Pescovitz focuses on making OU the first choice for an increasing number of students in the State of the University address

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

After a year of change and expansion, Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz set goals and discussed challenges for the future during her 2018 State of the University address Tuesday.

“You can see that increasingly,” Pescovitz said, “OU is becoming the university of choice.”

Before a standing-room-only crowd in the Oakland Center’s sparkling new Founder’s Ballroom, Pescovitz began the address by sharing student data. She said the number of first-time students increased by 9.9 percent this fall. The number of graduate students rose 3.3 percent and total credit hour commitment increased by 0.7 percent.

She reported the first-year class has more than just the enrollment increase to boast about. These students came in with an average high school GPA of 3.5 and average SAT scores of 1130, making them the most academically talented incoming class in Oakland’s history, according to Pescovitz.

The overall six-year graduation rate is now 55 percent, meeting the ambitious target set for 2025. Underrepresented minority students graduated at a six-year rate of 37.6 percent.

Goals set to make OU more attractive to students include expanding course offerings in Macomb County, for adults, and increasing the international student percentage from 4.7 percent to 10 percent by 2025.

Fiscal year 2018 saw a drop in grant funding requests from 189 to 161 and just under $49 million was requested. The College of Arts and Science requested the most and was awarded just over 52 percent of the $9.6 million awarded to OU. The School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) was awarded the second biggest chunk at 27 percent.

“… the majority of funding was awarded in the category of research [about $8 million] while smaller portions would get dedicated to instructional programs and other initiatives,” Pescovitz said.

Goals set for research include increasing allocated space, grant funding and research activity. The next President’s Leadership Retreat will focus on how to achieve those research goals.

“Oakland University is a member of the communities in which we live, and we need to play our part in our communities,” said Pescovitz, leading into OU’s Community Engagement goals.

OU has an economic impact of $800 million in Michigan with hundreds of students and faculty taking part in university initiatives. Some of these programs include the Pontiac Initiative, OUCares and the Center for Civic Engagement.

Community engagement goals include increasing OU’s economic impact, getting more employer input in curriculum development and having students take part in projects that solve real-world problems.

Diversity, equality and inclusion was the last goal setting section of the address. Recent initiatives taken to make OU a more inclusive community include adopting a preferred name policy, establishing and filling two diversity postdoctoral fellowships and making diversity a part of the OU Strategic Plan.

“This year, faculty and students across our entire campus have signed our diversity pledge…,” Pescovitz said.

Moving forward, OU will focus on hiring more women and minorities, work to close the achievement gap between minority and majority students and better communicate university inclusion policies.

The challenges facing OU are daunting: a low share of state funding and the lowest building space per student of Michigan universities, according to Pescovitz. She was quick to cite the cost containment strategies that have saved $57.1 million over the last 15 years and the start of the “Aspire. Advance. Achieve.” philanthropy campaign beginning Nov. 17.

Near the end of the presentation, Pescovitz turned the microphone over to representatives from across campus to explain how they are contributing.

“Both the Washington Post and New York Times highlighted my research recently on how home assessment practices… spurred the wave of foreclosures that stuck Detroit in 2007,” Tim Hodge of the School of Business Administration said.

Louay Chamra, SECS dean, mentioned that the school was certified as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defence Education, a title they’ll have through 2023.

“In the last academic year alone, faculty members have been published in almost 700 total citations and our students have authored 109,” OUWB student Fionna Sun added.

Kim Zelinski of Meadow Brook Hall also reported the PBS show “Antiques Roadshow” will air three episodes featuring the estate, bringing OU to over 8.5 million viewers. The episodes will air in January.

From 2012 to 2017, the percentage of college students able to go to their first university of choice fell from 63 percent to 54 percent. OU, however, has seen an increase from 63 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2017.