The promise of a new academic year

Academic Voices: A Provost's Blog

The promise of a new academic year

The 2023-24 academic year is upon us, and with it comes the arrival of many new faces to our university community. It is a pleasure to welcome faculty, staff, and students; the dawn of another academic year brings opportunities to continue our momentum in fostering academic excellence.

Last fall, the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) launched the Academic Plan. As we approach the one-year anniversary of that achievement this November, I am excited about the progress we continue to make across the academic enterprise.

During the coming days, we will launch the first Academic Plan Year in Review, which will provide a snapshot of the extraordinary work that our faculty, staff, and students have done this past year. I look forward to sharing it with our university community. But, in the meantime, I would like to share some of the dedicated work of so many colleagues who continue to advance excellence at Ohio State.

Civil Discourse Project
Academic excellence requires a diverse faculty, staff, and student body who have the freedom to conduct scholarship in a range of areas and explore an array of ideas. I spoke about this topic at Convocation, an annual event that welcomes new students to our campuses. Some of my remarks were centered around the Civil Discourse Project, which aims to animate our Shared Values of Excellence and Impact, Diversity and Innovation, Inclusion and Equity, Care and Compassion, and Integrity and Respect through a uniquely Ohio State experience. Discussing controversial and difficult ideas with civility is a skill and provides a cornerstone of academic freedom.

This week, Professor Angus Fletcher gave the annual Education for Citizenship address. His presentation on citizenship was extremely well done, and you can view it here. I am excited that the second cohort of Center for Ethics and Human Values (CEHV) Civil Discourse Fellows will continue their leadership as ambassadors for dialogue that values individual differences and treats others with dignity and respect regardless of differing opinions. For undergraduate students who are interested in joining the next cohort, applications are being accepted until September 8.

As we welcome so many new faculty, staff, and students from around the country and globe to Ohio State, we remain strongly committed to maintaining a culture that embraces a wide range of backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives, ensuring all can belong and fully participate in the life of our campuses.

Faculty eminence
Ohio State’s faculty, through scholarship and education, drive our academic mission. The Academic Plan makes a commitment to support our faculty, with the goal of advancing faculty eminence and further building a vibrant and inclusive community of scholars. Faculty were a top priority over the summer. Interfolio Faculty Information System will now replace Vita and will make the process of creating a dossier much easier. Later this academic year, we will launch surveys from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) to capture faculty well-being and gain understanding about why faculty members leave the university.

I would like to thank Jan Box-Steffensmeier, Distinguished University Professor and the Vernal G. Riffe Professor in the Department of Political Science, for leading the Good-to-Great Grants selection process. This grant program will enable tenure-initiating units that received funding from the Good-to-Great Grants Program to begin their work with an eye toward achieving excellence while leveraging cross-university partnerships.

I am saddened to mark the passing of one of our most esteemed scholars, Robert Holub, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of German. In our last email exchange, Bob and I discussed how much he enjoyed reviewing the Good-to-Great Grants and the breadth of programs and departments that comprise a great university.

Hiring new faculty is one of the most important responsibilities of a university. With the advent of Workday, we have the opportunity to revisit our hiring practices across Ohio State. To that end, we are preparing to launch a new faculty hiring framework, which will provide guidelines, tools, and trainings to support all faculty recruitment and hiring. The framework will be implemented this fall, and details will be shared soon.

We have launched our new Faculty Affairs website, and under the leadership of Associate Vice Provost Kaprea Johnson, we have created a new faculty development program. OAA will also focus on awards and recognition under the leadership of Andréa Grottoli, professor in the School of Earth Sciences, who serves as an OAA faculty fellow.

Access and affordability across Ohio State
We continue the momentum in our efforts to make an Ohio State education more affordable for a greater number of learners. Last year, we welcomed the inaugural cohort of Scarlet & Gray Advantage students. Offices across the university have worked together to link the cohort program, student support programs, operational improvements, and scholarship fundraising to make Ohio State more accessible and affordable for all students. This academic year, I am delighted that we are welcoming an even larger group — 150 young people from across Ohio — to our second cohort.

By working closely with this group of young people, we are learning critical lessons about how students navigate financial aid, internships, scholarships, and the offices that promote access and affordability. We are better integrating offices across the university, and this year we launched the student financial success team under the leadership of Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management James Orr.

In addition, ScholarshipUniverse, an easy-to-use online scholarship-matching platform, helps students better search and apply for financial aid opportunities. We continue to expand the platform across our university with a significant increase in student engagement and applications.

Our regional campuses provide opportunities for more students to begin their path toward a bachelor’s degree, and last year we opened the Buckeye Opportunity Program during the first semester of enrollment. In addition, we have supported the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology program’s growth through student scholarship opportunities.

New initiatives
The spring and summer months saw major changes in online education. A big thank you to Associate Vice President for Online Education Rob Griffiths, who oversaw the realigning of offices devoted to distance education. In June, Jason Lemon became our first vice provost and dean for online learning. Dean Lemon is implementing a transformative, learner-centric vision for online education. In addition, he is creating a new platform called Ohio State Online, which will focus primarily on completely online advanced degree programs.

Pictured (L to R): Chris Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory; Melissa Gilliam, executive vice president and provost; Kristen Fussell, associate director of the Ohio Sea Grant Program; and, Suzanne Gray, associate professor and Stone Lab associate director for academic programming and research.


A highlight of my summer was joining Cathann Kress, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, for a trip to the Stone Lab on Lake Erie. Stone Lab is a tremendous asset in freshwater biology research, science education, and outreach that offers field trips, professional development workshops, and for-credit courses. One of the most rewarding aspects of my role as provost is the opportunity to engage with different corners of Ohio State, including our regional campuses and research facilities that span the state. These visits serve as tangible reminders of the extraordinary reach of this great university.

Through Stone Lab, the School of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Sustainability Institute, the School of Earth Sciences, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, Facilities Operations and Development, and other entities, Ohio State plays a significant role in food, agriculture, and other aspects of our environment. Through the Advancing Sustainability at Ohio State initiative, a dedicated committee of Ohio State faculty assessed 31,000 data points throughout the spring to develop recommendations on how the university can prepare our students to take advantage of the growing workforce demand and blossom into tomorrow’s leaders. In July, we hosted a visiting committee that brought together a group of seven leaders from academia and industry from around the country that submitted a report and initial recommendations. This effort now turns to research and community engagement.

Looking ahead to October, I am excited that the new Center for Software Innovation will present Startup Midwest, an inaugural two-day summit for early-stage technology entrepreneurs and others who are interested in broadening their perspective as our campuses and region emerge as a hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and product development activity. The center will be another vital asset for our university as we expand opportunities for students in entrepreneurship and advance education in software innovation, product management, sales, and marketing.

New faces
I am delighted to welcome Ohio State alumna Deanna Kroetz as our next dean of the College of Pharmacy, and I want to thank outgoing Dean Henry Mann for his dedication and leadership of the college. Finally, just last week, we announced that Kaya Şahin will join Ohio State on November 1 as our next vice provost for global strategies and international affairs. I want to thank Gil Latz for his service as vice provost, especially given the challenges of the global pandemic.

It is always such an exciting time as a new academic year commences at this remarkable university, and this year, I feel an added sense of optimism about what lies ahead for Ohio State. I wish you tremendous success in all your endeavors this semester and throughout the academic year.