At the beginning of each fall semester, I present a State of the College address to our faculty, staff and other stakeholders. I’m incredibly proud of what our faculty, staff and students have achieved this past year and I’d like to share some highlights with you.
To improve the educational experience of our students, we have been working diligently to increase the number of undergraduate sections we offer, with the goal of reducing class size and improving the student-faculty ratio. Just two years ago, we had 32 undergraduate sections. Through new hires and other adjustments, we have more than tripled the number of undergraduate sections offered.
We have also been focused on making greater use of blended learning applications in our courses. Now more than 400 courses offered in the college use this approach of combining face-to-face with online instruction to provide more opportunities for hands-on learning.
Our efforts to provide high quality education haven’t gone unnoticed by our peers. In the latest U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings, which are calculated using reputational surveys, the occupational therapy program moved into the top 5 in the country among programs at public universities. Indeed, all of our graduate programs rank within the top 25 among public universities.
The past year has also brought us great success with our research enterprise. Faculty members were awarded more than $36 million in grants, placing our college ninth in National Institutes of Health funding for schools of public health at public universities. Research produced by our investigators is widely disseminated through highly regarded journals, such as The Lancet, the Journal of the American Heart Association, Nature Reviews, JAMA Oncology and Science Translational Medicine.
Our faculty, staff and students regularly provide service to our campus, local community, state, nation and world; this year I’d like to highlight the incredible response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, a team of more than 30 faculty, staff and students from the department of environmental and global health, including Drs. John Lednicky, Tara Sabo-Attwood, Anthony Maurelli and Joseph Bisesi, led the creation of a high-capacity COVID-19 testing lab. The lab has operated as much as 12 hours a day, six and seven days a week. This team worked tirelessly and put aside their other work to make this happen for our community.
A number of our faculty, including Drs. Natalie Dean, Ira Longini, John Lednicky and Cindy Prins, have been very effective in disseminating accurate information about COVID-19 to the public through interviews with outlets such as the Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times. Dr. Sonja Rasmussen has also provided important COVID information on the national scene through several articles and editorials in high-profile journals, such as JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine.
And at an international level, Drs. Longini and Dean have been instrumental in preparing for the development, implementation and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine trials through their work with the World Health Organization.
As we look ahead to the new academic year, we have several goals on our agenda. First and foremost, we are taking significant actions to begin to redress some longstanding injustices through the launch of a comprehensive college-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. Core elements include implementing both training and educational programs for our faculty, staff and students; incorporating diversity and inclusion into all of our course offerings; and creating a pool of resources in order to enhance faculty recruitment.
Despite some extraordinary challenges, we’ve had a year filled with important accomplishments. Throughout, our faculty, staff and students have demonstrated an unfailing commitment to high quality education and research and to serving our community and world in the face of a major public health emergency. We will continue to update you on the achievements of our talented faculty and students.