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The University of Illinois Board of Trustees today gave its unanimous support to the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), the groundbreaking new research and education enterprise led by the University of Illinois System. DPI will boost the state’s economy by addressing real-world challenges, promoting entrepreneurship, growing next-generation businesses and delivering top talent to Chicago.

The first collaborative interdisciplinary research center to span the U of I System’s three universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, DPI will connect thousands of students and hundreds of top researchers who will work with industry and government to foster the kind of innovation that creates new technology, products and businesses, and that drives progress and prosperity for all. The research institute also seeks to retain talent and recruit top minds to Illinois, growing the state’s workforce in critical areas.

“Now more than ever, the state of Illinois needs to cultivate an ecosystem that fosters innovation and breakthrough discoveries to create the new businesses and jobs of tomorrow, and Discovery Partners Institute, together with our best-in-class universities and collaborative partners, will be the unifying catalyst,” President Tim Killeen said.

The board resolution, including a proposal seeking formal institute status for DPI, will go to the Illinois Board of Higher Education for review and approval.

The board “supports DPI in its alignment with the U of I System’s Strategic Framework, which emphasizes a world-class education for students that includes experiential learning; research and scholarship with global impact; a healthy future for the state of Illinois; and the promotion of a preeminent destination for the best students and scholars,” the resolution states in part.

DPI Interim Director Bill Sanders said about $850 million already has been committed for planning, construction and operation of DPI and the associated Illinois Innovation Network (IIN), a system of connected university-, community- and industry-based hubs throughout the state. The Illinois fiscal 2020 budget re-appropriated $500 million for DPI and IIN. The U of I System, its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, as well as Northern Illinois University, have committed about $245 million in non-state funds, and corporations and foundations have committed nearly $103 million, according to Sanders. Additional private investments in support of DPI will be announced at a later date, he said.

DPI also recently announced its tenth academic partner, the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), adding to a long list of tech-focused and globally recognized research institutions that will collaborate at DPI. Others are inaugural partners Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the three U of I System universities; and international partners Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MS Ramaiah Medical College in India and Cardiff University in Wales. IIN includes a network of 15 hubs across the state, including one in every Illinois city with a public university presence.

DPI currently operates in offices at 200 S. Wacker Drive in Chicago. A permanent facility will be developed on a donated site along the Chicago River, bringing together top faculty in agriculture, healthcare, computing and data, the environment and other critical fields.


The board approved the appointment of Sean Garrick as the first vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Garrick, a professor of engineering and a Fulbright Scholar, served the past two years as the associate vice provost in the office of equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota. He helped create programs that recruit, retain and advance the success of diverse students and faculty. Garrick earned his undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Trustees also approved the appointment of Thomas Wamsley as the vice chancellor for advancement at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), effective Aug. 19. Wamsley succeeds Jeff Nearhoof, who served in the position from October 2013 through December 2018.

Wamsley, the chief development officer at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, also will become senior vice president of the University of Illinois Foundation and will serve as the chief development officer for UIC. He earned his undergraduate degree from Ohio University at Athens and a master’s in business administration from Wright State University.

Eunice Santos was appointed dean of the School of Information Sciences at Urbana-Champaign, effective Aug. 16. Santos succeeds Allen Renear, who has served in the position since February 2012 and will return to full-time faculty service.

Santos is the Ron Hochsprung Endowed Chair and Professor of the Department of Computer Science at Illinois Tech. She is recognized for her work in cybersecurity, complex adaptive systems and human modeling related to the biological, physical and social sciences. Her numerous professional accolades include a National Science Foundation Career Award and recognition as one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ Tech 50 as “one of the names you should know” in the Chicago tech sector. Santos earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Youngstown State University, and a master’s and doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley.