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BGSU President delivers state of the university address

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Bowling Green State University president Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey delivered here state of the university address Wednesday afternoon:

"We have had a good beginning to the 2012-13 academic year and today we are here to celebrate our successes and outline our priorities and goals moving forward and update you on plans for BGSU's future.

In short, the state of the University is very strong and its future is in our hands. We continue to be ranked as a first tier public university by US News and World Report and our first year programs have been recognized in that publication as well.

Enrollment, while down modestly this year, is solid. And our students, faculty and staff continue to be recognized for their work and achievements both in and out of the classroom. The completion of the first phase of our campus master plan has begun to create a vibrant atmosphere on campus.

Like our peers in higher education in Ohio and throughout the world, we do face significant challenges. But I'm confident that together, we can make this great University even stronger. On April 15, 2013, we will have the Higher Learning Commission, our accrediting body, on campus, and it is very important to all of us that the visit be a successful one for BGSU.

Enrollment

First, let's talk about the lifeblood of any University – enrollment. We've done well over the last several years, with several large freshman classes. But I believe we still have tremendous growth potential. And our state needs us to do more.

Ohio's numbers may surprise you - - in that less than one quarter of our residents – 24 percent – hold a bachelor's degree or higher degree compared to 30 percent nationally. Even more startling is that means Ohio ranks as the 39th state in nation in the percentage of citizens with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Educating more Ohioans is a daunting challenge and the Governor and Ohio Board of Regents have called upon BGSU and our peer universities and community colleges to do more.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet with other presidents from colleges and Universities throughout the state to hear the Governor's goals for higher education in Ohio as we approach a new biennium budget.

Let's review the goals:

  1. Increase participation rates in higher education among Ohio high school graduates
  1. Encourage the brightest Ohio high school graduates to continue their education here in Ohio and encourage the brightest students throughout the country to come to Ohio for their higher education experience.
  1. Improve graduation rates and the time it takes to graduate.
  1. Make higher education more affordable.
  1. Graduate students with the skills needed to achieve success in jobs, careers, and post-undergraduate education.
  1. Encourage graduates of Ohio's colleges and universities to stay as they pursue their post-college opportunities.

BGSU's long-term enrollment strategies and goals are designed to meet these needs.

While we have seen enrollment grow in recent years, we have not kept pace with our sister institutions. If you look at the student population growth of the other "four corners" universities  -- Kent State, Miami and Ohio University -- we are lagging behind all of them. We need to do better.

After many consultations and discussions, we've established an enrollment goal of 25,000 students by the year 2020—but we need everyone's help on both the Bowling Green and Firelands' campuses to accomplish this goal. Recruitment of new students and retention of existing students must be the highest priority for all of us.

At the same time, we're committed to improving quality and have set aggressive, but achievable goals for raising the academic profile of our student body.

Under our plan, the incoming class of 2020 will have an average ACT score of 24 – up from 22 today. And an average grade point average of 3.4 – up from 3.27.

So how do we get there? First, we devote more of our resources and energy to recruiting high achieving students. We've already begun that this year, realigning our scholarship offerings to better target these students.

Next, we need to strengthen existing partnerships and develop new relationships with community colleges to increase the number of transfer students and those taking advantage of one-plus-three, two-plus-two, or three-plus-one programs. We'll be pursuing institutional and discipline-specific articulation agreements with 22 community colleges in Ohio.

This is something the governor and board of regents are stressing, and they're right. This is an essential strategy for increasing accessibility to higher education and a priority for the State.

We also need to expand our online and distance learning offerings. These online programs will focus on addressing emerging career paths and job profiles – matching the skills of our graduates with the needs of Ohio's economy.

To achieve our 25,000 goal, we'll also be intensifying our efforts to recruit international students. Asking for assistance from international alumni, international faculty and students will help us meet our goal.

Furthermore, we all understand that improved student retention is absolutely critical.

Recruiting students with a profile more consistent with student success will go a long way, but we also need to continue to work on our retention plan.

The creation of the Learning Commons, and our focus on first-year programming and experiences have laid the groundwork for this strategy. And this year we've begun the next step with the launch of SuccessNet, our new academic progress-reporting system. I've been pleased with how faculty members have embraced the new system and the ongoing dialogue on campus about improving student success. Our next step will be to ensure we have an up to date degree audit system.

Over time, these efforts will help us achieve our goal of an 80% retention rate. And, more importantly increase, graduation rates—another strategic priority for the state.

Increasing graduate enrollment is also an integral part of our long-term strategy for success. By 2020, our goal is to increase graduate student enrollment by 400 students – an average of 50 more graduate students per year – in existing and new programs. The graduate strategic plan developed last year will guide us toward this growth.

Undergraduate Curriculum

The cornerstone of our enrollment plan and the university's ultimate success is the development of a unique undergraduate experience. BGSU has a reputation for its undergraduate experience and we need to build on it.

The new BG Experience will incorporate an innovative general education program with majors that include experiential learning and capstone experiences.

We have some excellent internship and co-op programs here at BGSU. But we need to do more, our ultimate goal is to have every student, regardless of their major complete a co-op or internship prior to graduation. In addition, study abroad and undergraduate research are important components of the BG Experience.

The following are some recent experiences.

Internship - Julia Grummel, a junior from Toledo majoring in digital arts and computer science interned at Adobe Systems this past summer, met its CEO, Shantanu Narayen, a BGSU alum, and Julia continues to work on projects for them.

Undergraduate Research - Justin Grubb, a senior biology major from Worthington, spent the summer in Costa Rica at a national marine park capturing and gathering data on sharks and sea turtles.

Study Abroad - And Kevin DeWitt, a senior international business major, has spent the last year studying at Hunan Normal University in China.

In July, I visited Hong Kong Baptist University, University of Macau, Hunan Normal University, Beijing Institute of Technology, and Beijing Information Science and Technology University to strengthen our existing academic partnerships and explore new ones. We can provide more opportunities for students like Kevin and bring more Chinese students to BGSU. International partnerships are critical to our success as we work to ensure our students are prepared to compete in today's global economy.

The BG experience is also defined by the alignment of curricular and co-curricular programs. From GeoJourney to service learning opportunities and our more than 325 student organizations, co-curricular activities provide vital learning opportunities outside the classroom.

All of these experiences provide a distinctive curriculum that will ensure our graduates are prepared to be successful in the workplace and throughout life.

Centers of Excellence

We continue to develop and strengthen our Centers of Excellence:

1)   Health and wellness across the lifespan

2)   Sustainability and the environment

3)   21st Century Educator Preparation

4)   The Arts and

5)   Developing Effective Businesses and Organizations

Our centers are a showcase of what we do well and how we are serving our state, nation and the world.

I want to stress that the centers aren't restrained by academic disciplines or colleges. They provide a tremendous opportunity to cross disciplines – to reach across the hall or across our campuses to combine our strengths in solving problems and that allows us to focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Our goal for these centers is to build collaborative teaching, research, and outreach programs that will foster BGSU's recognition and reputation.

A great example is the wide array of diverse but interconnected research that BGSU is doing on Lake Erie and is highlighted in the newest BGSU Magazine.

Our research encompasses the work of nearly a dozen professors from both our campuses from biology, chemistry, geography and the school of human movement, sport and leisure studies.

And our students are contributing to these research efforts at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Unraveling the challenges facing Lake Erie helps protect this vital resource and its huge contribution to the regional and state economy.

BGSU faculty, professional staff and students are also contributing to the body of knowledge on health and wellness. At the Intersections in Health and Wellness Conference last week, they shared their research and explored possibilities for further collaborations. Now, we are challenged to take this collaboration to a new level of recognition.

And we were very excited to learn this week that the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education at BGSU has been awarded more than $7 million from the National Science Foundation to fund a five-year project titled "iEvolve with STEM." Students in two school districts in grades three through eight will participate in research projects that will become the context for learning in all of their subjects ... not just in the sciences, but also in the social sciences, language arts, and the fine arts, as well as mathematics. This is an outstanding effort led by Dr. Bob Midden and demonstrates internal university collaboration as well as a partnership with the public school systems.

Big Data Day on Sept. 7 was a resounding success. More than two hundred faculty attended over the course of the afternoon to hear from national experts and faculty colleagues about the research potential presented by the enormous amount of digital information being produced every day in all fields. We must position ourselves to be a leader in business analytics, science, social sciences, humanities, and health information systems.

 

Commitment to Faculty and Staff

Our faculty forms the foundation of BGSU and is key to the success of both our students and the University.

We are committed to investing in our faculty to help ensure their success. Our top priority is finalizing a mutually beneficial contract with the faculty association. We have reached agreement on the majority of issues and a mediator is now in place to help us move forward. I can assure you that I am as eager as the association and its leadership to finalize and implement this contract. We are committed to market salaries for our faculty just as we have market salaries for classified and administrative staff. In addition, I commend Provost Rogers and Chief Diversity Officer Barbara Waddell for their plan to diversify our faculty.

Our administrative and classified staffs also play important roles in our success.

We just launched a questionnaire to aid in an update of the classification specifications for classified staff members. This new system will be specific to the University rather than the statewide classifications currently in use. This important review will allow us to accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of our classified staff – providing more opportunities for advancement and the development of clearer career paths at the university.

You may remember that we completed a reclassification of administrative staff positions last year. This year, based on a recommendation from our efficiency task force, we're streamlining the hiring process for administrative staff and faculty. The effort led by Bill Balzer, Dean of Firelands, has cut the number of steps in that process by half.

Financial state

As I'm sure everyone in this room knows, the financial support from the State of Ohio continues to decline, and is currently less than 24% of our unrestricted operating budget. For this fiscal year, the Board of Trustees approved a combined BG/Firelands unrestricted operating budget of $298.1 million, which is $12.7 million less than our budget in 2009. At the same time, we have about 1,000 more students than we did that year.

I want everyone to know that I recognize how hard they have worked to continue to provide a quality education and learning experience for our students under these circumstances.

It is unlikely that our state support will increase, but the Governor has established a commission chaired by President Gee of The Ohio State University, to review the priorities for the State Subsidy for Instruction. As a result we must look for alternative sources of funding including an increase in grants and contracts, and very importantly, private giving as well, as we must find greater efficiencies.

In recent years the university has been the recipient of substantial support from very generous donors. But, we must expand our reach. To that end, we are in the final stages of hiring a new vice president for advancement—a pivotal position as we look at launching a new comprehensive campaign.

But I have to tell you that one of the things I am most proud of, is how we take care of our own. Last year's Family Campaign was truly remarkable. We received nearly 825 thousand dollars in donations from faculty, staff and retirees, with 16 departments reaching 100% participation. Join me in thanking those units.

How many of you were at the launch of the Legacy Campaign two weeks ago? I find it inspirational that our students have taken on the task to raise $250,000 to create a new gateway to the campus. It was wonderful to hear them talk about the campaign, and the announcement of their two initial gifts totaling $10,000.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions to those campaigns.

As we look forward to this year, I want to engage faculty, staff and students. As part of my commitment to openness and transparency, I've initiated three new ways for us to communicate about BGSU – monthly forums, special open office hours, and a monthly email update to faculty and staff. Times, dates and more information on these opportunities are available on the website.

Research and Economic Development

As we continue to grow our reputation as a research institution, we must also increase our access to private and government grant funding.

As part of our 2020 plan, our goal is to increase outside grants and funding to $30 million and Dr. Mike Ogawa, vice president for research and economic development is leading this effort with our faculty.

Look at just a couple of the examples of innovative research already taking place on this campus.

Dr. Massimo Olivucci (Oh – lih- VOO- chi), and his research group at the Laboratory of Computational Photochemistry and Photobiology have been studying the ability of vertebrates to perceive light in the dimmest conditions. Science Magazine published a paper by Dr. Olivucci on the topic this month.

Dr. Phil Stinson is working with researchers from the Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Public Health on a study of Predictors of Drug Abuse and Patterns of Police Corruption. This is an extension of a larger study that Drs. Stinson and Steve Lab are doing on crime committed by police officers, for which they receive funding from the National Institute of Justice.

The state of Ohio has provided a new report -- Advancing Ohio's Innovation Economy – that provides a roadmap for improving "the collective execution of research commercialization activities" at colleges and universities in the state. We're reviewing the recommendations closely as we develop strategies and plans to increase our own tech transfer and commercialization.

It's part of our goal to create and support a culture of faculty, staff and student entrepreneurship.

Athletics

We are proud of all our athletes. They are scholar athletes in the truest sense of the term. They have the second highest grade point average in the MAC.

This year our women athletes had the highest grade point average in the Mid American Conference and were the recipients of the MAC'S Faculty Athletics Representative Academic Achievement. Bowling Green has won this award three times in the last four years.

Community Collaborations and Partnerships

For more than a century we've had an outstanding partnership with the city of Bowling Green. Earlier this year, Mayor Edwards and I convened a joint task force to analyze our current town-gown relationships and recommend ways we can strengthen those ties.

We had some outstanding ideas and a number of committee members have agreed stay on to help us implement the recommendations.

One result of the task force's work will be the creation of a joint City of Bowling Green and University visitor center. The University and the Convention and Visitors Bureau will staff the center and we'll draw upon the talents of our students in the travel and tourism program. 

And of course, we are pleased about our planned collaboration with Wood County Hospital on a new student health center. Our goal is to enhance the health care options for our students while increasing efficiency. We're finalizing details now and hope to open the new center in the Fall of 2013.

Also in the works is the development of a new crime lab on campus in partnership with the Ohio bureau of criminal investigation. The facility will help build upon our strengths in the sciences and criminal justice while creating an array of new research opportunities for our faculty and internship opportunities for our students. These types of common-sense, public-private partnerships benefit our students, our university and our community.

Campus Master Plan

I hope you share my excitement for the next phase of our campus master plan that focuses on our academic buildings beginning with our traditions buildings – University, Hanna, Moseley and South Halls. It's the first step in our long-term commitment to re-invest in our academic facilities to ensure they can meet the needs of our students and faculty. Provost Rogers and Steve Krakoff, associate vice president of capital planning and campus operations, will be meeting with our colleges and departments in the coming months to review the master plan and seek additional input.

We're also close to finalizing plans for new Greek Housing on Campus. After a great deal of research and discussions with our Greek students, alumni and other stakeholders, we expect to bring our recommendations to the Board of Trustees by year's end.

Conclusion

It's been an honor and privilege to serve as your president over the last year. While we face some challenges I see great potential all across our campuses. I am truly inspired each and every day by the students, faculty and staff I meet.

BGSU has a very bright future and it is incumbent on each of us to collaborate with each other to build that future. Our destiny is in our hands and I ask your assistance in building our regional, state, national, and international reputation. Each day we must appreciate everyone on this campus and off who works to build BGSU and ensures that we are a connected family of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

Thank you."

 

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