It does feel like a return to normal. After two years of COVID and virtual accommodations of various types, we are mainly face-to-face, and full of energy and innovation. My colleagues and I have been deeply engaged with new students in many of our programs.
The undergraduate students are arriving in record numbers with high accomplishments behind them and noble ambitions for their futures. They are accepting our challenge to be intentional about growing and learning in the next four years. I should say 4.1 years. That is the average time to earn an undergraduate degree at UConn. It is an extraordinary accomplishment that makes us a national leader in time to earn a degree. It does not happen by accident. We must provide them with the courses they need, when they need them, and we do. But that’s just a piece of the puzzle. We guide our undergraduate students, from the earliest days, to think about their education, their goals, their interests, and the ways they can develop leadership, knowledge, and industry experience. As a result, they become distinguished candidates in the job market.
Our graduate programs have become more diverse and complex. Last week, I was privileged to welcome students into multiple programs. The Online MBA (OMBA) and the MS in FinTech (Financial Technology) are new additions to our portfolio, aiming to be responsive to the needs of our students and to the needs of industry. Our corporate partners say they need every FinTech graduate we can produce, and the incoming students see those opportunities with crystal clarity. Our Online MBA provides flexible pathways to learning. During the COVID years we evolved our virtual learning delivery capability and can now deliver world-class learning opportunities to the students who want and need this flexibility.
Our well-established programs continue to attract talent, and it was wonderful to be with them again for in-person orientations and welcome. To remind you, we have multiple targeted graduate programs that continue to attract and serve high aspiration students: MS BAPM (Business Analytics and Project Management), MSA (Accounting), MS HRM (Human Resource Management) and MS FRM (Financial Risk Management).
On another morning I had the privilege of welcoming 10 new Ph.D. students. Each of our five academic departments added two students this year. And they take your breath away! They are intelligent, accomplished, and focused future faculty members. I told them they are ‘junior partners in the firm.’ And they are. They will open new avenues of thought. They will partner with our faculty to help advance ongoing learning and growth. We are very fortunate to have the ability to attract young people with their energy, enthusiasm, and promise.
There is a narrative out there about the irrelevance of education; a claim that nothing is changing and investment in one’s human capital is misspent. I find it confusing. When I look at what we are teaching and researching today, and compare it to 20 years ago: Wow!
Just look at the names of some of the degrees we offer today: Business Analytics, Financial Technology. My colleagues in the Marketing and Information Systems department are busy scraping websites to glean important insights into human behavior. The technology and the understanding of human behavior for this work did not exist 20 years ago, and today our students are expanding and defining it every day.
Some of the young people are talking about prior events as being at the end of the last century, and they are right. Twenty-some years into the new century, the future is rich and exciting, and UConn is contributing to our understanding of this world and preparing our students to thrive in it.