By Monica Chapman
Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl announced Ohio University's candidates for the University System of Ohio Centers of Excellence Wednesday in an e-mail to faculty. The proposed Centers of Excellence are:
- Scripps College of Communication
- Energy and the Environment
- Health and Wellness
Identification of Centers of Excellence is part of the USO's strategic plan to raise the national profile of Ohio's public institutions, prioritize resources and better meet student needs. According to the USO's strategic plan, the chancellor, in consultation with the state's director of development, will make final determinations on Centers of Excellence at each of Ohio's public institutions in order to guarantee a range of academic strengths throughout the state.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut is expected to provide feedback and further clarification on his expectations for proposed centers during an upcoming visit to Ohio University on June 3. His input will inform Ohio University's final proposal, which is due to the Ohio Board of Regents on June 30, pending approval by the Ohio University Board of Trustees.
Krendl stressed the complexity of the multi-stage selection process, which drew heavily on the university's strategic planning initiatives.
"Our initial Centers of Excellence candidates embody the progress that we have made toward many of the goals that were set forth in Vision Ohio," she said. "Their strong academic accomplishments have been enhanced by strategic investments in faculty and facilities, the deans' willingness to support interdisciplinary work, and some of the largest donations received in the history of the university."
Scripps College of Communication is a national point of pride for the Ohio University, with its breadth, quality and reputation for housing exceptional communication programs. The college's excellence is upheld through the quality of its students who become influential figures in journalism, broadcasting, television and film, and business.
Recently, the college has been the beneficiary of several large private gifts, including a $15 million gift from the Scripps Howard Foundation and a $7.5 million gift from alumnus Steve Schoonover, CEO of CellXion. The college's multidisciplinary nature, housing a broad range of disciplines, from the humanities, the social sciences, engineering, arts and professions, and its educational outreach endeavors through the WOUB Center for Public Media further enhance its stature.
Energy and the Environment encompasses the research of more than 30 faculty and staff members from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Health and Human Services and Engineering. The potential center's strength is evident in part by more than $21 million in total external funding received for fiscal years 2004 through 2008. To date, Ohio University has submitted 38 invention disclosures, 96 patent applications and nine patents relating to energy and the environment, generating $745,000 in royalty fees from energy-related technologies since 2005.
In 2006, energy and the environment were found to be among Ohio University's significant research strengths, according to a study of institution-based research core competencies, commissioned by the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Department of Development.
Health and Wellness includes more than 100 Ohio University faculty and staff members from the colleges of arts and sciences, health and human services and osteopathic medicine, the Russ College of Engineering and Techology, and the Edison Biotechnology Institute. The focus of this proposed Center of Excellence is facilitation of health and wellness through service to underserved populations and bench-to-bedside approaches to health care.
Total external funding for bench-to-bedside initiatives at Ohio University exceeds $22 million, while research in this area has born 114 invention disclosures, 62 patent applications and 29 patents. The societal aspect of the proposed center extends to economic development, education, communication and program/policy development at the regional, state, national and international levels.
Rathindra Bose, vice president for research and creative activity and dean of the graduate college, coordinated the bench-to-bedside portion of the proposed Health and Wellness center and the Energy and the Environment proposal. Bose credited the college deans for making such multi-disciplinary collaborations possible.
"These are not new concepts. These are areas of strength that the university has already been supporting through a variety of mechanisms," he said. "Through the process, you begin to see where your strengths are, not just in terms of research... but what programs have potential to really bring reputation to the university in a way that society appreciates."
Discussions about potential Centers of Excellence at Ohio University were initiated within each college during fall 2008. This past winter, deans heard 13 proposals for centers. Using proposed guidelines drawn up by the Inter-University Council's (IUC) Provosts group and the results of internal processes such as the Task Force on Centers of Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education, the deans provided Krendl and President Roderick J. McDavis with recommendations at the end of April.
According to a document, referenced in Krendl's e-mail, that describes the process by which Center of Excellence candidates were selected, sustained academic excellence that could be benchmarked nationally or internationally was a major factor. Other important criteria related to the strategic planning work that has taken place at the university over the past five years including the Vision Ohio Graduate Education and Research Academic Goals that identified, among others, health and wellness; basic research and development; energy and the environment; and social, economic, and cultural development as university priorities. Financial indicators and capital projects further informed decision-making.
On May 12, the Ohio Board of Regents issued "First Round Guidelines" for USO
Centers of Excellence. The guidelines cited economic impact, benchmarking, the presence of a viable development plan, and sufficiency of resources as key criteria for Centers of Excellence.
Krendl noted that Ohio University's selections for inclusion in the first round of the USO Centers of Excellence process align with the newly released guidelines, but that "there are still aspects of the OBOR document that we will need to learn more about during Chancellor Fingerhut's visit."
Updated May 22, 2009.