Feb. 7 BOT meeting: New projects, distinguished professors, university advancement update


Maggie Willard

President Pescovitz and BOT Chair Robert Schostak during Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

After being virtual for the beginning of the semester, the Oakland University Board of Trustees (BOT) met for the first time this year to discuss two new construction budgets, two new distinguished professors, the annual advancement update and more.

The meeting began with President Ora Pescovitz acknowledging the email error that was sent to 5,502 potential students telling them they received the Platinum Presidential Scholar Award.

“We recognize that people are the backbone of our organization, and whenever people are involved, there is a risk for human error,” Pescovitz said.

Pescovitz recognized the Keeper of the Dream event and congratulated those who received awards. She followed up with an announcement about OU being awarded a $3.2M grant from the National Science Foundation for their collaborative work on their cybersecurity project.

OU will be the home for “College English” — the professional journal of the National Council of Teachers of English — as professor Lori Ostergaard will serve as editor alongside three other professors as associate editors. A new post-graduation dashboard created by members of OU Career Services and University of Communications & Marketing (UCM) provides students with information like percentage of graduates employed, median salary and more.

Vice President for University Advancement Mike Westfall presented the annual university advancement update, and 2021 was a historical year for total new gifts and commitments — raising $24 million. 

“In spite of the challenges that the pandemic presented, $24 million is the second-highest fundraising total ever, trailing the $27 million raised in 2009, which featured a $20 million donation from Beaumont,” Westfall said.

The newly named Oakland University Fund Drive saw a record revenue of $831,314 — the top performing units were  the William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) and School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD). The campaign progress is 71% of the way to the goal of $150 million with $106 million raised thus far.

Professor of political science Dave Dulio spoke about recent redistricting and the impact it could have on OU. Some benefits include double the representation, and it creates an opportunity with Macomb County — OU now gets parts of Macomb at the state Senate and congressional level.

Provost Britt Rios-Ellis was next to speak, introducing the two new nominees for distinguished professors: Andrea Eis and Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill. Rios-Ellis spoke on the influence both professors had on their respective areas of research and programs at OU.

“Professor Eis has developed many new courses for her programs and her dedication to her students and the programs has won the admiration of students and colleagues alike,” Rios-Ellis said. “Dr. Zeigler-Hill has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles since 2004, and his work is highly cited with over 10,000 citations on Google Scholar.”

Eis and Dr. Zeigler-Hill were both approved for the title of distinguished professor.

Bill Matt — executive director of Meadow Brook — proposed construction of a new Visitor Center, a second garden tent venue — West Venue — and upgrades to the existing garden tent venue — East Venue — for Meadow Brook Hall. The project will cost $5.5 million and will be funded through philanthropy for the Visitor Center and Orientation Gallery along with increased event net revenue from the new venue and improvements.

“We hope to break ground and complete both the Visitor Center and the West Venue in 2022,” Matt said.

There was an update about the construction of South Foundation, which has been on hold due to budget limitations and the renovations on Wilson Hall. A budget increase of $4.2 million was proposed, bringing the total project cost to $44.2 million.

“We’re hopeful that the state will provide supplemental funding, we have no guarantee that will happen, if the state does not come through the university will have to pay any additional dollars,” James Hargett — interim vice president for finance and administration — said. 

Both projects and budgets were approved by the BOT.

The meeting closed with remarks from two professors regarding the AAUP proposal to introduce faculty liaisons to the BOT — strongly encouraging the BOT to reconsider adding a liaison. The BOT had no comments at the meeting.