Four questions for President Drake
We asked the president to reflect on a few topics of particular importance to alumni. Here’s what he had to say.
On our collective progress
The preparation of our entering class — year over year, this last year in particular — is the best it’s ever been, as is our graduation rate. So we have the most successful group of students we’ve ever had, both coming in and leaving. We also have a group of students who more accurately reflect the communities and country in which we live. We are not alone in our impression of our students and alumni. We had five Rhodes scholars in the prior century — and we’ve had three in the last five years. They look for the best students in the country, the 32 best students out of more than 3,000 universities in the country, and now, time and time and time again, they’ve come to Ohio State. I say, “Go Bucks!” Our national and international faculty awards also are at an all-time high, and so is the amount of research the faculty is doing. We’re recognized for teaching and learning by national organizations, so we’re ranked as high as we’ve ever been for teaching. I’m pleased with our access, affordability and excellence progress — that we are more affordable, we have access more broadly and we have better success in research and education. Those are all great things. It really reflects the work of everyone here.
On the most difficult times
The hardest part of my experience as president has been sitting with families who’ve lost children, for whatever reason. I’ve been here in our hospital with students’ parents — it’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking. We do what we can to be of comfort in this impossibly horrific time, and we work every day to make our community safer, more supportive, more nurturing. I believe we’re safer now than we were two or three years ago, and I hope we’re safer tomorrow than we are today. When I talk with parents when they’ve lost a child, the most touching thing I have heard is how much their son or daughter loved the university — that this place and their experiences here were a highlight for them. To hear the kindness and gratitude that people share with us is overwhelming. It just continually reinforces how important it is for us to make this the best place it can be. What we do matters to people. They’re thinking about it, sometimes in a time of greatest despair, and that lets us know how important it is for us to be our best every day.
On approaching hard decisions
I’ve always believed in values-based decision making. It means trying to be in touch with what’s important to you and why, and then asking yourself those questions as you’re making a decision. A lot of times it feels like you’re driving on a foggy road in twilight. You can’t really see what’s coming, and you’re not following anyone. You have to use your values, gather the information you can, process it the best you can and make a decision that you can live with going forward. I’ve worked through some situations that looked impossibly difficult. And when I look back on them, the outcome has been better than I could have imagined. Working through the difficulty was required to get to that higher place. That has happened time and again, and that gives me confidence it’s a reasonable thing to do.
On Ohio State's place in the world
I’ve been able to see the joy that the connectivity of the Buckeye community brings to its members nationally and internationally. That’s in the ’Shoe. It’s walking down the street in D.C. Or on a visit to an ice cream parlor. People are just proud to be a part of this community — students, alumni, families for generations. It’s very clear to me how important the quality of our enterprise is to those people who are a part of our community. I also learned how much more impactful it is to be sharing things from the perspective of The Ohio State University, because everybody in the country knows us. They care about us and what we’re doing. Doing something here is more impactful than doing it at other places might be. That’s raised our profile. It raises the level of scrutiny, but it also raises our engagement and impact. People notice what we do here, they care about what we do here, and they care about how we do it. That’s a great platform for us.