Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oakland University focuses on improving the learning experience of students

GUEST OPINION: Oakland University focuses on improving the learning experience of students

At Oakland University, the decision behind every goal we set and project we embark upon can be reduced to a simple question: How will this improve the learning experience of the students we serve, as well as benefit the broader community of which we are a part?

That question leads us to careful, strategically focused work, such as recruiting and supporting highly accomplished faculty and staff, maintaining rigorous academic programs to meet the needs of our students and regional industry and providing life-enriching experiences that help advance overall student development, promote our rich and diverse cultural heritage and build our sense of community.

As we venture into 2013, we are proud to say that we steadfastly maintained this focus last year. Faculty members respected across the nation and the globe for outstanding research and scholarship continued this work, all while delivering instruction in more than 260 distinctive undergraduate and graduate degree programs. As our continued student enrollment increases attest, Oakland has never been more widely known and respected for the academic opportunities it offers.

It's also safe to say that the past year will be remembered as a milestone period of structural growth on campus. Specifically, we worked diligently to address the bricks and mortar aspect of meeting regional higher education needs and expectations.
Early in the fall, we opened the doors to our state-of-the-art Human Health Building, which serves as the home of our Schools of Nursing and Health Sciences. Just weeks later we broke ground on an Engineering Center that will expose students to a new, highly advanced, industry-oriented academic setting starting in the fall of 2014. The university most recently announced plans to construct new campus housing designed to accommodate up to 550 additional freshman and sophomores starting in the fall of 2014.

 We will also remember 2012 as a pivotal year in the growth of our health care research and education goals. A second class of 75 students joined the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, which continues to capture the interest of thousands of highly qualified student candidates. The school won regional praise this year as a nominee for the Educational Program of the Year award offered by Automation Alley.

In the same light, the Oakland University William Beaumont Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine gained international attention for organizing and hosting the Second Midwest Conference on Stem Cell Biology and Therapy in the fall. These and other related events helped to broaden national awareness of Oakland County's Medical Main Street initiative, which is winning considerable attention on its own with efforts to make the county a renowned destination for health care services.

In September, we were pleased to reach our 15th consecutive year of student enrollment growth, and we are now within close reach of a milestone student population of 20,000. University budget planners worked successfully to keep Oakland’s 2013 tuition increase to 2.9 percent, boost financial aid by $2 million and maintain our status as the only state university that does not charge fees of any kind.

Over the past year, we encouraged our currently enrolled and prospective students to reach beyond the ordinary and to pursue and achieve accomplishments that may have seemed out of reach. At Oakland, we know this requires bold, yet considered choices, strong commitment and access to valuable resources and support along the way.

This year, Oakland University will continue to lead by example. We've seen growth beyond the ordinary in nearly every facet of our operations, and are confident that this inspires our students to reach the heights of their own potential.
As we're happy to provide the resources and support that students need along the way, we are also immensely grateful to the many donors, friends and organizations that have shown the university that very same support. These gestures are both critical and appreciated. Here's hoping 2013 allows all of us to reach our highest heights yet.

Gary Russi is president of Oakland University.