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OU President Joseph Harroz announces university on track in Freshman Housing Master Plan, research initiatives

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"Lead On, University"

A "Lead On, University" strategic plan graphic. 

OU President Joseph Harroz announced Friday various outgrowths “across the spectrum” of the university on the one-year mark of the announcement of the “Live on, University” strategic plan, including moving to the Southeastern Conference and raising $240 million through fundraising. 

In an update, Harroz wrote the achievements from OU’s strategic plan are examples of “foundational, once-in-a-generation successes” recently felt by the OU community.

“The landscape of higher education was shifting dramatically even before the pandemic, and in the past year, we have seen tremendous change,” Harroz wrote. “And yet, at OU, we find ourselves undaunted. We have not merely survived the pandemic — we are thriving despite it.”

In Pillar I of the strategic plan, to become a top-tier public research university, Harroz cited hiring “visionary academic leadership” and “Association of American Universities-talent” as achievements. Notable hires included OU Senior Vice President and Provost André-Denis Wright and OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia

Harroz cited the largest, most diverse and most academically qualified freshman class in OU history as proof of the success of Pillar II — preparing students for a life of success, meaning, service and positive impact. According to the update, the class of 2025 is made up of 4,600 students. Thirty-eight percent identify as minorities, one in four are first-generation college students and the highest high school grade-point average of the class is 3.66. 

Another cited success of Pillar II was OU’s Cross Village expansion, which is the largest expansion of housing for the “OU freshman experience” since the mid-1960s, according to the update. 

“This exciting expansion speaks to the university’s commitment to prioritizing the student experience, and the inclusion of Cross Village creates a first-class, welcoming option for students to call home,” Harroz wrote. “The Cross Village acquisition also fast-tracks the timeline for OU’s Freshman Housing Master Plan, allowing the university to begin its implementation four years earlier than previously anticipated.” 

In March, the OU Board of Regents approved OU’s freshman housing master plan to replace the residential hall towers, after OU President Joseph Harroz noted how they were “built in the ‘60s,” and are “ready to be replaced.” The master plan will engage with an architectural firm to construct new living options with 3,350 additional beds.

Harroz wrote affordable tuition and “best-in-class fundraising and record giving” were examples of achievements by Pillar III of the strategic plan, making OU’s excellence affordable and attainable. 

According to the update, OU was able to freeze tuition for three years before a “modest” increase for the 2021-22 academic year. In June, the OU Board of Regents approved a 2.75 percent increase in tuition during a Tuesday meeting. 

In the update, Harroz wrote the renaming of OU’s College of Arts and Sciences to the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences and the Dodge family’s donation, a $45 million gift from the estate of Earl and Fran Ziegler and a $20 million investment from the Mulva Family Foundation were examples of best-in-class fundraising. 

In Pillar IV — becoming a place of belonging and emotional growth for all students, faculty, staff and alumni — Harroz wrote OU Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Belinda Higgs Hyppolite has “guided OU’s efforts to foster a culture of belonging.” 

Harroz wrote OU’s move to the SEC will affect the entire university by advancing its purpose and important work. 

“Our strategic plan is ambitious and certainly requires a conference alignment that affords us the opportunity to aggressively invest in our academic mission,” Harroz wrote. “Of equal importance is the value that strong athletics programs add to creating an environment of belonging for our students.”

Harroz wrote OU received a “record-high” $445.9 million in research awards, and 197 OU researchers listed among the “most influential researchers in the world.” These serve as examples of the success of Pillar V — enriching and positively impacting Oklahoma, the nation and the world through research and creative activity. 

“At OU, all that we do is driven by our fundamental purpose — we change lives — three small but powerful words intrinsic to who we are and what we aim to be,” Harroz wrote. “Because of your unwavering support and belief in our bright future, we are delivering on our promise of changing lives — not only today, but for generations to come.”

senior news reporter

Alexia Aston is a journalism sophomore and senior news reporter at The Daily. She started at The Daily in the fall of 2020 as a news reporter, and is originally from Clinton, Oklahoma.

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