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A Message from President Harroz – Welcome Back Fall 2023

University Seal, The University of Oklahoma, Office of the President
August 10, 2023

Dear OU Community,

The final days of summer break are upon us, and the unmatched energy of campus is growing by the day. Welcoming the fall semester is always an exciting time. It’s a moment that epitomizes what unites us as the OU Family: to educate the next generation of leaders, create knowledge, and serve society. Our collective determination to uphold these values has guided us from our very beginning, linking past to present, and where we aim to go next. These ambitions are intrinsic to our crimson roots and inspire us to forge ahead with an unstoppable spirit.

Four years ago this summer, we set out to define the next chapter of OU excellence and the path to get there – a process that ultimately formed our “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan. All along, our approach has always meant being honest, bold, and clear-eyed – with honesty taking precedence as a crucial first step. We cannot realize our university’s full potential without first making candid self-assessments. One of my priorities upon being named OU’s interim president in May 2019 was to take an unflinching look at the university’s financial state, implementing a strategy to ensure our long-term financial health and our accountability to all of our stakeholders. Thanks to the hard work and discipline of many, and through the essential guidance of our Board of Regents, we achieved this starting with our fiscal year 2020 budget and have held to our budget plan ever since.

Since launching the Strategic Plan, our achievements have been truly breathtaking. From shattering research records, to bringing in OU’s largest freshman classes three years running; to announcing our move to the SEC – and then moving a year early – a decision that will place OU on the finest stage in collegiate sports and ensures we remain one of the handful of schools where students nor the state pays for athletics; to making OU a place of true belonging, where free speech flourishes and hate has no home; to gaining momentum toward our historic $2 billion fundraising goal; the building blocks for our university’s next chapter are materializing right before us. We’ve done all of this while saving approximately $140 million on an annually recurring basis from our Norman campus operating budget. At every step, we’ve deliberately worked to ensure an OU education remains affordable and accessible. In fact, the average annual cost of tuition and fees at OU, after factoring in discounts, has decreased by 6% for Oklahoma residents compared to five years ago.

Most importantly, our financial diligence and commitment to preserving excellence are ensuring that the American dream stays alive and well at the University of Oklahoma. All of us are living proof of how this dream opens doors of opportunity. We see this come to life in countless ways on our campuses and across our worldwide OU Family. We see it in our classrooms as our faculty ignite the spark of learning and creativity in our students. We see it in the transformative experience of our study abroad options with their internships as an entry point into the global job market. We see it across our research and health care enterprise, where newfound discoveries translate into life-changing outcomes. We see it in every new face we’ve welcomed this week in our Class of 2027 and in the lifelong bonds that shape the people our students become. We see it in individuals and places across the world – through our remarkable network of alumni and friends; in our communities, workplaces, and families; and in each other and in ourselves.

Taken altogether, our dreams and our strategy form the unshakable foundation for where our university is headed. Let us greet the Fall 2023 semester with the optimism and determination that have become synonymous with what it means to be a Sooner. I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next.

Live On, University,

Joseph Harroz, Jr.