More than 150 members of the Ohio University community recently joined President M. Duane Nellis for the third Breakfast for Progress this academic year, which centered on our collective goal to position the University to make progress toward a sustainable financial future. Dr. Nellis opened the session with welcome remarks.
“This is an important part of moving forward as a University,” Dr. Nellis said. “Getting us all in the room to have open dialogue and be very transparent about the range of topics we address is so important.”
He then welcomed Elizabeth Sayrs to her first meeting as the University’s interim executive vice president and provost.
Dr. Nellis shared that today’s conversation about OHIO’s budget challenges has been ongoing since the earliest days of his presidency, even when he was in his candidacy a year ago.
He said today’s discussion is a continuation of the Breakfast for Progress this past November where there was a broader dialogue about budget issues facing higher education in Ohio and across the nation.
Dr. Nellis then introduced Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Shaffer and Associate Provost for Academic Budget and Planning John Day, who facilitated the main discussion. Shaffer asked participants to focus internally around three themes: process, roles, and decision-making.
There were two breakout questions that each table was asked to consider.
- When making resource allocation decisions, what measurable non-financial factors should be considered? Related to academic unit performance? Related to administrative unit performance?
- What can you and your academic unit do to creatively impact efficiency (curriculum, scheduling, pedagogy, use of faculty, etc.) while also protecting academic/research quality as much as possible? Similar balance for administrative units between quality and service level expectations?
John Day emphasized the need to frame our budgeting process as a resource allocation process involving choices at all levels of the institution. He asked the group to consider how our internal resource allocation process is key to our common goal of financial stability.
“The choices we make as we deploy our people and space is at the crux of our allocation of resources. Our strategy should define those choices,” Day said. “This strategy starts with an initial high level set of strategic pathways, and planning units translate those in their own individual strategic priorities.”
The group was asked to consider how to maximize revenues while maintaining quality and achieving priorities.
Tables were given 30 minutes to facilitate the discussion around the central points. Each table shared the areas of discussion at the conclusion of the event.
Common themes surrounded the process of engagement, measurement and analysis of current processes and alignment with OHIO’s strategic pathways and priorities.
“We need to be looking at ways to balance efficiency and quality,” said Peter Trentacoste, executive director of Housing & Residence Life. “For example, we start looking at use of our facilities for reducing costs when there is lower utilization. We need to work together to look at a new approach to the way we do business.”
Dr. Nellis closed the event with his gratitude for the energetic conversation.
“This is so important to have this dialogue. It gets me excited about where we can be,” Dr. Nellis said. “We need to continue to have these conversations and work together collectively to move forward to be more efficient and effective and build on our academic quality.”
The University will host open forums around the budget in the weeks ahead to provide an outlet for the University community to ask questions and have more broad dialogues. More details regarding these forums will be forthcoming.