Campus Reunion Remarks
President Gary L. Miller
Aug. 19, 2022, at 10 a.m., at Jean Hower Taber Student Union Ballrooms
Welcome to our 2022 Campus Reunion.
Our purpose today is to:
- Reunite with one another;
- Celebrate one another, and;
- Take some time to look ahead at the coming year and beyond.
Let me begin by recognizing a few people who are here with us today.
- Members of the BOT.
- Local visitors if any.
- Dr. Sue Bausch, VP for Research and Business Engagement and Dean of the Graduate School.
I want to acknowledge our shared governance leadership:
- Toni Bisconti, President of the AAUP Faculty Union;
- Kate Budd, President of the Faculty Senate; and
- Tonia Ferrell, President of the University Council.
We meet with these leaders routinely. We seek their advice on specific difficult issues. We work closely with their executive teams.
Their leadership is so extremely important to the University and I want to thank them for their service.
It is important to begin this year by saying to all of you how deeply appreciative I am of your steadfast commitment to The University of Akron, its students, each other and the community of Akron.
Like all public universities, we have great challenges. But because of your love of this place and its people, we are well positioned to meet these challenges.
How can you tell we are on the right track?
Take a look at the opportunities our students enjoy, what they achieve and how they interact with each other and this community.
Here are a few examples:
- In 2021, 97% of our graduating students found a job placement, joined the military or moved on to graduate school. An increase from both 2019 and 2020.
- The average starting salary rose significantly between 2020 and 2021.
- A recent survey showed that UA ranks 12th among research universities in the Midwest in the salaries of female graduates under the age of 40, with an average salary of $129,000.
- One of the reasons for these results is that over 80% of our students participate in an internship, co-op experience or some other kind of experiential learning.
Our students are also inventors and entrepreneurs.
- Students from our College of Business placed 18th out of 134 university teams in the National Collegiate Sales Competition.
- CEO Magazine named UA’s MBA program a top 100 globally and in the Tier 1 category. The online MBA program was ranked 5th in the country (OSU was 7th).
- Four of our College of Engineering and Polymer Science student design teams won top honors in their respective competitions: Zips Racing, The Akronauts missile team, a Civil Engineering Design Team, and a Construction Engineering Design Team.
- UA’s Online RN to BSN program was ranked 66th nationally in 2022. Current alumni are working in the best Northeast Ohio hospital systems, including the Cleveland Clinic (fourth-best hospital in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report), University Hospital, Summa Health System, Akron General Medical Center, and Akron Children's Hospital.
- The University of Akron School of Law Trial Advocacy and Intellectual Property (IP) Law programs are both ranked among the top 40 schools their respective categories in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report Best Law Schools rankings.
New students enrolling in the Williams Honors College is the largest population in 4 years.
- The University’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Bachelor of Science continues to be the only degree of its kind available in Ohio and was the first of what is now three programs in the country.
- UA’s education students achieved a 96% pass rate for all teacher licensure tests, according to the 2021 Ohio Educator Preparation Provider Performance Report.
- The School of Music has one of the strongest music education programs in the region with an almost 100% job placement rate after graduation.
- UA is the first and only university in the state to offer a bachelor’s degree in criminal intelligence analysis, which was named one of the top 25 intelligence analysis degrees for 2021 by SecurityDegreeHub.com.
- WZIP won a 2022 Intercollegiate Broadcasting System award for a radio show about UA’s Esports team, and was nominated for five other IBS awards this year.
Our students not only achieve, they give back to the community.
Last year the 108 members of the Law School graduating class donated over 10,000 hours of pro bono service to this community.
This record of achievement and community commitment does not occur without the work of every single member of the staff, contract professionals and faculty at this university.
Every part of the work of faculty in the classroom and the laboratory,
- of our colleagues who keep this campus looking beautiful and make sure things work,
- of the folks in enrollment services who recruit students, of the coaches who work to build student confidence and leadership,
- of the folks who keep our computer infrastructure running,
- of the people who made the coffee and baked the cookies for this morning’s event,
- of the dedicated professionals who care for the health and wellness
- of our students, faculty and staff who sponsor student organizations, academic advisors,
- anyone who every sent an email to a student just asking how things are going….
None of the achievements of these students happens without each and every one of you in this room this morning and all of our colleagues who are not here today.
Your love for and dedication to this special place has a tangible effect on the world and we can see in in our students.
Let me end my comments with some brief thoughts about the coming year.
There is no doubt the coming year will be another year of great opportunity and great challenge.
I want to briefly highlight some of these in four broad categories related to our mission and vision.
1. Enrollment and student success
- The future of The University of Akron depends on developing and deploying a strategy to attract learners of all kinds to the University and providing each of them a real chance to get a degree or certificate.
- Succeeding in this is not just a matter of marketing. Because of the complex decision-making dynamics of all kinds of contemporary learners, the University must deploy a nimble, responsive and on-time recruitment and retention strategy.
- Our new enrollment management team, led by Dr. Steve McKellips, is looking carefully at our practices around every part of the recruitment, enrollment and retention cycle. They are examining our student debt patterns, our advising system, the ways in which students are managed in their programs among many others. They have compared decades of our enrollment trends with regional and national demographics and student behavior patterns.
- It is clear that, in order to reach our enrollment goals, we will have to undertake some significant changes in our processes and we will have to make these changes now.
- The changes we will seek are not related to our curriculum or our program array.
- These are things we do that simply do not match the way learners make decisions about which college to attend, how to pay for their college and whether to stay in college or move to another institution.
- You will hear a great deal about this in the coming month or so. We will begin this process with a lengthy discussion with my cabinet, the shared governance leadership group, the enrollment management group and members of the Board of Trustees next week at our fall retreat.
2. Community partnerships and research
- The University of Akron is an urban research university. As such, we are exposed to all of the major social and economic challenges of the nation.
- In this role, we have a special obligation to introduce relevance and to seek solutions in our curriculum, student activities, research and community partnerships.
- Many of our largest and most significant opportunities of this past year turned on an urban workforce or social challenge found throughout the country. A number of opportunities now in development are similarly positioned.
- One of the most important obligations we have is to a civic narrative of reconciliation, healing and community progress.
- Our extensive efforts to increase the safety profile of areas around campus last year resulted from the tragic deaths of two young people – one a student – at an off-campus party.
- This summer, we witnessed another tragedy in which a young person in the community loss their life. That event resulted in a period of civil unrest in downtown Akron.
- In response to the events of the summer, the University has partnered with the GAR Foundation, the Greater Akron Chamber, the United Way of Summit and Medina Counties and the non-profit Love Akron to establish a series of community healing and relationship-building events. UA is sponsoring those events and a number of our faculty and staff with special expertise in community healing are participating.
- Our continued commitment to our city and its challenges is critical to our success.
3. Transparency, innovation and shared governance
- We have made good progress on working together to build trust and collaborate for the good of the University.
- Working with the University Council Budget and Finance Committee and the Board of Trustees, we have developed a more direct way in which to display our budget data.
- We have begun to deploy a new campus annual budget development model that provides more input from the colleges.
- And we are deploying a system of intensified communications with the faculty and staff leadership including interactions with those groups and the chair of the Board of Trustees.
- Next Friday, the leaders of the faculty and staff governance groups will join the cabinet and the board chair in an afternoon discussion of our enrollment challenges.
- Good shared governance requires work. I am committed to continuing that work.
4. Creativity: inventing the future through innovation
- Finally, in my comments to you at this event last August, I challenged all of you to come to us with innovative and creative ideas to make The University of Akron a better place.
- By the way, this is the same challenge I always give incoming students when I have a chance to address them as I will in an hour or so at Convocation.
- My call did not go unanswered. Throughout the year, we received and acted on lots of ideas to make our work easier or to improve the student experience.
- One example of this is a new agreement with Coursera which gives the University the opportunity to customize experiences for thousands of learners using courses and certificates developed by some of the finest universities in the country. I want to thank Wendy Lampner for her work on this project which we believe will put us in the lead in Ohio on customized post-secondary learning.
- I want to renew my call for your ideas. The University Council processes these ideas, makes recommendations and sends them forward.
I stand in deep admiration of each and every one of you.
I have never worked with a more committed, resilient and collegial group of faculty and staff.
I have never seen a university take on such unprecedented challenges with such courage and commitment to its students.
I am humbled and grateful to be here at this time with you.
I pledge to you I will do everything I can, working with you, to ensure that this University’s future is bright, and that each of you has a chance to fulfill your professional goals.
In this time, more than ever in our history, we must and we can rise together.