STRATEGIC PLANNING

2. Gain A National Reputation Through Key Academic Programs And Scholarship

If one were to use a metaphor to describe it, an apt phrase for Goal 2 might be “a rising tide lifts all boats.” In an era of soaring costs and flat or reduced government support, it’s impossible for an institution as large as Old Dominion University to be the best at everything.

So a decision was made a few years ago, and incorporated in the latest Strategic Plan: that is, to find academic areas where ODU excels, and make strategic investments in them with an eye toward achieving a national reputation and profile.

President Broderick said the university is already “well on its way” to establishing a reputation in a number of academic areas.

“Our two-year-old doctoral program in counseling was recently named the top such program out of 110 across the nation. That is especially gratifying considering we did not welcome our first cohort of Ph.D. students until the spring of 2007,” Broderick said.

“And with our recently established bachelor’s degree in modeling and simulation, ODU is now the only school in the country to offer modeling and simulation, from undergraduate through postdoctoral.”

Other programs the university will emphasize in the coming years include physics, ocean studies, bioengineering and bioelectrics, among others.

Sometimes an area of expertise can blossom simply by the addition of a single, talented faculty member. That’s why the Strategic Plan calls for a regular and systematic review to identify programs of special prominence that are deemed deserving of additional support. It further recommends reallocating resources and including 40 or more new faculty positions to support promising programs.

The overall idea is that outstanding faculty members and nationally ranked programs will help ODU attract and retain quality graduate students, further driving the school’s success. To realize that aim, the university plans to offer competitive graduate support packages for promising students, as well as establish programs to follow graduate student progress.

Asked to comment on programs where she thought ODU can, or already does, shine, Provost Carol Simpson mentioned several in a lengthy, thoughtful response. “Medical modeling and simulation is high on our radar,” she said, singling out members of the medical modeling and simulation cluster at the university’s Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, co-led by Stacie Ringleb, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Mark Scerbo, professor of psychology and a human factors expert.

Simpson also called international studies at ODU a “small, but influential program,” led by Regina Karp, associate professor of political science and international studies. “We need to better promote this interdisciplinary program with its connections to NATO and the military.”

Simpson said the newly merged Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology is “one where we will be aiming to advance. The very act of merging strengthens both areas and puts us on the national stage in terms of overall program size and capabilities.”

And she added: “Music is always one of my favorites to brag about – such talent and in such diverse areas. We have brilliant percussionists, as well as an outstanding choir and jazz ensemble, and our marching band is coming along well.”

ATTRACTING LEADING RESEARCHERS

How do the strategic investments ODU makes in selected programs help raise their profile? One answer is that this allows the university to attract leading researchers to join its faculty.

When Richard Heller, the renowned cancer researcher and pioneer in the use of electrogenetherapy, was recruited to become executive director of ODU’s Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, he singled out the university’s commitment to excellence in bioelectrics research as the reason he came.

“An important strength of the center is that it includes both engineers and biologists working side-by-side,” said Heller. “This structure affords us a tremendous opportunity to develop approaches and instrumentation that would be effective in treating, preventing or diagnosing several types of diseases, including cancer.” Heller’s wife, Loree, an associate professor of medical and laboratory radiation science, also conducts research in electrogenetherapy.