The following “Guest Column” by Dr. Katherine Fell, UF president, appeared in The Findlay Courier on Saturday, August 30, 2014.
I hear it caused something of a stir back in 1989 when Findlay College changed its name to The University of Findlay. The event was marked by more than a final sale of “Findlay College” logo items at the bookstore. It was a turning point for us as we grew into a full-fledged university. During the past 25 years, this growth has included physical plant and enrollment expansion, surely, but also a progressive vision grounded in enduring values. As our beloved university matures, we are defining what it means to be a private, faith-based institution of higher learning in the 21st century.
Commitment to Excellence: As a campus grounded in Christian principles, we believe in the power of honest self-reflection. In 2013, our faculty, staff and students worked cooperatively on an academic portfolio review (APR) for our undergraduate and graduate programs. It is a process intended to guide change by improving the quality of academic offerings.
Our APR is divided into four categories: Centrality, Quality, Demand, and Income and Cost. Using a template, our programs were “scored” in these four areas with the data presented at an all-campus meeting. We used these APR data, along with similar data on non-instructional programs and financial forecasts to fuel our annual planning session in February 2014. Other educational leaders have asked for our templates. They are amazed that we have taken such an introspective look and yet maintained a spirit of teamwork.
Global Perspective: We welcome all. With significant increases in our international student population, we are enjoying a campus that is home to diverse cultures. We have also strengthened the University’s role in providing opportunities abroad. In May, The University of Findlay joined the Institute of International Education’s “Generation Study Abroad Initiative” to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade.
Recently, we established the Oilers Serving Abroad (OSA) program, which provides opportunities to students of all disciplines to serve the global community, learn about culture and enrich their lives through short duration programs focused in the Dominican Republic. The University has established partnerships with Chinju National University of Education in South Korea, Rakuno Gakuen University in Japan, and the RAK College of Pharmacy in the United Arab Emirates.
Stewardship of Our Environment: We have a responsibility to care for the natural resources God has provided. With one of the first environmental clean up and emergency response programs in the nation, it is fitting that we teach our students best practices in environmental sustainability. Our Findlay Green Campus Initiative (FGCI) has expanded its efforts to include not only campus-wide recycling, but also a bicycle lending program and support of a student-run, naturally-grown vegetable business. Biology faculty and students have piloted a wastewater mycofiltration program at The Rieck Center for Habitat Studies, and recently received a grant from the Ohio EPA to establish a demonstration site to teach our community about the role of wetlands in reducing the impact of flooding.
Service to Others: We believe helping others is key to a life with meaning. Many of our classes incorporate service learning directly into the curriculum. Occupational and physical therapy students hold community clinics and pharmacy students perform health screenings. Students in our College of Education provide group and individual tutoring to children in grades K-12 (at no cost) through The Clubhouse, while students majoring in biology host community education events at the University-owned Rieck Center. Last year, several business majors brought a program to the local senior center on how to use social media and an art class designed an ad for an area long term care facility.
The Oiler Experience, an entire day of community service, is now a traditional part of our new student orientation with more than 2,000 hours of service performed in one day in August 2014.
As we enter our second 25 years as a university, we see clear evidence of physical and fiscal growth. This academic year marks the second consecutive year for increases in student enrollment against a trend of decreasing enrollments throughout the state and country. We operate well within our budget and reinvest surpluses to support campus-wide strategic goals. We are adding exciting, cutting-edge programs in response to the needs of our students and the workplace. I am grateful for these tangible blessings.
But I am even more grateful for the intangible values by which we live out our mission: “To equip our students for meaningful lives and productive careers.”