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Sunday, Jun 16, 2019

Partly Cloudy, 69 °F

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Dr. M. Duane Nellis

Dr. M. Duane Nellis

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

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President Nellis invites faculty and staff to help University reshape its future


President Nellis sent the following message to faculty and staff on the evening of Thursday, April 25, 2019.


Dear Colleagues,  

There has been much to celebrate this year, both in the individual successes and contributions of students, faculty, and staff and in the achievement of significant milestones for the institution as whole. But this has also been a challenging year. We have begun to respond to the forces that are reshaping—and that will continue to fundamentally alter—the landscape of higher education across the country. Some of those forces include the impact of College Credit Plus, an increasingly competitive higher education landscape, and reductions in state-allocated resources. We end the year with a clearer understanding of the steps we must take as we realign resources with our Strategic Pathways and Priorities. The past year has confirmed that we must take bold action to secure our future as a public institution of higher education. We now have an opportunity over the summer to contemplate further our new direction and prepare to fully engage in a collaborative process this fall to ensure that we emerge as a sustainable, leading institution by 2025.   

I am confident that we can achieve a new direction because in my two years at Ohio University, our outstanding faculty and staff have shown me that we have the intellectual and innovative power to do this. We have reimagined the purpose of a regional jail to provide rehabilitation for women who are confronting drug addiction. We have reinvented medical education for a new generation of critically needed doctors. We are implementing a new innovative honors program that weaves together opportunities to engage deeply both in and out of the classroom. And, we are poised to re-create and strengthen the relationships between all of our campuses and communities through the One Ohio University model. This is just a small sample of the bold steps that are shaping who we become. We must continue to take even bolder steps together as we strengthen our academic success, engagement, and national visibility.   

Our Strategic Pathways and Priorities have brought our strengths to the forefront, providing the context to further refine our niche in an increasingly competitive landscape. It is essential to embrace our values as we continue to move forward to take control of our destiny in this changing, global landscape. We want to be a diverse and inclusive institution where education matters, where discovery has impact, where we learn in community, where we prepare our students to be global citizens, and where we embody the promise of higher education as an engine of social and economic mobility and equality.  

At our most recent Breakfast for Progress, we began to explorecurricular innovation. One of the biggest takeaways for me is the pervasive enthusiasm and desire we have for innovating: for new programming, for supporting current and future students in new ways, for increasing the range and impact of our research and scholarship in our communities. But we have institutional barriers to that innovation. We cannot control the higher education landscape, but we have the power to remove barriers that we place upon ourselves. We have the ability to control our own reaction to these factors and to control the pace of our own change. We have the opportunity to rethink how to incentivize and reward the very things that we value. We can build a future that secures those values and fulfills the promise of public higher education in a changing world.   

From headlines across the country, it is clear that we are not alone in contemplating how we should move forward. But we at Ohio University also have an advantage. We are a community of great thinkers, teachers, scholars, inventors, and artists. We are educational entrepreneurs who have always cared about the value of public higher education for our students and our communities. We urgently need to create time, space, and opportunity where we can contemplate, explore, and craft a new future that aligns our work with our values and our best purpose. Next year, we will continue our decisive actions toward reframing our great institution as a 21st century public research University. We need to answer questions that will guide our future, such as:   

  • Who are the learners of the future, and how will we be the compelling preference as their university of choice? 
  • What can we do to foster a stronger intellectual culture that nurtures and celebrates research and discovery? 
  • The structure of the current academy is based on traditional academic departments defined by discipline and contained within colleges. What is the right model for the future?  
  • What are the obstacles to cross-unit collaboration in teaching, research, and engagement? And what can we do to remove those obstacles in the coming year?
  • How do we ensure that every student has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and abilities to succeed and thrive throughout their lifetime? How can we reimagine general education to support this?   
  • How do we embrace risk responsibly?  

The summer is a time for contemplation and exploration of these questions and others. Next year, we will continue to collaboratively reshape Ohio University. We will further articulate in the coming months how we will engage, together, in that endeavor. It will be essential that we have courage to depart from tradition into an unknown territory and boldly rethink our priorities, structures, and processes. I encourage you to contemplate the possibilities for how you can be part of our bold actions and embrace opportunities for change so our work is truly aligned with our highest purpose. Our collaboration will continue together in the Fall as we reshape Ohio University together.   

Finally, I want to thank you for your immense contributions to Ohio University. The work of maintaining our beautiful campuses, educating and supporting our students, providing exemplary services to make our colleagues, students and guests feel welcome, are all part of what makes our University so remarkable. We are, indeed, a special community.  

Thank you for your commitment and dedication. I hope you have a safe, rejuvenating, and thought-provoking summer break. 

Kind regards,

M. Duane Nellis,

President