Connecticut's flagship university is on its way to becoming an economic development engine for the state and region, the keys being recruitment of faculty stars to oversee money-making research and development, and promoting pupil entrepreneurship, the president says.
However, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said Thursday none of it will be possible unless the school aggressively harnesses state financial support, on top of funding from federal health research grants and the school's ambitious goal of raising its endowment to $1 billion.
"You can't talk about it unless you have money to sew it all together,'' Herbst told businesspeople and professionals at law firm Levy & Droney's annual Connect 2012 breakfast at the New Britain Museum of American Art.
She spoke a day after UConn reaffirmed its plan to hire, starting with 60 this fall, 275 new faculty over the next four years, with emphasis on genetic research, education, insurance and finance.
Meantime, UConn still has $700 million to go to reach its fund-raising goal, money, Herbst said, that will endow some of those faculty chairs, while mitigating rising tuition costs and improving instructional and research facilities and programs.
"We will get to $1 billion. I didn't say when,'' the president said, drawing chuckles from her audience. "We have to aim high.''
Herbst said she envisions UConn someday churning out patented inventions and technologies that could generate millions of extra dollars to support the school's overall education mission.
She said University of Florida's creation of Gatorade and Northwestern University's hand in the formulation of the anti-seizure drug Lyrica are the most vivid examples of colleges leveraging their research into revenue. Herbst was once on Northwestern's faculty.
Even UConn's successful men's and women's basketball programs have a role in helping recruit faculty and top-notch students, Herbst said.
The recent decision to move women's basketball coverage from Connecticut Public Television to cable-sports channel SNY will more widely expose and promote it as a world-class university that is affordable relative to its peers, Herbst said.
"We have to use our athletic family to bring the rest of the people into the house,'' she said.