'Call me Tim'

'Call me Tim'

URBANA — "President-elect Timothy Killeen" has a lot of syllables.

"Call me Tim," the incoming University of Illinois president told a faculty governance group Thursday.

In his first meeting with the University Senates Conference, an advisory body of faculty from the three campuses, Killeen recapped his recent activity and shared his perceptions of the university as he transitions into the new role.

"There's incredible loyalty to the University of Illinois everywhere you go, and it's deep," he said. "That's an incredible asset, that loyalty. If you could bottle that and sell it, it would be worth a lot. Now, is it bottled and sold properly yet? I think there's something there to talk about."

When assuming new leadership positions, Killeen said he typically has spent the first year "figuring things out," then doing a "planning exercise."

But his instinct here is to straightway begin a "visioning exercise," one that would be "inclusive" and "cross-campus."

"The key thing will be the follow-through, so it's not a dust-generating document on the shelf somewhere," he said.

Such an exercise, possibly 10 months long, would be kicked off by the UI Board of Trustees, he said.

The board, during its summer retreat, outlined several themes for the university's next strategic plan. At the time, they said they wouldn't write it but wanted to suggest ideas, such as affordability and diversity, for the next president.

The employment contract approved last week by the board has Killeen officially starting on July 1, but the president-elect has been putting more and more time in Illinois in advance of that day. In recent weeks, he has been working closely with President Bob Easter, visiting legislators, deans, vice chancellors and other leaders. He stopped by a meeting of the university's alumni association and cheered on the men's basketball team as they beat Purdue at State Farm Center, and he has been working his way through a call list of 120 to 150 people.

Killeen said it has felt natural working alongside Easter and his wife, Cheryl, and said it will be a "graceful transition."

To ease the transition, Killeen has reduced his time at the State University of New York, where he has been vice chancellor for research and president of its research foundation. He has been brought on as an "academic hourly" at the UI. For January and February, he's working on a 30 percent appointment, according to university spokesman Tom Hardy. For that, he'll be paid at an hourly rate of $200 before the official start date.

A space science researcher, Killeen told faculty he's a "complete believer in faculty governance" and was part of the shared governance process in his previous jobs.

"I love settings where you get all the different facets of complex problems. ... Those kind of interactions are central to how we make progress," he said.

He also pointed to his shins and said any of them are free to kick one if they think he's off-track or off-base.

"Resets are important sometimes," he said.

On Thursday, Killeen acknowledged the land-grant mission and the university's "wonderful legacy" as well as the limitations on resources and challenges the university will face. But he also reiterated his approach to the job.

"I'm an incredible optimist. Let's take on this century."