OWU rolling out new initiatives


A full house gathered April 19 in Ohio Wesleyan University’s historic Gray Chapel to inaugurate the 17th president in the university’s 181-year history – and the new president delivered revolutionary new initiatives.

President Matthew P. vandenBerg, Ed.D., announced several new partnerships and programs, including a new Delaware County Promise program, to immediately enable more students to access a life-changing OWU education. He also discussed the higher education landscape and Ohio Wesleyan’s place and purpose in it.

‘Absolutely tuition-free’

“Starting this fall,” vandenBerg told the inauguration crowd, “every single student who lives or goes to school in Delaware County, who earns a 3.5 GPA or higher, and whose families make a combined $100,000 or less – every single student who fits those three criteria – can now attend Ohio Wesleyan University, absolutely tuition-free.”

And, vandenBerg proclaimed, “We won’t stop here. We won’t stop now. We won’t stop until we achieve our dream to remove cost as a barrier for every qualified student in Delaware County.”

Higher education hardships

In addition to announcing actions to improve access and address pressing societal issues, vandenBerg also discussed the current state of higher education and how to propel it forward.

“To say these are difficult times for higher education is an understatement of epic proportions,” he said. “You might say that goes double for small, private residential liberal arts colleges.

“We’re buried under an ever-growing pile of concerns – from soaring inflation and price sensitivity to questions about the value of a degree, declining enrollments, political rancor, brinkmanship, and calcified financial models.

“We’re mired in a national retention and graduation crisis, and students need more and better help than colleges sometimes have to offer.”

Higher education hopes

Fortunately, vandenBerg told the crowd, there’s a path forward to addressing these concerns, and Ohio Wesleyan is helping to forge it.

“For all you Bishops in the house, let me tell you something you already know,” he said. “OWU is astonishingly gifted at helping 18- to 22-year-olds find their way – to answer the all-important self-discovery questions during the most formative stage of their lives. The questions that test assumptions and surface the truth: What am I good at? What gets me out of bed in the morning? What’s my role in creating a better world?

“We have the perfect opportunity to learn from our own successful approach with students – to take a page out of our own textbook. We have the chance to ask ourselves the very same existential questions, even if they’re tough.

“What makes us truly distinctive? What can students get at OWU that they won’t, or they don’t, or they can’t get anywhere else? How do we align our resources and energies so that those distinctions truly shine?”

‘We lead with vision’

In addition to announcing the tuition-free Delaware County Promise, vandenBerg also recapped several other new programs created to assist students and improve society. Most were announced during community events during a weeklong celebration leading up to the formal inauguration ceremony.

“OWU soars because we lead with vision, innovation, action, and grit,” vandenBerg said. “Because we’re willing to risk all that we have so that all can have more. Because we work in unity not just for the sake of making a better OWU, but for the sake of making a better world through OWU.”

More access, more teachers

vandenBerg outlined three new collaborations with Columbus State Community College – Tuition Match, Teach Now, and an expanded 2+2 Preferred Pathway program. The initiatives were announced April 18 at a news conference with Columbus State President David Harrison.

“Under our first-in-kind Tuition Match Program, up to 25 Columbus State graduates per year who’ve earned a 3.5 GPA or higher will pay the Columbus State tuition rate to attend OWU,” vandenBerg said.

“Our new Teach Now Program addresses Central Ohio’s alarming teacher shortage in head-on fashion,” he continued. “Starting this fall, qualified high school students can dual-enroll at Columbus State and transfer seamlessly into OWU’s accredited teacher education program. Students will graduate from OWU with their bachelor’s and Ohio teaching licenses in two years and at a fraction of the cost.”

The Preferred Pathway program allows qualified Columbus State graduates to transfer into their choice of 20 Ohio Wesleyan majors to transform their two-year associate degree into a four-year OWU bachelor’s degree without credit-transfer concerns.

Historicsister school agreement

vandenBerg also announced one of the nation’s most comprehensive sister school agreements between a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and a Predominantly White Institution (PWI).

On April 18, Ohio Wesleyan and South Carolina-based Claflin University, one of the nation’s leading HBCUs, signed a sister school agreement that infuses diversity into the Ohio Wesleyan experience and lays the foundation for collaborative work to benefit students, faculty, and staff at both of the private, liberal arts institutions.

Claflin President Dwaun Warmack also attended vandenBerg’s inauguration, which drew several presidents and other representatives from colleges and universities throughout Ohio and the nation.

Valuable competition

On April 16, the university and The Delaware Entrepreneurial Center at Ohio Wesleyan University (DEC OWU) announced “a bold new business plan competition open to entrepreneurs of all ages across the world,” vandenBerg told the inaugural address crowd.

“With a pool of up to $250,000,” he said, “I’m pleased to share that OWU, Delaware, and the DEC are now home to the single-most generous business plan competition in the State of Ohio. Winners of the competition will incubate in the DEC OWU as we prepare to build on a thrilling and distinctive new future.”

The entrepreneurial center is supported by the City of Delaware and the County of Delaware, and it is the first-of-its-kind liberal arts business accelerator and the first-of-its-kind city, county, and educational institute partnership.

Additional initiatives

During his inauguration address, vandenBerg also announced several more initiatives, including merit pay programs for Ohio Wesleyan faculty and staff; the launch of a new Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation “to support faculty as they help us to cement our status as a model university for teaching excellence, hands-on learning, holistic advising, and student success”; and a new student hub on the residential campus “designed by and built for students” and fully funded by an anonymous donor gift.

VandenBerg also recapped Ohio Wesleyan’s growing success in student success and engagement, including its work with first-generation students.

“In just two years, we’ve seen a 6% rise in first-to-second-year retention,” he said. “Retention for returning second-years is now 84%, and for third-years, it’s 94%. If the increasing media attention and calls I receive from fellow presidents are any indication, OWU is developing a national reputation for its pioneering, all-hands-on-deck work in student success.

“This is also increasingly the case with our first-generation college students, a population for whom retention is up 10% in the last two years,” vandenBerg said.

‘Mission launched’

In concluding his remarks, vandenBerg noted, “It is a great day to be a Bishop,” even as he encouraged everyone to continue working to improve their university, community, and world.

“Today is a celebration of who we are, of all we’ve done, and the momentum we’re building,” vandenBerg said. “But we don’t mistake celebration for victory. This isn’t mission accomplished. This is mission launched. This is an Ohio Wesleyan rebellion of kindness, boldness, and innovation.”

Submitted by Ohio Wesleyan University.

No posts to display