President's report

The following remarks were delivered during the public session of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, February 10, 2022.


Thank you very much, Chairman Heminger — and good afternoon, everyone.

I would like to start by congratulating Trustee Fujita.

Since we last met, you received the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award from your alma mater, Case Western Reserve University. In fact, Dr. Fujita, you are a two-time alumni award recipient — having also received Case Western’s Young Alumni Award in 2010. Congratulations, Trustee Fujita!

Before I begin my report, I want to thank our students, faculty and staff, and the cabinet, for keeping each other safe and healthy. After a successful fall, we were able to start the spring semester in person despite the prevalence of the omicron variant. We continue to be together on our campuses because of our Buckeye community’s exceptional vaccination rate — now at 93% — and our COVID-19 protocols.

I am excited to be back in the classroom, teaching a course on pathways to net-zero emissions with Senior Vice President Jay Kasey. And I can say from my experience teaching in person this semester how impressed I am with the safety enhancements in our classrooms.

Because we want as few Buckeyes as possible to be infected with COVID, and have to isolate, we are encouraging everyone who is eligible to get a booster shot. This is the first week of our Buckeye Booster Drawing and, as of yesterday [February 9, 2022], 13,362 students, faculty and staff have registered for this weekly drawing.

Now I’d like to present some highlights on our progress toward our strategic priorities since the November board meeting.

Yesterday, Dr. Grace Wang shared the great news that we exceeded $1 billion in research expenditures for the first time in our history, carrying out a total of $1.23 billion in research contracts and grants in FY21 — that’s a 27% increase from the previous year. This is a strong beginning to our stated goal of doubling research expenditures in this next decade. The significance of reaching this milestone is that, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an investment of $1 billion in R&D produces on the order of 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.

This comes at a time of even more good news for our university and state. As you know, Ohio State has a key role to play in the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio’s history. Last month, Intel shared plans to invest over $20 billion in the construction of two chip factories in the state — and an additional $100 million toward partnerships with educational institutions to develop talent and bolster research programs in the region. I was honored to represent Ohio’s colleges and universities, joining Governor Mike DeWine, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and many others at the announcement in Licking County — the future site of this semiconductor campus.

I want to thank the governor, lieutenant governor, Mr. Kenny McDonald of One Coumbus, JP Nauseef of JobsOhio, current Trustee Alex Fisher, Wexner Medical Center Board Chair Les Wexner, Executive Vice President Grace Wang and others for their work that helped land this monumental investment.

I would like to pause now for a brief video on the Intel project.

We want Intel to be extremely successful here in Ohio. We will be working with the governor’s office, JobsOhio and other universities — both state and regional — to develop the curriculum and programming needed to advance the semiconductor industry here in Ohio. I am focused on ensuring Ohio State is a great partner to Intel in making this investment a tremendous success.

The initial phase of the project is expected to create 3,000 permanent Intel jobs and 7,000 construction jobs while supporting tens of thousands of additional long-term jobs in Ohio across an ecosystem of suppliers and partners.

We excel in other areas of research as well as materials and manufacturing. In December, we welcomed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senator Sherrod Brown to the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences to announce a $1.2 million investment by the USDA to help Ohio State advance climate-smart farming.

Ohio State will be the lead university on a $160 million, NASA-funded effort to develop a new generation of commercially based, human-occupied space stations. This partnership — with the commercial space company Nanoracks — has a unique focus on in-space and terrestrial agriculture.

I also want to provide an update on how we are connecting our students directly in research and entrepreneurship. One year ago, we announced the President’s Buckeye Accelerator. Our Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship quickly launched the program — and, last month, more than 30 selected student ventures participated in an intensive “boost camp.” Six student founders will now be selected for the yearlong accelerator program and awarded $50,000 to advance their startup concepts for launch.

We also continue to make significant advancements in our focus on academic excellence.

Our Office of Academic Affairs, led by Provost Melissa Gilliam, announced the Provost’s Tenure-Track Fellow to Faculty Program. It will enable the university to recruit early-career scholars whose accomplishments make them exceptionally competitive for faculty positions. These scholars will receive research funding and participate in career development programs offered by the Office of Academic Affairs to help further facilitate their long-term career success.

And, I am pleased to share that the Office of Academic Affairs announced the first 15 faculty positions to be created as part of our RAISE initiative — short for Race, Inclusion and Social Equity. These initial positions will focus on expanding research in cardiovascular health, climate change, the physical design of communities and more.

I am excited to see all of these programs progress toward welcoming the next generation of exceptional Ohio State faculty.

Our existing faculty continue to be recognized nationally as well. Dr. Ayanna Howard, dean of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Stuart Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, were elected to the National Academy of Inventors.

Our congratulations also go to seven Ohio State scientists named to the 2021 class of Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. We have highlighted their accomplishments across our research communications, including on the Ohio State News website.

We continue to demonstrate our academic excellence in the range and quality of online degree offerings at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. U.S. News & WorldReport ranked our online Master of Science in Nursing as the No. 1 program in the country.

The university's four online undergraduate degree programs including offerings in nursing, medicine and dentistry are also ranked in the top 10 nationally.

We are building on this academic excellence and continuing our strategic focus on our online programs in professional and graduate programming in engineering, education, life sciences and the Fisher College of Business to increase educational attainment in the state of Ohio.

For example, the Fisher College of Business is launching five new online programs this year to develop industry leaders in analytics, supply chain management, entrepreneurship and “fintech,” a dynamic and rapidly scaling field at the intersection of the finance and technology industries.

At the same time we are focused on academic and research excellence, we know that our land-grant mission is one about service, and we are committed to lowering the barriers to an excellent Ohio State education.

When we gathered for the Presidential Investiture in November, I announced details of the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program, which will offer the opportunity for a debt-free bachelor’s degree to thousands of students within a decade. The program has already gained great momentum with our generous alumni and supporters. To date, we have raised $40 million in endowments against a $34 million goal for the year. I’d like to congratulate Senior Vice President Michael Eicher for launching this program. This is a remarkable achievement showing strong donor engagement.

Ohio State’s dedication to service is demonstrated daily at our Wexner Medical Center and in our health sciences colleges. These highly qualified professionals are administering vaccine and booster shots and helping to staff our COVID-19 testing program.

At the same time, they are caring for the sick and helping those diagnosed with life-threatening conditions find hope and the treatments they need. Recently, the nurse residency programs for the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, and Health System Nursing, were awarded their second accreditation with distinction. These accreditations validate the high standards of the nurse residency programs and the service of all Buckeye faculty and staff in our medical enterprise.

I mentioned earlier the impact of our broader Buckeye family. The generous support they provide is vital to operational excellence across our university.

Earlier today, Senior Vice President for Advancement Mike Eicher shared that we have reached the $3 billion mark of the “Time and Change” campaign. This surpasses the pace of the previous campaign, which took almost eight years to achieve the same amount.

Our new fundraising activity of $326 million puts us at just over 50% of our goal for the year — while philanthropic receipts are at 61% of our annual goal.

As the recipients of this incredible generosity, we have a responsibility to be careful and responsible stewards of our resources. As we also heard this morning, the university has reached 100% of our efficiency savings goal of $35 million — and the Wexner Medical Center is not far behind with 84% progress toward its annual FY22 goal of $30 million.

Operating revenues for the first half of fiscal year 2022 increased $423 million compared to the first half of fiscal year 2021, driven primarily by strong growth in health system patient volumes and a return to more normalized campus operations this fall, including Athletics and Student Life.

For the six months ending December 31, 2021, the fair value of the university’s long-term investment pool increased by $298 million to $7.3 billion, and it outperformed the policy benchmark return by 3.62%, earning a return of 8.27%.

Much of what I have highlighted touches on talent and culture at Ohio State, and I want to focus for a few moments on the specific ways we are aiming to elevate this area of strategic importance.

We all know the famous Woody Hayes quote, “you win with people.” That means bringing the best and brightest from all backgrounds to our campuses — and it also means providing the range and depth of resources that Buckeyes need to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

Ohio State offers a wide variety of mental health and well-being support — from education and prevention to help with more urgent needs. I look forward to advancing the recommendations from our Commission on Student Mental Health and Well-being, which place a strong emphasis on evidence-based quality improvement, communications and building skills to be successful personally and academically.

I want to thank Dean Melnyk and Dr. Melissa Shivers as well as the student, faculty and staff members of our commission for all of their thoughtful work. Now more than ever, the ways we can support our people and provide them with the tools and services they need is mission critical.

To that end, we recently closed a university-wide survey collecting input from faculty, staff and student employees that will help us better understand current workforce trends — and gather insight as our Flexible Work Policy and practices are renewed.

Our gratitude goes to Dr. Jeff Risinger, our senior vice president for talent, culture and human resources, for his team’s work to support and enhance our Ohio State community.

Just as important, we continue to prioritize the safety of Buckeyes on and off our campuses. Enhanced lighting, expanded law enforcement patrols, added non-sworn security, additional campus service officers, the Buckeye Block Watch program and academic programs that provide opportunities to engage the broader Columbus community are all part of our holistic safety effort.

We continue to work with the Columbus Division of Police to closely track crime so that we can further hone our strategy and respond to any trends. I am pleased to report that we have seen a downward trend in the three categories of major crime that most impact our students. In January 2021, we had 30 crimes in those categories. In January 2022, we had six crimes reported in those same categories.

This will continue to be a top priority for me, and I want to express my sincere thanks for the university team and our partners with the City of Columbus who have worked so hard to enhance safety on and off campus.

We also continue to work closely with the City of Columbus, Columbus City Schools and Columbus State Community College to advance our STEAMM Rising program, which aims to give young people in our communities greater access and opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and medicine.

To close, I want to say that despite all the challenges we face, life at Ohio State is thriving.

Our students are together on our campuses; our faculty and staff are teaching and making life-changing discoveries; and our students are participating in a large number of extracurricular activities.

In fact, last month, our dance team became the first in the nation to win all three divisions of their collegiate national championship.

Our congratulations and gratitude go to all of our student competitors, our coaches and our Athletics Director Gene Smith for giving us so much to cheer for.

We also congratulate our seven Buckeyes competing in the Winter Olympics, including alumna Jincy Dunne, who earned a spot on the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey roster!

Excellence and resilience continue to define the Ohio State spirit. As always, I am thrilled to be part of it every day.

Thank you to the members of the board for your continuing support, and Go Buckeyes!