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Members of the Ohio University Board of Trustees meet in 2019 in Walter Hall (FILE:). 

Board of Trustees: treasurer appointed, university update presented

The Ohio University Board of Trustees met Thursday and Friday to discuss the Inclusive Access Textbook Program, updates on the ASCENT program and hear updates on the university from OUR President Hugh Sherman.  

Main Board Meeting

Sherman presented his president’s report at the Main Board Meeting, which focused on how Ohio University is investing in the student experience while still remaining financially stable. 

Sherman talked about how there have been investments in campus involvement along with the development of a scorecard by the Provost Office to measure student outcomes and student experiences. 

As the market for higher education across the country becomes more difficult, Sherman said that investing in the student experience is important to keep OU competitive when recruiting students. 

“Given this kind of competition and other schools seeing that the revenue is declining, every school is looking at ways to increase the numbers of students that they’re drawing,” Sherman said. “As a result of this competition, it is even more imperative that schools like us enhance the student experience.”

Sherman said OU is looking to hire a director of student involvement and continuing to address competitive wage structures for faculty and staff. 

However, Sherman also said OU has continued to try and reduce its costs through programs like shared service

Additionally, during the Main Board Meeting, there was a spotlight presentation about the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service that highlighted their partnerships with the community and many of their accomplishments. 

To close the meeting, the board voted on and approved resolutions presented during each of the committee meetings and the consent agenda. 

Academics and Student Success Committee

Dean Matthew Shaftel gave updates about the growth of the College of Fine Arts to the Board on Thursday. The college has an 89% first-to-second-year retention rate, the average GPA of incoming first-year students is a 3.94 and a 70% job placement in field of study after graduation.

Shaftel said the college has undergone 35% overall growth in all of its majors, 55% growth in out-of-state students and 36% growth in underrepresented students, Shaftel said. The college has also created nine new undergraduate degrees, which include musical theater, interior architecture, film, contemporary music and digital art. 

The Board also heard from Chief Information Officer Chris Ament and Academic Technology Services Manager Eszti Major-Rohrer about Ohio University’s Inclusive Access Textbook Program. The program works to make course materials and textbooks more affordable for students. 

“The (National Association of College Stores) did a survey and found that students are spending $700 on textbooks annually,” Major-Rohrer said. 

To help decrease textbook costs, the program works to buy books in bulk and rent or sell them to students for a lower price than what they would pay when buying the textbook individually. The program also helps faculty find materials at lower costs and other updated free resources. 

Since the program’s start in 2018, the average cost of course materials has gone down to an average of $339 per year and saved students over $6.6 million. Due to the program, an additional $5.4 million in course material costs is expected to be saved by 2026.

The Board then received an update about the Appalachian Semiconductor Education and Technical (ASCENT) Ecosystem program, which was initiated following a $3 million Intel grant awarded to the university.

One of the main goals of the program is to create a workforce within the Southeastern Appalachian region of Ohio that will consist of new professionals in the semiconductor industry.

ASCENT is broken down into three “thrusts” that include being able to stack certificates in semiconductor education across institutions, associate degrees in semiconductor education, and scalability and advanced degrees. 

Before concluding the committee meeting, OU’s Director of Athletics, Julie Cromer, spoke on the academic achievements of the university’s student athletes. 

Four student-athletes also presented to the Board and discussed their individual experiences at OU and their goals for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. 

Governance and Compensation Committee 

Diane Smullen, vice chair, introduced Vice President Kyle, who leads the finance and administration unit, to also serve as the board’s treasurer. 

Typically, the board’s treasurer gets appointed in June, however, the board needs to have a resolution of appointment to get through the fiscal year. This resolution was not on the agenda. 

The motion passed and Vice President Kyle will serve as the board’s treasurer from January 20 to June 30. 

Audit and Risk Management Committee

The Audit and Risk Management Committee told the Board of Trustees they are nearing completion of the Fiscal Year of 2022 audit and look forward to start making motions toward the 2023 audit in the next few months. 

The committee started by giving a FY22 audit overview. The audit typically takes place around the enrollment timeframe and continues for many months of the year. During this time, preliminary fieldwork is conducted to test internal controls and major programs. 

The three main programs the committee tested were: the education stabilization fund, the research and development cluster and student financial aid cluster. After testing the programs with the control groups, the committee found no material weakness or deficiencies throughout the process. 

The committee concluded by noting there were no unusual or significant, disagreements or independent matters identified within the FY22 audit. 

Madayln Blair, Lydia Colvin, Paige Fisher, Maggie Palma contributed to this report.

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