President Greg Crawford: Our Miami mission holds us together

Annual Address emphasizes resilience and renaissance

Miami University is poised to “write a new chapter of learning, discovery, creativity, justice, and service” thanks to the university’s resilience, commitment to students, and creativity, said President Crawford during his state of the university annual address.

“We will advance together as One Miami into a future even more dynamic than our past,” said Crawford. “With dedication, perseverance, and confidence, we are empowering ourselves to meet the needs of our time.”

His Oct. 2 speech, recorded from the Miami University Art Museum, was distributed to the Miami community through an email. Crawford delivered his speech remotely due to COVID-19 gathering size restrictions; but despite being miles apart, he emphasized that the “Miami mission holds us together.”

As the nation and the world face powerful challenges — a global public health crisis, an economic downturn, unemployment numbers unseen in years, and an extraordinary reckoning on racial justice — Crawford highlighted the student-centered response by Miamians to find solutions that best serve students and their families.

“Communities can respond to challenges in two ways,” said Crawford. “They can become dispirited, divided, and debilitated or they can become energized, innovative, and empowered — even more connected and united.”

The Fall 2020 class was initially the second-largest class in University history with 4,200 students. But when COVID-19 forced a different kind of fall semester, Miami provided options: 300 students chose to defer their enrollment to this spring or Fall 2021, about a one-fourth chose to pursue a fully online experience, and the rest selected the hybrid model, with some face-to-face opportunities.

To aid students, Miami invested more in student aid this year than ever before — $36 million dollars to the entering class and $114 million dollars overall. Alumni donated $875,000 dollars in emergency needs funds.

Crawford also used the address as an opportunity to announce a $20 million gift from 1981 graduate Rick McVey, which will be used toward the construction of a new data science building. The facility will house the departments of Emerging Technology in Business and Design as well as the Department of Statistics, the Department of Mathematics, the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies, and the Center for Analytics and Data Science. Faculty from Farmer School of Business Information Systems and Analysis, and Computer Science will use the space for a transdisciplinary and partnership approach to data science and analytics.

Crawford also addressed the inequities in society that were revealed during the pandemic. But through Miami’s partners and its strength in community, new ideas and plans emerged.

  • Declaring solidarity with those who seek racial justice and equity, Miami’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, under the leadership of Anthony James and Vicka Bell-Robinson, developed recommendations for a way forward.
  • In response to COVID-19, Miami sought advice and expertise from its partners in the greater community — TriHealth, Butler County General Health District, Inter-University Council, the Ohio Department of Health and the office of Governor Mike DeWine. Internally, the Safe Return to Campus Committee, led by Dana Cox and Gwen Fears, coordinated efforts from many faculty, staff and students.
  • In recognition of Miami’s global connection, Second Nature’s Climate Commitment was signed to commit the University to achieving carbon neutrality and addressing climate change resilience.
  • With the Mid-American Conference universities, a Transformational Leadership certificate was launched for career and professional development for student-athletes.
  • And, the Export Collegiate, a new esports conference was launched.

Crawford also shared some of the financial challenges caused not only by the pandemic, but also by the pressures most higher education institutions are facing in the United States today: a declining number of undergraduate students, fewer international students, greater reliance on tuition revenue, and pressure to discount tuition. The strategies to address budget issues and challenges in the coming year were addressed.  

“We are focused on how to sustain our mission while maintaining the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff,” Crawford said. “Thus far, we have not had to make the vast cuts and layoffs seen at some institutions; however, we must continue to address the pandemic’s impact and the pre-existing challenges, now and in the future.”

Moving toward a renaissance

At Miami, Crawford said, “we will undergo — not only a recovery — but a renaissance that advances our mission and elevates our impact.”

He provided a few examples of innovations in “our new normal” where faculty and staff laid a foundation for leadership in education delivery.

  • The Humanities Center launched a Laptop Lecture Series — two-minute lectures by Miami faculty providing insights to the world from their areas of expertise.
  • The Howe Writing Center advanced Miami’s writing excellence tradition with online and remote experiences.
  • The Office of Student Life created a fully online orientation and created unique student engagement opportunities.
  • The university created a new office called ASPIRE – Advancing Strategy, Partnerships, Institutional Relationships and Economy. The new office, led by Randi Thomas as its vice president, is charged with tracking strategy, building the University’s corporate relationships, elevating government relations, and building a more robust economy for the region.
  • A new miniMBA program was developed by the University’s lauded Farmer School of Business. This certificate program, provided to Miami alumni at no charge, offers 24 hours of online instruction that helps participants gain useful business skills and knowledge to help them grow in their careers. In the two weeks since it launched, more than 5,500 have registered.
  • Next fall, Miami will launch its Honors College, offering the best-in-class honors education in the country. Students in the college will have highly individualized programs that offer opportunities for research, scholarship, study abroad, leadership development, and community service.
  • The Office of Career Exploration and Student Success offered the very first online career fair, attracting 250 participants.
  • Alumni Relations launched numerous innovative digital engagements, including Alumni Weekend, Grandparents College and virtual alumni chapter engagements.
  • Miami’s agile budgeting and investment strategies, the MiamiRISE strategic plan, have provided a buffer and vision, making Miami more resilient and more creative and more future-facing.
  • Miami’s Boldly Creative initiative is the catalyst in making impactful investments toward creating programming in in-demand fields. For example, new undergraduate degrees in data science and analytics, robotics, integrated science, applied biology, games and simulations, real estate and more have been approved or are soon available for students.
  • At Miami Regionals, the Work + program is growing with new partners in industry joining, offering a debt-free education opportunity for students.
  • Research at Miami is thriving. A new record in researching funding is at an all-time high —$27 million.

These are just some examples Crawford highlighted during the speech that reinforced Miami’s dedication, perseverance and confidence, not only during 2020, but throughout its 211-year history that defines Miami.

“We will not retreat or retrench,” said Crawford. “We will continue to invest in bold, forward-looking initiatives that meet the needs of our society and ensure the success of our students and Miami University.”