By Mary Alice Casey
An in-depth discussion of the university's Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan and orientation of new members were among highlights of the Board of Trustees' second annual retreat Thursday in Columbus.
President Roderick J. McDavis and Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl updated the board on recent refinements to the academic plan, which lays out six goals and 22 objectives. Year 1 of the plan officially began July 1, although some initiatives got under way this past academic year.
"What we're presenting to you is our vision for the next five years," McDavis said. "We see this as a multifaceted approach."
Click here to view an updated version of the plan along with a document that outlines initiatives that received fiscal year 2009 funding.
An emphasis on affordability
Trustee C. Robert Kidder asked the administration to elaborate on how the plan will address affordability, in particular by increasing funding for scholarships.
McDavis said college affordability is at the forefront of conversations at the university and in the state, especially because of its emphasis in the University System of Ohio's strategic plan. The university is conducting a comprehensive analysis of scholarship funding and will have more to report once that is complete, Krendl said.
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell said more than 7,400 undergraduates share almost $20 million in scholarships funded primarily from the general fund. In addition, more than $6 million in endowed scholarships are awarded annually, and graduate students receive approximately $25 million in assistantships and tuition waivers.
Cornell joined the university this spring in a new position created to develop and implement a strategic enrollment plan that promotes fiscal stability, access and affordability.
The provost said one goal of the scholarship analysis will be to determine if funding is reaching those who can benefit from it most, including regional campus and transfer students.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur noted that much of the conversation surrounding affordability will be shaped at the state level, where discussions are under way on Ohio's formula for funding higher education, tuition caps and options for giving universities more flexibility in setting tuition for various degree programs.
Strengthening undergraduate education
Trustees also emphasized the importance of maintaining the university's strong reputation in undergraduate education and strengthening the general education program.
Krendl said general education will be a focus of discussions this year related to the proposed transition from quarters to semesters. Measures such as increasing the number of learning communities, which are shown to aid in retention and improve student success and engagement, also are part of the equation, she said.
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education David Descutner commended the academic colleges for assigning many of their top teachers to gen ed courses, including the 16 University Professor award winners who will teach freshman-level courses this fall.
"We want our students to have a great experience in these general education courses," said Decutner, who also chairs the Vision Ohio Steering Committee.
Tracking our progress
Considering the plan's ambitious goals and wide-ranging strategies for achieving them, Board Vice Chair M. Marnette Perry inquired how priorities and progress will be tracked.
"How do we know we are working on the right things at the right time?" she asked.
Krendl said her office has worked with the Office of Information Technology to develop a Web-based tracking tool. It will allow university leadership to view where each of the strategies stands and the units accountable for achieving the various initiatives. Progress on the plan, she said, "will be reported quarter to quarter, year to year."
The Vision Ohio Steering Committee and the executive leadership team of deans and vice presidents will review the tracking system in coming weeks, and it should be in place early fall quarter, Krendl said.
Trustee Sandra Anderson said she appreciated the level of detail in the plan that will help people better understand and support university priorities.
"If you have a plan like this, you can inspire private support," she said. "You can match a generous donor's passion with a specific need."
A community effort
Responding to a question about campus support for the plan, Krendl said based on feedback from constituent senates, she believes it is strong.
"The feeling was that the single greatest example of shared governance that we've had in the university in the past decade is around Vision Ohio," she said. "I believe that we've demonstrated that if this is going to be a communitywide effort, it needs to be owned by the community, not by the administration."
Board Chair C. Daniel DeLawder agreed, adding, "We have an important task before us as a university to address this. I am so pleased to see the progress that has been made and the collaboration that has clearly taken place."
In other news, McDavis said preliminary fall-quarter enrollment numbers are strong. As of Thursday, 4,095 housing contracts had been received from prospective first-year students, up 74 from this time last year and 45 ahead of the goal of 4,050. Gains also appear likely in the academic quality of the freshman class and in the enrollment of international, multicultural and out-of-state students.
The annual retreat gives trustees an opportunity for strategic discussions and planning. The day included dialogue on the role of trustees with Dimon McFerson, who is entering his ninth year as a member of the Ohio State Board of Trustees, and an overview of legal matters as they relate to state universities' boards of trustees.
In addition, new trustees David Wolfort and David Brightbill, student trustees Chauncey Jackson and Tracy Kelly, and Ohio University Alumni Association representative Dennis Minichello participated in an orientation featuring overviews of the university's various planning units.