President's Blog

Help Portrait 2018

Posted on December 4th, 2018

For the second year in a row, our amazing Owens Community College team participated in the international Help Portrait event. 48 student and staff volunteers built an amazing pop-up portrait studio at our Downtown Learning Center on Saturday, December 1 from 9am to 3pm. This year the stars of our event were Owens photography students; along with their professor, Ruth Foote, the students photographed 33 separate groups of individuals, providing each with a printed copy of their portrait, as well as a thumb drive with digital copies and a copyright release for future prints.

Help Portrait has been a passion of mine since I came to Owens. Despite my heartfelt excitement about the event, however, my only contribution is excitement and promotion of the event. The wonderful people in the photo above (photo credit Ruth Foote) do all of the work. During the event, I give myself two jobs: a) say “thank you” and “welcome” until everyone is sick of hearing it; b) take process photos of the event as it happens. Below is a link to my slideshow on this year’s event:

Owens HP 2018

Like many initiatives at Owens, I expect our Help Portrait event will continue to grow and evolve over time. I especially wish to thank Denise Smith, Krista Kiessling, Michael Sander, Ruth Foote, and the Owens photography students for their amazing work this year. In addition to these volunteers, a number of faculty, staff and administrators stopped by to help and make Help Portrait 2018 a special event. Rob Thomas and the OutComm media students also documented the event and will be producing a video about the day and its purpose.

Special thanks to all for this amazing work on behalf of our community.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.



2018 NJCAA DIII Volleyball National Champions!

Posted on November 16th, 2018

What an exciting season for our Owens Express Women’s Volleyball team. For the second year in a row, these women have advanced to the National Championship Match. I thought everyone might like to see the thrilling conclusion to the Championship. At this point, the match was tied 2 sets to 2. The Express won the first two sets, but defending champions Eastfield battled back and won 2 consecutive sets. In a nail-biting 5th set, the play was evenly matched and the score was frequently tied. Normal sets in volleyball are played to 25 points, but a 5th set is played to 15. The winner must go ahead by 2 points.

Below is my fan-cam footage of the final volley, which put our Express over the line to become 2018 NJCAA Division III National Champions!

Formal recognition of the 2018 National Champion athletes will take place after the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. The event will take place at 3:00 p.m. in the entrance/lobby of Administration Hall.

Congratulations and accolades have been pouring in from across the State, and even from my colleagues across the country. This morning, Senate Majority Leader Randy Gardner called to offer his congratulations and to inform me that both the Ohio House and Senate will be making formal resolutions congratulating the student athletes for the accomplishment.

Well done, ladies! We are exceptionally proud of you.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

US Department of Education Program Review

Posted on October 30th, 2018

Back on August 23, 2017, the President’s Office and the Office of Financial Aid were notified by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that the College would have an on-site Program Review scheduled for September 25-29, 2017. On behalf of Vice President Amy Giordano and the Office of Financial Aid, I am sharing the following information about that visit and review in the message below.

What follows is quite detailed, but we wanted to share everything about the Program Review, especially the findings, actions, and timeline surrounding the process. No action is required on your part, as the process has successfully completed.

The review assessed the College’s administration of Title IV and covered the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 award years. The U.S. Department of Education considers the administration of Title IV to be an institution wide effort. The review included many offices, but specifically it focused on the following areas: Office of Financial Aid, Records Office, Office of Business Affairs, Office of Academic Affairs, and Office of Admissions.

The review also assessed the institution’s administration of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, and Part 86 of the Department’s General Administrative Regulations.

The following is the strict deadline to which the College was required to adhere:

August 23, 2017: Initial notification
August 30, 2017: Due date of request of substantial documentation
• September 1, 2017: Due date of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 Recipient Data
• Entire month of September: The Office of Financial Aid provided to the U.S. Department of Education requested records and documents, both hard copies and electronic
September 25-29, 2017: Program Reviewers on campus for interviews with students, staff, and faculty, reviewed documents from Academic Affairs, Business Affairs, Office of Financial Aid, and Records Office
January 19, 2018: Program Review Report issued to the College with six findings. Findings included:
Annual Security Report: missing items in the annual report
Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program: a biennial review had not been conducted. Missing items related to disciplinary sanctions (local and federal law are not mentioned), and missing descriptions of health risks due to drug and alcohol
Fiscal: Account records were not reconciled on a monthly basis to the General Ledger
Bank Account: The title of the bank account only included “Fed” for the Federal Funds account and “Federal” was missing from the Direct Loans account. Both had been corrected on site to state “Federal”
Enrollment Reporting: Inaccurate/untimely reporting for 1 student. This was corrected on site.
Consumer Information: Job Placement information for graduates is required. Equity in Athletics disclosure was not acceptable as presented; notification must be sent to prospective and current students and documented. Prohibition of copyright violations and associated penalties were not sufficiently disclosed.
January 19-February 22, 2018: Prepared Program Review Report response, included corrective action to cure all Findings
February 22, 2018: Submitted response of Findings to the Department of Education
May 15, 2018: Final Program Review Determination letter was received and it was determined that all outstanding findings were closed for the purpose of the Program Review. However, there was additional work in regards to the Annual Security Report and the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program
June 14, 2018: Submitted to the U.S. Department of Education and the Clery Act Compliance Division an update to our Annual Security Report
December 31, 2018: Due date to submit to the U.S. Department of Education and the Clery Act Compliance Division corrections to the Compliance Division Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program. This was submitted on September 20, 2018

I want to thank all the employees involved in the review, especially the Office of Financial Aid, for their work on this important process. As you know, a large portion of our students could not attend Owens without the support of this office; the Program Review process is an important component of our ability to disburse Federal aid.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Volleyball: NJCAA Region 12 D2 Champs

Posted on October 29th, 2018

This has been another special year for our women’s volleyball team. Ranked #1 in the nation for the second year in a row, our Owens Express volleyball team hosted the Region 12 NJCAA Division III Championship here at the SHAC over the weekend. The women defeated Lorain Community College in three straight sets: 25-14 / 25-18 / 25-16.

I have learned a lot about volleyball over the past two years. In addition to playing at a very high level, these women are excellent students and set a great example both on and off the court. These students are extremely supportive of one another, and their families attend most of the games. It is a very positive and energetic atmosphere.

The NJCAA Division III National Tournament is in Rochester, Minnesota this year. In 2017, our team was Division II national runner up: they only lost one match last season.

I am very appreciative of our student athletes and their families for their great support of Owens Community College. We support you, too. Go Express!


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Board Action to Restore 2015 Salary Reductions

Posted on October 11th, 2018

Yesterday, I was pleased to be able to send the following e-mail, and I wanted to post it here on the President’s Blog for posterity:

From: Steve J. Robinson
Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:08 PM
To: Steve J. Robinson <>
Subject: Board Action to Restore 2015 Salary Reductions

Good afternoon:

At their working retreat this morning, the Owens Community College Board of Trustees took action on my recommendation to reverse the compensation reductions of those directly-affected employees who were subject to the salary reductions of January 2015. The restoration of the 2015 cuts will automatically be applied to employees who have remained in their same positions at the College since the time of the reductions.

Overall, the restoration of the 2015 salary cuts impacts about 65 non-bargaining unit employees, and about 35 bargaining unit employees in the Fraternal Order of Police (Officers & Dispatchers) and the Owens Support Staff Union. In the near future, impacted employees may review the adjustments in Ozone, Employee Services. These adjustments will be reflected in paychecks dated for October 19.

This is an important final step in turning the page on Fiscal Watch. I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of our employees for the contributions and sacrifices they made through the financial crisis. I also want to thank the employees in Finance and Human Resources for their hard work and analysis on this issue, as well as the Board for their approval.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Owens Community College
P.O. Box 10,000
Toledo, Ohio 43699
(567) 661-7210

The restoration of the 2015 cuts was the work of many people, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of everyone here at Owens to emerge from Fiscal Watch a stronger, more resilient organization. Many of us here at Owens have been waiting for the ability to write this message. I am honored to be the person who was able to hit “SEND” on this message on behalf of our great team here at the College.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Subscribe to President’s Blog

Posted on October 2nd, 2018

Thanks to the efforts of Information Technology and Marketing, I have been communicating with the help of this Blog for over a year. We launched the President’s Blog on September 6, 2017. I have enjoyed updating the Blog over the past year. As readers can tell, this is an example of “DIY” desktop publishing. I am not a graphic designer, but I put all the graphics and links into the blog. It takes me back to the days when I built my own websites for teaching. Back in the early 1990s, I developed one of the first completely online college courses in Michigan. I built all of those course materials by coding them in HTML.

Now You Can Subscribe to the President’s Blog

I especially want to thank Rodney Hough, our Owens Web Administrator, for the help with this Blog. He built a portal for me using WordPress, a very intuitive blog publishing platform. The Blog automatically publishes to the web site. At the end of last year, I received feedback from readers that the old blog entries disappeared. Based on that feedback, Rodney built the “Blog Archive” you see to the left of this screen. A new comment I have received from readers is the desire to “subscribe” to the Blog. The technology for this has existed for some time. Today, Rodney added an “RSS Feed” to the Blog: with just a few simple steps, readers can be notified when the Blog has been updated. You can even subscribe to receive the new blog entries as an e-mail.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary.” Below is a great description of RSS from a recent article by Jerri Collins on a web site called Lifewire:

Instead of checking back every day to any particular site to see if it’s been updated, RSS feeds give users the ability to simply subscribe to the RSS feed, much like you would subscribe to a newspaper, and then read the updates from the site, delivered via RSS feeds, in what’s called a “feed reader.”

Depending on how you subscribe, you should be able to simply click the orange button that Rodney installed on the Blog. If your e-mail or web browser work differently, the address for the RSS feed for President’s Blog is below:

One thing I like about publishing the Blog is the ability to communicate about important issues without jamming everyone’s e-mail boxes. We all received plenty of e-mail on a daily basis. The topics I explore here, such as strategic planning, important books in higher education, community issues, campus events, do not need to be sent as e-mails. A Blog is what I call an “opt in” type of communication: readers come here only if they want to read the content I post.

I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me to discuss the thoughts I post here on the Blog. After one year of publishing regularly here, I feel the Blog is an important component of a communication strategy to keep the President’s Office connected with our campuses and the wider community. We also use e-mail, campus meetings, video, Twitter, and the Pop Up President’s Office as ways to stay connected.

And special thanks to Rodney for making this happen!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Strategic Planning Sessions Update

Posted on October 1st, 2018

Community Input Session Update

We have been hauling this colorful sandwich board across Northwest Ohio, having conversations with citizens and community leaders who care about the future of Owens Community Colleges. Through the month of September, we held sessions at the following locations:

  • 9/11 – Maumee Branch, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
  • 9/12 – Waterville Branch, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library
  • 9/17 – Wood County District Public Library – Bowling Green
  • 9/24 – Way Public Library – Perrysburg
  • 9/26 – Reynolds Corners Branch, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library

These sessions have been extremely productive. The activity is identical to the sessions that were facilitated by Owens faculty members during Opening Week of Fall semester. The same activity will take place every Friday in October here at Owens.

The five remaining sessions will be held in Toledo, Fostoria, Findlay, Genoa and Sylvania. I invite everyone to encourage their friends and colleagues to attend these sessions. More information about the sessions, as well as a link to RSVP, can be found here:

When we conduct these sessions, we show up early to set up the tables, configure the computer projector and sound system, and prepare a sign-in table with name tags. We also provide a pizza dinner for participants. A number of outstanding Owens employees have been part of our “set up crew” for these events, including Pat Jezak, Kris Holland, Roberta Montrie, Amy Giordano, Denise Smith, Jennifer Fehnrich, Meghan Schmidbauer, and Margaret Parker. I want to thank these employees for their help as we move through the community on our “listening tour.”

While we are not calling this initiative a “listening tour,” I think it’s important to point out that the activity is almost completely about listening. One participant jokes that most “listening sessions” are mostly about the presenter talking… meaning that the attendees do most of the listening. This article from the Sentinel-Tribune captures the kind of discussion that has been taking place at these sessions.

At the end of October, we will begin the process of synthesizing and analyzing the input we have received on vision and goals. Based on the first five sessions, it is clear that we have some great feedback from our community as we work to create our new multi-year strategic plan.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Need for Vigilance on E-Mail Phishing

Posted on September 19th, 2018



Owens Community College is under attack.

While that statement may seem dramatic, it is 100% true. Hackers and cybercriminals are constantly targeting legitimate organizations, attempting to infiltrate their computer networks. One of the most common types of attack is e-mail phishing. A number of recent phishing e-mails have attempted to use my identity to trick unsuspecting users at Owens Community College into downloading files, clicking on suspicious links, or even making purchases.

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to logon to your account and change your Owens password. You can reset your password by logging into Ozone and clicking the Change My Password link. I realize that it can be cumbersome to change and update your password, but it is one of the most effective ways that our employees can stay secure in our computing environment.

Please Make Sure “Steve Robinson” Is Really Me

It is a bit embarrassing that a number of these e-mail phishing attack messages pretend to sent by me. These messages have ranged from very unsophisticated to fairly elaborate. Attempting to impersonate the president of an organization is a fairly common tactic for these phishing e-mails.

I will never send you an e-mail asking you to purchase gift cards for me, nor would I instruct anyone to provide me with access to their account or to download a risky file. If something seems odd about an e-mail that appears to be from me, be very skeptical.

No hacker has been successful in sending an e-mail from my account, and the folks in IT are taking extra steps to make sure that our e-mail accounts are secure. Messages from me personally will always come from my address.  Sometimes mass communications and announcements will be sent from the account. These are the only legitimate accounts for messages from me. While it is not impossible for hackers to impersonate our domain, this has not happened to date thanks to the hard work of our IT professionals.

So-called “bogus boss” or “CEO fraud” e-mail attacks are on the rise. Many organizations and corporations have fallen prey to these attacks. Here are some interesting stories from the recent past on this subject; these were prompted by a 2016 FBI warning about the billions of dollars lost to spear phishing attacks that impersonate the CEO of an organization:

I want to thank the faculty and staff who have reached out to me and IT immediately upon receipt of these fraudulent e-mail messages. The safe online practices and common sense of our employees is our first line of defense for these attacks. If you receive a suspicious e-mail, please reach out to IT before opening or forwarding the message. We have highly trained staff in the area of computer security, and our IT team has sophisticated tools to help manage the risk associated with these attacks.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

Recently, our Information Technology Services department sent a set of best practices to all employees. Here they are again for your future reference:

  • Do not click on links or attachments from senders that you do not recognize. Be especially wary of .zip or other compressed or executable file types
  • Do not provide sensitive personal information (like usernames and passwords) over email
  • Watch for email senders that use suspicious or misleading domain names
  • Inspect URLs carefully to make sure they’re legitimate and not imposter sites
  • Do not try to open any shared document that you’re not expecting to receive

In addition to the tips above, IT has referred us to this excellent web resource at the Department of Homeland Security.

Be safe out there!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Growth Mindset with Dr. David Yeager

Posted on September 7th, 2018

During Opening Week, our campus community was treated to an excellent professional development session by Dr. David Yeager, Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Yeager’s talk was easily one of the best opening lectures on teaching that I have had the privilege to hear on a community college campus.

I would like to thank Dr. Denise Smith, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and a number of other dedicated individuals for bringing Dr. Yeager to Owens. In addition to Dr. Smith, Dr. Anne Bullerjahn, Professor of Science; Eric Haynes, Coordinator of STEM Teaching Effectiveness; Dr. Anne Fulkerson, Director of Institutional Research; and Jessica Stoner, Secretary Life & Natural Sciences, who played a key role in making the event happen.

For members of our community who were not able to hear the address, below is a video of the presentation, which lasts approximately one hour and twenty minutes. If you were not able to come, I strongly recommend you grab a coffee and/or a snack and cozy up to a screen for this presentation. It is chock full with very important information that can help you and your students have a better semester… immediately.

The Driving Puzzle

About six minutes into his excellent presentation, Dr. Yeager asks this incredibly important question:

“Why is it that some students or learners might feel safe taking risks of deeply challenging themselves acquiring that knowledge before it’s obviously needed and then go on to thrive in college at any level, and why may others shy away from difficulty and not fulfill their potential?”

He refers to this as his field’s “driving puzzle.” During my many years in the classroom, I thought about this problem every semester. Dr. Yeager’s very engaging discussion of growth mindset and his years of research on college students shed important light on this topic.


As a developmental psychologist, Yeager explains the growth mindset hypothesis for why college students don’t learn with the same facility as babies:

“Our hypothesis is that one thing that erodes that kind of love of learning and challenge that many of us started with is the worry that when we struggle and fail we’re going to be negatively evaluated and labeled in some way and compared to others and judged to be inadequate, and those fears prevent us from taking the intellectual risks that we know are good for us in the long run. By that logic, though, we might be able to address those fears and inspire more students to persist even in the midst of that early uncertainty and by doing so they might acquire the skills and habits and relationships that that help them to succeed over time.”

One of the simplest and most enlightening practices he highlighted during his talk was engaging the help of his current students to help future students. His “A Message from a Former Student” technique is something I sporadically tried in the classroom, but only on the syllabus. Yeager has adapted the technique of harnessing the voices of our current students (who will soon become our former students) to help our future students (who will soon become our current students). Those instructional materials shared by Dr. Yeager during the workshop can be accessed by faculty and staff on this internal link:

In addition to many suggestions about what we CAN do as a college to facilitate and support growth mindset, Dr. Yeager also suggested something we can AVOID. He called it the “s**t sandwich.” Consider the following table from one of Dr. Yeager’s worksheets on providing feedback to students:

Again, as a teacher it is sometimes helpful to hear what to avoid. “Sandwiching” an unhelpful and negative piece of feedback between two mildly positive ones certainly is not helpful to students. This particular suggestion got a big laugh from the audience.

In closing, I hope this is an exciting semester for everyone. One thing that could make it even more exciting is to implement some of the “growth mindset” concepts outlined by Dr. Yeager. This would also be a great time to start to solicit and collect those “messages from former students.”

Have a great semester,

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Teachable Moment

Posted on August 24th, 2018

Testing, Testing… Is This Thing On?

I am excited to launch a new OCCR radio program and podcast called Teachable Moment. Before I explain this new program, I want to take a moment to highlight our awesome Internet radio station, Owens Community College Radio (OCCR). Our CFPA students have a number of fantastic shows on our college radio. Teachable Moment is just one of many exciting things ready for your listening enjoyment online or wherever you tune in to Internet radio. Teachable Moment currently airs on Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. Download the free OCCR app today, and you can take Owens Community College Radio with you!

We Are Here to Learn

The basic idea behind my new program is simple: we are a learning community filled with smart people and interesting ideas. On Teachable Moment, which is also a podcast available for listening at any time, I interview a member of our campus community about an idea or concept from their area of expertise. As I am writing this, I have produced two programs: one with Professor Margaret Parker of the Business department; another with Professor Stephen Ross of the psychology department. The format of the show is simple: I introduce the guest, and then they “teach” me the idea or concept they have brought to the conversation. So far the conversations have been roughly 20 minutes long. Below is the concept “script” I put together for the program.


Radio and audio editing are hobbies of mine. I had a three-hour FM radio show when I was in college, so this kind of communication is fun for me. I produce and edit the program as well. Below you can listen to the first two episodes of the show. I want to thank Professor Parker and Professor Ross for being my first guests. They were great!

A Campus-wide Invitation

As I say at the conclusion of the show, if you have an idea or concept from your field you would like to share with me on the program, I would love to talk with you. Simply send me an e-mail and we will start the process. I have all the recording equipment to produce the show right here in my office. In addition to online streaming, the episodes air on OCCR weekly, so this is a great way for you to connect with the larger campus culture. Promoting our fantastic people is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Be sure to tune in next time!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.