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A Message from President Burns Hargis

Greetings from Stillwater!  I want to provide you with an end of school report on the “State of the University”.  But first, I am sure you have been aware of the horrific storms we have had in Oklahoma.  I am relieved to report that all Oklahoma State University campuses were spared from the destructive tornadoes that ripped through our state this spring.  Our hearts go out to those who were tragically not spared.  But, I am proud to report that OSU has been helping with the recovery in a number of ways, including assisting displaced students.

Tornado Relief EffortsPersonnel from our engineering college assisted the State Incident Management Team, and OSU disaster recovery training was vital to rapid response efforts.  We also surveyed the structural performance of buildings and stand ready to help develop public policy and safety in building standards.

The Center for Veterinary Health Sciences offered free services to animal owners and helped several reunite with their pets.  We held a “stuff the bus” effort and sent several OSU orange busses to the disaster sites. 

Many OSU students, faculty and staff have donated their time and expertise to assist in the recovery.  All take seriously our duty to serve our state.

OSU is a leader in the area of sensor research and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  Engineering professor Jamey Jacobs and his students have designed UAVs that can penetrate storms to capture valuable data and help better understand such natural disasters.  Their efforts have attracted strong interest from the federal government and broad national media attention.

As a land-grant university, it is our mission to serve our state.  I believe the foregoing is consistent with that mission.  Thanks to all that serve!

This has been a remarkable school year in a number of respects.   It started with enrollment.  OSU had the largest enrollment of any university in Oklahoma’s history.  And, this year’s freshman class of nearly 4,300 students is the largest freshman class in the history of Oklahoma, as well.  We graduated more than 3,400 students this spring.  I know...I shook the hand of every one!

Branding SuccessA top highlight this spring was the April announcement that we reached our $1 billion Branding Success Campaign goal 20 months early!  Boone Pickens and campaign co-chairs Billie and Ross McKnight deserve great credit for this achievement.  We thanked them, as well as many others who joined the celebration on the new Student Union Plaza.  It is a remarkable achievement, especially when you consider only 40 public universities have ever successfully completed a $1 billion campaign.

While we are proud of achieving this historic goal, OSU still has many unfunded priorities and, therefore, we will continue the campaign until its scheduled completion date of December 31, 2014.  (We are now calling the Campaign “$1 Billion and Beyond”!)  Remaining priorities include:

  • More need-based scholarships
  • A new home for the Spears School of Business
  • Expansion of the Human Sciences building
  • A new Performing Arts Center
  • An Academic Center for our Center for Veterinary Health Sciences
  • A Structures Lab for Engineering

The facilities are important to OSU meeting its mission.  While facilities alone do not transform the University, facilities enable the University to retain and attract the talent that will transform OSU.

Of course, we don’t have the entire billion dollars yet and resources from the state are limited.  We also strive to keep tuition and fees low.  Accordingly, it is imperative for OSU to always seek efficiencies to make maximum use of the revenues we have. 

Obviously, energy costs make up a big part of our expenses.  Working with alum Bill Spears’ Cenergistic Company, we have reduced energy costs by more than $26 million since 2007 through behavioral changes alone!

Wind Farm CeremonyOSU is also more sustainable.  Through a partnership with OGE Energy Corp., a 26-turbine Cowboy Wind Farm has been developed west of Blackwell, Oklahoma, and now provides nearly 70 percent of OSU-Stillwater’s electricity.  This, together with our continuing conversion to CNG for our buses, trucks and cars and other initiatives, has resulted in OSU being ranked by the EPA in the top 6 of the largest university green power purchasers.

Another highlight this year was OSU being awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honorary academic society.  This is a significant achievement and recognizes the excellence of the Arts and Sciences disciplines.  We join only 10 percent of the universities in the U.S. that have PBK chapters.  We were proud to induct the inaugural class of the OSU Phi Beta Kappa chapter this spring.

WellnessOur First Cowgirl, Ann, has led our wellness effort that is having a positive impact on the health of our employees and students.  Our slogan is: “OSU, striving to be America’s Healthiest Campus!”  We have implemented a “healthy dining” initiative and now provide staff and faculty with free membership to the Seretean Wellness Center and Colvin Fitness Center.  We have been a tobacco free campus for several years.  And, we are currently recruiting a new Chief Wellness Officer.  All of these wellness efforts have contributed to the fact that OSU is one of the few universities to have no increase in its health insurance premiums for next year.

OSU’s College of Medicine continues to grow with our graduates in great demand by all the major health systems in Oklahoma and surrounding states.  Also, OSU is committed to training physicians to practice in the underserved rural areas of our state.  A critical element to our medical mission is the OSU Medical Center.  In that regard, we appreciate Oklahoma Governor and Alumna Mary Fallin and legislative leaders appropriating funds to provide a pathway to the long-term vitality of the OSU Medical Center in Tulsa.  This support will enable the OSU Medical school to sustain our mission of training doctors and caring for the underserved and underprivileged.

Math CenterUniversity libraries are expanding their mission and OSU’s Edmon Low Library is no exception.  Our library is enhancing computerized research, individual and group study, and interactive instruction.  It is also the home to the impressive new Mathematics Learning Success Center complete with a 124-seat computer lab and tutors.  This Center will insure the necessary preparation of students for advanced math, which will facilitate more graduates in STEM subjects.  This is an important need for our state and nation.  The library also houses a branch of the OSU Writing Center, which provides feedback and individual attention.

I was pleased to participate in an April briefing to the U.S. Congress on the impact of land-grant universities’ extension services and experiment stations on agbioscience.  Agbioscience involves the use of plants and animals for food, health, fuel and other applications. Agbioscience generates $240 billion in economic activity in the U.S. southern region and supports more than 2.2 million jobs.

General Electric recently announced plans to invest $110 million in a world-class technology center in Oklahoma dedicated to the energy industry.  A major reason given was the expertise of Oklahoma’s two comprehensive research universities, OSU and OU.  This is a perfect catalyst to launch the OSU National Energy Solutions Institute (“NESI”).

Yatika FieldsWe will soon finish the renovation of the old post office in downtown Stillwater into the OSU Museum of Art.  Despite a strong art program and OSU’s significant collection of art, we have never had a proper museum-quality space suitable for display and teaching.  We will open the museum this fall and have named former Utah State University Museum Director, Vicky Berry, as our new director.  Vicky will champion our efforts to expand student learning, faculty research and community outreach.  We still plan to also build a major Art Museum on campus.

The OSU Doel Reed Center for the Arts in Taos, N.M., continues to attract students and alumni to its summer programs.  Dr. Ed Walkiewicz is the Director.

We recently dedicated the updated Halligan Hall of Scholars in the renovated Student Union, which is named for beloved former OSU President Jim Halligan and First Lady, Ann.  The area showcases OSU’s impressive legacy of national scholars and our premier student scholars program.  The latest honoree is Ariel Leff, a mechanical engineering major and one of the nation’s 50 Udall Scholars.  We also thank Dr. Bob Graalman who has led our scholars program for many years with great success.  He is entering a well-deserved retirement with OSU’s deepest gratitude for his service.  Dr. Joshua Ward is taking Bob’s place.  Dr. Ward is an OSU graduate and has been serving as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Neuroimmunological Genetics in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University.

Sherman Smith Training CenterExciting progress is under way in the Athletic Village north of Boone Pickens Stadium.  The Sherman E. Smith Indoor Practice Facility will be ready for fall football practice.  The Michael and Anne Greenwood Indoor Tennis Center and new outdoor track will also be ready in the fall.  We are seeking funding and hope to begin work on a new baseball stadium sometime next year.

OSU-Tulsa, OSUIT in Okmulgee and OSU-OKC are continuing their excellence in their respective areas. 

  • We are especially proud of an OSU-Oklahoma City student team who took first in the small business category of the Governor’s Cup for its innovative software to detect adverse drug interactions.
  • Construction of the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compressions Training Center is progressing at the OSUIT campus, with plans to begin offering classes in the facility this fall.
  • OSU-Tulsa launched the School of Materials Science and Engineering in the Helmerich Research Center, offering advanced training and research in ceramics, metals, semiconductors, polymers, composites and biomaterials.
  • OSU Center for Health Sciences is hosting Operation Orange this summer.  The medical summer camp encourages rural high school students to pursue a medical career by allowing them to experience a day in the life of an OSU medical student.

Oklahoma State continues to be recognized for excellence in a number of areas:

  • Once again, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and the Princeton Review both recognized OSU as an outstanding value in higher education.
  • The Spears School of Business is one of only four business schools nationwide where 100 percent of its MBAs were employed within three months of graduation.
  • Wine Forum of OklahomaThe Wine Forum of Oklahoma was a huge success, raising more than $250,000 for student and faculty support.  Several Vintners with OSU ties joined us, including our Chair, Beth Nickles of Far Niente.  More than 1,000 guests participated.  They also enjoyed our guest chef, Ree Drummond, the “Pioneer Woman”!
  • The 52-member OSU Wind Ensemble performed at the Japan Band Clinic, where it debuted a piece written for the victims of the 2011 tsunami.  OSU has played the prestigious competition before and it is a distinct honor to be invited back.
  • With the support of alumnus, Neal Patterson, we opened the Center for Health Systems Innovation, the first center in the nation dedicated to harnessing entrepreneurship and innovation to improve health and the healthcare system.
  • Animal Science teams continue to excel.  The livestock judging team won the national championship and the horse judging team won a world title.
  • OSU is one of four programs selected by the Department of Homeland Security to design small unmanned aircraft systems for border and maritime surveillance.
  • Amanda Williams was named the outstanding family science doctoral student in the country by the National Council on Family Relations.
  • Gerald Schoenknecht, a professor in botany, gained national attention for coordinating the genome analysis of a species of red algae that thrives in extreme conditions.
  • Thanks to the generosity of alums Kim and Chuck Watson, our acclaimed business graduate programs now form the Watson Graduate School of Management.
  • OSU continues to lead in the development of new adaptive turf.  The Washington Redskins chose Latitude 36, an award-winning Bermuda grass created at OSU, for FedEx Field.  OSU’s Patriot is the Philadelphia Eagles’ home turf.  And, of course, it was OSU that provided the grass to the famous “Birdcage” stadium at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
  • College of Education students totaled more than 15,000 days providing instruction, tutoring, counseling and other services to schools and communities.
  • A Spears School of Business team won the graduate division and $30,000 at the Governor’s Cup tri-state business plan competition.  

As you can see, it was a busy semester.  You can keep up with all the activity at OSU at OState.TV, or on twitter at #OKState, @OKStateNews and @OKStateAlumni.

Ann and I feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to serve OSU.  One of the joys is meeting so many individuals who are committed to this University and who are working together to make OSU the premier land-grant university in the nation.

Have a great summer! Go Pokes! 

Burns Hargis
Burns Hargis
President, Oklahoma State University

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