News and Announcements

Ohio University Board of Trustees approve phased revitalization of Bentley, Morton Hall student learning spaces, establish new undergraduate degrees in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity engineering

The Ohio University Board of Trustees formally approved a phased renewal plan for student learning spaces located within Bentley and Morton Hall, two of OHIO’s most highly utilized buildings, and moved to establish two new undergraduate degree programs in the growing fields of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity engineering Friday, Jan. 19, on the Athens campus.

President Lori Stewart Gonzalez also presented to the Board, highlighting her experiences visiting the regional campuses and talking with students, faculty, staff and the community. She also shared an update regarding the Dynamic Strategy and relayed it’s clear how passionate the OHIO community is about the University’s future. Ideas for the Dynamic Strategy will be presented to the Board at the June meeting for review. Gonzalez also spoke on the success of the first University Updates, which featured presentations from various campus leaders, and how nearly 850 people participated in person and virtually. The next University Updates will be held Monday, Jan. 22, and will continue every quarter for the foreseeable future.

Additional highlights from the Board of Trustees’ January 18-19 meetings included:

Faculty spotlight presentation
The Board received a faculty spotlight presentation focused on College of Arts and Sciences Professor Katherine Jellison and her research and expertise related to U.S. First Ladies. Dr. Jellison, one of the most-quoted historians in the nation on first ladies and their role in U.S. politics and history, is a professor in the History Department and is a recipient of the 2022 Presidential Research Scholars Award.

In addition to her scholarly accolades, she has been a University Communications and Marketing “Faculty Newsmaker” each year since its inception, making the top 10 list and claiming the top newsmaker honor multiple times. Her expertise is also showcased within OHIO’s Faculty Experts Directory.

Enrollment and Retention update
Vice President for Enrollment Management Candace J. Boeninger provided a brief update on enrollment, including how spring enrollment is currently trending four to five percent ahead of the same period in 2023. She also noted how OHIO is seeing increases in new students in the RN to BSN and in non-nursing undergraduate programs online, as well as stable enrollments in the Heritage College of Medicine. She also noted how the President’s Opportunity Promise, which was announced in Oct. 2023, is already positively impacting the University’s fall 2024 application numbers.

Boeninger also provided an update regarding the federal and state aid, explaining how the Department for Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has become simpler and more streamlined by integrating with the IRS and modernizing its technology. Such improvements are also anticipated to provide opportunities for more students in the form of increased Federal Pell Grant recipients and overall Pell amounts.

The Board also received an update from Provost Sayrs regarding OHIO’s increased retention from fall 2022 to fall 2023. Sayrs addressed how several factors across all OHIO campuses, including increased student support services, academic programming and course modalities, have continued to contribute to OHIO’s ongoing retention efforts, which has seen a significant increase with the highest Athens retention since 2003 and highest regional retention since 2006. The increase in retention is part of a multi-year strategy that has led to a trajectory of increases that was briefly interrupted by the COVID pandemic. 

Capital projects
The Board approved several new capital projects, including:

  • Bentley and Morton Halls Learning Space Upgrades Phase I – The Board approved the development of a phased renewal plan for the renovation of learning spaces in Bentley and Morton Halls. The upgrades are intended to enhance the quality of OHIO’s academic and student experiences within two of the most highly utilized learning spaces on the Athens Campus. This $1.9 million project is anticipated to be funded by classroom improvement funds.
  • Ohio University Eastern’s Shannon Hall HVAC Improvements – The Board approved an update to the HVAC system throughout Shannon Hall and to replace impacted ceiling and lighting in defined areas. This $3.42 million project is anticipated to be funded by state capital appropriations.
  • Memorial Auditorium Chilled Water Tie-In and Lighting Controls Upgrades – The Board approved a resolution to connect Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium to the campus chilled water loop to enable more reliable cooling service in the building and to replace the auditorium lighting fixtures and controls. This $1.7 million project is anticipated to be funded by internal bank financing.
  • Lausche Heating Plant and West Green Chilled Water Plant Roof Replacements The Board approved roof replacements for the Lausche Heating Plant and the West Green Chilled Water Plant. This $1.16 million project is anticipated to be funded with Century Bond funding.

Campus Space Optimization Initiative update
The Board received an update from Interim Vice President for Finance & Administration and CFO John Day on the Campus Space Optimization Initiative. Day shared the next steps in the initiative, which will focus on the establishment of governance structures that will be appropriately representative of individuals and units from across the institution, ensure that space opportunities and needs are appropriately integrated and addressed with an institutional perspective, provide opportunities for transparent data-informed decision-making and help prioritize project requests through a University-wide lens.

FY24 Financial forecast
Day also presented a brief update to the Board on the FY24 financial forecast, focusing on the most significant variances that impact the forecast including net tuition and fees; room and board; compensation; grants and contracts; and debt service. This information and data will continue to evolve as OHIO moves forward in FY24 and continues to gather more detailed information from its planning units.

In other business, the Board also approved:

  • A resolution to establish a Bachelor of Science degree in Artificial Intelligence in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.
  • A resolution to establish a Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity Engineering in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.
  • A resolution to establish a Bachelor of General Studies degree in University College.
  • A resolution to review four different programs, including Biological Sciences and Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences and Nursing and Social Work in the College of Health Sciences and Professions.
  • A resolution to end institutional withholding of academic transcripts for financial debts owed.
  • A resolution to establish a governance committee for The Ohio University Foundation and update the code of regulations.
  • A resolution to elect John Day Treasurer of the Board of Trustees beginning Jan. 19, 2024, and ending on June 30, 2024, or until a new Senior Vice President, Administration & Finance and Chief Financial Officer begins employment with the University.
  • A resolution to elect Shelly M. Bean Secretary of the Board of Trustees beginning Jan. 19, 2024, and ending on June 30, 2024.

 The complete Board of Trustees agenda from the Jan. 18-19 meetings is available online at

January 19, 2024
Staff reports