Sept. 26, 2007
Interview by Mary Reed
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut will address the Ohio University community at 1:30 p.m. today in the Walter Hall Rotunda to discuss his vision for the University System of Ohio and important changes it could bring. Outlook interviewed Fingerhut by phone Tuesday afternoon in advance of today's address and offers this Q&A.
What is the University System of Ohio?
The University System of Ohio is all of the public colleges and universities in the state of Ohio working together to provide a world-class higher education for all of the citizens of the state and to help drive the economy of the state to help create the innovations and job opportunities of tomorrow.
What's your vision for the University System of Ohio?
Our vision is that we will have for this state a world-class system of higher education that makes us globally competitive and gives our citizens the opportunities they need to succeed. We believe that no single institution can provide all things that Ohio needs to compete -- but all of our institutions can. It would be impossible to create global expertise in every subject matter, but we believe statewide that working together we can be world-class in all of the areas that are necessary to compete.
What are the areas necessary to compete?
We need to be technologically and scientifically advanced. We need to be aware of the cultures of the globe and languages of the globe. We need students who are prepared to think innovatively and entrepreneurially.
It sounds like collaboration is the key.
We're not competing against each other; we're working together to compete against the globe.
How did the University System of Ohio concept come into being?
This really began with the governor's clear direction to build a system of higher education that can be the core to the economic turnaround of the state.
How will it help drive that economic turnaround?
At the core of our vision is that higher education is the driver of the economy. It is in two ways: It is by attracting and training talented people who will go out and help businesses fill high-level jobs and help create jobs for others. And it's also the generation of ideas through research and innovation. If you look at growing regional economies, great public and private universities are the economic drivers. The public invests significant resources in our universities. If we didn't think they were a driver of the economy, we wouldn't ask the public to support them.
What will people hear from you in your speech on campus?
This is an incredibly exciting time for higher education in Ohio. We have strong bipartisan commitment from our governor and legislative leaders to make higher education the center of the state's economic turnaround. I want to get them excited about that vision and make them part of our vision.
How do you think the University System of Ohio will impact Ohio University specifically?
First of all, we know that we need to make our public universities as affordable as possible, so we're working really hard through holding down tuition and (through) financial aid to make education at Ohio University as affordable as possible. We are going to create programs to invest in new faculty and research opportunities.
How can members of our campus community be part of the conversation about the University System of Ohio?
That's one of the reasons I'm coming, to invite feedback directly from faculty, from students and administrators and trustees and community and civic leaders about the features that can make us a world-class system.
Might the University System of Ohio result in mergers, closings or workforce reductions?
I hope to be able to dispel that (notion) because we're talking about increasing the availability of higher education in Ohio significantly. The governor set the goal of increasing (the current number students, 470,000) by 230,000. We are going to be growing the higher education system in Ohio. There's always concern when there's change, but this is the type of change that people should embrace because we're growing, and we're trying to improve quality, and we're trying to improve affordability. Hopefully those are goals that people can get behind.
What are the short-term goals of the University System of Ohio?
The most immediate goal is to develop this 10-year master plan (due to the Ohio General Assembly by March 31, but which Fingerhut hopes to have in draft form by Dec. 31). We need to be able to describe to the people of Ohio what they will get with this 10-year master plan.