Dear Ohio State Mansfield Colleagues,
As this is my first Bi-Weekly Report of the new semester, I thought I would share the text of the comments I made for the State of the Campus address this past Tuesday. Here goes:
Welcome back faculty and students! And to staff, welcome to the kickoff of the 2013-2014 academic year! As most of you know, I am halfway through my first term as dean and director, and I have marked this milestone in a number of ways. One of those markers was exposing myself to a 360 review process to gain feedback on both the degree to which actions taken during the first half of my term were the right ones, as well as the degree to which the various directions and paths I have set us on course to follow are the ones on which we most need to travel. I was extremely pleased with the feedback I received, and I will be sharing more specific results with various members of the campus community in the weeks and months ahead. In general, though, both the strengths and challenges that were identified through this process have formed an important backdrop on my plans for the coming year. I thank each and every one of you for having provided such feedback, and I look forward to future discussions about these results.
Today’s State of the Campus address is actually a collection of brief reports from several senior staff members, and my remarks are merely meant to foreshadow in broad brush strokes what will be taking place in the coming year. I will have much more to share with you in the coming weeks as I return to my biweekly reports, as well as further thoughts that I will be sharing in meetings we have set up with various groups such as faculty assembly, executive committee, MSAC, and the Ohio State Mansfield Board.
In the brief amount of time that I have been allotted today, I wish to borrow from my own academic literature in order to discuss and define my view of what is to come in the 2013-2014 academic year. Here, I will be employing a theoretical framework known as the ecological systems approach. Primarily used to examine the context of human development, the ecological approach perhaps is most well-known for its emphasis on levels of the ecosystem.
These levels, which are conceptualized as ranging in size and scope from smallest to largest, include the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem levels of the ecosystem.
At the smallest ecological systems level, the family is characterized as the primary “microsystem” of all human development. On the Ohio State Mansfield campus, our “nuclear family” is the faculty, staff, students, and board members who comprise our campus community. Let me share a brief overview of what I wish to accomplish this year with each group of family members.
For faculty, I am going to be focused on two important questions: what does “excellence in teaching” mean on the Mansfield campus? And is this what we are most proud of in terms of being faculty on a regional campus, or are there other equally important points we should be making about the pleasures associated with life as a regional campus faculty member? I have set aside a number of days over the course of Fall Semester to begin formulating answers to these two questions.
For staff, I will expand our focus on the performance based culture we have been striving to cultivate. To do so, we will be using the results of the recent mini culture survey recently conducted with staff members in combination with some changes we are making in terms of MSAC’s relationship to the Executive Committee.
For students, I will be focusing more intensively on the student experience in light of the recent and upcoming changes we will be seeing as the result of facilities transformations on campus, as well as what is happening just “next door” with regard to off-campus student housing. These are huge changes that will transform our campus environment and, in so doing, will significantly and positively alter the student experience of our campus.
For board members, I will be working with you to refine and enhance the work that is being conducted in our four primary committees: finance, external relations, student experience, and facilities and planning. I won’t belabor the point here because my remarks have the fingerprints of these four committees all over them, but I will take the time to thank all of my board members for the tireless ways that they apply their time, energy, and enthusiasm to the growth and development of the Ohio State Mansfield campus. It is truly appreciated.
The next largest level in the ecological systems approach is the “mesosystem.” The mesosystem is meant to describe various connections between microsystems. For us, one such example is the linkage between our family members – again, faculty, staff, and students – and the local school districts that surround us. The Algebra Project, Leader Richland, and other programs and initiatives will be given even more attention this year as we work to solidify those partnerships in the community that serve as a pipeline to our campus. A second mesosystem connection of note in this year’s planning is the health care system. We all shared in the disappointment this past spring when the Med Central board decided to not partner with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. While unfortunate, this was only a temporary setback to our plans to bring health care to our campus. Through some innovative new technologies in telemedicine – and some extended partnerships with the Ohio State College of Medicine and the College of Nursing – we hope to create a “Health Spot” on our campus that will provide rapid access to medical resolutions for the most common problems presented in medical outpatient clinics.
The next largest level in the ecological systems approach is the “exosystem.” The exosystem involves the influences of larger systems such as the neighborhood and community. As a member of the Richland County Development Group (known as RCDG), I have been asked to help coordinate resources for that economic development group in ways that will facilitate a long-range strategic planning effort for Richland County. Partnerships with the Fisher College of Business and the City and Regional Planning program on the Columbus campus will provide important input into this process, and I hope to rope some of our own faculty expertise into this planning effort along the way. We also have our own 640 plus acres serving as another exosystem factor that we will be paying a great deal more attention to this year. We now have a forestry management plan as a result of some important partnerships we have been forming with Ohio State Extension and the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, and one of the concepts springing out of that work centers important attention on the amazing natural resources we have on this campus. How many of you are familiar with Stone Lab up on Lake Erie? That is Ohio State’s living laboratory for teaching, research, and service pertaining to the study of open waters. What would you think about the Ohio State Mansfield becoming that same kind of laboratory for forests and streams? Such a concept is well within the realm of possibilities, it certainly fits well with the environmental studies destination program we have been formulating, and as such will be the topic of discussions we will be hosting in the very near future.
Finally, the largest and last level in the ecological systems approach is the “macrosystem.” The macrosystem represents even larger social contexts, and for us that is the Regional Campus Cluster and the Columbus campus administration. Organizational design issues at the cluster levels will be discussed at the RCC level, with attention paid to how we are structured administratively across the four campuses, and how we compare not only to each other, but to other similar sized campuses across the country. And in terms of our interface with the Columbus campus, we will be paying attention to at least two core issues: first, how our IT transition is faring – the topic of an open forum this afternoon in partnership with the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) -- and second, how certain key funding issues will be handled, including most importantly how subsidy will be distributed in the face of the Board of Regents recent action to roll up all state funds into one bundle of money that will be handled by the Columbus administration’s business and finance office.
It is clear that our ecosystem is alive and well and will be teeming with life this year. I am looking forward to the academic year ahead, and I hope all of you are too. Go Bucks and Go Ohio State Mansfield!