The following remarks were delivered during the public session of The Ohio State University Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
Thank you, Chairman Fujita.
I’d also like to welcome our three newest trustees: Mr. Bigby, Mr. Perez and Ms. Schwein. Thank you for your service.
In February of 2021, during my first state of the university speech here at Ohio State, I said that “we owe it to ourselves and to the state of Ohio to be the very best land-grant university in the nation — and not just top-ranked, but the absolute model of what a land-grant university should look like…in the 21st century.”
This was not a small ambition, but our progress towards that goal since then has been amazing — and accomplished in the midst of a pandemic, the likes of which this country has not seen for over 100 years.
Due to the remarkable year we had, and the tremendous work of our students, faculty and staff, we have moved up in the U.S. News & World Report rankings from 53 to 49 of all national universities and from 17 to 16 of public universities. Beyond that, with the Scarlet & Gray Advantage — and the opportunity we are beginning to offer for a debt-free undergraduate education — we have shown the country how much more can be done to expand educational access and equity, in alignment with our land-grant mission.
Since I joined Ohio State in 2020, we have focused on five particular kinds of excellence: academics, research, service and clinical care, talent and culture, and operations.
In academics, we set a goal of adding 350 tenured or tenure-track faculty over the next decade. That’s going to allow us to reduce class sizes and to drive excellence in teaching, research and scholarship. I am happy to say that nearly 34% of our courses on the Columbus campus now have fewer than 20 students — so a full third of our courses have less than 20 students — and the share of courses with 50 or more students decreased from 24% to 16.5%.
We also launched the Race, Inclusion, and Social Equity — or RAISE — initiative, which included a commitment to hire at least 50 full-time faculty, whose research focuses on racial inequities, to make Ohio State a leader in such scholarship. Forty-eight RAISE positions have already been approved in education, health care, economy, environment and leadership.
I commend Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Melissa Gilliam for her leadership in driving excellence in teaching, learning and scholarship by creating an infrastructure for faculty hiring and development at Ohio State as well as articulating a clear and compelling academic strategy.
We continue drawing the very best students to Ohio State. Over 70% of the first-year students on our Columbus campus graduated in the top 10% of their high school classes. And we have record-high enrollment of minority students at all levels on all of our campuses.
Our Columbus campus’s six-year graduation rate of over 88% is the best in the state of Ohio and a full 20 points above the national average. That rate has increased every year over the past five years, and we expect that the many things we are doing to lift the financial burden of college will help to boost it further by enabling students to spend more time focused on earning their degree and less time earning money to pay for it.
In service and clinical excellence, the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program is one of the chief tools we’ll use to do that — and an example of how we are serving students and their families by ensuring broad, affordable access to an Ohio State degree.
In addition to the chance to graduate debt-free, students participating in the Scarlet & Gray Advantage’s pilot cohort are taking part in a formal seminar this fall. They are learning more about themselves, including their personal leadership style, goals and values. They’re receiving coaching on financial wellness and connections to related resources on campus. And they’re exploring their aspirations after college.
One student, who had taken a gap year after high school to earn money for her education but was planning to borrow nonetheless, said that being part of the program is “like a dream.”
I was honored to join two course sections earlier this month to engage with these Buckeyes and share some of my own career experiences.
Our Buckeye family has responded with real enthusiasm to the opportunity to pay forward with the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program, blowing through our initial fundraising goals to contribute over $118 million thus far to this cause. This outstanding support builds on the record assistance we received from our donors last fiscal year. An unprecedented $740 million was raised in 2021-22, helping us reach toward excellence. Congratulations to Senior Vice President Mike Eicher and his team for an extraordinary year.
Our commitment to service was also recently highlighted by the American Association of Medical Colleges. This organization awarded both the Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine its Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service.
This honor recognizes the collective impact of efforts like Partners Achieving Community Transformation, or PACT, on the Near East Side, Moms2B and our Health Science Academies in Columbus K-12 schools. It also highlights the selfless attitude our health care providers, researchers and staff bring to their work every day.
We congratulate all of them and extend to medical center interim co-leaders Mr. Jay Anderson and Dr. Andy Thomas, as well as College of Medicine Dean Dr. Carol Bradford, our congratulations for their exemplary leadership.
Additionally, a group of Ohio State experts has been asked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to complete a review of the agency’s regulatory actions and decisions related to opioid medications.
The interdisciplinary team will take a forward-looking approach, examining how the FDA might use its existing authority to better serve public health, what new tools regulators may need, and how to better balance the benefits of these medications against their painfully familiar risks.
In research — and we heard recently from Executive Vice President Wang and her team — our world-class scholarship and creative expression set a new record last year with research expenditures of over $1.23 billion, which we anticipate will significantly increase our ranking among America’s top universities.
We also were awarded eight major cross-disciplinary research centers with $123 million in federal funding.
Our goal for FY23 is to establish another four centers, and we already have two that have been established. You heard earlier from Dr. Wang in our Research Committee meeting on those successes.
In service to the citizens of Ohio, we contributed mightily as a key partner of the state’s bid to attract Intel to central Ohio. The company’s $20 billion investment in two semiconductor factories is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and 3,000 direct jobs, as well as many more jobs for its suppliers.
Recognizing that providing the intellectual capital for this effort is bigger than any one university alone, we brought together 19 other colleges and universities to create a Midwest Regional Network focused on doing its part to foster the Silicon Heartland.
And this was a recommendation by Trustee Alex Fischer. We deeply appreciate the partnership of our trustees for the successes that I’m here to report on today.
You also heard earlier today from Vice President for Research Dr. Peter Mohler that construction continues on a number of facilities that will enhance efforts like these and further fuel our research excellence.
These include the Interdisciplinary Research Facility, a place with 18 science and technology “neighborhoods” hosting teams organized by the challenge they’re addressing rather than by discipline or department, and the Energy Advancement and Innovation Center, which will be a hub for students, researchers, entrepreneurs and industry experts to advance artificial intelligence, machine learning and smart, sustainable systems.
These facilities are the cornerstones of Carmenton, our growing innovation district. In September, I was thrilled to join partners, including Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and JobsOhio President and CEO JP Nauseef, to announce this new name, which is the brainchild of Senior Vice President [Elizabeth] Parkinson and her team. It honors Ohio State’s founding mission as well as Buckeyes’ everlasting commitment to come together under a common banner for the greater good.
Complementing Carmenton is the new Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex, which also opened this fall. It will help our faculty and students advance modern, sustainable food-production technologies to help humanity adapt and thrive in the face of challenges such as climate change.
It’s already setting Ohio State apart from our peers across the nation, too. The facility was a key part of our selection as the home for the terrestrial analog of the space-based George Washington Carver Science Park.
If we’re talking about the people and places that distinguish our university, it’s a pleasure to recognize our terrific Executive Vice President of Research, Innovation and Knowledge Dr. Grace Wang.
Since joining our university in December 2020, she has restructured and reinvigorated our knowledge enterprise; helped achieve the record research and development expenditures and secure the eight federally funded research centers I mentioned a minute ago; and she’s been a key partner in launching student and community programs like the President’s Buckeye Accelerator and our STEAMM Rising collaboration with the City of Columbus, Columbus City Schools, and Columbus State Community College.
Clearly, her contributions have been appreciated far beyond Ohio’s borders, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts has just named her its 17th president.
Please join me in thanking Dr. Wang for all she’s done for our Buckeye family and congratulate her on this exciting new role.
Several other Buckeyes are also deserving of recognition today. I’ll just mention a few.
Associate Professor Dr. Nichola Breyfogle received the Herbert Feis Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public History from the American Historical Association.
Traffic engineer Dr. Balaji Ponnu was selected to join a project of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program to help improve the design and placement of pedestrian crosswalks.
And Affordable Learning Instructional Consultant Amanda Larson will serve as a 2022-23 Faculty Fellow for the Open Education Network.
We also extend our congratulations to the Ohio State iGEM team who — for the third consecutive year — received a gold medal at the iGEM 2022 Grand Jamboree in Paris. Their project sought to engineer a way to better detect and combat sepsis using phages.
This level of achievement can only be sustained with excellence in talent and culture — a commitment to which is woven throughout everything we do.
At the foundation of this is our dedication to the safety of our talented students, faculty, and staff.
Crime rates decreased with the implementation of the 15 recommendations of the Task Force for Community Safety and Well-Being, co-chaired by Senior Vice President Jay Kasey and Senior Vice President Dr. Melissa Shivers. We continue to meet bi-weekly to review crime stats and look for trends along with our partners on campus and off campus.
I also appreciate everything the City of Columbus continues to do to enhance safety directly around our campuses and more broadly. This commitment is most recently evidenced by Mayor Andrew Ginther’s proposed operating budget, which includes significant investments in public safety. We look forward to continued engagement with the mayor, city council and other partners on this issue moving forward.
In addition to physical safety, the personal well-being of every Buckeye is also hugely important.
At the beginning of the month, I was thrilled to join Senior Vice President Dr. Jeff Risinger, Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing Dean Dr. Bern Melnyk, and more than 750 Ohio State staff members in an all-staff wellness event hosted by the University Staff Advisory Committee. With a focus on mindfulness practices and low-impact calisthenics, we all learned ways to improve our health and well-being.
And lastly, in operational excellence, Senior Vice President Michael Papadakis and his team, including Chief Investment Officer Vishnu Srinivasan, have the university’s finances on budget and our investments outperforming our benchmarks.
So, in closing, as we enter this season of gratitude, I want to emphasize how thankful I am to be part of a university community where events like this are the norm.
By taking care of ourselves and each other, we create an environment in which each of us can thrive, pursue new ideas and do our best work.
I firmly believe Ohio State and Buckeyes everywhere are doing our best work right now. And to ensure we can continue achieving at this high level, I encourage every student, faculty member and staff person to take time in the coming weeks to rest and recharge.
Buckeyes have proven that we can flourish in the face of adversity. We know we have much to offer the people and communities we serve. And we are confident that we can realize our ambitions, together.
I want to thank the members of the board for your steadfast support of this progress, and I look forward to our next opportunity to detail the accomplishments of this incredible university.
Thank you, and Go Buckeyes!