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President McDavis addresses media at February press briefing

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 9, 2006) -- Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis met with the local media on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the new Game Research and Interactive Design (GRID) Lab at 5 on Court Street to update them about the university's latest news and initiatives.

The president began by announcing that Ohio University is taking steps to provide a practice site that matches the excellence of one of its signature organizations - the Marching 110. When band members return to campus in late summer to prepare for the 2006 football season, they will have a permanent practice site at Peggy Pruitt Field, located in the Athletic Mall near Bob Wren Stadium. The band has never had a permanent practice home.

The university will install lights and groups such as intramural and club sports teams will have access to the facility through a shared schedule. Installation of the lights, combined with the field's AstroTurf 2000 synthetic surface, will allow for practices to continue late in the evening and in inclement weather. The cost for providing the lighting is $185,000 and will be paid with funds from university reserves earmarked for one-time projects.

McDavis explained that Ohio University continues to move forward with a review of new strategies to combat the problem of high-risk drinking on campus. The university is concerned about high-risk drinking because it cares about the health and safety of its students, their academic success, and the community. A set of recommendations for reducing high-risk drinking has been developed, and the university is discussing the recommendations with different groups to solicit their feedback on the appropriateness of these strategies.

To further provide an opportunity to discuss this issue, and more specifically the recommendations, the university will hold a community-wide meeting, "Day of Dialogue: Addressing High-Risk Alcohol Use at Ohio University," on Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Walter Hall Rotunda. Students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to attend. The goal of "Day of Dialogue" is to engage a wider circle of university students, faculty, and staff and members of the Athens community to discuss the problem of high-risk drinking and to recommend solutions to this issue.

Ohio University is hosting an African Health Summit this week to draw attention to African health issues and encourage research, scholarship, and student activism to address those issues, the president said. Members of the community are welcome to attend the summit on Friday, Feb. 10, in Walter Hall room 235 from 1 to 5 p.m. Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, will deliver the keynote address entitled "Africa's Right to Health: Why it Matters to the World" at 1 p.m.

McDavis announced that Ohio University will celebrate National TRIO Day on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1 to 3 p.m., in the Walter Hall Rotunda. Provost Kathy Krendl will honor outstanding students and speak on the programs' abilities to create greater access to education. Ohio University has three TRIO programs: Upward Bound, which prepares students for admission to undergraduate education; the College Adjustment Program, which promotes college completion and success; and the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares students for post-graduate scholarly and professional endeavors.

McDavis also talked about the retention of incoming classes. He said that preliminary numbers for the incoming class of fall 2005 show that approximately 250 students did not return for winter quarter. This is a 94 percent retention rate, which is similar to last year's 95 percent retention rate. As part of the university's ongoing initiative to further improve the first-year experience and retention rates of new students, it is surveying the students who did not return to find their reasons for leaving the university.

The retention rate of multicultural students increased this fall. African-American student retention increased from 92 percent last year to 93 percent this year and Hispanic student retention increased from 93 percent last year to 99 percent this year. This fall, the university had an increase of 111 multicultural students, with 336 multicultural students in the freshman class, compared to 225 multicultural students in the 2004 class.

The president discussed the Game Research and Immersive Design Lab, which celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. The GRID Lab will provide the Ohio University community and the surrounding region with opportunities for training, education, and development of technical and creative skills through the use of interactive digital game technology.

The GRID Lab has two main components: a research function, which began in September 2005 to support innovative and creative projects for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff; and an arcade function, which debuts this month, for Ohio University students and the Athens community. The lab's facilities include a state-of-the-art studio stocked with the latest development tools in software and hardware for game development, participant-observation research game-play environments and an experiential laboratory.

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Media Contact: Media Specialist Jack Jeffery, (740) 597-1793 or jefferyj@ohio.edu

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