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Ohio State provost delivers State of Academic Affairs address

Gilliam focuses on university priorities in her first address

Ohio State University Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa L. Gilliam delivered her first State of Academic Affairs address March 24, highlighting her reflections and priorities for the academic enterprise.

“This time last year, I had not even submitted my letter of interest [to Ohio State,]” she said. “I was still looking at the job description and the very powerful words of President Johnson in her State of the University address in which she declared Ohio State would address some of the world’s most pressing problems. And I thought given this time, given our collective moment, Ohio State was the place that wanted to do more.”

Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa GilliamGilliam has been at Ohio State for about seven months, after joining the university from the University of Chicago, where she was vice provost, the Ellen H. Block Distinguished Service Professor of Health Justice, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics. 

From academic excellence to research and creative expression to community engagement, Gilliam discussed the importance of supporting the university’s top priorities.

“Talking about academic excellence, probably the most important thing is the success of our faculty,” she said. “Given the quality of our faculty, the outstanding work of our faculty, the Office of Academic Affairs has to be fully committed to our faculty success.”

Gilliam discussed some of the programs designed to develop and grow faculty at Ohio State. Earlier this year, the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) announced 15 tenure-track positions tied to the university’s RAISE (Race, Inclusion and Social Equity) initiative, which will add at least 50 research faculty to the university within a decade.

RAISE is part of a larger university initiative to add 350 tenure-track faculty within a decade, while also enhancing academic and personal resources to support Ohio State scholars, educators and practitioners through all phases of their careers.

OAA also recently launched the Provost’s Tenure-Track Fellow to Faculty Program. The program aims to recruit early-career scholars who will enter the university as tenure-track fellows and then advance to become assistant professors.

“The idea here is that we should be one of the most competitive places to become a faculty member. We should have people who choose us for the opportunity to enjoy this cohort of scholars,” she said.

Gilliam also discussed the new initiatives to support student success. She highlighted the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program to enable eligible Ohio State students to earn their bachelor’s degree debt-free, through a mix of scholarships, work opportunities and financial literacy programs. A small pilot program begins in autumn 2022 and will continue to scale up over the next decade.

“Not only is Scarlet & Gray Advantage a program that supports individual students, but it helps us as an institution to work better,” she said.

Gilliam said one of her new goals is to create a new academic plan for the university, noting it has been almost 20 years since the university developed a document to highlight academic priorities. She said it will be a strategic effort “developed through conversation and collaboration.”

Gilliam said there is much to look forward to at Ohio State.

“I will end by saying thank you for the time to present to you about the State of Academic Affairs. But more importantly, thank you for the opportunity to be a Buckeye and join this community.”

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