Dear OU Family,
For well over a century, the University of Oklahoma has been a place of opportunity, discovery, and excellence. Generations of students have found purpose and meaning through an OU education, and our state and society have benefited from our ingenuity and resourcefulness. The impact of our university and its people can be traced all the way back to our beginning, inspiring us to dream and achieve together.
The landscape of higher education was shifting dramatically even before the pandemic, and in the past year we have seen tremendous change. And yet, at OU, we find ourselves undaunted. We have not merely survived the pandemic; we are thriving despite it.
Guiding our path forward is our ambition to stretch beyond the boundaries of what we ever thought was possible. With our “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan now having surpassed the one-year mark, we are already seeing remarkable outgrowths across the spectrum. Contained within this report are just a few examples of the foundational, once-in-a-generation successes that we’ve enjoyed recently, many of which were realized during a year that challenged us like never before. These achievements serve as the building blocks for the fulfillment of our Strategic Plan. I hope you take as much pride in these accomplishments as I do – the credit for which is owed to you, our remarkable OU family.
What follows in these pages are the positive indicators of our progress. It’s through this work that we endeavor to become worthy of our past – the tremendous legacy we have inherited – while at the same time boldly embracing our future. Together, we are building upon a 131-year history that we are proud and humbled to call our own.
At OU, all that we do is driven by our fundamental purpose – We Change Lives – three small but powerful words intrinsic to who we are and what we aim to be. Because of your unwavering support and belief in our bright future, we are delivering on our promise of changing lives – not only today, but for generations to come.
Live On, University,
Joseph Harroz, Jr.
Officially launched in July 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Lead On, University defines a clear plan for the Norman campus’ future and the comprehensive strategies to achieve it. As the university’s first Strategic Plan in a generation, it aims to position OU as a top-tier public research university that fosters a culture of innovation, excellence, and inclusivity.
In the months since the Strategic Plan’s unveiling, the university has embraced the challenge of striving for success with an eagerness to bring the Plan to life. With the first dedicated Strategic Plan in 30 years, OU has instituted structural changes like adding premier freshman housing, the merger of OU Health, joining the SEC, and more. Accelerating to remarkable heights, the university has enjoyed record fundraising and legislative funding, and this fall welcomed its largest, most diverse and academically qualified class in history.
Below is just a sampling of these endeavors that are sparking a new era of excellence at OU.
Read the full Plan at ou.edu/leadon
At the University of Oklahoma, we are driven by our pursuit to unlock our greatest potential as one of the nation’s top public research institutions. As a Carnegie-RU/VH public research university, we champion creativity, innovation, and scholarly activity across all disciplines, striving for the highest levels of impact. Our ambitious goals for the future leverage the excellence we’re already known for as we pursue our path toward becoming an AAU-caliber institution.
André-Denis Wright, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Provost of the Norman campus, joined OU in July 2021. Wright is an internationally recognized microbiologist, accomplished scholar, and an experienced administrative leader. Provost Wright came to OU from Washington State University, where he served as dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences – one of WSU’s largest and most diverse colleges – and his portfolio included oversight of 1,250 faculty serving 3,100 students; a $196 million budget; a tribal office; and four research centers across Washington state.
Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Partnerships of the Norman campus, joined OU in October 2019 and was charged with development of a comprehensive research plan to help achieve OU’s Strategic Plan. An accomplished physicist and internationally renowned research leader, Dr. Díaz de la Rubia came to OU with a compelling blend of experience, having held major positions in a federal laboratory, private consulting firm, and most recently as Purdue University’s Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.
The Oklahoma Legislature made a significant investment in higher education for the 2020-2021 session – designating the most state funding for the benefit of OU in nearly 20 years (not since $22.7 million in state appropriations toward the National Weather Center in 2002). OU received – to be distributed over three years – over $60 million in commitments combined at both the Health Sciences Center and the Norman campus – investments in pediatric behavioral health, aerospace and defense research, and infrastructure investments. OU also received multi-year continuing commitments to increase engineering, nursing, and M.D. grads equal to over $15 million a year.
The stunning composition of this year’s freshman class shows that the demand for a world-class OU education is higher than ever. With approximately 4,600 students, the Class of 2025 comprises the largest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class in OU history. In the new freshman class, 38% of students identify as minorities, and one in four are first-generation college students. This year’s class also has an average high school GPA of 3.66, the highest ever of an incoming class.
With 1,200 premium fully furnished single-bed units with a range of amenities, Cross Village is the largest expansion of housing for the OU freshman experience since the mid-1960s. This exciting expansion speaks to the university’s commitment to prioritizing the student experience, and the inclusion of Cross Village creates a first-class, welcoming option for students to call home. The Cross Village acquisition also fast-tracks the timeline for OU’s Freshman Housing Master Plan, allowing the university to begin its implementation four years earlier than previously anticipated.
Preparing students for life as a graduate is a key priority at OU. Through OU Career Services, students are empowered to explore connections between their future ambitions and the pathways to achieve them. Resources like career fairs, personalized advising, resume-building workshops, mock interviews, and much more equip students with the skills and connections to foster their career development.
The university is committed to strengthening its offerings for students, beginning with a major investment that will double our resources and place OU among the most cutting-edge career services programs in the nation.
1 Rhodes Scholar
7 Goldwater Scholars
17 Fulbright Recipients
5 Tillman Scholars
5 Boren Awards
2 Udall Scholars
1 Cooke Scholar
1 Luce Scholar
1 Marshall Scholar
1 Rangel Scholar
A key tenet of the Strategic Plan is to provide an education that is excellent, affordable, and accessible to anyone with the will and talent to pursue it. Three consecutive years of flat tuition demonstrate OU’s efforts to do just that. The university was able to freeze tuition for three years, and managed one modest increase for the 2021-2022 academic year that aligned with inflationary price changes, all to continue making OU’s excellence affordable and attainable.
Launched in June 2020, OU Online provides an accessible path to OU’s world-class graduate-level education for students across the globe. Designed for adult learners seeking career advancement, OU Online’s programs offer specialized graduate degrees in a variety of professional fields. Online education represents the true fulfillment of OU’s purpose as a public research university – to provide strategic educational opportunities that benefit a more diverse segment of students and foster economic growth for Oklahoma.
Since launching, OU Online has far exceeded its original goals. Fall 2021 applications are up 65% from a year prior and this fall’s enrollments exceeded last year’s by 38%. Programs continue to grow with seven new degrees being offered in 2021 and an additional five slated for fall 2022, and revenue from OU Online programs grew from $18 million in FY2019 to a projected $31 million for FY2021.
With the transition of University Advancement to the OU Foundation in March 2021, the OU Foundation adopted a best-practice model, mirroring peer institutions that house successful fundraising organizations. The move fully integrates the fundraising organization, leading to a strategic and holistic alignment of fundraising goals with university priorities. Drawing upon the loyalty and commitment of alumni and friends, this transition will provide crucial structure and vision for OU to reach its highest aspirations.
More than $240 Million raised at OU
Central to our vision at the University of Oklahoma is to be a place of belonging and emotional growth for all. Although our campus community comes from different places and backgrounds, we are one family, united by the traditions we hold dear and inspired by the shared values that let us dream and achieve together.
- President Harroz
To prepare students to be the best leaders of tomorrow, OU crafted an intentional educational pathway that best equips them to enter society as leaders who understand the world around them and are able to navigate it with respect and dignity for all.
Beginning in fall 2021, all incoming students will complete a First-Year Experience course. Designed as a gateway to the university, where a multitude of perspectives are welcomed and valued, First-Year Experience courses will positively impact student success– not only during their time at OU, but well after. A student’s success in today’s world, regardless of their major, demands that they understand others and are able to engage constructively and respectively. Moreover, a common educational experience focused on creating an inclusive community will foster a sense of belonging that will positively impact students’ experience at OU. The broader impact will be seen in larger society – in our graduates’ workplaces, their communities, and more.
In fall 2020, all students, faculty, and staff were invited to participate in a campus climate survey – an assessment that is helping us understand the strengths of our campus and the areas in which we can improve.
Since joining OU in January 2020 as Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite has guided OU’s efforts to foster a culture of belonging on all three campuses. Hyppolite has more than two decades of experience in higher education and holds a number of certifi cations related to the implementation of higher education diversity and inclusion efforts.
The whole university thrives when our athletic programs succeed. OU is currently one of the very few schools in the country that has a self-sufficient athletics program.
While the move to the Southeastern Conference will most obviously affect OU Athletics, it’s not just about our sports programs. This decision will benefit our entire university, advancing our purpose and important work.
This move positions OU for success in fulfilling our Strategic Plan. Much of our Plan speaks to our aspiration to become an AAU-caliber institution, with benchmarks based on the criteria by which AAU institutions are judged. A move into a conference with more AAU institutions provides OU the chance to align further and more closely to the standards we will need to meet to attain our goal.
Our Strategic Plan is ambitious and certainly requires a conference alignment that affords us the opportunity to aggressively invest in our academic mission.
Of equal importance is the value that strong athletics programs add to creating an environment of belonging for our students. For generations, OU students have championed our sports programs, joining together in celebrating our athletics excellence and spotlighting the unique OU experience.
Driven by the talent of the OU research enterprise, the university is seeing exciting progress in its efforts to grow OU’s national position in groundbreaking research. The research landscape at OU has progressed tremendously in the past year, reaching a record-high $445.9 million in research awards earned through grants and external funding by OU faculty and staff in FY2020, representing a 21.85% increase over FY2019. Today, the university ranks in the top 12th percentile nationally in research activity and impact.
Additionally, despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic, research expenditures at the University of Oklahoma achieved record levels in FY2020 – up 22.19% over the previous fiscal year, resulting in a record-high total of $377.6 million. The total, which accounts for research expenditures on all three OU campuses, eclipses any in the university’s history. These expenditures also are a key contributor to OU’s overall $2.6 billion annual statewide economic impact – underscoring OU’s role as Oklahoma’s flagship institution to fuel economic growth and foster new discoveries.
According to a December 2020 study published in the journal PLOS Biology, 197 OU researchers have been listed among the most influential researchers in the world.
In support of “Lead On, University,” the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships on the Norman campus launched Strategic Research Verticals that serve as the foundation for OU’s research and creative activity strategy:
$7.4 Million U.S. Navy Grant to Make OU Home to the Nation’s Largest University-Based Near-Field Scanner for Antenna Measurements
OC-ALC Teams Up with OU on Educational Partnership Agreement
Historic Signing Creates New Health System for Oklahoma
Stephenson Cancer Center No. 1 in Clinical Trials Enrollment
Three OU College of Medicine Departments Rank Nationally for NIH Funding
OU Earns Lead for up to $208 Million NOAA Severe Weather Institute
OU Receives $20 Million Grant to Lead Inaugural National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Institute
Shane Connelly Named Director of New Institute for Society and Community Transformation