By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University continues to thrive despite the challenges created by COVID-19, President John R. Broderick said in his 13th annual State of the University address, which was delivered virtually on Monday.

Initially, focusing on new initiatives, the ODU leader cited the University's critical role in the newly formed Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation. A work group, led by Nancy Grden and Mileta Tomovic, will "frame a strategy for ODU to become a maritime model for the world," President Broderick said. "We will build synergies from strongholds in such areas as resilience and supply chain management, and we will pursue opportunities to engage in pioneering research."

He pointed out ODU's role in launching the first two operating offshore wind turbines in the Southeast. When the project is completed in 2026, it is expected to be the largest wind farm in the country, supplying power to 650,000 homes.

In health care, he cited the state's establishment of the Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium, consisting of ODU, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Sentara Healthcare. The commonwealth has engaged a consulting firm to study the ideal structure for this collaboration.

President Broderick said these are prime examples of how ODU values collaboration.

"Maritime and health care are literally miles apart, but these developments both rely on the value of partnerships," he said. "We don't believe in going it alone."

Looking ahead, President Broderick said two new buildings will open next semester: The Hugo Owens House, which with 470 beds will be the University's second-largest residence hall, and the Chemistry Building, a state-of-the art facility that will include 37 labs. Additionally, a new Health Sciences facility is on track to open in 2022 and the University has planning permission for a biology building.

President Broderick said this means that total funding for STEM-H facilities planned or under construction has reached nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.

"This is great news for the region's future job generation and job retention efforts in both STEM-H and new business startups," he said.

Among other successes he cited:

  • More than $1 billion in new resources in the past 12 years, including $186 million from the University's ongoing fundraising initiative, and, most recently, $17 million in additional general funding from the state.
  • ODU's enrollment increases in the summer and fall semesters, with 3% growth in the latter, which defies national trends.
  • Old Dominion's launch of its School of Cybersecurity, the only one of its kind in the country with a dual focus on undergraduates and graduate students. Under Michael Wu's leadership, the program has grown from 11 to 800 students in five years, filling a crucial workforce need in the commonwealth.

President Broderick also announced a $5 million commitment from the Batten Foundation to endow the University's sailing program. That is among several major gifts in the past year, including a $1 million donation from alumnus Michael Le for the digital theater and modern planetarium in the new Chemistry Building and bequest commitments of more than $1 million each from James Mills, William Edelstein and Chandra Brooks. Other significant gifts came from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation for Recover Hampton Roads and from GENEDGE for ODU's Engineering Makerspace and Invention Center.

Other important collaborations he noted were a joint project with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, led by graduate student Brett Buzzanga to pinpoint the worst spots for land subsidence in Hampton Roads, and two new efforts between ODU's Center for Global Health and Physicians for Peace.

There was also the Remote Experience for Young Engineers and Scientists (REYES) initiative, spearheaded by Giovanna Genard and Raúl Briceño. Taught by ODU faculty as well as researchers from institutions including NASA, the Jefferson Lab and the Mexican Space Agency, the virtual STEM-based program attracted 7,400 registrants from 115 countries, which "adds to our substantial record in diversity and inclusion," President Broderick said.

He also praised the response by ODU faculty, staff and students to the larger Hampton Roads community's needs resulting from the pandemic, and for their efforts to address racial and social justice.

"I want to emphasize that we have refused to let the pandemic limit our ambitions," he said. "We are not just playing defense, we are growing."

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