Discovering Discovery Themes 7,500 Miles Away

I have a confession to make:  prior to last night I had never read Ohio State’s Discovery Themes.  You might be in the same boat, I won’t tell.  Here’s your chance to brush up.  Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.

Cory Tressler demonstrates a video lecture

Thursday’s visit to the Addis Ababa campus provided me with the opportunity to reflect on Ohio State and its role in global health and education.  Our team’s major goal for the day was to conduct our second iPad rollout:  distribute seven iPad minis to our partners and conduct a training session on relevant features/applications.   Although we were here to teach, we were by no means the experts in the room.

Joining us were authorities on tuberculosis and human papillomavirus (HPV) research, as well as officials from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.  Experts renowned in their respective fields, these colleagues gave us their full attention for more than two hours to learn how a device only 9×6 inches in size could revolutionize their work.  Yes, there is a need here, but more importantly there is the passion to learn and grow.

Kevin Kula addresses a group question

We took time to review the five, iTunes U courses that will be developed for Phase 1 of this grant work.  Spanning across four Colleges at Ohio State, these five courses supplement one another and share the interwoven, OSU Discovery Themes of Food Production and Security and Health and Wellness.  Since I was ingrained in the course development process these past three months, the interconnections and partnerships gradually became clearer to me.  I began to see how our Digital First Impact Grant initiative is truly about Global One Health.

Our iPad training session was followed by a campus tour.  It didn’t take me long to take note of my surroundings:  students walking to class with their eyes focused on a smartphone.  A walk through a large, social science classroom reminded me of the view from Independence Hall.  And while the Addis Ababa campus did not have a Mirror Lake, per se, they did have their “kissing pond.”  But we’re Ohio State.  Aren’t we supposed to be different?  If not, why did we travel 7,500 miles to be here this past week?

Classroom seating in Addis Ababa lecture hall
Classroom seating in Addis Ababa lecture hall
Look familiar?  A snapshot of Independence Hall.
Look familiar? OSU’s Independence Hall

I began this blog by reflecting on Ohio State and its role in global health and education.  A few paragraphs later, I’ve been led back to a mere thirteen letters in our Discovery Themes:

Collaboration (taken from OSU Discovery Theme Guiding Principles)

  1. The Discovery Themes Initiative must be a model of interdisciplinarity and transinstitutionality that promotes and enhances broad university collaboration.
  2. The Discovery Themes Initiative will build on existing strengths and/or develop new programmatic excellence that will achieve a substantial comparative and competitive advantage.
  3. The Discovery Themes Initiative will support existing faculty excellence, building current faculty work into a collaborative experience.

Sitting around the table this week with colleagues from our Ethiopian partner universities, I realize that Ohio State is not intrinsically different.  We have the same questions and concerns.  We have the same experts asking questions of how to better health and education for humanity.  So how can we best exemplify this as Buckeyes?  We can step up on our cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional, and cross-cultural collaboration.  Dr. Gebreyes likes the word synergy.  After this trip, I do, too.

Synergy [sin-er-jee] noun – the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements

Session pic 1

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