OMG: Optimizing, Modernizing and Greater Diversity

Dear colleagues,

For the past several months, I have been talking about three major principles, using the acronym OMG:

O for Optimizing our academic programs
M for Modernizing our facilities
G for Greater diversity in everything we do.

Of course, three letters can’t convey the complexity of the College of Applied Health Sciences, or fully address the short- and long-term challenges we face.

What does optimization mean and how do we know we have achieved it in the changing landscape of higher education? As the top college of applied health sciences in Illinois, we should ask ourselves: are we meeting the needs of the communities we serve? Are we innovating fast enough to make a positive impact on their health?  These are important questions to answer as we begin to optimize our academic programs. During the coming year, I look forward to working with the faculty to identify the metrics to guide our optimization efforts.  (Spoiler alert–it is NOT a ranking by cheesy magazines.) We will identify objective and measurable goals to guide our strategies, even if it means going back to the basics—from student success metrics such as improved enrollment, retention and graduation rates, to grants submitted, papers published, research expenditures, patients served, scholarships given and gifts received.

Our facilities were built in the 1940s for far different purposes than they are being used today. We train health professionals to work in a modern and technologically advanced health care system. We serve patients who deserve access to modern health care facilities. We will work with our stakeholders to identify ways to prioritize years of deferred maintenance and create a modern space for learning, teaching, research and high-quality clinical care.

Greater diversity
The most important asset of the College of Applied Health Sciences is the diversity of its students, faculty and staff. Diversity saves life. While that sounds like a social statement, it is also a scientific fact that diversity is good for our health. A diverse biomedical workforce produces better health outcomes; research findings from diverse scientists are more impactful.

To promote diversity in our professions, we are starting an undergraduate research training program for underrepresented students. Called Enhancing Cross-disciplinary Innovation and Training for Opportunity (EXITO), it will help us identify, recruit and train underrepresented students to become scientists while they complete their undergraduate training. The program will provide financial support, long-term training and mentoring opportunities, creating a more diverse graduate and professional student body.

Our future looks bright, our students are exceptional, and our faculty and staff are working together to take the college to the next level. OMG indeed!