Ohio State President Michael Drake’s office has bare walls and empty shelves. He took over the top job a little more than a week ago, and tacks still mark the spots where old decorations once hung.
But he spoke Wednesday in his office for the first time to reporters since taking the position. He talked about his vision for OSU, the importance of highlighting everything the university accomplishes and the balance it faces between focusing on local and global issues. But mostly, he talked about how he plans to work closely with students, faculty and staff.
He began by emphasizing that the university’s goals and values are about more than just the president.
“I tend to think that it’s not about me,” Drake said. “The mission of the university, really, is to do two things, primarily. One is to educate the next generation of leaders.”
“We also need to create new knowledge for ourselves and for people broadly … My goal really is to try to facilitate those two things working better, to do anything I can to help students have a better educational experience, to do anything I can to help faculty have a better teaching experience.”
Drake mentioned it’s important to make sure the staff gets the recognition they deserve as well and aren’t forgotten.
“We really all do work together,” Drake said. “I think that’s very important, that we’re all in this together and we’re all appreciated.”
Drake was the chancellor of UC Irvine before arriving at OSU, a position he had held since 2005. Before his appointment, he served as vice president for health affairs for the University of California system for five years. The Board of Trustees announced he would take over his new position in February.
He also talked about keeping OSU affordable and accessible for the future, whether that means future tuition freezes or not. He said he would work actively with the Board of Trustees and state government on higher education costs.
The Board of Trustees announced in June that out-of-state tuition would increase by 5 percent, but in-state tuition would remain the same.
Drake said he hopes to use the success of the athletic department to highlight the other things OSU does that get less attention.
“I think maybe we haven’t gotten enough credit in the myriad of other things we do,” he said. “So this may be a chance to focus on some of those areas as well.”
But he admitted that his success in highlighting those aspects will come with time.
“That will be sort of the proof of the pudding. We’ll have to see how well I do.”
The new president also said it’s important to have a good relationship with the local community, even while the university makes a global impact.
“We’ve always been connected to the thrust to move our society forward with new products and new ideas. Good ideas are always going to have an international impact,” he said. “As we do that, we could think only about the international impact or the blockbuster things, but I think it’s also important for us to focus on things that are happening locally.”
Keeping with the community theme, he said he eventually hopes to establish a group of local community members he can work with like he did in his previous position at University of California-Irvine.
“We’re a big part of the community, and the community is a big part of us,” Drake said.