The OU Board of Regents approved changes to its general education requirements, appointed a new chairman and saw changes to university health departments Thursday afternoon as recently appointed regent Rick Nagel stepped into his role for the first time.
The regents approved an agenda item altering its Core Area V general education requirements to include a First-Year Experience course. OU President Joseph Harroz said this requirement is one of former Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine’s “great legacies.”
Harroz said the requirement will serve as a fall pilot to the university’s Gateway to Belonging course and expand into a suite of three classes next year, including a course called Global Perspectives and Engagement and an ethical leadership development program.
“It will go full next year, a year from this fall that teaches critical thinking, cultural fluency, civil discourse, citizenship and community engagement during the student's first year,” Harroz said. “We think (it) will build a better community and better individuals that are prepared to go out into the world and be successful and make an impact.”
The regents also increased housing rates for residence halls.
Boarding costs for the residence hall towers, Traditions and Kraettli apartments will each increase by three percent, which translates to a $99 upcharge for towers residents living in a double room. Residential college and Headington Hall prices will increase by six percent, from $5,850 to $6,201 a year for a two-bed, two-bath single room in Headington Hall.
Housing rates for Cross Village — which OU freshmen will be allowed to live in as Adams Center is vacated ahead of its planned demolition — were set at $4,800 for a four-bed, two-bath space, $5,500 for a two-bed, one bath and $7,100 for a single suite.
Meal plan prices also increased by almost four percent to offset additional costs incurred by bringing students in “earlier than normal” Aug. 13-20 to participate in Camp Crimson. Standard meal plans will each cost $2,466 in the 2021 academic year.
Michael Cawley was appointed as the regents’ new chairman, replacing former regent Gary Pierson after he finished the remainder of former regent Bill Burgess’ term. Frank Keating was reappointed as vice-chairman, alongside Chris Purcell as the regents’ executive secretary.
The regents approved the appointment of André-Denis Wright, the dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University, to become the university’s Senior Vice President and Provost. Wright will officially begin June 1.
Katheleen Guzman was appointed as the Dean of the College of Law and Stacy Reeder as the dean of the College of Education. Both Guzman and Reeder have served as interim deans of their respective colleges, Guzman since 2019 and Reeder since 2020.
Jason Sanders, the senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center, announced the expansion of OU’s College of Dentistry to OU’s Tulsa campus, which was approved in the regents’ consent agenda. The expansion will result in a newly constructed facility that will open on July 1, 2022.
“This is a first for OU, a first for the state,” Sanders said. “We really want to give our appreciation to Dean Raymond Cohlmia of the College of Dentistry, who set the vision, strategy and implementation.”
Sanders also spoke on the merger between OU Health Sciences Center and OU Health Physicians, first mentioned in a March university email. He said there will be many benefits to this unification of the campuses’ governance, leadership and care delivery.
“As a patient, this means that the same teams who are bringing care delivery to you as a patient will be the same teams, whether you come to our emergency room, whether you're in our clinics or whether you meet us virtually,” Sanders said. “This means, as a patient, you'll have access to OU health at more locations across the state, and you'll be able to more easily access us virtually on your smartphone or tablet. And, lastly, as a patient, no matter where you first encounter us at OU Health and our system, you'll have access to the latest clinical trials, research and treatments.”
Harroz said the thing “all of the healthiest states have in common” is a fully integrated academic health system. He said the merger will be finalized in a June meeting, which will include “key documents that affect the partnership.”
“There are so many pieces to this,” Harroz said. “Certainly in my time, I’ve spent more time on this than the next two or three projects put together. … There are still many pieces left to put together as these mergers all work, but that is the big news — that’s the direction we’re heading.”
Nagel, an OU College of Engineering alumnus, and CEO and managing partner of Acorn Growth Companies, sat at the regents' table for the first time during the passage of these items. He said although he “couldn’t be more excited to come onto the board,” he feels lucky to be entering the position near the end of the pandemic.
“I actually feel sorry for my regent colleagues now who had to work through all the issues with COVID-19, managing all the different challenges that came with that (and) still putting a strategic plan together,” Nagel said. “As the new guy, you kind of come in on the up and up train. … I just think it's an amazing time.”
Nagel said this upcoming semester is marked by an opportunity to expand the university’s focus to support students in job searches as they graduate. Nagel said he hopes to remind students that “you don’t have to leave home to get a great job,” by building on job guidance programs and educating inbound OU students.
Nagel said he hopes to serve as a bridge between the world of academics and the private sector so students can leave OU “job-ready,” especially in STEM fields.
As Nagel watched his son Decklin Nagel, a College of Business junior, study and take classes from home this semester, he said he was reminded of how so much has changed at the university since he attended. He said he looks forward to seeing the university adapt in the following semester, as it “gets students properly oriented” with the approved changes to its Core V requirements.
Ultimately, Harroz said he wanted to congratulate Irvine for the “remarkable job” she did in the interim as Senior Vice President and Provost and “congratulate us,” referring to university administration, for coming through the pandemic with a strategic plan and a “mission that matters.”
“There's two emotions, right,” Harroz said. “One is just, I guess, several emotions, it's exhaustion. You know, by the time you hit graduation, you're always tired, but this year, obviously carried everything with it. … It's a heightened sense of exhaustion, but also just incredible optimism. And, I'd say gratitude that we were able to make it to this point in this way.”
Harroz said it would be easy to go back and say all of the decisions made in the past year were “brilliant,” which is why he is choosing to look at the past year through a different, more realistic lens.
“The real way to look at this is the gratitude that those decisions turned out to be right and that the work that went into them paid off,” Harroz said.