Feature Story: A Year in Review

President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar

The fall semester has drawn to an end and 2022 is almost “in the books”.  This semester has been the first in more than two years to resemble a traditional collegiate experience. Our students have been focused on soaking in the interaction with our faculty that UCO promises and our faculty and staff have been diligently provoking their reflection and engagement.

Another year as a Top Online College continues to prove that we came to play and we’re making students happy. Our staff and faculty have made our successful entrée into fully online programs an example of the power of innovation and well-managed creativity.

Our student-athletes have already given us plenty of opportunity to rally our Broncho spirit to cheer for the bronze and blue. If you haven’t attended a competition yet, I encourage you to make time to watch these talented students showcase their skills. Our beautifully expanded stadium will host the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) state football championships once again this year as we welcome thousands of high school students and their families to our campus. As the state’s metropolitan university, UCO is now home to OSSAA’s football and esports championships.

Enrollment numbers for fall 2023 are looking strong as student applications are up more than 44% and admissions are up more than 200%. Three years of planned change are beginning to bear fruit. The list of implemented improvements is far too long to share here, however, the variety and breadth of enhancements impact everything from recruitment to retention. We’ve reenvisioned our enrollment strategy to refresh our institutional profile, build relationships with more high school students earlier and longer and hire strong team contributors. We’ve energized our focus on growing retention in new ways by removing barriers throughout the enrollment process, distributing financial aid differently to increase retention and encouraging participation in our newly designed first-year experience.

Exciting new academic programs have been designed, developed and submitted to the state regents for approval. These programs are responsive to the needs of our state and demonstrate scale in time and financial investment for our students. Our first professional doctorate, the Doctor of Science in forensic science, is awaiting its final step in a multi-year hard-fought journey. New to the slate are master’s degrees in cybersecurity and finance and easily accessible certificates in independent filmmaking, audio post-production and cybersecurity.

Preparations for our HLC accreditation visit in April have been the focus of our writing team and the University Planning Council for more than two years. We will be submitting our final report in the coming weeks. The dedicated work of our campus community is reflected throughout the report and highlights our commitment to continuous improvement and student success. UCO’s historical refinement of pedagogy and student support lives on as we strive for excellence every day.

The collaborative work to operationalize our strategic plan is finally reaching its apex. Cross-departmental work groups have spent the better part of this semester identifying the appropriate metrics that will help us measure our progress and demonstrate our impact on the community and the state. Our online dashboard will be filled with our progress and will be visible to our university community on demand.  

The division of Academic Affairs is leading our first ever academic program viability reviews this semester. The shared effort to assess the financial strength and management of our programs will result in aligning resources to optimize our offerings. As we navigate our enrollment return, it is imperative that we make strategic decisions about which programs we offer and our thoughtful growth into new education spaces.

UCO has effectively built all of this change amid a global pandemic and a significant budget challenge.  Our quest for meeting our mission rests in the hearts and hands of everyone here. Although I have highlighted only a handful of efforts, the contributions of the members of our community are innumerable. Every bit of this change, creativity and achievement is attributed to the incredible people who work on the front lines, in the classrooms and behind their desks to make UCO a special place for our students.