On October 7, 2022, President Laura Bloomberg was formally invested as the eighth president of Cleveland State University.
During the inauguration, President Bloomberg spoke on the ceremony's theme — "Living Well Together, On Our Campus, In Our City" — and shined a spotlight on the CSU community's talents, research and achievements which are benefitting the University's students, Northeast Ohio and beyond.
As a part of her Investiture Address, President Bloomberg announced the new Levin College of Public Affairs and Education, introduced the re-named department of University Recreation and Wellbeing and highlighted the impact of the Shine Well initiative.
President Bloomberg's Investiture Address
(presented as prepared)
Good morning, and thank you for being here. It has been an incomparable honor to sit on this stage and listen to the remarks made by members of our community, my friends, my mentors and colleagues.
It has also been my delight to listen to the amazing performances of our students. Those of you joining us for the parade and attending the campus lunch after this morning’s ceremony will hear even more of our student musicians. To all of you, a heartfelt thank you for sharing your talents with us today.
I’m also thankful that we are joined today by members of the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees, members of our leadership team, and representatives from our peer colleges and universities. You can find their names listed in today’s program.
Your collective presence here today makes me think of the intricate web each of us weaves in our lives — a tapestry that includes our family and friends, mentors and mentees, colleagues past and present. It calls to mind an expression the philosopher Josiah Royce coined and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made famous: the beloved community. You — old friends and new — are my beloved community, and I feel so fortunate for that.
I’m delighted that our two adult children can be here today, even as I regret that you all don’t get to meet our four grandchildren who are, of course, the most remarkable humans ever created.
Lisa and Andy, I will say to you what I always say to those awesome children of yours: I love you to the moon and back. Always have; always will.
And to my spouse, my life partner, Jon: Even though I believe I have the best job in the world, hands down the best part of every single day is the part I get to spend with you. Always has been; always will be.
When Jon and I were considering a move to Cleveland in the summer of 2021, we decided to first pay an unannounced visit during Memorial Day weekend.
We walked anonymously from the Crowne Plaza down Euclid and through this campus. Along our way, we poked around Playhouse Square and were wowed as we learned about the remarkable historical and contemporary assets of the Cleveland arts scene.
We stopped by The Galleries at CSU, where the Annual Student Art Show and Merit Scholar Exhibition was on display. We saw first-hand how CSU is fully integrated into this gem of an arts district.
I also read the early spring 2021 press release announcing CSU’s lead role in the Cleveland Innovation District, a 565-million-dollar collaboration with Case Western Reserve University, The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, and MetroHealth to bring more healthcare and more IT businesses to the area. CSU had committed to dramatically increasing the number of well-prepared graduates in these STEM fields to support these industries.
That morning, I also saw a copy of a report from the Brookings Institution titled “Ladders, labs, or laggards? Which public universities contribute most.” In this report, researchers recognized universities that were ladders for social mobility and laboratories for research that contributed to the broader community.
In that report, CSU ranked eighteenth among the nation’s public universities and was the only Ohio public university to be included in the “Best of the Best” category.
I came to realize CSU is excellent in large part because we are inclusive of students who aspire, aim high, and work doggedly to achieve their academic, professional, and personal dreams. Often, our students are the first person in their family to attain a baccalaureate or graduate degree. These students persevere despite the obstacles they face. They look beyond their current circumstances toward their aspirations.
I saw that this is a university rooted in — and guided by — inclusive excellence.
It was then that I knew I wanted to be here, on this campus. Jon and I wanted to be here, in this city. We knew it was a place we could happily call home.
To my fellow Vikings — students and alumni, faculty and staff colleagues — I am honored and I am proud to serve as your president.
You inspire me.
You engage in research and creative activity that makes the world a better place.
You drive outreach and engagement programs that confirm for the people of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio that their education matters to all of us, that CSU matters to all of us.
The enormous potential of this great institution drives me every day to reach higher and further toward achieving our vision as a thriving university, as a community where we can all live well.
First, we will continue to strengthen our role as an anchor institution for the City of Cleveland, Northeast Ohio, and the state.
With our 85 acres and 40 buildings, we have the largest geographic footprint in Downtown Cleveland. And we share this space with our valued community partners in many creative ways. Our campus is home to the Campus International School’s upper school and we are just across the street from the K-8 lower school. With this arrangement and many others, we enjoy a nationally recognized partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to educate students as active citizens in a global society; and on our end, to prepare the next generation of urban public school educators.
We recently hosted the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP for their summer roundtable event, and we partner regularly with the City Club of Cleveland in achieving their mission as one of the nation’s oldest Free Speech forums.
And this year, after a hiatus of several years, we are proud to welcome back to campus the Women of Color Foundation for their Leadership Development Institute and Awards Celebration. This summit aligns well with the forthcoming launch of our Cleveland State University Beth Mooney Center for Transformative Leadership, which will provide civic and professional leadership training for Northeast Ohio.
Later this year, we will partner with the Values-in-Action Foundation to host a Kindness Summit, lending our space to this organization that has been sharing the skills needed to develop caring, respectful communities for nearly 30 years in Northeast Ohio.
Yet, size and shared space alone does not make us an anchor.
More than 1,500 employees anchor our campus to our community as we strive to achieve our mission. They make our university run well every day — by teaching, preparing and serving meals, offering student services and mental health support, maintaining our grounds and physical plant, and so much more. Based on input from employees themselves, Forbes Magazine recently rated CSU as the second-best employer in the state and first among Ohio education institutions. I want us to work every day to live up to that ranking, to ensure that every individual who works here feels valued and that they can thrive here. This includes cultivating a climate where it is everyone’s everyday business to bring our very best selves to our work and to support each other as we drive excellence and achieve our goals.
Here’s what being an anchor for the region looks like beyond our campus.
Ohio’s post-secondary employment data shows that 91 percent of CSU graduates stay and work in the state one year after graduation. 5 years after graduation, that number is nearly 85 percent. And 10 years after graduation, 78 percent. CSU is producing a greater percentage of graduates who stay and contribute to the Ohio workforce than any other Ohio public university.
CSU is an economic, urban development, and civic engagement engine for our region.
With the long-term support of the Levin family, CSU has for years had one of the best programs in urban affairs in the nation. Graduates from our urban affairs programs have become the next generation of Ohio’s urban planners, policymakers, and community leaders. With the creation this fall of a new College that aligns research and degree programs in education, communication, counseling, adult learning, sociology, criminology, and urban affairs, we are creating a powerhouse of innovation that has the potential to positively impact neighborhoods and communities all across the country.
Today, I am absolutely delighted to share with you the exciting news that, thanks to an additional transformational gift — an investment in our future — that powerhouse of innovation will be named the Levin College of Public Affairs and Education.
The Levin Family is with us today, and I hope you will all join me in showing our gratitude for their generosity and their vision for what is possible.
From across all of our nine colleges, our alumni become leaders, trailblazers, and scholars.
In fact, 3 of the 7 Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court earned their degrees at Cleveland State including Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justice Melody Stewart, who was the first African-American woman on the Ohio Supreme Court. Our alumni are regularly elected to the Ohio state legislature; they are teachers, administrators, and operations leaders in school districts all across this region; they are serving key roles within Mayor Bibb’s Cabinet; and they are entrepreneurs who, like Mr. Monte Ahuja and Weston Founder Mr. Tony Asher, have shaped an economic landscape that creates opportunities for thousands.
And our alumni are honored throughout their careers for their achievements —
Alumni like Emily Marty, who was named Ohio’s History Teacher of the Year in 2021;
Phillip Emerson, who was named by the National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter as a 2021 Emerging Leader in the Cleveland area;
And Larisse (luh-riss) Mondok, named by Crain’s Cleveland Business as one of their 20 in their Twenties this year, for her work in fundraising for the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
Many of these distinguished alums are with us today. Congratulations on your accomplishments — and thank you for all you do for Cleveland and the state of Ohio.
CSU also has the potential to be a shining beacon; an institution whose vitality attracts diverse and talented students and scholars both nationally and internationally. We attract faculty driven by innovation and the creation of new ideas — and when we do that, we also attract research funding to explore and create new knowledge that enables people to live well — as healthy individuals, in healthy communities that sustain our economic wellbeing, and in concert with the natural environment that nurtures all of us.
Since its launch in 2008, our Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease — under the direction of Dr. Anton Komar — has conducted pioneering, cross-disciplinary research to better understand our biological processes and how diseases can manifest when these processes fail. The Center has raised more than 47 million dollars in research funding since it was established, and with that funding, the Center’s faculty have made significant breakthroughs — too many to mention here.
Just this year, the Center’s research into COVID-19 and their discovery of a novel regulatory element, was published in the Journal of Virology, for the significant impact this research could have on novel antiviral drugs and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
A team of faculty from Mechanical Engineering, Health Sciences, Urban Studies, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science — led by Dr. Eric Schearer — received a 2-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for their work on Human-Machine Systems for Physical Rehabilitation.
This team’s approach is not just focused on the assistive technology itself, but also on the experience for the user. By collaborating with users of this technology during the design phase, the team hopes to reduce the high rates at which people with disabilities abandon the assistive technology devices intended to help them live fuller lives. This team doesn’t just begin with the end-user in mind. They begin with the end-user in the lab as a full research partner.
When Chancellor Gardner visited campus this summer and we stopped by these labs, I didn’t think we’d be able to get him out of there!
That same approach has made a difference to Ray Petro, owner of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park right here in Cleveland. Ray suffered a spinal cord injury as the result of a biking accident. As a project taken on by our Spinal Cord Injury Volunteer Corps., a team of engineering students and alumni have been able to adapt and install a power steering unit onto an adaptive bike for Ray. We’re proud to report that Ray seems pretty pleased with the new bike.
These teams of faculty and students are working daily to ensure that people in need have the personalized supports that will enable them to live full lives — to live well.
Like this beautiful city of which we are an integral part, this campus is diverse across multiple dimensions: gender and race, state or country of origin, talents and abilities, economic status, fields of study, ways of knowing, political and religious points of view.
We have an enriched learning community that embraces all that is different about us. I know that when we are diverse as a community, we have the capacity to shine our brightest. It is in our diversity that we learn how to learn and create new knowledge together; we learn how to live well together — on our campus and in our city.
Our faculty are more than 550 strong, hailing from all corners of the country and many countries across the globe. 30% of our faculty are from demographic backgrounds underrepresented in their academic fields.
In our classrooms, labs, studios, and athletic fields, we know that as a diverse community of scholars and educators, we have the capacity every day to broaden students’ awareness, challenge assumptions, ignite learning, and make a positive impact on their lives.
In 2004, Ken Bain, the founder of the Center for Teaching Excellence at NYU, published a book titled What the Best College Teachers Do, and since that time, I have kept one particular excerpt from that book close at hand in my own quest to create and nurture enriching learning environments as a scholar.
Here’s what he writes:
[The best teachers] expect more from their students. Yet the nature of that “more” is distinguished from expectations that may be “high” but meaningless; from goals that are simply tied to the course rather than to the kind of thinking and acting expected of critical thinkers. The best teachers usually have a strong faith in the ability of students to learn and in the power of a healthy challenge, but they also have an appreciation that excessive anxiety and tension can hinder thinking. Thus, while they help students to feel relaxed and to believe in their capacity to learn, they also foster a kind of disquietude, the feeling that stems from intellectual enthusiasm, curiosity, challenge, and suspense, and from the wonderful promises they make about what students can achieve.
I want our students to experience this enriching blend of support and healthy disquietude in every learning experience they have here — and I am so proud of our faculty members who create this kind of optimal learning environment for their students every day. Thank you.
The student-athletes from our 19 D1 programs offer us great examples of what it looks like when we are achieving this goal. Last year, our Vikings had their 30th and 31st straight semesters with a department GPA of at least 3.30. An impressive achievement for these Vikings who, in the same year, went on to compete fiercely to earn season titles and play in conference championships.
They know first-hand what it means to expect more from themselves.
It is no surprise that we have many inspiring stories of the role models and mentors, the students, and alumni who are thriving in this learning community and who are doing amazing things. These individuals have answered the Viking Trumpet Call —
And so, for the next several weeks, I will be sharing these stories via social media to shine a bright light on those who are learning and living well — and helping others do the same.
I am all about the relentless pursuit of learning and new knowledge — living well because we are learning how to live well; embedded in this beautiful city of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie, with countless opportunities to create and grow together…
As we envision how our physical campus will continue to grow in the years to come, we have established design strategies which pay particular attention to our location as both a university hub and a downtown feature. Our ideas for developing a thriving and forward-looking urban research university include enhancing our physical assets and establishing new neighborhoods for our students. At the same time, we are also working with county and city planners to integrate our campus further into the surrounding city and strengthening and expanding our partnerships with businesses and other community organizations.
This whole city is in many ways our campus. Our students are engaged in our film, theater, and art studios down the street in Playhouse Square, at our research and clinical sites at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, and in internships and coop placements at industries like Parker Hannifin, Cleveland-Cliffs, and Sherwin-Williams.
Just this summer, several of our students participated in the local pilot program for the national organization Elevate to Even Plus, which provides paid opportunities for underrepresented minority students to intern at non-profit organizations designed to uplift communities. One of our accounting majors, Sacha Bleck, was able to intern at Towards Employment, a workforce development non-profit, and ultimately land a permanent job there while she completes her degree.
Our students will live well and thrive at CSU when they have the support they need to navigate their lives beyond the classroom. It is our approach to wraparound support that has earned CSU the number one spot among all Ohio universities, public and private, for social mobility — supporting those students who are more often disadvantaged financially and less likely to complete their degrees.
We will continue to provide the support that our students need, whether that is with childcare, mental health counseling, financial advising, or emergency funding for the unforeseen financial crisis that can too easily derail the aspirations of students seeking a better future.
I am so grateful that with the remarkable generosity of this community — countless alumni and donors, like Scott Mueller, who created a doctoral studies fellowship to honor his friend and retired professor, Bill Bowen.
Through the generosity of foundations like the Cleveland Foundation, the David and Inez Myers Foundation, and the George Gund Foundation, we are providing students the extra resources they need to succeed.
And with partners like Parker Hannifin and KeyBank, we are helping students enroll, succeed in the classroom, and ultimately become leaders in the region.
To everyone who has supported CSU, thank you. With your help, we are able to secure sustainable funding for programs that make an incredible difference to our students, like our graduation coaching program, our student emergency fund, and our last-mile scholarships that enable students in their closing semesters to complete their degrees and graduate.
In addition to gifts, we are acquiring the tools — and sometimes, even the animals — we need to live well.
The newest additions to our police force, therapy dogs Rune and Thor, are here to set our students at ease and diffuse what can be difficult, stressful situations. Rune and Thor have quickly become big names on our campus!
And, a few years ago, our Rec Center launched the initiative Shine Well. This program supports our students, faculty, staff, and community members in navigating the multiple dimensions of wellbeing.
This emphasis on wellbeing and wellness is so important to our overall success that we have changed the name of Campus Recreation Services to University Recreation and Wellbeing.
Recently, this team spoke with a few Vikings who are quite familiar with the Shine Well program. Let’s take a look.
We will continue to support programs like Shine Well that have a powerful positive impact on our community. Just recently, Recreation and Wellbeing asked our campus to vote on potential new initiatives to join the Shine Well program. I am glad to report that we will soon be adding two new initiatives.
“The City is our Campus” will host group trips to Cleveland museums, sporting and entertainment venues, and more for free or at a significantly reduced cost.
And we will add a new “Wellness Studio” where anyone can take time to unwind and de-stress with massage chairs, zero-gravity recliners, and nap pods.
We will share more information on these initiatives in the coming weeks.
We will advance our essential work with an ignited passion for the wellbeing of the people and the communities we serve. When our relentless pursuit of learning and the creation of new knowledge is angled toward our collective wellbeing on our campus, in our beautiful city full of strong partners and allies, and surrounded by remarkable economic, civic and natural resources…
We draw ever closer to achieving emotional, physical, environmental, social, and spiritual wellbeing for all of us.
I am so proud to say: We are Cleveland State University.