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Foundation for the Future

OU logo, The University of Oklahoma, Lead On, University - Strategic Plan. The Foundation for Our Future.



Joseph Harroz, Jr.

Dear OU Family,

For well over a century, the University of Oklahoma has been a place of opportunity, discovery, and excellence. Generations of students have found purpose and meaning through an OU education, and our state and society have benefited from our ingenuity and resourcefulness. The impact of our university and its people can be traced all the way back to our beginning, inspiring us to dream and achieve together.

The landscape of higher education was shifting dramatically even before the pandemic, and in the past year we have seen tremendous change. And yet, at OU, we find ourselves undaunted. We have not merely survived the pandemic; we are thriving despite it.

Guiding our path forward is our ambition to stretch beyond the boundaries of what we ever thought was possible. With our “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan now having surpassed the one-year mark, we are already seeing remarkable outgrowths across the spectrum. Contained within this report are just a few examples of the foundational, once-in-a-generation successes that we’ve enjoyed recently, many of which were realized during a year that challenged us like never before. These achievements serve as the building blocks for the fulfillment of our Strategic Plan. I hope you take as much pride in these accomplishments as I do – the credit for which is owed to you, our remarkable OU family.

What follows in these pages are the positive indicators of our progress. It’s through this work that we endeavor to become worthy of our past – the tremendous legacy we have inherited – while at the same time boldly embracing our future. Together, we are building upon a 131-year history that we are proud and humbled to call our own.

At OU, all that we do is driven by our fundamental purpose – We Change Lives – three small but powerful words intrinsic to who we are and what we aim to be. Because of your unwavering support and belief in our bright future, we are delivering on our promise of changing lives – not only today, but for generations to come.

Live On, University,

Joseph Harroz, Jr. signature

Joseph Harroz, Jr.







Lead On, University Strategic Plan, The Foundation for Our Future

Officially launched in July 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Lead On, University defines a clear plan for the Norman campus’ future and the comprehensive strategies to achieve it. As the university’s first Strategic Plan in a generation, it aims to position OU as a top-tier public research university that fosters a culture of innovation, excellence, and inclusivity.

In the months since the Strategic Plan’s unveiling, the university has embraced the challenge of striving for success with an eagerness to bring the Plan to life. With the first dedicated Strategic Plan in 30 years, OU has instituted structural changes like adding premier freshman housing, the merger of OU Health, joining the SEC, and more. Accelerating to remarkable heights, the university has enjoyed record fundraising and legislative funding, and this fall welcomed its largest, most diverse and academically qualified class in history.

Below is just a sampling of these endeavors that are sparking a new era of excellence at OU.

Read the full Plan at



Strategic Plan Updates





Pillar I:

Become a Top-Tier Public Research University

At the University of Oklahoma, we are driven by our pursuit to unlock our greatest potential as one of the nation’s top public research institutions. As a Carnegie-RU/VH public research university, we champion creativity, innovation, and scholarly activity across all disciplines, striving for the highest levels of impact. Our ambitious goals for the future leverage the excellence we’re already known for as we pursue our path toward becoming an AAU-caliber institution.

Hired Visionary Academic Leadership and AAU-talent

André-Denis Wright, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Provost of the Norman campus

André-Denis Wright, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Provost of the Norman campus, joined OU in July 2021. Wright is an internationally recognized microbiologist, accomplished scholar, and an experienced administrative leader. Provost Wright came to OU from Washington State University, where he served as dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences – one of WSU’s largest and most diverse colleges – and his portfolio included oversight of 1,250 faculty serving 3,100 students; a $196 million budget; a tribal office; and four research centers across Washington state.



Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Partnerships of the Norman campus

Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Ph.D., Vice President for Research and Partnerships of the Norman campus, joined OU in October 2019 and was charged with development of a comprehensive research plan to help achieve OU’s Strategic Plan. An accomplished physicist and internationally renowned research leader, Dr. Díaz de la Rubia came to OU with a compelling blend of experience, having held major positions in a federal laboratory, private consulting firm, and most recently as Purdue University’s Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. 

Key Research Hires

  • Timothy Filley, Ph.D., Inaugural Director of Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy System
  • General Donald Wetekam, MEM, MNRM, Chief Strategist for Aerospace, Defense, and Global Security
  • T. Venkatesan, Ph.D., Inaugural Director of the Center for Quantum Research and Technology 

New Deans

  • Denise Stephens, MLIS, OU Libraries (July 2021)
  • Katheleen Guzman, J.D., LL.M., College of Law (May 2021)
  • Stacy Reeder, Ph.D., Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education (May 2021)
  • Jane Endsley Wilson, Ph.D., College of Allied Health (March 2021)
  • Scott Fritzen, Ph.D., David L. Boren College of International Studies (July 2020)
  • John Klier, Ph.D., Gallogly College of Engineering (July 2020)
  • Corey Phelps, Ph.D., Michael F. Price College of Business (July 2020)
  • Martha Banz, Ph.D., College of Continuing and Professional Studies (May 2020)

Legislative Agenda Success for Education and Research

The Oklahoma Legislature made a significant investment in higher education for the 2020-2021 session – designating the most state funding for the benefit of OU in nearly 20 years (not since $22.7 million in state appropriations toward the National Weather Center in 2002). OU received – to be distributed over three years – over $60 million in commitments combined at both the Health Sciences Center and the Norman campus – investments in pediatric behavioral health, aerospace and defense research, and infrastructure investments. OU also received multi-year continuing commitments to increase engineering, nursing, and M.D. grads equal to over $15 million a year.

Detailed Breakdown of FY2022 Legislative Support: 

  • $58 million will be invested on OU’s behalf with the State Regents to fund the state’s match for backlogged endowed faculty positions. Of the total, roughly $34 million is designated toward the Norman campus, and $24 million toward the Health Sciences Center.
  • $10 million, with a commitment for continued funding over the next two years, for a secure innovation research center – a classified research facility focused on advanced technologies in cooperation with Tinker Air Force Base and Ft. Sill – and to advance other strategic priorities in engineering and biosciences.
  • $11.5 million, recurring annually, for OU Health. Funds will come by way of the sales tax exemption for the University Hospitals Authority and Trust. Funding will add 70 new residency slots, 110 nurses, and 50 nurse practitioners annually.
  • $9.9 million per year for three years for the reconstruction of space next to Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health for a 36-bed pediatric behavioral health unit.
  • $5 million, recurring annually, to the Gallogly College of Engineering, to expand engineering faculty and student population.
OU Health M.D.





Pillar II:

Prepare Students for a Life of Success, Meaning, Service, and Positive Impact

OU Welcomes Largest, Most Diverse, and Most Academically Qualified Freshman Class in University History

The stunning composition of this year’s freshman class shows that the demand for a world-class OU education is higher than ever. With approximately 4,600 students, the Class of 2025 comprises the largest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class in OU history. In the new freshman class, 38% of students identify as minorities, and one in four are first-generation college students. This year’s class also has an average high school GPA of 3.66, the highest ever of an incoming class. 

Cross Village Becomes Biggest Addition to Freshman Housing in 60 Years

With 1,200 premium fully furnished single-bed units with a range of amenities, Cross Village is the largest expansion of housing for the OU freshman experience since the mid-1960s. This exciting expansion speaks to the university’s commitment to prioritizing the student experience, and the inclusion of Cross Village creates a first-class, welcoming option for students to call home. The Cross Village acquisition also fast-tracks the timeline for OU’s Freshman Housing Master Plan, allowing the university to begin its implementation four years earlier than previously anticipated. 

Putting Students on a Path Toward Career Success

Preparing students for life as a graduate is a key priority at OU. Through OU Career Services, students are empowered to explore connections between their future ambitions and the pathways to achieve them. Resources like career fairs, personalized advising, resume-building workshops, mock interviews, and much more equip students with the skills and connections to foster their career development.

The university is committed to strengthening its offerings for students, beginning with a major investment that will double our resources and place OU among the most cutting-edge career services programs in the nation. 



1 Rhodes Scholar

7 Goldwater Scholars

17 Fulbright Recipients

5 Tillman Scholars

5 Boren Awards

2 Udall Scholars

1 Cooke Scholar

1 Luce Scholar

1 Marshall Scholar

1 Rangel Scholar



OU graduates





Pillar III:

Make OU’s Excellence Affordable and Attainable

Affordable Tuition

A key tenet of the Strategic Plan is to provide an education that is excellent, affordable, and accessible to anyone with the will and talent to pursue it. Three consecutive years of flat tuition demonstrate OU’s efforts to do just that. The university was able to freeze tuition for three years, and managed one modest increase for the 2021-2022 academic year that aligned with inflationary price changes, all to continue making OU’s excellence affordable and attainable. 

OU Online Launches and Enjoys Meteoric Growth

Launched in June 2020, OU Online provides an accessible path to OU’s world-class graduate-level education for students across the globe. Designed for adult learners seeking career advancement, OU Online’s programs offer specialized graduate degrees in a variety of professional fields. Online education represents the true fulfillment of OU’s purpose as a public research university – to provide strategic educational opportunities that benefit a more diverse segment of students and foster economic growth for Oklahoma.

Since launching, OU Online has far exceeded its original goals. Fall 2021 applications are up 65% from a year prior and this fall’s enrollments exceeded last year’s by 38%. Programs continue to grow with seven new degrees being offered in 2021 and an additional five slated for fall 2022, and revenue from OU Online programs grew from $18 million in FY2019 to a projected $31 million for FY2021.

OU Online logo
OU Online Master's student

OU Online at a Glance

Degrees Offered: Fall 2020: 34; Fall 2021: 41; Fall 2022: 46 (planned)
Revenue Growth: FY2019: $18M; FY2021: $31M (planned)

Best-in-Class Fundraising and Record Giving

With the transition of University Advancement to the OU Foundation in March 2021, the OU Foundation adopted a best-practice model, mirroring peer institutions that house successful fundraising organizations. The move fully integrates the fundraising organization, leading to a strategic and holistic alignment of fundraising goals with university priorities. Drawing upon the loyalty and commitment of alumni and friends, this transition will provide crucial structure and vision for OU to reach its highest aspirations. 

Major Gifts

  • A historic gift from the family of renowned educator and scientist Homer Dodge will transform the future of the College of Arts and Sciences. Generations of OU students stand to benefit, with the bulk of the gift designated for student scholarships and research fellowships. In recognition of their extraordinary support, the college has been renamed the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences.
  • A $45 million gift from the estate of Earl and Fran Ziegler will provide significant support for nursing, cancer research, scholarships, the Sam Noble Museum and more.
  • OU completed renovations to the historic Armory after receiving one of the largest single gifts in university history – a $20 million investment from the Mulva Family Foundation – to renovate OU ROTC program facilities and establish a scholarship endowment benefiting students enrolled in the Army, Navy or Air Force ROTC programs.

Student Aid

  • In 2020-2021, an all-time record of more than $35 million was awarded to students, including student-athletes, on all three campuses from privately funded scholarships.

Record Giving in 2020-2021

  • Approximately $231 million with an additional $10 million in new legacy gifts – the most ever raised at OU.

2021 Numbers: Most-Ever Raised in OU History

More than $240 Million raised at OU

$45 Million


Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing Students

$35 Million


Students on OU campus

$20 Million


OU ROTC members saluting





Pillar IV:

Become a Place of Belonging and Emotional Growth for All Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni

Central to our vision at the University of Oklahoma is to be a place of belonging and emotional growth for all. Although our campus community comes from different places and backgrounds, we are one family, united by the traditions we hold dear and inspired by the shared values that let us dream and achieve together.

Our students’ success in making a difference in the lives of others depends upon their ability to engage with the broader world in a way that is understanding of all people and perspectives.

- President Harroz

Equipping Students to Become Servant-Leaders

To prepare students to be the best leaders of tomorrow, OU crafted an intentional educational pathway that best equips them to enter society as leaders who understand the world around them and are able to navigate it with respect and dignity for all.

Beginning in fall 2021, all incoming students will complete a First-Year Experience course. Designed as a gateway to the university, where a multitude of perspectives are welcomed and valued, First-Year Experience courses will positively impact student success– not only during their time at OU, but well after. A student’s success in today’s world, regardless of their major, demands that they understand others and are able to engage constructively and respectively. Moreover, a common educational experience focused on creating an inclusive community will foster a sense of belonging that will positively impact students’ experience at OU. The broader impact will be seen in larger society – in our graduates’ workplaces, their communities, and more.

Campus Climate Survey

In fall 2020, all students, faculty, and staff were invited to participate in a campus climate survey – an assessment that is helping us understand the strengths of our campus and the areas in which we can improve.

Leading the Way

Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite

Since joining OU in January 2020 as Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite has guided OU’s efforts to foster a culture of belonging on all three campuses. Hyppolite has more than two decades of experience in higher education and holds a number of certifi cations related to the implementation of higher education diversity and inclusion efforts.

OU Moves to the SEC

The whole university thrives when our athletic programs succeed. OU is currently one of the very few schools in the country that has a self-sufficient athletics program.

While the move to the Southeastern Conference will most obviously affect OU Athletics, it’s not just about our sports programs. This decision will benefit our entire university, advancing our purpose and important work.

This move positions OU for success in fulfilling our Strategic Plan. Much of our Plan speaks to our aspiration to become an AAU-caliber institution, with benchmarks based on the criteria by which AAU institutions are judged. A move into a conference with more AAU institutions provides OU the chance to align further and more closely to the standards we will need to meet to attain our goal.

Our Strategic Plan is ambitious and certainly requires a conference alignment that affords us the opportunity to aggressively invest in our academic mission.

Of equal importance is the value that strong athletics programs add to creating an environment of belonging for our students. For generations, OU students have championed our sports programs, joining together in celebrating our athletics excellence and spotlighting the unique OU experience.

OU football player at game





Pillar V:

Enrich and Positively Impact Oklahoma, the Nation, and the World through Research and Creative Activity

OU Research Sees Record-Setting Year

Driven by the talent of the OU research enterprise, the university is seeing exciting progress in its efforts to grow OU’s national position in groundbreaking research. The research landscape at OU has progressed tremendously in the past year, reaching a record-high $445.9 million in research awards earned through grants and external funding by OU faculty and staff in FY2020, representing a 21.85% increase over FY2019. Today, the university ranks in the top 12th percentile nationally in research activity and impact.

Additionally, despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic, research expenditures at the University of Oklahoma achieved record levels in FY2020 – up 19.6% over the previous fiscal year, resulting in a record-high total of $369.7 million. The total, which accounts for research expenditures on all three OU campuses, eclipses any in the university’s history. These expenditures also are a key contributor to OU’s overall $2.6 billion annual statewide economic impact – underscoring OU’s role as Oklahoma’s flagship institution to fuel economic growth and foster new discoveries.

Research "Influencers"

According to a December 2020 study published in the journal PLOS Biology, 197 OU researchers have been listed among the most influential researchers in the world.

Strengthening Corporate Partnerships and Intellectual Property

  • OU’s new Office of Innovation and Corporate Partnerships will integrate the university’s efforts in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and corporate partnerships for sponsored research and education. Led by John M. Hanak, who brings decades of experience to the new role, the OICP is the latest step in fulfilling the Strategic Plan’s call to enhance OU’s intellectual property policies and processes.
  • New standards for intellectual property options for corporate-sponsored research initiated at OU are designed to bridge academic research and workforce development with corporate innovation to drive economic development and technological advances in the state.

Strategic Research Verticals

In support of “Lead On, University,” the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships on the Norman campus launched Strategic Research Verticals that serve as the foundation for OU’s research and creative activity strategy:

  • Aerospace, Defense, and Global Security
  • The Future of Health
  • Society and Community Transformation
  • Environment, Energy, and Sustainability

The full Strategic Research Verticals document can be found at

OU Research in action

Aerospace, Defense, and Global Security

$7.4 Million U.S. Navy Grant to Make OU Home to the Nation’s Largest University-Based Near-Field Scanner for Antenna Measurements

  • The $7.4 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research will fund the development of a scanner and innovative digital radar solutions to support research, prototyping, and testing of advanced digital radar concepts for the Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense. The project will also make OU home to the largest university-based scanner for near-field measurements in the nation.

OC-ALC Teams Up with OU on Educational Partnership Agreement

  • Leaders from the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and OU announced an Educational Partnership Agreement to cultivate aerospace technology development and to improve STEM education.
Advanced Radar Research Center

The Future of Health

Historic Signing Creates New Health System for Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma health care takes a major step forward with the historic merger formalized between the University of Oklahoma and University Hospitals Authority and Trust to join their clinics and hospitals into Oklahoma’s first comprehensive academic health system – OU Health. This will allow a level of coordinated care for patients that was previously unavailable in Oklahoma, leading to economic prosperity, and moving the state forward.
OU Health logo

Stephenson Cancer Center No. 1 in Clinical Trials Enrollment

  • For the fourth year in a row, OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center was named No. 1 in enrolling patients in clinical trials for the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network.

Three OU College of Medicine Departments Rank Nationally for NIH Funding

  • Three departments in the OU College of Medicine – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Family and Preventive Medicine, and Ophthalmology – have ranked in the top 20 medical school departments in the United States for research funding from the National Institutes of Health in federal fiscal year 2019. The annual ranking, compiled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, is considered the gold standard for biomedical research metrics.

Environment, Energy, and Sustainability

OU Earns Lead for up to $208 Million NOAA Severe Weather Institute

  • OU was selected to host NOAA’s new Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations (CIWRO). The selection comes with an award of up to $208 million over five years, with the potential for renewal for another five years based on successful performance.

OU Receives $20 Million Grant to Lead Inaugural National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Institute

  • OU is leading a National Science Foundation AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography that is being hailed as a “historic milestone in environmental science” that will revolutionize what we know about weather and our environment. Funded by a $20 million NSF grant, OU’s is one of only five institutes of its kind in the country.
OU Weather Radar Truck

Geocarb Mission

  • The largest contribution to the record total of research awards in FY2020 was due to continuing investment by NASA in the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory. Set to launch in 2023, the GeoCarb satellite observatory will study how and why the global carbon cycle is changing and also will monitor plant health and vegetation stress throughout the Americas. The project was funded through June 2026.

Society and Community Transformation

Shane Connelly Named Director of New Institute for Society and Community Transformation

  • The institute will focus on promoting societal well-being with an emphasis on three key research areas: technology, society, and human flourishing; Native Nations, sovereignty, and partnerships; and equity and opportunity.