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Ohio University faculty and staff members applaud President Roderick J. McDavis after the annual Faculty and Staff Convocation in Walter Hall Rotunda on Wednesday. (Lauren Pond/Ohio University)

Ohio University faculty and staff members applaud President Roderick J. McDavis after the annual Faculty and Staff Convocation in Walter Hall Rotunda on Wednesday.

Photographer: Lauren Pond

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis addresses faculty and staff members during the Faculty and Staff Convocation in Walter Hall Rotunda on Wednesday.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis addresses faculty and staff members during the Faculty and Staff Convocation in Walter Hall Rotunda on Wednesday.

Photographer: Lauren Pond

Stacey Stewart listens as Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis addresses faculty and staff members.

Stacey Stewart listens as Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis addresses faculty and staff members.

Photographer: Lauren Pond

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President’s State of the University Address reflects on decade of transforming lives

During his annual State of the University Address in the Walter Rotunda on Wednesday, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis reflected on his decade-long tenure and highlighted ways in which lives have been positively transformed by the University community. He mentioned steps the University is taking to create a bright future and ensure long-term growth in every possible direction, and thanked faculty and staff members for their continued involvement and outreach into communities around the globe.

The University’s landscape has changed in the past decade with a wide array of construction projects, including Baker University Center, Walter International Education Center, Schoonover Center for Communication, Walter Fieldhouse, and the ongoing housing development project, he said.

Beyond physical growth, OHIO has added 178 learning communities, attained the largest capital campaign goal in the history of the University with more than $450 million raised, increased student enrollment, academic quality and student diversity, as well as transparency, access and affordability.

“Combined with a few bowl wins and a Sweet 16 run, I’d say we’ve had a pretty good decade,” President McDavis said.

“These feats are even more impressive when you consider that our last decade is a story of triumph in the face of adversity,” he added. “At a time when many universities have been hindered by critical budgetary, operational and regulatory challenges facing higher education, Ohio University has thrived. We have emerged from the national and state economic downturn as a stronger University. Today, we are revered as a highly sought-after educational partner, an economic driver and a leading public research university.”

OHIO has transformed the student experience in every direction, he said, and the University now ranks in the top 2.2 percent of the world’s higher education institutions for its quality of education, based on a survey by the Center for World University Rankings. Increased enrollment applications set a record this year, and President McDavis said the Class of 2018 is the largest and highest academic quality class in OHIO’s history.

“The higher education community is taking note, they want to understand the smart growth principles that fuel our success; they want to replicate our transformative learning environment,” he said. “And let’s be honest, they want to understand how we are achieving record applications and unprecedented enrollment growth when other colleges are experiencing a decrease in their enrollment numbers.”

Transforming affordability

President McDavis highlighted the OHIO Guarantee, which fixes tuition, housing, dining and fees so students and their parents can plan for college, and also serves as an incentive for students to complete a degree program within four years.

He also highlighting private giving for student scholarships, which increased by 111 percent during the past fiscal year. Examples included the OHIO Match, which aims to raise $75 million in endowed scholarship funding during the next five years, and The OHIO Signature Awards Program, which will generate $2.1 million more than previous years for new first-year students in the form of merit-based scholarships, need-based grants, and awards. This includes the Gateway Assist Award, which provides high-achieving, high-need returning scholarship students an average of $156 in more aid to offset the recent tuition increase.

President McDavis touted a recent ranking by the "Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015" which ranked OHIO 14th out of 44 colleges and universities that qualify as “best buys” based on the quality of the academic offerings in relation to the cost of attendance.

“These rankings speak to the value of transformative education — the work that you and our faculty do each and every day,” he said. “We are committed to protecting the value and impact of an Ohio University degree in years to come — for our students, for our alumni, and for many others who are indirectly impacted by our reach.”

Transforming roles

The role of the University is much broader now than it was a decade ago, President McDavis continued. Today, OHIO is recognized as an equal partner at the table, along with leaders in government, non-governmental organizations and industry.

One of the ways in which OHIO is meeting the needs of the state is in the healthcare field, he said, by adapting to meet market demands and to address critical healthcare needs.

McDavis pointed to the expansion of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine as an example. He also touted the fact that OHIO houses Ohio’s largest nursing school, with more than 6,000 students currently enrolled. “The school’s innovative RN to BSN program enables working nurses to meet new educational standards and obtain a bachelor’s degree without leaving their jobs. What a wonderful program we’ve developed and implemented,” he said.

Transforming student support

Equally important are the ways in which OHIO is enabling student success, said President McDavis. OHIO is doing this by expanding OHIO’s Learning Communities, adding First Generation Advisers and Professional Advisers, creating a Map Works program which helps to identify “at risk” students early, and creating more concerted intervention efforts by faculty and staff.

“We tell students we want them to be successful, and we say to them that they’ve come to the right place and want them to graduate,” he said. “That’s you, that’s our faculty and staff who are doing that and making these students feel a real part of the campus community. That’s transformation. We’re changing lives, and by the time they leave us, they’re going to be different people, better people, because of their experience at Ohio University.”

President McDavis went on to highlight the Not Anymore Program, a mandatory online sexual assault prevention program for incoming students. The Class of 2018 is the first class to begin its college experience having completed the online program, which is largely administered by the OHIO Women’s Center and Survivor Advocacy Program.

McDavis invited members of the Presidential Advisory Council on Disability and Accessibility Planning to stand in recognition of their efforts. The group is responsible for creating the Disability Strategic Plan for Inclusion and Accessibility, which will guide OHIO in becoming a leader for improving inclusion and accessibility in the years to come.

“By working to implement the initiatives that you have recommended, Ohio University will make great progress toward increasing access to education and employment for people living with disabilities and preparing global citizens who value the contributions of people with all abilities,” said President McDavis.

For additional information about the Disability Strategic Plan for Inclusion and Accessibility, read this Compass article.

Transforming communities

OHIO generated $1.5 billion in economic impact on the state in 2012, and more than $104 in state and local tax revenue by activity associated with the University. By 2018, the new campuses in Dublin and Cleveland are projected to have an economic impact of more than $45 million, create more than 245 jobs and generate nearly $2 million in tax revenue for state and local governments, he said.

“By working hand-in-hand with public universities across the state, we can further our economic impact,” he said. “An example of these efforts is the OHIO Innovation Fund, a venture capital fund initiated by Ohio University and The Ohio State University to commercialize our research and technologies.”

The OHIO Innovation Fund is projected to be $75 million when fully subscribed and responds to data that cites the Midwest as the most underfunded region of the country, producing 18 percent of U.S. patents but only receiving 7 percent of the nation’s venture capital.

President McDavis also mentioned the University’s ongoing collaborative relationship with the City of Athens. The trial opening of Bobcat Lane as well as OHIO’s support for a new Athens Fire Department pumper truck underscores that partnership, he said.

“Perhaps the most marked way we are impacting communities in Southeast Ohio and around the globe is through our research,” said President McDavis. “Today, our faculty and staff are involved in a broad span of research, ranging from the internal structure of the proton, to the impact of climate change. Their scholarship advances knowledge of topics ranging from insulin sensitivity to the origins of the Civil War, and their endeavors provide new perspectives into the human condition through creative media ranging from poetry to performing arts.”

Transforming lives

President McDavis credited groups like the Interlink Alliance, the LGBT Center and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which work to ensure that underrepresented students from all walks of life are supported and embraced within the University community.

“Recent events in Feguson, Mo. have brought into sharper focus the value of a diverse University community. As events and national dialogue unfold, it has become increasingly clear that higher education should, and moreover we must, continue to instill in our graduates a deep-rooted commitment to social justice and civil liberty,” he said. “We must respect every individual who is part of the University, regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation. We must respect ourselves and respect each other.”

Transforming Ohio University

Looking to the future, President McDavis said the new Innovation Strategy will help the University identify areas of strength, impact and collaboration for possible investment and prioritization. He stressed OHIO’s continued commitment to effecting positive change within Ohio and across the globe

“By supporting transformative education on a state-wide level, we will continue to elevate Ohio to a place of prominence,” he said.

In closing, President McDavis thanked faculty and staff for their contributions and commitment to OHIO.

“It is because of your dedication and commitment that we are transforming our students, our region, our state, our nation and, indeed, our world," he said. "I know you do what you do because you believe in higher education. You believe in our community. You believe in Ohio University and all that it stands for. Our graduates are better citizens, better leaders, better professionals, better thinkers because of the impact you have on their lives.”

To read President McDavis' State of the University address in its entirety, click here.