Chancellor Li’s Inauguration Celebration: “Honour the Journey, Inspire the Future” | Messages
It’s an event so rare that when it occurs, there’s no question it’s worth celebrating.
And celebrating is exactly what the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UN) community did on Friday, March 11, when Joanne Li, Ph.D., CFA, was officially inaugurated as the 16th UNth Chancellor during a memorable and historic inauguration ceremony.
As the first woman of color to serve as Chancellor of the United Nations and the first Asian American in the history of the University of Nebraska system to hold a leadership role, Chancellor Li is also a first-generation student, international student and fellow Dollar, to complete their education. In other words: a real Maverick.
Watch a recording of the ceremony
Under the motto “Honor the Journey, Inspire the Future,” Chancellor Li took the opportunity not only to celebrate the history of the UN, but also to make clear that the first 114 years of the university were only the beginning.
“Omaha’s pursuit of excellence, adaptability and collaborative community service, combined with the amazing history of philanthropy and partnership, made my decision to join UNO an easy one. Here I feel deeply connected to what UNO stands for. This is my home.”
In addition to Chancellor Li, her husband Frank Stalla, who teaches at the UN College of Business Administration, also attended the event; her mother, who had flown in from London; her daughter Nicole, a student at the University of Virginia; her niece Bianca, who was from Hawaii; her sisters; and her father-in-law and mother-in-law.
Also in attendance were representatives from across the city and state, including Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert; Ted Carter, President of the University of Nebraska System; Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, former United Nations Chancellor and Executive President and Provost of the University of Nebraska; Ronnie Green, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Chancellor Doug Kristensen of the University of Nebraska at Kearney; and members of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.
“I see Omaha growing into one of the top 25 cities in the United States over the next 50 years…the students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of Nebraska at Omaha will be part of the next few decades of success,” Stothert said “Dr. Li, this great university is now in your competent hands. We welcome you as Chancellor and look forward to our continued work as partners.”
When the investiture guests first shared their experiences with the 16th UN Chancellor, there was a common thread of compassion and a desire to fight for others.
“As I learn more about our university, our student body is distinguished by inclusion,” said Maeve Hemmer, UN Student Body President and Student Regent. “Chancellor Li embodies that value, so I know she’s the right leader for our students.”
Chancellor Li’s remarks made it clear that she is leading the way to the future of higher education, human resources development and innovative research through the UN as the urban campus of Nebraska.
“At the UN, perhaps the most important goal is to empower our students through higher education and improve their social and economic mobility,” Chancellor Li said. “If we can move students up a notch or even two notches from the bottom, then we raise not only our students but also their families and with it our community and our state.”
True to Chancellor Li’s passion and personality, which she first exemplified in her first 100 days as Chancellor by “going ahead,” her inauguration was no different.
With samba drums; a medley of songs performed by UNO’s pep band Maverick Machine; a choral performance by UNO students; and a performance by the National Champion Maverick Dance Team, Chancellor’s words were reflected in the Maverick energy of the event.
“Every big city has a top-class public research university,” Chancellor Li added. “And UNO is the only 4-year public university in the city of Omaha. An investment in the UN is an investment in Nebraska’s future.”
That future is one that Chancellor Li envisions as one of the grand goals with a commitment to making it a reality. Just some of her priorities as Chancellor are:
Ensure that all UNO students have access to state and federal scholarships that can help them achieve their educational goals.
Improve UNO students’ ability to complete their degrees on time by leveraging resources to improve retention rates and recruitment initiatives.
Invest in the “Economy of the Future” by doubling the number of paid internship opportunities for UN students and providing micro-certifications to active professionals.
Create a “House of Questions” where the community can trace the history of genocide, human rights abuses and the Holocaust to inspire a future dedicated to the values of empathy and freedom.
To make UNO the university of choice for all students, regardless of their background.
Build on existing community relationships and partnerships to place UNO at the heart of the next phase of Omaha’s economic, social and intellectual development.
“I want everyone to be like the kid in the back seat,” Chancellor Li said. “We have to keep asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ And the answer is: no, we are not.”
She urged the audience to join her in realizing her vision. While Mavericks are “independent thinkers and entrepreneurial risk-takers… the truth is we cannot go there alone,” Chancellor Li said.
“I tell the world the UN has arrived. Are you ready to receive us?”
what others say
Ted Carter, System President of the University of Nebraska
“The [UNO] The founders’ vision for accessible and quality higher education for the people of Omaha lives on today. I only wish they could see what has happened to the institution they created over the past 114 years… Today we are ushering in a new chapter for Nebraska’s Metropolitan University—a celebration of a leadership already well underway. dr Joanne Li is an outsider in every sense of the word.”
Bob Phares, Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska
“Chancellor Li, you have shown yourself to be a vigorous leader, a great thinker and a talented collaborator, and she has already become a true underdog. Your student-centric approach and action-orientation will serve this university and our entire state very well… I believe we have the right person at the right time to lead the UN through its next chapter of growth and opportunity.”
Liz Wessling, Ed.D., Senate President, UN Faculty
“I think Jo embodies today’s motto: ‘Honor the Journey and Inspire the Future.’ Not only is she proud of the personal journey that brought her to our campus, but she also knows that every student, staff and faculty member has their own personal journey. She honors and respects each individual’s journey, which is evident in the countless hours she has spent listening and taking notes, both personally and professionally, in our past experiences as well as our present joys and struggles.”
Keristiena Dodge, President of the UN Human Resources Council
“Chancellor Li knows that staff are the backbone of any well-functioning institution. Her appreciation and commitment to employees was evident from the start… and I’ve watched that commitment in action. She takes care of her people. All her people. She often says that we are family, and like a real family member, she remembers people’s names, their stories, their concerns and their ideas.”
Viv Ewing, First Vice Chair, Board of Directors, UNO Alumni Association.
“Having seen Chancellor Li at work, I am confident that she will inspire us to develop and implement a new vision for the university. With her at the helm, our pace has already accelerated. And she has challenged us with very ambitious goals that we want to achieve.”
Mary López, President of AmeriSphere Companies, UNO graduate and former Director of Career Services at the UNO School of Public Administration
“The partnership between the UN and our local, state and regional communities is vital, mutually beneficial and provides a living laboratory for the ‘what if?’ Questions great thinkers ask… Chancellor Li’s enthusiastic and strategic vision is just the kind of leadership the UN needs in this collective effort.”
Rodrigo López, Chairman of AmeriSphere Companies and UNO alumnus
“If Dr. Li talks about her experiences [as both an immigrant and a first-generation student] shaping her, she keeps coming back to her love for the United States and the opportunities her family’s first college degree offered her. she [holds these close] as strong reasons to do your best and to give every UNO student the chance to do their best.”