Messages to Alumni from UC Board of Trustees Chair

Rob RichardsonThis is a series of columns by University of Cincinnati Board Chair Rob Richardson, Jr., CEAS ’02, Law ’05. In February at the age of 37, UC’s former Student Body President became the youngest person to chair the board of trustees in UC’s history and the youngest currently in such a role among the nation’s research-intensive public universities. His board term began in 2008 and runs through 2016.

Learn more about Richardson’s rise at UC and in the community.



On the Presidential Search

November 29, 2016

Replacing a university president always represents an enormous institutional opportunity, and so it is for UC as we seek our next permanent president. A comprehensive search process has been underway for several months. As chair of the formal search committee, I’m pleased with our progress.

This particular presidential search comes as we prepare for UC’s bicentennial in 2019 and the transition into our Third Century. In continuing our ascent among the nation’s top universities, our future is incredibly bright. Still, our new leader must navigate an array of unique challenges in order to leverage our many advantages.

Identifying UC’s next president is a team effort reflective of our inclusive and collaborative nature. With such a broad range of constituents, we held more than a dozen community listening sessions and conducted multiple surveys to garner candid opinions from stakeholders throughout the colleges, the regional business community, our health care enterprise, the student and alumni bodies, and more. Their collective feedback has shaped and aided the search immeasurably.

We received a variety of responses about the personal characteristics our new president should have: Engaging, personable, a strong communicator … Passionate, transparent and honest … Doesn’t have to be as active on social media as President Ono, but does need to be connected and available … Wants to hear and internalize the student perspective … Visionary, strategic thinker.

We asked about preferred professional characteristics, and learned they should be: Adept at leading complex organizations … Knowledgeable about higher education and the academic environment, ideally in public and/or urban institutions … A record of research and innovation … Proven fundraiser … Able to lead and manage through change or crisis … Proficient as the ambassador for all aspects of the university’s brand.

We also asked about the sort of background a great candidate might have: Academic and/or administrative leadership … Health care, science, research … Business, tech industry … Fundraising … Government experience.

We have worked hard to empower participants during this feedback stage because we all share ownership in this vital selection. Such thoughtful, inclusive and candid conversation won’t end with just a presidential appointment; we expect to continue regular dialogues as we move forward after the new president is seated.

Many candidates will look good on paper, yet we’ll be watching and listening closely for the emotional intelligence that is so central to the president’s job. Communication will be key: He or she must be able to make authentic connections, absorbing input and motivating people to become strategically aligned with each other and our institutional vision. A presidential conversation with a fellow leader in the local business community is different from conversing with an undergraduate, professor, cancer researcher, football fan, member of the media, parent of a prospective student, or would-be donor. UC’s president must be able to handle each interaction well, listening with intensity and articulating with clarity.

We hope to find and appoint this person by early 2017. The process will continue to advance, blending the transparency required of a public institution with the confidentiality necessary for a search at this level.

On behalf of the Search Committee, thanks to all who have helped thus far. I hope you share my excitement for all that awaits this outstanding university and the members of the UC family.

Robert E. Richardson, Jr.
UC Board of Trustees

UC Creating the Hub for Institutional Innovation Efforts

October 3, 2016

Last month I described UC’s “innovation journey” and our golden opportunity to marshal our vast resources and create a sustainable powerhouse of functional, strategic activity that will benefit the university and the community we serve.

Yet innovation can thrive only when we set aside conventional thinking and remove silos that often divide the university community, thus hindering the very nature of innovation. By merging our many areas of academic and research excellence, then connecting them to committed industry partners and their real-world entrepreneurial challenges, we will become a hotbed for true, breakthrough innovation — not only in theory, but most importantly in practice.

You might think of this transformational activity like a wheel of resources, connections and possibilities. A wheel needs a hub — and we’re building one right now. Owned by UC since 1980, the old Sears Building on Reading Road adjacent to the new I-71 & Martin Luther King Jr. Drive interchange is being reborn as the physical center of our innovation efforts. It will reflect the innovative spirit that has been UC’s hallmark since its founding in 1819, as well as the promise of historic growth to come in our Third Century. The building’s first phase is scheduled to open in January; when the full facility becomes operational down the line, it will be the home of ongoing interaction between UC representatives and community partners working on mutually beneficial innovation initiatives. When we engage with industry, or when industry engages with us, it will all start here at the hub.

Specifically, such industry engagement will occur through the UC Research Institute, which will be housed in the new facility. The Research Institute serves as our front door for industry allowing access to UC’s collective expertise and intelligence. Many of our innovation colleagues, including major companies such as Procter & Gamble, will have a permanent presence in this hub, where the Research Institute will provide them concierge-level service, enabling these colleagues to work side-by-side with UC students and faculty. We will partner with members of our vibrant start-up community, such as The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech —complementing the economic ecosystem in ways no one else can, because no one has our wealth of diverse assets to elevate innovation in the region.

For UC, this new venue and our reimagining/re-engineering of the innovation process will provide a substantial, tangible boost to the “real-world educational experience” that has always been one of our primary differentiators. The collaborative projects undertaken by faculty, students and researchers in this hub will be employing cross-discipline approaches, which leverage multiple colleges in their interactions with industry and entrepreneurs. The benefits to all of UC that will accrue due to this new facility will be measured over the long-term, as we make the necessary commitment to our innovation agenda.

Innovation is a cultural thing, yet it really doesn’t require a massive overhaul in how we do business. By doing a select number of targeted things well, we will see the culture shift as a cascade of rewards accrues to our stakeholders. We need to get this right, and we will — it’s part of our institutional DNA to do so. From bringing together disparate educational entities to form the university in the 1800s, to inventing cooperative education early in the 1900s, to remaking our campus and academics over the last quarter century, UC has been at forefront of innovation in many ways. This is the latest exciting example, and it has the power to change how our university impacts our community and the world.

Robert E. Richardson, Jr.
UC Board of Trustees


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