UNH president hosts annual State of the University address


Anna Kate Munsey, Managing Editor

A new honors college, updated coronavirus (Covid-19) testing lab capabilities, improved diversity on campus and increased revenue were some highlights of this year’s State of the University (SOTU) address at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).


With a tone that was somber but hopeful, UNH President James Dean provided an update on university progress and took several questions.


Several short videos were included, the first highlighting staff and faculty sharing their pride and gratitude for various programs, organizations, and people at the university. Another video spotlighted Abrita Kuthumi, the first UNH student ever named a Marshall Scholar.


Dean provided an update on UNH’s plan to become a top 25 public university in academic performance metrics. The university has risen to 10th Best Value public university in the U.S. and first Best Value public university in New England. They’ve gotten rid of the metric pertaining to the number of students graduating in the top 10% of their high school class and replaced it with graduation rate percentage, which they currently rank 19th.


Progress on these metrics is guided by the university’s four strategic priorities: building financial strength, expanding academic and research excellence, embracing New Hampshire, and student success and wellbeing.


Net revenue excluding grants and gifts dropped by $25 million dollars since 2019. Changes in FY22 have saved UNH about $43 million, and preserved many programs and services, at the expense of some controversial changes. Dean asserted that these changes were highly preferable than alternative measures that would have been necessary.


Keeping UNH affordable via in-state tuition freeze and Granite Guarantee was listed as a continued priority.


Private scholarships have recently broken records, with $50 million raised since July of 2021.


“We’re obviously under tremendous pressure to keep our costs low. But we absolutely must honor and uphold our commitment to academic and research excellence,” Dean said.


UNH is a Carnegie Classification R1 university, a prestigious recognition that helps attract researchers, graduate students, and funding. With over $260 million last year, UNH doubled its previous record for previous grants and contracts.


An important aspect of this pillar is increased diversity in research, Dean said. Work across the university made progress towards this goal, including with the help of COLA’s new Global, Racial, and Social Inequality Lab.


This year’s “embracing New Hampshire” pillar was largely about healthcare and health science. The new Health Sciences Simulation Center was listed as a key 2021 success, as well as the expansion of the

Covid-19 testing lab, which processed over 1 million tests by the end of 2021. Currently, around 125 non-UNH entities such as schools, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities have tests processed at UNH as well.


Dean credited the lab with saving Granite State lives from Covid-19.


“… There are literally people across New Hampshire – parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters who are alive and well today, but who may have died without the testing that UNH provided. I can think of no greater contribution to the state’s welfare than this,” he said.


Student success and wellbeing is the most important strategic priority, according to the president.


To recruit even more competitive students to the school, Huddleston Hall will be renovated to an honors college learning community. Funded by an anonymous gift, construction will begin in May and conclude in November 2023.


Dean also addressed sexual assault and violence, and efforts to improve policies and communication. There will be a town hall on Feb. 16 to continue this conversation. UNH has also launched a website highlighting their commitment to prevention, reporting, training and safety and including four focus areas.


Additionally, the UNH Student Basic Needs Committee will begin Cat’s Cupboard, a food pantry for students.


Dean then took questions from the in-person and Zoom audiences, including on staff retention, candidates for Chief Marketing Officer and the university’s relationship with the state legislature.

A full recording of the address is available here.


“We have an awful lot to be proud of. Our most powerful stories show one person or a few people, embodying all that is good about UNH, can make a difference,” he said.