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The Ultimate Homecoming Part 6: Setting the Agenda

Editor's Note: The inauguration of Roderick J. McDavis as the 20th president of Ohio University will be celebrated today at 2 p.m. in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. For more information on the inaugural activities planned for the University community or to watch the live broadcast of the ceremony, visit www.ohio.edu/inauguration/.

By Joan Wall

Even before he was hired, Roderick McDavis identified the five major goals he would set for himself and the campus community. What would his success mean for Ohio University? Here, insight from others who would be affected:

Enhance Ohio University's vision of becoming a premier research university.

Noting his desire to conduct campus discussions that identify goals for the next 10, 20 and 30 years, McDavis says: "That vision, then, is an aspiration of what we want Ohio University to become. It will create excitement that all of us will rally around."

Faculty Senate Chair Phyllis Bernt says McDavis' vision, should it become reality, will attract top faculty and students. "Premier research institutions are exciting places. They provide both faculty and students with the opportunity to be at the forefront. ... If you're going to move an institution in any specific direction, you really need to get as much buy-in as you can. You have to work with all the different constituencies and figure out a way to move forward in a way that reflects the institution's culture."

Raise national rankings of academic and research programs.

"The overall goal is going to be to lift Ohio University to the top tier (50) of research universities based on U.S. News and World Report rankings," McDavis says. "For students, it means the value of their degree goes up and they get a better education." In the most recent ranking of national universities, both public and private, Ohio University was 98th.

It's hard for high school students to avoid looking at rankings when selecting a university, says senior Dustin Wood. "On the surface I think it is a factor in a lot of people's decisions, because for people who haven't been to Ohio University or visited many campuses, they look at rankings at least to narrow down schools or get ideas of where they want to go," says Wood, a student member of the University's Board of Trustees. "Once they come to campus or know some alumni, they rely less on rankings."

Increase diversity among students, faculty, administration and staff.

Karl Daniels, a senior majoring in exercise physiology, wants to help McDavis realize this goal. Through National Pan-Hellenic Council, Greek Community Council and other groups, he's met students who have struggled with the campus' limited diversity. "In Morton 201 in a class of 400 students, you have possibly four or five minorities in that classroom. The subject being discussed may be racially related, and you have the whole classroom looking at you and expecting you to answer on behalf of the African-American population," he says, adding that a more diverse faculty and staff also would help minority students. "The faculty and administration are a support system for us. I know I've gone through my own struggles and strife at Ohio University, and they're the ones who are there who can actually motivate and encourage."

Strengthen and expand the base of financial support.

McDavis would like to increase the level of outside support for research from such agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the EPA to $100 million annually within five to eight years. The current figure: $54.3 million. The University also should recruit more out-of-state students and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities to increase revenue, he says.

Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Victoria Soghomonian works with the University's Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute, founded in 2001. She could further her research in molecular electronics, which promises to shrink electronic devices to the nanoscale, with more money for lab equipment and personnel. "Now that I've heard President McDavis has these ambitious goals, I say, 'This is great.' Those are the kinds of things that would generate relatively large income, and it also gets us more notoriety - good notoriety. From my point of view, I don't see that much difference between research and education. You learn something when you are in class and you learn in the lab, but in a way you learn so much more when you connect the two."

Increase partnerships locally, statewide, nationally and internationally.

This, McDavis says, would bolster collaborative teaching and research efforts and create economic development opportunities for the region.

Such partnerships also could open doors for Congressman Ted Strickland to assist. "I see that as being helpful to me ... in advocating for grant monies and research applications to be funded," Strickland says. "Ohio University, I think, has a growing reputation as a high-quality institution that is producing not only highly qualified students but also is engaged in some of the most exciting and innovative research." Strickland calls the College of Osteopathic Medicine a "jewel" that illustrates how partnerships with the community can work. "The research, the teaching, the expertise that exist there can be used effectively to help address the health concerns that exist in our region."


The Ultimate Homecoming | The Athens Years | A Family Man | The Academician | Leading His Alma Mater | Setting the agenda

Joan Slattery Wall served until recently as assistant editor of Ohio Today. This story appears in the fall Issue of Ohio Today.

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