President discusses accomplishments, challenges in address

April 10, 2017 | News, UToday
By Christine Wasserman

More than 600 faculty, staff, students and community members attended Dr. Sharon L. Gaber’s first state of the university address April 5 in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium, 22 months after she joined The University of Toledo as its 17th president.

In her address, Gaber outlined the significant progress the University has made, while also detailing major challenges and offering her vision of where UT will be in the next five to 10 years.

President Sharon L. Gaber discussed the tremendous number of accomplishments UT has achieved over the past 22 months, as well as challenges the University faces.

Chief among the accomplishments she mentioned were building on UT’s fundamentals through the establishment of five overarching goals, which are being addressed through four plans — a diversity plan, enrollment plan, multiple-campus master plan and the strategic plan.

Gaber praised $50 million in savings — 13 percent of the general fund budget — achieved through spending reductions, new revenue and cost avoidance. She also applauded the University’s fundraising efforts, already up by 69 percent this year — a nine-year high that totals more than $17.2 million year to date.

Further, the president lauded UT’s researchers. Last month, Gaber formally recognized researchers who have received external funding greater than $1 million. This year, new competitive research awards already are 45 percent higher than the previous year, and research opportunities for undergraduate students are expanding.

More than 600 attended the state of the university address April 5 in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium.

In addition to noting myriad accomplishments, Gaber addressed the significant fiscal challenges the University faces, in part due to an additional two-year tuition freeze proposed by the state, along with Gov. Kasich’s suggestion that Ohio’s public universities also may be required to cover textbook costs totaling more than $300, which would cost UT an estimated $14 million annually.

Several cost-saving measures already have been implemented to help address fiscal challenges, based on faculty, staff and student input. “However, further action should be expected, and these won’t be easy decisions,” she stated.

The president also made several announcements, including that UT soon will finish an economic impact study that will demonstrate its key role in generating income, developing human capital, and supporting the region’s economy.

Dr. Kaye M. Patten, senior vice president for student affairs, and Dr. Mohamed Samir Hefzy, professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, visited during the ice cream social.

Gaber also announced that mandatory Title IX and ethics training for staff and faculty will begin in July, and the University is creating an ad hoc task force on sexual assault awareness and prevention. “Student safety is a top priority,” she said.

Answering the question of where UT should be in the next decade or less, the president said she envisions UT becoming a much more formidable, comprehensive public research university, not only ranking higher nationally, but also becoming the postsecondary anchor institution in the northern part of the state.

Referring to UT as an “institution of opportunity,” she stated, “What a UT education promises the daughters and sons of plant workers and store clerks is that they can one day manage the plant. They can own the store if they want to. They can build the career of their choice. And they can lead.”

Said Mary Humphrys, president of Faculty Senate and associate professor of applied organizational technology, “In her brief time here, Dr. Gaber has created a culture of collaboration and shared governance that has set the foundation for a successful future.

“She understands the importance of providing the best possible educational experience for our students. I’m sure UT will continue gaining momentum under her strong leadership.”

Throughout the address, Gaber acknowledged several students, faculty and staff members by name for their excellence in research, commitment to improving student services, and community service.

“I think this shows how approachable she is,” said Joey Leech, a senior majoring in civil engineering, who was acknowledged by Gaber for his role as director of the Big Event. “I’m impressed that she’s so visible around campus and that she recognizes all the great work that students and others are doing.”

Immediately following the address, participants were invited to a complimentary ice cream social, while posting their ideas for continued transformation on large posters located throughout the auditorium.

The state of the university address may be viewed here.

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