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Miami President celebrates university progress throughout the pandemic

Miami University President Greg Crawford spoke about application diversity in an address.
Miami University President Greg Crawford spoke about application diversity in an address.

On March 17, Miami University faculty and staff flocked to Hall Auditorium to celebrate the institution’s accomplishments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miami President Gregory Crawford delivered the presentation “Two years later: How Miami has led into the ‘New Normal,’” celebrating the effort from faculty and staff during the pandemic and discussing the post-pandemic future.

Honing in on the word “excellence,” Crawford made a case for student excellence by presenting statistics of the applicants for the fall 2022 semester.

Among the 31,004 applications, 22.3% were first-generation college students, up from 17.9% in 2021, while the percentage of international students jumped from 7.4% to 8.9%. 

“We’re not back to pre-COVID level, but we’ll get there,” Crawford said regarding the percentage of international applicants, which showed signs of rebounding to the 12.2% recorded in 2019.

Craig Bennett, senior director of the Student Success center, regarded the retention rates and graduation rates during the pandemic as impressive.

“I love it that he always says that next year we’re going to be even better. He’s always kind of pushing for us to be better,” Bennett said. “Miami is just an unbelievable place to work for.”

Crawford detailed the effort to care for mental health at Miami, including expanding resources for mental health. In the next four years, Miami expects to have four full-time counselors, four psychology doctorate interns and other coordinators.

“Student success equals student health,” Crawford said.

Crawford then talked about the achievements of Miami students, such as the three senior cadets selected for the U.S. Space Force and the thriving synchronized skating team. He also congratulated several Miami faculty who have recently received awards.

Among many others, Daisy Hernández of the department of English won the PEN/Jean Stein Book award for her book, The Kissing Bug, and became the first Latina to achieve this feat. Lisa Ellram, a Farmer School of Business professor, was awarded the Fullbright Distinguished Chair award. Rodney Coates, a professor of global and intercultural studies, was named Mid-American Conference Outstanding Faculty.

Crawford also recognized Kendall Leser, the director of Public Health, and Brian Henebry of the IT Department, who collaborated to help improve the efficiency of contact tracing in Butler County by 1,200%.

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For research, Tereza Jezkova, an assistant professor in the biology department, received the National Science Foundation Career award. Jennifer Schumacher, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Miami’s Hamilton campus, received a grant from the National Institution of Health, and Martha Castañeda, a professor of teacher education, received a grant by the U.S Department of Education, to name a few.

Amit Shukla, the chair of the mechanical and manufacturing engineering department, who attended the president’s address, said Crawford did well highlighting how much the university has accomplished in the past two years.

Citing the number of awards and recognitions that Miami faculty and staff have received, Shukla said the growth trajectory the institution is on makes this a “very exciting time.”

“We are all here for the students,” Shukla said.

Crawford also highlighted new construction on campus, including the incoming McVey Data Sciences building and the Clinical Health Sciences building. He noted the  renovation on an Elm Street building to become an “incubator for companies,” and renovations on  Bachelor Hall and the Center for Performing Arts.

“We want to build up spaces that are different,” Crawford said. “We want those spaces to be collaborative … We want to build partnerships.”

David Sayler, the athletics director at Miami, said he is looking forward to not only the buildings in construction, but also the technology that they facilitate.

“That shift towards that new technology and new collaboration is really exciting for me,” Sayler said.

Discussing diversity, equity and inclusion, Crawford said “inclusive excellence” and diversity efforts were not a single goal but an “intergoal,” or everyone’s goal.

Crawford talked about the idea of free college, citing the Work+ Program in the Miami regionals as an option. He then highlighted the miniMBA, a certificate program offered by the Farmer School of Business.

“It ran so well that we decided we would do more of this kind of thing for our alumni,” Crawford said.

With the past two years’ progress in diversity, admissions, faculty achievement and mental health services in mind, Crawford said he’s looking forward to what Miami’s future holds.

“We really took on the world with inspiration, ingenuity and an unwavering candid attitude,” Crawford said. “I’m so grateful for you all and all that you have done to get us to this point and I look forward to a wonderful future together, and the pandemic taught us that we all started together as one Miami.”