Trading the sunny campus of the University of California-Irvine for the snow-packed streets of Columbus has not been the only transition President Michael Drake has made since coming to Ohio State.
“At the very beginning, there was so much that was new, that the people that we needed to meet, and in particular, the people that we needed to meet first, were a lot of people. So there were 100 people that I needed to meet first,” Drake said in an editorial meeting with The Lantern on Monday.
Drake, who became OSU’s 15th president on June 30, said the first step in coming to Columbus was making the decision with his wife, Brenda, to leave California and establish a new life in Central Ohio.
“We knew the university was a wonderful opportunity and a great place to be, but we had a whole career already,” Drake said. “We were looking to say, ‘Gosh, is there something wonderful and special to do?’ The university brought that, but then the question was, ‘Well, what about living in Columbus? And how do you feel about that?’ That was really the final piece.”
Drake said in addition to moving across the country, he also had to make the switch from UC-Irvine’s quarter system to OSU’s semester system, which left little time to get acquainted with Columbus before meeting with university officials and influencers.
“We actually have never moved as a family like this and that is a thing that takes time and effort and getting things shifted. So we were very busy with those things early on,” he said. “I finished on a quarter system, so we finished with graduation (on June 14)… Then I started here on June 30. So we had a whole lot to do in those two weeks. And then as a semester system, we started school right away. The summer was really cut in half, so it was very busy and intense.”
After spending almost 10 years as UC-Irvine’s fifth chancellor, Drake said taking on a leadership role at OSU was a big change.
“I have made transitions in the past … (but), I was transitioning within a certain system where I knew people already, so there wasn’t as much first-time stuff to do,” he said.
One of the things Drake said he missed most from his previous position was the time he was able to spend with students and faculty.
“I would say that what I noticed that I missed was the level of contact that I had been used to having with students and faculty has been demonstratively lower,” he said. “I would say that I had a wonderful life among the handful of the most connected faculty with my students. I appreciate that very much.”
Drake said during his time at UC-Irvine, he was able to co-teach a freshman class, and added that he plans to teach a course at OSU next year.
“Particularly, when I was full-time professoring, that was a role that I relished,” he said. “I will teach a class next year. I didn’t teach a class this year because I was just starting, but I will crank out a class to teach next year, which I did every winter and I have been missing that.”
Looking to the future, Drake said he hopes to establish a more “normal and sustainable schedule” so that he can spend more time getting to know students and faculty at OSU.
“There were so many people and so many things that were new that what that squeezed a lot was the time that I would spend on the internal part of the university, because I was spending a lot of time on the external part,” he said. “I expect that we will be able to do more of that, and I think that is what we are going to do in the future. (But) I also know that if I see 1,000 students, there are 59,000 I haven’t seen. It is an ongoing thing to do.
“I am looking forward to spending more time with students as we go forward.”