By Casey S. Elliott
Ohio University's achievements have touched many in the region and throughout the state, and its promise will play an important role in positioning Ohio for recovery, President Roderick J. McDavis said Friday in his annual State of the University address.
McDavis took the opportunity during the Founders Day celebration to share the accomplishments of Ohio University and outline the role it will play in helping the state and its citizens meet the challenges of the 21st century.
As an institution, Ohio University, with its legacy of innovation, is well-positioned to meet those challenges, McDavis said.
"Indeed, these are historic times, times that demand we answer the call to help lift our state and position it for economic recovery," he said. "Being an innovator doesn't mean following the latest trends. It means embracing our historic legacy and remaining true to our core values."
He also praised Gov. Ted Strickland for his commitment to education.
"We greatly appreciate the governor's support for and his personal commitment to higher education," McDavis said. "But we understand that his support comes at a great price to social service agencies in our state -- agencies that are providing key support to families impacted by this historic economic downturn.
"We must find creative solutions to our region and our state's economic woes," he said. "In order to do that, we must be active participants in important discussions about the future of our university and of our community."
The university's role is clear: To provide access, success and opportunities for students, for the region and for Ohio, he said.
In the last year, Ohio University has successfully met many of its goals, he said, including increasing its retention rate, student quality and selectivity.
Additional achievements include improving first-year student participation in Learning Communities, increasing diversity, reducing high-risk drinking offenses and increasing the number of nationally competitive student award winners.
"To take the undergraduate student learning experience, for which Ohio University is already recognized nationally as a model for other universities and colleges, and make it even stronger is a great accomplishment," he said. "The leadership and support of [Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy] Krendl, our deans and all those involved have helped us to exceed expectations, and I thank you for your efforts."
Other institutional accomplishments include:
- Launching the Interlink Alliance, a pact that calls for Ohio University and eight historically black colleges to work cooperatively to foster faculty development, student leadership and an African-American male initiative that engages and motivates prospective college students as early as middle school.
- Receiving $5.9 million in licensing royalties in 2008, the highest royalty income to date for the university. In addition, the Innovation Center contributed $15 million in labor income and 386 jobs to the region in 2007.
- Raising $15.8 million since July 2008 in funding from alumni and friends.
McDavis pledged to further support and expand regional higher education as part of an aggressive strategy developed through a report from the Task Force on the Future of Regional Campuses (PDF).
That will involve increasing interaction between faculty on the Athens and regional campuses, linking student leaders in Athens with those on other campuses, implementing student access to drop-in babysitting services, providing scholarship programs for adult and part-time students, expanding course offerings and providing more effective course scheduling.
McDavis noted that Ohio University is moving forward to add to its accomplishments while working within Strickland's directives to be mindful of expenses.
For example, in December, the executive staff and deans formed work groups to examine various cross sections of the university. As a result of their work, some initiatives already have been implemented, such as the recently announced merger of Housing, Conference Services and Residence Life under Baker University Center and University Events.
"We must prove to the citizens of our state that we are worthy of their support and sacrifice," he said.
The future will be guided by state goals and the university's Vision OHIO strategic plan, McDavis added.
"To be sure, we face many difficult decisions over the next several years," he said. "But we must have the courage to make difficult decisions in order to preserve our core mission of undergraduate education, select graduate programs and distinctive areas of research. These are our priorities. Vision OHIO is and will continue to be our guide."
McDavis said he expects the university to continue to succeed, despite the challenges it faces.
"Ohio University has a 205-year history of earning its greatness. We must continue to strive for that promise," he said. "That is something -- that is something -- we can only do together. Let's get to work."