2022 State of Academic Affairs details university priorities, achievements, financial updates


Photo courtesy of John McTaggart/Oakland University

President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz addressed the Oakland University community on March 30 for the State of Academic Affairs.

President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Britt Rios-Ellis presided over the campus community on March 30 for the 2022 State of Academic Affairs — detailing various initiatives, priorities, strategic investments, finances and funding, and celebrating various members and groups of the campus community exhibiting strength, aspirations, innovations and legacy (SAIL).

To begin, Rios-Ellis outlined the academic affairs mission and vision — one of “inclusivity, academic distinction and preeminent impact,” before heading into the university’s priorities for 2022-23, which include: student success, faculty achievement, shared governance, community engagement and service learning, integrating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), professional development and alternative revenue streams.

“To support student success — we foster transformative learning, high impact practices and distinction in higher education while remaining vigilant regarding diverse ways of learning,” Rios-Ellis said. “Our team is committed to using quantitative and qualitative information to make inclusive, data informed decisions.”

In regard to diversifying and supporting the campus community — where 15% of students, 6.8% of professors, 8.2% of associate professors, 10.4% of assistant professors and 13.3% of instructors or special instructors are underrepresented minorities (URM) — Rios-Ellis detailed various initiatives to provide support, including for faculty: a sense of belonging, visibility of accomplishments and refined promotion and tenure processes, and for students: innovative programs, URM mentoring and tutoring, among others.

Rios-Ellis proceeded to discuss funding, where Oakland University is the least funded of Michigan’s 15 public universities. This was further addressed by Pescovitz later on in the presentation, as OU has the lowest fiscal year equivalent student funding in Michigan, and also relies on tuition revenue more than any other public university in the state.

Although enrollment is down approximately 9% in the current fiscal year and is expected to decrease for at least the next five years, Pescovitz detailed a plan that will allow for a balanced budget.

“Our goal is to strategically balance the budget every year without compromising our mission, our vision, our values and our goals,” Pescovitz said. “[And also] keeping the best interest of our students, faculty, staff and community in mind.”

The strategy includes expenditure reductions of $8.9 million to the base budget, added funds from pandemic reserves, a tuition increase below the Governor’s 5% cap and state allocation (assuming OU receives 70% of Governor Whitmer’s higher education budget).

Rios-Ellis’ portion of the presentation, before Pescovitz stepped in for the President’s update — of which the aforementioned financial update was included in — highlighted the achievements of a plethora of campus individuals and groups.

“The importance of our work now is to leave a strong legacy for students, faculty and staff for generations to come,” Rios-Ellis said.

Celebrated individuals, groups and/or organizations included — but were certainly not limited to — Dr. Ilias Chlolis for his research on dark matter, the Master of Arts in Special Education program, the School of Engineering and Computer Science’s augmented reality center and community leader Justen Daniels.

Further along in the address, Pescovitz detailed OU’s plans moving forward.

​​”The key to the future is the decisions we’re making today,” she said. “Responding strategically to the challenges and fast-changing higher education landscape — we must be bold, we must be innovative and we must be inspirational.”

As part of this future, OU Focus is an initiative aiming to reimagine OU and take the university to the next level.

The primary agenda of OU Focus is to elevate OU as a steward of place, foster an engaging campus culture and improve financial education to understand the rationale of strategic direction, as mentioned by Pescovitz.

Pescovitz closed out the address with a message of appreciation.

“At the heart of our success and future are the people of Oakland University, the backbone of our beloved campus,” she said. “We greatly value our faculty and staff, and we appreciate all you have done and are doing to support our core — our students.”