Fiscal responsibility and research excellence were on the minds of some 200 staff members who participated in an August 9 town hall discussion hosted by Vice President for Research Jay Walsh.
The cross-campus Q&A, facilitated by live link, allowed Walsh to engage with research staff on the Evanston and Chicago campuses about the University’s budget-planning process. In brief introductory remarks, he shared his perspective on how Northwestern’s finances may impact the research enterprise, before devoting the remainder of the hourlong program to audience questions.
“Over the last decade, Northwestern’s research enterprise has grown enormously. In fact, we have outpaced most of our peers,” Walsh said. “That growth is expected to continue, and so this means there will be an ongoing need for staff who can support all aspects of the research ecosystem — from research safety, compliance, and communications to core facilities and research space.”
Walsh acknowledged that near-term budgetary planning presents additional challenges for staff who are tasked with delivering administrative excellence, particularly during a time of expanding research activity. He underscored the importance of remaining innovative and collaborating with one another. “This is an opportunity for us to carefully consider everything we are doing and to ask ourselves how we can continue to achieve our goals effectively by working together.”
Among the topics raised during the town hall were inquiries about staff recognition, cost control, leadership communication, and information technology upgrades. Walsh welcomed the opportunity to hear staff perspectives and encouraged the participants to continue providing feedback and ideas, and to identify issues that require leadership’s attention. “Have conversations with your colleagues, with your directors, with the AVPs, and with me.”
Walsh noted that the University’s underlying financial situation remains strong, with several measures in place to reduce any anticipated shortfall. Those measures include deferring some major facilities projects and reducing IT spending, as well as instituting a new review process for any proposed administrative positions and for major expenses. He remained very optimistic about the long-term prospects for research at Northwestern and the impact of that knowledge creation for society.
“Each morning, I get up feeling energized knowing that I can help advance the research mission of this University,” Walsh said. “We are doing important work that transforms people’s lives — and each one of you is a part of that vital mission.”