Listening, Learning, Reflecting, Engaging

Academic Voices: A Provost's Blog

Listening, Learning, Reflecting, Engaging

January 20, 2022

It has been almost six months since I joined the Ohio State community and had the honor of becoming part of President Johnson’s leadership team. Whatever one imagines beginning a new role as Provost to be, it surely would not be leading through the urgencies and uncertainties of a pandemic! While I know the past few months have been a challenge for everyone, there has been a silver lining: I’ve gotten to see this amazing community at its best under pressure. I want to share my deep sense of gratitude for all that you do for this institution, and my pride in how you have rallied together to carry out our mission while also giving back to our surrounding communities in myriad ways.

Part of my responsibility as Provost is to communicate a vision for academic life at Ohio State and celebrate the many examples of academic excellence across the University. With the new year, I have opted to carve out this corner of digital space where I can connect with members of our campus community to regularly share thoughts and ideas about our academic life and to encourage your ideas and feedback.

I have spent time listening carefully and learning about this special community. As many of you know, I have been steadily meeting with people, departments and teams across campus, inviting your perspectives and stories. Our day-to-day lives are deeply challenging right now, and yet the spirit, hopes, and aspirations of this community remain apparent. These conversations have been informative and inspiring and I look forward to connecting with many of you in the coming months.

Here are a few things that I have observed so far: this academic community is talented, creative, generous and collaborative. “Generous” might not be a term commonly thought of in this context, but I see and feel Ohio State’s generosity of spirit all around me. This community cares about and for one another, lifts one another up, wants to include rather than exclude, and seeks to work together to achieve shared goals. Generosity is evident in the collaborative nature of the research enterprise; the tendency to seek out interdisciplinary approaches; the consideration and seriousness of purpose with which faculty, staff, and students approach their work; and the level of staff engagement and student leadership dedicated to building a more excellent and supportive Ohio State.

I have also been deeply impressed with the way our institution views its land-grant mission not only as a complex, historic foundation but as a central force that must continuously be reanimated and reinterpreted to fuel our actions and address current issues. We aspire to be in partnership with Columbus and with all corners of our state: addressing the complex urban and rural issues of our time, sharing what we discover and create, healing and helping one another, and learning from our neighbors statewide. And on all of our campuses, we strive to be a partner to and a resource for our communities and Ohio. This commitment to service is a lens through which we view the state, the nation, and the world.

With such deep commitment, scholarly excellence, and culture, there is much to look forward to in our future. As we spend more time together, you will see that I aim to help us set and sustain an ambitious academic vision—one that works in concert with the new leader of the Wexner Medical Center and Executive Vice President Grace Wang as together we and our many campus partners support President Johnson’s priorities.  Further, this academic vision must offer this vibrant community of scholars the opportunity to do its most impactful work.

I am collaborating with individuals across the university to lay the foundation for developing an academic strategic plan and will have much more to share with you in the weeks ahead. Along the way, I know we will engage deeply and occasionally challenge one another constructively as we identify our most important priorities and future opportunities.

In my early assessment of the academic community’s support and operational needs, I see three major areas where we will focus much time and attention.

The first is supporting what I call the “academic life cycle,” which means providing the academic and personal resources necessary to support Ohio State scholars, educators, and practitioners through all phases of their careers. Not only will this approach help us enhance the academic community and experience for our current members, but it will help us successfully recruit and retain a talented and diverse academic community that will view Ohio State as the place where they can come to do their best work.

Also important is continuing to improve upon the strong student structures and support systems that are in place. We must make certain the student academic experience is responsive to individual backgrounds and needs so that all students have an opportunity to fully participate in the life of the campus and achieve their academic and professional goals.

The third area is furthering the inclusion of staff at Ohio State. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with staff in the Office of Academic Affairs, on the university senate, and committees and other forums. I have been deeply impressed by the creativity, commitment, and talent of our staff. As we move forward, ensuring a sense of belonging and inclusion of staff must be one of our highest priorities.

Yet, the most important and foundational work we must do for everyone on our campus to thrive—faculty, students, and staff—is to uphold our shared commitment to fostering a broadly diverse, equitable and fully inclusive campus. This aspiration requires laser focus with our recruitment efforts, and equal attention to developing and refining the programs, tools, policies and actions that foster a true sense of belonging for all members of our community.

There is much to be done. I look to our future shared efforts with optimism and excitement, and with a sense of real and urgent purpose. Now, is an important time for the mission-driven education, discovery and service that define our university.