2022 State of Academic Affairs address

From the Provost — April 5, 2022

2022 State of Academic Affairs address

Melissa Gilliam
Executive Vice President and Provost

In her first State of Academic Affairs address on March 24, Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa Gilliam spoke about her first seven months at Ohio State, emerging areas of priority, and points of pride from across the academic enterprise.

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>> First of all, I wanted to tell you how delighted I am to be here today with all of you and to give the first or my first State of Academic Affairs. This time last year, I had not even submitted my letter of interest. I was still looking at a job description and the very, very powerful words of President Johnson in her State of the University address in which she declared Ohio State would address some of the world's most pressing problems. And I thought, given this time, given our collective moment, Ohio State was a place that wanted to do more. And so I was so excited to become the executive vice president and provost and have been so deeply grateful to being really welcomed by President Johnson and the First Lady, my many colleagues in the cabinet, the members of the Board of Trustees, and individual people. I hesitate to name individuals because there are so many, but people like Cindy Silver and Trudy Bartley and Grace Wang and the chairs and the deans and Kay Wolf and Jacob Chang and Anna Valerius and Nick Messenger, and Melissa Shivers have made so, so many efforts to make me feel at home. So I tend not to like to talk about myself and prefer to talk about you all, the faculty, staff, students, and the staff of the Office of Academic Affairs, and all that we've done in the seven months since I've been here. So what a great moment this is for us. One of the most important things has been to listen. And starting on the regional campuses and understanding the experience of faculty, staff, and students, and making my way through each of the colleges, the offices, going to various convenings and meeting with faculty, staff, and students, as well as the larger community of Columbus and getting outside of the campus into the regions, into the farmlands, it's just been quite wonderful.
President Johnson has described excellences, academic, research, service, talent and culture, and operational, and these types of excellences will inform the way that the Office of Academic Affairs moves forward. And so looking at these, we began to align our goals. How do we ensure that our faculty and students, our outward engagement activities, our talent and culture, our technology and digital innovation, the areas and scope of the academic affairs are structured to realize President Johnson's goals? But more importantly, we began to listen to the various constituencies. Even before I arrived, the question was, how do we make sure the Office of Academic Affairs is structured in a way that it can operate strategically?
And so we did a deep assessment. We spoke to many of the stakeholders that you heard that our office oversees, including our college deans, many faculty members, many staff members, students, and asked how, how is the Office of Academic Affairs meeting your needs? And in what ways can we improve? And these are some of the gaps that we identified, areas where people looked to the center and didn't have the full support that it needed.
And so as a result, we're realigning and restructuring the Office of Academic Affairs so that we can focus more strategically on issues related to students, to faculty, to external engagement, to our issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and then a series of advisory or support teams that better support the work of our important offices. The good news was that as we did this assessment, we're able to see that we're an office of people who work incredibly hard and are incredibly committed to the work that they do. And yet, given our size, our scope, our scale, there are times when we were not able to work strategically or respond to some of the gaps that people have identified.
So talking about academic excellence, probably the most important thing is the success of our faculty. I will tell you. I spend a lot of time reading. I read a lot about the history of Ohio State. I also read a lot about the faculty and about scholarship. This is a key moment where we are in the midst of reading many, many tenure packets. And I just want you to understand the excellence of our faculty. So I'm going to quote. "I heard Professor X speak at several scholarly conferences, and I can state without exaggeration that every single lecture he presented was an example of groundbreaking scholarship, innovative research, and excellent presentation."
Another quotation, "The results are not simply joyous; they will change the nature of the conversation."
Even another quotation.
"This does not read like the first book. It has coherence and an integrity, a polish and a confidence, a profundity and a comprehensiveness that is stunning and inspirational." And so given the quality of our faculty, the outstanding work of our faculty, the Office of Academic Affairs has to be fully committed to our faculty success.
One of the things that we are doing is hiring many new academic leaders. But in addition, we are committed to supporting the scholars and educators throughout the professional lifecycle. And so we have to build an infrastructure for both research and scholarship. We have to create robust faculty development programs. We have to focus on recruitment, and also retaining our current faculty, and also focus on campus and community life. In my listening sessions, I heard so much about the increase in bureaucracy and the day-to-day burdens of conducting scholarship, teaching, and other things. And so part of what we have to do is focus on improving those things.
I read to you about the excellence of our scholarship. And so I want to talk to you about a project that has been led by Helen Malone. And this is called Centering Academic Excellence. And in it, we're looking closely at our promotion and tenure packets and processes. We're engaging each of the deans in this process, and this is renewing our focus on scholarship. We want to know, do we have a shared vision for what academic excellence is? What are the additional skills that leaders need to assess excellence? And are our policies and procedures, are they up to date? Are they current? And do they enable faculty to do their work?
We're also focusing on our community of outstanding scholars and educators. You have heard about the RAISE initiative. And with the leadership of Trevon Logan, we have been able to announce our first set of departments and colleges that have successful proposals. And we've also announced a second round. You've also heard about the provost's Fellow to Faculty program. This is a program that will enable people to come and have a two-year fellowship, which is already tenure track, and then to continue on to the faculty program, program. The idea here is that we should be one of the most competitive places to become a faculty member. We should have people who choose us for the opportunity to enjoy this cohort of scholars. Shortly, we'll also announce the Society of Fellows program. This is a program that I have prior experience with, but then through conversations and through listening to [inaudible] from many people the value of programs such as this on other campuses, and so we'll watch a similar program here. And then I'm so delighted that Sarah Conley has joined us and has launched the Office of Dual Careers and Faculty Relocation. That name may change. We're still working on it. But the point is that when individuals come with families or partners, that we are able to welcome and relocate and support both individuals.
We have such a dynamic and important student body, and we hold them accountable in so many ways.
I want to read one more quotation just to give you a sense of how, how terrific we are in the classroom. And so this student said, "Professor X is fantastic. This is one of the most well-balanced, well-organized classes I've ever taken. They did a wonderful job making what sounds like a boring topic incredibly rich. They are approachable, understanding, and knows what he is talking about. By far, my favorite professor in the department. First semester, teaches like a tenured veteran. I learned a great deal in your classroom. Rock on." So as we begin to talk about student success, one of the things that we are doing is hiring a number of new leaders. We have a new vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, a vice provost for strategic enrollment management, and a vice provost and dean of graduate studies.
And we've had tremendous success in our undergraduate education. First, we've had a record number of applications for the fall class of 2022, 71,000 applications. We have become the top producing institution for Fulbright students and scholars. And thanks to Randy Smith, the new general education is on time for incoming autumn '22 students. And I thank Meg Daly and all of you who worked so hard to meet this change despite all that has been going on with the pandemic.
Deep gratitude to Damon Jaggars, who was appointed the Interim Vice Provost for Student Academic Success and Dean of Undergraduate Education. You will know Damon Jaggars as dean of the libraries. And yes, Damon has held two jobs. And I want to give the warmest welcome to Charlene Gilbert, our new senior vice provost. And so the role of a senior vice provost is not to replace all of the people who are doing such terrific work but to help to provide a strategic vision, to better connect offices that might become silo, and to help to make sure that all of our work addresses not only the Columbus campus but all campuses that comprise the Ohio State.
It has been such a pleasure to formally launch Scarlet & Gray Advantage, one of President Johnson's visionary programs. And I'd like to welcome Ann Talbot who is the project director. Not only is Scarlet & Gray a program that supports individual students, but it helps us as an institution to work better. First of all, we have an amazing cross-cutting team that includes people from OSAS, student life advancement, marketing and communications. But we're also trying to build our institutional capacity for student success. So we are optimizing our financial aid system with just tremendous work from Amy Wheeler. We are optimizing our scholarship programs. We're creating a robust summer internship program. And by 2022-2023, we will launch the pilot, and so deep gratitude to Chris Devine and all of our leadership.
We've had a number of successes with our graduate and professional students. We've had an increase in the number of fellowship stipends for competitive recruitment. We've had a record high graduate school fellowship support, which enables us to recruit some of our most diverse graduate students and create the most diverse graduate student body. We've provided record fee authorization commitments for externally funded grant proposals. And we also have a visionary interprofessional program, which has been led by Andrea Pfeifle. And we will be opening the new interdisciplinary health sciences center. And I wish to have a, give a special thank you to Professor Alicia Bertone, who has served as both the vice provost and dean of graduate studies, and currently as the interim vice provost, so thank you.
One of the most important things that we can do is focus on talent, culture, and well-being. As we know, these are the things that undergird our ability to be successful academically. I want to thank all of you for all that you have done despite the current pandemic. And despite the experiences around racial, ethnic disparities and the many disparities and issues faced by marginalized people.
So much of this work is being led by Dr. James Moore and Keesha Mitchell, and so I thank them so much for their work. We've had some amazing wins through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion under Dr. Moore's leadership. We have been ranked third among higher ed institutions behind only Duke and Spelman for the cohort of African Americans with a graduation rate of 98%. We are establishing new partnerships with Columbus City Schools. And we've just been made a member of Tri-Alpha, which is an honor society for first-generation college students.
Our newly established Office of Institutional Equity to which Keesha Mitchell was appointed the vice president this, associate vice president this year, this office has updated and streamlined policies, has created university-wide training, and has created a number of policies. We've also created new informal resolution policies and processes, as well as an opportunity for educational conversations because sometimes people choose not to register formal complaints. And so throughout this process, Keesha and her team are seeking ways to better support as well as prevent issues of harassment, bias, and harassment, and also improve our activities related to affirmative action.
As we think about our work in diversity and inclusion, you will always hear me define diversity quite broadly, so that we begin to take into account the variety of forms of identity, as well as perspectives, as well as backgrounds. And alongside that, we have to champion academic freedom and freedom of expression. It is a unique thing to be part of an academic community and have the ability to speak our minds. However, that also means that at times, we will listen to ideas and perspectives that we do not agree with and that we find uncomfortable. But that is the freedom and the responsibility of being part of a university environment. And so for that reason, I am so happy to champion our shared values initiative. I will be honest, Piers Turner probably had to spend four to six hours answering all of my questions. And I think of values as a starting point, something that we will continue to interrogate and to question and to make come alive through our inquiry. But I want to thank Piers and the Office of Compliance and all of the work that they've done for shepherding these really important values, and to the faculty senate and faculty leaders of the senate who brought this to my attention and expressed their endorsement.
Think probably more than anything, the issue of our well-being has been top of mind. And through the leadership of Bern Melnyk and Dr. Melissa Shivers, and the many committee members, we are able to focus on wellness across the institution. But that wouldn't be possible without the series work of the CMT led by Dean Amy Fairchild. Throughout all that we're doing in the background, there are groups of people meeting on an almost daily basis to help to manage the COVID pandemic and our response to that. People like Rob Messinger are tracking all of the day-to-day decisions that we made and linking from one meeting to another. There are so many unsung heroes in the Ohio State response to COVID. But what's most important about this COVID management team is that we're not just paying attention to the well-being of our campus. We are paying attention to the well-being of our campuses, the region, as well as the state, as well as producing the data and analyses and research. So what a wonderful and unique response.
President Johnson has called on us to demonstrate operational excellence, and so I want to describe how we are interpreting that in the Office of Academic Affairs. The first is to focus on issues of leadership. And Kay Wolf who is a senior vice provost will now add an additional role, which is heading our leadership and leadership programs across the campus. She has played a really important role in helping to orient, welcome, and acclimate each of our deans. She serves on almost every leadership search committee. And we are now looking at ways to ensure that we have a pipeline of academic leaders, including revising our Faculty Fellows program again to support leadership as we begin to bring in more talent and help individuals transition to increasingly senior positions. I also want to thank Dawan Stanford who has been supporting Ohio State as the interim director of Design and Innovation. We've done a lot of retreating, first with the college deans, and also with the senior leadership of the regional campuses. And these are really moments for us to listen to one another and to understand and to set ambitious agendas for each of our colleges and each of our campuses.
One of the things that we must do as we move forward is focus on our shared resources. And one of the most important is the university libraries. What amazing work that Dean Jaggars has done in both of his roles. One is this transformative agreement with Wiley. And what this will do is allow us to have open authorship. So when there is an open-access journal that is sponsored by Wiley, there will be no cost to submitting.
There's also a new family zone to support the success of students with children. And then many of you were able to see the Black Lives Matter public art initiative that was presented in partnership with the Wex, with outreach and engagement, ODI, and the Hale Black Cultural Center.
Other of these shared resources include the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Wexner Center for the Arts, as well as the Oval. And I put that there because I have an ongoing question. How are we going to support our shared spaces? How do we make sure that we invest in these things that serve us all?
So I want to talk a little bit about service. And to me, this is thinking about the work that we do locally, regionally across the state, and globally. As I visited colleges, one of the faculty members said, "Why do we think about global as being something that happens outside of the state? We are not only a very international campus, but we have so many migrant communities." And thus, I've asked Ryan Schmiesing, who leads our Office of External Engagement, and Gil Latz to really think about ways in which their work can coincide and how they can mutually support one another. But in particular, I've asked Ryan to focus more on his work in the region and across the state, and in particular, to ensure that our regional campuses are well supported and part of everything that we do at Ohio State.
And we already have so many achievements in these offices. For example, we've issued the first study about word engagement. I'm really understanding how communities in Columbus view us as a campus and opportunities where we can do even better. We've also done our first external review of the regional campuses. Again, opportunities for us to strengthen our relationships, strengthen our campuses. I've mentioned our many wins related to Fulbright students and programs. And for the first time in two years, we've had two groups of students who were able to travel on spring break to Italy and France and return safely. And this summer we're hoping to send as many as 600 students in study abroad.
I want to take a moment to talk about the importance of arts and humanities at this time. This is really one of the most exciting moments for Ohio State and the arts. We're really at a new moment. We are recruiting a new director for the Wex. We are recruiting five new chairs in fields related to arts and humanities. We have new buildings for the School of Music, Department of Theater, Film, and Media Arts. We have the fantastic urban art space, as well as the African American and African Studies Community Extension Center. We have such a wealth of art on this campus and art resources. And we are in a city that takes art incredibly seriously. So what a moment we have and what an opportunity we have in front of us.
We're also so fortunate to have recruited Cindy Leavitt as our chief information officer and Rich Nagle as our chief information security officer. It has been such a pleasure to appoint the two of them. And as you know, what we do in the area of technology has a tremendous effect on all of us. But it's also an opportunity to think about it as an area of innovation. So thanks to both of them, as well as Jeff Risinger and human resources and the many of you as well as the medical center who worked to stabilize work day. When I came, it was almost a topic where I had to say let's not discuss it so we can discuss other things. But now most recently, we were able to smoothly open, smoothly conduct open enrollment, as well as tax processing. This year, we will roll out the adaptive budgeting system. And we may not actually, we may not be aware of it, but there is absolutely tremendous work going on in improving our security. We now have an endpoint protection software which now protects about 99% of our devices on campus. And we are able to detect many, many threats quickly and prevent many, many problems. We are continuing to grow our enrollments in our distance education programs. And thank you to all of you who do so much to make our distance education program work. Thank you so much to Rob Griffiths and his leadership. We continue to reduce the cost of education and the cost of books through programs such as CarmenBooks in the Affordable Learning Exchange. And we're also updating many, many learning spaces that is allowing us to have much more flexibility in digital learning.
So looking forward, I want to announce that we will be creating an academic plan. It's been almost 20 years since we've had an academic plan. But this is a document that allows us as a campus to start to talk about what our priorities are academically. And this becomes a framing document that will be developed through conversation and collaboration. And I want to thank Sarah Bohman and Cindy Silver and Jeff Risinger and Tom Gregoire and Trevor Brown and Kay Wolf and Dawan Stanford for all their leadership in developing this process. And this will be fleshed out, many of these ideas. These will be high-level goals that will be fleshed out during the following academic year. And as you may know, my friend and colleague, Grace Wang, who is leading [inaudible], is also creating a strategic plan. And there is a plan for Wex in the Wexner Medical Center. And together, these three documents enable us to support President Johnson's calls. So I will end by saying thank you for the time to present to you about the state of academic affairs. But more importantly, thank you for the opportunity to be a Buckeye and join this community. So thank you.