Sept. BOT meeting: Stabilized enrollment, $5 million for basketball … – Oaklandpostonline

The first Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting of the academic year took place on Sept 11. Among the topics discussed were OU’s national recognition, the funding for a basketball training facility and a contract extension for OU president Ora Hirsch Pescovitz.
The meeting began with an acknowledgment of the 22nd anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Robert Schostak, chair of the BOT, asked any active members or veterans of the military, first responders and OU police to stand for recognition.
“This is obviously a day of significance in our history of America,” he said. “We all like to recognize your contributions to our society.”
President’s report
Pescovitz kicked off the meeting with a celebration of OU’s recent accomplishments, including stabilized enrollment, a sharp increase in freshmen enrollment and OU’s success in national collegiate rankings.
“It is so exciting to have all of you back here on campus,” Pescovitz said. “Our students are back on campus with pre-pandemic energy and excitement, and you can just feel it in the air.”
Additionally, OU had success with the state legislature as part of the “Strive for 45” initiative, which aims to increase the amount of public funding the university receives per student. In Fiscal Year 2024, OU has received an additional $11.5 million and a 19% increase in year-over-year state funding.
Additionally, Pescovitz discussed the Wall Street Journal’s 2024 Best Colleges in the U.S. report. OU ranked 189th overall — above many Michigan universities such as Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. 
In Michigan, OU was ranked first for enhancing students’ social mobility and 91st nationally. In Michigan, OU was second only to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor regarding how well students are prepared for careers.
Pescovitz added OU’s new Career and Life Design Center shows OU’s commitment to students’ futures.
Pescovitz also celebrated former Stephan Sharf Dean of Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Duane Mezwa, M.D., following his retirement. Additionally, she welcomed the new Stephan Sharf Interim Dean Christopher Carpenter.
Finally, Pescovitz closed her address with an invite to the State of the University address, which will occur on Sept. 28 at 11:30 a.m. at Varner Recital Hall. Key initiatives and priorities for the upcoming year will be discussed.
Basketball Training Center funding
The BOT voted in favor of allocating $5 million to an independent basketball practice facility to be built on OU’s west campus.
Stephen Mackey, vice president for finance and administration, said the west campus suits the facility’s needs due to the space availability, proximity to the main campus and collaboration opportunities with other programs.
Steve Waterfield, director of athletics, noted many of OU’s recruitment competitors — including the University of Toledo and Central Michigan University — have their own facilities, posing an issue for recruiting and retaining athletes to the program.
Additionally, he said increased success in basketball translates into success for the university.
“It increases pride, elevates the reputation of the university and enhances and strengthens institutional identity,” Waterfield said.
Waterfield added studies show what basketball success can do for institutions. He cited “Cinderellas” — double-digit seeds that won two games in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) tournaments — saw a 6.3% increase in new student enrollment after tournament appearances and a 15.2% increase in applications.
Tentatively, construction for the main practice area is expected to be completed at the end of next year. The full building is anticipated to be completed in 2025.
Extension of Pescovitz’s appointment
The BOT unanimously approved a contract extension for Pescovitz until June 30, 2031.
Schostak added although Pescovitz and her cabinet had to contend with incredible stress on their budget, reserves and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in reduced enrollment, the university has made major strides under her leadership.
“Somehow, you have continued to provide the best in higher education possible,” he said. “Not only have you met those challenges, we as a university have achieved new levels of excellence [making] strides in areas including setting new expectations by your cabinet for the highest standards for OU.”
Schostak cited many reasons behind extending Pescovitz’s contract. He says Pescovitz has made strides in diversity, equity and inclusion, has found success in her “Strive for 45” campaign — which allowed OU to acquire a minimum of $4,500 in funding per student — and her donations of $1.8 million to the university since becoming president. 
“That is an unusual show of commitment to a university,” Schostak said. “This Board of Trustees desires to secure our university with what we believe to be one of the finest university presidents not only in Michigan but amongst all universities in the United States.”
Pescovitz said serving as OU’s president is “the privilege of a lifetime.”
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to serve this university, our remarkable students, our outstanding faculty and exceptional staff,” she said. “What [Schostak] referred to as our extraordinary track record is really due to the accomplishments of the team.
“We have a lot to do if we want to get to where we’re going to go. We’re not going to sit back on our laurels. You have our pledge that we’re going to work diligently to achieve our full potential.”
Honorary degree recipient
Chairman of the Board of Direction for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Eugene Gargaro was honored with an honorary doctorate of humanities.
Among Gargaro’s accomplishments are his involvement in a $160 million renovation and expansion of the DIA, the oversight of a $230 million millage initiative to support DIA and his experience as a member of the board of trustees for the University of Detroit Mercy and board chair of the Michigan Manufacturers Association and Citizens Research Council of Michigan.
“It’s a great pleasure to be here today, and in particular to receive this recognition from the board of trustees,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words how I feel. You’ve heard the word team used a lot here today — I represent a great team in those various capacities that I’ve served, and they should all be up on this podium with me for this recognition.”
The meeting closed with an additional request for consideration from Associate Professor Richard Stamps for additional university archival space.
“We live in dynamic, changing times,” Stamps said. “[The university is] growing up… Adequate archives will help us document where we came from, what we are doing and where we plan to be in the future.”
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