Edward J. Ray
October 8, 2015
Faculty Senate Meeting

I thank the President of the Senate and my colleagues for this opportunity to discuss the state of the university and the university agenda for this academic year and to respond to questions. As my remarks that follow reflect, the state of the university continues to be very strong. Today, I will discuss three key issues: continued implementation of our strategic plan, SP3.0; creation of a long-term business plan to sustain our strategic planning effort; and our continuing pursuit of excellence. 

Implementing the Strategic Plan

SP3.0 is our road map to guide the university forward. Strategic planning charts a course across time. Each year we cover new terrain and adjust our course. Each year we see a horizon that we could not see the year before. As we implement SP3.0, we need to determine what is working and not working and adjust as necessary in an open and transparent way. To that end, we are distributing a set of metrics today that summarizes our progress in a number of key areas. I will distribute updates of these metrics with each successive report to the Senate. Please review the plan and the metrics [attached] and determine how your program or unit can contribute to our collective success.

Transforming the Educational Experience for All Learners

We have a lot to celebrate with regard to each of the three goals of SP3.0, including student success. Just two years ago we set a goal of awarding 6,000 degrees in FY18. Yet, this year we awarded more than 6,300 degrees. We set a goal for high-achieving Oregon high school graduates in our entering freshman class of 45% by FY18, and in fall 2014 we reached 44.1%. We expect that figure to be about 42% this year. We also made substantial gains in numerous student profile and measure-of-success targets for the five-year plan. Students primarily enrolled in Ecampus reached 2,890, toward our five-year goal of 3,000. Degrees awarded at OSU Cascades increased to 322 this year--our target in three years is 360. The percentage of U.S. minority students increased to 21.9% in fall 2014 with a goal of 25% in FY18. And, international student enrollment, which stood at only 4.7% in 2008, increased to 11.1% by fall 2014, on track with our strategic plan target of 15%.

Nationally, access to an affordable college education is a serious problem for students. Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was in the upper quartile of the income distribution in this country was 44%. Today, that figure is 84%. Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was in the lowest quartile of the income distribution was 6%. Today that figure is 9%. The gap in educational attainment between the haves and have-nots in this country is huge and it is increasing.

We are taking steps at Oregon State University to increase the success of low-income students. Our Bridge to Success program has permitted thousands of Pell-eligible Oregon undergraduate students to work toward their college degrees without having to pay tuition and fees. The Campaign for OSU raised $189 million for student scholarships and fellowships. And, as a consequence of these and other efforts, Oregon State is cited again for the third time in the last four years in the 2016 Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of only 24 Best Buys among public colleges and universities based on the quality of our undergraduate academic programs and the costs faced by our students. Finally, in the 2014 alumni survey, over 82% of the respondents rated the overall quality of their education at OSU as good to excellent.

Yet, we are not providing transformative educational experiences for all learners. The current six-year graduation rate of 63.1% is the highest ever achieved, but it is still well below our FY18 goal of 67%. The first-year retention rate fell slightly to 83.8% last year and also is well below our goal of 88%, with no appreciable improvement in the last five years. The first-year retention gap for underrepresented minorities is at 8.3%, which is higher than at any time in the last 12 years, and the six-year graduation rate gap is 10.8%, reflecting no progress since 2005. We are failing to demonstrate the inclusive excellence and student success we seek as a community. Right now, we are part of the problem.

To improve this situation, we continue to add to the number and diversity of our instructional faculty, which has increased from 11% to 15.2% in the last five years. It is important for each of our students to meet faculty who understand their early life experiences and can serve as role models for them. Faculty and staff can create a learning environment where each student feels valued and attains success. 

We have created a position of Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies to focus every day on undergraduate student success. Susana Rivera-Mills is an exceptionally gifted colleague, but she needs allies, resources, tools and strategies to put effective changes into action.

To further support this effort, we have rebuilt and provided professional academic staff for the four cultural centers. This quarter we opened a state-of-the-art classroom learning laboratory, the Learning Innovation Center. Vice provosts and colleagues are promoting student participation in high-impact learning practices including undergraduate research, business internships and community service projects linked to academic programs and embedded in courses. These high-impact practices improve retention and graduation rates.

Colleagues, including a number of you, continue to work on course redesign projects aimed at improving student learning. For example, funded by an NSF grant, a group of five STEM schools and departments are working to expand the use of evidence-based instructional practices in foundational STEM courses. OSU is one of 11 major public research universities that belong to the University Innovation Alliance, a collaborative effort to improve student success that includes several of our aspirational peers.

This year, using Education Advisory Board software, we will apply predictive analytics to 10 years of undergraduate student-performance data to provide academic advisors, career counselors and students with information about successful paths to graduation.

We need each of you to join this effort by reinventing courses, including experiential, research, writing and/or team activities into your courses, and asking students if you can help them before they ask for help. Student success cannot be a spectator sport for any of us from this point forward.

Leadership in Research, Scholarship and Creativity

Without students there would be no universities. But, without outstanding faculty there would be no great universities. The record of research, scholarship and creative work by you and our colleagues here at Oregon State University is increasingly exceptional. Overall research funding grew 8% from $285 million in FY14 to a record $309 million in FY15. Industry-funded research grew from $36.8 million to $40.1 million last year, representing 62% growth since 2010.

Licensing revenue increased by 73% from $5.9 million to a record $10.2 million last year and is close to our strategic plan goal of $10.9 million. We recently hired Dr. Cynthia Sagers from the University of Arkansas as our new Vice President for Research. I know Cindy will provide leadership to expand and diversify our industry-focused research portfolio.

Our graduate professional and doctoral programs are integral elements of our research activity and prepare a diverse student body to partner with faculty mentors and to be future leaders in society. Over 800 graduate research assistants and 200 post-docs are critical partners in our research activities at OSU.

Recent additions to our graduate degree programs include masters’ and doctoral programs in Environmental Engineering, Robotics, and Comparative Health Sciences, and new doctoral programs in Business, Public Policy, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. We will further expand our graduate programs, particularly in the College of Liberal Arts. Long-term we will increase the share of doctoral and professional enrollment from 17.3% today to 20% by 2025.

Strengthening Our Impact and Reach

Oregon State University was created to serve Oregon as one of what President Abraham Lincoln called “the people’s colleges.” In the last 147 years, our impact and reach have spread across Oregon, the nation and the world, and they are reflected on many fronts. The number of undergraduate degrees awarded annually to Oregonians has increased from 2,812 to 3,691 in the last five years, and the number of those degrees awarded to Pell-eligible students increased from 1,205 to 1,969.

This is the first year that OSU Cascades will be welcoming freshmen to four-year programs, and we will hold classes in the new academic building on our stand-alone campus in Bend next year. The residence hall and dining hall/classroom building should be open in autumn 2016.

Using data from 2013/14, ECONorthwest estimated our global economic impact to be $2.371 billion annually, more than 15% higher than three years earlier, and responsible for 31,660 jobs in Oregon. I have already noted the rapid growth in royalties and licensing activity. Our statewide public service programs raise $2.5 for every dollar they receive in state funding. And, as an addendum to our remarkable $1.142 billion Campaign for OSU, we closed the FY15 fiscal year with $130.8 million in fundraising, making this the most successful year for fundraising in the history of the university. Finally, we had 72 invention disclosures this year, a figure similar to those for each of the last five years but double the 36 of 2003/04.

The Long Term Business Plan

Given the success of the Campaign for OSU and growth in funded research awards and partnerships, it should come as no surprise that the financial state of the university is strong. This will enable us to continue to add new tenure-track faculty positions each year and to provide mid-year salary increases near 3% for both FY16 and FY17.

I know that some of you have read articles regarding the alarming financial state and outlook of many universities and colleges. We asked Moody’s Investors Service to provide us with a bond rating last spring in anticipation of the sale of revenue bonds by the university for several capital projects. The rating is Aa3, which is good, and the analysis carries a stable rating expectation with it.

Since obtaining the Moody’s rating, the legislature has provided Oregon’s public universities with additional operating funds, although below the $755 million requested to return state support per student FTE to the pre-recession level of 2007. And, we should receive at least twice as much funding as usual for deferred maintenance, along with funding for the new Forest Science Complex and the academic building at the Marine Studies Campus. The collaboration among the seven public universities to secure more state funding was critical to our success as was the strong support we received from our Board of Trustees. We also worked with colleagues around the state to secure an additional $14 million for the statewide public service programs. This represents the first increase in funding above current service level needs for the statewides since 1999. 

Last October, I called on the President of the Faculty Senate and the Provost to convene a group of colleagues to begin to create a business plan for the next 10 years. I will not repeat earlier observations regarding our opportunities and challenges, past and present.

As I noted in my speech last year, one consequence of the rapid growth of the virtual classroom is that capital construction projects in Corvallis in the next 10 years will be less about expanding our physical footprint and more about renewing, renovating and repurposing our existing physical facilities – about the quality of space rather than the quantity. Clearly, we must identify the sources of funds to sustain such dramatic changes.

Faculty Senate President Bailey and Provost Randhawa have initiated the business planning process, and we will present an outline and relevant facts to the Board of Trustees at the Board’s retreat later this month. With additional input and direction from the Board, we will develop a draft business plan by the end of this quarter for discussion at the January 2016 Board meeting.

The business plan must be finalized in advance of the March 2016 Board meeting to help guide Board decisions regarding the next biennium budget. I urge each of you to contribute to the draft plan.

Our Pursuit of Excellence

Our drive for excellence in everything we do at Oregon State University stems from our understanding that the more exceptional we are at everything we do, the more powerfully we can serve others.

I have already cited markers of excellence, including the profile of our entering students, our fundraising capabilities, our research funding and partnering success. But, since our graduates are our greatest contribution to the future, let me review the performance of our graduates on a few recent professional certification exams:

  • Engineering – 99% passed the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (national average 82%)
  • Nutrition – 100% passed the American Diabetic Association exam (national average 82%)
  • Veterinary Medicine – 100% passed the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (national average 95%)
  • Accounting – 70% pass rate (national average 60%)
  • The acceptance rate for pre-medical students from OSU was 75%, compared to the national average of 40%.

Conclusion

While the state of the university is strong and there is a great deal to be proud of and to celebrate, there are persistent challenges to be met. Our finances are strong and stable, but we must develop a business plan for the next decade. Each of you and all of our colleagues must commit to greater completion rates for all groups of students and the completion of the business plan.

We must graduate students from diverse backgrounds, and all students in greater numbers and at a common and higher rate to match our promise as the people’s college.

To do so, I urge each of us to do two things:

  • Embrace the concept of inclusive excellence to help achieve the goals of the university’s strategic plan, and
  • Serve as leaders in student success.

I hope you share my enthusiasm and passion for the opportunities that lie ahead for each of us…for Oregon State University…and for the greater good that we can accomplish by working and leading together.

Thank you