CINspirational People: Santa Ono
CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!
GTGA Intern Liza Hartke, a student at our city’s great University of Cincinnati, was so excited when she reached out to President Santa Ono for a CINspirational People interview – and he wrote back with such thoughtful answers…one more reason to have huge respect for him. He always makes time for U.C. students. His answers as to why he came to U.C. and what he values about it are truly heartfelt. Cincinnati is lucky to have him here!
GTGA Intern Liza Hartke: What was your biggest motivator for wanting to be president of the University of Cincinnati?
Santa: My selection as president of University of Cincinnati was unexpected. I had served as provost of the University for a little over two years when my predecessor Gregory Williams resigned suddenly. The Board of Trustees asked me to serve as interim president, and I of course accepted due to my love of the institution and especially for the faculty, staff and students of the University.
The search committee for the permanent president of UC asked me why I would want to serve as the 28th president. The answer was simple: that I love the ethos of the institution, it’s connectivity with the city of Cincinnati, and its mission of transforming the lives of the next generation.
I don’t think many people fully appreciate how remarkable UC is on the landscape of higher education. It is considered one of a handful of institutions that have truly innovated how college students are educated. That innovative spirit pervades the institution.
I think a good case could be made that no other institution integrates better classroom teaching with the real world experience.
The biggest motivator for me is to build upon that tradition and to ensure that we continue to create new knowledge and transform the lives of students that matriculate at the University.
GTGA Intern Liza: What is your favorite thing about being the president?
Santa: My favorite aspect of being UC’s president is interacting with faculty, students and staff. The work that occurs on our campus on a daily basis is simply stunning. Through this work, people are living their dreams. I view my primary mission as facilitating that work and helping our faculty, staff and students realize their dreams.
GTGA Intern Liza:What makes the Cincinnati students unique?
Santa: I have had the honor and privilege of working at several fine institutions including: Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of London, and Emory University. There are outstanding students at each of these institutions as well as at hundreds of other colleges and universities around the world.
University of Cincinnati students are amazing in that they approach their studies and work with diligence and enthusiasm but with humility and no sense of entitlement. The quality of their work is second to none. Everywhere I go, CEOs and industry leaders sing the praises of our graduates. Indeed, a just proportionate number of industry leaders are alumni of our great university.
I honestly believe that part of the “secret sauce” of a University of Cincinnati education stems from the diversity of individuals within the institution. That prepares our students to work with very different kinds of individuals to move forward with a complicated project. That ability to communicate across disciplines and between theory and practice prepares our students well to innovate and to lead.
GTGA Intern Liza: What has been the most challenging struggle and how have you overcome it?
Santa: As is probably the response of most university presidents, the biggest challenge involves balancing a large and complex annual budget. Significant portions of that budget are not guaranteed on an annual basis. For example state and federal subsidies and enrollment can change abruptly from year-to-year.
Dealing with this challenge involves careful strategic planning and strong peripheral vision. The CEO of such an institution needs to have multiple plans to deal with various scenarios and needs to think quickly on his or her feet. You also need to surround yourself with a talented team that can help you navigate through unchartered waters.
GTGA Intern Liza: What is a motto you live by and how has it impacted you?
Santa: To whom much is given, much is expected. Luke 12:48
Universities are privileged institutions that exist for the betterment of society. University presidents must set the tone where there is an automatic expectation throughout the institution that we mobilize our resources for the betterment of the community in which we live.