Provost: Time to set aside skepticism and get creative
As the university's chief academic officer, Provost and Executive Vice President (and OSU graduate and OSUAA member) Sabah Randhawa took time out from a busy week to sit down with Oregon Stater editor Kevin Miller and answer some questions his fellow alumni might have about the realignment.
Question: Why is this the right time for the announced changes?
Provost Sabah Randhawa: How do we take a reactionary situation and create a more proactive situation from it? We have a strategic imperative for change and a fiscal imperative for change. So this is the ideal time to make sure our changes are consistent with our strategy for the long-term direction of the university.
Q: How will this save money?
Randhawa: By reducing the scope of programs and the courses that we offer, reducing administration, and then empowering people at all levels to make decisions.
There’s an opportunity to at least take some of the money we save and reinvest it into key areas, such as adding classes to clear some bottlenecks that slow students’ academic progress. The other key investment, if we are going to get to top 15 land grant university status, is that we have to build faculty capacity. We need to start building the faculty, by hiring on a very intentional, strategic, university-wide basis.
Q: As a person who will be at the forefront of making this happen, do any parts of it scare you?
Randhawa: I’m not scared, but it would be wrong to say there aren’t challenges. A big one is the degree of skepticism that exists. Historically, we have been very slow to make transformational change. Within the faculty there is a degree of: "So, is this just more talk, or are we really going to follow through?" We need to get over that so people will get engaged and help create solutions.
The other big challenge is a cultural shift. While we have a lot of collaboration now, it is still a very college-centric and program-centric approach.
At the foundation, this is how we have planned our capital campaign - by colleges. With our alumni we have generations that have graduated and have specific affiliations with colleges or programs. Now we need to have all of us see things from a more university-wide perspective.
Q: Isn’t a lot of this about people giving up personal power?
Randhawa: Absolutely. These are talented people with a lot of passion. You have deans sitting around a table and you’re asking them to help design a divisional structure that will require fewer deans. That’s a difficult conversation, as it is when a dean is saying, "Look, we’re going from 15 departments to six."
Q: What changes resulting from this plan will today’s graduates most notice when they return 15 or 20 years from now?
Randhawa: Of course part of it will be the buildings, because surely we’ll have to build some to accommodate our growth. But I think a big part of it will be the people. It will be a very different mix walking around the Quad than you have today, more of an international research university feel - and a higher representation of minorities.
Also, they will notice that OSU will have achieved a much larger role in shaping public policy. With more research will come a greater role in policy-making at the state and fed levels.
Q: How will this impact the public perception of the value of a degree from OSU?
Randhawa: One of the messages I hope this sends right away is that we are intent on optimally using the resources we have, in terms of focusing them on areas that make sense in the long term for the university and on our student success agenda. In the long term I hope the metrics around student success, like graduation rates, and around growth in research, will demonstrate that the actions we have taken have been successful.
Q: Will the increased emphasis on attracting high-achieving students from outside Oregon and around the world make it tougher for some Oregon students to come to OSU?
Randhawa: Expanding the international and non-resident population base does not mean Oregon students are excluded. I would argue that because state support for resident students has continually gone down (as a percentage of OSU’s costs of teaching them) and I don’t see that changing in the future, our nonresident students (who pay their full cost of education) are actually subsidizing our ability to provide access to Oregon students.
Now, as we increase the percentage of high-achieving students we attract from within Oregon and outside Oregon, there will be an impact on admitting students who are in the lower tier of admissibility, regardless of their residency. Community colleges are a place where those students who aren’t as well prepared as others can spend a year or two and really improve their academic performance, and then apply to OSU. Also, there is a commitment within the entire Oregon University System that, for many students, if their first choice is not available, there will still be a place for them at another institution in the system.
Q: How can alumni help implement the proposed changes?
Randhawa: Alumni ARE the voice of OSU. They can articulate the vision to those they meet, whether those people are high school students or their friends and fellow successful people in industry and business. If they will be our voice to the public at large, that will be wonderful, because that ultimately impacts the legislative process and our other support.
Q: What about the collateral impacts of an OSU with 30,000-35,000 students? How will it change the atmosphere on campus, the ability to find affordable housing, the character of Corvallis?
Randhawa: That’s a really good question, because with growth come certain attributes, a lot of them desirable and some of them perhaps not as desirable. With the greater ethnic mix comes a richer diversity of culture - more restaurants, things like that - but there will also be more congestion.
On the campus itself, we have a master plan that accommodates growth while protecting our beautiful green areas, so it won't become a campus of just buildings and parking lots. What will get impacted will be things like parking. Things may not be as convenient as they are now.
But I think the impact on Corvallis may be the bigger issue, and there will be time to work this out with the Corvallis community.
Q: The ongoing Campaign for OSU is a great success, but is there really a capacity for private philanthropy to help pay for such huge growth at OSU?
Randhawa: People like to support big ideas. They will give because of their passion for education and for the future of our society. If we can demonstrate that our ideas really are transformational in nature, I think not only will that expand our support from alumni and other current supporters, but also perhaps it will develop a base of support that has not existed for us in the past.
Q: How will OSU grow private, corporate support for its research, which is an area where the university has not competed well with its peer institutions?
Randhawa: We have not done well, which is why we have had an initiative in this area. While a lot of our faculty members have relationships with industry, what we don’t have as a university is that corporate-to-corporate relationship. We’re focusing on how we get to that place with six or eight key partners in which we really build on how OSU can contribute and how they can help OSU. Many of our peers have those kinds of relationships. Also, as we go forward with this, it will be really important that we maintain the ability to protect the integrity of our research.
Q: What will happen with the College of Education and what about the earlier proposal to move almost all of it to OSU-Cascades in Bend?
Randhawa: We will have a College of Education, or a unit of education, here in Corvallis, that is going to focus primarily on STEM education - teaching people how to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I think in the education arena that’s where OSU can make the best contribution. Meanwhile, we will keep the education administration here in Corvallis, but we will transition more of our other education programs to the Bend campus, where we already have three education programs.
Q: Will colleges be eliminated or combined as the divisional structure is implemented?
Randhawa: Between now and April we will determine the best administration model for each division, with the objective that we want to minimize administration so we can reinvest the savings in faculty and students. I won’t make a prediction now about each division, but in some divisions it could be that a fully integrated entity makes sense, with only one leader or dean.
Q: How much resistance do you expect as these changes become more real?
Randhawa: A lot of the feedback I get from talking to the Faculty Senate leadership and many of the deans is that the campus is at a point where people are saying that we have talked about these things for a long time, and they would like a definitive direction from the president.
Now, when it gets to the actual implementation reality and not the concept of change, the reaction can be different.
At the end of the day, while we have to be very open to input, we have to be very specific on the timing of some key decisions. The implementation plan we have released has a very specific set of deadlines. This entire restructuring needs to be complete by April or May of this academic year so we can implement it with the new fiscal year.
Sabah Randhawa has been provost and executive vice president of the university since June 2005, and has been on the faculty since 1983.
Ray: Expect huge growth, sharper focus, more major research, more diversity and more high-achieving students Oregon State University President Ed Ray outlined a new vision for OSU’s future on Thursday, describing a university that in 2025 will be as much as 60 percent larger, focused on signature research areas, more international in scope and built upon goals of student success and faculty achievement.
OSU President Ed Ray briefs the OSU Alumni Association Board of Directors on the proposed realignment at a September meeting. He announced today that he has approved a dramatic reorganization and refocusing of the university. Photo by Dennis Wolverton
In his annual State of the University address to the OSU Faculty Senate, Ray announced that the university would adopt a new divisional structure to focus its resources and foster even more collaboration – not only among faculty at OSU, but with partners at other universities, agencies and organizations in Oregon and beyond.
“If we are successful in setting and sustaining a course toward greater excellence, I believe that Oregon State University can be among the top 15 land grant universities by 2025,” Ray said. “Consequently, we will be an international research university that attracts the very best students and faculty to our education and research programs from around the world.”
Ray noted that OSU is poised to build upon its success over the last few years, including a record $252 million in external research funding in 2008-09, and private giving of $82 million – the second highest total raised in an academic year.
“And it occurred during the worst financial year since the Great Depression,” Ray pointed out.
The OSU president also pointed out that The Campaign for OSU has raised more than $534 million toward its goal of $625 million, with almost two years left. This kind of fund-raising success will have to become the norm not the exception, he said.
“As great as these efforts have been, we must more than double the value of our annual awards of research grants and contracts by the year 2025,” Ray said. “And we must more than double the annual fund-raising level achieved through our campaign, which will require at least one and perhaps two additional campaigns over the next 15 years.”
Ray said that the decision to align OSU’s academic programs into divisions - an outgrowth of a year-long transparent process - would help the university focus its resources, make strategic investments for the future and serve students better. These divisions will include:
• DIVISION OF EARTH SYSTEMS SCIENCE: College of Agriculture Sciences, College of Forestry, and College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences;
• DIVISION OF HEALTH SCIENCES: College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Pharmacy, and College of Veterinary Medicine;
• DIVISION OF BUSINESS AND ENGINEERING: College of Engineering and College of Business;
• DIVISION OF ARTS AND SCIENCES : College of Liberal Arts, College of Science, and College of Education.
Note: OSU-Cascades Campus; several centers and institutes; the Division of Outreach & Engagement; the Graduate School; the University Honors College and OSU's international programs will collaborate with the new divisions but will not be folded into any one of them.
An implementation plan for the division structure is due out this week, and it will call on deans to collaborate on a new administrative structure that will bring the divisions to life. For now, the colleges will retain their identities and leadership, but one dean in each division will become the supervising dean of that division.
(In a separate statement, Provost Randhawa said most key details will be decided and announced by April or May of 2010. He declined to speculate about which colleges might be combined and renamed via the divisional realignment, but he did say the university will almost certainly have fewer deans and much less administration once the process works itself out.)
By 2025, OSU must be prepared to educate as many as 30,000 to 35,000 students, Ray said, and the makeup of the university’s enrollment may shift significantly. The percentage of OSU’s international student enrollment will double (to 10 percent or more), one out of every four students will be enrolled in a graduate or professional program, and the university should graduate as many as 6,000 students each year. To guarantee access, OSU will continue its signature Bridge to Success program, which paid tuition and fees for 3,200 students last year and is projected to support a similar number this year.
“To realize these aspirations for 2025, we must increase the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty from 783 to between 1,300 and 1,500 in the next 15 years,” Ray said, “and we must begin now.”
Sabah Randhawa, OSU’s provost and executive vice president, is leading an effort to identify resources over the next two years that would add 25 to 30 faculty members in arts and sciences to boost the university’s capacity in its core teaching areas. Over the next three years, OSU will look to create 10-15 new faculty positions in each of the other three divisions.
Ray acknowledged that looking to increase faculty at a time when the university is eliminating as many as 300 positions may seem confusing to some, but it’s about allocating resources more effectively to focus the university toward its strategic goals. Many of the positions eliminated will be handled through retirements and other natural attrition from the university’s employee ranks.
"We have reworked our base budgets to provide additional resources to the colleges most centrally engaged in delivering undergraduate education," Ray added.
Ray said OSU also must increase its collaborative in-state research programs, pointing to the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) and Oregon Built Environmental and Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) as examples.
“We also must significantly increase our direct partnerships with industry,” Ray said. “Right now, only 2 percent of our annual research funding results from industry partnerships. We must increase this to 4-8 percent of our total even as we more than double our annual research portfolio by 2025.”
Ray also announced that the College of Education will move some of its programs to the OSU-Cascades Campus in Bend, while retaining the administrative structure on the OSU campus. Ray said his vision for OSU’s future growth includes the state’s first branch campus as an integral component of the university, and said it should seek an enrollment of 3,000 to 4,000 students by 2025.
“That level of success will require us to help colleagues there build signature programs that will make the Cascades Campus a destination of choice for students and faculty,” Ray said.
Edward J. Ray has been president of OSU since 2003, and previously served as provost and executive vice president at Ohio State University.