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Monday, Oct 23, 2017

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First Day as Ohio University President for Dr. M. Duane Nellis


Much like the first day for most Ohio University students, faculty and staff on the Athens campus, Dr. M. Duane Nellis’ first day as president of Ohio University began with a trip to Bobcat Depot to get his identification card. As he waited for his card to process, President Nellis acknowledged that getting his ID was a rite of passage for all Bobcats.

“I am overwhelmed with excitement, much like our incoming students and their families who are visiting for Bobcat Student Orientation are today. We are all beginning our next journey together as new members of the Bobcat family” Dr. Nellis said.

Kate Mickey, a junior from Chillicothe who studies Music Therapy in the College of Fine Arts enjoyed meeting Dr. Nellis. She said, “He was super friendly, very warm. Somebody that I would definitely like to talk to again in the future. That was my first time meeting him too, so it was wonderful.” She said she would like to see the President help spread the word about the university’s many successes. “I hope that he helps incoming students to realize that Ohio University has so much to offer academically, to boost that good reputation.”

Fresh with his new Ohio University ID, Dr. Nellis entered his office at Cutler Hall to find the first floor filled with Ohio University’s First Lady Ruthie Nellis, Cutler Hall staff, top university executives, deans of the various colleges, leaders from the university senates, Athens City leaders and the Ohio University mascot, Rufus.

“Today begins a new chapter in Ohio University’s history,” said Board of Trustees Chair Janetta King. “In becoming better acquainted with Dr. Nellis over the past several months, I have no doubt that his experience as a leader, innovator and educator makes him ideally suited to guide Ohio University as we embark upon our third century. “

Next, Dr. Nellis visited the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab in Scripps Hall. The GRID Lab was developed by faculty and staff to provide the Appalachian Ohio region with training, education, and an opportunity to develop technical and creative skills with digital game technology. President Nellis was very impressed with the work being done there.

“I appreciate the collaborative atmosphere that is being fostered in that space,” Dr. Nellis said. “The Scripps College of Communication’s reputation is well-known throughout the country and it is evident from my meetings with the students, faculty, staff and alumni that the hype is all true.”

Students on hand working in the lab were impressed by the new President’s knowledge. James Edelstein, a senior, games and animation major said, You can tell he’s very knowledgeable. When I was explaining the project I was working on, he provided his input as an educator and even suggested a way to apply the technology for student learning.”

Later in the morning, the new president traveled to the Konneker Research Center at The Ridges to meet with Distinguished Professor John Kopchick, Professor Nick Okada and student researchers to learn more about the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program and the work they are doing concerning growth hormones, obesity and diabetes.

“Dr. Nellis started as an assistant professor and worked his way up to leadership positions. I believe that gives him a unique vantage point that not all presidents have to really understand the value of research,” Dr. Kopchick said. “I was heartened he took an interest in the research being done at Ohio University's Edison Biotechnology Institute and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine on Day One.”

“In our ever-changing world, the work being done in our university laboratories is increasingly important,” said President Nellis. “Curiosity and inquiry serve as the cornerstones of the academic experience. As president, I will always place an emphasis on the academic core, research and creative activities.”

Dr. Nellis then traveled to Nelson Dining Hall to meet a group of incoming students and their parents for lunch.

Gabriella Schoch, an incoming freshman who was also having lunch at Nelson Dining Hall said she enjoyed meeting Dr. Nellis. “He’s really nice and seems like he fits in well with the students when he interacts with us. He asked me lots of questions and shared some of his experiences. If I shared any advice, I would just tell him to stay connected. He’s doing well so far.”

Courtney Schoch, a Cleveland parent attending Bobcat Student Orientation recommended that Dr. Nellis remains open to frequent communication. She said, “I would tell him that open communication is important. I feel like the university has done that already with orientation, because it’s important to bridge the gap between parents and students and the university and being able to find important information, like financial information. Keeping those lines of communication open is important.”

At the conclusion of his first day, Dr. Nellis returned to his new office in Cutler Hall to join with presidents at 183 other colleges and universities in signing a national declaration through the group We Are Still In that OHIO will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. The Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Ohio University as one of the nation’s leading green power users and OHIO’s sustainability efforts have gained regional, state and national acclaim.

“I decided to join the coalition of other university presidents, mayors, governors and business leaders around the country to reaffirm Ohio University’s commitment to sustainability,” Dr. Nellis said. “This is not a political statement. This is a promise to uphold and enhance the sustainability measures Ohio University already has in place for the good of the planet. I feel by signing this petition, we are sending the message to our University community that we intend to continue being a national leader in this area.”

Another significant moment from Dr. Nellis’ first day was the naming of an interim executive vice president and provost to replace Dr. Pam Benoit while the university embarks on a nationwide search process. Dr. Nellis recruited Dr. David Descutner, who most recently occupied the role of interim president. Dr. Nellis said he looks forward to continuing to work closely with Dr. Descutner in the coming months.

“He has been a tremendous asset to me, personally, as I embarked upon the beginning of my tenure as OHIO’s 21st president. It only makes sense to continue working closely with David as I continue to transition into my new role. His institutional knowledge and experience in academia will serve the University well in this interim capacity,” Dr. Nellis said.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Dr. Nellis has a progressive and broad career in higher education He has served as president at Texas Tech University and the University of Idaho as well as provost at Kansas State and dean at West Virginia University.

Dr. Nellis and his wife, Ruthie, look forward to a year of firsts as they settle in to make Athens their home and celebrate the successes of Ohio University.

For more information about OHIO’s 21st president, visit: www.ohio.edu/president