Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series analyzing President Roderick McDavis’ decade at Ohio University.
Ohio University extends well beyond the City of Athens.
Similarly, the city encompasses more than just the university.
When OU President Roderick McDavis took office in 2004, he said he wanted to develop research partnerships with other universities and to strengthen relations with the City of Athens.
"We will increase partnerships in the region, throughout Ohio and throughout the nation as our fourth goal," McDavis said in his Sept. 10, 2004 address.
OU and the City of Athens
McDavis and Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 between the university and the city, which stemmed in part from the city fire department’s need to purchase a new ladder truck. OU pledged $250,000 to help the city purchase that truck, according to McDavis’ 2008-11 President’s Self-Assessment Statement.
The memorandum was a formal pledge to work together.
“(The memorandum) really kicked off sort of raising the bar on how we want to cooperate and to memorialize our cooperative spirit, which we hope will continue long after we are in our roles,” said Jennifer Kirksey, the president’s chief of staff.
It’s important that the city and the university work together, especially in crisis situations.
Their partnership helped the city do construction on West Union Street and manage storm water systems, said Paula Horan-Moseley, service-safety director for the city.
“One of my goals ... is to get an ‘Off-Campus 101’ similar to what you have with Alcohol Edu,” Horan-Moseley said. “It’s (students’) town too.”
The City of Athens and OU joined the International Town-Gown Association during McDavis’ early years as president. Horan-Moseley said they are placing a bid to have the association's annual conference in Athens in 2016.
Community college partnerships and online programs
Not all Bobcats start out or even step foot on the Athens campus.
And to some university officials, that means there are more opportunities to educate students.
OU currently is partnered with 18 community colleges — 16 in Ohio, one in West Virginia and one in Kentucky.
In Fall of 2014 nearly 13 percent of new OU students came from community colleges.
“That can be a transfer into the online programs or simply you plan to transfer and come to Athens,” said Linda Lockhart, director of communication, regional campuses and outreach. “The idea is to help ease the way so they know the things they’ve taken how they will transfer in.”
More than 81 percent of those students are now attending classes at one of the eight regional campuses or online, according to university data.
Partnerships with community colleges were first formalized in 2008 and have continued to grow since, Lockhart said.
The university recently implemented the STEP program, a “Strategic Transfer Education Plan” which allows students to take two years of classes at Hocking College and Washington State Community College before “smoothly” transitioning into OU, Lockhart said.
She added that during that transition period students can meet with advisors from the university and have other OU benefits, such as library access and an university email.
The university also has seven online degree completion programs that work with community college programs, said Deborah Gearhart, vice provost for e-learning and strategic partnerships.
“We do a lot of things to try to encourage our partnerships to work, but it is really trying to help students that are place-bound,” Gearhart said. “Online has really opened the door to a lot more students.”
During the 2012-13 academic year, online programs generated $52.5 million for the university in tuition revenue, according to a previous Post article.