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State of the College Address

Address to the College Faculty and Staff
presented by Dean David B. Williams
April 18, 2016

A bit of history

I’m happy to report that 10 days ago, the Ohio State Board of Trustees appointed me as Dean for another five year term. This reappointment was only possible because of the tremendous support that I have received from so many of you, the faculty and staff of the best college in the university.

Precisely five years ago today I walked into Hitchcock Hall for the first time and met with the college leadership team. I was fresh from a discussion with then-provost Joseph Alutto, and his message to me was "David, the engineering college is a set of fiefdoms. I want you to transform it into a United Kingdom." I was not sure what Joe meant until I first entered the college conference room and saw the pictures of past deans. I realized that there had been 21 deans in 140 years, so the average tenure was just over six years. If I lasted more than about three years, I'd be the longest serving dean since Don Glower was appointed in 1976 – which I am. When you have leadership turnover like that, it is impossible to develop strategies because priorities change with leaders. Also, lasting partnerships within and without the college do not have time to form. Consequently, the college had no visibility at the university level, was left out of major strategic discussions and our alumni were not engaged.

So what Joe was really asking was that I bring stability to the college, create the best leadership team, implement a strategic plan, involve the college with university leadership and build our advancement operation. We have done all of these, and now it’s time to build on the strengths we have developed.

Dean Williams

College leadership

Let me say a few words about my philosophy of academic leadership. When I started, it soon became clear that a predominant view of the role of a Chair or Director was to solve all the problems of the faculty within their unit. Understandably, very few people really wanted these jobs. Likewise, many chairs thought the dean was the solution to (and possibly the cause of) all their problems. This view perhaps explains the rapid turnover in deans. So I set about overthrowing these paradigms.

In the last five years, every member of the college’s executive committee has been appointed or reappointed. Our unit leaders, to a person, are among the best scholars in the college. They belie the common wisdom that becoming a chair/director is the grave of scholarly ambitions. On the contrary, I note:

  • Dorota Brzezinska's presidency of the Institute of Navigation and Fellowship of the Royal Institute of Navigation
  • Mike Cadwell's recent election to Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects
  • Rich Hart's presidency of the national BME Society
  • Joel Johnson’s leading role NASA’s research on Cubesats
  • Ahmet Selamet’s major research on noise pollution
  • Scott Shearer’s national role in UAS’s for precision agriculture
  • Phil Smith's skills in helping the nation run our National Airspace System
  • Seth Young’s burgeoning reputation among FAA leaders
  • Xiaodong Zhang's Google Scholar h-index of 52

I have every confidence that our recent chair appointees, Andre Palmer and Peter Anderson, will continue to build their already powerful academic reputations in transfusion medicine and materials modeling, respectively, as they lead CBE and MSE. I would also note the comparable scholarly achievements of our academic Associate Deans whose average h-indices are approximately 40.

So, let me be very clear: college leadership is the door to, not the grave of, scholarly greatness.

Furthermore, some of our very best have risen to even higher leadership roles in the university. Let me call out Jennifer Evans Cowley, now vice provost for capital planning, Dan Kramer, AVP for research and Director of ILO and Matt McNair, VP for economic and corporate engagement. Also let me remind you of the important roles that Marie Mead is taking with Senate Fiscal and other university business committees, the responsibility David Tomasko has in driving the data analytics degree program, the role that Randy Moses plays in the development of the university’s research business development operation, the extraordinary speed with which Donnie Perkins has been embraced as a senior diversity leader at Ohio State and Marsha Henfer’s already high visibility with the CIO’s office.


Also, I thank all our unit leaders for their willingness to partner across the university in joint appointments, in supporting their faculty in joint research and their willingness to facilitate spousal hires with many different colleges. All of these actions ensure that the college is seen across the university as a partner and a leader, not just in the academic quality of our students and our faculty, but in the extraordinary skills of our staff members and the collaborative nature of our chairs and directors. The SVPs of advancement, research, business and finance, legal, political affairs, administration & planning and HR are all strong supporters of our strategic plan and thus help to ensure that our plans are supported at the highest levels of the university.

This spirit of partnering extends deeply into the college’s ranks, exemplified by many of our young professors:

  • Jeff Bielicki is building bridges to the John Glenn College
  • Jim Gregory is the statewide leader of UAS research, emphasizing a key partnership with Sinclair Community College
  • Deborah Grzybowski is printing realistic 3-D models of animal cells
  • Karen Moore has an #1 Best Seller, Graphic Design for Architects
  • Arnab Nandi has transformed the Hackathon from a local project to a university-wide operation of > 1000 students, opening the door to transformations in career services, in industry liaisons and in hands-on education
  • Jonathon Song is working with The James to understand what determines blood to tumors
  • Jessica Winter demonstrated that you can be a recognized entrepreneur and still sail through promotion and tenure

These and many other great young faculty are working in very non-traditional ways – and they are the future of this college. Engineering is the leaven in the bread of Ohio State. We will help the health sciences address the big challenges facing our aging population. We will help our college of agriculture to continue to feed the world – from Franklin County to fields of India. We will start more and better small companies and continue to help the large engineering companies to refine their products

In other partnerships, CSE and the Moritz College of Law just announced the hiring of Bryan Choi - our first joint appointment in cyberlaw. We are planning a large increase in joint appointments with the Fisher College. We will copy their highly successful online graduate and professional courses. Bob Mick continues to grow our own programs and was rewarded for his efforts when our MGEL program was ranked #12 in the top 50 online engineering management programs. The first three graduates from MGEL will receive their degrees this summer.


Donnie Perkins has seized the reins of our diversity operation, organized a full external review, coordinated the submission of all the unit’s diversity plans to the provost, instituted this year as the College’s Year of Diversity, reconstructed the hitherto separate efforts of WIE and MEP and facilitated the appointments of Andre Palmer, La’Tonia Steiner Jones and Monica Cox. These three are the vanguard of the transformation of the racial and gender diversity of our faculty leadership. And this all happened during Donnie’s first year.

Let me also call out Rudy Buchheit for his unflagging leadership in growing the diversity of the faculty and training our white male leaders to understand how we can, and we must be, advocates for diversity. A diverse faculty brings diverse solution to diverse problems. That, too, is the future of engineering.

I want to recognize La'Tonia Steiner Jones, the first African-American assistant dean in our history. She is focused on the diversity of our graduate student body and is also our first advocate for post-doctoral research associates. Among many achievements, La'Tonia garnered 94 years of fellowship support from the Graduate School and doubled the number of diverse students who received graduate enrichment awards this year.

Let me remind you all of the forthcoming NAE workshop on May 3, co-hosted by the college and Battelle, addressing the need for a diverse STEM workforce for the future.  Speakers include France Cordova, director of NSF, CD Mote, president of the NAE, President Drake, major general Suzanne Vautrinot, former commander, US Air Force cyber and network operations, Randy Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-strong American Federation of Teachers, our own William White, engineering alumnus, former Buckeyes football captain, NFL player, owner of a Super Bowl ring and vice president of Project Lead the Way. This promises to be an extraordinary gathering of diverse leaders – again note Tuesday May 3 and register today.


Our research continues to grow. Manufacturing in CDME received a $6.8M Department of Commerce award, the SIM center grew from zero to $3.5M/year in less than 2 years, CEGE received $2.4M from The Ohio Third Frontier and MSE $3.8M from LIFT. Awards are up by 32% last year even as proposals only increased 17%. On the broader playing field, Columbus was selected as one of only seven communities out of 75 applicants to be a finalist in the Department of Transportation’s $60M Smart Cities competition. Within a month we will know if we are successful. Whatever happens, I acknowledge Carla Bailo's leadership in putting this proposal together along with the writing skills of Ruth Ann Hendrickson’s Proposal Development Center. I also wish to call out Marty Kress and Mike Benzakein for their success in shepherding the State’s $250M Federal Research Network program. Marty also leads the university’s recently approved Global Water Institute. Note that all of these successes are because our faculty and staff have worked together, bringing different skills to address the big problems. Research is a full-contact sport, and faculty and staff bring different contacts to the table. We both need each other and we both need to respect the skills that each other has. A Ph.D. opens certain doors, and a project manager opens others. We need to open all doors to be successful in research.


As the technical college on campus, we should lead in all matters technical. IT is one area where we have been wanting. Now, thanks to Marsha Henfer's skills and efforts, we have a reconstructed our IT operations, instituted a cloud-based help desk, significantly reduced the number of servers we have, dramatically enhanced our security, began planning to lay fiber to the airport and also upgrade the technical services at TRC as part of central Ohio's Smart Corridor for autonomous vehicles along Route 33, and much more. We appreciate your work, Marsha.


Let me call out Debbie Schroeder and her advancement team. We are still ahead of last year's record fundraising level, even as she operates with a much-reduced team while we search for former Chief Advancement Officer Matt McNair’s replacement. Despite having only two active development officers (down from 10) for most of this year, we are still ahead of last year’s efforts. This is simply extraordinary.


Our undergraduates continue to grow in quality and quantity, and we now compete with University of Michigan, University of Illinois and Purdue for the best freshman class in the Big 10. David Tomasko and his team lead our recruitment and retention efforts, and I thank all of you who have worked to manage the extraordinary increase in student numbers over the last five years. Additional assistance is coming as you will hear soon.

Our student teams won the first year of the new EcoCar competition, having won the national a year ago. Our flight team was recognized as the best collegiate aviation program nationwide. Our students continue to develop an interest in international programs, and around 70 of them spent spring break in places as diverse as Haiti, Honduras, Ghana and the U.K. Don Hempson has been untiring in his efforts to grow international programs and degrees which most units now have.

By the way, we awarded more than 2,200 engineering degrees last year, with an average starting salary of $61,000 with a bachelor’s degree! Typically, 50% of those new alumni stay in Ohio to help drive our regional economy while 50% work in United States and around the world, spreading Buckeye culture to all four corners. I encourage you all to wear your OSU pins whenever you travel. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "Go Bucks!" or similar words in airports, on the Hill in D.C., at breakfast in Shanghai, or during dinner in Sao Paolo. There are 60,000 engineering alumni out there. The more we stay in touch, the more they will support the college.

Faculty growth

Rudy Buchheit is in the thick of helping you all to hire up to 52 new professors this academic year. Added to the 35 new professors last year, we will have had a turnover of close to a 25% of the college in just two years – and over 33% in the last five. And we are just beginning, as you will now learn.

The future

Usually I lead these presentations with an acknowledgment of Marie Mead's fiscal acumen, for which she is recognized across the university. All the achievements I’ve just recited and indeed everything we do is only possible because we have a sound fiscal operation with a financial bottom line that is always in the black at the end of each year. I have left my recognition of Marie until last this time because of all she and her staff have done to ensure that the next five years will be even more successful than the past five. Let me continue along the theme of faculty growth. New faculty will be central to our new strategic plan, which we will initiate over the summer.

Under Marie's direction, the college, the university and the Board of Trustees have identified financial strategies that are being evaluated to ensure continuing growth of the engineering faculty over the next five years. We are doing this in order to reduce the very high student/faculty ratio. 

Broadly speaking, units that have been carrying very high student/faculty ratios for many years will be able to plan significant growth of all faculty. Units well-aligned with the college's strategic plan can also expect to see faculty growth.

In all cases, unit strategic plans that commit to joint appointments, both across engineering units and across colleges, will be encouraged. Units with strong records of attracting and retaining diverse faculty will likewise see the opportunity to continue such growth. A specific goal for diverse cross-unit and cross-college appointments will be part of the strategic plan.

As the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty increase, the expectations of increased research expenditures will grow. Setting and meeting goals for research expenditures and Ph.D. students/faculty member will be integrated into the new strategic plans of both the college and individual units.

Faculty growth will not be limited to tenure/tenure-track appointments. We will grow the clinical/professor-of-practice ranks to the maximum permissible. Research professors and project managers will become integral members of all the college’s leading research centers and institutes, especially those benefiting from the Discovery Themes. I want to stress that we faculty can only achieve our full potential working with staff who bring talents that we do not have. So a coordinated increase in staff will accompany any faculty increase.

The next five years should see an unprecedented investment in the college by the university. This opportunity has come because of the commitment of all our faculty and staff to manage the huge enrollment increases. I thank you and the leadership of all our units. President Drake and interim provost McPheron have recognized that we continue to provide the most accessible and affordable engineering education in the Big 10, even as the excellence of our students has grown to compete with the very best in the Big 10.

Some Big Opportunities

So now we can think big and think differently. With the creation of the Engineering Education Department it is time to examine critically the way we teach our students. With EED we can for the first time evaluate the effectiveness of all our teaching and all the different approaches that we use. Almost all our faculty, myself included, have had effectively zero training in how to teach and how to assess our impact beyond student evaluations. What we have picked up has been more via osmosis than through professional education of ourselves. This is about to change. I look forward to all units developing plans to incorporate professional teaching evaluations, guided by EED, into their operations, into their tenure and promotion criteria and interviewing processes so we can truly claim to offer the very best engineering education, for the very best value

I have emphasized partnerships across colleges and note that, with the impending naming of the Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy, we will soon have multiple joint faculty appointments with the Glenn College. Such faculty will help us develop joint degree programs creating the new field of engineering policy. The future of engineering is to define the policies that come out of D.C. and the Statehouse rather than react to someone else’s policies. To this end, I acknowledge Bharat Bushan and J-C Zhao, two faculty who have committed their time to learn how D.C. works. I look for more effective D.C. presence building on our partnerships with the Glenn College.

We have the opportunity to define specific areas of academic scholarly and research excellence, building on investments in previous years. So we will emphasize:

  • Partnerships across units and colleges including health sciences, public affairs, law, business and natural science
  • Mobility, from autonomous to manufacturing
  • Translational data analytics, not just in our research but in our daily operations – from advancement and fundraising through admissions and alumni data bases
  • We will build on the E&E Discovery Theme, broadening it to encompass high performance electronics, thus positioning the college to leverage the university's planned comprehensive energy management process


At the same Board of Trustees meeting last week, it was announced that we will receive almost $27M from the state of Ohio to renovate Koffolt Fontana as the first phase of the advanced materials corridor, bringing BME back to main campus in what will be a transformed building. You will not recognize that aging building when it is completed. I thank Rudy for shepherding this complex initiative through to the Board, as well as our former colleague Jennifer, now in Bricker Hall.

When you have to decide where to invest, you look for opportunities to set yourself apart from your peers, to create high profile operations with which others cannot compete. Two under-utilized and under-appreciated facilities that are respectively rare and unique among research universities will be at the core of new building and faculty investments: Don Scott Field and the Transportation Research Center.

When you next get out to the OSU Airport, you will see ground being broken for new hangars. This is the first investment in that facility in over 30 years. There we seek to build the nation’s best aviation program, Ohio's biggest aviation and aerospace research park and continue to operate one of the nation’s few general airports of national importance. Thank you to Seth Young and Doug Hammon for your leadership going forward. When we couple leading aerospace and aviation research and education we can attract industry and enhance regional economic development.

We will invest in the Transportation Research Center to transform the nation’s largest independent proving grounds into the world's largest. We plan to build new classrooms and labs onsite and hire faculty who will be stationed there. We will build a strong student presence there. Stay tuned for future announcements of new major investments in as we put the “research” back into TRC. By way of comparison TRC operates at about $35M/year – which goes to the bottom line of our research expenditures. IDIADA, the leading European independent proving ground, operates at $180M/year. There is no better opportunity to grow our research bottom line by tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars than at TRC.

Growing faculty, staff and infrastructure will need an ever-growing advancement operation. While our current campaign is not yet finished, we are planning ahead and will spend the next five years in full fundraising mode. In the last five years, I have met perhaps 3000 of our alumni. That only leaves 57,000 to go in the next five years. Lots of opportunities to be explored!

Let me end where I started – with leadership. We will be putting in place a faculty fellows program to give leadership training to the next generation of younger faculty and staff who have shown leadership skills. This is so that future chairs, and directors, will come from a cadre of individuals with appropriate training, rather than our typical approach of twisting the arms of whomever happens to be next in line.


In conclusion, let me note that our future is amazingly bright. This is all happening because of the work that all of you - our faculty and staff - have done to recruit, retain, educate and graduate the university's finest and most highly-qualified student body. And you have done it without it complaint, you have knuckled down and managed our unprecedented growth in true engineering fashion, even as we operated without concomitant increases in space and faculty support. All of that is about to change. Hold onto your hats as we embark on the next five years of growing space, faculty and staff. You will not recognize this college in five years!

Address to the College Faculty and Staff
presented by Dean David B. Williams
November 10, 2015

Twice a year I talk to you about the achievements of our faculty and staff, and indeed these have been and continue to be outstanding. Today, rather than focus on past achievement (which I will address in the Spring State of the college address) I want to talk more about the future of the college as we look forward to the next five years.

Strategic plan

We are in the third year of implementing our strategic plan. The plan has major goals covering education, research, faculty and facilities, diversity and inclusion, advancement, all enabled by careful resource stewardship. I remind you that while the business of the college is teaching, research and service, we can only do this if the college finances are on a sound footing.  That means we run the college such that we do not spend more than we generate, and we examine where we spend resources so that they generate the greatest impact. Our budget is our strategic plan.


I also remind you that we are fully in line with the strategic direction that President Drake has outlined, namely we are accessible – in fact more so than any other engineering college in the Big 10, we are affordable (among the top 20% best value in the Big 10) and we are excellent (among the top 20% in the Big 10). Once again we have recruited the best academic class in our history, and that class has more women (25%) than previous years (though we still have a long way to do to raise our other URMs closer to 17% that is across the university as a whole). The biggest challenge in the future continues to be increasing our student diversity and improving the retention of all our students. Student advising is at the heart of retention.

As part of our reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, the university has created a Quality Initiative to focus on student advising. We will be working with the Education Advisory Board’s student success collaborative to evaluate our current practices, course sequences, prerequisites and benchmark individual programs’ success. To this end we will need to ensure we have the very best data available. Jamie Paulson and Suzanne Dantuono will be project managers on this initiative, and eight advisors across the college are involved in the quality initiative. My thanks to all the staff and faculty involved. We will be able to measure success very clearly. We will be data driven in our recruitment and retention decisions.

In line with our commitment to data analytics informing everything we do, we are also using analytics to address the challenge of continued increase in the diversity of our incoming class. A challenge we face, as do many other engineering colleges, is that there are many students whose family economic backgrounds, whose zip code and whose K-12 schools do not allow them to achieve their full potential. Many students in these situations are underrepresented minorities. So we believe there are new ways to use the data from past successes to identify high-potential URM students who are geared to  succeed and contribute despite the challenges that life has thrown to them and their families.

I thank you for your support of the creation of our new Department of Engineering Education. This was formally approved by the Board of Trustees last Friday, and I am pleased to announce that Professor Monica Cox from Purdue University will be starting this spring as the incoming Chair. I thank David Tomasko, Ann Christy and all the EEIC staff for their hard work in making this happen. We have made a clear statement, and one that was applauded by the Trustees, that we believe the teaching of engineering today is worthy of formal study at post-baccalaureate levels. We also believe that the presence of our engineering education department will open doors for all our faculty to learn from the best about how to continuously improve our teaching – just as we partner with the best to further our research.


In this academic year we will attempt to complete more than 50 faculty searches. (At this rate, I suspect every faculty member in the room is on a search committee.) Each search committee is learning the challenges of bringing forth a diverse slate of candidates and how our implicit biases can sometimes make it difficult to see strengths with which we are not familiar. For that I thank you. And what an unprecedented opportunity we have to change the college. This past year we hired over 32 faculty members[RGB3] . We will continue to grow the faculty over the next several years, using the Discovery Themes as a vehicle. So this coming year and the next several will redefine the college and its faculty profile for the next generation. For the first time in our history we are on track for tenure-track faculty numbers to exceed 300 at the end of this year, and we will be more diverse than ever.

And for this reason diversity is front and center in all that we do. If you had not noticed, we have made diversity hiring a major focus of my administration. In this area we have made some reasonable progress, in particular with improving the gender diversity among our faculty and staff. However, in racial and ethnic diversity we have long way to go. Taking a leaf from ASEE’s book, I’d like to announce that 2016 will be the College’s Year of Diversity.

We have also taken the lead in ensuring that the College’s promotion and tenure criteria reflect the faculty expectations for success in the 21st century. We have added recognition of invention disclosures, patents and licensing revenue as valid intellectual pursuits. We have recognized that research funding comes from much more diverse sources than the traditional federal government agencies.

This year I have asked the promotion and tenure committee to see how we can use early tenure as a tool to improve faculty recruitment and retention of our best. I have also asked them to examine how we can appropriately recognize the increasing numbers of multi-author papers and multi-author proposals.

Scholarly Research

We will continue our focus on specific research areas that have been college and university-wide strengths for many years – transportation (auto and aerospace) sensing/data, advanced materials, medical engineering and manufacturing. All of these strengths align with one or more discovery themes. Our major industry supporters are in these areas, and the Ohio economy is driven by these areas.

We are changing the expectations of our research centers: accountability, return on investment, expected deliverables are all new concepts. We have just received permission to plan the build out of Don Scott Field, based on the Knowlton Foundation $10M gift. This represents the single biggest economic development opportunity in the city of Columbus and a chance to attract aerospace industry to the airport to partner with our ARC, GE Aviation with CAS and NetJets and with the other colleges.

Likewise, we have invested in new leadership at TRC where we will host our External Advisory Council later this month. The partnership with Honda has never been stronger, and the 4500 acres of land at TRC is the single largest economic development opportunity in central Ohio. Both Don Scott Field and TRC are well-aligned with the energy and environment discovery themes. New faculty will be hired to grow the research aspects of both those unique facilities. These are facilities where we can fly UASs, integrate drones into precision agriculture at TRC and into civilian airspace at Don Scott Field. The FAA has $1B to spend on NextGen software and hardware research to make these things happen, and we are already part of the FAA’s center of excellence on drone research. What a tremendous opportunity!


The college staff amplifies every aspect of our mission. We have worked hard to ensure that staff are supported. That was the biggest concern in the culture survey that I read when I first arrived in 2011. There is still a long way to go. The Engineering Staff Advisory Council is thriving as you heard moments ago from Marty Smith. None of what we do – our teaching, our scholarship and our outreach – can be done without a committed and talented staff who deserve our thanks and gratitude for what they enable the faculty to achieve.

We will continue to invest in advancement staff, and we are now the leading fundraising unit of any on campus. Last year we raised $67M, up from $32M in 2011-12. I think $180M raised since 2012 speaks volumes for the value of these investments. Matt McNair has moved on to a VP position where he can help us leverage state economic development money to support our research. We have started a search to find a new leader of Advancement, and we are setting the team a goal of another $350M over the next 5 years. Additionally, we will invest in the use of data analytics to expand our alumni engagement list. We will not only have the best fundraising operation in the university, but it will be the most data-driven.

We will continue to invest in senior research leadership staff. We now have seven talented professionals, all joint with the OVPR, in areas such as energy and environment, proposal development, mobility, aerospace, and industry liaison. In the last two years these investments have seen us part of grants UTC ($5M), ALMMII ($148M), GWI ($5M), GEs CMC ($100M), FMJC ($25M) – all of which are bringing non-traditional research funding to the college and the university.

We have also taken a lead in centralizing two key functions of the college’s operation – the business offices and IT offices. One of the reasons for this is that it makes fiscal sense. Second, we would prefer to make these changes than have other organizations make them for us. Our information technology operation is realigning its resource delivery model to improve support for the academic, research and outreach mission of the college.

This is being achieved by restructuring the department, hiring critical staff resources and providing services, leadership and expertise not previously available. The resulting hybrid model establishes a centralized operation to deliver common core services and allows distributed IT staff to focus on the unique needs of their unit.

As the centralized model matures we will be able to reduce our 20+ networks down to just a handful. This savings in hardware and software will be reinvested in services not currently available. The new design will breakdown technical barriers that frustrate students and faculty and limit our collaborative efforts and minimize cyber security issues. It will establish a flexible and scalable infrastructure allowing the college to quickly take advantage of opportunities.

We will continue to invest in staff to support our faculty in both Technology Commercialization and e-learning. Our faculty have attracted more venture capital, filed more patents and invention disclosures and started more companies in the last four years than in the previous 40. Our faculty have built a cadre of new online degrees and programs, we have more international partnerships than ever and more students studying abroad than ever before.

All of these investments reflect the university's strategic plans. 

In summary, we have more and better students than ever before, more and better faculty, we are raising more external funds than ever before. We have opened a new building this past year, and we are in line for more new buildings at Don Scott Field and the Advanced Materials Corridor, where we hope to bring BME on campus and focus on the energy and environment discovery theme of materials and manufacturing jointly with Arts and Sciences.

Over the next five years, in addition to being the best managed college, we will use data analytics to become the smartest college on campus. We will continue to raise the bar on the diversity of our students and faculty even as we grow the faculty such that our student /faculty ratio goes below 25:1. We will renovate and rebuild our infrastructure, both internal IT infrastructure and external buildings. We will continue to build out the operations at our airport and TRC such that we are seen as the biggest economic driver in central Ohio.

Finally, thank you to all who contributed to the assessment of my first four years as Dean. I appreciate that so many faculty and staff took the time to give the university, the committee and me the benefit of their insight. I thank you for the support for the many new initiatives we have set in motion. I thank you for the many suggestions as to how I can further improve the leadership of the college and manage the ongoing challenges of high enrollment, difficult external funding environment and outreach to the many constituencies that we serve.

Address to the College Faculty and Staff
presented by Dean David B. Williams
May 13, 2015

As I start my fifth year as Dean of the College of Engineering, I am now the longest-serving dean since Don Glower, who took over the reins 39 years ago! The intervening 7 deans have all served 4 years or less. Since we subject our assistant professors to a fourth-year review, I should be prepared to face the same. So please allow me to use this occasion to reflect on the past 4 years. I will give you my views of where we have come, and I will lay out a few thoughts on where we might be going. We are engineers and we like to measure progress, so you’re going to see some data. I hope that you’ll get the overall message that the college is bigger and better than it has ever been and that is because of the way we have all worked together as a team.

I wish to start by thanking everyone in the college for the support the leadership team has received. I wish to thank the faculty who are managing unprecedented teaching loads, while maintaining extraordinary research efforts. I wish to thank our stalwart staff who have been essential to the growth of both our education enterprise and our scholarly research. And we should all thank our students, who continue to get better every year, making it even more rewarding to be part of this college. Please give yourselves a round of applause!

Such a high flux of deans through Hitchcock Hall makes it difficult to carry out long-term planning. Yet through the leadership of the College’s Executive Committee and Research Council we have successfully implemented our comprehensive strategic plan. Each of our unit leaders is responsible for strong internal succession plans, and their own unit's strategic plans. All our units' plans are generally aligned with the college’s which, in turn, is largely aligned with the university’s plan. In the past 4 years, every unit has either appointed a new chair or director, reappointed an existing chair or has an interim chair. So while there is always change, our leadership team is stable and talented and is enjoying the task of hiring more and better faculty and staff. This is appropriate since we have more and better students than ever before!

Resource Stewardship
As always, I start by reminding you that we are the best managed college in the university. In line with the fundamentals of our strategic plan, we have a strong commitment to resource stewardship and to fiscal responsibility under the watchful eye of Marie Mendenhall-Mead and her fiscal officers. While the education business is a human interaction, the business behind that education must be well-managed in order that we can carry out our mission.

Again, and as in all such past presentations, I remind you that the College budget is in the black and we have given pay raises every year throughout the recession. We see no reason for these accomplishments to change and expect continued growth.

From 2011- 2015:

  • Expenditures have grown from $203M to $227M 
  • General funds have grown from $84M to $100M

Part of our fiscal philosophy is that we cannot cut our way to excellence. We choose to invest in areas that bring in external funds that are under our control. There are three such areas—research (including IP), advancement and professional programs – and each of these areas will be addressed later in this presentation. In these three areas we also choose to invest in lumps of jelly rather than layers of peanut butter, thus building on areas of strength.

In terms of operating our business, we are leaders across the university in terms of making the tough decisions to implement key budget efficiencies:

  • Centralized previously dispersed college business offices and reinvested savings into units
  • Centralized advancement (combining alumni relations, communications and development) and built the best advancement tem at OSU
  • Hired a new IT leader who is now centralizing key IT functions
  • Hired a new Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach to consolidate those operations
  • In partnership with OVPR, we have centralized college research and project management functions

Such transformations of our business operations and personnel have not been without pain. I thank the staff in particular who have worked (and in many cases are still working) to implement these business efficiencies. We also choose to do this ourselves so the decisions to do so will not be taken by others and so be outside our control.

In our three core missions of Education, Research and Outreach, we are also following our strategic plan, so let me put the rest of this presentation in that context. Our strategic plan is on the web. In the interests of time I will not address every one of our strategic goals, leaving out a couple which I'll address in a later address.

Education and Career Development
Strategic goal #1: build on our strength in experiential learning to establish national leadership.

First of all we need to broaden this goal to take account of President Drake's vision of an education that is more accessible, that is more affordable and emphasizes inclusive excellence. Over the last four years we have managed continued growth of the undergraduate student body, giving the highest possible accessibility to engineering students from within Ohio and across the nation. A consequence of this has been that we now have the Big Ten's highest undergraduate student to tenure track/tenured faculty ratio. Yet our students also have the highest entry standards in the university, so we maintain our tradition of academic excellence. We now compete with Purdue and are just behind Michigan and Illinois in the Big Ten in terms of the incoming class quality.

As you know, Ohio State has frozen tuition since AY 2012-13 and we have just announced that next year will be the fourth in a row without a tuition increase for Ohio students. We are now the third most affordable of the Big Ten in both in-state and out-of-state tuition. So we are doing our part to align with President Drake’s vision – and both he and Provost Steinmetz are well aware of this!

Let me reinforce these criteria of excellence and accessibility. (I will focus on how inclusive we are becoming later in this presentation). The net results in terms of growth in engineering education over the last four years are indeed impressive:

To accommodate the combination of increased student numbers and the fact that close to 40% of our faculty are retirement-eligible over the next few years, we have embarked on a remarkable number of hires.

If you look at the faces in these two slides you will see that our new engineering faculty are a blend from assistant to full professor and are more diverse than the body of professors they are replacing. Yet as is also clear, there is still a very long way to go before we begin to reflect the diversity of our student body.

In summary, as shown on the slide below, we have outstanding faculty, we are growing all our faculty, our faculty are winning national awards and we are increasing staff to accommodate the growing demands of our students and our faculty.  

Our young faculty are demonstrating their excellence and one measure is the NSF Early Career Award. Over the last four years we have done pretty well! Thanks are due to these young stars and also to our more senior faculty who have clearly done a fine job in mentoring their new colleagues.

The Knowlton School of Architecture recently welcomed two new program leaders. Ranked 6th and 12th in the country among undergrad and grad programs, respectively, Landscape Architecture is now led by Professor Dorothée Imbert. Professor Rachel Kleit is the new head of City and Regional Planning, which sailed through its first undergraduate program accreditation with highest commendations.

Strategic goal #2: extend the scope and enhance the impact of our educational programs through use of technology and distance learning.  

Under Bob Mick’s leadership, we have launched our online master’s degree in Global Engineering Leadership. MGEL is already in the top 25 in the USNWR rankings of online engineering degrees. We continue to partner with the Fisher College of Business in our joint Master’s in Business Logistics Engineering. Our longtime Master’s in Welding Engineering continues to flourish, as do multiple programs out of the Center for Automotive Research. Another two non-credit/certificate programs are operating and generating revenue. The professional programs' income is being re-invested to grow this funding stream still further, and the pipeline is growing:


Strategic Goal #3 Transform the Engineering Education Innovation Center (EEIC) into a formal administrative unit.

At the faculty meeting following this presentation, the proposal to move forward with the steps necessary to create the department of engineering education was approved unanimously. I thank Professor Ann Christy, interim director of EEIC and Associate Dean David Tomasko for their tireless work in socializing this proposal across the college. It is also appropriate here to recognize emeritus Professor Bob Gustafson of his pioneering work in creating EEIC and bringing it to national prominence. I also wish to acknowledge the essential partnership with the College of Education and Human Ecology with whom we work closely to generate our recent doctoral degrees in engineering education.

Strategic Goal #5: adapt to fundamental changes in the federal funding landscape so as to ensure stability of the College's long-term research expenditure growth, and the relevance and impact of its research programs

We have made great strides in bringing in research funds from both our traditional sources and new sources from within the federal and state governments and industry. Despite sequestration and the challenges with federal funding wherein <10% of proposals are funded by many major agencies, we have maintained our federal funding levels and had some significant successes:

To further new approaches to research funding, the faculty have made two key changes to the college’s Promotion & Tenure document. These changes are revolutionary, do not exist anywhere else at Ohio State and will empower the next generation of assistant professors to grow their research and scholarship in ways better suited to the 21st century rather than the previous century in which most of us senior professors built our careers.

Strategic Goal #6: develop and stabilize emerging interdisciplinary research institutes and centers aligned with university and college strategic research growth areas, including discovery themes, water, manufacturing, spine research, aerospace, materials characterization, and simulation

Several interdisciplinary research centers have been created in the last 4 years. These are in line with the Discovery Themes and our own strategic goals to invest in areas such as aerospace and automotive manufacturing, which are major contributors to Ohio’s economy, as well as partnerships with the Health Sciences Colleges and the Wexner Medical Center.

Faculty and Facilities
Strategic goal #8: capitalize fully on the Discovery Themes initiatives to grow the College faculty and develop formal linkages across the university through joint appointments and joint initiatives

In the Discovery Themes, we are leveraging our sound fiscal position to lead in the hiring of large numbers of new (and more diverse) faculty. By choice, we are emphasizing quality in the hiring process rather than quantity. Specifically, we are playing leading roles in Data Analytics and Energy & Environment; minor roles in Health & Wellness, and Food Production & Security; 25 faculty searches are approved and underway across many of the Discovery Themes. We embrace the Discovery Themes because they represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have the university share fully in our own investment in new faculty. We will use this opportunity to grow the number and the quality of our tenured faculty and help address the challenge we have faced for more than a decade of effectively constant tenure-track faculty numbers.

Strategic goal #9: modernize facilities to support the College’s research and education missions 

In the past four years we have built new facilities renovated others and have plans to continue this renewal of our infrastructure. Again we are in this favorable position because of our sound budgetary practices.

Built ESL, CBEC and CEMAS, renovated Smith, Area 2000 and are planning the Watts/McQuigg/Fontana complex renovation over the next 2-4 years.

Diversity and Outreach
Strategic goal #10: change the culture and climate within the college by recruiting and retention strategies that grow robust, diverse and integrated communities of faculty, staff, and students.

As I mentioned at the start, we are restructuring the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach under the leadership of our new Director, Donnie Perkins. We are developing a new strategic plan to enhance the current slow improvement in our diversity. While we are not satisfied with our progress in this area, there has indeed been continued improvement. For that I thank you.

While some of those percentages are large, let me remind you that a large percentage increase in a very small number still leaves us with a small number!

Strategic Goal #11: exceed the College’s “But for Ohio State” fundraising goal of $350 million.

Future Challenges
Some challenges will always be with us, so let me remind that we must continue to work on these perennial issues:

  • Managing increased undergraduate enrollment
  • Managing our student / faculty ratio 
  • Improving the diversity of student body as admissions standards rise
  • Increasing research expenditures/faculty
  • Increasing PhD students/faculty
  • External perceptions of the quality of the college by peers and employers
  • Increasing the percentage of alumni actively engaged and giving to the college

Where Do We Go From Here?
There is much to be proud of in these accomplishments during the last four years, and I thank you for the privilege of leading this most amazing college. As always, time & change will surely show! The College is very different from what it was 4 years ago, and there are new challenges that are also very different from what we faced 4 years ago. So while it is good to celebrate how far we have come in the last few years, we must continue to raise the bar on ourselves, as we have done on our students. Let me enumerate a number of issues that I see are on our radar screen:

  • Use Discovery Themes to lower the faculty/student ratio to ~25/1 (grow to 330 faculty while capping undergraduates at 8200)
  • Grow research expenditures/faculty and graduate students/faculty to be in middle of Big 10
  • Increase the diversity of our students to reflect the diversity of the state high school seniors
  • Increase female/URM faculty numbers to reflect the diversity of our student body
  • Use data analytics to identify potential successful minority students who have faced challenging K-12 environments
  • Use data analytics to enhance involvement of our alumni in fundraising
  • Create five new principal industry partners beyond GE Aviation, Honda and Boeing with whom we have active master agreements
  • Push the campaign goal through $350M and keep climbing
  • Find the funding to commence the Watts/McQuigg/Fontana materials corridor
  • Grow TRC and Don Scott Field as combined industry-university research complexes

Again, many of these goals are difficult and challenging. However, as I think I have shown, this has not stopped us from succeeding in addressing similarly thorny issues. I have every confidence in you the faculty and staff of the College to rise to the occasion. And in 4 more years this college will be different from what it is now and the challenges will be different from what they are now. It's going to be a fun ride!