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Letter to the Community: Report Cards

  • Date: 09/15/2000
  • Author: Dr. Luis M. Proenza (President, The University of Akron)
  • Report cards, Dear Friends. . .

    . . . are important, even as the new school year is just beginning. Because every organization should be judged by its record as compared to appropriate industry benchmarks, I believe that accountability should be one of the hallmarks of a great public university. Therefore, I want you to know how The University of Akron rates against the benchmarks for higher education in the United States.

    Perhaps the best-known collegiate rankings are published annually by the magazine, U.S. News and World Report. According to this year's issue, The University of Akron has some legitimate points of pride. In the 2000 rankings by U.S. News and World Report, only five Ohio universities had any nationally ranked programs among the top 25 - The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Cincinnati, The University of Akron, and Bowling Green State University.

    The University of Akron is the only university in Ohio, public or private, to have a science and engineering program ranked in the top five in the nation! Akron's Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering program is ranked second in the United States, ahead of such highly regarded universities as M.I.T. and Caltech. Akron's program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology is ranked 7th nationally, tied with Ohio State.

    A study released in late July 2000 by The Lombardi Program on Measuring University Performance, based at the University of Florida, examined American universities on 10 different measures of quality and ranked the top 100 public and private universities for each measure. The University of Akron was listed among the top 100 public universities on five measures - endowment assets (81st), national academy members (76th), doctorates awarded (75th), postdoctoral appointees (96th), and national merit and achievement scholars (77th). In Ohio, only Case Western Reserve, Ohio State, and Cincinnati were ranked among the top 100 on more measures, and in Northeast Ohio, no other university came close to The University of Akron's performance. The only other area university that appeared among the top 100 public universities did so in only one dimension!

    The Lombardi study is particularly significant, since it examines the multi-dimensional aspects of American universities and ranks universities into groups defined by their relative performance on a variety of measurable characteristics - research, private support, faculty, doctorate degrees, postdoctoral quality, and undergraduate quality. In so doing, the Lombardi study avoids reliance on intangible measures, such as institutional reputation, or single measures to produce highly credible rankings. (The often-touted Carnegie Classification system of colleges and universities also is moving toward a multi-dimensional framework for its 2005 revision. However, according to the Carnegie Institute for the Advancement of Teaching, their system still will not be a ranking; it will be used only to classify universities into comparable groups.)

    By other objective criteria, there are even more nationally recognized programs at The University of Akron. The University's Fisher Institute for Sales and Marketing was ranked as one of the top six programs in the nation by Sales and Marketing magazine; our College of Nursing was recognized as having the nation's best undergraduate curriculum for gerontological nursing, by The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the John A. Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing; and the University's School of Dance, Theatre, and Arts Administration was listed among the top 28 of the "most sought after dance programs in the country" in Dance Spirit magazine.

    While other programs, including counseling psychology and emergency management, have earned similar honors, I want to share just two more indicators of excellence.

    The University of Akron School of Law's 1999 graduating class had an employment rate of 97.4 percent - placing first in Ohio and in the top quarter of American Bar Association-accredited schools. Akron's employment rate placed 32nd in the U.S., tied with Harvard. Our law school's graduating class employment rate, which is measured nine months after graduation, has surpassed the national average by seven to 10 percentage points for the past nine years.

    Among Ohio's public universities, The University of Akron has the second-largest intellectual property portfolio and the most productive relative to its size. We are most proud of this measure of innovation and successful commercialization, since Ohio's public universities must perform well in this arena if our state is to remain competitive in the knowledge-based economy. We are proud to serve our industry partners!

    While The University of Akron's success on these benchmarks is impressive, we know that we can and must improve. I have told our faculty and staff that the road we are on is a Yellow Brick Road, and we must continue to pave it one brick at a time. Central to our success will be shared leadership, continuous quality improvement, ongoing accountability and communication with our constituents, and, most important, the success of our students.

    Thank you for allowing me to share this "report card" on The University of Akron. I encourage you to share with me your ideas on how the University can improve, and I hope that you will help me tell the story of the excellence that can be found here. Together, we will shape the future.

    With every good wish,

    Sincerely,

    Luis M. Proenza

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