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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Highlights Initiatives as Host of Society for College and University Planning Conference

David F. Harnage, Old Dominion's chief operating officer, welcomed the Society for College and University Planning's Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference to campus this week for a wide-ranging discussion of ODU's major efforts to reinvent itself over the last decade.

Participants also toured the Norfolk campus before returning to the Ted Constant Convocation Center for the breakout sessions that highlighted major University initiatives.

During the breakout sessions:

  • Harnage discussed ODU's 20-year campus Master Plan.
  • Ray Toll, director of coastal resiliency research, briefed the audience on the "Whole of Government Initiative to Address Coastal Resiliency."
  • John Sokolowski, executive director of Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center, explained the scope of his work in "Modeling and Simulation: An Emerging Field."
  • Andrew Casiello, associate vice president for distance learning, presented "How ODU Reinvented Its Distance Education Operation to Succeed in Today's Environment."

In his opening remarks, Harnage introduced the group, which has national headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., to ODU's history, its rapid, recent growth and its economic importance to the Hampton Roads area.

"Old Dominion University is the only research institution in Southeast Virginia," Harnage told the 300 luncheon attendees at the Ted. "We are an economic engine in this community and the commonwealth in terms of gross domestic product we contribute about $2.1 billion annually to the economy."

Harnage also noted ODU is a major employer in Hampton Roads and holds approximately 100 research-related patents. Additionally, he said the Center for Enterprise Innovation was recently launched and is working with local cities to establish a network of business accelerator facilities to help promote start-up businesses.

That spirit of cooperation stood out to Boston architect Christina Long as she walked the campus and visited the University Village.

"I personally liked seeing the partnerships with the town, where you've built this boulevard of stores and student housing," Long said. "I thought that was really exciting to see that merging and that commitment to one another."

Master Plan

In his breakout presentation, Harnage highlighted key parts of the 20-year Master Plan, including the creation of a "Science Quad," relocating the school of Health and Sciences to the academic core of the campus and adding to the "Arts District" in the University Village.

"The institution remade itself from a predominantly commuter campus to a highly residential campus in about seven years," Harnage explained, noting the critical need to create an all-inclusive campus vision. "It was important to really examine how we use the space on this campus and what our strategy would be to support the comprehensive program of the University."

Coastal Resiliency

Toll introduced his listeners to the University's two-year "sea-level rise" pilot project that explores how wide-ranging coordination between government, private and public agencies can help address coastal resiliency challenges that are now considered national security matters.

"We are cross-connecting with the federal, state and local governments in a way that hasn't really been done before," Toll said. "This could be an opportunity for us to show how a University like ODU can be a neutral party to incubate intergovernmental solutions that no one else can, because we're the neutral party."

Modeling and Simulation

Sokolowski elaborated on the burgeoning use of modeling and simulation technologies as they are incorporated not only into the sea-level rise project, but also for a wide variety of medical, social and economic purposes.

For example, Sokolowski said, the modeling center worked with the Federal Reserve to better understand the behavior of homeowners with underwater mortgages, and to determine "what strategies the Federal Reserve could put in place to mitigate the impact of the whole foreclosure issue on the broader economy."

Distance Learning

Casiello's presentation centered on how ODU's distance learning program, which he said has nearly doubled in the last five years to a total of 9,000 students, is helping to meet challenges to traditional models of higher education.

At the same time, technological, geographic and systems advances have enabled the distance-learning program to operate at record cost-efficiency, he said.

"The new model is unlimited as far as whom we can reach," Casiello said.

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