Oklahoma State University releases new strategy to become preeminent land-grant university
Strategy includes initiatives to reduce student debt, innovate around student competencies and focus research on solving society’s most significant challenges
OSU President Kayse Shrum and Senior Vice President of Operations Jerome Loughridge unveiled the plan during a virtual presentation Wednesday on the Stillwater campus.
The plan was finalized after an inclusive process with months of input sessions with stakeholders including students, faculty, staff and alumni, donors, industry representatives, tribal partners and state leaders. The result is a tailored plan with specific goals, strategies and tactics united to better meet the needs of students and parents, as well as Oklahoma’s workforce. It covers a wide range of topics and initiatives which have been carefully identified and developed to enhance career placement and career readiness, reimagine general education and improve higher education access by reducing student debt and setting new records for student scholarships.
Dr. Shrum said the plan is deeply rooted in the university’s land-grant mission to serve the public good, which has been a key point of emphasis since she was selected as the university’s 19th president in July 2021. The strategy has received interim approval from the OSU/A&M Board of Regents and will be on the agenda for its Oct. 21 meeting in Oklahoma City.
“Research, teaching and service belong to the land-grants, and we are Oklahoma’s flagship land-grant institution,” Shrum said. “With a presence in all 77 counties, we are called to serve the state and world, and we are well equipped to do that. This strategy is a bold step forward, and I’m proud of the work of the committees involved in its creation. Our goal is to become the preeminent land-grant university. With our world-class faculty, dedicated staff and the bright minds of our students, we will accomplish the goal.”
With Oklahoma producing college graduates at a stark 25% behind the national average, the dearth of college-prepared graduates threatens the state’s current workforce vitality and jeopardizes future economic prospects. OSU intends to meet this critical state need by increasing overall student enrollment and leveraging all of its degree-granting institutions in Stillwater, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Okmulgee.
Included in the plan are eight policy imperatives:
Enroll a minimum of 5,000 new first-year students by the fall of 2026 at the Stillwater campus
- Increase six-year graduation rate 10% by 2027 through a comprehensive retention strategy
- Compete with integrity and excellence
- Commit to creating graduates who exhibit the four competencies of 1) professional preparedness, 2) engaged citizenship, 3) ethical leadership and 4) personal responsibility
- Align curriculum and programming to support the generation of ideal graduates and to advance the land-grant mission
- Leverage R1 status to advance research that impacts society
- Elevate and amplify Extension
- Create an effective and efficient OSU system
Those policy imperatives include specific targets for increasing student retention scholarships to record levels, increasing the percentage of students graduating from OSU debt-free to 60% and reducing the average student debt of graduates with OSU debt to no more than $3,000 per year of attendance. While working to reduce student debt, OSU also will design a new tool to help graduates compete in the job market — a unique student competency portfolio which will serve to highlight each student’s competencies and interdisciplinary skill set.
“These are our fundamental pillars: Access for students, which aligns with our historic land-grant mission; student success, which says after we recruit them we are committed to supporting them through graduation; and the inculcation of key competencies that complement the degree and position our students for success in their careers and impact in the communities. These fundamental pillars will enrich and empower all of our students, irrespective of their major, their school or their campus,” Loughridge said.
In keeping with OSU’s land-grant mission, the strategy enumerates how OSU research will be used to address society’s most pressing challenges in four priority areas:
1) Innovating to nourish the world
2) Leading in aerospace innovation and application
3) Enhancing human and animal health (One Health)
4) Powering a growing world population sustainably and responsibly
The four priority areas are interdisciplinary intersections of institutional capacity and societal need and are not limited to particular academic areas or divisions. They will involve faculty, students and research professionals from across the university, driving professional preparedness to meet workforce demands of each area, advancing new knowledge with research specific to each sector and creating economic opportunity through close coordination with industry. Advances created by these areas will serve to enhance the quality of life, economic prospects and health outcomes for Oklahomans — with implications for worldwide application.
“Since Oklahoma State’s creation in 1890, we have remained one of the few and proud leading land-grant institutions in America,” Shrum said. “The university philosophy is predicated on the notion that we provide students with an education that will set them up for success after graduation while using the strength of our research to solve some of society’s most pressing problems.
“The strategy has identified areas where society’s greatest needs — aerospace innovation, energy sustainability, food security and One Health — cross with OSU’s greatest research capabilities. We have outlined the plan to accelerate knowledge through additional resources and funding. The other key tenet is defining ways we can improve the student experience and reduce the number of students graduating with debt with bold, measurable goals. Student enrollment and student success are key.”
In addition to these priority areas, OSU is a leader in STEM education — From its K-12 initiatives to its academic programs and research. While much work is already being done, the strategy presents a unique opportunity for further STEM alignment to have an even greater impact on the state.
The strategy also details OSU’s plan for enhancing its strong academic and athletic reputation. OSU’s goal is to rank among the top 30 public universities for the awarding of nationally and internationally competitive scholarships, such as Truman and Fulbright scholarships, and consistently vie for championships and finish in the top 30 of the Directors Cup of competitive men’s and women’s Division I athletics.
“To reach great heights, we must all unite behind this daring vision to be the nation’s preeminent land-grant university,” Shrum said. “Together, we will reimagine and revolutionize Oklahoma State University.”
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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 33,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and more than 100 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 275,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.