2017 State of the University Address: Campus of the Future

President Drake delivered the 2017 State of the University Address on Thursday, January 19, 2017, at Drinko Hall.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for your commitment and talents over the past year.

As always, there are so many bright moments at Ohio State.

Several of our most important indicators are at historical high levels and accelerating. Our applications are at an all-time high, and we have maintained historically high persistence and graduation rates.

This fall, we once again welcomed the most talented and diverse class of incoming students in university history. The number of incoming minority students on the Columbus campus increased by a record-high 11 percent over last year, and about 1 in 5 of our new students are first-generation college students.

Within this group, we are pleased to see an increase in African American freshman enrollment after several years of decline. We also opened new dining and residence halls, raising to about 3,500 the number of new beds on campus in the past two years.

Our incoming medical college class was also the most qualified and diverse in our history. These students will go on to serve their communities at institutions like our Wexner Medical Center, which consistently ranks among the nation’s best for quality and patient safety. Our hospital was once again the highest rated in central Ohio and among the top 1% of hospitals nationally. It shows what we can do when we focus on outcomes and efficiencies each and every day.

And in September 2016, we were pleased to open both the new Brain and Spine Hospital and the beautiful, state-of-the-art Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute. They are great additions to the community.

Across the university, we increased opportunities in our Young Scholars and Morrill Scholars programs. And we added $20 million in affordability grants — up from $15 million the previous year. The affordability grants now reach more than 15,000 Ohio State undergraduates each year.

Our faculty continue to receive significant recognition for their outstanding scholarship and groundbreaking research. In the last academic year, they received citations of excellence from or were elected to at least 115 national and international learned societies — up from 82 the previous year.

Just in the last few months, an internationally recognized virologist and immunologist at Ohio State was named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Four faculty — in fields from linguistics and mathematics to astronomy and plant pathology — were honored as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

And, this fall, we launched the University Institute for Teaching and Learning — the first of its kind on our campus — to provide mentorship and research and, we are confident, create national best practices in the classroom. We have made great progress thus far, and I want to thank Provost McPheron, Director Kay Halasek from the Department of English and many other faculty and staff for helping to lead this effort.

Our staff lead many of our significant programs and initiatives. This fall, we unveiled our “one day, one week” plan for psychological support and counseling. It states, simply, that if a student calls our support hotline, someone answers immediately. If it’s an emergency, the student is seen immediately; if it’s not an emergency, a triage counseling call is scheduled within a day, and an appointment is scheduled within a week. We believe that “one day, one week” is among the most responsive programs of its kind in the nation, and a real step forward for an institution of our size and complexity.

Together, we work hard each day to be a more accessible, affordable, excellent, engaged and inclusive university. In December, for example, Ohio State was proud to be among 30 top colleges and universities to announce a national coalition to significantly increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students on our college campuses.

Collectively, the American Talent Initiative, of which we are a founding member, seeks to increase the number of low-income students enrolled on our campuses by 50,000 over the next decade. This initiative is one way to create more pathways to the American Dream. Our participation and leadership in the University Innovation Alliance is another.

We also work closely with the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, NCAA and more — giving Ohio State a unique opportunity to help set the course for solving the most important national issues of the day.

Over the past year, the importance of community partnerships garnered national attention when Columbus was named the nation’s Smart City over 77 competing cities to receive $140 million in public and private grants and matching funds. University scientists and facilities were important to that success, and will continue to help lead the effort to transform central Ohio into the nation’s premier transportation innovation region.

And let me take this opportunity to recognize and commend the excellence of our Ohio State Police, Department of Public Safety, Columbus Police and Division of Fire and our entire Buckeye community, who came together when the unity and safety of our university were tested.

The attack on our campus tested our resilience, but we remained Buckeye Strong. I am profoundly proud of all members of our Buckeye family — from our faculty, staff and students who showed great care and support for one another; to the medical personnel at the Wexner Medical Center and other community health facilities; to our alumni around the world who immediately checked in on their vast Buckeye family.

We are constantly working to be well-prepared for anything that affects the safety of our university, and to provide the very best environment for teaching and learning.

That's what we do every day — each of us, individually and collectively — to be the best university we can be.

Today, I want to turn from where we've been — and what we've accomplished — to where we are going and what our accomplishments will look like tomorrow or five or 10 years from now.

How do we update and clarify our role as an exemplary 21st century public university.

First of all, we build upon our current and considerable attributes. Ohio State is the state's flagship university, the largest and most prominent public higher education institution in Ohio.

As a research university, we create knowledge that is shared around the state and around the world. We continue to build key community relationships that further connect the university with the economic, cultural and public fabric of all levels of government.

So, how do we build on that excellence? What is our path forward? Our aspiration is to significantly strengthen our position as a national flagship public research university.

Why is this important? Why is this important for you, or me or any of us — why is it important for people in communities across our state and around the world?

The answer is simple: because what Ohio State does matters.

Our work — the work that happens at our university every day — is meaningful, impactful and significant. It makes a difference. It touches lives.

There is a direct correlation between what we do in higher education and the quality of people’s lives. If we think of places around the world, and particularly in this country, the most successful, innovative, entrepreneurial, healthy regions center around our great universities.

In ancient times, great cities and societies grew up near shipping lanes or the confluence of rivers; in medieval Europe, around cathedrals; in the 19th and early 20th centuries, often around factories — but in our modern era, great societies grow around universities. The ideas, people, innovations and spirit attracted to our university illuminate an important way forward and matter deeply to the broader community.

It matters to all the faculty, staff and students at the university — those of you in this room and in future generations — who want to teach, learn and work at modern facilities.

It matters to businesses, government and organizations that rely on our research to grow the economy and elevate the quality of life in our communities.

It matters to individuals and families who depend on the Wexner Medical Center to be an exemplar in medical care, scientific breakthroughs and patient safety.

And as our alumni said in a recent Gallup survey, they can’t imagine a world without Ohio State. We all have the great privilege of being associated with a place that is meaningful to so many.

With that incredible opportunity comes great responsibility. If we are not doing our very best — if we are not reaching our full potential as a center for education and ideas — then quality of life suffers in the state, region and across the country and the world.

So we need everyone in Buckeye Nation and our most important partners to all row together — in support of the reality that a national flagship public research university uplifts the communities, the state and the nation it serves.

We have many examples of this, of course. I will share two that are particularly inspiring to me. KayMesha Knox and Margaret Griffin are the inaugural recipients of our President’s Prize — the highest recognition we bestow on exceptional students committed to social change. Both will receive up to $100,000 for their projects to make the world a better place.

KayMesha, an English major, will help young people from low-income families pursue post-secondary education. Margaret, who studies social work, will work to help children living in food deserts have access to fresh produce. They are both graduating seniors — and extraordinary students and citizens. In short, they are quintessential Buckeyes.

Another example of how the university uplifts communities: our transformative faculty research, which informs and advances the way we live, now and in the future. Faculty grant submissions are trending upward, and, for the first half of FY17, federal awards are up 11% compared to the same time last year.

Among many awards, two Ohio State scientists were recently elected to the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame for their work in caring for cancer patients and preterm infants. These honors are significant, but more important is the profound impact this work has in communities.

And none of what we do as a university community is possible without the support of Ohio State’s 540,000 alumni and countless friends. Last year, we concluded the most successful fundraising effort in our 147-year history, raising $1 billion for research, more than $852 million for faculty and academics — including 96 endowed chairs and professorships — and $520 million for student scholarships and support. Last fiscal year was a record fundraising year for us at $450 million, and, incredibly, fiscal year to date, we are running more than $100 million ahead of where we were last year.

It’s extraordinary to talk with our donors about the work you all do. At the close of the campaign, we welcomed those who had given to the university at an event on the Oval to thank them for their incredible generosity. But I was struck by how, over and over that evening, they thanked us — and asked us what’s the next great discovery, artist, scientist or student they could support?

In November, Alex Shumate, the chair of our Board of Trustees — who has served on the board off and on during three stints over the past 25 years — was quoted as saying that, overall, 2016 was perhaps our best year ever. Who are we to argue!

We are, in fact, doing gratifyingly well on many fronts. Why is this important? It is important, again, because what Ohio State does matters. It matters to central Ohio, it matters across the state, the nation and beyond. With our great success comes opportunity; with the great privileges of living and working here comes the responsibility to do our best.

Because what we do matters.

So what is next? How do we engineer the next big leap in Ohio State’s century-and–a-half of growth and excellence? How do we ensure a place for our colleagues and successors to do their best work? How do we lay the foundation for an even more impactful future?

One way is through our strategic-planning process. We have embarked on this process together to advance our academic mission and chart a direction for the next decade. You’ve heard about this process or visited the website devoted to it; it is ongoing, and we’re pleased to have received input from many students, faculty, staff and community members throughout this process.

Another way is through the enhancement of our physical environments. I am delighted to announce today our newest long-term plan to help us at Ohio State achieve our full potential as an exemplary research, teaching and learning campus for the future — a collaborative and forward-thinking planning vision for the university: Framework 2.0.

Framework 2.0 builds on the work of Framework 1.0 that began in 2010, and led to the completion of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry building, The James and the North Residential District Transformation project, among others.

Since the fall of 2015, we have engaged faculty, staff and students through a series of open houses, surveys and discussions to gather input on this next iteration of our major campus plan. That input led to Framework 2.0.

It’s guided by five principles — collaboration, innovation, high-quality facilities, connectivity and sustainability — all of which are meant to promote student success and support our academic mission.

Framework 2.0 also carries with it the elegant purpose of being just that: a framework. It is a living document that enables us but doesn't bind us. It can and assuredly will be revised and re-envisioned as the future unfolds.

Everything we do must be representative of our opportunities as a national flagship public research university. Framework 2.0 outlines a plan for how we might structure our campus to more fully capture our potential in the coming years.

In broad strokes, it imagines the physical spaces that will inspire every aspect of our Ohio State community to be the very best — from students, faculty and staff to visitors on campus.

Our strategic plan, once completed, will guide and inform the priorities of our 2.0 planning.

And this all aligns with our university-wide commitment to provide access to an affordable and excellent education, greater community engagement and inclusiveness and support for exceptional research.

Our plans are layered together and support each other. Our 2020 Vision is a five-year plan for the university, and we are achieving many of its key goals with three years to go. Framework 2.0 plans further. It is a grand framework for the physical campus that is adaptable, flexible and will be guided by our strategic academic plan over the next three, seven and 10 years. It will be the foundation of the university we aspire to be in 2030.

Let me provide you with a few details currently in Framework 2.0 — many are familiar.

In the years since the 2010 framework plan, enrollment has grown, the student profile has improved, research and program goals have been refined, and teaching and learning continue to evolve. We have brought on many new faculty, hiring more than 300 on the academic campus. These were in all disciplines, and include more than 50 Discovery Themes hires.

This, of course, makes clear the need for appropriate academic and teaching environments: research laboratories, offices, updated classrooms and student meeting and study spaces. Some of this can be achieved by reinvesting in existing facilities — such as we are doing in Pomerene Hall — but we are also looking at building modern facilities to support cutting-edge research and a high-quality student experience. Leading-edge science, education and performing arts require state-of-the-art facilities.

An underlying principle of all of our planning is a commitment to advancing the university's sustainability goals — reducing energy use, water consumption and our carbon footprint and developing more efficient stormwater strategies to improve water quality. At the same time, we want to add more green space and restore the natural beauty of the Historic Mirror Lake District and the Olentangy River, which runs through the center of campus.

Framework 2.0 has identified the potential for significantly more academic-focused space in the core of Ohio State’s Columbus campus, the heart of the undergraduate educational experience. The plan calls for retaining the character of the historical landscape, while updating teaching and learning spaces and increasing the number of instructional labs to promote research and student success.

A number of planning concepts that began in the 2010 Framework have continued to evolve and develop in Framework 2.0. Last June, we unveiled a comprehensive plan for the 15th Avenue and High Street area to create remarkable arts facilities while connecting the university’s front door to the heart of the University District community.

The arts and humanities are a profound ingredient of the human experience, expressing who we are and who we strive to be, and so we are excited about making one of the gateways to the university a home to the arts. With Sullivant Hall and the Wexner Center for the Arts already there, we have the opportunity to create a magnificent university square, a destination for arts education and a spectacular vista from High Street to Thompson Library.

A longer-term project is a research corridor in the midwest portion of campus, along Woody Hayes Drive. Already home to the College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Framework 2.0 plan envisions an interdisciplinary research hub where scientists work collaboratively across disciplines — from agriculture, engineering, veterinary medicine, health sciences, social sciences and more.

Framework 2.0 will go before the Board of Trustees for approval later this month. I am very grateful for the input that you — our faculty, staff and students — have provided throughout the process. Campus-wide engagement is vital to how we will reach our full potential as a university and be the very best we can be as Buckeyes.

A common thread we all share is that we are all here by choice. We chose Ohio State. And, thankfully, Ohio State chose us. As we heard repeatedly during the But For Ohio State campaign — and as I say wherever I go — we are blessed to be a part of this campus, we are proud to be Buckeyes.

With our success comes opportunity. With our privilege comes responsibility.

We clearly see how our universities and colleges play a significant role in their communities as centers for teaching and learning, economic engines and powerful partners. Historically, colleges and universities have played an important role in guiding democracy and uplifting society through seasons of uncertainty and change.

We have an obligation to continue to steer a path forward as we create an environment that inspires discovery and knowledge, values and celebrates diverse opinions and is welcoming to all — now and for generations to follow.

As our inspiring and deeply loved colleague and friend John Glenn said to our new graduates when he served as commencement speaker some years ago: “We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves."

I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to continue to join with you on something that is bigger than any of us: an ongoing vision to chart the course for Ohio State in the 21st century — as a guiding light of teaching, learning and discovery; a beacon for diversity and inclusion; and one of the nation's leading flagship research universities. 

Thank you very much. Go Bucks indeed! Thank you.


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