I want to welcome everyone back for the spring semester at Illinois State. I hope your break was pleasant and healthy, and that you return back home ready for the new semester.

First and foremost, congratulations to our Redbird football team for a magnificent season and a terrifically fought battle for the NCAA Division I title. It has been an incredible season for the 13-2 Redbirds.

With a large collection of our Redbird family, I had the chance to travel to Texas to see our Redbirds take on North Dakota State at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. It was a crisp 37 degrees (though that seemed balmy next to our negative temperatures in Normal), and it was with great pride we watched, knowing so many students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends were following along on national television.

It was a heartbreaking loss to the Bison, who are four-time champions, but in no way takes away from our sincere pride in the Redbird players.

Join me in rooting for another Illinois State team this week. The ISU Solar Car Team will be competing in the Abu Dhabi Solar Car Challenge from Jan. 15 to 19.  Our hard-working students will face teams from all over the world, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium. We’ll be sure to keep a close eye on their progress halfway around the globe through their Facebook page.

We received good news over the break. Illinois State has placed in several rankings, including being named as one of the best values in public colleges in the country by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. This is a testament to both our high academic quality and affordable price, and it rightly places us among the nation’s most prestigious universities.

The Mennonite College of Nursing online nursing program has also been ranked as one of the Best Online Nursing Programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. Schools were ranked in five general categories including student engagement, faculty credentials and training, peer reputation, student services and technology, and admissions selectivity.

Lastly, Illinois State maintains its reputation as a choice for returning veterans. Military Advanced Education named our university a top school in their Guide to Colleges & Universities. The guide measures best practices in military and veteran education at 600 institutions including private, public, for-profit, not-for-profit, four-year and two-year colleges.

Finally, our thanks to the dedicated Grounds and Facilities crews that battled bitter temperatures over the past week to keep Illinois State going. I overheard one of our Redbirds calling them “angels in really warm-looking coats,” and I’m not sure I can refute it.

Here’s to a great semester for us all.
Larry Dietz