By Katie Quaranta
Discussions about strategic priorities and planning dominated the Ohio University Board of Trustees meeting on Friday.
Acting Chair and Trustee Larry Schey reported that the August board retreat provided an important opportunity to review the details of Vision OHIO and to have substantive discussions about the university's goals. According to Schey, these discussions revealed that the stated priorities of the university community and the Board of Trustees are well aligned.
"Our strategic priorities will drive our financial decisions over the next five years," he said. "This is the reason we have a strategic plan."
In his report to the board, President Roderick J. McDavis emphasized the importance of learning communities in achieving the Vision OHIO goal of strengthening undergraduate education. Students Brandon Campbell and Andrew Burnette, along with faculty member Deborah Thorn, all testified to the importance of these communities in forging connections between students and in shaping a positive student experience.
"I probably would not have stayed at Ohio University if it hadn't been for the learning community," Burnette said. "Learning communities create a bond and help improve the education that we receive."
Trustee Schey said he is convinced that this unique program will help Ohio University become number one in the country for enhancing the student experience. He added that the program is a vital part of who we are and where we are going as an institution.
"We offer more than any other university in terms of total involvement in educating our students in and out of the classroom," he said.
Executive Vice President and Provost Pamela Benoit, whom McDavis officially introduced to the board at the start of the meeting, echoed these sentiments.
"If you look at the data, you'll see that retention is up, GPA's are up; the bottom line is that learning communities work," she said.
McDavis also noted this fall's record enrollment numbers as well as improved retention rates and ACT scores.
Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin, in his report to the board, acknowledged the increased enrollment, but cautioned that the administration needs to work to guarantee that higher numbers of students do not negatively affect academic standards.
"Faculty would like Ohio University to have the highest quality of students in the state," he said. "A top priority is that growth does not compromise quality."
During a media availability time following the board meeting Schey, McDavis, Benoit and Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur all agreed that excellence and access are both important. Benoit is currently working with Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell on crafting a strategic enrollment plan that focuses on smart, targeted growth to ensure that the university has the resources necessary to provide a quality education for all students.
The trustees for the first time instituted and passed a consent agenda, which included routine items and resolutions that were approved in one motion. If a board member had desired additional discussion on any of the items, that item would have been removed and placed on the regular agenda.
Trustee Sandra Anderson also brought forward a recommendation from the governance committee to add an official fifth full board meeting to next year's meeting schedule and to shift the fall board meeting later into October. The proposed meeting would take place the day after the annual one-day board of trustees retreat in August and would not be preceded by committee meetings the prior day.
Updated Oct. 5, 2009: The Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development was not discontinued, but was granted an extension for its review process.