With the pending departure of E. Gordon Gee as president of Ohio State University, the questions become: What should OSU be looking for in its new leader? What are the needs of Ohio State and public higher education in Ohio generally, for the next decade and beyond?
OSU trustees and other state officials need to pay particular attention to what the Ohio Board of Regents, in a recent report, calls “underrepresented workers.” The worker who used to be a prosperous middle-class, blue-collar employee is still looking for that magic key. Where and how can he or she retool?
Is this worker’s future in health care? That seems to be one field that is growing, and that needs increased support and technical staff. How can the university help prepare such workers?
Ohio State is well-endowed financially. There is no problem there, so what academic programs can it create to serve working-class Ohio families? The same question applies to other public universities across the state.
There may also be time and space, in the search process for Ohio State’s new president, to consider creative questions about higher education in the state: Can we do a better job of controlling costs and keeping tuition from absorbing inflationary yearly hikes? Can we better prepare liberal arts majors for the world, perhaps by requiring them to take minors in practical and technical fields? To know is not enough. To think is not enough. In today’s world, you need a skill.
Mr. Gee has served OSU and Ohio with distinction. Now it is the responsibility of the entire state to ponder the next chapter in the university’s story.