STORRS, Conn. — University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst on Thursday outlined a future for the school that includes 300 more faculty members and a $1 billion endowment.
Herbst, who took over as president last June, gave her first State of the University address to students, faculty and staff who gathered at lunchtime inside a theater at the student union.
She touted UConn as an economic engine that will play a key role in jump-starting the state's economy through projects such as an $827 million initiative to overhaul the UConn Health Center and turn the complex into a bioscience research hub; a partnership with Maine-based Jackson Labs to build a genomic research facility; and plans to open in 2015 a new technology park that will partner UConn researchers with scientists from industry and entrepreneurs.
"This is now part of our mission as a public institution, a public research university," she said. "We have the resources and the intellectual capital to contribute to the strength of this region now and into the future."
The University of Connecticut, whose main campus is in Storrs, is among the top 20 public universities in the nation, according to its website. Its fall 2011 enrollment was more than 30,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Herbst said the school is recruiting top researchers and professors and plans to increase its faculty by about 300 positions by 2016. The idea is to reduce the 18-to-1 ratio of students to professors to 15-to-1. UConn was at that lower ratio until about 10 years ago, when enrollment started climbing but hiring didn't keep pace.
"It also allows the university to expand course offerings, ultimately providing more students with the opportunity to graduate on time," Herbst said. "As we've seen, attending for more than four or five years here at UConn at the undergraduate level represents a substantial additional cost to our students."
Herbst noted that state government support for UConn has fallen to just 28 percent of the school's budget and called for an increase in fundraising to bring the school's endowment from about $329 million to $1 billion.
"A solid endowment allows us to support scholarships and attract renowned professors and researchers," she said. "It also gives us critical protection against the ups and downs of the economy."
She did not mention the recent decision to hike tuition and other fees at the school by 17 percent over the next four years.
Herbst also touched on the school's social mission and said she wants UConn to be known for its core values of civility and diversity "because we are not a proud or decent institution unless we prioritize civility, tolerance and the great change that comes with building a truly multicultural community."