YSU Board of Trustees Summary, Dec. 1 and 2, 2021

Youngstown State University

International enrollment, fundraising, workforce development, diversity, affordability and efficiency, COVID-19, marketing and continuous improvement were among a variety of topics discussed during two days of meetings this week by the YSU Board of Trustees. The board met in Kilcawley Center on Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 1 and 2. For the full resolutions, and other background materials, visit the Board of Trustees website. Here’s a summary:

President’s Report

President Jim Tressel said he is grateful for the passion and thoughtfulness of the Board of Trustees and their work over the past two days, including the hours of committee meetings on Wednesday. The board, he noted, addressed several issues and heard several reports on a variety of topics, including internal audit activities, a clean external audit report, COVID-19 safety protocols, international student recruitment, student mental health services, assessment, anti-hazing policies, curriculum optimization, fundraising support, workforce education and innovation, university marketing and an evaluation of Information Technology Services.


Pedro Cortes, associate professor of Civil, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, reported on several research projects under his direction, including the Assured Digital Microelectronics Education and Training Ecosystem, funded by the Air Force with a $7 million, three-year grant to develop 3D-printed electronics, and a $2.2 million grant from the Air Force to create a hybrid manufacturing hub consortium. “The future is bright; the future is research,” he said.

Bharat Yelamanchi, a doctoral student in Materials Science and Engineering who is working with Cortes, reviewed his research on battery, antenna, high velocity impact behavior of 3D-printed aluminum lattices and fiber metal laminates. Yelamanchi also earned a master’s degree from YSU.

Students from YSU Student Government - Nicholas Koupiaris, president; Gianna Battaglia, executive vice president; and Michael Cline, vice president  for assessment and enrichment – reported on SG’s ongoing efforts to improve food security on campus, including the Penguin Pantry in Kilcawley Center (with 110 users so far this Fall semester) and the new Swipe Out Hunger program, under which students can donate meal credits to other students. Since the program was started in November, 532 meal swipes have been donated.

Brian Campbell, head softball coach, and Ellie Buffenbarger, a pitcher on the team, talked about the successes of the program, including the 2021 regular season Horizon League championship.

Academic Excellence and Student Success committee

Approved a Resolution to Modify Student Media Policy, 3356-8-02

Approved a Resolution to Modify Privacy and Release of Student Education Records: The Family Education and Privacy Act (FERPA) Policy, 3356-8-04

Approved a Resolution to Modify Objectivity in Research - Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest and/or Commitment in Sponsored Research Policy, 3356-10-17

Approved a Resolution to Approve Anti-Hazing Policy, 3356-8-08. Joy Polkabla Byers, associate vice president for Student Experience, reported that 4,500 students, faculty and staff have already completed the new anti-hazing training. “It’s been well received,” she said.

Approved a resolution to Approve the 2021 Remediation Report

Hillary Fuhrman, associate provost for Institute for Teaching and Learning, reported on the 2018/2021 YSU National Survey of Student Engagement, a national survey of students at nearly 1,000 higher education institutions nationwide. Among first-year students who took the survey, YSU’s results were highest compared to peer institutions in the quality of interactions with academic advisors, administrative staff and offices, student services staff and faculty. On the other hand, YSU performed low compared to peer institutions in the emphasis on encouraging contact among students from different backgrounds and discussions with people with different religious beliefs, economic backgrounds and people of a different race or ethnicity. The survey also showed that first-year students at YSU report positive advising experiences compared to peers. Only 3 percent of YSU’s first-year students said they had not discussed academic interests, course selections or academic performance with an assigned advisor, compared to 10 percent at peer institutions. Considering the intersection of the survey with the pandemic, the results are encouraging and illustrates where the university can improve to better serve our students.

Carol Bennett, assistant provost for Diversity and Inclusion, provided an update on diversity strategies and initiatives on campus, including a new Human Resource Task Force to help create more diverse pools of candidates for open positions, the YSTAR summer academic institute, a new Student Advisory Board and improved relations with the Youngstown City Schools. 

Brien Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Jennifer Pintar, associate provost for Academic Administration, updated the committee on the APEEI continuous improvement process and other curricular efficiency initiatives, including several workshops. Focusing on alignment of the APEEI categories with the program evaluation system, optimizing release time for instructional enhancement and research distinction, and optimizing section sizes and fill-rates as well as improving space utilization. Pintar also reported on strategies to teach out academic programs that are being sunset, and the committee reviewed a letter indicating the Higher Learning Commission’s acceptance that adequate progress is being made by YSU in the area of program review and that no additional reporting is required. 

Chet Cooper, chair of the Academic Senate, reported on various activities of the Senate, including a failed no confidence vote in the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a failed vote on a resolution calling to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students and employees. He also reported that a resolution in opposition to the university’s recent actions regarding the sunsetting of academic programs and retrenchment of faculty recently passed the Senate. Cooper noted that there has been much stress on the campus community recently, including the reorganization of colleges, a faculty strike, budget issues and, of course,  the pandemic. “We need to all take a step back, take a breath, communicate better,” he said. Of the academic programs that are being sunset,  “data suggest they need to be sunset,” Cooper said, but the question becomes how and why did the programs get to the point that they should be sunset. “There are some outstanding individuals who are going to be leaving this institution” through the program eliminations and retrenchments, “and that’s where the pain and the emotion comes in.” Board Chair John Jakubek noted that Cooper had earlier stated that the program review process was one of the most open and participatory ever at YSU. “Those decisions were not taken lightly,” Jakubek added, “but some of these decisions have to be made.” Trustee Molly Seals said she believes the efficiency and effectiveness process now in place is itself an example of a shared governance process. Faculty’s participation in recruitment, enrollment and retention is also part of shared governance, she said. “We all play a role…We all can impact this,” she said. President Tressel said that the university allowed the number of academic courses and class sections to grow to less-than-optimal levels. “There’s enough improvement to go around,” he said. Trustee Roberts said he was  impressed with data gathering that happened as part of the program review process and how the data was evaluated objectively and without emotion. He noted that the review process is designed to be ongoing. “This is the first year, and it’s the most difficult,” he said. The board’s focus, he said, is the overall health of the university – financial, academic and otherwise. Trustee Michael Peterson said the collective focus of everyone on campus must be on students. “You can’t have a team on offense and defense, and their goals are different, and then expect to be successful,” he added.

Institutional Engagement Committee

Approved a Resolution to Modify University Publications Policy 3356-5-11

Approved a Resolution to Accept WYSU Memberships. The resolution included 307 memberships totaling $49,827 through the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022.

Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, reported that the Foundation has received 595 outright gifts and 10 pledges totaling $6.4 million, pledge payments totaling $512,357 and six new planned gift commitments totaling $1.6 million in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022. McFadden also said that the Foundation is providing $9.3 million this academic year, and $11.1 million next year, in student scholarships, which President Tressel said is a big reason why debt is decreasing for YSU students. Trustee Roberts noted that, while the university is taking steps to be more efficient and effective, it is also getting increased support from the Foundation. The donations, he said, reflect the community’s support and confidence in YSU. “Donors donate to entities that have strong leadership and are going in the right direction,” McFadden said.

Jennifer Oddo, executive director of Strategic Workforce Education and Innovation, highlighted several initiatives, including: a $180,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to pilot a 5G Readiness Training program; the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned YSU, Oakridge National Labs and Brite Energy Innovators to develop a regional and national roadmap of energy storage workforce needs and the creation of a model for a national training and innovation center; the Aerospace Defense Center, a collaboration of YSU, Youngstown Business Incubator, America Makes and the University of Texas El Paso, in which students support aerospace hypersonic defense projects. She said she is also collaborating with several academic programs to consider how certificates and other credentials might be packaged via course work for workforce development and career up-scaling.

Elaine Ruse, associate vice president of Student Enrollment and Business Services, Christine Hubert, director of Undergraduate Admissions, and Ross Morrone, chief marketing officer, updated the board of the university’s enhanced integrated marketing and enrollment strategy. The report illustrated that a newly implemented marketing strategy gained 25 million impressions over five-months; more applications from targeted northeastern Ohio counties and that school counselors in the Cleveland area indicated that YSU is being noticed. The report centered on building awareness, engaging prospective students, getting them to complete applications and get admitted, attend orientation and enroll. Hubert said YSU reaches out to prospective students when they are high school sophomores, opens up applications earlier than other area universities, makes it easy for students to upload application materials, engages students with financial aid information, Experience Y Day programs and connects with school counselors on a regular basis.

Finance and Facilities Committee

Approved a Resolution to Modify Student Employee Hourly Wage Rates. The adjustments were made in part due to the increased Ohio minimum wage on Jan. 1 to $9.30 per hour. The resolution establishes three new hourly tiers intended to help address the shortage of student workers in certain departments on campus. Neal McNally, vice president for Finance and Business Operations, rrecommended the adjustments, noting a correlation between on-campus employment and student success. 

Approved a Resolution to Approve the 2021 Affordability and Efficiency Report. The report, required by the state of Ohio, identifies examples of and opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies across campus. Among the highlights of the 25-page report: creation of the new YSU Division of Workforce Education and Innovation, based in the new YSU Excellence Training Center; savings to students of more than $750,000 through YSU’s textbook affordability initiatives; and savings of more than $3 million by using shared, joint contracts through the Inter-University Council.

Approved a Resolution to Approve Interfund Transfers, moving $600,000 from the Housing Services Plant Reserve fund into the Lyden House Bathroom Renovation fund.

McNally provided an update on the first quarter operating budget, indicating that the budget is on target in all categories. While the report is positive, McNally emphasized that the budget relies on one-time federal COVID-19 relief funding.

John Hyden, associate vice president of Facilities, and Rich White, director of Planning and Construction, updated the committee on various construction projects on campus. White noted that renovations to the greenhouse in Ward Beecher Hall will be finished in January. He also said several other projects are in development for 2022, including renovations to building envelopes, Moser Hall, elevators and Fok Hall. 

Hyden also updated committee members on several initiatives in place to mitigate COVID-19, including upgraded air filtration throughout campus, UV lighting within air handling systems to kill virus and needlepoint ionization in dorm rooms. He said the university also continues to test air samples regularly throughout campus. Of the more than 300 samples taken to date, none have indicated any level of COVID-19. He also reported on the ongoing wastewater testing program in university residence halls. Protocols are in place so that if elevated levels are detected, residents are notified and potentially tested. Hyden said, in fact, that recent samples out of Kilcawley House residence hall showed elevated readings; therefore, all residents are being tested. He said the elevated levels do not necessarily indicate an outbreak, and he noted there are no known cases of COVID-19 among residents. “We have no reason to be alarmed, but this is one of the precautions we have in place, and it’s working as we anticipated,” he added.

White and Hyden reported on deferred maintenance projects across campus that, based on a 2019 study, adds up to about $200 million. White said the state of Ohio allocates to YSU about $10.5 million every two years in state capital dollars to address deferred maintenance. Hyden added that deferred maintenance is a problem at public universities throughout the state. “We’re keeping our head above water and, compared to other institutions, I think we’re doing relatively OK,” he said.

Hyden also reported on the ongoing study regarding a possible new student center at YSU, including campus forums and trips to other campus student centers.

University Affairs COMMITTEE

Approved a Resolution to Ratify Personnel Actions for Intercollegiate Athletics, including 14 appointments, six separations, two reclassifications/position adjustments, two salary adjustments and one transfer.

Approved a resolution to Modify Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy, 3356-7-02

Approved a Resolution to Modify and Retitle Maternity/Parental Leave - Paid Leave, Excluded Professional/Administrative Staff Policy, 3356-7-14

Approved a Resolution to Modify and Retitle Bereavement Leave, Excluded Professional/Administrative Staff and Department Chairpersons Policy, 3356-7-15

Approved a Resolution to Modify and Retitle Distinguished Service Awards, Full-time Excluded Professional/Administrative Staff and Full-time Classified Excluded Staff Policy, 3356-7-27

Approved a Resolution to Modify and Retitle Fringe Benefits, Full-time Professional/Administrative Employees (Excluded) Policy, 3356-7-30

Approved a Resolution to Modify and Retitle Fringe Benefits, Excluded Professional/Administrative Employees Fee Remission Program Policy, 3356-7-31

Approved a resolution to Ratify Personnel Appointments, including 53 appointments (13 new positions and 40 replacement positions), 36 separations, nine reclassifications/position adjustments, 21 promotions, 39 salary adjustments and one transfer.

Jim Yukech, associate vice president and chief technology officer, presented a Support Area Assessment on Information Technology Services. Among the items presented were the results of recent ITS satisfaction surveys that showed nearly 93 percent of respondents – students, faculty and staff – ranked ITS’ overall quality of service as either very satisfied, satisfied or neutral. Sixty percent of faculty and 50 percent of staff responded “very satisfied.” Yukech’s report also indicates that ITS compensation costs (per staff FTE) have decreased by 2 percent since fiscal year 2019, and that salaries among YSU’s ITS leadership team trail comparable peer institutions by 20 percent. Support Area Assessment is a process the Board of Trustees has adopted to assess support area alignment with and support of the Strategic Plan and is similar to the program review process for academic areas.

Investment Subcommittee

Approved a Resolution to Rebalance the University’s Non-endowment Long-Term Investment Pool. The rebalancing includes trimming large cap U.S. equities and reallocating to fixed income funds, and trimming liquid alternative managers and reallocating to the Weatherlow Fund. 

Sarah Parker and John Colla from Clearstead reviewed the university’s quarterly asset allocation and investment performance, noting that YSU’s portfolio continues to outpace benchmarks on a year-to-year basis.

Audit Subcommittee 

Representatives from YSU’s external auditors, Plante Moran - Keith Martinez, managing partner, and Cindy Covelli, assurance manager – reported a clean audit with no material weaknesses and no significant deficiencies. The audit qualifies YSU as a “low-risk auditee.”  “Hats off,” Martinez said, adding: “Excellent results; you should feel good.”

McNally presented the university’s Audited Financial Report for Fiscal Years 2021 and 2020. McNally emphasized that some of the improvement reflected in the university’s financial position is probably an anomaly because of the infusion of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds this past fiscal year. So, while the university’s financial position is strong, it is somewhat inflated due to the one-time federal funds, he added.  

McNally also reported that YSU’s Senate Bill 6 composite score, a measurement used by the state of Ohio to gauge the financial health of public universities, hit 4.2 this past fiscal year. He reiterated, however, that YSU’s improved score is largely due to the extraordinary level of federal COVID relief funds awarded last year to the university. 

Kelli Miller, director of Internal Audit, presented several reports, including updates on the Audit Matrix, the Fiscal Year 2022 First Quarter Internal Audit Plan, the Anonymous Reporting Hotline and Enterprise Risk Management.

Governance Committee 

The committee endorsed the International Student Enrollment and Student Success Goals and Strategy. The 15-page plan addresses strategies for YSU to turn around declines in international enrollments that universities nationwide have experienced during the pandemic, said Nate Myers, associate provost for International Programs. He said YSU hopes to enroll 130 to 140 international freshmen every year from around the world. Having these students on campus as part of the general student population is “hugely beneficial” for all students, he said. “Those kinds of experiences are hugely formative” and will contribute to students’ multicultural experiences, he added.

Myers also reported that YSU was selected to receive the 2021 President’s “E” Award for its ongoing efforts to enroll international students, the only university in the nation to earn the recognition. The award is the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to strengthening the economy by sharing American ingenuity outside of the country.

The committee reviewed on first reading revisions to its bylaws that include: creating a stand-alone Investment Committee, rather than a subcommittee; adding “health and wellness of the campus” to the duties of the Finance and Facilities Committee; establishing an Intercollegiate Athletics Committee; and adding language indicating that the board may meet off campus or virtually under extenuating circumstances. 

Mike Sherman, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness and board professional, and Provost Smith, led a discussion about an initiative to redesign the student advising process on campus and in the colleges in the context of improving fall-to-fall and fall-to-spring persistence. Smith said student success is not a top down strategy. The best the administration can do, he said, is provide the technology platforms for success. He said faculty play a huge role working with students through the platforms. He also said YSU needs to develop an advising strategy that is cross disciplinary and campus-wide, not college-by-college, and that’s what the redesign does. Sherman said that some initial steps in this regard are occurring by redesigning advising in the colleges so there is a more direct connection to the Division of Student Success and the innovative efforts facilitated with the colleges via Associate Provost for Student Success Claire Berardini.

The committee heard a report from Sherman listing 19 state-mandated reports that universities and colleges in Ohio must file every year. “And this isn’t all of them,” Sherman said, noting that there are other reports mandated through the state budget, as well as those mandated by the federal government and accrediting agencies. Sherman said the university is working toward an integrated system for business analytics and intelligence that can automate reporting to the greatest extent possible and enable sophisticated modeling in inquiries to improve institutional effectiveness.


President Tressel recognized the following passings:

  • Jean Hassell, 33-year faculty member, professor/chair, Human Ecology.
  • Edward Smith, student, will receive bachelor’s in Business Administration degree posthumously in December.
  • Herb Lake Sr., YSU basketball 1985 Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Ray G. Carter Sr., YSU football running back, 1955 to 1958.
  • Wade Driscoll, 38-year faculty member, professor, Industrial Engineering.
  • Betty Greenway 20-year faculty member, English.
  • Joyce Polkabla, stepmother of Joy Polkabla-Byers.
  • LaDonna Zocolo, sister of Katrena Davidson.
  • Rev. Timothy O'Neill, pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Hubbard.
  • Robert Korandovich, father of Robert Korandovich Jr.
  • David Alter, alum and long-time donor.
  • Gary Wuslich, alum and long-time donor; 2016 donor to the Veteran's Resource Center. 
  • Theodora "Dora" Anyanwu, student, Biology.
  • Patty Gillis, 33-year staff member, Accounts Payable.
Board Chair’s Remarks

Board Chair John Jakubek said, under YSU’s strategic plan and at the direction of the Higher Learning Commission, YSU undertook a plan to study and optimize the university’s portfolio of academic programs and courses. He said that process took more than a year and was, as attested to by Chet Cooper, president of the Academic Senate, conducted under the tenets of shared governance. The process was followed by difficult decisions by the Board of Trustees regarding sunsetting programs and faculty reductions. The board, he said, supports the administration, adding that the university will “continue to turn over every stone” to help YSU be more effective and strategic. The board, he said, has always encouraged the administration to communicate with faculty, students and staff. But, he noted: “Communication is more than talking; communication is listening. We need to listen to one another.” The university’s goal, he said, is to attract students to attend YSU, make sure they’re successful, that they stay enrolled, persist, graduate and ensure they have fulfilling lives after leaving the university.

Upcoming Regular Meetings of the Board

The board set the following dates for future quarterly board meetings: Thursday, March 3, 2022; Thursday, June 23, 2022; Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.