Press Release

Urbana University Leadership in the News (May/June)

Contact:

Sherry Mercurio
Director of Communications and Public Relations
937.772.9222
Web site: www.urbana.edu

Urbana, OH (June 29, 2017)

Leading the charge to further solidify the foundational support needed to continue efforts to better serve Urbana University’s students, alumni, faculty, and staff, Dr. Christopher Washington, Executive Vice President and Provost, has recently generated a number of articles in the Springfield News-Sun and Urbana Daily Citizen.  the following is a brief summary of those articles.


Urbana Daily Citizen (June 8, 2017): UU Provost Destined for Job

By: Joshua Keeran

Some individuals are born to thrive in their profession. Christopher L. Washington, Ph.D., is one of those people, and he loves what he does on a daily basis as Urbana University’s new executive vice president and provost.

“It’s a blessing I get to do what I do,” Washington said. “My mom told me very early on that I was an educator, and I denied her for many years. She was right as I do have a real passion for teaching others.

“I was a faculty member for a number of years, and I learned that I really liked developing leaders who develop leaders. Universities are the right places for that.”

Washington, who holds a Ph.D. in human resource development from The Ohio State University, joined Franklin University as a faculty member in the MBA program in 1999. Franklin University acquired UU in 2014 and is working toward approval to make the Urbana institution of higher learning a branch campus of Franklin. Prior to accepting his new role with UU in late April, Washington was in the midst of a nearly 12-year run as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Franklin.

The website for the Columbus-based university credits Washington with introducing over 20 new degrees and programs over the past five years at Franklin to help meet the needs of students and employers.

Washington said since arriving on the UU campus, he is confident he is in the right place to continue expanding on the work he was doing at Franklin.

“I like the idea of being a lifelong learner and contributing to communities that foster lifelong learning,” he said. “Urbana is just a great context for that.

“It’s not very difficult to fall in love with this place once you come out here, and that happened to me right away,” Washington added.

Currently living in central Ohio, Washington and his wife, Shannon, have five children between the ages of 4 and 26. They have been exploring the area and local housing market.

Academic principles

When it comes to higher education, Washington’s experience runs the gamut.

Along with his 18 years in varying roles at Franklin, Washington has served on or is currently part of a number of organizations and committees in academia. The list includes consultant evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission, member of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio Provost’s Council, member of various Ohio Board of Regents committees, vice chairperson of the Education Committee of the Columbus Council on World Affairs, member of the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Educators, member of the American Council of Education, and vice chairperson of the the Global Ties U.S. Board of Directors.

Washington’s experience in a university setting as well as his years of service to various higher education groups has aided him in developing what he refers to as his three principal academic strategies: academic quality, student success, and relationships in the community.

Washington said UU must look at ways to align the programs it offers to help meet the needs of the community.

“Number one is we have to look at academic quality and the range of programs we offer,” he said. “It’s not very hard to look around here in the seven-county area and see where the needs are.

“We can fill those needs through academic programs,” he added. “We can leverage the programs that are offered at Franklin, and we can offer new programs in collaboration with our corporate partners to meet their needs.”

His second academic strategy involves making sure UU students are given the tools they need to become well-rounded, successful members of society.

“We need to look at how do we really amplify our efforts to ensure student success,” Washington said. “This success is something that happens both inside the classroom and outside of it. If I can give students internships, practicums, and field experiences in the workplace, they will get a better sense of why they are doing this to begin with.

“I believe they will be more successful, and I believe it will increase graduation rates and improve average starting salaries of our graduates,” he added.

The third area Washington plans to focus on as part of his principal strategies toward helping UU thrive in the future is building relationships.

With this in mind, Washington said he has made it a point over the past several weeks to meet with university alums, current students and area business leaders.

“Alumni are really an important part of the picture,” he said. “This community has so many of our alums, and I think they are sitting on the sidelines wondering what’s next and what’s going to happen here.

“I’m here to tell them we are in this for the long term, and I need their help,” Washington added.

While there are numerous ways alumni can help the university, Washington suggested some graduates may be able to provide internships to current students, while others in the business world may consider dropping by a classroom or two to speak to students.

“Of course, I want alumni to come out to our football and basketball games, too,” he said.

 


Urbana Daily Citizen (June 6, 2017): Franklin committed to UU sports - New programs being explored

By Joshua Keeran - jkeeran@civitasmedia.com

While Franklin University awaits a decision from the Higher Learning Commission as to whether or not it can officially classify Urbana University as one of its branch campuses, officials from the Columbus-based university have made one thing clear – the Blue Knight athletics program is a top priority.

UU Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher Washington, Ph.D., said he is a firm believer in universities supporting opportunities for athletes who choose to pursue higher education, and UU is doing just that by investing in facilities and looking at ways to expand its athletics programs.

Washington said Franklin University has spent quite a bit of money on upgrading the home to many of UU’s sports programs – the Warren G. Grimes Center.

Improvements to the most well-known facility on campus include a new HVAC system, new flooring in the weight room and a new basketball court featuring the updated Blue Knights athletic logo.

As for current or upcoming facility improvements, Washington said the university is working on installing batting cages at the softball diamond, and crews from The Motz Group are currently resurfacing the football field with a new synthetic surface (the original playing surface was installed in 2006).

“We are also working on putting lights in the stadium,” he added. “Can you imagine what it would be like to have night games in this community? I’m really anxious to see what that could mean not just for our athletic programs, but for social engagement.”

As for the state of UU athletics, Washington said Athletic Director Larry Cox gets him “charged” when it comes to the possibility of expanding the number of sports programs offered to UU student-athletes.

“Larry’s ideas about new sports teams really excite me,” Washington said.

While nothing is set in stone, Washington did say several sports have been tossed around as possible additions like acrobatics and tumbling, track and field and wrestling.

“I’d love to explore the feasibility of these programs and a few others,” he said. “I hear there is a strong wrestling community here with a lot of success at the high school level.”

 


Urbana Daily Citizen (June 6): UU provost excited about future - Franklin University continues to invest in campus

By Joshua Keeran

Champaign County’s only institution of higher learning – Urbana University – has experienced many changes over its 167-year history, including name changes (founded as Urbana Seminary in 1850 and known as Urbana College until 1985), a five-year closure due to the Civil War, and, most recently, being acquired in 2014 by Franklin University in Columbus.

While the developments over the past few years have some staff, faculty, students and community members concerned about the future of the university, UU Executive Vice President and Provost Christopher Washington, Ph.D., seems to have made it his mission since taking over the reins of the university in late April to let everyone know UU is here to stay.

“We’ve (Franklin University) invested $15 million into the university, and we are talking about the possibility of adding new sports teams, new academic programs, and building new relationships with the community,” he said. “I’m here to stay, and I’m in this for the long haul.”

Currently operating as a division of Franklin University, UU could become a branch campus of the Columbus-based institution pending approval from the Higher Learning Commission. A decision is expected this month.

“I’m very optimistic about it,” Washington said. “We are ready to go and ready to move forward with all of this.”

He added if UU becomes a branch campus, it’s his belief it would remove the university from its current probation status, which the HLC imposed on UU in October 2014 over concerns about the autonomy of its governing board.

The move, Washington added, would benefit UU by expanding its academic offerings, which would help local companies fill voids in their workforce.

“It would enable us to leverage programs that are available to us through Franklin University out here in the Urbana market, which will accelerate our efforts to collaborate with employers in areas of high need for them,” he said. “It would also allow us (both universities) to share talent (faculty and staff).

As for whether UU is destined to undergo another name change, Washington said he doesn’t anticipate that to be the case, except for a mention of some sorts noting UU as a branch campus of Franklin University.

“We have every intention of maintaining the Urbana University brand,” he said. “This is a school that has been here in this community since 1850.”

Washington added in just his short time as provost, he’s already “embraced the brand,” and he’s challenged himself to increase support of the brand among the alumni base and surrounding communities.

“We have a great brand already, but I want to add brand equity,” he said.

Capital improvements continue

Franklin University has invested approximately $15 million into the UU campus, and more improvements are underway or in the works.

According to Washington, the list of improvements on campus over the past couple years include, but are not limited to, the removal of various structures, roof and ceiling repairs, construction of additional sidewalks, resurfacing parking lots, and technology upgrades in the science labs.

“We’ve done a lot to improve facilities,” he added. “We’ve also done a lot with the residence halls, and we have a new food service coming in with more healthy options in the commons.”

UU announced recently it had reached a deal with Aladdin Food Management Services, which will assume the duties of providing all dining needs campus-wide beginning Aug. 1. The collaboration, according to a UU press release, includes the renovation of The Dining Commons as well as improvements to the White Family Grill.

Washington said not only is he “really pleased” with the healthy food options Aladdin will soon offer on campus, but he’s excited about being able to offer students a better “commons experience” as well as one highly-coveted item in particular – Starbucks coffee.


Springfield News-Sun (May 17, 2017): New Urbana U. leader pledges closer ties with businesses, community

By Matt Sanctis

Urbana University’s new executive vice president said Wednesday he plans to develop closer ties between the university and local businesses.

Christopher Washington was named executive vice president of Urbana University last month after former President George Lucas resigned. Washington said Wednesday the university will play a more active role in the region and will develop deeper ties with area businesses, particularly in fields like manufacturing.

“We have to offer programs of study that are relevant to the surrounding community,” Washington said.

Washington is taking over at a time when Urbana University will shift to a branch campus of Franklin University. Franklin acquired the Champaign County campus in 2014 after Urbana University faced years of lean enrollment and financial struggles. As part of the deal, Urbana now functions as a division of Franklin but retains its name. Franklin is a private, nonprofit institution based in Columbus.

The two entities currently undergo a separate accreditation process. If Urbana University receives approval to become a branch campus of Franklin, it would fall under Franklin’s accreditation process.

The Columbus school is working through that process with the Higher Learning Commission, an accreditation agency. Franklin hopes to receive approval to combine accreditation for the two universities as early as next month, Washington said.

 

Urbana University has been under academic probation since November 2014 when the smaller campus faced a variety of challenges. The university has about 1,800 students and has a roughly $31 million economic impact on the region.

Washington said he’s already meeting with leaders from Champaign County businesses and school districts to ensure the university’s academic programs are aligned with the skills employers want. Champaign County and the surrounding areas rely heavily on manufacturing, he said.

“We really are looking to ensure we’re more integrated into the Urbana community,” Washington said.

 

About Urbana University

Founded in 1850, Urbana University serves more than 1800 students from around the world from its 128 acre campus nestled in the historic city of Urbana, Ohio. Known for innovative academic programs that feature personal attention from faculty, the University offers more than 30 undergraduate programs and several graduate degrees, delivering course work in class, online, or a combination of both. Blue Knights athletics includes 15 NCAA Division II sports along with intercollegiate bowling, cheerleading, and shooting sports.

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