[ skip to content ]

News @ ODU

President Broderick Highlights ODU’s Achievements and Plans for Future in State of the University Address

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick described the impressive growth of the university in academic achievements, construction and the campus community's abiding commitment to service during his State of the University address on Tuesday, Aug. 20. And the President announced a $10 million gift that will help fund an entrepreneurial curriculum in ODU's College of Business and Public Administration, to help nurture a culture of entrepreneurship among its students.

To an audience of 1,200 civic leaders and members of the ODU community, Broderick said the university has flourished over the past five years of its 2009-14 strategic plan, despite a difficult economic climate.

The annual State of the University address - the traditional kickoff of the school year at Old Dominion - was moved four years ago to a breakfast event at the Ted Constant Convocation Center to reflect ODU's ever-growing scope and reach.

Broderick said the incoming freshman class of more than 2,700 students will arrive this week on a campus scarcely recognizable from a generation earlier. "Just as the region has grown and become a cosmopolitan crossroads, so, too, has the university. Prospective students see our dynamic culture and want to be a part of it.

"As some like to say on campus, 'This is not your father's ODU.'"

With $325 million in capital projects started or completed since 2008 - including academic buildings, research centers, residence halls, athletic facilities and arts venues - a state-of-the-art campus has been created in Norfolk, Broderick said, along with jobs for Hampton Roads residents. The economic impact of ODU for the commonwealth of Virginia now exceeds $2.1 billion per year, he noted.

Old Dominion is now ranked 55th nationwide for research by universities without a medical school, Broderick said. That maturation of ODU into a truly elite, metropolitan research university wouldn't have happened without the help of many significant contributors. The president singled out several benefactors during his 40-minute address, highlighting the tangible good their gifts have brought to the university, its students, and its staff and faculty.

A $10 million gift from the Strome Family Foundation will help support entrepreneurship at Old Dominion University across academic disciplines, Broderick announced during his speech, helping address a national need for visionary thinkers to help create jobs.

Broderick said the world-renowned research of ODU's Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, which includes more than 40 U.S. patents related to the interaction of electricity with living cells, has been possible thanks to a $3.5 million gift from Reidy. New Sentara Chair in Bioelectrics John Catravas, one of the world's leading researchers in vascular cell research, joined the university in July, supported by a $2 million gift from Sentara Healthcare.

Those gifts are part of more than $100 million in donations and commitments to the school, including 21 gifts of more than $1 million, Broderick said. Among the projects that will be funded are a new art building now under construction in the University Village, supported by a $2 million donation from Dick and Carolyn Barry; a $1 million gift from Jim Hixon that will fund an adjacent art studio building and an arts endowment; and an outdoor amphitheater, supported by a $1 million gift from Macon and Joan Brock.

"These new venues will join the existing Gordon Art Galleries, David and Susan Goode Theatre, and University Theatre, all within a three-block stretch, to create a dynamic Arts in the Village community along Monarch Way," Broderick said.

In athletics, he reported that a $1 million gift from the Mitchum family has helped bring the proposed basketball practice facility closer to reality, and Larry and Kathy Hill's donation of $1 million continues to support the school's athletic programs. The university's Powhatan Sports Complex has been renamed in the Hills' honor.

The president said the university is also grateful for a $30 million increase in support from the state legislature. "But we must continue to seek more resources to hire additional faculty to further lower our student-to-teacher ratio," he said.

Fifty new faculty positions were added in this year's university budget, helping students maintain access to smaller classes and one-on-one opportunities with faculty members. With efforts such as new advising protocols, an innovative math tutoring program and increasing efforts to connect with students earlier in the semester, ODU's retention rate for students has risen more than 7 percent in the past five years. And the outreach extends beyond the classroom.

Through the work of the Career Management Center, Broderick said students have earned more than 6,400 credit hours and $3.3 million in wages from employment and internships, learning valuable professional and personal skills. He pointed out that such initiatives are more important than ever when the makeup of current postsecondary students is considered.

"To some, a typical college student is a recent high school graduate. But the reality is that fewer than 15 percent of college students across the country are," the president said.

Besides 18-year-old high school grads, ODU's student body comprises military veterans and spouses, international students and distance learners of all ages. "This incredible diversity mirrors the world in which our students must compete, but more importantly, partner," Broderick said.

More students every year come to ODU with strong academic credentials. But Broderick said it's important to keep expanding that pipeline of future scholastic stars because of acclaimed programs such as creative writing, physical therapy, oceanography, and maritime and supply chain management.

Several new programs have been launched in the past few years, including the country's first Bachelor of Science degree in modeling and simulation engineering, certificate programs in public sector procurement and cybersecurity, and a new multidisciplinary curriculum based around the university's expertise in issues of climate change and sea level rise.

The research and scholarship of Sylvain Marsillac, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, has seen the construction of solar research and power generation facilities on campus. This includes a rooftop solar array atop ODU's Student Recreation Center, which will be installed this fall by Dominion Virginia Power.

Broderick also pointed out that research and instruction by faculty in the College of Arts and Letters has gained in stature and popularity at a time when humanities programs nationwide are threatened by declining enrollments and budget cuts.

ODU's Tim Seibles, one of the country's foremost poets, was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award, Broderick said. And the university's graduate program in international studies became the first American program to be accredited by NATO.

"With apologies to Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the humanities have been greatly exaggerated," Broderick said.

Wrapping up his address, the president expressed the pride and excitement that the ODU community feels about the future, with planned growth in all areas of campus as part of the university's new master plan.

"In 1930, two men had the daring and boldness to believe that Norfolk should have a college of its own. Everyone told them it couldn't be done, yet they persisted against all odds. In 2013, that same enterprising spirit lives on in our students, faculty, alumni and supporters," Broderick said.