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faculty and staff convocation

President Dr. M. Duane Nellis addresses the crowd during the 2018 Faculty and Staff Convocation in Walter Hall Rotunda.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Singing Men of Ohio

OHIO's Singing Men of Ohio performed several songs before President Nellis delivered his State of the University address.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Crowd listens

The audience at the Faculty and Staff Convocation listens to President Nellis' address.

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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President Nellis highlights the far-reaching impact of OHIO during first State of the University address

Ohio University President Dr. M. Duane Nellis shared the many ways that the University is impacting the community, region, state and nation during his first State of the University Address in the Walter Hall Rotunda on Sept. 18.

Now in his second year as president, Dr. Nellis began his talk by acknowledging several new and retiring members of his leadership team, University senate chair leaders and a few new members of the Board of Trustees.

The president also took a few moments to thank the faculty and staff in attendance for their service and commitment to the University.

“If there is one item that I want you to take away from this presentation, it would be these words – ‘thank you,’” Dr. Nellis said.

Nellis officially began his address by discussing the impact that OHIO has made across the world during its 214 years as an institution of higher learning.

He highlighted OHIO alumnus Dr. Frank Papay, who has recently impacted the world because of his OHIO education.

Dr. Papay, an OHIO Medal of Merit recipient who was also deemed a “health hero” by WebMD for his work treating cluster headaches, is featured on the cover of National Geographic this month. Dr. Papay recently led a team of 11 Cleveland Clinic surgeons and multiple specialists who performed a the hospital’s first total face transplant on 21-year old Katie Stubblefield, the youngest woman in the United States to undergo such a procedure.

Dr. Nellis said Dr. Papay joins other notable OHIO alumni, such as cartographer Marie Tharp, State Superintendent of Public Education Joseph Carter Corbin and U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Treasury and presidential advisor Thomas Ewing, as Bobcats who utilized their OHIO education for public service.

“To leave the world a better place than it had been when they arrived. To impact future generations,” Dr. Nellis said about OHIO’s alumni.

The president also cited more recent examples of Bobcats engaging in public service by praising the University’s nationally recognized sustainability initiatives, its ongoing efforts to address the nationwide physician shortage and the nation’s opioid epidemic. He also mentioned the Basic Needs OHIO Initiative, which has led to the expansion of the Baker University Center food pantry that benefits college students who need food and supplies.

Dr. Nellis also credited current Student Senate President Maddie Sloat and her fellow students for their grassroots efforts to prevent sexual violence on and around campus. Their efforts have been in response to a recent string of sexual assault incidents involving OHIO students.

Dr. Nellis then discussed the significant progress the University has made on the strategic pathways and priorities he shared in October 2017 during his Investiture address:

  1. Become a national leader for diversity and inclusion:
    • Hired Dr. Gigi Secuban as vice president for diversity and inclusion.
    • Set a five-year goal of increasing the number of diversity faculty and staff.
    • Received the national 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.
    • Announced the creation of a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women that will centralize and catalogue the work being done to identify key issues and solutions concerning women.
  2. Enhance the overall academic quality of the University:
    • Hired Dr. Chaden Djalali as the new executive vice president and provost.
    • First cohort of new OHIO Honors Program began this fall. The program will strengthen a university-wide core and culture that celebrates interdisciplinary and experiential learning and offer faculty new opportunities for intellectual exchange.
    • All 16 OHIO Athletics teams finished the year with an NCAA Academic Progress Rate above 970 for the first time in University history.
    • Many academic programs ranked in the nation, including the Sports Administration program, which was ranked number one in the world for the fourth consecutive year. The Ceramics program was ranked the third-best graduate program in the U.S.
  3. Elevate University’s national profile:
    • Faculty experts highlighted in almost every state in the U.S. and in six of the seven continents.
    • Will soon launch a national search for a new leader for University Communications and Marketing who will help build the University’s national reputation and increase visibility.
  4. Become known as a place where challenging dialogue and rigorous, civil debate are institutional hallmarks:
    • The University has joined other colleges and universities in a robust dialogue about the fundamental concept of free and open exchange of ideas.
    • Created the OHIO Challenging Dialogues Task Force to create a campus-wide lecture series around difficult dialogues.
  5. Ensure a sustainable financial model:
    • Held two Breakfast for Progress meetings where the discussion about the University’s sustainable financial future was the dominant topic.
    • Will develop a funding model that sustains the long-term financial health of the University and allows it to invest strategically in people, pedagogy, research, creative activity and the infrastructure.
  6. Enhance graduate student benefits:
    • Invested in graduate student assistantships, created two new Presidential Medal awards for master’s and doctorate students, subsidized student health insurance for graduate students and created a parental paid leave of absence policy that began this fall. The additional health benefits will allow graduate students to focus more on their research and scholarship.
  7. Strategically position OHIO for higher levels of national visibility in research and creative activity:
    • Focused on bolstering and supporting research, scholarship and creative activity.
    • Faculty researcher John Kopchick recently honored with 2019 Laureate Award, the top honor in the endocrinology field.
    • Highlighted several other professors who received national awards and notoriety as well as significant grant funding for their cutting-edge research projects.
  8. Build a University engagement ecosystem:
    • Innovation Center recently named the Top Rural Incubator in the World by the International Business Innovation Association.
    • Comprehensive economic impact study revealed that the University’s total economic impact on the state, region and local community is $2.9 billion and has supported 40,021 jobs.
    • Announced the creation of CoLab space in Alden Library where students from all majors and backgrounds can enjoy cross-disciplinary conversations and collaborations.  
    • Dr. Luke Pittaway named Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year, a lifetime achievement award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
    • Created the OHIO Opioid Task Force which will develop a strategic plan that creates synergies to combat the opioid crisis.
    • The College of Health Sciences and Professions is looking into leading a group for repurposing the former Hocking County Correctional Facility as a drug addiction recovery center.
  9. Strengthening the University’s public service and outreach mission:
    • Will soon announce the new Corporate Engagement Task Force that will work with OHIO alumni to expand opportunities for the University community to build partnerships with corporations through joint research and creative activities. One of the desired results is more internships and related opportunities for OHIO graduates.
    • Charged the University’s Regional Higher Education Study Committee with making recommendations on how to elevate the University as a national model for making higher education more accessible to everyone.
  10. Strengthen global engagement efforts:
    • Welcomed delegations to campus from many countries around the world, including Japan, Ecuador, Germany and Malaysia.
    • Set goal to increase international student recruitment and retention, which was realized this fall.
  11. Strategically reconnect with 237,000+ alumni base:
    • Hired Nico Karagosian as vice president for university advancement and Erin Essak Kopp as assistant vice president of alumni relations and executive director of the OHIO Alumni Association.
    • Distributes a “First Friday” letter each month, which allows President Nellis to share the latest and greatest news about the University.
    • Expanded the Presidential Leadership Society to 25 undergraduate students and created the new Presidential Graduate Student Leadership Society, which includes a first-year cohort of six students.


Cherise Olmo, associate registrar for operations in the Office of the University Registrar, said she enjoyed Dr. Nellis’ speech because she is a new employee and she found it both informative and enlightening to hear how the University is moving forward under his direction.

“Diversity and inclusion is very important to me as an African-American professional here,” Olmo said. “Coming from the University of Illinois, that was a major initiative there as well, so it was gratifying to see that it is important here as well. I look forward to seeing what the year and the City of Athens has to offer me.” 

In closing, Dr. Nellis told the faculty and staff that, because of them, the University is strong, and its future is very bright.

“What is very apparent is that you are the difference,” Dr. Nellis said. “I hope you realize the impact you are making in the lives of our students, in the vibrancy of our region and in the betterment of our society.”

He said the country’s Founders understood education’s impact on civilization and they believed higher education was a means to shape the future leaders of the republic.

“They recognized the necessity to have a more educated citizenry, capable of self-governing, in order for our nation to survive,” Dr. Nellis said. “The onus of this now lies with us. Who among us can refuse such a calling? Not I.”