Dear OU Family,
The holidays are a special time of gratitude and appreciation, and this season, we have so much to be thankful for at the University of Oklahoma. Most of all, I am thankful for you, our remarkable OU Family. Each of you, in your own distinct way, has contributed to making OU a place where lives are changed for the better. Guided by your unwavering spirit and determination, you have advanced the OU legacy, ensuring our university remains a wellspring of opportunity, innovation, and transformation – not just here at home, but for people around the world.
By every measure, 2022 has been a year of momentum at OU. We emerged from the pandemic, and by the fall semester, our lives and routines finally felt some semblance of normalcy. Three years have now passed since we began forming the building blocks for our future, and today, we are seeing our “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan come to life in astounding ways. Our progress simply would not have been possible without the commitment of our OU Family. In ways big and small, you have demonstrated to the world the excellence and ambition that have been intertwined in our university’s story from our very beginning, and are only growing stronger.
As we look to a new year, the achievements we’ve celebrated in recent months inspire us to reach even higher. A few of this year’s high points are noted below, each of which speaks to the broad movement underway to build a limitless future for OU.
Enrollment Records and Growth: For the second straight year, we welcomed another record-setting freshman class. With almost 4,700 students, the Class of 2026 is the largest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class in our university’s history – more than a quarter of whom are first-generation college students. At the Health Sciences Center, enrollment saw a 5% increase over last fall. We are committed to growing these numbers even more to address workforce shortages in several health professions – an effort already underway in our Nursing program. This fall, we welcomed more BSN students than ever before, allowing more students the opportunity to pursue a nursing career and, in turn, building up the state’s nursing workforce. We continue to see robust enrollment in our OU Online programs, with 3,000 graduate students currently enrolled and on track to graduate. All of our students – from Norman to places around the world – are penning the prologue to their future, leading to a lifetime of impact.
Research Excellence and Momentum: Driven by the talent of our entire research enterprise, we are unlocking the true power and promise of what it means to be a nationally leading public research university. Our university’s discoveries are generating the answers that will help our state, nation, and world meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. We have eagerly embraced our charge to align our educational and research capabilities to make the biggest societal impact. From our well-established excellence in aerospace and radar technology, which will illuminate breakthrough strategies in national security; to the development of a completely new cancer drug, OK-1, that could potentially transform the way patients with cancer are treated; to our plan to expand OU’s energy expertise alongside industry and Tribal partners to support fusion energy commercialization, with a goal of developing the first pilot fusion power plant; and many other bold initiatives, OU is changing lives. All of these advancements serve as an exciting glimpse of the possibilities ahead.
Workforce Development: Beyond the significant expansion of our Nursing program and the tremendous growth of OU Online, some of our most noteworthy achievements this year point to our strategic efforts to support Oklahoma’s workforce needs – and providing highly capable OU graduates to fill those needs. Last month, we revealed how OU is answering the call for more talented aviation and aerospace professionals by more than doubling enrollment in our top-ranked School of Aviation while also increasing and improving our aircraft fleet. Earlier this year, we announced the launch of the OU Polytechnic Institute, a new school in Tulsa that will offer innovative programs in high-growth areas such as cybersecurity, data science, digital engineering, and more, preparing students to join some of the most pioneering and fastest-growing sectors of our economy. At OU, we have channeled a great amount of focus into how we can leverage our strategic areas of research excellence to position our state, our graduates, and all Oklahomans for a prosperous future.
Delivering World-Class Health Care across Oklahoma: For well over a century, OU has upheld its responsibility to all Oklahomans to deliver world-class health care, train tomorrow’s health professionals, and meet the toughest medical challenges with pioneering research and innovation. In pursuit of this endeavor, we have been taking steps to build upon last year’s historic merger to form OU Health – Oklahoma’s first comprehensive academic health system. This includes the vision of expanding Stephenson Cancer Center to Tulsa, which will help fill a great void of life-saving, NCI-designated cancer care in northeastern Oklahoma. We are profoundly grateful to our state leaders for believing in our vision by allocating $20 million in ARPA funding to help us enhance the scope and reach of the cancer center. As the past year has unfolded, OU Health successfully recruited a dynamic new CEO, Dr. Richard Lofgren. Under his leadership, OU Health is poised to expand its statewide footprint and provide the highest quality health care to more Oklahomans than ever before.
Historic Fundraising Campaign: As we stand ready to pursue the exciting possibilities before us, one thing is certain: We must ensure we can continue to fund a transformative student experience and world-class teaching and research – the kind that truly changes lives. In October, we were thrilled to launch our historic $2 billion “Lead On” fundraising campaign. Our goal is incredibly ambitious, but it represents a pivotal moment to shape our future into what we’ve always dreamed of, but never before been equipped to do until now. “Lead On” will benefit all three of our campuses, providing wide-reaching support for students, faculty, and programs across our university. Through the unwavering loyalty of our OU Family, this campaign will empower us to achieve nothing short of transformation.
Our progress has been significant, yet it is only beginning. All of these successes tell a story of optimism and promise as our university’s metamorphosis unfolds. At every turn and in every circumstance, the spirit and unity of our OU Family have shined our way forward, enabling us to seize every opportunity to build upon our storied legacy. Thank you for helping to make this community the extraordinary place that it is.
I extend my sincerest wishes to all of you for a truly joyous holiday season. Together, we will greet a new year with everlasting optimism and an abundance of excitement for the even brighter days ahead.
Live On, University,
Joseph Harroz, Jr.