Ohio State president tours region, visits local HBCUs

State’s flagship university has partnerships with Wilberforce, Central State

WILBERFORCE — The Miami Valley region’s two historically black colleges and universities hosted a coalition of students, faculty and staff from Ohio State University this week as OSU’s State Tour returned to the road for the first time in two years.

Ohio State President Kristina Johnson joined students and staff on the second day of their tour of the Miami Valley, stopping by Carillon Historical Park, the Dayton Art Institute, Wilberforce University and Bellbrook High School, where 20 graduating seniors will be attending OSU this fall.

“It’s not a coincidence that we came here first,” Johnson said, referring to the Miami Valley.

Both Wilberforce University and Central State University had the opportunity to showcase the work that faculty, staff, and students have collaborated with Ohio State on over the years. At Central State, the longest and largest partnership is that between the Global Water Research Institute at OSU and the C.J. McLin International Center for Water Resources Management at Central State.

Central State officials said CSU offered the first undergraduate program in the U.S. in interdisciplinary Water Resources Management.

Sakthi Kumaran, research assistant professor of soil sciences at Central State, is a project lead for soil health and water quality in southwest Ohio.

“My goal is to combine fundamental sciences and applied sciences. When I moved to Central State I made it a point that we address the problems we have in southwest Ohio,” Kumaran said, naming improving soil health and sustainable agriculture as two of those goals.

“Any developments that are occurring in the region, we want to make sure that those developments are happening with sustainability in mind,” he said.

OSU also works with Wilberforce University on educating students in engineering, robotics, and turf-grass education, which includes horticulture and management of sports grounds. The two universities Monday signed an agreement to offer Wilberforce students online non-credit certificates in advanced golf course management, history of golf courses, and sports turf management beginning in the fall semester of this year.

Central State research faculty collaborate with faculty at Ohio State, and then work with the both universities’ extension offices to take that research out into the community.

“With both of us having a land grant mission, our mission is to make sure our science is getting to the citizens of Ohio,” said OSU Vice President for Agricultural Administration Cathann Kress. “And so, we partner on extension, which takes our science out to the citizens, and on 4-H which is extension to our youngest citizens.”

Both universities also benefit by increasing enrollment. Of the students who attend Ohio State, 79% are from in-state.

“Our priority at the Ohio State University is to educate as many students as we can. We plan to help expand that opportunity for students in both the residential experience and online,” Johnson said.

According to Ohio State, about 47% of OSU undergrads graduate with debt, with that debt averaging about $27,000. Over the next decade, OSU will begin rolling out its Scarlet and Gray Advantage program, with some enhanced scholarships and work opportunities, aiming to help more undergraduate students graduate with a bachelor’s degree and no student debt.

“It’s not free college, it’s not free tuition, but it is a pathway for students to graduate without incurring that kind of debt,”

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