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The 2010 ODU State of the University Address

Welcome! As you've no doubt noticed, this year's State of the University address has a slightly different format from previous years. The changes, to which Paul Champagne and the Faculty Senate graciously agreed, are a deliberate effort to symbolize the transformation that has occurred at Old Dominion University.

Today, I want to focus on where the institution is in 2010, and - more importantly - where it is headed. Within that framework, the most important things you will hear are the achievements of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters. I hope that as you listen, you will do what we do at ODU - concentrate, not only on the challenges, but on the highlights of the past year, because that is truly where the state of Old Dominion University is revealed.

While it certainly can have a significant impact, the current economic crisis will not break us. We have charted a course to not only survive, but to thrive. We have taken a long, hard strategic look at our entire operation and to make those judicious - but difficult - choices. Our number one priority has been to lessen the impact on the people within our community. As a result, we have assessed and examined programs, structure, and operations to decide what to advance, what to put on hold, and what to abandon. The bright light in this economic picture is that it forces us to confront the most essential questions about who we are and what we want to be.

First of all, people matter here. Faculty, staff, alumni, students - you are our life blood. We implemented a number of budget actions to buffer the impact of losing state dollars. Through one-time stimulus funds and additional revenue, we avoided layoffs. We minimized the impact on students and their families by not implementing a mid-year tuition increase. Additionally, we chose to use resources to opt out of the one-day furlough for state employees, thus sparing a hardship for both employees who would lose a day of income and students who would suffer from reduced services and classes.

I cannot thank the ODU faculty and staff enough for the many things they have done and continue to do.

Interest in attending Old Dominion University remains high. This year, freshman, transfer and graduate applications are all up. While our current enrollment management plan supports slower growth, the economy is forcing increasing numbers of people into our classrooms to retool or upgrade their credentials. Others, like those receiving G.I. Bill benefits, are also seeking access to education.

Earlier this summer, I was appointed, along with 30 other leaders, by Governor Bob McDonnell to the Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment. Allow me to take you through some of the commission's goals and show how closely our objectives align with the statewide goals for higher education.

The predominate goal at the state level is to make higher education accessible to qualified students, regardless of background or ability to pay, but this does not mean simply increasing numbers. In addition, we must support the governor's effort to increase degree attainment, especially in critical STEM areas.

Keeping students means helping them succeed. Following a report issued by Keeling and Associates on our many efforts toward enhancing student life and student success, I appointed a committee to review the consultant's recommendations, define success indicators, and recommend a structure to better support students at Old Dominion. The committee, led by Vice President Glenda Humphreys and composed of representatives from across campus, has provided a recommendation to establish a vice presidential-level position for student engagement and enrollment services to further our commitment to student success and student learning. I will move forward on that.

While more than 2,700 members of our student body come to us as traditional first-year students, there is another segment of students that we serve - older students, working parents, single dads and moms . . . juggling jobs and childcare . . . some far from our main campus as distance learners.

ODU's educational outreach to them is strong. We offer our distance learning programs, 2+2 and other partnerships with Virginia community colleges, higher education centers, and continuing education. As demand for flexible learning solutions continues to grow, Old Dominion's efforts will continue to grow and evolve. By fall 2011, ODU will offer 10 new online degree programs, both undergraduate and graduate, and we are already testing pilot programs on the iPhone and iPad.

Regarding the issue of affordability, the governor's commission is searching for ways to prevent significant and unexpected tuition increases, because parents and students need some level of cost predictability. This year, Old Dominion was able to keep its tuition increase the second lowest in the Commonwealth. But recognizing that even a small increase is a burden for many students and their families, we helped lessen the impact by providing an additional $1.9 million in need-based scholarships and creating $250,000 worth of on-campus student jobs.

On to our strategic plan…

One goal - providing students with the tools to succeed - requires that we know what those tools are and that we have the wisdom to acquire and use them. The tool we value above all is our expert faculty. Faculty members are the heart of this institution, and their engaging - and in many cases, award-winning - teaching and research are the reasons our students are equipped for success when they graduate. The new Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence will support our faculty, by offering workshops and other training.

We want our students to have advantages equal to those anywhere. That's why we have committed to the kind of technology and innovative learning-centered environments that will prepare them for a competitive world. When complete, the Student Success Center, under construction at the Perry Library, will consolidate all the support services that students and faculty need. Likewise, the new Learning Commons, with its state-of-the-art technology and inventive spaces, will give students and their professors powerful tools.

During this academic year, we will have the opportunity to demonstrate both our quality and effectiveness during a reaccreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. This provides a wonderful challenge - to look at all aspects of university life. In addition, it will encourage us to initiate a Quality Enhancement Plan that will focus on student learning, the primary concern for all of us. I am grateful to Provost Simpson, Dr. Sharpe and Dr. Danner, among others, for their leadership.

Of course, not all of college is about the classroom. For that reason, we provide a wealth of amenities and extra-curricular activities to a student population that is becoming more residential. Some 6,500 students now live within walking distance of the campus.

Another goal is to gain a national reputation through key academic programs and scholarship and we are well on our way. 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.

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 post-doctoral.

M and S as an industry is one of Virginia's best investments, leading to higher-paying jobs, and an overall annual economic impact of some $400 million. Old Dominion has been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of that enterprise.

Clearly, the proposal to close the Joint Forces Command would be a blow to our region. JFCOM has been a longtime partner and friend. It has been an important catalyst for many of our successes and has been a driver in this region for business attraction and job creation. While we have worked at diversifying our modeling and simulation capabilities, it remains of critical importance to our region, the Commonwealth and our nation that the mission and capabilities of JFCOM remain in Hampton Roads.

Old Dominion is not in a mad race to the top in all research areas. Rather, I envision the University, under the direction of Vice President Mohammad Karim, attaining preeminence where its strengths lie. We are classified as a Carnegie Research Institution with high research activity. With our total R&D expenditures at $96 million, we clearly intend to perpetuate our research initiatives, but we must continually refine our targeted areas.

Across the Commonwealth, skill shortages beyond STEM exist in disciplines such as healthcare and advanced manufacturing. Both the governor's commission and Old Dominion are looking for solutions to the problem. In fact, with our innovative distance learning programs in nursing, our Project Lead the Way, and a host of other efforts in these critical areas, Old Dominion has already made considerable strides.

A third goal of ours talks about investing strategically to spur economic growth. Having committed to research, ODU has already had significant impact in both fundamental and applied research. We will not abandon our pillars of excellence, but will continue to promote our esteemed Research Institutes and Centers, such as the Frank Reidy Center for Bioelectrics, the Center for Accelerator Science in collaboration with the Jefferson National Lab, and the Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute. Also, such fields as supply chain management, alternative energy, oceanography and biomedical sciences squarely place ODU as an economic-development leader. We already contribute nearly $1 billion per year to the Hampton Roads economy. We take this responsibility seriously and will leverage our investments to create further growth through strategic partnerships.

It is elemental, because of our location, that Old Dominion provide education opportunities to military personnel, likewise a goal of the Commonwealth. I am especially proud to report that more than 20 percent of our 24,000-student population is in some way connected to the military. Whether it's our Military Career Transition Program, thriving ROTC programs, or specialized academic programs, Old Dominion is committed to serving those who serve our country.

We are committed as well to enriching the quality of campus life.

While our college experiences may have been very different from those of today's students, in terms of basic needs, things are pretty much the same - a safe campus, comfortable residence halls, library access, parking, and a welcoming atmosphere. At ODU, I probably should say parking twice.

As we become more residential, we must keep our focus on maintaining an inviting, supportive, safe, and intellectually engaging campus experience. Chief Burwell, VP Fenning and I will continue to work with Norfolk Mayor Fraim and the City Council on creating a joint police facility to serve not only the Old Dominion community, but also all our neighbors.

With a student population that hails from all 50 states and 106 countries, and faculty and staff who come from a profusion of backgrounds and experiences, ODU is a dynamic, multi-ethnic community with diverse interests in culture, art, music, entertainment, recreation, and athletics.

We, therefore, also want to expand our international connections. ODU has one of the largest cohorts of international students in the Commonwealth, more than 1,400. We intend to nurture our global connections and partnerships, and foster opportunities for travel, study, and intercultural curriculum development for both students and faculty.

The final strategic initiative is to build strong civic and community partnerships. We are the largest university within the nation's 36th largest metropolitan area, which has a population of 1.5 million. My vision is that Old Dominion University will be recognized as one of the nation's preeminent metropolitan research universities by contributing to all aspects of life in Hampton Roads.

We took a significant step in May with the launch of the Business Gateway, which transforms the way we interact with business. The Gateway provides a single entry point to the university's intellectual capital, world-class infrastructure and innovative technologies.

Solutions are precisely what we are hoping to achieve with our new program for the Study of Critical Issues. Thanks to a fund established by Doug and Patricia Perry, gracious benefactors of our Library, this program will gather community leaders, business and industry heads, and our own faculty to identify and examine the most pressing challenges facing Hampton Roads today. The effort will be led by Vice President Alonzo Brandon.

Another project that is just getting underway is an effort to identify the multi-faceted impact, climate change and rising sea levels will have on our region. Led by former President Jim Koch and oceanography Professor Larry Atkinson, the project will pull together the university and region's foremost experts to find solutions to the anticipated effects on our economy, housing, ports, and infrastructure.

Having the resources within this campus and not sharing them is simply not an option. We must honor the trust placed in us by parents, taxpayers, students, faculty, and donors to participate in intelligent thought and action for the common good.

But, we must also listen to and learn from the community. We must hear its concerns and bring to bear our resources to solve problems. We recently forged a tighter partnership with WHRO to do just that.

Bringing together many voices, opinions, and experiences for a common goal - that is the essence of IDEA FUSION.

I cannot end this address without expressing our deepest gratitude for the support of our legislators, local leaders, alumni and donors. Literary critic John Churton Collins said, "In prosperity, our friends know us. In adversity, we know our friends." Those words are especially profound in this time of economic challenge for higher education and Old Dominion University. I thank you for your friendship. I thank you for your philanthropy, and I ask you to continue to support our scholarship and other endowments. We need not only generous private support to continue our educational mission, but I will not stop making the case to Richmond that we also need to be better recognized in the existing state funding model.

At 81% of base adequacy, ODU is the lowest funded doctoral institution. With a student body of more than 24,000, that is 87% Virginian, that is a contradiction to the rhetoric of serving in-state students. You must help me change that!

Finally, whether you are a sports fan or not, if you were within three thousand miles of campus when football returned, or if you were around a television when our men's basketball team advanced in the NCAA tourney, you had to feel the Monarch Pride!

I'd like to ask for that same kind of support for the university as a whole as we embark on a new academic year. The success of our students depends upon that. If we all work together, the state of the university will be better with each passing report.

Thank you for being here today.

Follow the link to view video of the State of the University Address:

State of the University Address

This article was posted on: August 24, 2010

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