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Tressel tasked with building academics at YSU to support oil and gas industry

Published: Tue, June 3, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

The unbelievable has happened. The board of directors at Youngstown State University turned a negative into a positive and, following the untimely departure of President Randy Dunn, landed a national sports figure and hometown hero as its new university president. Within a day, this news made its way around the nation and put Youngstown State on the tip of many tongues.

President Jim “Coach” Tressel may increase enrollment, raise money and project a motivating view of the university for years to come. With an academically strong support staff, Tressel seems to possess toughness capable of addressing the challenges that face the university.

The new president will find the following changes on campus after his time away: the construction of new campus buildings, the demolition of many blighted buildings surrounding campus, the creation of a STEM pro- gram, the university’s affiliation to the additive manufacturing and defense industry, the new and improved neigh- boring downtown Youngstown, which ncludes a world-class business incubator program, and, last but not least, the regional expansion of the oil and natural-gas industry in the Mahoning Valley and beyond.

The oil and natural-gas industry has shown that it brings not only additional service, transportation, manufacturing and construction jobs, such as those provided by Vallourec Star, but also environmental challenges that have subtle, yet powerful, impacts on the world’s view of YSU as an institution of higher learning with a quality campus life.

With enrollment down 15 percent since 2010, student attraction amid this boom will be integral to the university’s future success.

Certain aspects of the oil and naturalgas boom in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania will complement academic growth and campus life at YSU. The oil and natural-gas industry will need advanced metallurgic, civil, electrical and even radiological engineers if infrastructure is built in the Mahoning Valley to supply and support regional shale drilling.

Recently, Industrial Waste Control Inc. was given a permit by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to contract with Austin Master Services LLC of Pottstown Pa., to begin testing incoming drilling waste at a facility at 240 Sinter Court.

According to the company’s website, Austin Master is a full-service, comprehensive environmental services firm specializing in radiological-waste- management solutions. Austin Master will provide the radiological expertise necessary to design a treatment pro-cess for drilling waste found to have radioactive properties. This facility, located less than a mile west of YSU, will potentially provide jobs for graduating YSU engineers.

However, the plant also is opposed by at least 20 members of the YSU teaching faculty who signed on to sup- port the Youngstown Community Bill of Rights issue in its third narrow defeat May 6. This charter amendment attempted to ban such fracking-related industry in the city of Youngstown. This is the crux of the cultural clash between academic and campus life versus the needs of the local oil and natural-gas industry.

Tressel will be tasked with building the academics of YSU to support this new industry, as well as others, while maintaining a pleasant and safe learning environment and a campus that both high-school graduates and their parents will want to attend.

The Valley’s oil and gas industry last month also provided inspiration to a student news media crew from the Trumbull County Career and Technical Center. This crew created a news video titled “What’s the Fracking Deal?” that ranked second in the state and fifth in the nation. The students should be congratulated, and their video can be seen on YouTube.

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