Accomplishments, achievements and advancements in 2023

12/21/2023

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From the podium of the U.S. president to a lounge on campus, The University of Akron (UA) made an impact in many places and in many ways during 2023. New initiatives arose. Existing programs expanded. People and places were transformed. Milestones were celebrated. The dedicated University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters made it all possible.

As we head into 2024, we look back on some of the amazing activities, events and news that came out of 2023.


New student grants, academic and professional programs mean new opportunities for the UA community

DSC_3537.jpgUA’s ongoing efforts to create access to higher education expanded in 2023, with a number of new programs and extensions of existing initiatives. The Making Akron Possible (MAP) grant, announced in November, offers complete coverage of full tuition and general fees for eligible first-year students from Summit, Stark, Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga and Wayne counties. UA also received additional Choose Ohio First (COF) scholarship funding from the Ohio Department of Education. The program helps to recruit hard-working students from backgrounds that are typically underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields. COF funding has been available to undergraduate students, but in November UA announced funding was being extended for the first time to graduate students.

Several new 3+3 programs were announced throughout the year. These programs offer a track where students entering UA’s School of Law only have to take six years rather than the traditional seven to complete their bachelor’s and Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees. In December, the University shared the news of a 3+3 program specifically focused on the Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration (BAHA). Another 3+3 program announced in September opened up opportunities for students at Central State University in Wilberforce, marking the first time a historically black college or university (HBCU) in Ohio had a 3+3 partnership with a law school.

The Akron Law Guarantee, announced in October, guarantees automatic admission to UA’s School of Law for any qualified Ohio resident. Although applicants still need to submit an application, the new initiative takes the stress out of the process.

For enrolled students, faculty, staff and alumni, UA launched the PLUS+Path Program, which combines academic excellence with more than 40 industry-recognized professional certificates available at no additional cost. Through the Coursera Career Academy, users gain exclusive access to a wide array of online professional training courses and micro credentials offered by industry giants like IBM, Google, Meta and Salesforce. 


Local men get second chance at education 

Miller_sutton_phillips.jpegIn 2006, Michael Sutton was ready to head to The University of Akron on a full scholarship but he convicted – wrongly, it turns out – of murder with his friend Kenny Phillips the following year. They were both exonerated in September 2022. Sutton and Phillips were invited in March 2023 to speak at UA about the work of the Ohio Innocence Project, which helped with Sutton’s release. When UA administrators heard their stories, the University arranged for full tuition and fees scholarships for both men.


Nine UA majors are among top-10 highest-paying for recent graduates

A study by the New York Federal Reserve shared in April listed the top 10 highest-paying college majors. UA has nine of them in its academic portfolio: chemical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, miscellaneous engineering, business analytics and civil engineering. The study looked at graduating students’ majors and salaries right out of college.


Report shows University’s $3 billion economic impact in six-county region

UA creates immense value for its students, alumni, the City of Akron, and the six-county Northeast Ohio service area it directly impacts, consisting of Cuyahoga, Portage, Medina, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties. In May 2023, the University learned through an economic impact study just how much that impact amounts to: in Fiscal Year 2021-22, UA added $3 billion in income to the region’s economy, which approximately equal to 1.5% of the total gross regional product. This  impact supported 36,324 regional jobs, with one out of every 48 jobs in the UA service area supported by the activities of the University and its students.


UA roundnet student organization wins national championship

Spikeball.jpegRoundnet, also known as spikeball, has an ardent following at the college and university level, including at UA. In May 2023, UA’s roundnet student organization won the Spikeball College Roundnet Nationals championship, beating teams from Texas, Ohio State, Georgia, James Madison University, the University of Connecticut and more. The UA student group is also a three-time Central Sectional champion.


Renovated Crouse Hall opens after multi-year expansion

DSC_1339 (3).jpgCrouse Hall reopened for the fall semester following a 17,000-square-foot expansion, including the consolidation of Ayer Hall, that allowed the Department of Geosciences and Department of Physics to be under one roof. The building’s expansion features two general-purpose auditoriums and multiple general-purpose classrooms that can be used by a variety of disciplines, as well as ADA-compliant bathrooms, gender-neutral single-stall restrooms and lactation spaces.


E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall celebrates 50 years of artistic achievement and excellence 

DSC_2131 (1).jpgMillions of people have seen performances or attended events in the years since E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall opened in 1973. UA celebrated the Hall’s 50th anniversary on Sept. 30 with a gala and performance featuring award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth. The Akron Symphony Orchestra, which performed at the occasion of the 1973 opening, played a concert the night before the gala.


National personalities visit campus

Roker_al-official-9282021-hdsht.jpgUA continued to be a place for high-profile names to make their voices heard. Nationally renowned journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson visited E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on Nov. 8 to give a keynote address for the John S. Knight Lectureship Speaker Series. The speech served as a highlight to UA’s 2023 Rethinking Race program. Emmy Award winner Al Roker, host and weatherman of NBC’s Today Show, was the featured speaker for the 2023 Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values and Ethics. That event was held on March 29, also at E.J. Thomas.


UA celebrates its 100th Homecoming and Zippy’s birthday

Mr zip new.pngTwo of UA’s most treasured traditions – Homecoming and the creation of Zippy as a mascot –  both reached milestones this year. The University celebrated its 100th Homecoming during the weekend of Oct. 6-8. The celebration coincided with Family Weekend and featured a cookout, pep rally, Varsity “A” Hall of Fame ceremony and the annual Forever a Zip tailgate. This year’s tailgate introduced new mainstage programming such as “Say I Do with the Roo,” during which alumni couples could renew their vows with Zippy. A few months earlier, Zippy celebrated her 70th birthday. The kangaroo mascot was chosen by a committee in 1953 and brought to life by artist and then-UA student Joseph Dick.


Robot food delivery rolls on UA campus

Zippy-looking-at-food-robot.jpegThe University rolled out a robot food delivery service in October, compliments of a partnership between Starship Technologies, the creator of the robots, Aramark, and UA. The autonomous, on-demand robots deliver from several campus eateries for a fee. The service works through an app in conjunction with the student meal plan or credit card payment.


New Re:center opens

Recenter.jpegThanks to the fundraising efforts of UA’s Stewardship & Women in Philanthropy Committee, students have a new spot on campus to relax, refresh and recharge. The re:center opened in October in a former lounge space in Jean Hower Taber Student Union. Students and faculty from ZipAssist, the EX[L] Center for Community Engaged Learning and the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art collaborated on to create a soothing and aesthetically pleasing environment for all users.


Zips enjoy conference championships and rivalry wins

Wagonwheel.pngIt was a terrific year for the UA cross country and track and field programs. The renovated Lee R. Jackson Track and Field Complex opened in April, and a few weeks later the men’s outdoor track and field team won the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship, which was hosted at UA. Later in the year, the men’s cross country squad, which had been on hiatus for four years, won its first MAC title and had its first All-American. Other 2023 successes: the women’s swimming and diving team won its ninth MAC championship in 10 years, and the football team beat Kent State to win back the Wagon Wheel for the first time since 2018. Fans can keep track of UA Athletics on a new mobile app, which was announced in July 2023.


UA part of Tech Hub announced by President Biden

UA was named a partner in the Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub, part of the Investing in America initiative announced by President Biden in October. This Tech Hub is the only one in Ohio and one of just 31 across the nation in areas that are deemed poised for exponential growth in key technology sectors. Led by the Greater Akron Chamber, the Tech Hub for Sustainable Polymers was also the recipient of a Strategy Development Grant – the only awardee of a hub designation or strategy development award in the State of Ohio. This designation is a strong endorsement of the region’s plan to supercharge a critical technology ecosystem and become a global leader over the next decade.


Media Contact: Cristine Boyd, cboyd@livevidcast.net, 330-972-6476