Boldly Illinois: 2023 Strategic Planning Spring Summit

April 11, 2023, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Illini Ballroom

Join university leadership for the next step in our campus strategic planning process, the Spring Strategic Plan Summit. The research-focused summit on April 11, will feature speakers who will join us to stimulate conversation about what it means to be a 21st-century research university. Speakers include:

  • Joy Connolly, President, American Council of Learned Societies
  • Lesley Millar-Nicholson, Executive Director, MIT Technology Licensing Office
  • Dan Reed, Presidential Professor, University of Utah

A Strategic Planning Summit event was held on Thursday, Oct. 27 in the Illini Union Ballroom at 1 p.m. after the State of the University where two extraordinary leaders of higher education shared their perspectives and challenged us to radically rethink the way we deliver on our university missions. A public Q&A session followed.


Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

An exceptional innovator and thought leader in higher education, Freeman Hrabowski was the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for 30 years. During his time leading the university, it became known as a leader in graduating black students in STEM fields.

Hrabowski earned an M.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in higher education administration and statistics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on underrepresented minority participation and performance. He chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the 2011 report “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads.” In 2012 he was named by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Hrabowski was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. He has also received the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of California, Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Award and the University of California, San Francisco’s UCSF Medal.

Dr. Ruth V. Watkins
Dr. Ruth V. Watkins

A top leader in higher education with a student-centered approach, Ruth V. Watkins is president of Strada Impact. She leads Strada Education Network’s research, philanthropy, thought leadership and policy efforts to help more individuals access and complete postsecondary education and training to improve their careers and lives.

Watkins graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology. She earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in child language at the University of Kansas, where she was a National Institutes of Health predoctoral fellow. Her scholarship focuses on communication development and disabilities in young children.

Before joining Strada in 2021, Watkins served as the president of the University of Utah. In that role, she increased degree completion rates and research funding, established innovative student funding models, and built strong partnerships with community stakeholders. During her tenure, the university produced more graduates in high-demand fields than any other state institution, and those graduates secured employment or proceeded to graduate or professional school at noteworthy rates. Earlier in her career, she spent 20 years in leadership and faculty roles at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, vice provost and associate provost.