The future of Youngstown State University hinges on planning and co-operation among members of the campus community as well as businesses in the Valley and beyond. The ideas were included in the message from YSU President Jim Tressel as he delivered his State of the University address Wednesday.

Speaking from the Chestnut Room of Kilcawley Center, Tressel talked about some of the university's accomplishments to date.

Tressel touted fundraising by the YSU Foundation's “We See Tomorrow Campaign,” saying in spite of a consultant's prediction that raising $75 to $80 million over seven years was a reasonable goal, the foundation has brought in more than $94 million over the past four-and-a-half years.

Forty-million dollars of that amount has been used to expand scholarships. Partly as a result of those scholarships, according to Tressel, average student debt at YSU is about $18,000 compared to a national average of $30,000.

During that same four-and-a-half-year period, the university has increased the number of chair professorships from three to 12, which Tressel says has raised the academic branding and image of YSU.

President Tressel only briefly mentioned traffic congestion around the Fifth Avenue construction, when he said that over the past five years there had been $120 million spent in construction on campus.

Tressel addressed how enrollment has been impacted by the closure of the GM Assembly Plant and associated industries, acknowledging that some students were lost in midterm when families moved away from the Valley.

Tressel went on to emphasize the importance of retaining students, saying that five years ago, the student retention rate was about 68%. That rate increased to 76% but declined to 74.8% over the past year. President Tressel hopes that rate will return to 75 to 76% this year.

The university provost and the office of academic affairs are working on student retention. “The first year is so critical,” said Tressel. “The first-year experience has such an impact on student retention.”

The address echoed the YSU Board of Trustees “Take Charge of Our Future” resolution focusing on several goals including enrolling new groups of students at the university and focusing on student success by making sure graduates have a strong sense of self to impact society positively.

Building partnerships with community stakeholders is another critical goal Tressel stated in his address. The need to train the workforce and provide certificate programs for students is another challenge facing the university, according to Tressel.

During the address, President Tressel rattled off a list of possible collaborations between the university, businesses, and government entities including the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Oakridge National Laboratories, the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Mercy Health, Akron Children's Hospital, and Siemens.

Tressel also used an example last week's meeting on campus with YSU representatives and the owner of the Lordstown Motor Company, which is negotiating to manufacture electric pickup trucks at the now-idled GM plant in Lordstown.

The address concluded with Tressel reflecting on the more than 300 football games he coached at YSU and Ohio State University, saying that he and his players probably learned more from the difficult games than the easy victories.

Tressel's message was that in spite of losses like General Motors or the closing of Northside Hospital, everyone at the university needs to take charge of the future.

President Tressel left the audience with what he said was a “poem” that he and his players would recite before a game:

I am only one, but I am one.

I can't do everything, but I can do something.

The something I ought to do, I can do.

And by the grace of God, I will