Fast Track Innovation Fund Lets Community Shape ǿմý’s Growth

Posted Jul 31, 2023

ǿմý University is using an innovative approach to grow enrollment and revenue by “crowd sourcing” ideas from its own community and investing in the best ideas with $1 million approved by the Board of Trustees. Under the Fast Track Innovation Fund initiative, seven projects proposed by ǿմý faculty and staff in May have been funded and are already being implemented on campus.

“This investment in ǿմý’s future demonstrates our trustees’ commitment to allowing every member of our community to be heard and to have a role in shaping our University,” said President John Comerford. “Our Board has given us the opportunity and our community has provided solid proposals, so we are able to be nimble in an industry that is typically slow to implement changes.”

In April, a call went out to the ǿմý community for Fast Track Innovation Fund proposals of non-academic programs specifically focused on providing immediate return on investment — programs that supported recruitment or added programs/staff that would increase revenue or enrollment. The Fast Track initiative is a condensed version of the Innovation Fund that runs during the academic year, which ǿմý has supported since 2021.

The proposals were first reviewed by ǿմý’s Cabinet, then those that met the Fast Track criteria were sent to the Senate Planning Committee, which met in special sessions to review and rank them. Finally, Cabinet determined how much to invest in each proposal.

The proposals include:

  • Associate Marching Band Director to increase the size of the Marching Band through new student recruitment.
  • Part-Time Equine Team recruiter to grow the size of ǿմý’s National Champion equine team through new student recruitment.
  • STEM Community Liaison to work with Ohio STEM high schools to increase enrollment in under-enrolled STEM programs.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing recruiter to increase enrollment in ǿմý’s nursing program.
  • Women’s Wrestling program to provide the first collegiate program in central Ohio to recruit the growing number of high school female wrestlers regionally and nationally.
  • Recreational Sports/eSports Coach to grow the intramural and club sports programming and establish e-sports on campus to increase enrollment and expand student life opportunities.
  • Podcast studio for use by both on- and off-campus clients to allow non­-degree-seeking adult learners to enroll in multimedia workshops for certification.

By June, many of the Fast Track proposals were being implemented, and some are seeing early results.

, Rastetter has fielded a steady stream of inquiries. “The response to our announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, from coaches and administrators to prospective student-athletes and families. This community is excited for the opportunity to support and be part of developing ǿմý’s women’s wrestling program.”

“The buzz that is been generated with this new program launch is exciting to witness,” added Vice President for Student Affairs Bill Fox. “We have already welcomed high school wrestlers for campus visits to meet our coaching staff and tour our athletic facilities.” 

Fox is equally excited about the other Fast Track Innovation Fund proposal out of Student Affairs — a competitive collegiate eSports program set to start in 2024. 

“I am grateful to those colleagues and students who see the potential in trying something new and get excited about building something from the ground up,” Fox said. “There will be plenty of opportunities to support the success of these initiatives and more.” 

Many of the initiatives, if successful, will impact enrollment across academic programs. ǿմý’s student-athletes, esports competitors, marching band musicians, and equestrian team riders represent every department on campus. 

Others are aimed at increasing enrollment in specific areas of study, like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing recruiter and the STEM Community Liaison. 

“Although some STEM programs have high enrollments, others are under-enrolled despite robust recruiting efforts. We anticipate that the outside community and secondary schools will grow in their awareness that ǿմý has strong STEM programs that prepare students well for a variety of different careers. This will aid in growing recruitment across STEM, especially in programs such as Aquarium Studies, Chemistry, Engineering Physics, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Science, Mathematics, and Systems Engineering,” said Professor and Chair of Chemistry Joan Esson.

Although the Fast Track was not open to academic programs due to their required approval processes, the Innovation Fund that runs through the academic year is currently accepting proposals for all types of programs, including academic programs. Details are below: 

The Innovation Fund is seed money to help launch initiatives within current and new programs, curricular and co-curricular, which will attract and retain students and build revenue. Ideas will be vetted through a process working with cross-divisional working groups, vice presidents, and shared governance. If you have an innovative idea which provides budget savings or generates revenue, we encourage you to discuss the idea with your vice president and attend the information session. Information Sessions will be held in Roush Hall room 338 on: Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. and Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. Please  for one of the info sessions.

Innovation documents are updated on the  Concept proposals and budgets are due Sept. 25, 2023. If you have any questions, contact Becky Smith, RSmith@otterbein.edu or 614-823-1420.