University of Toledo leaders have made progress improving student retention, capturing more research dollars, and bolstering UT’s reputation in the six months since trustees approved a five-year strategic plan that calls for across-the-board improvements to the institution.
Trustees this week heard an end-of-semester progress report from Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, who spoke optimistically about the university's momentum.
The tower at University Hall on the campus of the University of Toledo. The University of Toledo received $38.6 million in research report in the fiscal year 2017, and is poised to surpass those numbers for 2018.
The plan outlines 65 specific areas in which the university aims to improve, and officials created an online dashboard to track their progress. As the semester comes to a close, about 91 percent of the goals are marked “in progress and on target,” while the other nine percent are either “in progress and need attention” or “not yet started.”
Mr. Hsu highlighted research — something UT President Sharon Gaber has focused on growing since she took the helm in 2015 — as an area of marked improvement.
“Our sponsored research awards increased for the first time in five years, which is probably the best indication our research is moving in the right direction,” he said.
For the 2017 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017, UT received about $38.6 million in research support, up from about $38.3 million in 2016. And the university is on track to surpass those numbers for fiscal year 2018, as new research awards are more than double what they were at this time last year, at $12.6 million compared to $6.1 million.
Frank Calzonetti, UT’s vice president of research, said a greater focus on research and scholarship allows the university to attract and retain high-caliber faculty and, in turn, gives students access to experts in their fields of study.
“It makes the university a better place, and it gives the university a higher level of recognition,” he said.
Ms. Gaber has also focused on boosting UT’s national reputation, which includes improving its annual U.S. News and World Report ranking.
UT’s ranking wasn’t published in the most recent U.S. News and World Report because the rankings only include universities that fall in the top 220. Officials said the university dropped to No. 245 in 2016, down from the No. 232 position it held the year before.
Since the strategic plan was implemented, UT formed a task force to come up with a strategy to improve, Mr. Hsu said.
University leaders also are working to improve student enrollment and retention. They’re creating an early-arrival summer program to help acclimate incoming freshman and will pilot offering winter courses to help students stay on track toward completing their degrees.
Enrollment numbers were down 0.3 percent, according to the dashboard, and officials are still analyzing why.
Mr. Hsu said officials will update the online dashboard several times each semester.
“For us, it’s a way to keep all of the units focused and let them know we’re going to be continually reporting and updating,” Ms. Gaber said. “We want to make sure that people are making progress.”
She expects each department to submit its plans to stay on track with the strategic plan by February.
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