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

State of the University: Pres. John R. Broderick Highlights Successes, Bright Future

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Embracing an "infectious can-do spirit," Old Dominion University's faculty, staff and students have transformed the University into a research hub, an economic engine and a model of volunteerism and inclusiveness, President John R. Broderick said.

During his ninth State of the University address Aug. 24 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, Broderick said the University continues to thrive and evolve as a worldwide leader in research fields such as bioelectrics and modeling and simulation.

"We are a university community where intellect, persistence, initiative and discovery have lifted our ship to new heights," President Broderick said to a capacity crowd of more than 1,200 at the breakfast event.

Attendees were asked by President Broderick to bring a canned food or school supply donation to the event. The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore collection yielded 463 pounds (including 257 pounds from Aramark alone) and $43 in cash donations. This equates to over 508 meals that will be provided to those struggling with hunger in the local community. Additionally, three large tubs and 12 backpacks full of school supplies were collected for the Salvation Army.

Speaking before the audience of community leaders, elected officials and a large number of faculty and staff members, President Broderick highlighted recent University achievements, including:

  • The largest gift in the University's history, a $35 million donation from Richard and Carolyn Barry, which will lead to the construction of an art museum on 43rd Street;

  • The hiring of research professor Sviatoslav Timashev, who was a member of an international panel that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for devising methods to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere;

  • The creation by Gov. Terry McAuliffe of the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, a join initiative with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the College of William & Mary to take a broader view toward resilience; and

  • Immense changes in the campus itself, from a new Education Building rising across Hampton Boulevard to the upcoming opening of the Kate and John R. Broderick Dining Commons, the University's first stand-alone dining facility for students.

"The future list for campus construction includes $71 million for a chemistry building and $75 million for a health sciences facility," President Broderick said.

He punctuated the listing of accomplishments by highlighting the record success of Old Dominion students. "We awarded over 3,600 degrees at our last two commencements," President Broderick said. "That should come as no surprise. Our graduation and retention rates have steadily risen and are at their highest levels ever."

The President said Old Dominion awards more doctoral degrees to African-American students than any other college or university in Virginia. This, he said, is reflective of the University's ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. In the spring, a speaker in the President's Lecture Series - former NPR host Michele Norris - will focus on the topic.

The University also formed the 1ODU advisory board and the Inclusive Excellence Task Force, further challenging students, faculty and staff to create a welcoming campus for all.

"That's what inclusion is all about - not just diversifying our numbers, but also making sure everyone is part of the decision-making process," President Broderick said.

The commitment to equality is especially important now, the President said.

"We have suffered too many tragedies, and our thoughts go out to members of the African-American, international, law enforcement and LGBTQ communities. We must continue to advocate daily for diversity and inclusion, to eradicate the intolerance that leads to such brutal acts," he said.

In response to recent tragedies, the University's Student Government Association is planning a candlelight vigil early next month.

The vigil is an example of the profound engagement of the Old Dominion University community, President Broderick said. Responding to his challenge in last year's State of the University address, students, staff and faculty performed 534,000 hours of community service during the 2015-16 school year. Many of those service hours were volunteered by members of the more than 325 student organizations on campus.

The University plans to build its 15th residence hall, named for Dr. Hugo A. Owens, the first African-American to serve as rector of the ODU Board of Visitors. That, President Broderick said, will further energize the campus community.

"The reason for this strategy is clear - students who live on campus get more involved and do better academically," he said.

The President said there is no shortage of high-achieving students, from 3-D printing entrepreneur Aron Blade Taylor to the record 291 student-athletes who made the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll for maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 and above.

President Broderick credited Old Dominion's world-class faculty for contributing to student success. College by college, he highlighted achievements from the past year. For example, ODU Vision Lab director Khan Iftekharuddin won a $1.6 million National Institutes of Health grant to expand research into detection of brain tumors. Biologist Sara Maxwell received a Sloan Research fellowship to track bird migrations, and English professor Tim Seibles was appointed Virginia's poet laureate.

President Broderick told faculty members: "Across this university and beyond, you are extending the boundaries of scholarship, research and instruction."

As the school year begins, President Broderick said the University has much to be excited about. The institution continues to be an economic driver, contributing more than $2.1 billion to the Virginia economy every year. It is the fifth-largest employer in the City of Norfolk. "Our objective, though, is to do more," he said.

Investments in Old Dominion's entrepreneurial culture have begun to pay dividends, on the campus and in the community. University giving exceeded $19 million for 2015-16, not counting the donation by Richard and Carolyn Barry. New initiatives in cybersecurity, workforce training and data science have been launched to provide a leg up to students and the surrounding community.

And 6,000 new freshmen, transfer and graduate students will start class next week, picking up the "infectious can-do spirit" that permeates the University, President Broderick said.

"As 25,000 students flow back to campus, our mission is to capture that electricity and channel it to maximum power," he said. "As Thomas Paine said, 'The mind, once enlightened, cannot again become dark.' Let's go forth from here and shine the light on our students, the region and the world beyond."

To watch President Broderick's State of the University address in its entirety, click here. A transcript of President Broderick's remarks can be viewed here.

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