2020 Vision: A Focus on Excellence

Good afternoon, everyone.

It is great to be here today to update you on our collective progress.

Each day, our faculty, staff and students are hard at work demonstrating the creativity and commitment that it takes to be one of the nation’s top universities. This happens in classrooms, research labs, residence halls and offices across the university — and the impact can be felt in communities throughout the world.

Opportunities to be a part of something larger than one’s self are ever-present at The Ohio State University. Brenda and I are amazed and inspired by the accomplishments of our university community, alumni and friends — whether it is developing the world’s first solar air battery, receiving the National Medal of Arts for contributions to our country’s rich cultural history, welcoming the most talented class of students in university history, coming together to raise $100
million for cancer research or winning five national championships in a single year.

The list goes on, but always comes back to the excellence of Buckeye Nation. Where there’s a Buckeye, there’s a way — and there are Buckeyes everywhere.

My vision for Ohio State over the next five years focuses on three main overarching themes in which the university can continue to define excellence in higher education in the 21st century.

We spoke last spring about the importance of affordability, access and excellence; and about our university motto of Education for Citizenship, engaging with our community partners to extend our scholarship with the full force and precision of one of the most powerful institutions in the world. In addition, we restated the importance of being an inclusive university, a place where diversity is a defining characteristic and source of strength.

Today, I have the honor of reporting on the state of the university. I’ll begin by talking about the progress we have made in access and affordability over the past
months, including significant milestones in academic and research excellence.

Our commitment to access, affordability and excellence speaks directly to our mission as a land-grant university. I had the opportunity to tour southern and western Ohio over the summer to discuss this important issue. We held forums in Wilmington and Urbana to talk to families and community leaders about college affordability.

One view remained constant: The impact of rising college costs has direct consequences on the future of our communities, state and nation.

I was particularly struck by the story of a recent high school graduate. This young man had many of the attributes associated with pursuing a degree in higher education. But when asked if he would be attending college, he immediately dismissed the notion as too costly. This was one conversation with one individual, but research shows that there are thousands more like him throughout Ohio and across the country.

To provide a pathway to college for more students, I announced last spring a five-year plan to reinvest $400 million in administrative efficiencies and revenue generation to ease financial pressure on students and families while increasing the academic excellence of the university.

As one of the first steps of this plan, we directed $15 million to fund need-based aid for more than 12,000 low- and middle-income Ohioans this fall through a new Affordability Grant program.

I am thrilled to announce today that we are on track to increase our investment in the affordability program. Next fall, we will provide an additional $20 million in grants to approximately 15,700 Ohio State undergraduates, including more than 3,000 students on our regional campuses — a total of $35 million over two years.

We are honoring our promise of access to an affordable education — not at the expense of our academic and research excellence, but by operating a more efficient and innovative university.

Last week, we announced that we had extended the university’s agreement with Nike — with benefits to the entire student body. More than $40 million will go to student-focused programs and initiatives outside of athletics such as scholarships, internships and campus-wide academic programs. These benefits move us closer to our goal of generating $200 million in new resources by 2020 that can be used for access, affordability and excellence.

Funding from resource generation and efficiencies will be reinvested in three main areas: financial aid and scholarships; support for faculty, staff and academic programs; and innovative ideas and strategies for the future.

We can look to our Wexner Medical Center for an example of a strategy that has improved efficiency and excellence. For the third straight year, the medical center was one of just 13 top-performing academic medical centers in the nation — and the only one in central Ohio — to earn the University HealthSystem Consortium’s Quality Leadership Award for excellence in safety and patient care. And we opened the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, which brings an increased level of health care service and availability to the community. We marked these achievements at the same time we were implementing a highly successful efficiency campaign. In the last 20 months, cash balances at the medical center increased by more than $200 million. For years our reserves were modest, below industry norms for excellence. As our reserves improve, we are in a much stronger position to plan for the future.

These successes will inform broader university efforts and fuel growth across the campus. My congratulations to the team at the medical center, Dr. Retchin, administrative leaders, our excellent faculty and dedicated staff for an outstanding effort. We are not done, but the progress has been outstanding.

We will also continue to advance our partnership with Gov. John Kasich and our state’s legislative leaders including the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. This year, our efforts helped to ensure the largest increase in State Share of Instruction (SSI) in a decade, along with additional funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant program. These two sources help us improve quality and affordability.

In addition, the university approved in June a comprehensive cost freeze for Ohio undergraduate students — the first of its kind in at least 40 years — that held flat tuition, fees and room and board.

I want to re-emphasize that balancing affordability and excellence is both complicated and critical. The result is an increase in value. It’s not simply about tuition. It involves decreasing time to graduation, identifying ways to help more students succeed, increasing scholarships and aid and being evermore effective and efficient in our operations.

Ohio State is leading this issue at the national level as one of 11 public research universities in the University Innovation Alliance. The alliance is focused on data-driven innovations to both increase the number of students who graduate and reduce the time to graduation, while continuing to improve the quality of education and research on campus.

We already are among the most successful universities in terms of six-year graduation rates at 83% — up from 68% 10 years ago and significantly higher than the national average of 61% for four-year selective universities.

And I am delighted to report that in December Ohio State was named among the top five nationally for improving overall graduation rates as well as graduation rates of underrepresented minority students (The Education Trust).

Our work in predictive analytics and other topics were discussed at the university’s Affordability Summit in August. Faculty, staff and students examined issues ranging from academic advising to public policy. I want to thank our two USG leaders — we affectionately call them “the two Abby’s” — for being strong advocates for the need to more fully examine our academic advising. To that end, we’ll convene an academic Advising Summit on March 23 to discuss ways to make our academic advising more efficient and effective as we prepare students for graduation.

We cannot talk about access, affordability and excellence without focusing on the transformational research and teaching of our truly outstanding faculty. Our teaching and research missions are fundamental to who we are, and we are moving forward in both spheres.

Last May, we convened a Teaching and Learning Summit to explore how to elevate our teaching mission. Since then, a group of faculty from across the university have been working to create a Teaching and Learning Institute that will support faculty, share innovative teaching methods and serve as a clearinghouse for teaching and learning resources.

I returned to the classroom this semester — teaching a course on “The Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court” with Moritz Law Dean Alan Michaels — and I am already incorporating concepts that I learned through this process into that course.

I meet regularly with faculty for informal discussions. I have often been inspired by their independent efforts to make their courses better, so now we
have an opportunity to be more coordinated in our approach. It is my pleasure to report that beginning this fall, we will have a program in place to assist
our new faculty in implementing best practices.

Our research excellence is equally important and is a critical component of our university’s reputation as a destination for thought leadership. In September, we were named one of the world’s most innovative universities for contributions to science and technology and the global economy. I often say that we teach for Ohio, but we do research for the world.

I’ll share a few examples of our recent recognition.

Last month, Ohio State scientists — including Research Vice President Caroline Whitacre and Professor Katrina Cornish — were recognized by the National Academy of Inventors for their innovative contributions.

In November, five faculty members were elected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Being named an AAAS Fellow is one of the highest honors a scholar can receive, and Ohio State is proud of the more than 100 Fellows we have on campus.

Last year Professor Linda Saif became the first woman — and Ohio State’s first scientist — to receive the prestigious Wolf Prize for her virus-fighting work in humans and livestock. And Distinguished Professor Ann Hamilton received the National Medal of Arts in a moving ceremony at the White House.

As a public research university, Ohio State must continue to be bold in how we inspire greatness in teaching, learning and research. It is important to our ability to compete on a world stage. It is vital to attracting the best and brightest students and faculty from all backgrounds. And it is essential to improving the lives and experiences of individuals, families and communities.

I want to take a moment to commend our extraordinary faculty. To all of you who engage in the scholarship of research and innovation … who inspire in our classrooms and in our labs … and who extend their scholarship into our communities: We thank you.

Let me also note that as we congratulated Provost Joe Steinmetz’s on being selected to lead the University of Arkansas, I am grateful to Bruce McPheron for stepping in as interim provost. Bruce has led our College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for the past three years and is a respected scholar and member of our Discovery Themes executive team.

I look forward to working with Bruce, and we are fortunate to have his leadership as we move forward.

The excellence of faculty has a direct effect on the applications we receive, and I’m pleased to report that the demand for an Ohio State education has never been greater. The achievements of our incoming students this fall were at an all-time high. We set records for average ACT score (28.9); number of minority students; percentage of students (62%) in the top 10% of their high-school class; and number of applications (45,921). To date, we are up nearly 10% in number of applications for the coming year.

I am also pleased to share that Ilhan Dahir, a recent graduate of Ohio State, was named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar for her advocacy for refugee communities and inter-faith efforts around the world.

One of the best parts of my job is meeting with these remarkable students. They embody our motto of Education for Citizenship. Last year, Buckeyes volunteered more than one million hours in community service.

They are also national leaders. Addressing sexual misconduct and relationship violence is a major concern at college campuses across the country. In September, Vice President Joe Biden visited Ohio State on the one-year anniversary of the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign to commend our students’ participation in this effort.

At the same time, the university announced Buckeyes ACT, a comprehensive plan to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct on campus. It focuses on Action, Counseling and Training — and combines new initiatives with existing programs developed over the last several years. Buckeyes ACT will continue to be informed by our students, faculty, staff and the latest research — including specific challenges facing our LGBTQ community.

We continue to look for ways to support the student experience at Ohio State — from offering some of the nation’s best online programs and expanding our counseling services to securing a parking lot where our international graduate students can safely practice for their driver’s exams.

I also want to recognize our exceptional staff who support everything we do — from day-to-day interactions with students, to faculty research and
outreach, to planning and executing every event on the university calendar, including move-in, convocation, commencement and more.

As I said during staff appreciation week this summer, Ohio State is a complicated place — extending across six campuses and beyond to touch people around the world. The various ways — both large and small — that staff support Ohio State make a big difference for each one of us.

One of our most recent achievements is the implementation of BuckeyeLearn. Professional development is frequently identified as an area of great interest, and we are excited to launch a program that will work to enrich our community – and make an already skilled and talented group even better.

I look forward to continuing our collaboration with USAC and others to ensure that Ohio State remains a great and rewarding place to work

None of what we do as a university community is possible without the support of alumni and friends. And this past year’s support was record breaking.

More than 237,000 donors supported Ohio State in 2015 — the most in university history. We also set a record for cash donations and achieved the university’s campaign fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. I’m thrilled to share that we are on record pace, again, this year — in fact, $40 million ahead in commitments and $30 million ahead in cash compared to last year. The generosity of Buckeye Nation is truly inspiring — supporting scholarships, exceptional learning environments, endowed chairs, research support and more.

One shining example is Pelotonia. This summer, almost 8,000 cyclists and a community of supporters raised a record $23.6 million. To date, Pelotonia funds raised for cancer research and student fellowships at Ohio State exceed $100 million.

We also were really pleased to learn that Buckeye alumni are among the most fulfilled in the nation.

We partnered with Gallup to survey the engagement and well-being of our graduates, and found that our alumni are far more likely than graduates from peer universities to strongly agree that Ohio State was the perfect school for them (43%) — or that they can’t imagine a world without their school (49%). This contributes to our alumni being almost twice as likely as the national average (35% vs. 18%) to be emotionally attached to their alma mater. These results demonstrate the great work of our Alumni Association and will help inform our outreach efforts in the future.

I have devoted the better part of my remarks today to addressing milestones achieved by the university during the past year, particularly what we have accomplished together to balance access, affordability and excellence.

In addition to this important focus, our vision for the university includes a re-commitment to our motto of Education for Citizenship and Ohio State’s commitment to community engagement.

The university’s engagement with the community — extending our knowledge and scholarship to improve lives and society — is really the heart of our founding purpose as a land-grant university.

When Brenda and I arrived at the university, one of the first places we visited was the Schoenbaum Family Center in Weinland Park, just a few blocks from here. Our commitment in that area is a powerful example of how the university can improve lives through a strong collaboration with community partners and a holistic and multidisciplinary approach.

I had the opportunity to visit the Schoenbaum Family Center again a few months ago to talk about the progress we are making, as well as the challenges that remain. One of the most impressive things about the meeting was how broadly the university was represented — deans from Social Work, Fisher College of Business, Public Health and Dentistry were there, as well as leaders from Student Life, the Wexner Center for the Arts and University Extension. And we showed that we can make a difference.

Truly, the university is touching lives in powerful ways close to campus, around the state and beyond. Over the next five years, part of our vision is to focus the talents and energy of the university on one of society’s most stark realities — food insecurity.

Across the state, in our city and even right here on campus, too many (and one is too many) individuals and families either don’t have enough to eat or don’t reliably know when their next meal will come. Most alarming is that children rank high among Ohio’s hungry.

We visited a number of areas in Ohio this summer considered to be food deserts, communities with little access to fresh, healthy foods. McArthur in Vinton County is one such area, where the nearest grocery story is more than 20 miles away. Ohio State already has a strong presence there through the Putting Healthy Food on the Table program, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with students and staff at Vinton County Middle School to support their urban school-based vegetable garden.

Significant work is being done locally and globally to address hunger, and to address the causes and effects of poverty more broadly, through Ohio State scholarship and outreach, our Extension programs and community partners. Just last week, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack visited Ohio State to announce the expansion of federal programs to address poverty in 11 hard-hit rural Ohio counties.

This work dovetails with our long-term efforts to address hunger. The university has invested nearly $15 million in new faculty experts as part of our Discovery Themes initiative in food production and security. Over the next decade, we will commit nearly $100 million to this defining challenge.

It is part of a rallying cry to the entire university community, one that includes hosting our inaugural Buckeye Summit on April 14. Our goal is to engage hundreds of alumni, volunteers, expert faculty, business and community leaders, along with students, staff and friends in a day-long interactive program to examine best practices and strategies for addressing hunger and deploying Buckeye Nation to be part of the solution.

As I said, there are Buckeyes everywhere. I have learned that when we come together around a singular issue, lives are changed — and will continue to be changed — for the better.

The third component of the university’s vision for the next five years is that Ohio State must be a national model of inclusiveness and diversity.

Being an inclusive university is more than a goal or aspiration. It is a guiding principle and should infuse our day-to-day work as well as our vision for the future.

As we know, true change takes work, time — and a shared vision.

This fall, there has been significant unrest and angst on college campuses — and friction in the political discourse at a level I have not heard for 50 years. I want to reiterate our commitment to the experience of every student and to a university where all people are accepted for their intrinsic worth. The Ohio State University must be a clear beacon for inclusiveness and a pathway to excellence.

It was great to take part in the country’s largest Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast on Monday and to feel the positive energy in our community, including the positive support from elected officials from both parties. We need to make sure to capture that spirit and have it define our daily lives as well as our collective acknowledgement of a great American.

I mentioned earlier that our newest class was the most talented and diverse in university history, with record-high enrollments among Hispanic and first-generation students. It is wonderful to see our diversity rise along with our academic profile, and we will continue to press forward.

In September, a White House initiative on academic excellence recognized our Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research program as one of the best in the country in helping Hispanic students reach their full potential.

Ohio State has been named among the top-25 friendliest colleges in the country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students (Washington Post), among the top-10 for study abroad experiences (2015 Open Doors Report) and the No. 1 university in the country for veterans (USA Today).

We are proud of these distinctions, but we know there is more work to be done.

In my first few months as president, I charged a task force from across the university to look broadly at diversity and develop recommendations for becoming a model of inclusive excellence. The task force presented its recommendations in June, noting that “in an ever-changing world, diversity must be understood as a dynamic, rather than a static, concept.”

To date, we have implemented a number of those recommendations, such as strengthening our commitment to advancing faculty diversity through search committee training.

We will continue to work together to build a shared recognition across our campuses that true academic excellence is not achievable without a diverse and inclusive community.

In closing, I want to reiterate how fortunate Brenda and I feel to share this journey with all of you. It has been a great year: record applications and the most talented and diverse class in our history…record fundraising and on pace to set a new record this coming year…outstanding international recognition of our research and creative faculty...the highest-ever ranking of our hospital for quality and safety of patient care and the first university in the country to receive a perfect score of 10 on our comprehensive cancer center grant renewal…the largest increase in state funding in a decade…five national championships and a Rhodes scholar…and, in November, Brutus was named the country’s favorite mascot.

As we were announced two years ago, one of the first things we learned about was the university’s But For Ohio State campaign. We met people from around the country and the globe who were eager to tell us stories of their deep connection to this university. But for Ohio State, I wouldn’t have gone to college, or started my business, or travelled overseas, or met my husband, or started our family. Just last week, I was at lunch in the Faculty Club and was stopped by a group at a table who wanted to take a picture. I said, sure, of course, and learned that the older couple were alumni who were there celebrating their 65th anniversary, and they were joined among others by their son and daughter-in-law, who also met at Ohio State — and so it goes. But for Ohio State.

And this fall, I asked a student at an event: “If you could rate your Ohio State experience on a scale of 1 to 10, what would it be?” She looked down for a minute, and then she said, “On a one-to-ten scale, I’d rate my experience as a 20…it’s more than I could have imagined.”

It is a great privilege to be with you. Ohio State uplifts communities, inspires minds and changes lives.

I know you join me in agreeing with our alumni — we can’t imagine a world without The Ohio State University.


View the archive of President Drake’s speeches and statements.