Making the world a better place: Exemplary faculty chart course for Ohio State’s future

Plan calls on university community to ‘solve problems no one else can solve’

By: Chris Booker

Published on June 14, 2017

As The Ohio State University begins planning for the campus of the future, the university is leaning on the faculty of the present to help chart the path.

Last week, Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron introduced university trustees to two faculty members who are considered exemplary for their research and teaching. Addressing the board’s Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee, McPheron said the long-term goal of the university should be improving upon the greatness that already exists – and these faculty members highlight that achievement.

“As we talk about building our strategic plan, we start from an excellent place. And we aspire to be even more impactful in the work we’re doing,” he said.

That work includes finding ways to improve the lives of new students even before they arrive on campus and using technology to make learning more accessible and more affordable.

McPheron pointed to Laura Justice and Brian Lower as just two of the faculty leading the way.

Justice is the executive director of the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She said poverty, abuse, exposure to violence and drugs put young students at risk and challenge the future of Columbus and the state. The Crane Center is focused on fixing that future.

“Too many children in Columbus and our nation experience vulnerabilities that negatively affect their brain development,” she explained to the committee.

The Crane Center is located in Columbus’ Weinland Park and serves as a hub for researchers who work in early childhood development. The center was awarded a $20 million grant in 2010 to support a nationwide study to improve reading comprehension in young children.

“I believe that research at Ohio State University is making, and continues to make the world a better place for children by doing research that affects policies and practices,” Justice said.

Co-presenter Lower is an associate professor of environmental microbiology who teaches on the Columbus and Marion campuses but is also an expert in online learning.

“Education is a fundamental right for all humans, and our mission as educators should be to promote high quality, affordable education for all,” Lower said.

Lower’s class, Introduction to Environmental Science, is available on the iTunes platform and each year reaches more than 35,000 student subscribers in the United States and around the world. Lower said developing resources like electronic textbooks and online courses opens the door to students who may not have the money or mobility to get to Ohio State.

“We can still provide a high-quality education to people all over the planet,” he said.

McPheron said these faculty members are just a sample of the great work that has positioned the university for a successful future.

“The power of a place like The Ohio State University with the broad reach and expertise that we have solves problems nobody else can solve,” McPheron said.

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