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President Lori Stewart-Gonzalez during her induction ceremony held in Memorial Auditorium on College Green in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 18, 2023.

Reflecting on President Gonzalez's first year at OU

Ohio University’s 23rd and first female president, Dr. Lori Stewart Gonzalez, has completed her first academic year in office.

After taking over for former OU President Hugh Sherman on July 1, 2023, Gonzalez saw the start of success in many of her goals and accomplishments.

“The transformative initiatives she has already implemented are just the first of many ways President Gonzalez plans to contribute to elevating the students, faculty, staff and alumni of Ohio University in her tenure as President,” OU Spokesperson Samantha Pelham wrote in an email.

Gonzalez announced the President’s Opportunity Promise Award during her October investiture, according to an OU news release. The award will allow federal Pell Grant-eligible high school students in Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton and Washington Counties to receive free tuition.

“This is really an expansion of our ongoing commitment to access and affordability and serving the students in our region,” Gonzalez said during her Investiture Ceremony on Oct. 18. “If we can educate them in our region, we can keep them in our region.”

This renewable scholarship will allow higher education access for students and families who never had college on their radar, which could bring in first-generation and local students, according to a previous The Post article. The scholarship will be awarded starting with the Fall 2024 Semester.

Gonzalez brought together other members of the Ohio community to help her develop the Dynamic Strategy initiative, Pelham said. The Dynamic Strategy is a set of five-year goals focusing on four areas – learn, discover, engage and work.

“As part of the Dynamic Strategy process, I look forward to hearing from you about where your ideas are and what you believe we should invest,” Gonzalez said during the ceremony. “We don’t know the outcome of our planning, it’s my expectation that our institutional profile will be elevated and will form significant new partnerships and increased support.”

The Dynamic Strategy work groups recently presented their goals on Feb. 19 for the next five years to the OU community, and it will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in June, Pelham wrote. These goals will hopefully be implemented in the fall.

Gonzalez also charged a group of OU leaders and experts to review and refresh OU’s mission and vision in the fall, which has not been fully updated since 2007.

The former mission statement was 17 years old, and it was changed to better reflect the uniqueness of OU and the university’s work in the evolving world, according to Pelham.

“​​Ohio University holds as its central purpose the intellectual and personal development of its students,” the former mission statement reads. “Distinguished by its rich history, diverse campus, international community, and beautiful Appalachian setting, Ohio University is also known as well for its outstanding faculty of accomplished teachers whose research and creative activity advance knowledge across many disciplines.”

The Board of Trustees will consider the new mission statement for approval in June, according to OU’s website.

“To hold the door open to higher education so that all those eager to solve humanity's most urgent challenges might enter to learn, connecting them with experiences and discovery that will help them think critically, care deeply, lead boldly, and ultimately depart to serve,” the new statement reads.

Gonzalez started a new forum called University Updates, according to Pelham. The series has hybrid events that provides insight into OU’s priorities and progress, delves into topics of higher education at OU and helps foster transparency and understanding.

Ohio community members are invited to University Updates sessions, which take place quarterly, Pelham said. There have already been three sessions with various OU leaders presenting to hundreds of viewers.

Although Gonzalez has kick started many different initiatives, she’s also involved on campus.

“Dr. Lori Stewart Gonzalez has embraced all things Ohio, taking part in traditions like Homecoming, engaging with students, faculty, staff and alumni across all campuses, visiting each regional campus to get a sense of their impact on their respective communities, and implementing new initiatives that make obtaining a higher education more accessible,” Pelham said.


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