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Year in Review 2023

After several years of addressing the health and safety concerns propagated by the pandemic, the developments of the past year have aligned policies and actions in support of the university’s mission.

Most notably, the university’s finances reflect the prudence, foresight and rigorous fiscal management that have led to a balance budget, and a long-term positioning that allows Oakland to be strategic in responding to challenges.

Michigan Capital Building

Despite decreasing revenue attributed to declining enrollment, I am proud to report the 2023-24 budget is balanced, as it must be according to our bylaws.

This was accomplished through:

  • A successful advocacy strategy in Lansing that translated into unprecedented state funding support for the university
  • Stabilizing enrollment
  • Fiscal responsibility, including implementation of phase two of an across-the-board 10.4 percent expenditure reduction applied last fiscal year.

This year’s budget includes a $11.5M increase for operations, and a 19% year-to-year increase from the state. When we began the “Strive for 45” campaign in the months before the pandemic, Oakland received about $3,500 per FYES. This year, state funding will increase to $4,754 per FYES. To put that in perspective, Oakland received the second-highest1 percentage increase in funding of any of the state’s 15 public universities. 

The current balanced budget reflects sound fiscal management, including expense containment, and an emphasis on making sure an Oakland University education is affordable. The proof:

  • 19% of undergraduates2 will have their tuition covered
  • 43% of incoming first-year class3 will have their tuition covered
  • 74% of incoming first-year class4 with family incomes <$70K will have tuition covered
  • 57% of incoming first-year class5 with family incomes <$70K will have tuition and on-campus housing covered   

OU Grad Smiling

And not only must college be affordable, it is profoundly important that students are not burdened by debt. The proof:

  • 56%  of Oakland University undergraduate students leave with no debt.
  • In addition, we implemented the Golden Grizzlies Graduate program to help students with prior debt complete their degree.
  • To date, nearly 461 students have participated and nearly 265 have earned degrees. 

I am proud to report:

  • Oakland University is seeing an increasing number of students from lower- and middle-income families apply for admission.
  • The Michigan Achievement Scholarship along with OU’s generous merit and need-based aid, including our Golden Grizzlies Tuition Guarantee are helping to make college attainable.
  • Oakland will, once again, be among the top, if not the top, destination for transfer students. 

Furthermore, Oakland is a leader in advocating for the value and attainment of college degrees.

  • We are an ardent supporter of the state’s goal for 60% of the population with a degree or certificate by 2030. Oakland 80
  • OU supports Oakland County’s goal of 80% of population with a degree or certificate by the end of the decade.
  • Oakland plays a leading role in Detroit Drives Degrees campaign to close the gap for URM success and encourage residents in the tri-county metro area to complete a college degree.

In the upcoming year, we will continue to build on our strengths, including:

  • A safe and healthy campus that strives to be a model of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Elevating the return on investment of an OU education and the outstanding faculty in our schools and college
  • Strengthening our leadership in healthcare and health-services education OU Prof. and Student in Office
  • Promoting internships and experiential learning and the uniqueness of an “OU education”
  • Strategically developing Oakland’s physical campus
  • Building on shared governance and deepening our collaboration with our faculty in advancing Oakland
  • A leading advocate for civility in public discussions about the issues shaping American culture

Goals & Looking Ahead
This year, we will embark on several timely and transformative initiatives, including:

  • A revision of the University’s Strategic Plan
  • Further developing our claim as The University of Choice
  • Building on our impactful work with the OU-Pontiac Initiative and expanding our role as a Steward of Place throughout the region
  • Elevating sustainability among the University’s top priorities
  • Advocating for state funding of science complex renovation ($30M), and one-time supplemental funding ($85.4M) for THE BEST

Center For Civic Engagement Graphic

In learning from the past and preparing for the future, we have embarked on creating a Strategic Plan. The purpose of the plan is to reimagine the possibilities and strategic opportunities of Oakland’s future within the fast-changing cultural, economic and higher-education landscape. The plan is an outgrowth of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, a critical assessment of universities goals, priorities and processes that included input from more than 50 faculty and staff this past year. 

The OU Strategic Plan presents a seven-year road map. The plan will be reviewed and revised annually. A comprehensive assessment will be conducted every three years.  The four-phase planning process began in September, and is expected to be completed in the spring. A council has been nominated from the Cabinet and Deans to oversee the Strategic Plan, and teams have been named to develop specific themes that will be integrated into an overall blueprint. Throughout the process, the OU community will have opportunities to submit their views and feedback at townhalls, online forums, focus groups, surveys, and division meetings. Updates will be posted on the President’s webpage, and  we anticipate will be in place by next fall.

In the coming year, we will continue to be leading advocates for civil discourse about the issues at the core of our democratic, pluralistic society. That philosophy is at the heart of the Center of Civic Engagement, which, under the leadership of Professor Dave Dulio, is committed to presenting forums on issues shaping our public discourse and the direction of our democracy. Among the impressive developments of the last year is the establishment of the annual “Dennis Muchmore Public Policy Series,” named after our esteemed trustee, who has been a stalwart in working for open, nonpartisan and constructive discussions about public policy.

Academic Building

All over campus, there is new construction and signs of renewal. This coming year, there will major developments in the completing of Varner Hall, South Foundation Hall, O’Dowd Hall,  Engineering Research Building, Meadow Brook Hall Visitor Center, and improvements at OU West Campus.

In the spirit of keeping vigilant, Oakland and higher education as a whole must confront the great promise and potentially disrupting force of artificial intelligence. 

Under the leadership of Deans Louay Chamra and Dean Graeme Harper, we have established a committee to consider the impact of AI technologies, including ethical guidelines, resource allocation and ongoing monitoring and adaptation of the technology that will inevitably transform education, culture, commerce and communication.

Overall, I am greatly encouraged and optimistic about the ongoing developments and new initiatives for the upcoming year. As always, our strategic decisions are informed by our mission, vision and values, and guidance from our Board of Trustees.


  • Increased diversity in incoming freshman and transfer classes with URMs making up a larger percentage
  • Top transfer destination in Michigan.
  • Fundraising has continued with a record $36 million raised this year from over 5,200 donors. The last five-year giving total of approximately $106 million is the best five-year total in OU’s history. At the conclusion of FY23, we are at 99% of our $150 million goal with over $148 million raised.
  • Development  and utilization of an Equity Dashboard, a tool to help faculty understand student readiness
  • Creation of a “summer bridge program” to improve “student readiness,” modeled after the successful Math Corps Program
  • Improvements to mentoring chairs, training workshops for new faculty, retention, promotion and tenure
  • Appointments of Chuck Pierce as Dean, School of Business Administration, Christopher Coleman, Dean, School of Nursing, and Chris Carpenter, Interim Dean, OUWB.
  • Hire of Steve Mackey, Vice President, Finance and Administration
  • Engaged in intensive application process for the Carnegie designation as a community engaged university (submitted in May)
  • External research funding for FY 2023 reached a record of $28.9M, including with research funding of $13.6M. Since the President’s Research Retreat in 2019, total annual funding has more than tripled and research funding has doubled.
  • Improved shared governance with OU Senate through a detailed enumeration of the 26 senate committees.
  • Establishment of the Oakland University Center for Sustainability as a strategic way to elevate the importance of being stewards of our environment and advocates for a sustainable world. Funded by a $1M gift from the OU Credit Union.
  • A $50,000 Horizon League Mental health Grant increased student-athletes access to Graham Health Counseling Center services, and training for coaches and staff.
  • Student-athlete and athletics excellence: second place in Horizon League McCafferty Trophy, exceeding NCCAA graduation success rate (NCAA: 90%; OU: 91%)
  • Securing a 10-year, $5M O’Rena Naming Rights Agreement with Oakland University Credit Union resulting in the renaming of the O’Rena to OU Credit Union O’Rena
  • Developed a robust 5-year budget forecast with a balanced budget projection for all years
  • Invested nearly $600,000 to enhance campus security
  • Successful negotiation of staff contracts (OUPSA, COAM, POAM and OUCMT)
  • Developed a multi-phased IT security and compliance strategy to enhance the university security posture, a requirement for cyberspace insurance
  • A collaboration between UTS and the Office of Institutional Research to establish a data warehouse and business analytics system
  • Progressing toward IT centralization
  • Initiated the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework to improve strategy, goal-setting and tracking progress
  • Creation of community service/engagement days, wellbeing/mental health days (and programing around these topics)
  • Career Fairs attracted 1,750 students and 258 employers
  • Student Housing occupancy increased from 1,795 to 1,993 (from last year)
  • Received the AASCU Excellence & Innovation Award for Stewards of Place for the OU-Pontiac Initiative. OU’s community engagement was cited as a national model.
  • TV mentions were up 3.3% and radio mentions were up 13% which likely resulted in better local engagement. Several research stories were placed in ’22-23.
  • Social Media numbers included Linked-In 118,932 (June 30, 2023). Instagram increased from 19,856 to 22,032. Facebook l0Likes increase by 2500 and FB Followers increased to a high of 57,262 in May.

1 Grand Valley State University received a 19.8% increase, from $81.3M to $97.4M.
2 To be eligible, students must complete a FAFSA.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid
5 Ibid

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