A Moment of Opportunity

Academic Voices: A Provost's Blog

A Moment of Opportunity

May 11, 2022

In reflecting on my first academic year at Ohio State, I am above all grateful for the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who have made me feel at home since I arrived in September. In my conversations across our campuses, you have shared with me your enthusiasm for this university and your compassion for one another. You also have shared your ambitions and frustrations—along with your ideas of what the future of academic life at Ohio State should, and could, look like.

As we close this year and transition to the next, I am energized by your perspective and spirit of innovation. The concurrence of President Johnson’s bold vision for Ohio State, new academic leaders, and increased activity on our campuses affords us a special moment of opportunity where we can work together to accelerate our academic mission and impact.

To take advantage of this momentum, we will work to set out a transformational academic vision for Ohio State by creating and operationalizing an academic plan for the first time in nearly two decades.

First steps have included lots of listening. Conversations with deans and other university leaders, faculty groups, and staff members have shown that, despite interdisciplinary initiatives that have brought people together, like the Discovery Themes, Ohio State is still dotted with too many academic silos. Duplication of programs is another recurrent theme of these conversations. So is a widespread belief that our existing structures can at times make it difficult to achieve progress. These initial broad discussions are highlighting what we can stop doing—and where we can do more, if we bring inspiration and discipline to the table. In other words, we are getting a good sense of how Ohio State can achieve greater academic excellence.

President Johnson has set an ambitious agenda for academic, research, service, talent and culture, and operational excellence. Our Academic Plan will support President Johnson’s bold vision for Ohio State’s future by setting priorities for student academic excellence, faculty eminence, and service to our local, regional, and global communities. Talent, culture, and inclusive excellence will animate all of those priorities, with technological infrastructure and digital innovation underpinning them.

How will we arrive at those priorities? We will be engaging a broad collective of campus constituents and working as a community to identify the priorities and describe the steps that will lead to their implementation. The emphasis will be on inclusivity of voices. Only through such collaboration can we meet all our objectives. I look forward to this planning effort as a community-building event, with all 15 colleges and all four regional campuses participating, and their deans leading and advising us as we proceed.

Some of the efforts that will help define and drive the Academic Plan are already under way. For example, we have a newly revised General Education curriculum that will provide a more unified and intentional undergraduate experience for students beginning this autumn. The RAISE (Race, Inclusion, and Social Equity) initiative, which was launched last year, will allow us to hire and retain faculty from a range of disciplines whose work addresses social equity and racial disparities. Our new Provost’s Early Career Scholars program and our Office of Dual Careers and Faculty Relocation will provide additional support in not only attracting new faculty but also supporting them over the entirety of the faculty lifecycle. This will support President Johnson’s broader strategy to hire a minimum of 350 net new tenured and tenure-track faculty in the next decade. Informed by the Shared Values Initiative, the Academic Plan will also reinforce the values, principles, and behaviors that embody Ohio State’s ethical culture.

Another vital component of our academic planning has been a realigning of the Office of Academic Affairs to better support our academic enterprise, our campus operations, and our organizational impact. This will make OAA more nimble and adept at serving our faculty, students, and communities while better positioning us to facilitate the implementation of the Academic Plan.

Our work is also happening alongside efforts in the Wexner Medical Center and the Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge, which are currently developing new strategic plans. These plans, like ours, will support President Johnson’s agenda for excellence. The three plans will reinforce and empower each other because they are focused by design on the same goals. That intentional overlap will speed the accomplishment of those goals threefold.

In the Office of Academic Affairs, we expect to have compiled our initial findings by August and then to develop and launch the Academic Plan in the 2022-2023 academic year. It will be a living document, enriched over time by the impacts of new colleagues, multiplying collaborations, and as-yet unpredicted partnerships.

This is indeed a special moment. It is our opportunity to develop a comprehensive academic vision for The Ohio State University. United by this vision, we can make truly strategic decisions about our shared academic enterprise. And as we do that, Ohio State will be well on its way—as President Johnson has charged—to becoming the model land-grant university for the 21st century.