March 17, 2003 - Miami Herald: Iran RPCV Donna Shalala Has Big Plans for University of Miami
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March 17, 2003 - Miami Herald: Iran RPCV Donna Shalala Has Big Plans for University of Miami
Iran RPCV Donna Shalala Has Big Plans for University of Miami
Read and comment on this story from the Miami Herald on Iran RPCV Donna Shalala and her plans for the University of Miami. Almost two years into her tenure as UM president, Shalala is pressing to catapult the university, the No. 2 private-sector employer in Miami-Dade , into a world-class research institution. Undaunted by the prospect of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for new facilities and faculty salaries during a prolonged downturn, when many business titans have shelved expansionist dreams, Shalala says she raised $700 million at the University of Wisconsin -- one of the nation's largest public universities with 43,000 students -- during the slow-growth late 1980s and early 1990s. Read the story at:
Donna Shalala Has Big Plans for University of Miami*
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Donna Shalala Has Big Plans for University of Miami
Mar 17, 2003 - Knight Ridder Tribune Business News
Author(s): Joan Quigley
Mar. 17--Sensing an opportunity to instruct, Donna Shalala pounced.
In the waning moments of a 9 a.m. meeting, the University of Miami president and former Clinton-era cabinet official grilled outgoing student-government chief Michael Johnston about lessons learned from his foray into elective politics. Johnston, who sported a fog of sleep deprivation with his grown-up khakis and blue oxford shirt, proffered this answer: Change unfolds quickly.
"If you want to give a feeling of momentum, you have to do some short-run things that affect people," she said. "You can keep working on the long-run issues. But you have to do the small things that have an impact."
Almost two years into her tenure as UM president, Shalala is pressing to catapult the university, the No. 2 private-sector employer in Miami-Dade, into a world-class research institution. Undaunted by the prospect of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for new facilities and faculty salaries during a prolonged downturn, when many business titans have shelved expansionist dreams, Shalala says she raised $700 million at the University of Wisconsin -- one of the nation's largest public universities with 43,000 students -- during the slow-growth late 1980s and early 1990s.
"So it's hard," Shalala said. "So what? They're paying me to be upbeat."
The former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and president of Hunter College in New York -- as well as the Health and Human Services secretary in the Clinton Administration -- Shalala replaced Edward T. Foote II, who stepped aside in 2001 after 20 years as UM's president. Board members credit Foote, who remained for a two-year stint as chancellor, with laying a firm foundation for growth, helping the 15,000-student school shed lingering images of "the cardboard college" and "Suntan U."
"We were looking for a dynamic leader of change," said Charles E. Cobb Jr., CEO of Cobb Partners Inc., who chaired the search committee. "And Donna Shalala was by far our best candidate."
In June 2001 -- just after the economy had slipped into recession -- Shalala moved into the Bowman Foster Ashe Building and her second- floor office where UM bobble heads vie for bookshelf space with the Health Security Act and a framed photograph of her sandwiched between the Clintons.
By her November inauguration -- timed to coincide with the university's 75th anniversary -- the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had brought economic growth to a standstill.
Now, with the country on the verge of war with Iraq, Shalala said she is not scaling back.
"Is the economy affecting us overall?" she said. "I'm sure it is. But I refuse to admit it."
A high-profile CEO -- even she admits she is overexposed -- Shalala has hopped from photo-op to photo-op, speaking at a Sikh temple, posing with UM's national championship football and baseball teams, and climbing on a motorcycle with visiting Harley-Davidson CEO Jeff Bleustein.
Media moments are vintage Shalala, according to her mother, Edna Shalala, 91, a Cleveland, Ohio native who retired from practicing law last year.
"Donna's always been in the limelight," she said.
Donna's twin sister, Diane Fritel, opted for a quieter life, Edna Shalala said. A high-school principal in Rugby, ND, Fritel is married to a wheat farmer.
Meanwhile, the better-known twin still sports the hallmarks of official Washington: power suit, good hair, big smile. But Shalala retains a Midwestern earthiness, accessorizing her blue suit and pearl earrings with black athletic sandals for a recent poolside reception at her home honoring former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek -- whom Shalala chauffeured to the backyard bash in a golf cart.
"She loves every second of it," said Dr. Laurence B. Gardner, vice dean of UM's medical school. "What you see is what you get."
When the microphones retreat, though, Shalala seems less comfortable -- even somewhat aloof -- in smaller meetings and one- on-one settings.
At a recent reception honoring outstanding faculty researchers, Shalala mugged for the photographer and joked with the prize winners, telling them to cash their $4,000 checks immediately. Seated with two guests at the awards lunch minutes later, she stared out the window, her back to the honorees.
As an agent of change, Shalala's approach has created some tension.
"I'll put it this way: the people who also share the vision are excited and comforted," said Provost Luis Glaser. "Those people who say `I've always done it this way' are uncomfortable."
One former colleague was not surprised Shalala has ruffled some South Florida feathers. Her emphasis on academic rigor, fundraising and new construction had the same effect in Madison a decade ago, said Harry Peterson, Shalala's former chief of staff at the University of Wisconsin.
"When you do that, you need to demonstrate some improvements and you need to have a strong group of supporters," Peterson said.
To UM board members, focused on style as well as substance, Shalala scores high marks for her vision of where she wants to take UM -- and for her strategy to get there.
"She speaks a language that a business board can understand," said Philip Blumberg, CEO of American Ventures Realty Investors and a UM board member.
Shalala's strategic vision hinges in large part on UM's medical school.
By snaring more funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UM Medical School aspires to vault into the top 20 during the next decade, according to the university's 2002 annual report.
"There's almost a direct correlation between NIH funding and status," said Dr. John G. Clarkson, dean of the medical school. In 2001, the medical school received more than $75 million in NIH funding, ranking No. 42 nationally.
The medical school's NIH funding spiked by 12-14 percent this year, Clarkson said, based on faculty planning in place before Shalala's arrival.
Still, Shalala and Clarkson acknowledge, UM must attract philanthropic and other private support to pay for top-tier faculty and new buildings to house the additional research. The planned expansion, they say, will also create new jobs.
In the current economy, Clarkson conceded, launching a capital campaign -- estimated to seek as much as $1 billion -- is a challenge. Gifts and grants to UM declined by 18.5 percent in 2002, according to the university's annual report.
"But I think we send a very positive message about ourselves by saying we have these goals," Clarkson said.
Just as pressing, the skyrocketing cost of malpractice insurance has siphoned cash from the medical school's reserves, university officials say.
The number of malpractice claims against UM has decreased in the past decade, but settlement awards have surged, according to the 2002 annual report. In addition, the malpractice reserve earned a negative 5 percent return on investment last year, leading to an $8.4 million -- or 42 percent increase -- in the self-insurance provision.
As a member of Gov. Jeb Bush's task force on medical malpractice, Shalala recently endorsed capping awards of noneconomic damages at $250,000. Medical facilities across the country are under the same pressure from malpractice claims, and she has long supported minimizing litigation and speeding payment for injuries, she said.
But Shalala bristles at any suggestion UM may retreat from its long-term commitment to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital -- a public facility staffed by UM physicians that treats many of Miami- Dade's 450,000 uninsured residents.
"No one turns to the University of Miami and says you're not carrying your fair share," Shalala said. "We intend to get to the top with the kind of patients we have."
Still, the medical school diverted $17 million from its reserves last year into the malpractice reserve, Clarkson said. He estimates pulling an additional $25 million from reserves for the same purpose this year.
"Neither we nor any other group of physicians could sustain that on an unending basis," Clarkson said.
As the medical school jockeys for upward mobility, so do the increasingly competitive undergraduate program and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, which recently acquired an option to purchase Burger King's former bayfront headquarters in South Dade.
But for now, Shalala takes a page from her own management manual.
Strolling across campus recently, she pointed out some of her additions designed to encourage students to linger outside: clusters of tables and chairs; a crepe vendor and -- when students return from spring break today -- an ice-cream cart.
"You don't let people lose their enthusiasm," Shalala said in a recent interview . "You can't control the economy. I worry about the things I can control."
DONNA E. SHALALA
Position: President of the University of Miami.
Personal: Born Feb. 14, 1941, in Cleveland, of Lebanese-American parents; has a twin sister, Diane Fritel
Education: B.A., Western College for Women (1962); Ph.D., Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (1970)
Experience: Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993-2001; Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1987-93; President, Hunter College, City University of New York, 1980-87; Assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1977-80; Director and treasurer, Municipal Assistance Corp. for the City of New York, 1975-77; Taught politics and education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1972-79; Taught political science, Bernard Baruch College, 1970-72; Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, 1962-64
Hobbies: Golf, tennis
DONNA'S DO's AND DON'TS (and other pearls of wisdom):
"At the end of the day, what great universities do is create more knowledge."
"Is the economy affecting us overall? I'm sure it is. But I refuse to admit it."
"So it's hard. So what? They're paying me to be upbeat."
While touring the former Burger King corporate headquarters, which UM has an option to purchase:
"I could have my own private dining room out here? Why don't we move the whole campus out here?"
"I don't need to know what it's going to cost. I need to know how we're going to pay for it."
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