2019 State of the University Address

The following is the full text of the 2019 State of the University Address, delivered during the University Senate meeting at the Ohio Union on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

Read Ohio State News coverage of the 2019 State of the University Address here.

Good afternoon.

It is a privilege to be here today to share an update on the state of our university.

First, I want to thank all of you for everything you do to make The Ohio State University one of the most dynamic and impactful institutions in the country.

It takes tremendous time and talent from faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends far and wide to ensure that we continue to make historic advancements in our mission.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of our university in 2020, I am pleased to report that many of our most significant indicators are once again at historic highs — and accelerating.

We had a record number of applications with more than 52,000.

We admitted the best prepared and most diverse class of incoming students in our history. The average ACT score was 29.3, and the number of first-year minority students increased 7.5 percent to 1,658.

The university’s first-year retention rate of 94.5 percent is our highest ever, while our four- and six-year graduation rates of 64.6 percent and 83.5 percent are trending positively.

The four-year graduation rate, a new high, is up 6.1 percentage points since 2015 — a significant jump from the 58-59 percent range, where it had been for several years.

Our teaching and research missions — fundamental to who we are — drive everything we do. We are attracting top faculty talent and receiving national and international recognition for teaching and research in disciplines across the university.

The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Ohio State No. 1 among flagship universities for controlling in-state tuition costs over the last decade — and No. 4 in the nation for out-of-state students.

All of which is a measure of how well we are balancing access, affordability and the overall excellence of our institution.

I want to take a moment to emphasize that balance. When we say access, affordability and excellence, we mean all three at the same time. We want to expand access and affordability for more students as we increase excellence in everything we do — from the academic experience to the impacts we make through research, outreach and service.

Thus far, our new and expanded programs focused on access and affordability have impacted more than 33,000 Ohioans and their families.

In the fall, we launched the Buckeye Opportunity Program on our Columbus campus. This program, a first in our history, covers any gap in the full cost of base tuition and fees for Pell-eligible students from Ohio.

This semester, we have expanded the program to our regional campuses, which are critical points of access around the state. A number of selective universities have programs to cover tuition and other costs for low- and moderate-income students. Doing so in an open-enrollment environment such as we find on our regional campuses is extraordinary.

Overall, in its first year of implementation, the Buckeye Opportunity Program is uplifting 4,000 students (and their families) across the state.

Once our students are on campus, we are committed to providing them with the best possible curricular and extracurricular experience.

Our new University Institute for Teaching and Learning is designed to support faculty in their work in the classroom, leading to even more innovative and impactful experiences for students.

Last fall, the institute launched the Teaching Support Program, which consists of three components: an inventory of teaching practices, online modules focused on innovative teaching approaches and the opportunity to redesign courses.

So far, more than 2,000 faculty have completed one or more program components, and we expect that number to continue to rise in the coming months.

I completed the program’s inventory and modules a few weeks ago — and have applied what I learned to the undergraduate seminar class that I co-teach each spring. 

For the first class this semester, we modified our student introductions based on guidance in the teaching modules. Specifically, we asked students about more than their names and majors. We discussed their backgrounds, interests and what brought them to Ohio State. After our exercise, the students were considerably more active and more willing to speak up and share their ideas.

This is a small example, but a powerful one for me — and, I think, our students. When faculty can share their best ideas and what has worked for them, good things can happen — and usually do.

That same notion can be applied not just on our campus, but on campuses across the nation and the world.

Over the past several years, our university has had a significant impact in leading national coalitions in higher education — particularly in increasing access to a college degree for all students. We know that while ability is distributed broadly across zip codes, opportunity is not.

Last month marked the two-year anniversary of the American Talent Initiative, a collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies to enroll an additional 50,000 low- and moderate-income students at top colleges and universities by 2025.

The initiative started with three schools in early 2016 — including Ohio State — and has grown to 110 and counting. I am pleased to report that, after two years, ATI members have enrolled an additional 7,300 Pell students nationwide. For our part, Ohio State enrolled 1,290 Pell students last fall, a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

Ohio State is also a founding member of the University Innovation Alliance, a partnership of 11 public research institutions working to increase the number and diversity of college graduates.

Since 2013, we have increased the number of graduates overall by 19 percent and the number of low-income and moderate graduates by 30 percent. Our entering classes have increased gradually, and we are seeing higher graduation rates and shorter time to degree.

Our medical center continues to be among the best in the nation with records in patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes and number of patients served.

In the most recent rankings of “Best Hospitals,” we were counted among fewer than one-half of 1 percent of hospitals with fully 10 top ranked specialties. At the same time, our College of Medicine had the most applications in its more than 100-year history — and welcomed its most diverse and most academically prepared class.

These metrics, taken together, define what it means to be one of the nation’s leading research universities — they directly reflect our Time and Change strategic plan.

Our strategic plan is a pathway to transformative change — further distinguishing Ohio State by elevating the quality of life for our students, our faculty and staff, and our contributions to society and the world. We’re pleased that we have measurable evidence to share in each of our five strategic pillars illustrating that — through your combined efforts — we are succeeding as never before.

Those pillars are: teaching and learning; access, affordability and excellence; research and creative expression; academic health care; and operational excellence and resource stewardship.

While I have mentioned progress in a number of these areas, it is important to understand why we are focused where we are.

We are committed to teaching and learning in ways unique to any other institution of our size. We know that students do better with great teaching. Studies indicate this is especially true with students who are more vulnerable, such as those who are the first in their families to attend college.

As we increase the quality of our teaching — and the innovative ways we provide it to our students — more Buckeyes will succeed in the classroom and graduate on time. They will also decrease their overall costs.

A great example of a new initiative is our Digital Flagship program, which provides learning technology, app development and coding opportunities — including a coding course open to all students, faculty and staff that will launch in the summer. It will be followed in the coming academic year by a new coding certification program.

As part of the initiative, the university distributed iPads to more than 11,000 first-year students across all campuses — the largest learning technology deployment in our history. By March, more than 300 faculty and staff will have participated in our Digital Flagship Educators cohorts.

The high value of an Ohio State education is well known in our community and across the nation. I am happy to report that for the 2019-20 academic year, we are budgeting more than $45 million in support to students through our affordability grant program, expanded Land Grant Opportunity Scholarships and the Buckeye Opportunity Program. These are funds that were invested in need-based student aid for the first time in 2015, and, as such, represent additional (new) support to our students with need.

With our investment next fall, the university will have committed more than $150 million in additional need-based student aid since 2015.

We also established the Ohio State Tuition Guarantee. This popular program sets rates for in-state tuition, mandatory fees, room and board that remain frozen for four years — offering Ohio families certainty about the cost of a college education. We are pleased to offer the guarantee to all students from Ohio, regardless of any other aid or support they may or may not receive.

While we work every day to elevate the classroom experience and open more pathways to college, we are committed to increasing excellence in everything we do. This balance is difficult but essential. Without the excellence of a Buckeye education, our efforts to lower costs and barriers mean very little.

There are many ways to measure excellence, and I have mentioned a number of our most important indicators. Rankings can be frustrating yardsticks on the best of days, but they do provide a broad snapshot of national recognitions. To that end, 18 of Ohio State’s graduate programs rank in the nation’s top 10 by U.S. News & World Report. Our online graduate nursing program is No. 1 in the nation among publics, while our online bachelor’s degree programs are ranked No. 3 among all publics and privates.

We continue to be recognized as an outstanding college choice for veterans — No. 4 in the nation — and for LGBTQ students, having earned a five-star rating, the highest possible, from Campus Pride.

We were proud to recognize 692 student-athletes for achieving GPAs of 3.0 or higher in 2018 — the largest number in our history and up more than 10 percent over the previous year’s record mark. Our thanks and gratitude go to Gene Smith, our University Senate Athletic Council, and faculty and staff across campus.

For the second year in a row, three colleges at Ohio State were named recipients of the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award: the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Last year marked the first time that the honor was awarded to three colleges at one university. Once again, in 2019, The Ohio State University is the only institution to have three colleges listed.

We continue to look for ways to support the safety and well-being of our students, staff and faculty — another critical way that we define excellence.

We’re working to build a best-in-class model for our Title IX program with input from students, faculty and staff. Educational requirements to help prevent sexual misconduct were introduced across our community, with support from the University Staff Advisory Committee, Undergraduate Student Government, Council of Graduate Students, Inter-Professional Council and University Senate. We announced a centralized report-and-response office for responding to sexual- and gender-based harassment, violence and other forms of discrimination for our entire community.

Our Suicide and Mental Health Implementation Team is meeting weekly and making tangible progress. Thus far, steps include adding counselor positions, increasing collaboration and programming with the Wexner Medical Center, increasing student engagement, making campus structures safer and incorporating screening protocols.

A task force of students, faculty and staff – chaired by Senior Vice President for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston and interim chair of the medical center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Eileen Ryan — worked over the summer to make recommendations to the campus. This fall, we followed up by establishing the implementation team.

One interesting note is that the implementation team has connected with our Digital Flagship initiative to lead development of a student-focused mental health app with the assistance of Apple. In fact, our team is in Cupertino today advancing that work.

We are a large and very complex community. As you know, the university announced an independent investigation last year, during which approximately 150 former students provided firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct committed by Dr. Richard Strauss. The investigation is nearing its end — and the university will move shortly to address the past and to do all that we reasonably can to continue to support a better and safer future.

As a reminder, the purpose of the independent investigation is first, to uncover what happened, and, second, determine what the university and its leaders at the time knew.

We remain steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth. We hosted survivors at our last Board of Trustees meeting, and the investigative team at Perkins Coie is diligently working toward the investigation’s conclusion. I know you join me in looking forward to making meaningful progress.

Through it all, we have remained focused on our Buckeye community and advancing our impact to society.

Ohio State is recognized among the most innovative universities in the world for the ways we power new ideas, new technologies and new industries through research.

Our research was on display over New Year’s as part of a NASA mission to explore the farthest reaches of our solar system. Ohio State scientists helped design, construct and test the antenna that transmitted the images from Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever visited.

Professor Rattan Lal received the 2018 World Agriculture Prize for his exceptional lifetime achievements in agricultural and life sciences. And, just last week, he was named a 2019 Japan Prize laureate. The Japan Prize is awarded annually to individuals in five categories who have led the most innovative advances in the world. These people change our world in meaningful and lasting ways. Please join me in congratulating, once again, our Distinguished University Professor, Dr. Rattan Lal.

We are of course blessed to have a host of faculty who are recognized nationally and internationally for the quality and impact of their work. This year, Juan Alfonzo, microbiology; John Casterline, sociology; and Jennifer Crocker, Russell Fazio and Ellen Peters, all in psychology, were selected as Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Hesham El Gamal, electrical and computer engineering, was one of 148 academic inventors named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Two faculty from our College of Arts and Sciences – Zeynep Saygin, psychology, and Hannah Shafaat, chemistry and biochemistry — were named Sloan Research Fellows, a distinction which recognizes early-career scientists of outstanding promise.

And Laila Ujayli, a 2018 graduate in English and international relations, was named the seventh Rhodes Scholar in the university’s history. Notably, she was the second Buckeye Rhodes Scholar named in the past three years.

Overall, Ohio State scholars received citations of excellence from or were elected to at least 145 national and international learned societies.

Our annual external research funding is quickly approaching $900 million. Of this, $150 million comes from industry-sponsored research, moving Ohio State to third in the nation for this research.

As you know, the government shutdown has implications for our research funding and other areas. Along with our key partners, we are monitoring the situation and actively looking for ways to minimize the impacts to faculty, students and the broader university community.

Foremost among the things we do as a public university is to produce and share knowledge that advances lives. Nothing will change that. We will continue to do everything we can to advance the spirit of discovery and innovation as we navigate this territory together.

Ohio State works with countless businesses, organizations and government partners to further research and create career opportunities for our students and the community.

Of the 84 in-demand jobs requiring a bachelor's degree identified by the state of Ohio, Buckeye graduates accepted employment in 96 percent and 94 percent of those areas in consecutive years.

We are accelerating progress in innovation as well. Last month, an Ohio State startup company set a university record for the largest initial funding round, raising $59 million for biotechnology to treat previously “undruggable” illnesses. Ohio State’s startup portfolio, which now totals 85 companies, has nearly doubled in the past five years.

And the university is committed to preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs through our student-research programs and leading-edge learning environments. The Innovation Studio at the College of Nursing and Ohio State’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship at Fisher College of Business are just two examples. The Keenan Center focuses on curricular and extracurricular experiences — connecting students directly with the startup ecosystem in central Ohio and beyond. Ohio State has a proud entrepreneurial legacy, and we remain dedicated to advancing these new and exciting ideas for the benefit of all.

Additionally, we created the President’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program to attract and prepare scientists and scholars to become leaders in their fields. The inaugural cohort of 11 was selected from a competitive pool of national and international candidates in areas from economics and childhood education to mathematics and neuroscience. We are currently reviewing the 2019 nominations and look forward to announcing the next cohort in February.

University research is playing an important role in the Smart Columbus project, a collaboration between the city, Ohio State and industry partners to reinvent mobility in Columbus. There are nine projects underway, including a multi-modal trip-planning app and a project providing transportation for expectant mothers and infants from underserved neighborhoods.

We are committed to making measurable progress on issues critical to our state and nation, including infant mortality and opioid addiction. These, along with college affordability, innovation and workforce development, are top priorities for Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted.

We are proud that our alcohol and drug treatment programs at Talbot Hall have helped more people with addiction disorders than any other program in central Ohio, but there is much more left to do. Another legislative focus is water quality, specifically Lake Erie. This aligns with our work in several areas, including the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Stone Lab and the Ohio Sea Grant.

We are working closely with the new administration — and look forward to continued collaboration with all of our legislative, industry and community partners. And it’s my pleasure to welcome a number of our partners in state government here with us today.

We continue to work closely with our award-winning university Board of Trustees, led by Chair Mike Gasser and including new student trustee Janice Bonsu from the College of Medicine. Janice joins student board member Jordan Moseley from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Their work and the contributions of the entire board — from Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita’s appointment as the new Honorary Consul of Japan in Cleveland to the efforts of Alex Fischer and the Columbus Partnership to save the Columbus Crew — make lasting impacts in communities far and near.

Our many partnerships include strong connections to the arts.

Our focus on creative expression is and always will be vital to the university’s mission. Through plans for a new Arts District, we envision high-quality, modern-learning environments for interaction across disciplines. We recently announced new undergraduate majors in arts and sciences — including medical anthropology, statistics and an integrated major in math and English — to respond to emerging trends in an increasingly innovative and entrepreneurial job market.

We recently welcomed new leaders in research, creative expression and international affairs.

Morley Stone began his new role as senior vice president for research, bringing a distinguished record of experience from the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Later this spring, renowned curator and scholar Johanna Burton will take the reins of the Wexner Center for the Arts. Our gratitude goes to Sherri Geldin, who has served as director for 25 years and helped build the center into a shining example of Columbus’ presence in the global arts community.

And Gil Latz, a widely recognized leader in international education and engagement, joined the university as vice provost of global strategies.

I want to also welcome Buckeye Kimberly Spears-McNatt to the role of chief of university police and Tracy Hahn as deputy chief. They join Director of Public Safety Monica Moll in leading our campus security. This is the first time in the university’s history that our top three safety positions have been occupied by women.

Broadly, our medical enterprise continues to drive breakthrough health care solutions to improve people’s lives.

We were named among the nation’s “Best Hospitals” for ranked specialties for the 26th consecutive year. And we are seeing opportunities to further meet the health care needs of individuals and families.

We’ve shared plans for new ambulatory locations, and we are planning a new hospital on campus to further enhance a unified Wexner Medical Center. The demand in our community for the exceptional care and service provided by the medical center is surging — and we are looking to meet that challenge for individuals and families throughout our city, state and region.

A new executive vice president and chancellor for academic health care will oversee this growth. As you know, we are conducting a national search and will share more with you moving forward.

Meanwhile, the innovative work of our medical enterprise has accelerated.

The Wexner Medical Center recently announced a groundbreaking partnership with Mercy Health that will provide patients and families with increased access to more than 600 points of care throughout the state. Early efforts of the Healthy State Alliance will focus on the opioid epidemic, cancer and transplant care.

At the same time, the medical center and The James are collaborating with Nationwide Children’s Hospital on the region’s first proton therapy treatment facility — promising news for families battling cancer.

It really is a distillation of our larger land-grant mission — so we’re proud that our excellence is serving so many throughout our communities.

Another way we support students, faculty and staff is through the incredible generosity of our alumni and friends. In the last fiscal year, nearly 270,000 donors — a new Ohio State high — helped fundraising activity eclipse $600 million for the first time in our history.

These funds provide scholarships, support faculty and important research, fuel lifesaving medical treatments and expand the impact of this great university.

Pelotonia had the best year in its 10-year history, raising more than $27 million for cancer research at The James. A record-breaking 8,470 riders and 3,056 volunteers participated.

Our deep gratitude goes to Buckeye Nation for its unwavering support — and to those who help drive these extraordinary efforts, including Senior Vice President for Advancement Mike Eicher, Alumni Association leader Jim Smith, Pelotonia CEO Doug Ulman and all of their teams.

Finally, much of our recent progress has been made possible by our commitment to operational excellence and resource stewardship.

Since launching an administrative efficiencies program in 2015, Ohio State has produced more than $135 million in savings. This progress puts us on track to exceed our stated goal of identifying $200 million in efficiency savings by 2020. In fiscal year 2018, we captured more than $54 million to help support our academic mission and strategic priorities.

This is extraordinarily important work driven by dedicated staff and faculty in offices and departments across the university. On behalf of the university community, I am grateful for your continuing efforts to make Ohio State more efficient, innovative and effective.

Looking forward, we are focused on several transformational projects to further advance efficiency and productivity. These include the Enterprise Project, a university-wide system to modernize business practices, and Career Roadmap, a framework for consistent compensation practices across the university and medical center.

Our energy partnership will help make the Columbus campus 25 percent more energy efficient in the next 10 years and fund a $50 million energy innovation lab to create the next generation of energy technology. More recently, Ohio State Energy Partners launched a venture-capital-style challenge for students to propose sustainability-based projects.

We have much to be proud of — and, most importantly, to continue to build upon as we look to the path ahead.

We have made unprecedented progress in increasing access and affordability while, at the same time, elevating the overall excellence of the university.

The best prepared and most diverse students in our history are lining up to be Buckeyes.

Our faculty are receiving prestigious recognition for their scholarship and research — and we implemented a professional development program at a larger scale than any university in the country to support faculty and elevate teaching and learning for students across campus.

With our annual external research funding approaching $900 million, we had a record year in sponsored research with more growth to come.

Our Buckeye Opportunity Program is changing the lives of 4,000 students around the state — part of a larger effort that is supporting more than 33,000 students.

We had an extraordinary year at our medical center, setting records in patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes and number of patients served while attracting an incredible number of new research faculty.

Taken together, these accomplishments — your accomplishments — point to a brightly illuminated pathway to transformative change.

What Ohio State does matters — and will continue to matter to students, families, patients and communities everywhere.

As our national profile increases, so does our ability to fulfill our land-grant mission to create superior opportunities for those we serve and educate, generation after generation.

Together, we will take the next steps in our 150-year land-grant legacy.

Together, we will define what it means to be a leading public research university in the 21st century.

Thank you for all you do to make Ohio State one of the world’s truly great universities.


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