Ohio University President Dr. M. Duane Nellis shared the following message with the campus community on Thursday, Aug. 22.
Welcome to the start of another academic year at Ohio University! As we wrapped up an exciting and challenging academic year this past spring, I made a commitment to you that the Ohio University leadership team and I would dedicate time over the summer preparing to thoughtfully engage the University community this fall in a process to set the stage for reshaping Ohio University in positive and dynamic ways for the future. I write now to update you on that work.
You may recall from my April 25 message that I had asked us all to contemplate some important questions about how we at Ohio University envision the learners of the future, how we design the right academic model to meet their needs, how we remove obstacles to cross-unit collaboration, how we embrace risk responsibly, and how we ensure every Ohio University student thrives throughout their lifetime.
I then asked my leadership team to begin to design a framework that would help us focus discussions around these questions into actionable strategies. This included participation and input from Deans and engagement of various Senate leaders. As you know, this work was not done in isolation but rather was heavily informed by significant dialogue involving stakeholders across the University community over the past two years. It draws from collaborative work already in progress, such as the One OHIO plan, faculty work on general education assessment and curricular redesign, and task force groups working to provide recommendations around honors education, research in particular focus areas, corporate engagement, sustainability, and more.
With inspiration from the dialogue that has happened over the last year, we have drafted a strategic framework document that we presented at our August Board of Trustees meeting as part of their retreat. This document outlines a bold and dynamic vision for the future of our institution in the face of the significant challenges. Building from our strategic pathways and priorities, the strategic framework identifies and proposes four themes that will anchor our planning and decision making: access and inclusion; student success and transformation; research and knowledge discovery in support of vibrant communities; and sustainable academic enterprise. Finally, it begins to bring to life strategic initiatives that I believe (with the support of broader dialogue and input) are essential to the success of our University and our students in moving forward. I will look forward to sharing these proposals and key initiatives with you at the State of the University address in September.
What this document does not do is provide a detailed roadmap for the weeks and months ahead as we tackle these initiatives as a University. It does not provide all the answers but is rather a framework to guide us as we engage the campus community to form those answers together through my commitment to shared governance and engagement. This inclusive collaboration is not only warranted but absolutely essential to the success of our institution. We must work with renewed energy to turn these future-oriented and dynamic ideas into immediate action.
To that end, this fall, my leadership team will bring together stakeholders to further define next steps in each of these initiatives. We will continue to engage existing campus shared governance groups as well as the entire University community and other stakeholders through a variety of means, which may include advisory or work groups, engagement forums, or campus surveys. In addition, in September, after my University address, I will launch a website where you will be able to find information about this ongoing collaborative process and submit additional ideas or feedback.
Friends and colleagues, it is important that we remember that the challenges we are facing in higher education across our state and nation and specifically at Ohio University are serious and relentless – declining state populations, increasing competition, shifting learning expectations from a generation of digital natives, and a rapidly evolving marketplace for which we are preparing our students. But we, too, are serious and forward thinking. I believe strongly that through constructive engagement, we can and will be relentless in facing these challenges.
We at Ohio University will meet students where they are in their lifelong learning journey and take them further than they knew they were capable of going. We will be a vital partner to our communities and an influential source of discovery and human expression that makes an impact on the world. We, as individuals and as an institution, will be nimble, pivoting quickly and skillfully to meet new learning needs and the needs of our communities. We will pursue new avenues of inquiry as societal needs evolve.
In this constructive way, we will build a dynamic and sustainable future for our University and the students we serve. That, after all, is our calling – to be stewards, for a time, of this incredible institution that came before us and will carry on long after us to help future generations grow in knowledge, wisdom, and love. We have an exciting opportunity to steer Ohio University forward in a time of uncertainty and to help reimagine what it can, should and will be.
I hope you will join me in this important work in the weeks to come.