Office of the President

OU presents 2018 State of the University Address

President Pescovitz highlights university’s accomplishments, strategic goals

icon of a calendarNovember 14, 2018

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OU presents 2018 State of the University Address
President Pescovitz delivers 2018 State of the University Address
Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., delivered the 2018 State of the University Address on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

While delivering the 2018 State of the University Address on Tuesday, Nov. 13, Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., highlighted several accomplishments and points of pride from around campus, and provided an update on the university’s strategic goals.

“Our first and most important goal is student success,” she said. “We want to be the university where students come, where they have a tremendous life experience, where they graduate, and as a result of their education they readily find employment.”

This fall, the university welcomed its largest freshman class ever as its first-time-in-any-college student population grew by 9.9 percent. Graduate enrollment also grew by 3.2 percent and the university’s total credit hours grew by 0.7 percent.

“It is also exciting that we welcomed our most academically talented freshman class ever,” Pescovitz said. “These students came with an average high school GPA of 3.5 and an average SAT score of 1130.”

In addition, the university’s Honors College now has its largest freshman class ever with 620 new students.

“These students are required to have a high school GPA of 3.7 or higher, and need to maintain a 3.5 GPA to graduate from OU with honors,” Pescovitz said.

Students are also performing well at OU, as overall retention is at 76.4 percent and first-year retention of transfer students has risen by 2 percent. The university’s overall graduation rate has risen to 55 percent, which is the target rate set in the university’s Strategic Plan for the year 2025.

“We will need to set our target rate much higher,” Pescovitz said.

In the interest of supporting student recruitment and expanding diversity on campus, the university is also looking to increase the number of international students on campus.

“These students currently represent 4.7 percent of all OU students, and we would like to see the percentage of international students on campus grow to 10 percent by 2025,” Pescovitz said.


The university’s second strategic goal focuses on research, scholarship and creative endeavors that advance discovery, dissemination and utilization of knowledge.

“Research is an important way the universities distinguish themselves from other higher learning institutions,” Pescovitz said.

Oakland University investigators were awarded more than $9 million in research and scholarship grant support last year. During her presentation, President Pescovitz highlighted a few examples of the ambitious and impactful work of OU investigators, including:

• Physics Professor Yang Xia, who is researching ways of achieving early diagnosis of osteoarthritis through microscopic imaging of articular cartilage;

• Chemistry Professor Xiangqun Zeng, who is developing a state-of-the-art gas sensor capable of functioning in the arctic;

• Biology Professor Randal Westrick, who is researching genetics of blood coagulation;

• Computer Science Professor Khalid Mahmood Malik, who is exploring analysis of digital files.

“And researchers with the Institute for Spintronic and Microwave Technology — a collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Computer Science — have made a breakthrough that could dramatically advance computing, sensing, antenna and related technologies,” Pescovitz added.


The university’s third strategic goal focuses on community engagement, with OU aiming to be a leader in the communities it serves through expanded relationships, institutional reputation and visibility, and engagement.

“OU is a member of the communities in which we live and we need to play our part as a community partner by enhancing quality of life in our community,” Pescovitz said. “Already, we have a regional economic footprint of $800 million per year, which we achieve through both direct and indirect impacts of our programs and services.

“Additionally, hundreds of students, faculty and staff members serve on local boards, councils and community service initiatives,” she added. “The impact of this service is difficult to quantify, but there is little question that it is significant and highly valued.”

As an example of a prominent community engagement project involving OU, Pescovitz highlighted the Pontiac Initiative, which has mobilized more than 400 individuals and 75 community organizations in approximately 50 community revitalization projects.

“We are also expanding our visibility and commitment to service in Detroit,” Pescovitz said. “Truly, however, we have countless beneficial impacts on individuals, families and communities throughout the region.”

OUCARES, for example, provides innovative programs for teachers and valuable services for individuals and families living with autism while the Center for Civic Engagement convenes conversations on issues that impact local state and federal policy.

The OUWB School of Medicine COMPASS program encompasses service initiatives conducted in collaboration with community partners to address health and education needs in the region, and at the Gary Burnstein Clinic in Pontiac, OU students and alumni volunteer to help provide medical and dental care to hundreds of Pontiac community members each year.

“As you can see, there are so many ways our faculty, staff and students are engaged, and the examples I have shared just scrape the surface of work underway,” Pescovitz said. “Still, there is more we can do.”

Moving forward, Pescovitz said the university will continue to increase its engagement impact, economic impact, and employer input in curriculum development with assistance from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kevin Corcoran, who recently accepted additional responsibilities in the newly created role of Chief Community Engagement Officer.

“We will also enhance existing efforts and embark on new initiatives that model the successful approach we have been using as well as incorporate some new strategies,” Pescovitz said.


The university’s fourth and final goal is to “advance diversity, equity and inclusion in an environment of mutual trust and respect at all levels of the institution and facilitate opportunities and success for all community members.”

To help accomplish this goal, the university has already established and filled Postdoctoral Fellowships in Diversity and Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, and formally adopted a preferred name policy for all campus community members.

Also this year, faculty, staff and students from across campus signed a pledge stating that everyone has the right to live, work and study in community where they feel welcomed, safe, included, valued and respected. The pledge banner is posted along the main hallway in the Oakland Center, across from the Office of Student Affairs and Diversity.

Looking ahead, the university plans to increase representation of women and minorities in all university job classifications, close the achievement gap between majority and minority students, and enhance and expand communication of university diversity policies.

“In order to achieve all of our goals, we need to continue putting forth the energy and dedication that all of you have demonstrated so impressively up until this point,” Pescovitz said. “We also need to identify and secure resources to put our many ideas and plans to work."


The university faces a number of funding challenges, as the portion of OU’s operating revenue that comes from the state has steadily and dramatically declined over the past 40 years.

“In fact, the balance between state appropriation and tuition revenue has been turned upside down,” Pescovitz said, noting that Oakland University falls dead last among Michigan’s 15 public universities for the amount of state appropriations received on a per-student basis.

“Our $2,872 per student amounts to a total of $52.8 million in the current fiscal year and pales in comparison to the state average of $5,197 per student,” she added. “In fact, if we had been granted state appropriations at the average level, we would have received $41.5 million more than — or nearly double — what we did receive.”

To address the funding challenges, Pescovitz said the Oakland University will continue to pursue aggressive cost containment initiatives, which have already saved the university $57.1 million over the last 15 years.

“We will continue our strong advocacy for increased state funding,” she said. “We will seek more alternative revenue sources, such as investments, leases, contractual agreements, etc. And, we will make a very strong case for increased community support through philanthropy.”

As the university moves forward with its initiatives, Pescovitz said she remains confident that OU is “where people want to be.”

“We know that more and more students want to be part of our campus community,” she said. “Oakland University is truly becoming the university of choice.”

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