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Jim Tressel Says Youngstown State Needs to Look Like a Player

YSU campus entrance
TIm Rudell

This week, Youngstown State president Jim Tressel announced plans for improving links between the campus and downtown Youngstown.  

They involve partnerships with local business and government, funded by gifts, donations and grants. 

In an interview with WKSU’s Tim Rudell, Tressel said the idea is to enhance the appeal of the university to broader range of prospective students -- and to do so by being active in a region-wide effort to drive economic development and a better quality of life.

Jim Tressel in his office
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
YSU President Jim Tressel, in his office

About a year ago, to get a reading on what the university’s opportunities really are, Tressel had some math students draw a circle on a map with a radius of 70 miles around the campus. He then asked them to gather economic data for that area.

It turns out nearly 7 million people live within an hour’s drive of YSU; there are 34 Fortune 1000 companies and economic activity measuring in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

“No one has any more opportunity than that," he noted.

To take advantage of that opportunity, Tressel said Youngstown State must advance from its historical position as an open-access university that recruits only in a five-county area and mostly waits to see who applies.

“In today’s higher education world, that’s not going to make it.  So you broaden your footprint, continue to improve the quality of your education and talk about the success stories of people who have come through and been tutored by your great faculty.

"But, also, you need to have a little bit more attractive place. If you are going to be a player, you have to look like a player.”

Tressel said YSU’s campus itself 

Campus view form Jim Tressel's window
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
View from the president's window at YSU

is very attractive, but how the school is situated in and relates to the surrounding community is not well defined.  Nor is it promoted.

That’s what the physical improvements to streets and access to downtown Youngstown are meant to improve.

“In this highly competitive world [of higher education], people aren’t just looking at programs and your faculty and so forth. They’re looking at, 'What’s my living experience going to be?'"