Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

UT must embrace change

FOUR years ago, the University of Toledo's Board of Trustees began to lead a conversation aimed at improving the university's stature and making UT more student-centered. We sought to provide undergraduate and nonprofessional graduate programs that would be relevant to the lives of our students and our community.

Last February, the board unanimously approved a resolution that detailed our desire to accomplish this critical objective. Last spring, we commissioned President Lloyd Jacobs to develop specific recommendations that would achieve this outcome.

UT has been ambitious for several years in its initiative to elevate the distinctiveness and excellence of the institution. We have endeavored to strive for best-of-class academic programs.

We also have sought to improve the quality of health care in northwest Ohio, and to become a leader in the economic renaissance of the region. These three areas constitute the backbone of our strategic plan, first enunciated in its present form after UT's merger with the former Medical University of Ohio in 2006.

The university has made significant progress in many core areas. We set the bar in health care, as evidenced by the top scores of our students on the United States Medical Licensure Examination. We have achieved top-tier grade metrics for health care, thanks to the excellence of the clinicians and nurses at the university's Medical Center.

At the same time, the College of Medicine is helping to ensure the quality of health care for this community by developing programs and partnerships designed to stave off an impending physician shortage in northwest Ohio.

UT also is a significant force in our region's economic recovery. We provide intellectual and financial support to many innovative enterprises in areas of regional strength, such as alternative energy and intermodal transportation.

Gov. Ted Strickland has recognized northwest Ohio as a “hub of innovation” for solar energy. Just last week, the Ohio Department of Development made awards to UT under its Energizing Careers Program, which will provide training funds for as many as 800 employees.

UT exceeded $75 million in external research funding last year — a record for this institution. We have achieved nine consecutive semesters of increased enrollment. We have seen growth in UT's stature, based on a number of regional and national measurements.

Our faculty members continue to perform at the highest levels and to be recognized as world leaders in their disciplines. We are extremely proud of our progress.

But our work is not complete. Soon the board will consider Dr. Jacobs' recommendations, which may lead to major structural changes within the university. We will examine these proposals through the lens of the need for continued relevance to our students, our patients, our alumni, our community, and the world.

We are deeply conscious of the fact that students are the reason we exist. The transmission of knowledge from our faculty to our students is our primary mission.

We believe that any restructuring should enhance interaction among disciplines, increasing collaboration and, ultimately, creativity. Such creative activity in the laboratory and classroom is the foundation of the excellence that we seek.

A number of important stakeholders have made contributions to the university's institutional readiness, but we can and must do better. The Board of Trustees is driving the proposed changes.

Some may view such an undertaking as a risk. But the Board of Trustees has long understood that there is far greater risk in attempting to avoid the change that is an inescapable component of the world around us.

The world is constantly evolving. New technologies are developed daily. New knowledge is created in a near-constant fashion. New business and industry come to life each moment. Change is predestined, and higher education has long been a catalyst to achieving our collective future.

We cannot afford to remain stagnant. The University of Toledo must embrace the challenges that lie ahead, if we are to continue in our role as the essential catalyst that influences the affairs surrounding our daily lives.

C. William Fall is chairman of the University of Toledo Board of Trustees.

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