemplary university.
Julio Frenk was inaugurated Friday as president of the University of Miami.