16:53 PM

From letter grades to improving teaching, Ohio State president discusses staff concerns

University Staff Advisory Committee questions Drake on staff role in improving Ohio State

Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake spent an hour with university staff members Tuesday to share progress on the strategic plan, apprise them on the search for a new academic health care leader and explain why he wishes some students wouldn’t get a letter grade in class.

The University Staff Advisory Committee hosted Drake at the Ohio Union for a conversation about issues important to staff. Moderator and USAC Chair Tom Gessells, director of information technology for the OSU Health Plan, started off asking about the strategic plan and specifically about the role of staff in supporting teaching and learning.

“We want to be as efficient and effective as possible in creating educational content that we transmit to the people who are receiving it and then measuring that, in fact, it’s making a difference,” Drake said.

Drake explained the university’s new teaching support program offers an optional professional development opportunity for lecturers to improve their work in the classroom. The program, managed through the University Institute for Teaching and Learning, features a monetary incentive for those who participate.

“We want this to be a good thing that helps those who are teaching do a better job of teaching so that our learners have a better experience,” he said.

Gessells asked Drake for an update on the search for an executive vice president and chancellor for academic health care. The university announced the search for the position last year. The new leader will take over a medical center operation that accounts for about half of the university’s budget and is developing plans for a new hospital and ambulatory centers.

President Michael V. Drake
We’re doing the very best we’ve ever done and are among the best in the world today. So we don’t want to add someone to the mix who’s not going to improve our really outstanding performance.
President Michael V. Drake

The new leader will manage a hospital system and health science colleges that are showing strong results in patient care, research funding and academic success.

“We’re doing the very best we’ve ever done and are among the best in the world today. So we don’t want to add someone to the mix who’s not going to improve our really outstanding performance,” Drake said. “We’re being very thoughtful and careful about looking at who might be able to come and help us do that.”

Drake said the search committee has identified a group of candidates with national reputations and is in the process of meeting with them. He hopes to have the position filled in a matter of months.

Jeff Trimble, a lecturer in the School of Communication, pointed to research that suggests academic excellence is not a strong indicator of career excellence. He said he knows of students who would like to take a greater diversity of classes but have concerns it will hurt their grade average.

“The bottom line here is what can you do to make it easier for students to take intellectual risks?” Trimble asked.

Drake said the university experience should improve students in the areas of academics, research, character and leadership, and he agreed that letter grades don’t always capture student success in those areas. He said the general education curriculum is already under review and should enable students to take more elective classes for double majors and/or minors. Drake said he is also a proponent of so-called pass-fail classes to offer a challenging educational experience without the pressure that comes with a letter grade.

“We hope to continue to help people to develop,” he said. “A really important part of our curriculum is helping people to be who we want them to be as citizens when they leave.”