Great things are happening at Youngstown State

I’ve been the president of Youngstown State for nearly two months now, and despite some of the negative publicity at the beginning, we’ve gotten off to a running start. In fact, great things are happening here at the university.

In the job I left — in the world of American politics these days — there was little teamwork, and some would say even less progress. But here on the campus of YSU, we’re pulling together like family and getting things done.

Countless YSU supporters have expressed their support since I was first hired, but I still knew there would be bumps in the road. I went into this amazing opportunity knowing that some people would have doubts. But over the last month and a half, I’ve been meeting with many groups from across the spectrum of our university community, asking them to work with me to help our students succeed. I’m pleased to report that many people across the entire spectrum of YSU constituencies have accepted my offer. Our students are the beneficiaries of the overwhelmingly positive results of those meetings.

Most days, you’ll find me gathering with some of the many diverse groups and organizations on campus, made up of our students, faculty, staff and leadership. I do my best to listen more than I speak because I learn from them.

YSU is blessed with so many smart people bustling with great ideas. Through these meetings, we’re working together to build a clear vision, develop an in-depth strategy, share expectations and strengthen relationships.

I don’t care who gets the credit — I just want our students to succeed and I want businesses throughout our region to thrive with the help of workforce talent educated right here at YSU. Here’s the good news — we’re making progress. YSU is set to be northeast Ohio’s anchor of success.

At YSU, we have world-changing instruction and research and the good news keeps coming. Our new graduate program in Data Science and Statistics launched last fall is well underway. You can bet it will be sought after by those who want to compete in today’s dynamic, digitally connected global economy.

Compared to this same point in 2023, freshman applications and admissions are both up significantly, as are scholarships awarded. We also have the highest spring graduate enrollment in university history. Our graduate and international student enrollment continues to climb. So, while other schools are on the decline, YSU is drawing more and more interest. And I “KNOW Y!” It’s because of our amazing faculty and our robust continuum of academic programs — from certificates, alternative credentials and workforce education to Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees — that continue to attract and inspire students from all over the world. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Our strategic plan is ambitious. We’re building on the strong foundation laid by former President Jim Tressel and the outstanding and dedicated university trustees.

But make no mistake, improving our students’ experience is our top priority. Our Student Center renovation is under way. We have a new Thought-Leader program under development designed to expand our student’s ability to think critically about current and future challenges. Our Presidential Mentors Program is expanding minds, and engagement with the Student Government Association is deepening. We’re making campus life impactful. These students will remember their time here at YSU for decades to come and they’ll be better for it.

In government affairs, YSU’s voice is louder than ever. Our ability to influence the conversation on higher education policy and funding is growing at every level — locally, throughout our state, and nationally.

Even with these outstanding achievements, we’re reaching ever higher. We’re reimagining enrollment strategies by casting a wider net to reach students, and our approach is comprehensive. From military and veteran outreach to international recruitment, we’re on it. The Penguin Prep Program — designed to help those who may doubt their ability to succeed in college — and partnerships with regional schools are just the start. We’re looking for ways to reach out to homeschool families and further leverage our alumni network. Athletics recruitment and online courses are drawing new crowds as well.

Here’s another interesting point, while we’re happy to help students who want to earn a four-year degree, we have more to offer. We’re embracing the full spectrum of education. From certifications to doctoral programs, YSU offers it all. For traditional and non-traditional learners alike. We’re proactive, not reactive. Our goal is to reach students, wherever they may be.

This Valley needs more good-paying jobs and talented, skilled people to fill them. We’re helping as YSU and downtown Youngstown are intertwined. Together, we’re driving innovation and growth. We’re working to deepen our student opportunities and industry and business ties by restructuring our Workforce Education and Innovation initiatives. Our partnership with the businesses and industries is more than beneficial — it’s essential. We’re also working collaboratively with Eastern Gateway Community College, other colleges and state officials to provide students throughout our region a seamless path to a full continuum of affordable education opportunities, whatever phase of their education journey they are in.

We’re working hard to strategically raise more funds for the important things we want to do. Since the announcement of my selection as President on November 21 in collaboration with the YSU Foundation, we’ve raised over $3.8 million. We’re targeting those critical resources toward innovative campus programs, scholarships, and facilities that continue to enrich the learning experiences of our students.

To demonstrate our commitment to YSU, my wife, LeeAnn, and I are doing our part. We recently pledged $100,000 to the new student center project as, hopefully, our first of many investments in YSU’s amazing legacy and future. We’d already invested in YSU by sending our son here but now we’re investing even more.

YSU’s mission is bold — to inspire individuals, enhance futures and enrich lives. To do that, we’re leading with a commitment to student success, innovation, commitment and a clear focus on our community. Our journey is just beginning, but the path is clear.

So, if you want to bet on Youngstown’s future, bet on a Penguin!

Bill Johnson is the president of Youngstown State University.


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