Forum focuses on changing face of BGSU, Ohio higher education

Three BGSU administrators offered a glimpse at the University’s financial and academic future, and that of Ohio higher education in general, at an Oct. 30 forum in Olscamp Hall. Hosting the forum were Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Shirley Baugher and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

While there is still much uncertainty, given ongoing changes on campus and in Columbus, some specifics were presented:

University budget
• Discussing BGSU’s $3 million budget deficit, Chief Financial Officer Sherideen Stoll said there will be no across-the-board cuts.

One-time and permanent reductions will be made, she said, pointing out that   University divisions have been identifying potential short- and long-term cuts, and should be putting them in draft form early this month. Some positions will be eliminated, but she doesn’t expect large-scale layoffs, Stoll added, saying she’s also investigating previously untapped revenue possibilities.

Balancing the budget by the end of the year will be doable “without too much difficulty,” she predicted.

Heading Stoll’s list of current issues other than the deficit is deferred maintenance, which she said will demand prioritized spending of $2 million-$3 million per year for at least 10 years.

University System of Ohio
• An initial draft of a 10-year master plan for Ohio higher education could be posted on the new University System of Ohio’s Web site any day, said Sandra MacNevin, associate vice president for governmental relations. (On Nov. 2, Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, released the first section of his report, addressing the goal of educational attainment and delineating four ways to measure the University System’s success in creating an educated work force. Visit to view the announcement.)

Fingerhut has shared initial drafts of the required plan with the Inter-University Council and will be seeking public comment once it’s online, MacNevin noted. The final version must be submitted to the Ohio General Assembly by next March 31.

The master plan was mandated by House Bill 2, which was signed into law by Gov. Ted Strickland in May 2007, and highlighted in the governor’s August executive order that also created the University System of Ohio. MacNevin described the new system as “a unifying structure” for the state’s 13 public universities and their 24 branch campuses, the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM) and 23 two-year technical and community colleges.

BGSU planning
• A 21-member University Work Group is engaged in an academic planning process for a BGSU plan, which will be in draft form by next month, and beginning in January, a strategic and academic planning process will focus “on the broad University agenda for the future,” said Baugher.

The provost said the state will now categorize institutions to address differentiated missions. Fingerhut has grouped BGSU with Kent State, Ohio University and Miami as the four residential, liberal arts universities. Within the University System, however, every institution’s mission will be tied to higher education’s role in economic development.

Fingerhut, who will visit campus Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 7 and 8), is asking each university to identify its strengths, or “centers of excellence,” in relation to economic development and work-force preparation for its community, region and the state, MacNevin said.

While social and cultural goals are “why we’re here,” Baugher added, “I don’t have a concern with translating what we do to economic development.” Addressing the former goals while also meeting the latter imperative will be among BGSU’s challenges, she said.

According to Baugher, the University is looking to identify its centers of excellence. The state will expect each university’s unique mission differentiation to be aligned with work-force development as well, according to MacNevin. Fingerhut will hear presentations from the Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education: Opportunities for Success (COSMOS) and the Academic Investment in Math and Science (AIMS) program this week, she continued, noting the importance to the state of the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The chancellor will also learn more about BGSU’s programs in digital arts, business, music and technology.

BGSU’s strategic plan will identify “signature programs” along with the interdisciplinary centers of excellence. The values initiative, for example, is “clearly a signature of this University,” Baugher said, and “we want to make sure it’s part of everything we do.” The provost mentioned, too, that a current “structural budget analysis” will help recapture funds for the designated centers of excellence, signature programs and foundational excellence.

In the new statewide environment, the direction of funding and other decision-making will be based on collaboration and cooperation, MacNevin said. “I think we’re going to see more and more collaboration” with both public and private institutions, she replied to an audience question, noting that a study group of northeast Ohio universities, plus NEOUCOM, is bringing private colleges into its discussions.

As BGSU clarifies its mission and strengths, it can learn from the innovative and aspirational thinking that went into the visioning process at the new University of Toledo as a result of its merger with the Medical University of Ohio, MacNevin said. That kind of visionary planning is “the kind of thinking we now need to do,” she maintained. It’s important, she said, so the University can shape its own destiny rather than having it mandated by others.

“I do think the chancellor is definitive in the goals he has established,” said Baugher, promising changes at BGSU in response. “We’re defining our future.”

To see the forum in its entirety, go online to

November 5, 2007