By Ron Cole
Director, YSU Communications
YOUNGSTOWN – In last year’s Business Journal Growth Report, Youngstown State University said it was looking forward to a year filled with purpose, promise and great possibilities.
Within days, the coronavirus hit, impacting everyone and everything – students, employees, facilities, finances and the very nature of how the university delivers education and does business.
To minimize people gathering on campus, most classes transitioned to off-campus, online delivery. To keep safe those who did come to campus, robust health protocols were implemented.
Campus events were canceled, including popular lectures, concerts, theater productions and football games, and beloved annual events like the YSU English Festival and even commencement were canceled or held virtually.
There were budget cuts, reduced salaries and layoffs. It’s hard to think of anything at YSU that has not felt the impact of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, and all-in-all, the university moved forward in 2020 – with purpose, promise and, yes, even great possibilities.
The “We See Tomorrow” capital campaign inched closer to its $125 million goal, the largest single fundraising effort in university history.
YSU named 13 new endowed faculty positions during the year, including positions in early American history, gerontology and American social history.
The university teamed with IBM to launch the YSU IT Workforce Accelerator, one of many new workforce initiatives that also includes the Excellence Training Center under construction along Fifth Avenue downtown. Speaking of which, work is also underway on a major overhaul of Fifth Avenue through campus, including new street lighting, sidewalks, crosswalks, landscaping, bike paths and, eventually, even a driverless shuttle.
The university’s two biggest assets – students and faculty – continued to earn accolades in 2020.
A team of five YSU students won the national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in Atlanta, besting squads from Stanford, Yale and the U.S. Military Academy. Student Emily Henline was named a Fulbright Scholar, one of the most widely recognized scholarships in the world.
Teaming with associate professor of chemistry Doug Genna, student Mariah DeFuria became the first student in YSU history to be listed as a co-inventor on a U.S. patent.
And Cory Brozina, assistant professor and director of first-year engineering, received a $1 million research award from the National Science Foundation, the largest the university has ever received from the NSF.
The list of accomplishments, despite the disruption of a historic public health crisis, goes on and on.
For YSU, 2020 showed the capability of students, faculty, staff and the entire university community to accept, innovate, adapt and sacrifice for the good of the institution in the wake of truly unfathomable circumstances.
So, what about 2021? If anything, this past year has taught that predicting the future is a fool’s errand. The only thing that’s certain may be the uncertainty of everything.
Nonetheless, as treatments improve, vaccines are distributed and the world adjusts to a post COVID-19 environment, YSU will continue to discover, discern and dream – cultivating talented, forward-looking graduates in a setting that values hard work and ingenuity and is focused squarely on the advancement of our community, nation and the world at large.