With a crowd of onlookers gathered in anticipation and a clear blue sky affording favorable weather conditions, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the John Glenn College of Public Affairs was a go for launch.
The ceremony and open house at Page Hall on Friday celebrated the college’s change of status from what was previously the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, making it Ohio State’s 15th and newest college.
The countdown began Jan. 30, after the creation of Glenn College was announced during an Ohio State Board of Trustees meeting.
The college’s undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs “equip students with the skills to become tomorrow’s citizen-leaders or public service professionals,” according to its website.
Trevor Brown, dean of Glenn College, said during the ceremony that the college takes pride in embodying the university’s motto, “disciplina in civitatem,” or “education for citizenship,” as its students, faculty and alumni “work to solve today’s problems and produce tomorrow’s leaders.”
“In honor of the two whose name we are so proud to adorn our college, Sen. John Glenn and Annie Glenn, we pledge to continue their legacy of inspiring citizenship and developing leadership,” he said.
John Glenn served in World War II and the Korean War; he became the first American to orbit Earth, piloting Friendship 7 in 1962 and he served as a U.S. senator from Ohio from 1974 to 1999.
Glenn spoke at the ceremony, expressing his views on the importance of leadership.
“All you have to do is look at the front page of the paper or watch TV news to know how badly we need good leadership, not only in Washington but up and down the line: in our communities, our state and our nation,” he said.
Glenn added that the college’s new level of prominence can help foster that development by, over time, attracting new faculty and developing high-school recruiting programs.
“There’s no reason why our college, here, can’t be just as eminent, eventually, in this field of public service and public policy, as the football team is nationally,” he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said during the ceremony that for him, the college’s mission “to inspire citizenship, to develop leadership” has never been more important, as the country faces new challenges.
“We need good people who are willing to serve,” Portman said. “And as the Glenn School teaches, addressing these challenges requires leadership, bipartisan cooperation and innovative policy solutions. That’s what these young people are learning.”
Portman, who has taught courses at the former Glenn School, added that during his time at OSU, he observed students eager to engage in public service, despite a government environment that is “not so great these days.”
“People are cynical. People are frustrated. What they see going on in government, they don’t like. They see the gridlock. They see policy blocking progress,” Portman said. “And yet, these young people are willing to step forward. Instead of retreating from the challenge, they’re stepping forward with determination and resolve to challenge themselves and find solutions.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who also spoke at the ceremony, told The Lantern that, in time, the college will help elevate the quality of leadership in Ohio’s public sector.
“It gets students exposed to government at a young age,” he said. “Going to the Glenn College, as an 18-year-old or a 22-year-old, helps you to chart the path that you’re most interested in and fits you best.”
Sherrod Brown said the college can assist students in finding that path by allowing for exposure to different levels of government and internships.
Portman said his office in Washington, D.C., is expecting an intern from OSU this summer.
Sherrod Brown, who earned his master’s degree in public administration at OSU in 1981, said he feels his time at OSU prepared him for the future, even Congress, with courses covering budgeting, federal law and the federal legislative process.
Sherrod Brown and Portman serve on the Board of Advisors at Glenn College.
The former John Glenn School of Public Affairs, from its founding, reported to the Office of Academic Affairs as a free-standing, tenure-initiating and degree granting unit.
Trevor Brown told The Lantern that the creation of the college provides more autonomy, allows for a more direct line of communication from the college to Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz and represents the university’s commitment to public affairs education and research.
He said it also helps continue connecting the college to the public sector, as well as to other colleges through interdisciplinary research, adding that he hopes its dual-degree program will grow.
“We’re a very small college, but we are really good at networking and connecting and integrating,” he said. “Public policy and the problems that face the public sector are everything and they’re multidisciplinary, so the only way you tackle these things is by connecting the knowledge that exists here in the university.”
Lisa Frazier, a doctoral candidate in the college, said she feels the distinction between the school and college is significant, and that the change boosts the stature of OSU’s public affairs education.
“I think it sends a really important signal to policy makers, in our state and nationally, that this is a college that is dedicated to the production and education of public servants,” she said. “And I think it’s a pretty strong signal.”