President's Blog

Suicide Prevention Conversations

Posted on June 29th, 2018

We need to talk about suicide.

That’s not just an attention-grabbing opening line. It’s very important that our campus community has open and honest conversations about the warning signs and risks posed by this important health crisis. It’s also the law. In 2016, HB 28 went into effect mandating that Ohio’s public colleges and universities take a number of proactive measures to address suicide prevention and crisis intervention. An excellent web resource was created for colleges to comply with the law and do everything in their power to address this devastating issue.

I’d like to share a letter I received from the Ohio Attorney General on this subject. This letter contains a very simple and important message about our campus conversations regarding suicide. A very important point made by AG DeWine in this letter is regarding FERPA. Please know that there are exceptions to the FERPA privacy provisions when it comes to immediate danger, threats of self-harm, and suicide. An article in the New York Times concerned AG DeWine, as it described a situation in which a college was aware of a student’s struggle, but his family was not.


When our General Counsel Lisa Nagel receives the clarification mentioned in the Attorney General’s letter, we will pass that on to our college community. In the meantime, here are links to our current suicide prevention and crisis intervention resources on the Owens Community College web site.

Owens Web Resources on Crisis and Suicide Prevention

The recent suicides of prominent individuals such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have brought new attention to the often-stigmatized subject of mental health and suicide. Despite the recent increase in media attention, suicide has been a long-standing crisis in this country (some even call it an epidemic), particularly among communities that we serve here at Owens.


Owens Community College is proud to serve a large and growing number of veteran students, as well as eligible veteran dependents. We are also proud of our employees who have served in the military. Earlier this week, Brian Kinsella published a moving piece on the crisis of veteran suicide in Task & Purpose, a military news and lifestyle web site. Recently, the father of a local veteran who took his own life, has begun a campaign to get veterans and their loved ones talking about suicide.

As he told the Freemont Messenger in a recent article, Jhan Corzine believes that talking about the issue is vitally important: “The one thing I want out of this is my son back and it’s the one thing I can’t have … Hold your loved ones tight. Try to get them to talk to you as much as you can.”


In addition to being the home of metropolitan areas such as Toledo and Findlay, Northwest Ohio is made up of farming communities. A recent article in The Guardian caught my attention regarding the alarming rate of suicide among American farmers. (Suicide is also an incredibly serious problem among farmers in other parts of the world, including India). According to data in the article, farmers have the highest rate of suicide of any profession in the United States.

We serve a number of students from farming families and communities. It’s important that we keep our eyes and ears open for ways to help them.

The Ohio Department of Public Health tracks violent deaths, including suicide. The most recent annual report, published in 2015, can be read here.


Below is a map of the State of Ohio from that report showing suicide rates by county.

“We’ve Got to Talk About These Things”

One aspect of the problems surrounding suicide in our country is the stigma placed on discussing the issue. Political strategist David Axelrod has recently discussed this part of the problem dramatically by recalling the suicide of his father. Many people we encounter daily have been impacted by suicide but seldom talk about it due to the uncomfortable feelings and misconceptions surrounding the topic. In the clip below, Axelrod discusses the importance of talking about the issue of suicide with Chris Cuomo in a recent interview:

So we need to talk. And we need to support our students and our fellow employees. If you have questions about how to handle things you see or hear regarding students or employees in crisis, do not keep these concerns to yourself. Reach out to our Counseling services or Public Safety using the information and resources above. I will end with one of my favorite quotes from Fred Rogers:

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Please let your students and colleagues know that the things we can talk about are things we can do something about.

Thank you,

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


What Time Is It?

Posted on June 26th, 2018

It’s time to fix the iconic clock on the south face of the Health Technologies building.

As you walk across campus, you may notice that the hands of our giant clock are missing. While the clock mechanism has been functioning properly, strong winds move the hands to the incorrect time. Due to the nature of the original clock design, moving the hands back to the correct time took a great deal of time and effort. Our Facilities crew did a great job of correcting the time on the clock, but this became a daunting battle with the old clock and Mother Nature.

NOTE: The large campus clock is housed on the same facade as our carillon, but the two are not mechanically/electronically connected. One of my first blog entries was on our Campus Carillon

In 2018, nearly all of our students, faculty and staff have the correct time with them at all times: on their phones. Still, if we are going to have a clock as a prominent part of our campus architecture, it needs to display the correct time. So if you have been ignoring the time on the campus clock, you’ll be able to count on it once again when the hands are returned. The work is being performed by Smith’s Bell and Clock Service, a firm that specializes in clock and bell tower repair.

Clocks on Campus

Clock and bell towers have been a prominent architectural feature on college campuses since the Middle Ages. The University of Toledo has its signature Bell Tower; the Bowen-Thompson Student Union at Bowling Green State University features an architectural clock in the facade. Because many community colleges were founded in the 1960s, the architectural element of a clock tower was a common design element of that time, as it tied these new college campuses with a centuries-old past of academic tradition. Some of these colleges, such as Lakeland Community College right here in Ohio, use the imagery of the clock tower as part of the institutional brand:

Special Thanks to Facilities and our Vendors

With Fiscal Year 2018 drawing to a close at the end of this week, I want to thank our teams in Facilities for all of the fantastic year-end work they have accomplished to make our campus a better place to work and learn. The Summer has been a very busy time of painting, carpeting and other important improvements across campus. Our goal is to make our campus an inviting and productive place to work and learn.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Ohio Presidents Conference / Washington DC

Posted on June 22nd, 2018

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to serve on the Host Committee for the Ohio Presidents Conference in the US Capitol Building, hosted by Senator Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown has hosted this conference for eleven years. While serving on the host committee was an honor, it was not a heavy lift: we helped the Senator’s staff set the agenda for the conference, which took place in the Senate Meeting Rooms in the Capitol. We also helped move the agenda along and introduce panels and speakers. I have family in DC, so I get there often, but it was quite a different matter to be representing the College at a meeting on Capitol Hill.

The first part of the meeting focused on how venture capital is shaping entrepreneurship and innovation efforts at colleges and universities. While much of this work happens at large research institutions, Lorain County Community College is quite a leader in this area through their LCCC Innovation Fund. The second part of the agenda brought together State and Federal partners on the important issues of access, accountability and affordability.

While Senator Brown hosts the event, both he and his staff make sure the conference is a thoughtful and non-partisan event. I was very impressed with the staff in the Senator’s office; this event is clearly something that the legislative delegation from Ohio takes very seriously. Congressman Latta attended and visited with us, and we heard from Senator Portman at length. It’s clear that the event is well regarded by policy makers in Congress.

Public and Private Institutions

Here in Ohio, I have many opportunities to spend time with the presidents of the other 22 community colleges, as well as a fair number of chances to work with public university presidents. Outside our immediate region, however, there are not many opportunities to get to know leaders from private institutions in Ohio. While Senator Brown does not invite presidents of for-profit colleges to participate in the conference, this session was very well attended by the leaders of the highly-regarded private, liberal arts colleges in our state. For example, I had excellent and intriguing discussions with the presidents of Kenyon College, and Oberlin College; the normal rhythm of our work in public-sector higher education does not often afford this opportunity.

Civility in Washington

One piece of “good news” that I have been sharing since I got back from DC is the very real sense of collegiality that I witnessed first hand in the US Capitol. Our group heard from and talked to Representatives and Senators from both parties. On this particular day, the national news about immigrant family separation on the border with Mexico was a very hot topic; the representatives of both parties talked about this issue openly and directly. They did not yell at one another or ridicule opposing viewpoints the way we have come to expect on TV or in social media.

I had the honor to introduce Senator Portman at the event. During his speech, he made a point of discussing legislation he had introduced with Senators from outside of his party. The “politics” of the policy that was discussed by members of Congress at this event were always handled with respect, civility and candor. Suffice it to say that the vitriol and nastiness we see on television is not universal. I was there and witnessed something much different first hand.

I came away from the conference very proud of the higher education environment in Ohio. Not only to we have excellent community colleges and state universities, but the private institutions in our state (many of which are extremely high profile colleges) make Ohio a great place to work in higher ed. In addition, Northwest Ohio was very well represented at the conference. Sharon Gaber from UT, Rodney Rogers from BGSU, and Mary Ann Gawalek from Lourdes were also in attendance.

I am already looking forward to the 12th annual conference next year.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Mission/Vision/Values: A Case Study

Posted on June 13th, 2018

During our amazing volleyball season, many of us became familiar with Lincoln Land Community College (Personally, I could not get the image of a tin can of Lincoln Logs out of my head when I thought of them, but we were fierce competitors then). A while back, I encouraged members of our college community to start poking around the Web for community college strategic planning information; I have been doing the same, and I thought I would share what Lincoln Land has published:

NOTE: I am not offering Lincoln Land up as a model for our strategic plan! It is a good case study, however, as the artifacts of their process really do represent a kind of “archetype” of what a normal/common practice would be for colleges that regularly engage in planning activities.

A few observations about what Lincoln Land has published here:

  1. In many ways, the mission/vision/values here reflect the “standard” for 2-year college planning. The mission statement is brief, yet it defines and differentiates the institution; the vision statement is aspirational and describes a desired future state for the college; the 5 values are reflective of the 2-year college mission. In short, these are “good” statements that reflect a typical community college.
  2. The college has a manageable number of goals (6), and these also reflect the national view of what quality community colleges should be doing. The goals also appear to be measurable. Divisions of the college that are driving toward these goals and keeping track of their progress would be adding value and helping to propel the college in a single, focused direction.
  3. There is a dashboard tool that runs in Adobe Acrobat; it was created in 2009, but it looks like it has not been updated since FY13 or calendar year 2015. At one point, these “balanced scorecard” or “strategic dashboard” approaches were the “killer app” in organizational planning. It’s not clear how much Lincoln Land uses this dashboard, or if it is kept up to date. I encourage you to play around with that tool. What do you think? I have attached a PDF “click-through” document of what you see when you “drill in” to the data on the dashboard.

PDF “click-through” of Lincoln Land Dashboard

At some point in the near future, I encourage anyone interested in 2-year college planning to spend a little time looking at Lincoln Land as a case study. What do you think about this approach?

I’m excited to kick start this work in the Fall. IR has already completed the “mission statement” input form/survey, which we will deploy during Opening Week. After that, we will be facilitating 2-hour input sessions for internal and external stakeholders; these sessions will give participants an opportunity to provide input on the VISION (aspirational statement of a desired future state), and potential GOALS.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


P.S. A further note about dashboards. While these graphic representations of progress are cool, they are only worth building if they will be USED. There was a time when cutting edge colleges “had to have” a dashboard. Denise Smith and Anne Fulkerson are discussing the need for such a tool, and they have even talked to an external vendor that provides such services. It’s an open question if we “need” such a tool. Again, we don’t want to build one of these just to have it.