The following remarks were delivered during the public session of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
Thank you, Chairman Heminger, for your kind words.
And good afternoon to everyone on this call.
I am thrilled to open our meeting with a very special announcement.
Today, we recognize a generous gift to the College of Nursing from our very own Gary and Jane Heminger.
The Hemingers’ commitment to naming our new building will ensure our nursing faculty, staff and students — who have dedicated themselves to providing patients with the best evidence-based care — can teach, learn and grow in a state-of-the-art facility that will be a true home away from home.
It will serve as a welcoming destination for learning, innovating and collaborating for nursing students, alumni and the nursing community.
This is exciting news for the future of our health sciences campus, which will transform health and improve lives through this gateway facility, forever bearing the Heminger name.
This wonderful gift is a particularly significant recognition as Jane was as a nurse for many years, serving communities in both Ohio and Texas.
I am also especially grateful for Gary’s service to our university as chairman of our Board of Trustees.
Thank you, Gary and Jane.
And thank you to all of our trustees for the time you take time to give us your guidance and insight, and for your personal philanthropy. You are leaders and role models for the entire Buckeye family.
My first six months as president have been extraordinary and I am so honored to serve this storied university in this capacity…
I have witnessed firsthand the commitment, grit and talent of Buckeye Nation — from our frontline workers to the collective efforts that have made it possible for us to continue to live, learn, discover, practice and serve on our campuses.
And we are solidly on the right track in our fight against COVID-19. Our seven-day average positivity rate for all students (living on or off campus) is consistently less than .5%. That is truly remarkable.
This spring semester to date, we have performed over 150,000 COVID tests, and, because of our low positivity rate, we have 98% of quarantine and isolation beds available for students that need these resources, as you can see on our A+ rated Safe and Healthy Buckeyes dashboard.
And the Wexner Medical Center has administered just over 60,000 vaccinations with this past Tuesday being our highest single day for vaccinations at 2,297 doses.
With these improving COVID-19 trends and continued vigilance about public health measures, I am pleased to share that my leadership team and I have begun preparations for a fall semester in which campus life will be significantly reactivated. If conditions continue to improve, there will be more teaching, learning and student activities taking place in person.
As we prepare for autumn, we are already enrolling students for summer courses.
With fewer students on our campuses during the summer, we will have expanded opportunities for in-person teaching, learning and activities even under our current health protocols.
The safety and well-being of our community will always be our top priority, so any decisions we make for the coming year will be grounded in the expertise of our public health and medical leaders and the latest data and science.
As always, I thank our Buckeye family for doing their part.
In these early months, I continue to build my leadership team.
It is a pleasure to welcome a new member of that team to her first meeting of the Board of Trustees – Dr. Grace Wang.
Dr. Wang joined us on December 1 to fill the newly created post of executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise, with the responsibility for the strategic programmatic planning of Ohio State’s Innovation District, working with Senior Vice President for Research Morley Stone to double our research this decade and to consolidate the offices of sponsored research, technology commercialization and corporate engagement.
Next week, we’ll welcome Dr. Ayanna Howard to begin her role as dean of our College of Engineering. Attracting a leader of her caliber — named as one of “America’s Top 50 Women in Tech” by Forbes — speaks to the strength of our engineering enterprise.
I am grateful to outgoing dean, and my friend and colleague, Dr. David Williams, for his outstanding service over the past decade.
And I am thrilled that he has agreed to stay on after two terms as dean and serve as a senior advisor to Dr. Wang and Dr. Stone, as we continue to strengthen our important industrial partnerships.
Finally, last week, we announced that Ms. Elizabeth Parkinson will join the university on March 22 to fill the newly created position of senior vice president for Marketing and Communications, pending Board approval.
I thank Senior Vice President for Advancement Mike Eicher, chair of the search committee, and everyone who contributed to this successful process.
And I also thank Chris Davey, interim vice president for Communications; Adrienne Nazon, vice president of Marketing; and Skip Hidlay, Wexner Medical Center Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, for their collective efforts to welcome and unify communications and marketing under this new leader.
Last week, I delivered my first State of the University Address. I was delighted to share my vision of Ohio State becoming an absolute model 21st-century land-grant university by investing in four kinds of excellence:
Academic excellence and a culture of true inclusiveness;
Excellence in research and creative expression as we generate brilliant ideas in our labs, art studios, classrooms and our environment;
Excellence in entrepreneurship and partnership as we move our discoveries into the communities in which we live and serve;
And, finally, excellence in service to the state of Ohio, the nation and the world.
To support academic excellence, we aim to hire a minimum of 350 new, net new tenure-track faculty. I announced a new initiative called RAISE — short for race, inclusion and social equity.
RAISE has goals of hiring faculty in racial equity research and scholarship in thematic areas such as health, education (with particular emphasis on STEM), economic and leadership opportunities, justice and public safety, arts and creative expression, natural resources and the environment, and increasing underrepresented and BIPOC faculty.
To advance our excellence in research and creative expression, we will invest a minimum of $750 million in researchers and research over the next decade to help prepare Ohio State to lead in areas such as next generation computing and communications applied to the life sciences, living therapeutics, advanced manufacturing, the connection between healthy food and clean water and cancer prevention, the arts, social sciences and the humanities.
We aim to double the research opportunities for undergraduate students in this decade.
And we continue to support our graduate and professional students by increasing the minimum annual stipend by $4,000 by August 2021.
Now, in order to move those great ideas into the world, excellence in entrepreneurship and partnership will be another strategic focus area.
This includes building out our new Innovation District, which received a boost from last week’s announcement of a $100 million partnership with JobsOhio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State.
I am grateful to everyone who forged this partnership, including Gov. DeWine, Lt. Gov. Husted and the state of Ohio, JobsOhio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, One Columbus, and Mayor Ginther and the city of Columbus.
I want to continue to cultivate and grow these partnerships that allow us to leverage our resources and amplify our ideas.
My fourth focus area is excellence in service to the state of Ohio, the nation and the world. As a land-grant university, we serve those we influence in the communities they live.
To do that, we must continue to address the biggest barrier to accessing a college degree for most students: affordability.
Over the next decade, we will work to provide our undergraduates the opportunity to graduate debt-free, and this will require the strong support of our friends and partners to make it happen.
I thank Gov. DeWine and his administration for their ongoing commitment to higher education in the operating budget.
We will continue to do our share through operational efficiencies, resource stewardship, beneficial partnerships, and the firm support of our alumni, friends and philanthropic partners.
These initiatives represent a snapshot of our vision for the future of Ohio State over the next 10 years. Everything I have experienced and learned over the past six months about this university convinces me that these goals are well within our reach.
For example, our students and faculty continue to be recognized both nationally and internationally for their excellence.
Since we last met, senior and Ohio native Daniel Lesman was named a 2021 Rhodes Scholar — our third Rhodes Scholar in as many years.
Professor Amrita Dhar, Department of English, and Professor Christopher Pincock, Department of Philosophy, were recently awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grants.
And, more recently, the university has been ranked the No. 1 Fulbright U.S. Scholar university for the 2020-21 academic year.
These recent achievements truly just scratch the surface. Ohio State has the good fortune to be building upon an incredibly strong foundation with remarkable reach and vast potential for the future.
As I said in my State of the University Address last week: We have the size, scale, scope — and the desire — to be the absolute model land-grant university of the 21st-century so we can enable people from ordinary backgrounds to fulfill their potential to do extraordinary things.
Together, we are headed in the right direction.