Boldly Illinois: 2023 Strategic Planning Spring Summit

The Spring Strategic Planning Summit focusing on research was held on Tuesday, April 11. Three excellent speakers, representing both higher education and industry experience spanning, technology, innovation, and the humanities, led a conversation about what it means to be a 21st-century research university.

If you attended the Spring Summit, please take a short survey to provide feedback for the Strategic Plan.


Joy Connolly

Joy Connolly began her service as President of the American Council of Learned Societies on July 1, 2019. Previously, she served as provost and interim president of The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, where she was also Distinguished Professor of Classics.

She has held faculty appointments at New York University, where she served as Dean for the Humanities from 2012-16, Stanford University, and the University of Washington. Committed to broadening scholars’ impact on the world, as provost at the Graduate Center Joy secured generous support from the Mellon Foundation to foster public-facing scholarship through innovative experiments in doctoral training.

She has published two books with Princeton University Press and over 70 articles, reviews, and short essays. Connolly earned a B.A. from Princeton University in 1991 and a PhD in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.

Lesley Millar-Nicholson

Lesley Millar-Nicholson is the Executive Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Technology Licensing Office (TLO) and is part of the founding leadership team of the recently formed MIT Office of Strategic Alliances and Technology Transfer (OSATT).  As TLO Executive Director, she leads a team managing the MIT’s intellectual assets and technology transfer process.

Millar-Nicholson is a Past President of the Board of Governors of Certified Licensing Professionals Inc, a former member of the Board of Directors of the Licensing Executive Society, and is on the Board of Cambridge Enterprise, UK as an external advisor. A native of Scotland, Millar-Nicholson has a B.Ed., M.Ed, and MBA and is a Certified Licensing Professional.

Prior to arriving in Cambridge Millar-Nicholson was Director of the Office of Technology Management at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign managing the technology transfer and commercialization processes.

Daniel A. Reed

Daniel A. Reed is the Presidential Professor in Computational Science at the University of Utah, where he previously served as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs (Provost).  Earlier, he was the University Chair in Computational Science and Bioinformatics, and Professor of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Medicine at the University of Iowa, where he also served as Vice President for Research and Economic Development.

He served as Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Technology Policy and Extreme Computing, where he helped shape Microsoft’s long-term vision for technology innovations in cloud computing and the company’s policy engagement with governments and institutions worldwide.

Previously, he was Gutgsell Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, as well as Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). He was also one of the principal investigators and chief architect for the NSF TeraGrid, which became NSF XSEDE.

Reed is currently chair of the U.S. National Science Board (NSB), which provides oversight for the U.S. National Science Foundation. He is a Fellow of the ACM, the IEEE, and the AAAS. He received his B.S. from Missouri University of Science and Technology and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Purdue University, all in computer science.

Fall Strategic Planning Summit

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.