2018 State of the University Address

The 2018 State of the University Address was given by President Michael V. Drake on Thursday, January 25, 2018, in Saxbe Auditorium. 

Click here to read Ohio State News coverage of the address.

It is an honor and privilege to be with you, working together at one of the most exciting and impactful universities in the country.

I am here today to report on the state of the university. When we hold this address each year, we are really reporting on the work of our faculty, staff and students — and your incredible impact on the many communities we serve.

I am proud to report that 2017 marked another historic year in our nearly 150-year mission. Because of your efforts, and the collective excellence of our entire university community, the state of the university has never been better.

2017 was truly extraordinary, with many of our most important indicators at record levels and accelerating. I’ll name a few:

More students graduated from The Ohio State University in 2017 than in any other year in our history.

More students applied for the entering class of 2017 than in any year in our history – 52,427 – and we continue to trend higher in both Ohio and out-of-state student applications.

Our entering class was, once again, the most academically prepared and diverse in our history. Freshmen on the Columbus campus achieved a record-high ACT composite score of 29.2 and fully 65 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

Ohio State also set record highs in enrollment of total minority students at all campuses and all levels, up 6.1 percent — and had historic highs in enrollment of Hispanic, Asian and African American students. We must continue to do better, but these numbers are encouraging.

NIH funding across the university was up 9.8 percent, with a 20 percent increase at our medical enterprise. This is particularly significant given that, nationally, the total NIH budget remained essentially flat.

We had our best year ever at the medical center for patient care and clinical excellence – with records in hospital admissions, outpatient visits and a very significant increase in transplants.

And we have great demand among the practitioners of tomorrow. The College of Medicine had the greatest number of applications in its more than 100-year history — and equaled last year’s record diversity in its entering class.

Our alumni and friends continue to support us in record numbers. The generosity of Buckeye Nation speaks to the vital importance that individuals across the country and the world place on your work — with support for scholarships, endowed chairs, critical research initiatives and more.

We had a historic year in our public-private partnerships. The Comprehensive Energy Management Project marks the single largest investment ever in the university’s academic mission — launching an energy-efficiency campaign and creating opportunities for innovative energy and sustainability research.

Proceeds from the Energy Project will provide thousands of Ohio students whose families are at or below the median income of our state with an aid package that covers at least the full cost of tuition. This is an unprecedented expansion of our commitment to affordability.

Also in 2017, we established the Ohio State Tuition Guarantee, offering certainty to incoming students and their families by freezing in-state tuition, fees and room and board for four years.

For existing students, tuition and fees have remained unchanged for five consecutive years. I am proud to share that Ohio State has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for our efforts to control costs for in-state students. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Ohio State had the lowest percentage increase in tuition and fees from 2007-2017 among U.S. flagship universities.

This is a place where being number one has meant a great deal to thousands of students and families across Ohio.

We recently announced an exciting collaboration with Apple to bring more learning technologies into classrooms and offer training for students, faculty, staff and members of the greater community. Starting in May, special training will be available for instructors interested in enhancing their courses with iPad technology. Applications are open until February 15 to join the first Digital Flagship Educators cohort.

Each of these milestones is terrific. Taken together, this series of accomplishments reflects a university with outstanding talent and incredible momentum.

And these milestones closely align with the university’s new strategic plan.

As you know, we launched our strategic vision in August, after significant input from the university community. The plan, called Time and Change, focuses on five broad pillars:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Access, affordability and excellence
  • Research and creative expression
  • Academic health care
  • Operational excellence and resource stewardship

Our strategic plan builds upon our current strengths and focuses on areas in which we believe we can achieve further excellence. While we will continue to do the great things that have brought us to this point, our plan sets forth the next steps in our journey to be an even more impactful national flagship public research university.

We want nothing less than to be the best university we can be, and we are well on our way.

But why is that important?

The answer is that what Ohio State does — what you do every day — matters. It matters to individuals and families across our state, throughout the nation and around the world. It matters in deep and fundamental ways to our society.

It is not by chance that more than 50,000 students queue up every year, hoping to become Buckeyes. They understand the value of an Ohio State education and the real impact it will have on their lives.

We have all heard the fact that, on average, individuals with college degrees earn at least $1 million more over their lifetimes on average.

More important, studies show that people with college degrees tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Some have questioned the value of a college education, asking if it’s worth it. If living longer and healthier and happier lives is a good thing, then, yes, college is worth it.

And these benefits accrue to society as a whole in measurable ways — through the quality of our research, our teaching and learning, our medical enterprise, and the ways large and small we engage with our communities.

Foremost among the things we do as a public research university is produce and share knowledge that advances and uplifts lives.

Ohio State’s tradition of collaboration and innovation has fostered intellectual curiosity and high-impact scholarship for generations. Research and creative expression are in our DNA.

We are pleased that Ohio State once again has been recognized among the most innovative universities in the world by Reuters for the ways we power new ideas, new technologies and new industries.

Every day, all across our campuses, there are thousands of scholars doing outstanding work, exploring disciplines from animal sciences, genetics and renewable energy technology, to anthropology, literature, theatre and international studies. I’ll share just a few examples.

Our research in regenerative medicine, specifically in a new technology to repair or restore the function of injured or aging tissue, was recognized as among the most life-changing medical breakthroughs of 2017.

Chemistry professor Prabir Dutta was elected to the National Academy of Inventors for a body of research that has made a tangible impact on quality of life — from gas sensors to manage pulmonary diseases to nanoparticles that help to create a more effective sunscreen.

Four Ohio State faculty have been selected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: James Beatty, physics and astronomy; Richard Fishel, cancer biology and genetics, and physics; Andrea Grottoli, earth sciences; and Li Wu, veterinary biosciences, and microbial infection and immunity.

Ohio State astrophysicist Christopher Hirata received the New Horizons in Physics Prize at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony, called the “Oscars of science,” for his work in understanding the physics of early galaxy formation.

Alumni who studied at our world-renowned Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design worked on films nominated for Hollywood Oscars. And students and faculty across disciplines — dance and medicine — worked together to more effectively treat cancer survivors following chemotherapy.

The arts and humanities are a vital part of our university and the human experience, and we are committed to creating more opportunities in these areas.

This fall, we launched a Discovery Themes focus area in the Human Dimensions of Global Challenges, which will explore the causes and dynamics of global mobility and migration. And, tomorrow, our Center for Ethics and Human Values is hosting a national conference on the role of religion in the formation and preservation of communities.

We recently announced a new Postdoctoral Scholars Program to help the most highly qualified post-docs continue their academic journeys — and become the next generation of leaders in their fields.

And we will provide more robust opportunities for scientists and scholars by building the campus of the future.

Last January, right in this room, we unveiled a long-term physical plan for our campus, Framework 2.0, to address identified needs for academic, teaching and research environments. Priorities in Framework 2.0 are guided and informed by our strategic plan.

We have taken several major steps forward in our planning, requesting design studies for potential developments on the Columbus campus, including a high-quality arts district in and around 15th Avenue. This project will encompass new academic and performance spaces for the arts, while opening our front door to the heart of the University District.

We announced a proposal for an interdisciplinary research building, an interdisciplinary health sciences center, and state-of-the-art hospital and ambulatory facilities.

Together, these projects advance key focus areas outlined by our strategic plan and, more broadly, our academic mission to create transformational research and learning environments.

Our academic programs, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, continue to be recognized as among the strongest in the country. Just a few weeks ago, we were named the top university for online bachelor’s programs among all private and public universities, while our online graduate nursing program ranked No. 2. And, for the first time, Ohio State was recognized nationally for our commitment to teaching (U.S. News & World Report) — No. 8 among public universities and No. 17 nationally.

These recognitions follow a number of active steps we have taken in the past several years to further strengthen our teaching and learning focus on all levels.

We established the University Institute for Teaching and Learning 18 months ago, and we are pleased to see that its reach and impact have grown quickly.

To date, nearly 1,500 faculty have participated in events and programs associated specifically with the institute, with another 9,000 faculty and graduate students participating in events and training through the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, University Libraries and the Office of Distance Education and eLearning.

We will continue to encourage incoming and current faculty members to enroll in either our online teacher training modules or in-person programs and to take advantage of other opportunities.

Last year, we established a committee to review our General Education Requirements to ensure that undergraduate students are being effectively prepared for the 21st century workplace. Through more than 30 listening sessions across all campuses, the committee gathered input from faculty, staff and students and developed a set of recommendations. We look forward to hearing about the full proposal later this semester.

One of the most important contributions that colleges and universities make to society is to provide opportunities for students and families to improve their quality of life. Although ability is distributed broadly across zip codes, we know that opportunity is not. As a land-grant university, Ohio State is committed to providing opportunities to all students — no matter who they are or where they are from.

To date, we have increased need-based aid by $60 million through the President’s Affordability Grant program. That money is in the pockets of our students. It has made a real difference to families all across Ohio, and we’re proud of that.

I am pleased to share that we will commit an additional $40 million to our affordability efforts for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Earlier, I mentioned our new initiative to cover tuition costs for Ohio students from median and below-median income households, which is beginning next fall. It also includes an additional $25 million to the President’s Affordability Grant program. And we are expanding our Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship program, which will cover the full cost of attendance for two students from each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Through all of these programs, we will have committed $100 million in need-based aid for students and families since 2015 — well exceeding our stated goal of reaching that number by 2020.

We have 15,000 students who are benefitting from these expanded affordability measures alone. Every one of them has a story, and every one of them is contributing to the university.

I recently had the opportunity to meet and talk to one of these students.

Bella Garcia, a first-generation and National Honor Society student from northeast Ohio, said attending college “wasn’t something that my family did.”

When she learned that her scholarship would pay the full cost of tuition and fees, she said she and her mom “were both crying over the phone.” Now a business major, Bella says her experience has her two younger brothers thinking about an Ohio State education.

At the national level, Ohio State is a founding member of the American Talent Initiative, a first-of-its-kind partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ithaka S+R, the Aspen Institute and outstanding universities from across the nation. The goal is to enroll an additional 50,000 low- and moderate-income students at top-performing colleges and universities over the next decade.

We started with three member universities, including Ohio State — and now that number has grown to 90. And it continues to grow. Members include Berkeley, Stanford, Michigan, Princeton, University of Washington, Spelman and others. Next month, I’ll join other ATI presidents in New York to share our progress and efforts for the future.

Ohio State is also a charter member of the University Innovation Alliance — 11 public research institutions committed to increasing the number and socioeconomic diversity of college graduates. Its efforts have helped increase low-income students earning degrees by 24.7 percent, marking significant progress toward a goal of graduating an additional 68,000 undergraduates by 2025.

Another important role of universities like Ohio State is to advocate strongly for our students and our community. We have actively worked on a number of higher education issues with our legislators — from assisting members of our community affected by the travel ban to the removal of a tax on graduate student tuition waivers in recent federal legislation.

We traveled numerous times to Washington, D.C., participating in dozens of meetings with policy leaders in all branches of our government. We were one of three universities invited to join the American Technology Council symposium with CEOs of major technology companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe and Qualcomm, among others.

What we have found is that we can be much more effective when we can partner with universities large and small, public and private, and east and west on behalf of higher education. We continue to advocate strongly on issues such as DACA and the Higher Education Reauthorization — and will remain at the forefront of those important discussions that affect us all.

Overall, Ohio State’s engagement extends to communities near and far and is another important way we make a real difference.

Just yesterday, we welcomed 700 guests to our inaugural Community Engagement Conference to build partnerships focused on health and wellness. In April, we’ll host the second Buckeye Summit, which will be a powerful call to action to work together to create healthier communities.

Last month, I joined Mayor Ginther and other community partners at the Olentangy River Corridor Charrette. Our Knowlton School of Architecture and Office of Administration and Planning partnered with the city and internationally recognized design firms to envision the future of this vital connection between Ohio State, Columbus and beyond.

In November, we awarded the winners of the President’s Prize, the highest recognition Ohio State bestows on students committed to social change. Alina Sharafutdinova and Anna Voelker will receive up to $100,000 each to combat the opioid epidemic in Columbus and to increase access to science education for those with disabilities, respectively.

As you have heard today, our momentum has never been greater — and we have done the hard work and planning to envision the next meaningful steps in a long tradition of excellence.

We now have an extraordinary opportunity to build on our recognized strengths while investing strategically in areas that directly address what matters most to the broader community. So what can you do — what can we all do — to be even better? To make Ohio State the very best university we can be?

To be successful in this next bold leap in our history, we need the talents and contributions of all members of Buckeye Nation.

We need our most important partners to share our vision that higher education uplifts individual lives and communities, in Ohio, across the country and around the world.

We need to show up every day to do outstanding work that meets the high standards of our flagship university.

We need our university leaders to maximize efficiencies and resource-generation so that we can continue to make Ohio State an evermore wonderful place to learn and work.

We need to continue to cultivate a culture that welcomes and celebrates all individuals and perspectives. 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.

We need to create more opportunities for our faculty to excel and to support them with innovative programs and facilities. And we need feedback. We want to know what works and what might be missing.

We need our philanthropic community to know how very crucial their support is to our university — and to continue to partner with us, for the benefit of all.

And, finally, we will need to rely on our incredible people — everyone listening today and throughout Buckeye Nation — to help us achieve our bold aspirations over the coming decade and beyond.

What Ohio State does matters. What you do matters. Together, we will continue to educate, to create knowledge, to engage in our communities and to make our world a better place.

Thank you.


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