Job One at OSU — Student Success

Ed Ray, Fall 2008

Hi. I'm Ed Ray, president of Oregon State University, and I'm pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you today about what we consider Job One here at Oregon State: the success of our students. We understand that our graduates are the most important contribution that we make to the future. And we take our responsibilities very seriously.

I want to talk to you briefly about some of the things we do to provide access, retention capabilities and, ultimately, success for our students here at Oregon State University.

There are two programs that I think are worth mentioning about providing opportunities for students to come here at Oregon State University and finish their degrees. One that we are very proud of is what we call our degree partnership program. We have agreements with each of the 17 community colleges here in Oregon at which students can enroll, either here at Oregon State University or at the community college, register for courses, arrange their financial aid, figure out their programs for the future with the help of advisers and do it in a kind of one-stop shopping where they either go to the community college or come here to the Corvallis campus. And as long as they are taking 12 or more credit hours they can quality for student financial aid, Pell Grants, etcetera, to help them afford the education that they are trying to ultimately attain. This is a program that we started back in 1998 with Linn-Benton Community College down the road. In the 10 years that that program has been in place, we've had 3,500 students start their education at a community college and finish here at Oregon State University. We're very, very proud of that.

We also have a program to help students with their finances. As a result of the shared-responsibility model which Governor Kulongoski, in collaboration with the support of the legislature, has put in place - with the help of our donors through philanthropy - to set up scholarships. We've had donors fund 330 scholarships in the early part of our current Campaign for OSU. We're able to combine the help of the funds that we're able to get from our donors, from the state, from federal Pell grants and elsewhere so that this year we'll be initiating what we call our Bridge to Success Program. It will provide full financial aid for tuition and fees for 1,500 incoming students from Oregon (Editor's note: Some 2,400 students have been offered assistance this fall.) 

We also understand that sometimes students have a difficult time making the transition from high school or even from community college to the university itself. And so we've created programs to help students to persist, and we certainly want them to be able to persist through to graduation.

One of those programs began with student athletes two summers ago. It's a summer bridge program that helps them come in before classes start in the autumn, learn how to navigate the campus, coping skills, study skills, take some credit hours just to essentially get acclimated to campus life. It's been a tremendous success, and now over the next two or three years we're going to extend that program to all of our incoming students to help them get off to the right kind of start. In fact, through the help of a generous donor, we're in the process of creating a student success center, a building that will house academic advisors, career councilors, tutoring, mentoring services. It will help all of our students be as successful as possible and, as I said, persist through to graduation.

There are a lot of things for students to do while they're here at Oregon State University. We have a number of programs affiliated with our colleges that help them understand what the world of work and what the real world is all about before they graduate so that they can connect the dots between the learning that they're doing at the university and the issues they're going to have to deal with after they graduate. A great example is the MECOP program in our College of Engineering. The College of Engineering works with firms around the state to place some of their best and brightest students in summer internship programs to, as I said, to help them understand what the world of work is about. It's been a tremendously successful program.

Another area that we're very proud of is our Honors College. We have one of only a dozen or so separate honors colleges here at the university. It's a wonderful learning environment for extraordinary students. They take courses from every part of the campus. They have an opportunity to work with some of our best and brightest faculty in great learning environments in small classrooms. 

We also have wonderful international exchange programs. A couple of years ago, I went along with colleagues to China and Taiwan and Thailand. We visited a dozen universities and reinforced exchange programs that we had in place and created new exchange programs. We'll be making a trip later in this year, in November, to India for that same purpose of meeting colleagues there and creating exchange learning opportunities for students and faculty that simply aren't available yet but need to be part of the expanding program for exchanges that we're creating here.

So we're very proud of the work we're doing to provide access both in terms of the mechanics of it through things like the degree partnership program, through the financial aid programs that we're able to put together like the Bridge to Success Program. We're also very proud of what we're doing to help our students persist through to graduation. Many of our graduates have, and I know the students that we have here with us today are also going to make their mark on the future. We're very, very proud of them. As I said, this is Job One. Thank you for listening.