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President Drake discusses university success with staff

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

Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The 15th president in the university’s history spoke this week to university staff members about his plans to transition away from the president’s office and the momentum he wants to see continue at Ohio State.

The University Staff Advisory Committee hosted Drake at the Wexner Medical Center for an hour to discuss issues important to university staff. Moderator and USAC member Steven Loborec, assistant director in the Wexner Medical Center department of pharmacy, asked Drake about the legacy he wants to leave when he steps down as president in 2020.

“Legacy would be a word I wouldn’t use,” he said. “That’s sort of like it’s a focus on the wrong thing. It’s like a focus on a person and this is not about a person.”

Drake said what he has seen over the last six years is a university leading from the front in higher education.

“What feels great, from the current perspective, is that our voice is so impactful in areas that matter so much to so many people.”

Drake cited the commitment to access and affordability and the emphasis on improving teaching as two areas that are attracting national attention. He pointed to the Buckeye Opportunity Program, which ensures all in-state students who qualify for Pell Grants receive aid to cover the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees.

“The University Institute for Teaching and Learning is a program, which now thousands of our faculty have taken advantage of, that is built on the premise that you can learn to teach better than just doing it on your own,” he said.

He also pointed to specific changes that impact university staff.

“We are a larger voice than we’ve been in the past on things like staff equity. The role that we have in the $15-per-hour pay initiative, for instance, is something that’s extraordinary,” he said. “We have staff voting at our academic senate, something that doesn’t exist in other places.”

Drake pointed out that the university’s academic medicine enterprise, donor support and student graduation rates are at historic highs. He said it will be critical to continue that success.

As for himself, Drake said he rejects the word retirement and prefers the word transition.

“I’d say the word transition rather than retirement. Retirement sounds like a really foreign word for some old person. It really doesn’t resonate with me at all,” he said. “The working plan is to take a little time. I teach a course now and we would expand that a bit and teach another. I have a whole series of other things that I do broadly in health care, health sciences and higher education.”

During the question-and-answer period, Drake said he was supportive of flexible work schedules when they made sense for university employees. He also said the university would continue to work on improving parking and mobility solutions for staff. And he said Ohio State would continue to work with city, state and federal partners to reduce inequality in the state.

Drake concluded his conversation by sharing how much he appreciated his partnership with university staff.

“I want to focus at this moment on USAC and just say what a great group of connected, engaged co-workers you have been for me,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see all the things that we’ve been able to do together. It gives me great pride and I look at the achievements that our university has been able achieve and how much of that comes from the hard work that you do every day. So thank you very much for that.”

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