OCU Explores Partnership with Ohio State University

OSU President, Dr. Gordon Gee with OCU President, Dr. Mark Smith

Ohio Christian University is exploring a partnership with The Ohio State University to provide agriculture-based educational opportunities and programs to the surrounding communities. According to Dr. Mark Smith, president of OCU, Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences is exploring an articulation agreement so that students who study for one or two years at OCU would be able to transition to a degree program at Ohio State.

In addition, Ohio State University Extension programs could be offered with OCU to help entrepreneurs strengthen existing businesses and help attract and establish new ones.     "Ohio Christian University is building a broad coalition in the higher education, agribusiness, and legislative sectors to bring a forward-looking and international approach to improving the world," Smith said.

Community support for the new partnership was stimulated by discussions led by the Pickaway Competitiveness Network's agriculture committee.

"Now and forever more, it is incumbent upon all colleges and universities, public and private, to reach out aggressively in partnerships that benefit Ohioans," said E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University. "We must find new ways to share the expertise of our faculty and students to create new economic opportunities, educate more people and meet pressing community needs."

Pickaway County has the lowest baccalaureate completion rate and the highest unemployment rate in the Columbus metropolitan area, and more than 75 percent of the county's land area is used for agriculture.

OCU now offers an associates degree in Agriculture Business and is exploring other offerings, as well as ways to work with the OSU Extension Office and the College of Ag Sciences to assist the agriculture community with international and local Ag business issues.

The local university also is proposing the construction of a center adjacent to OCU's Circleville campus, and discussions are currently underway on how to fund the center.

"This project has great potential to jumpstart the agribusiness community in new ways to create jobs and opportunities for applied research," Smith said.

The proposed agribusiness center would offer internship opportunities for students and create new entry points into higher education, as well as offering non-degree certificate and degree programs in agribusiness.

"Our ultimate goal is to have an agriculture economic incubator that would provide the economic tools necessary to create jobs in the community," Smith said. "It would be a job creator for our local economy in a global market, and our focus is to start looking at that and seeing what we could create to support the agriculture community."

The economic incubator could allow OCU to offer things like accounting services for start-up agriculture businesses, as well as research, marketing and business plan services, among others. In addition to helping the local economy, the partnership and various initiatives have the potential of a worldwide impact, Smith said.

"This is part of the mission of Ohio Christian University, to prepare intercultural studies majors or missionaries to lead the world," Smith said. "What better way to lead the world than to assist in training them in the best practices of agriculture?"

Published in the Circleville Herald Thursday, November 18, 2010