n January 3, 2011, Leslie N. Pollard, class of 1978, assumed the role of president of Oakwood University. The formal inauguration ceremony was held on October 16, 2011. Pollard shared Vision 2020 as the platform for progress that would guide the institution across the next 10 years. During the ceremony Huntsville, Alabama, mayor Tommy Battle congratulated Pollard, stating, “Write bold pages of history that talk about achievement, inclusiveness, and progress.”
Here are some bold steps that Oakwood is taking to advance its mission.
Oakwood’s Strategic Plan Overview
The strategic plan for 2012-2017 reflects Oakwood’s vision of transformational education. The plan includes the input of a wide variety of participants, beginning with the historic three-day strategic actioning session (SAS) of September 19-21, 2012. Participants revisioned the future of Oakwood according to seven organizational priorities: university mission and culture; educational effectiveness; learning-supportive environments; research and employee development; advancement and development of the university; fiscal growth, responsible management, and long-term stability; operational and technological leadership.
Research Focuses on Students’ Spirituality
At the beginning of his administration President Pollard outlined the case for immediately engaging in an unprecedented research study of Oakwood students’ spiritual commitments and beliefs. The LifeCore family of surveys was developed to assess the spiritual needs of the university’s student body. Eight hundred fifty-two students completed the survey in its first launch.
LifeCore 2011 data indicated that Oakwood students reported deeper levels of commitment than that of their peers and other born-again Christians (per Barna) in every category of commitment. Home atmosphere was correlated with a positive faith. LifeCore 2013 assessed the student body in relation to spiritual development.
This survey allowed 1,100 students to share information regarding their prayer and Bible study habits, as well as the significance of demographics, parental influence, peer influence, and personal experiences as these related to the shaping and development of their faith. LifeCore 2014 focused on writing and publishing a paper of the 2011 and 2013 survey results.
In July 2012 the Oakwood Aeolians won gold medals at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio. They won the championship trophy in the “Spiritual” category, as well as gold medals in two other categories: “Music of Religions” and “Musica Contemporanea.” The World Choir Games, sponsored by the Interkultur Foundation in Germany, is the world’s largest choral competition. More than 15,000 choristers in 362 choirs from 64 countries competed.
According to the strategic plan, Oakwood will secure the “fiscal health of the university by the creation of nontuition revenue by managing internal financial resources in harmony with the strategic mission of the institution, and by decreasing dependence on governmental sources of income through the recovery of industries appropriate for the twenty-first century.” This priority challenged the financial reality of Oakwood’s budget, a budget dependent on 60 percent tuition and fees. Because of this, Oakwood purchased two nationally franchised Edible Arrangements stores in Huntsville. These revenue streams are being used to grow and support the educational mission of Oakwood. This includes scholarships for students’ matriculation, innovative academic program development, and opportunities for student employment.
Commendations From Accreditation Bodies
In December 2013 Oakwood received a commendation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in regard to the revision of its general education section. SACSCOC is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. According to SACSCOC, Oakwood’s revision is a model response for universities. Against 99 federal accreditation standards, Oakwood’s success translates into a 98.9 percent pass rate.
Oakwood also received notice that it was fully reaccredited through 2018 by the Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools, Colleges, and Universities. The committee’s report provided a number of commendations: (1) the administration and faculty’s thoughtfulness and deliberate approach in providing a quality curriculum that seeks to develop for service and heaven; (2) the quality enhancement plan’s incorporation of a sound, critical-thinking curriculum into the freshman courses that will enable students to build their competencies in their entry-level courses and prepare them for greater critical-thinking responsibilities as they advance to higher-level courses; and (3) the faculty and staff’s commitment to service learning as one of the core elements of its curriculum.
$10 Million Renovation and Construction Projects
The Building on the Past: Claiming the Future campaign, included renovations to Carter Hall (women’s residence hall) and Ford Hall, and the construction of the Peters Media Center. Ford Hall now houses the Communication Department. In 2014 an 11,000-square-foot media center was built with the support of a US$1.2 million gift from Leroy and Lois Peters. The Peters Media Center enriches the academic lives of students by providing an interdisciplinary environment where art and technology merge. It also houses the Oakwood University Broadcasting Network.
First North American Division Institution of Higher Education
In a historic vote of 129 to 1, Oakwood was recommended to become the first North American Division (NAD) of Seventh-day Adventists-sponsored institution of higher learning. This vote was taken on October 15, 2014, at a “called session” of the Oakwood University constituency, held during Annual Council at Adventist world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. It was confirmed by the North American Division’s year-end executive committee meeting, which took place November 3, 2014.
Because of this: Oakwood finds greater mission congruence and financial support within the North American Division, the division most directly impacted by its 118 years of operation; Oakwood is granted greater legal, constitutional, and voting influence to the core NAD constituencies it directly serves; the historic purpose for Oakwood’s founding is now reconciled with the focus, scope, and results of its current work.
On July 22, 2014, Oakwood administrators presented to Florida Hospital executives of Adventist Health System a research proposal titled Healthy Campus 2020 that outlined how a partnership could positively impact the health status and practices of university students. The goal is to make Oakwood the healthiest university in America. Healthy Campus 2020 calls for a longitudinal collaboration through the use of CREATION Health as a biblically based intervention and educational tool. The CREATION Health program is being customized to meet the Oakwood environment, since at the time of the proposal Adventist Health System did not have a campus-focused model. This partnership is designed to enable Oakwood to address the endemic health issues of its region by transforming students into local health missionaries. It will assist AHS–Florida Hospital by providing evidence-based data on the effectiveness of its CREATION Health strategy.
Future Health and Wellness Center
On January 15, 2015, Oakwood received notification of a US$2 million gift for the construction of the Oakwood University Health and Wellness Center. The gift is an expression of Adventist Health System’s commitment to advance higher education in North America and to invest in its workforce needs for the future.
Visit our Web site at www.oakwood.edu for more information.