Charting the Future

Edward J. Ray, President
Oregon State University
October 9, 2008, 3:00pm
La Sells Stewart Center
Construction and Engineering Hall

I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Faculty Senate to review the events of the last year and to propose actions for the current academic year. There is a lot for all of us at Oregon State University to celebrate from last year, but for the sake of brevity I will simply summarize some of my observations from our University Day celebration.

When I spoke to the Senate last year, I noted that we would soon launch the public phase of the university-wide fundraising Campaign for OSU and announce total fundraising for the campaign’s quiet phase in excess of $300 million. In fact, we launched the public phase of the campaign with a total of $350 million. That momentum continued, and last year we raised $126 million — exceeding OSU’s previous annual record by $50 million. Five years ago, our annual fundraising total was only $38.1 million.

Perhaps most impressive is the broad base of support reflected in our fundraising success. We have received more than 500 separate gifts of $100,000 or more and 78 gifts above $1 million. More than 45,000 families have contributed to this campaign. There have been more than 171,000 campaign gifts and pledges. A significant number of them have come from faculty and staff, both current and emeritus. These are wonderful indicators of support and greatly appreciated.

You and your colleagues have also realized extraordinary success in competitive research awards. Last year we raised $231 million in research grant and contract awards, a $25 million increase over the previous year and a $75 million increase in the last five years. Clearly, we are garnering significant increases in support of our research at the state and national level building upon our past successes under intensely competitive conditions.

Last year, I also proposed that together we establish priorities for strategic investment over the next few years. Our pursuit of academic excellence and continuing growth in our research productivity require us to complete the prioritization process this year. I also indicated that part of the financing for those initiatives would have to come from re-engineering our business practices and that both of these activities — prioritization and re-engineering — are ongoing. Finally, I asked the Faculty Senate to assess our current core curriculum to determine if it meets contemporary educational needs and to analyze the effectiveness of our efforts to assess outcomes from the learning process. Those reviews continue to move forward.

As promised, we implemented a compensation package increase of 4% last year. This year we must do better and increase compensation by 6% effective January 2009. Frankly, we continue to struggle in providing our faculty with competitive compensation. We must persist because everything this great institution aspires to accomplish for our students, the people of Oregon and the world rests on our ability to recruit, support, and retain exceptional faculty.

In addition to our ongoing activities and our commitment to a 6% raise package for faculty, we are committed to achieving our Campaign for OSU goal of $100 million for scholarships and fellowships this year. We have already raised $69 million toward that goal.

Furthermore, we must extend our horizon for implementing the strategic plan we adopted in 2004, when we set specific targets for 2008. It is time to acknowledge areas of success and failure while defining continuing and new initiatives and setting numerical targets for 2013. On page 7 of the strategic plan we said that: “While the vision, values, themes, and goals in this plan will endure, the implementation initiatives will change along with circumstances and we continue to welcome suggestions on how best to accomplish our goals.” And, as the last sentence of the plan states: “Ultimately, success will depend upon our willingness to remain on course, adjusting our initiatives but not our aspirations.” We are staying the course.

I anticipate sharing a draft of the updated strategic plan with you and our colleagues by the end of the month. We will discuss the document here at a future Senate meeting and in other councils across campus to gather our collective best thinking regarding our course corrections. The goal is to complete the process in February 2009.

Since developing an updated strategic plan is a collaborative effort, I cannot anticipate all of the new material in it. I can, however, describe some issues that I believe we must address more effectively. First and foremost, we simply have not met our goals for first year retention rates and six year graduation rates for students overall. What’s more, we continue to perform even less well with respect to six year graduation rates for Native American, African American, and Latino/a, students. We must raise and equalize the six year graduation rates for each of the demographic groups I have identified in the next 5-10 years.

Furthermore, I challenge us to quickly implement the Bridge to Success program for all at risk students. We must build and staff programs to increase student engagement and success, including the Student Success Center. And, we must move forward with plans to fund the rebuilding of the four cultural centers and to accelerate the increasing diversity of our entering class of new students.

In this regard, our new partnership with INTO to double our international student enrollments on campus in the next five years will contribute significantly to diversity and to the educational experience we offer to our students. I have said on many occasions that we can only achieve excellence through diversity and that success in recruiting, retaining, and graduating increasingly diverse entering classes of students will enrich all of our lives. Our graduates are our most important contribution to the future. They must be able to work in and contribute to increasingly diverse state, national, and global communities. It is equally true that we are moving too slowly with respect to diversity at every level of employment at the university. The longer we take to implement real change at every level of responsibility, the longer we undercut our ability to realize our potential for excellence as a university.

While we implemented elements of the strategic plan over the last five years, the world around us has changed. The Board of Higher Education has developed a Portland Initiative, and our strategic plan must define our initiatives in support of that OUS plan. We are now refining strategic, business, communications, and development plans for OSU-Cascades that must be integrated into our overall university plans. The university’s fundraising goals for the Campaign for OSU and beyond the current campaign must be elements of the strategic plan and the metrics we track annually.

In addition, we began preliminary work last year to develop an integrated marketing communications plan for the university. In simple terms this is an effort to develop a simple, clear, and consistent narrative to guide our conversations with key constituencies. We must complete this task.

Last year we also joined the Climate Commitment and developed measures of our carbon footprint. This year we will begin planning to eliminate our carbon footprint, an effort we must integrate into our strategic actions going forward.

Finally, while the focus on the five thematic areas has helped us make resource allocation decisions and bring our community together, I would now challenge us to draw from these five areas a few cross-cutting signature programs that will distinguish Oregon State University in the years ahead.

In effect, I have defined much of our agenda for this year with reference to the next step in strategic planning. That’s because the two items — the annual agenda and the strategic plan — are inextricably tied together. The agenda defines the path we must travel over the next year to get where the strategic plan is leading us. Strategic plans are not fixed blueprints but rather surface maps across time. We must adapt our plans to discover new possibilities and essential course corrections, while we keep our eye on the prize. Nothing in my five years here dissuades me from a sense that we are all on an excellent adventure together. It is an honor and a privilege for me to travel with you and I am more certain than ever that we will realize the aspirations we first articulated in 2004.