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OHIO’s Impact: Power of Bobcat Nation reflected in alumni’s contributions to the University and the state

Note: Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis is touring the state during the month of February to discuss the findings of a recently released economic impact report. Today, McDavis is visiting with media and representatives in the Columbus area. This story is one such example of the ways in which the impact of Ohio University alumni can be seen and felt throughout the OHIO community and the state.

Since its founding 210 years ago, the Ohio University community has been committed to the intellectual and personal development of its students and to the economic development and well-being of Southeast Ohio as well as the entire state of Ohio. It’s a commitment that is embraced by OHIO’s diverse student population and one that does not end when those students leave the University’s six Southeastern Ohio campuses.

The University’s recently released economic impact report, “Ohio University: Educating Students, Impacting Communities,” illustrates that OHIO’s economic impact is strengthened by its alumni, many of whom opt to stay in the state of Ohio after graduation and continue to support the University and its students.

For OHIO alumni, Ohio is the Bobcat State

The OHIO family includes more than 190,000 alumni in communities across the globe. About 110,000 OHIO graduates, or 58 percent all of the University’s alumni, call Ohio home, contributing their time, talents and financial resources to the state and its communities.

According to the economic impact report, OHIO alumni generated $259 million in net marginal state and local tax revenue in 2012, supporting everything from the state’s infrastructure and needs-based programs to its local school districts and institutions of higher education.

The University contributes another $466 million to the state’s economy from constituent spending by OHIO’s students, retirees and visitors, including its alumni who return to their alma mater for such festivities as Homecoming, the Black Alumni Reunion and various sporting events. That spending is likely to grow as the Ohio University Alumni Association (OUAA) prepares for its inaugural “On the Green Weekend,” a spring Homecoming of sorts scheduled for May 30-June 1 that will emphasis academics and the arts.

In addition to contributing their tax dollars and disposable income to the state of Ohio and its various communities, OHIO alumni help address critical needs in the state’s economy.

According to the Ohio Board of Regents, the University supplies the state an especially high percentage of graduates in such fields as communications, business, physical sciences and education. And OHIO’s commitment to helping address the healthcare needs of today and tomorrow has garnered the University national recognition and an increased presence throughout the state.

The economic impact report notes that more than 27 percent of Ohioans with bachelor’s degrees in health professions and related programs are OHIO graduates. In addition, the University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM), the state’s only osteopathic medical school, is ranked nationally among the top 10 percent of medical schools that graduate physicians who enter primary care residencies.

OU-HCOM leads all Ohio medical schools with the highest percentage of graduates practicing in primary care and remaining in the state to practice. About 50 percent of the medical school’s alumni practice primary care and nearly 60 percent have elected to practice in Ohio, positioning OU-HCOM to help address a projected shortage in primary care physicians, particularly in Ohio’s underserved Appalachian and urban communities. OU-HCOM’s commitment to educating physicians committed to practicing in Ohio grows even stronger as the medical college prepares to expand its reach by opening a campus in Dublin in the fall of 2014 and in the Cleveland area the following fall.

From one Bobcat to another

Whether Ohio University alumni stay in Ohio or take their talents elsewhere, their commitment to supporting OHIO and its students is unwavering.

“Ohio University alumni are very passionate about their alma mater, and their desire to give back to the institution with their time, talent and financial resources is abundant,” said Jennifer Neubauer, assistant vice president for alumni relations and executive director of the Ohio University Alumni Association (OUAA).

According to the economic impact report, the OUAA awards about 30 scholarships to incoming OHIO students each year. During academic year 2010-11 alone, the alumni association’s network donated more than $2.7 million in endowments and scholarships.

There are nine active OHIO alumni chapters in the state of Ohio, and, according to Dawn Werry, director of external relations for the OUAA, some of the strongest groups in terms of fundraising for the University are located in the Ohio communities of Columbus, Cleveland and Akron.

While it’s relatively easy to calculate the amount of money OHIO graduates give to the University in support of its mission, the same cannot be said for the number of hours alumni donate to mentor and otherwise help the students following in their footsteps.

OHIO alumni donate countless hours of their time both inside and outside the University’s classrooms, counseling students on issues of professional development, offering advice, sharing experiences and mentoring them.

The OUAA in conjunction with its Student Alumni Board (SAB) have created numerous opportunities for OHIO alumni and current students to connect with one another.

For the past several years, the OUAA and SAB have hosted Bobcat to Bobcat Panels. Offered each semester, the panels are designed to help undergraduate students gather insight about life after college from OHIO graduates. Each panel consists of alumni from varying professional fields and levels of experience who are available to answer questions related to careers, extracurricular experiences and furthering education. The panels provide an opportunity for students to network with professionals who share their academic interests.

Another successful networking opportunity created by the OUAA is its “Dinner with 12 Strangers” program. Created in 2012, “Dinner with 12 Strangers” allows OHIO alumni to host a dinner at their home or a local restaurant. Twelve students from any college or academic unit on campus attend the dinner where they have an opportunity to socialize and network with alumni in a casual atmosphere. OHIO faculty members also attend the dinners to help facilitate conversation and contribute experiences from their profession, allowing students to connect with instructors outside of the traditional classroom.

Jackson Lavelle is a senior at Ohio University majoring in political science and history. He has been a member of the SAB since the fall quarter of his first year at OHIO and currently serves as president of the SAB.

“Personally, I wanted to join a student organization that had its hands in all aspects of campus life,” Lavelle said. “From huge philanthropic events such as Paint the Town Green and Bare on the Bricks to professional development opportunities such as gaining alumni mentors to general campus programming such as organizing the annual Homecoming pep rally, SAB offered just about everything that a very involved student desired.”

But the alumni-related event that has had the greatest impact on Lavelle’s student experience at OHIO resulted from a “Dinner with 12 Strangers” that he attended the end of his sophomore year. The following fall, Lavelle attended another event involving an OHIO alumnus who had returned to campus to receive an award. Lavelle took the opportunity to get to know the alumnus, and the two exchanged e-mails for several weeks thereafter, which led to Lavelle securing an internship with the alumnus this past summer in Boston where he worked at the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

When navigating the logistics of that internship, Lavelle said he remembered the alumnus who hosted the “Dinner with 12 Strangers” that he attended the year before. That alumnus at the time was the president of the Massachusetts Serves New England Chapter of the OUAA.

“He was gracious enough to let me stay at his home outside of Boston for two weeks prior to my being able to move into my apartment downtown,” Lavelle said. “Without the help and guidance of these two alumni, I would not have been able to have had such a rich and rewarding internship experience this past summer.”

Lavelle noted, however, that that experience was just one of the many ways in which the University’s alumni have enriched his OHIO experience.

“As president of SAB, I sit on the OUAA Board of Directors, which is comprised of some of the most dedicated alumni who want to see the best for Ohio University and its students,” he said. “Each of the members of the Student Engagement Committee, which is a subset of the OUAA Board of Directors, has a student mentor. Through online communications, the alumni stay connected with their student mentees. We are fortunate enough to have these mentors return to campus three to four times a year, which allows us to have valuable face-to-face interactions. These mentors provide professional advice and connections, which are so essential in today’s competitive economy.”

“Our Student Engagement Committee is very enthusiastic and always looking for opportunities to support and serve our students” said Neubauer. “Ohio University alumni just love to be around our students, and our goal at the Alumni Association is to find ways to channel that excitement and desire in ways that serve both our students and our graduates.”