State of Academic Affairs Senate Address, 2018-19

At the annual State of Academic Affairs address, Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron, PhD, provided an update on the past year's efforts and discuss opportunities for the year ahead.

Thursday, March 28, 2019
3:30 to 5 p.m.
Saxbe Auditorium, Drinko Hall
55 W. 12th Ave.
Columbus, OH 43210


Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron, PhD
State of Academic Affairs, 2018-19

Watch Live

As in past years, the Office of Academic Affairs will provide a live video stream of the Provost's address. Please visit this page at the time of the address to watch.

Please note that the address comes at the conclusion of the regular business of the University Senate meeting, which begins at 3:30 p.m. and takes approximately 30 minutes. As a result, the address may start at a different time than expected.

The video will also be archived on this page along with a transcript of the address within a few days.


President Drake, Secretary Givens, thank you for the opportunity to address the Senate this afternoon on the state of academic affairs. I’m especially grateful for you granting me an hour and 17 minutes. My faculty colleagues, of course, are breathing a sigh of relief because they know faculty are hard-wired for 50 minutes and they stop automatically. I’ll share with you that my last formal time in the classroom, in fact, was a course that I taught from 8 to noon on Saturday mornings. And so your belief is poorly placed.

This is my 4th opportunity to address this group, and it’s always a privilege and a point of great pride to talk about our accomplishments from the previous year. What you’ll hear today is evidence of a university that’s working hard and working together to set a new standard of excellence as we prepare in the coming year to celebrate 150 years of serving the people of Ohio, the nation, and the world.

You’ve heard us talk a lot about our strategic plan. Our vision for the future, the Time and Change strategic plan, is based on the mission and values that we’ve established as a university. And the goals we’ve set — and will continue to refine — are intended to leverage our excellence so that Ohio State will necessarily be part of every significant conversation in higher education.

The pillars we have defined in the strategic plan are purposefully chosen.  We spent significant time thinking about what all of those truly important conversations are that are occurring around us in our disciplines.

One of the most important outcomes that I would argue we could  achieve as an institution is to have Ohio State operating at such a high level that our peers look to us to be part of every one of these significant conversations.  To quote Aaron Burr as represented in the musical “Hamilton,” we want to be in the room where it happens.  Achieving these aspirations will both reflect and enhance our reputation among our peers.

But ultimately the success that we enjoy is a function the collective effort to realize the potential of Ohio State. This is a dynamic, evolving process in which we are all called to participate. The significant conversations in higher education are at our level, the president’s level, my level, but they begin at your level, among your peers, students, staff and faculty of the university within your own disciplines.

I’d like to start today with a few topics that will be familiar from last year’s remarks.

Let me start with General Education.  We have a responsibility as an institution of higher learning to create the future.  It’s a really succinct mission statement for Ohio State and for our peer institutions. Our job is to create the future. We do this through new discoveries, new analyses, new art, and we also create the future through the education of our students.

Our graduates will lead society, but only if we help them by providing the right tools in their education.  And this, I would submit, is the role of general education.  Majors provide an important honing and expansion of skills, but a strong general education platform provides the foundation upon which our students will build their understanding of society — our past, our present, our future — and furthermore it will sharpen our students’ abilities to assemble, evaluate, and align disparate ideas and turn those ideas into action.

Our first comprehensive review of the Gen Ed in 30 years is still a work in progress, but I’ll report that the process is moving forward. A year ago, the review committee led by Professors Larry Krissek, Andrew Martin and Catherine Montalto, and facilitated by Vice Provost Randy Smith, released its draft proposal after soliciting feedback broadly from the university community.

Since then, the colleges and campuses that serve undergraduate students have been studying the proposal and offering modifications. Once all 12 undergraduate-serving colleges and our regional campuses have approved the plan, it will advance to the Council on Academic Affairs and then to this body.

Upon approval, we will tackle the job of implementing the plan, a process that involves, among other things, adjusting budgets, redesigning courses, and reducing major requirements to allow more space for electives, minors and second majors. So there’s still a lot of work to do, but we fully anticipate a launch of the new Gen Ed program in autumn 2021.

Since the University Senate initiated this review two years ago, it’s been a faculty-driven process throughout. To all of you who have given your time and offered your insights, thank you for helping us develop a curriculum that will not only provide our students with a foundation for the deep subject matter of their majors, but also provide them with a broader context needed to be citizens of the world.

Likewise, the university undertook a conversation on graduate education to determine where to focus our attention over the next decade given the changing nature of graduate education itself and the employment options for graduate students. The final report from that exercise identified three target areas: diversity and inclusion, professional development regardless of career path, and the funding environment for graduate education.

Now about a year ago, shortly after I spoke to this body, we were pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Alicia Bertone, professor of veterinary clinical sciences, as vice provost and dean for graduate education. Since that time, she and her team have moved on several fronts, building from the input received from previous student, faculty and staff forums.

This included revising the Graduate School’s fellowship guideline documents with input from all of our graduate programs. These documents are now in use. A second phase is focused on improving efficiency in the fellowship administration process. And to that end, the Graduate School is working with the Enterprise Project to change the fellowship nomination and review process into a “one-stop” operation. Any of you who have been on the review process know that it has had “cumbersome” associated with its descriptor in the past. That one-stop operation  will be compatible with Workday when we go live with that system. The project on nomination and review is actually scheduled to go live sooner for the 2020 fellowship process, which will commence in autumn semester of this calendar year.

Another key deliverable from Alicia and her team was the revision of the graduate student  handbook, which has now been added to the Graduate School website. That was an easy sentence to say, but that was a huge amount of work and a huge amount of consultation to accomplish.

Thanks to the Comprehensive Energy Management partnership, we have added additional financial resources for graduate education. The Grad School dean’s position was endowed and, through that, the Graduate School received a $12.5M endowment for graduate and professional student scholarships and fellowships.

These resources, complemented by ongoing philanthropic efforts and by the continued great work of our faculty to secure extramural funding, will support our aspiration to fund 100 percent of incoming doctoral students and the majority of master’s students for all years they are at Ohio State.

Beginning this semester, the Graduate School has also launched a bridge program that grants graduate standing and provides assistance for up to a year for students whose mentors feel graduate studies are a possibility, but who may lack some key preparation. The students will be mentored by their graduate programs as potential recruits and afforded additional time, coursework or other adaptations to make a successful transition.

A third update topic is our progress in diversity and inclusion, an area that naturally overlaps with access, affordability and excellence from our strategic plan. To accomplish the success and innovation envisioned in our strategic plan, we are creating pathways into the university for qualified students regardless of their means or background. You heard the president talk about this a couple of months ago in his address.  We include in these students who come from Ohio’s major urban centers and from our Appalachian landscapes. And once they’re here, we have to work hard, and are working hard, to ensure they graduate.

The Young Scholars Program, which identifies academically talented, first-generation students with high financial need, serves more than 1,000 students statewide, including 700 students in grades 9 through 12. By the way, it just so happens that Ohio State is celebrating that program’s 30th anniversary today — in fact, immediately after this event.

Last May, I had the pleasure to announce the appointment of James L. Moore III as vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer of the university.  James had served, as you’re likely aware,  in an interim leadership role in that office during the previous year, and under his direction the university has continued to make significant strides.

For example, we pursued and captured key grant support, including $4.5 million award from the National Science Foundation to expand our efforts to retain and graduate more under-represented students pursuing STEM degrees. That’s the largest federal grant ever obtained by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Furthermore, we forged several key partnerships. For example:

JPMorgan Chase made a $2.5 million investment in the Young Scholars and Morrill Scholars programs. I’ll remind you that the Morrill Scholars is the origin of our two most recent Rhodes Scholars from here at Ohio State.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded us a grant of
$1.4 million to help us provide child-care services for 45
Pell-eligible student-parents;

And Columbus philanthropists Missy and Bob Weiler gave more than $800,000 to create the Dr. James L. Moore III Scholars Program to support undergraduate students transferring from Columbus State to Ohio State. In any given year, Columbus State represents about 50 percent of the transfer students coming in to the Columbus campus.

It’s important to reiterate that our efforts to improve access and affordability, and diversity and inclusion, also are efforts to raise our level of excellence. We can’t be the university we aspire to be, we can’t fully serve the people of Ohio and the world, without embracing different ideas, voices, and experiences. It’s the lifeblood of a university and a source of its greatness.

Our regional campuses are critical in pursuit of this because they provide the opportunity for any Ohio high-school graduate to share in the Buckeye experience and earn an Ohio State degree.

The expansion of the Buckeye Opportunity Program to the regional campuses, which began this semester, is meant to do just that. The program ensures that all Ohio resident, Pell-eligible students who carry a full-time academic program and remain in good academic status, and complete or enroll in the university exploration course, will have their tuition and mandatory fees covered after all other aid is received.

Our hope, and you heard the president talk about this previously, is that by reducing financial stress, and perhaps by removing the need to work additional jobs, students can focus on academics and make progress toward their degrees. We’ll be watching closely for the retention- and graduation-rate metrics of students affected by these programs.

In addition, we’re helping students on our regional campuses by expanding learning communities, identifying and engaging tutors to assist in traditional stumbling-block courses, and adding advising capacity on several campuses. And just last month we were pleased to announce the expansion of STEP — the Second-year Transformational Experience Program — to the regional campuses as a three-year pilot program beginning Autumn Semester 2019.

Our focus on diversifying our faculty continues to be critically important, as well.  Just last week, Kay Wolf and James Moore led a discussion with our deans at our spring retreat on tools to better support our priority to have a more diverse and excellent faculty.  And we know that we still have work to do there.

Fourth on my review list is teaching and learning. In his address to the Senate two months ago, President Drake noted the progress of the University Institute for Teaching and Learning and its Teaching Support Program, which UITL launched last autumn.

As of mid-March, 1,157 eligible faculty had completed the first two components of the Teaching Support Program and are now eligible to take part in the third section of the program — instructional redesign — which has just launched this semester. By applying the evidence-based practices learned in the first two components — the Teaching Practices Inventory and the online modules and readings — faculty are encouraged to transform an instructional strategy they have used in the past, or perhaps to develop a new approach to improve student learning and to enhance their own classroom experience.  

We are watching eagerly to see the results of the instructional innovations that our faculty develop and look forward to sharing the high-impact practices of faculty across the university.

By the way, just and editorial comment — I encourage our eligible faculty to take advantage of the Teaching Support Program to enhance your own development and to further support the students in your classrooms.  Many of you have begun the curriculum. In fact, about twice as many have started at least the inventory compared to those who have completed both the inventory and learning modules. I’ll just plant the seed that May might be a great time to finish that out. Think about passing that on. It seems like a good idea.

While I’m on the subject, I’m happy to tell you that the next academic year, 2020, we will  offer the Teaching Support Program to our graduate students. We’ve worked with Jack Miner and his team in the Registrar’s Office so that grad students who complete the program will have a designation of teaching preparation added to their transcripts.  I encourage our graduate students — and not just our TAs, but all of graduate students — to see this as something that will set them apart from their peers graduating from other institutions.

And just as we are investing in our teaching faculty, we are also investing in our academic advisors, and for exactly the same reason: They have tremendous impact on student success.

As part of the university’s commitment to advisors, the Career Roadmap for advisors was developed and included pay equity adjustments and implementation of a new job family focused on advising. Taken together, those steps will allow advisors to grow in their roles without having to leave the profession or the university. 

In addition, Ohio State has created the John Wanzer Professional Development fund, which will provide funds each year for continuing education that will enable advisors to become better informed about the latest research in student success, including technologies, evidence-based interventions, and data-informed decision-making. 

The driving purpose, as you can imagine, behind our efforts to enhance teaching and learning is to ensure our graduates have the knowledge, skills, and resilience to adjust to a constantly changing world.  In other words, we’re committed to the fact that outcomes matter.

Governor DeWine actually made workforce development a priority for his administration. I realize we don’t call what we do, as a general rule, workforce development. But we are, in fact, producing graduates who power society into the future.

Whether it’s engineers or accountants, health care professionals or lawyers, the people who feed us or the people who inspire us with art and literature, our graduates are the leaders of the next generation.

Many of you were here two months ago when President Drake mentioned this, but I think it bears repeating. Last fall, a Times Higher Education survey of employers named our Ohio State graduates as No. 17 nationally in employability, and No. 2 behind only the University of California at Berkeley among public universities.  It’s a real testament to our students and to the effort that our faculty writ large take in preparing them for the future.

At the core, we aspire to create a culture of learning in our students so they are both equipped and inclined to be life-long learners, whether it’s for professional development or for the sheer enjoyment of learning. We owe the future an agile, well-educated citizenry.

Our online expansion and the growth of our certificate programs greatly support that goal. It was just six years ago we created the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, and we now have 19 degree programs and 12 certificate programs that are available online.

Equally telling, nearly 42 percent of our Columbus undergraduate students this semester are taking a least one online course section.  Nearly 42 percent. In fact, this semester there are more registrations in general education courses being offered online than in face-to-face sections. In many ways, we have surpassed our expectations for expanding the Ohio State experience through hybrid and online delivery.

But it’s about more than expansion. It’s about quality.
U.S. News & World Report has ranked our bachelor’s degree online programs No. 3 in the nation among all public and private universities, and our online graduate nursing program is No. 1 among public universities.

Further, we’re helping to address the needs of both our students and the state with the addition of new micro-credential programs, including stand-alone certificates. Those sorts of programs allow our students, and Ohioans in general, to receive additional education focused in an area within a compressed timeline. 

In 2016, the Council on Academic Affairs of the Senate approved a template for certificate approval that covers undergraduate, graduate, and workforce development options. And since then, 27 new for-credit certificates have been approved supplementing a similar number of already-established certificates. In addition we currently offer approximately 50 not-for-credit certificates.

Let me highlight the added value of this first for current students and then for what I refer to as returning students.

For current students, the certificate programs provide an opportunity to supplement their education by exploring a topic apart from their major. Take, for example, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion certificate that was approved by the Arts and Sciences curriculum committee and is making its way to the Council on Academic Affairs.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, one of five certificates that Arts and Sciences hopes to have ready for fall delivery, focuses on three dimensions that are often responsible for major divisions in society: social class and economic inequalities; race and ethnicity; and gender. So consequently, the curriculum would include courses from areas as diverse as sociology, comparative studies, geography, political science, economics, African American and African Studies, and Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies.

For working Ohioans, those returning students, the certificate and micro-credential programs create a path that could lead to new career opportunities and promotions. Included among the programs that we’re developing and offer are partnerships with major employers such as Ford, General Motors, JP Morgan Chase, and the Ohio Department of Public Safety. We anticipate adding more certificates in the future and will be committed to evaluating them, of course, to ensure that they meet the rigor that defines all of our programs.

My fifth reflection is to update you on a conversation that actually took up at our Academic Leaders Forum last September. Every fall we gather all of our academic leaders — chairs, directors, deans, vice provosts — together for a retreat for a day to discuss the scholarship of leadership. And one of our topics last year was how to establish an equitable and predictable culture of reward for faculty.

This is an important issue that affects not only promotion and tenure, but it affects how we teach and how we recognize new forms of scholarship. It’s particularly relevant because our methods of working have become more interconnected and interdisciplinary, and the products of our scholarly work are, in fact, sometimes seen as unconventional, relative to our past assessments.

Kay Wolf, our recently promoted senior vice provost, is ensuring that this conversation continues.  

Just think for a moment about our new faculty hires and how they conduct their work. You know, we bring them in seeking innovation and fresh ideas. We bring them here actually to change the trajectory of their  disciplines. But let’s ask this question: Are we truly prepared to evaluate and reward their approach to their work. How do we reward faculty who apply their scholarship in nontraditional ways — for example, through service, collaborative teaching, interdisciplinary initiatives, community-engaged scholarship, or digital research?

Arriving at solutions for equitable reward takes time, but we are making progress. Across the university, Kay has worked just in the past year with approximately 30 unites to update their APT documents, often to reflect a greater emphasis on team research and teaching expectations. Additionally, funding expectations are now often defined to include entrepreneurial and industry sources, not just federal funding sources that have been the standards in many disciplines.

The flexibility that colleges and units have in the ATP process affords the opportunity to regularly refine our standards of excellence and to revise the documents that define the criteria. We will continue this important conversation across the university.  

Before I spend a few minutes looking toward the year ahead, let me take a moment to reflect on our academic leadership team here at Ohio State.

Alan Michaels, dean of the Moritz College of Law since 2008, will be stepping down to return to teaching and research. Likewise, Bill Martin is stepping down after six years as dean of the College of Public Health. I’d like to offer them my sincere thanks for their hard work and dedication. Their pursuit of excellence exemplifies the spirit of leadership that that we have here at Ohio State.

In addition to searches in those colleges, we are working hard to fill the position of executive dean and vice provost in Arts and Sciences. Jan Box-Steffensmeier has been leading that college in an interim capacity since last July, and I’m so very grateful for her exceptional leadership.

Our efforts in each of these colleges will yield fruit. We have progressed well and hope to bring these searches to conclusion in the next couple of weeks.

Within Academic Affairs, we are also in the midst of searches to fill the position of vice provost for academic policy and faculty resources, Kay Wolf’s previous role, and the position of associate vice president for our newly created Office of Institutional Equity that will roll up Title IX, AEA, EEO and a whole alphabet soup of other things that are very important for us to attend to.

In the past year, a. number of leaders have come on board or have been reappointed. I’ve mentioned a few of them, and you’ll see  those individuals on the screen behind me. I’m so appreciative when our faculty colleagues step forward to take on leadership positions. The shared governance that’s represented by this body and the willingness of faculty to step up and provide leadership is really what leads this university forward.

For the coming year, I’ve actually challenged all of my vice provosts to adopt a model of engaging faculty administrative fellows in their offices.  These temporary appointments will do even more to ensure that we have a robust faculty voice in academic affairs here at Ohio State.

 In addition to the appointments and reappointments that you saw illustrated, stay tuned, we will have other announcements coming in the near future to a station near you.

One last thought while I’m on the topic of leadership. I can’t see through the light here, but I’ll chance it.

You may know that our senior vice president for student life, Javaune Adams-Gaston, is leaving Ohio State to assume the presidency at Norfolk State University in Virginia.

Dr. J, I know you’re still recuperating from knee surgery. There’s a wave; she’s back there. How about a round of applause? 

I think I speak for everyone here, and for the university community in general, when I say that you will be dearly missed. Your leadership over the past more than 10 years has had an extraordinary impact on the quality of student life and learning here at Ohio State. I’m certain that you will find as much love and admiration and success at Norfolk State as you have enjoyed here. And please know that we send our very best wishes with you and Dimitri as you go on to  this next exciting chapter of your life. So, thanks so much, Dr. J.

Now, let me shift gears, and I’ll close out my remarks today with a focus on the year ahead. And I’ll start specifically with two items. I’ve reflected on the strategic plan and the importance of the strategic plan in driving what we do and, yes, we’re doing more planning. And, yes, it’s absolutely essential that you be engaged.

Those areas, research and global engagement, are absolutely critical to building up our Time and Change strategic plan.

These areas are fundamental to our mission. We cannot be a leading national public research university without being a leading global public research university.

In the past year we’ve had the pleasure to welcome new leaders in research and in international affairs — Morley Stone as senior vice president for research, and Gil Latz as vice provost for global strategies and international affairs — and each of them is in the midst of a strategic planning process designed to support our university’s plan.  

Through the work undertaken by Morley and his team, the Research and Creative Expression pillar is being developed to really enhance our position among the top national and international public universities.

To ensure that we heard from the diverse voices of our research and creative enterprise, we surveyed our community, and more than 750 of you took time to respond to give guidance to this effort. So clearly there is substantial interest in the outcomes of this.

As part of their planning, Morley’s team is taking a closer look at each phase of the research cycle. This includes examining how to maximize funding and how to identify opportunities well before research begins. If you’ve been paying attention to your email — I realize mine go to your spam folder, so look there if you missed these — you ‘ll have seen the newly announced Strategic Research Travel Program, which supports our goals of getting ahead of the research process by providing travel funds so that Ohio State faculty and PIs can make early contact with potential funders.

We are a research powerhouse now, but we can be better.  Best practice actually demonstrates that our faculty can become engaged not just in responding to research RFPs, but actually in helping to craft those research RFPs.  It’s just another example. We want to be in those conversations. We want to be in that room where it happens.

Morley’s team is also looking at ways to multiply impact once research is finished — for example, through increased licensing and commercialization opportunities.

And at the same time, they’re studying how to support faculty retention and recruitment, and how to build research infrastructure that is globally leading, including in the West Campus innovation district.

And, significantly, they’re looking at how to enhance community impact and increase the interconnections of our research programs.

All of this, of course, is meant to enhance a research enterprise that’s already recognized for its excellence — one, in fact, in which over 140 different national and international learned societies have recognized our faculty just this year with a variety of awards.

In fact, Ohio State will be on the world stage April 8 when Distinguished University Professor Rattan Lal is awarded the Japan Prize, one of the most prestigious honors in science and technology.

He’ll be recognized for his research on sustainable soil management and its role in improving global food security and mitigating climate change. He’ll receive his award in a ceremony that will be attended by the emperor and empress of Japan, government leaders, foreign ambassadors, eminent scholars, and members of the global press corps.

Like Morley, Gil and his team in International Affairs are involved in planning that will also advance the university’s Time and Change plan.  Specifically, they are focused on communicating our international successes as they relate to the five pillars of the plan.

As part of the strategic planning process, they’re collaborating with colleges and many stakeholders to take a look at the exemplary practices at universities around the country to find the right strategies that can enhance great ideas we’ve created here at Ohio State but build on the many strengths and our history of global activity and accomplishments.

More than ever, our university’s progress depends on the global alliances that we establish with universities, with private-sector partners, and with governments and NGOs. It depends on our ability to broaden the international education of our students by providing more opportunities for them to study, travel and work abroad. And it truly depends on our ability to attract the world’s best and brightest students and faculty to Ohio State’s classrooms, labs and studios.

In the international perspective, we’ll look at our research portfolio, our teaching collaborations, how we serve learning for both domestic and international students, and how we take our great engagement even more effectively into the global community.  And we’ll examine how best to leverage our Global Gateway presences to underscore our impact.

As we move forward, you’ll be hearing more about a planning committee that’s just being formed — involving colleges across the university that will help us develop a strategic, comprehensive plan to identify specific goals to integrate global opportunities university-wide.

The last topic today I want to touch on today is the notion of working across boundaries, of taking full advantage of the comprehensive nature of this university through mechanisms that pull people together. This is the multiplier that will change the trajectory of Ohio State.

At the heart of it, meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration requires that we bring two things to the table. First, we need a deep knowledge of our disciplines. We can’t be effective across disciplines without strength within our disciplines. And second, we need to bring a willingness, an eagerness, in fact, to  engage with scholars from other disciplines. Excellent teams build from excellent individuals on those teams.

Our “breadth and depth” — a phrase that comes up a lot when we talk about Ohio State — is the rich, abundant soil where interdisciplinarity takes root. The expertise we bring and the remarkable range of disciplines that we embrace set us apart from most universities because of the abundant opportunities they produce.

We see this in endeavors big and small — for example, in our curriculum.  Our faculty across the university are constantly re-creating our curriculum to embrace emerging opportunities.  The successful creation of the data analytics program just a few years ago is one tangible example, which we recently highlighted to our Board of Trustees.

An emerging example is our eSports program, which has garnered national attention even in its early formative stages.  This program would provide an interdisciplinary curriculum spanning five colleges. Engineering, Education and Human Ecology, Arts and Sciences, Business, and Medicine are all engaged in the planning. In addition, the program will offer unique opportunities that will extend our research, and there will be unique opportunities that spill over into student life, an added value for the student experience.

Likewise, the College of Arts and Sciences has augmented its curricula by launching five new, interdisciplinary undergraduate majors this year. These integrated majors span the spectrum. For example, the Italian Studies major involves courses from departments that include Classics, English, History, History of Art, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Music, and the Knowlton School of Architecture. And, I would assume, Italian.

And the integrated major in Math and English — which I find absolutely intriguing —  combines the knowledge, precision and analytical skills acquired through the Department of Mathematics with the reading, composition methods, writing and information-processing taught by our colleagues in the Department of English.

And just as this is true in our curriculum, it’s true in our research. Just a couple of months ago we approved the now newly established Sustainability Institute, led by Faculty Director Elena Irwin and Executive Director Kate Bartter. And that initiative embodies this experience.

Sustainability is an inherently interdisciplinary topic, encompassing natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, engineering, public health, business, law, planning, policy, arts and humanities.

From our discussion of the institute proposal, you’ll recall that  there are more than 600 faculty who have self-identified as being engaged in sustainability research across the university, and we offer 74 undergraduate majors, master's programs and doctoral degrees that list at least one sustainability learning outcome as a component of their program.

Few universities can match this comprehensive approach, and few universities can offer the breadth of expertise, from climate change to materials and energy technology innovation, to resilient infrastructure design, to environmental health.  All of those opportunities blending together create an arena where faculty, staff and students can gather to share ideas really provides an opportunity that is unparalleled among our peers.

There are an awful lot of examples stellar interdisciplinary work, and I’ll just highlight a few that I see as making a difference, or on the cusp of making a difference, in the lives Ohioans and people across the nation and around the world.

Let me start by just considering the work around water quality and particularly harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and other Ohio waters. These problems affect and threaten our citizens’ drinking water. Ohio State is working with researchers from nine other Ohio universities and with multiple state agencies on the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative, which is a project funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and managed by Ohio Sea Grant and The University of Toledo.

Now in its fourth year, the project has included partners from as far away in the U.S. as South Dakota and partners from across the ocean in Japan.  This program, which aligns with a current initiative in the  DeWine administration, one of the significant initiatives, is now  attracting significant funding from federal competitive grant sources as well.  And this success builds from a culture that enables faculty to find and engage with scholars across disciplines and across campuses.

We were one of four U.S. universities invited to compete in the Alliance for the American Dream initiative sponsored by the Schmidt Futures organization. For those of you who don’t make the immediate connection, Eric Schmidt of Schmidt Futures is the former CEO of Google and Alphabet. Three Ohio State-led teams competed, and I’m happy to say that a project called the “Power of Home” was selected to advance to the final round of this competition.

In all, 12 teams from the four universities — along with us, it was Arizona State, University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin — took part in this competition, which focused on developing ideas to strengthen the middle class and help move people out of poverty.

Dr. Stephanie Moulton of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs leads the team. She and her colleagues and community partners hope to leverage homeownership to improve social mobility. To do so, the team is planning to develop tools and resources that will help low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers achieve sustained economic security.  Many folks in this position find themselves in their first home with no cash when the first emergency emerges. And so this project is designed to build resilience into their lives.

This is just one more example of how the intellectual power of Ohio State can translate into benefits for the society that supports our university.

Our land-grant heritage drives us to constantly think about these sorts of ideas — how do we consolidate our strengths to address apparently intractable problems, and how do we translate our discoveries into practice for the benefit of society?

The opioid crisis, and addiction more broadly, is one very obvious such problem, and we have an opportunity to leverage our wide-ranging experience to fight this scourge. In the coming weeks we actually hope to hear back, favorably, from the National Institutes of Health about a grant proposal that would bring together a broad cross-section of experts to develop and implement a set of evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat opioid abuse in 19 Ohio counties, including Franklin County. If funded, the grant would designate Ohio as one of three research sites under the HEALing Communities Study.

Rebecca Jackson, of the College of Medicine and the director of Ohio State’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science, is leading the effort and serving as principal investigator. But 36 other faculty are participating, representing the colleges of Medicine, Public Health, Public Affairs, Social Work, Nursing, Education and Human Ecology, Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and CFAES through OSU Extension.

The partnership supports and is integrated with RecoveryOhio, which is Governor DeWine’s statewide initiative to reverse the addiction crisis.  It also involves multiple state and federal agencies, and experts from five other Ohio academic institutions — including the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve, Ohio University, University of Toledo, and Wright State. And it also involves Nationwide and Cincinnati Children’s Hospitals. I would submit that it take a place like ours to convene a conversation like that and lead us forward to success.

While the national grant would jump start our efforts on this topic, we will move forward with our multidisciplinary approach no matter what the outcome of the review process is.  There is just too much at stake to ignore the issue, and we have so much to offer.

Our students also know the inspirational power of crossing boundaries. For example, look at our perennially successful EcoCAR team, which has placed first for the past five consecutive years in the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. 

The team is currently competing against 11 other universities to re-engineer a Chevy Blazer to equip it with smart technology. The 85 members of this team at Ohio State represent majors as diverse as engineering, strategic communications, design, and zoology.

Or consider LaunchpadOSU, a weekend startup event where teams of students from a broad cross-section of majors recently competed to develop ideas for businesses.  The same goes for HackOhi/O, which grows in popularity each year. Of the more than 750 students who compete to develop technology apps, devices and projects, more than a  quarter of them come from disciplines outside the fields of engineering.

Cross-over collaborations and interdisciplinary partnerships are at the core of what we do here at Ohio State, and while these unions begin on campus they almost always end up extending into the community where they improve lives. We see that with our work on Lake Erie, with projects that emerged from the Alliance for the American Dream, and with our aspirations on our efforts to address addiction.

But it’s evident in less obvious ways, too — for instance the joy an audience feels when our dance majors collaborate with BalletMet, or the comfort that home-bound adults get when our Nursing, Vet Med and Social Work students care for them and their pets.

Our strengths lie in the depth and diversity of our knowledge, but our impact comes from how adroitly we bring people together to maximize those strengths, and how well we use that synergy to help our communities — in other words, how well we engage with the world.

Outreach and engagement — the translation of our research findings and practice to solve world problems — has always been an integral part of our mission, and it will continue to be every bit as important in our next 150 years. I’d like to thank Associate Vice Provost Stephen Myers for his commitment in leading the Office of Outreach and Engagement for the past five years, and I look forward to its continued success under Vice Provost Ryan Schmiesing. 

As I close today, let me reiterate that we have a compass to guide our direction as a university, but understand that our exact course is far from set. The Time and Change strategic plan was created to hold us accountable but also to be flexible to allow us to refine our route to get where we need to be as a global public flagship research university.

All of us have a voice in the course of this university. At the heart of our planning initiatives are the significant conversations that inform those initiatives. And the insights and experience of the faculty and of the broader university community have driven and will continue to drive those conversations. Ultimately, we are called to look into the future and to marshal the courage to initiate change — not merely react to it. 

This is the privilege we enjoy and hold dear as the stewards of The Ohio State University.

So I urge you to take part in those conversations that are most important in your disciplines. Be in the room where it happens, in the area that you touch. The strength of Ohio State is our collective desire to make a difference, and we are making a difference in so many different areas of society. But we can do more.

By continuing to work together, continuing to open our minds to new perspectives and embrace new challenges, we can become the university we are destined to be — a university at the heart of every significant conversation in higher education.  

Let’s make the most of that opportunity.

President Drake, Secretary Givens, this concludes my report on the state of academic affairs.