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New Miami provost devotes his life to learning

Jason Osborne loved college so much he decided he never wanted to leave. 

Osborne never set out to become a provost; he just knew he wanted a job where he could keep learning. The university has always been his playground.

As Miami University’s provost, or chief academic officer, Osborne spends much of his time in Roudebush Hall studying how to improve Miami as an academic institution.

When he’s not working, he spends time with his family, working on his new house and taking his daughter to ballet practice.

If he gets the chance, he’ll relax by working out on his rowing or elliptical machines or taking his boat out on Brookville Lake in Indiana.

Osborne grew up in Horseheads, New York, in the 1970s. 

“It was a great place to grow up [without] having the issues of big cities and urban life,” Osborne said.

He spent a great deal of his childhood exploring the dense woods that backed his parents' house and could come and go as he pleased. 

Horseheads’ population is a quarter of the size of Oxford’s and is predominantly made up of middle-class white residents. 

As a middle-aged white man who comes from an affluent family, Osborne understands why people might question his legitimacy as the person to help increase diversity on Miami’s campus. Although Osborne’s primary duty is to improve academics, he will be partially responsible for implementing the One Campus Climate Survey Task Force recommendations, which focus on diversity and inclusion.

“In college and in graduate school, I studied some of the aspects of social justice, and my research was kind of around stereotypes and stigma,” Osborne said. “[White people] don’t come from a minoritized background, but through some developmental experience, many of us come to want to be allies in that space.”

Osborne said there were a couple of African-American students and a few Jewish students he went to school with and that homophobic sentiment and rhetoric was a part of the culture he grew up in.

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“LBTQ issues were not even really on anyone's radar,” Osborne said. “If people thought someone was dumb, they would call them gay.”

Osborne said his parents were very far ahead of the culture in wanting to respect other people and value differences, and he thinks he’s carried that mentality into his life. 

He also believes his high school experience allowed him to better understand what it’s like to feel different.

“Let’s say I was introverted, and sometimes people would assume I’m either gay or Jewish, which was interesting because I’m neither,” Osborne said. “But that was just kind of a way of them identifying me as an outlier or an outsider, and so I kind of had that experience of otherness.” 

After high school, Osborne attended the University of Rochester and majored in psychology.

As a student, Osborne was a night owl and would spend a great deal of his time studying and conducting research.

“I fell in love with learning and with higher education and with being in an environment like a university where there’s all these amazing people to be around.”

Miami’s commitment to love and honor is what appealed to Osborne the most and is the primary reason he decided to accept the position as provost.

Prior to becoming Miami’s provost, Osborne served as the Dean of the Graduate School at Clemson University from 2015 to 2019. 

Before that, Osborne was a professor and chair of the department of Counseling and Human Development at the University of Louisville and served in various roles at at Old Dominion University, North Carolina State University, University of Oklahoma, University of Buffalo Medical School and Niagara County Community College.

“The thing that got me excited as an undergraduate and really the reason why I am where I am today is because I never wanted to leave the university,” Osborne said.

Outside of academia, Osborne has two college-aged sons with his first wife and a nine-year-old daughter with his current wife, Sherri Brown-Osborne, who is currently teaching a class for the Master of Art in Social Work (MASW) program.

Osborne met Sheri Brown while he was at North Carolina State University on the dating website Match.com.

“We first met at a restaurant near my practice, and we literally shut the place down and talked the entire night,” Sheri Brown-Osborne said. “They were literally putting up chairs and ready to kick us out, so it was definitely a very good first date.”

In 2008, Osborne and Brown married and had their first daughter a year after.

“Even though Jason works really hard, and works a lot, and loves and is dedicated to his work, he’s also just as dedicated to his family,” Brown-Osborne said. “He’s truly a family man.”

Although Osborne continues to learn like the boy who would explore the forest and the committed undergraduate student within him once did, his passion resides in spreading knowledge. 

In three words, Sherri Brown-Osborne describes her husband as brilliant, driven and kind.

Osborne only used one: educator.

@dan_wozniak 

wozniad2@miamioh.edu 

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