May Session: A New Feature in Our Academic Year
This year, our first on the semester calendar, will also inaugurate Ohio State’s May Session, which will run from May 6 to May 31, 2013. Those four weeks are meant to provide a concentrated experience when students can focus on just one class, perhaps a topic beyond their educational track. The May Session is thus a real opportunity for students to expand their horizons.
Our currently enrolled full-time students who are not graduating at the end of spring semester can take up to three credits during the May Session at no tuition charge. Students will not be responsible for General and Instructional Fees and Non-Residency Fees, but they must plan to pay all other fees, including the tuition for a course that is greater than three credit hours. Regional campus students who have completed at least 30 credit hours and have maintained a minimum 2.0 GPA are eligible come to the Columbus campus to attend the May Session.
More than 130 courses, including some required courses for students’ majors, will be offered during the May Session by the colleges of Arts and Sciences; Engineering; Education and Human Ecology; Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Nursing; Public Health; and Social Work. In addition, students can choose from more than 40 “Global May” study abroad programs intended for first- and second-year students of any major. They are led by Ohio State faculty and feature program instruction in English. Students can choose from an array of destinations, including Brazil, Britain, China, India, Hungary, Mexico, and Uganda.
At the time of this writing, nearly 5,000 students have signed up for a May Session class.
I am delighted by this new feature of our academic year. By offering three free credits during the May Session, we are helping to ensure that an Ohio State education continues to be as affordable as possible.
STEP: Striding Toward Greater Student Success
We are also constantly striving to make an Ohio State education as valuable as possible. As part of our plan to maximize the benefits of two years of on-campus residence, the Office of Student Life, in collaboration with groups of students, faculty, and administrators, has developed the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program or STEP. Approved by the Board of Trustees last year, STEP is a comprehensive program to improve student engagement with faculty, increase satisfaction, and promote academic and personal success.
Faculty participation, of course, is central to the effectiveness of this effort. A STEP Faculty Committee, created late last year and headed by Professors Leslie Alexander (African American and African Studies) and Lilia Fernandez (History), is guiding the development of STEP’s academic components. The committee has recommended that students be introduced to six experiences designed to enrich their academic and professional lives: undergraduate research, study abroad, service learning, internships, leadership, and artistic/creative endeavors. Students who successfully complete the program will be awarded a $2,000 fellowship to use towards one of these experiences.
A STEP pilot program will launch in autumn 2013 with 1,000 students and 50 faculty members. Students will be organized into cohorts of no more than 20 students, with one STEP faculty member assigned to each cohort. In autumn semester, the focus will be on creating community within each cohort and introducing students to the six experiences. Then, in spring semester, students will work with their STEP faculty member and peers to develop plans for using their fellowship.
Ohio State is committed to redefining the student experience and ensuring our students’ success from their first day of enrollment. STEP is crucial to that ongoing redefinition. It will provide our second-year students with fresh opportunities to develop life skills, connect to networks for the future, and transition to professional careers.
Shaping Ohio State's Future
As I said in my March address before the University Senate, going forward, a number of forces can be expected to stimulate changes in how the university operates and is structured.
For at least the next few years, for example, we can anticipate a resource-constrained environment. This will require us to continue operating efficiently and use our resources flexibly. Indeed, innovative financial approaches must be an integral part of our future. Monetizing assets and securing affinity agreements may herald the beginning of a unique Ohio State way of thinking about how to fund academic programs and scholarship.
We will also need to deal in innovative ways with transitions in a generation of talented faculty and staff members. Nearly 40 percent of our faculty—and more than 20 percent of our staff—will be eligible to retire within five years. Despite that challenge, we cannot reasonably expect to reach the goal of eminence without a net increase in faculty, while maintaining constant the cadre of staff who support them. This means that Ohio State will need to offer opportunities simply not available elsewhere.
Our Discovery Themes initiative provides just such an opportunity. The Discovery Theme areas of Energy and Environment, Food Production and Security, and Health and Wellness will bring faculty together to focus on the sweeping technological, social, and environmental issues of today. The $400 million we have committed to the Discovery Themes is expected to facilitate the hiring of some 500 tenured or tenure-track faculty. The efforts of these new scholars will complement the research, teaching, and outreach of our existing faculty in both theme and cross-theme areas.
Accommodating a larger faculty may well require different facilities and organizational approaches. We will no doubt have to develop flexible space that colleagues can use, depending on research focus; and, given demographic trends, we will need to take advantage of our size and urban location to find better ways of meeting the needs of multi-career families.
For our students of the future, we must find new and different ways of providing access to the excellence of an Ohio State education. It will be essential to generate the necessary resources while continuing to balance both access and ability issues as our environment changes.
We must also think about further globalizing the university by establishing additional Ohio State Gateways. Through offices in such countries as Brazil and Turkey, we would be able to provide points of access to Ohio State in South America and Eurasia.
Access to the university will be further broadened by our electronic portals. Distance education and eLearning will play an increasing role in the educational environment of the future in which we will compete and, I believe, prosper. We will rapidly focus on niches in which the Ohio State brand has particular value and where long-distance efforts build on our existing strengths. We must also seek innovative ways to use distance education to enrich our existing programs—and perhaps develop new areas of inquiry through a commitment to more sophisticated learning analytics.
Thanks to our One Ohio State Framework plan, we have a vision for our physical campus for the next 50 to 100 years. That said, we are only beginning to capitalize on the benefits of urban planning in campus design—after all, we are an urban university—by thinking vertically rather than horizontally. And given resource constraints and concerns about sustainability, we will need to consider a greater massing of activities. This will require sharing of space and relying on central rather than distributed services.
We are taking some remarkable strategic steps to enhance Ohio State’s reputation for academic quality, innovation, research, and leadership in higher education. Through any changes, however, we must work with purpose and imagination to provide our students with unparalleled and life-long educational experiences. We must be vigilant in providing our faculty with a stimulating intellectual environment and the tools they need to accomplish their teaching, research, and outreach. I am convinced that such a focus will be the foundation for the consistent recognition of our eminence. As that happens, The Ohio State University will be an acknowledged symbol of the best there is in higher education. [The full text of the provost’s Senate address is available at http://oaa.osu.edu/provost-aluttos -address-to-the-university-senate-2013.html.]