Roderick J. McDavis
Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing
Aug 29, 2013
Remarks by Roderick J. McDavis, president of Ohio University
On Wednesday, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis delivered his annual State of the University address to faculty and staff at the Margaret M. Walter Hall Rotunda. Below is a transcript of his remarks.
Fifty years ago today marked a turning point in our nation’s history. On a sweltering hot day in August, the greatest demonstration of America’s civil-rights era had assembled in our nation’s capital. An estimated quarter of a million people gathered around the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Transformation was almost tangible. They heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., share his dream for America. A dream filled with hope for a better America. When Dr. King said, “I have a dream today,” he was talking to you and me. Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to social justice and equality set a new course for our country.
Today, as we assemble for our Faculty and Staff Convocation, it seems appropriate that we share this day with the commemoration of the March on Washington. For we too, as a University community, are built upon convictions – the conviction that education should be accessible to all people, regardless of race, gender, background or financial disposition; the conviction that we as a university community have an obligation of service to humanity; the conviction that education transforms lives.
If he were here today, I believe Dr. King would share these convictions. I would like to think that he would be proud of Ohio University’s steadfast commitment to the ideals of inclusivity and diversity and our leadership and resolve in the areas of access and affordability. But our march, like Dr. King’s, is far from over.
From where have we come? Where are we going? How do we achieve our dream? These are the questions that I will ask you to ponder today as we consider our march into the future.
In the midst of the fast-paced change that surrounds higher education, it is important that we gather for moments of reflection and introspection. Today, as we prepare for our march into the 2013-14 academic year, I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to celebrate our achievements and agenda for the future.
Conversations about the road ahead must be rooted in our rich history. And so today, we also will pause to reflect on the journey that brought us here. In February, Ohio University will be 210 years young. What better time to ensure that our path aligns with the values that we were founded upon? What better time to assess our transformation?
This summer, Ohio University articulated a set of Core Values to help guide our conversations. These values were developed with input from a broad array of faculty and staff across our campus community, including our senates. They succinctly speak to our purpose and our commitments.
Today, you received a copy of Ohio University’s Core Values on your seats. It is my hope that they will serve as a reminder of our commitment to our community, our students, and one another.
Sometimes, in our constant quest to improve, we dwell on the micro issues and concerns. But today, I would like to ask you to consider the big picture. Today, I ask you to focus on the messages that are less commonly heard – that of Ohio University’s strength. Because I know Ohio University is in an outstanding position among public universities and all universities.
The state of our university is strong. We are in a position of strength because of you! We are a force of change because of you!
During the past academic year, Ohio University accomplished much for which we are very proud. We successfully completed our semester conversion. We broadened our horizons by expanding the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine with extension campuses in Dublin, Ohio, and Cleveland.
This summer, Ohio University’s Athens Campus was ranked 15th in the state for return on investment by Affordable Colleges Online, among nearly 400 private and publicly-funded colleges in Ohio. We followed this up with a second-place national ranking on Policy Mic’s list of “12 Top Colleges Where Students Get the Best Bang for their Buck” earlier this week.
As the 2013-14 academic year gets underway, Ohio University is preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Ohio University Libraries and the 50th anniversary of The Ohio University Press. And our fine academic programs continue to lead in national rankings. These include:
• The Scripps College of Communication, which is generally regarded as one of the top five communications programs in the nation…
• The Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics program, which ranks fifth in the nation…
• Or the College of Business, which consistently ranks a top-50 public business school.
The list of our accomplishments goes on and on. And if you are anything like me, by the end of today’s “State of the University” address, you will be awestruck by the immense success we have achieved as a university community during this past year.
There is, however, a national debate brewing over the value of higher education – a debate that I would be remiss not to address. Some people in our country are questioning the value of post-secondary education.
“Is college worth it?” It’s a fair question. And the rising cost of college, coupled with the troubled job market, warrant asking the question.
In our 21st century, what sets the college graduate apart? More importantly, what sets the Ohio University graduate apart from others? These are questions that we are answering to ensure our continued success.
Today, my colleagues, we have a tremendous charge in front of us. In the face of ever-increasing public scrutiny, we must leave no question unanswered about the value and relevancy of an Ohio University education. We must acknowledge our unique ability to provide a competitive advantage – a necessary advantage – to the 21st Century student.
Today’s students must be taught global literacy. They must be able to think outside of the box to solve complex, multi-faceted issues. They must graduate with a firm grasp of new technologies and an understanding of the globalized world in which they will use those technologies. They must have the people skills necessary for collaboration, as well as an understanding of the compound social and political issues faced by a 21st Century society.
Ohio University is the pathway to all of these things. A pathway to knowledge. A pathway to future success. A pathway to personal fulfillment. A pathway to promise. But there is much work we still need to accomplish together as we sustain our leadership position within our state.
Through leadership, participation and service within state and national organizations, boards and conferences, the Ohio University community has captured the attention of the higher education community. They are increasingly looking to us as an example of an institution that has thrived, thanks to creative adaptations during hard economic times. We are forging creative solutions to the national issues of access, affordability, and transparency.
When Governor Kasich asked higher education to re-engineer the state’s public higher education funding model, we met the challenge head on through the work of the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission, of which we were a part. This commission provided sound solutions and, potentially, a new national direction for higher education funding. Comprised of presidents of public universities and community colleges across the state of Ohio, the commission chose degree completion as its central metric – with dollars being awarded on the basis of degrees completed, rather than headcount. The resulting completion-based funding model is setting a new standard for higher education.
Ohio University, with our top-three standing for six-year graduation rates in the state, is positioned well for continued financial strength. We also have confidence that Ohio University will fare well under this funding model based on our outstanding commitment to student success.
Last week, President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious new agenda to make college more affordable for American families. Included in his proposed reforms is a plan tying funding to outcome measures.
Sound familiar? Well it should. Here in Ohio, many of these types of affordability initiatives are already underway. Certainly, as the nation strengthens its commitment to making college more affordable for middle class families, it will look to Ohio as a model of collaboration and leadership in this area. We also will continue to urge our national and state government leaders to focus on quality as we move forward.
Another example of Ohio University’s leadership comes with our Tuition Guarantee Plan. Our plan, which is new to Ohio, was developed as a way to provide a better predictability model for students and parents; increase the value of financial aid; and reengineer our budget model in response to positive or negative trends in State Share of Instruction. Through our Tuition Guarantee Plan, Ohio University students will soon be able to lock in a tuition rate for four consecutive years, thereby taking the guesswork out of budgeting for college and increasing the value of their financial aid.
Our hope is that the Tuition Guarantee Plan will ultimately lower the total cost of a four year degree, allowing us to manage the cost of a student’s education while generating the operating and capital funds needed to enhance the quality of an Ohio University degree. It also will allow for needed investments in faculty, staff, academic programs, and infrastructure.
Equally impactful is Ohio University’s unique leadership in technology commercialization and economic development, through which we are bolstering entrepreneurship in Southeast Ohio. Thanks to our strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, Ohio University is well positioned as a leader in innovation and commercialization. This is evidenced by:
• Our 14th place ranking in the nation for licensing revenue per dollars spent on research…
• Or the fact that Ohio University researchers have been issued 110 patents since 1991…
• It also can be seen through our Third Frontier initiative, TechGROWTH Ohio. TechGROWTH Ohio has developed an expansive network of strategic partners and clients throughout the region to identify and assist aspiring new companies and entrepreneurs.
Ohio University’s impact on the economy in our region and state runs deep. We are indeed a force of change.
Tomorrow, I will share the executive summary of Ohio University’s Economic Impact Report with our Board of Trustees. Titled “Ohio University: Educating Students, Impacting Communities,” the report documents the value of our University’s many ongoing activities and enterprises. And it affirms that Ohio University is a major engine of economic growth in our communities, the region, and state.
Among its findings, the report shows that Ohio University generated:
• $1.5 billion in economic impact on the state of Ohio in 2012, and
• $104 million in state and local tax revenue in 2012 by activity associated with the university.
• Furthermore, Ohio University spending supports more than 14,300 full-time and part-time jobs.
The concept of Ohio University as a driving economic force is a commitment we do not take lightly. Since our founding in 1804, Ohio University has played a pivotal role in the development of southeastern Ohio. In order to maintain this rich tradition, the University will need to think strategically about how best to invest its limited resources to insure that its past accomplishments are but a prologue to its future achievements for the benefit of our region, the state and the world.
We estimate that our University community volunteered 1.4 million hours during 2012, a contribution valued at more than $25.4 million.
This service is supplemented by the university’s many community action programs. This includes the tireless efforts of the Presidential Advisory Council on Disability and Accessibility Planning, which works to ensure civil rights and social justice for disabled members of our campuses and communities. It also extends to many programs in the Patton College of Education, which provide educational support for children throughout Appalachia. To be sure, Ohio University is currently partnering with 135 school districts or educational institutions, vastly amplifying our scope and reach.
As we pioneer new community partnerships and innovative operational models, Ohio University is indeed a force of change among institutions of higher education in the state and nation. But let me be clear: All of these initiatives – many of which were spearheaded by you, our faculty and staff – are efforts to enhance Ohio University’s core mission, which is inspired teaching and research. This has been and will always be our primary mission.
Our strength in this area is a reflection of you. To the faculty member who takes extra effort to provide individualized feedback on a written examination, it’s you. To the researcher whose countless hours in the laboratory are slowly but surely moving toward solutions to improve the human condition, it’s you. To the academic advisor who worries about students’ Transition Degree Completion Plans to ensure that their academic interests are being best served, it’s you. To the grounds keeper whose tender loving care keeps our campus beautiful year round, it’s you.
When I consider the thousands of faculty and staff members whose personal touches constitute the Ohio University experience, I have nothing but confidence that we will continue to impact communities and change lives for the better.
OHIO is the kind of place where students don’t just talk about finding supportive professors—they underscore that point by describing OHIO as the kind of place where their professors actually know their names. Because our professors take the extra time to help—whether it’s mentoring them in preparation to compete for a nationally competitive award or just spending extra time after class explaining a concept.
Transforming lives – That is what we do. It is through your passion and commitment that transformation is possible – for our state, for our communities and, most of all, for our students.
I would venture to say that the past two decades have witnessed more change in higher education than any other time period since our founding. We have weathered a tough storm. It was one that forced us to make difficult decisions and change the way we approach our thinking about higher education and how we will achieve our mission and vision. We developed a strategic plan that laid the groundwork for our four fundamentals and four strategic priorities. Because we have not wavered from our course, we are positioned to invest in our faculty, staff, University, and more importantly, our students’ futures.
It is incredible to think what the next decade will hold. And as transformation leaders, Ohio University is actively planning, gauging, predicting, and mapping out our pathway to ensure our University’s health far into the future.
Some examples of the key initiatives we are undertaking include the implementation of a strategic enrollment management plan. Our deliberate, thoughtful approach succeeded in shattering our applications record. For the Fall 2013 semester, we received more than 20,750 applications. That is 25 percent above last year! This number includes:
• 50% more out-of-state applications
• 7% more in-state applications
• 44% more multicultural applications
• Applications from 85 countries
As a result, this year’s freshmen class is Ohio University’s largest, most diverse class, with the highest overall quality in the history of our institution. I want to acknowledge the hard work of Dr. Pam Benoit, Craig Cornell, our admissions team, our academic deans, faculty and many others who brought us to this history-making year.
A second initiative is the development of a market competitive total compensation plan for faculty, classified staff and administrative staff. A Faculty Compensation Task Force is gathering and analyzing current, trend, and comparative data for Ohio University faculty at the Athens and regional campuses for Group I and II faculty. Salary and benefit data will be reviewed to consider possible goals and multi-year strategies for improving recruitment and retention. The task force is expected to provide a report to Dr. Benoit by May 2014. Meanwhile, our work with the Compensation 2014 project is making great strides toward our goal to develop a market competitive compensation plan for administrative and classified staff. The COMP 2014 work will be completed next year.
Last spring, the Budget Planning Council had a broad discussion and prioritized an additional one percent compensation increase for faculty should we meet our enrollment targets for the Fall 2013 semester. Given where we are today, we can provide an additional one percent salary increase for both faculty and for staff. Tomorrow, I will ask the Board of Trustees to approve an additional one percent salary pool for faculty and staff, to be allocated based upon guidelines developed by the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Vice President For Finance and Administration. You all played a key role in helping us meet our goals, and I believe that you should be rewarded for your efforts and commitment.
Third, we are in the midst of an aggressive fundraising campaign. To date, we have raised $428 million toward our $450 million goal in The Promise Lives Campaign. This includes contributions from more than 1,500 university employees, amounting to more than $786,000. Thank you for your support and gifts to Ohio University!
Fourth, I am very pleased to share the first investment we are making from the new $100 Million Investment Plan. The investment plan is designed to provide one-time funds for initiatives that will not only enhance our academic position relative to peer institutions but also aid in our ability to serve as an economic engine in the region.
As part of this plan, tomorrow, we will share with our Board of Trustees the new Matching Endowed Scholarship Program. We intend to raise $50 million in private scholarship funding over the next seven years to match the $25 million of university funds, which will create a $75 million endowed scholarship program. This new scholarship program will address student financial aid needs and help Ohio University achieve its strategic enrollment management goals.
I also want to highlight our comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan. By addressing our aging infrastructure that is becoming increasingly difficult to adapt for the needs of our students and faculty, we are changing and improving the way our students learn. One facet of the Capital Improvement Plan is the University’s Housing Master Plan – a truly transformational long-term plan to invest in our residence halls by constructing and renovating facilities that encourage academic success, community building and student engagement, while embracing the legacy and character of our historic campus.
This year, we look forward to seeing the Lausche Heating Plant replaced with a new facility that operates on more environmentally-friendly natural gas, rather than coal, which will further reduce our carbon footprint while increasing savings. Also on the horizon is the grand opening of the Steven L. Schoonover Center for Communication and the new Multipurpose Pavilion, which will soon be named the Walter Field House pending the approval of our Board of Trustees.
During this academic year, I will focus on programs that elevate Ohio University’s national rankings to highlight its academic quality and excellence. I’m also looking forward to developing a strategic international education plan for Ohio University. We will be seeking reaccreditation through the Higher Learning Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). And we will be expanding pathways to an Ohio University degree through academic programs on our regional campuses, more community college partnerships, and new e-learning initiatives. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can and will accomplish this year working together.
At Ohio University, student transformation occurs in many ways. Through programs such as the College Adjustment Program or the Veterans Services Program, we put a strong emphasis on insuring that students with special needs receive the attention and support that create optimal conditions for their success. Other programs, such as the Margaret Boyd Scholars and our Ohio Fellows Program, offer unique academic experiences and unprecedented pathways to undergraduates of distinction.
Transformation also occurs through the accomplishments of our faculty and staff. When NASA announces that it will be sending Ohio University Professor Sarah Wyatt’s seedlings to outer space for observation, students are inspired. When Ohio University Zanesville Associate Professor Tarig Higazi finds evidence that River Blindness may be eliminated, students are encouraged. When Ohio University Distinguished Professor John Kopchick is awarded the Konneker Medal for Commercialization and Entrepreneurship for his work to treat acromegaly, students are empowered. We do this work because we believe that inspired teaching and research transforms lives.
Ohio University was founded on a promise. Established in 1804 as the first institution of higher learning in Ohio and the Northwest Territory, our founders recognized the importance of a college education. Nearly 210 years later, that vision remains strong.
We have endured tough times together. But because we have been disciplined and strategic in efforts moving toward our shared vision, we are in a position of strength today. Because we have been proactive and forward thinking, we are a force of change in higher education.
Our march will succeed because it is built on an unshakable premise – the transformative power of education. It is through your dedication to transformative education that Ohio University will continue to enable the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators. It is because of you that Ohio University will become the nation’s best transformative learning community.
Earlier in my remarks, I acknowledged the 50th commemoration of the March on Washington. As I was preparing to speak to you today, I considered how we, as a university, continue to carry forward the dream of Dr. King that was shared on August 28, 1963.
Ohio University shares Dr. King’s dream! We improve lives. We help lift our students closer to their dreams. We build an open and welcoming community. And we are a force of change for our state, nation and world.
We do it because that is who we are, it is what we believe in, and because it is the right direction for our future. We answer Dr. King’s call because we understand “the fierce urgency of now.”
So let us continue to dream a great dream for Ohio University! Let us march on to become the nation’s best transformative learning community! Let us march on with a renewed commitment to work together!