In her first year as president of Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz is working with professors and instructors on using applied research to solve real-world problems. Pescovitz says the university, which has a current enrollment of 19,333 students, can best meet the workforce needs in the region and state by making sure graduates are ready to tackle problems and challenges from day one.
“There’s nothing wrong with theoretical research, but employers today are looking for graduates who can step into positions and are ready to work, especially in a time of very low unemployment and aging baby boomers,” Hirsch Pescovitz says. “What’s more, a lot of our students work full or part time while taking a full load (of classes). When they graduate, they’re ready to work.”
With 97 percent of its graduates employed in Michigan, Hirsch Pescovitz sees the university as a vital component of local economic growth. The school’s top fields of study include computer science, nursing, and engineering, especially automotive. A recent poll conducted by the San Francisco Business Times ranked Oakland University No. 5 in the country for placing graduates in the autonomous vehicle industry.
In turn, Hirsch Pescovitz is tapping her longtime experience in the medical field to advance the William Beaumont Oakland University School of Medicine. From 2009 to 2014, she was executive vice president for medical affairs and health system CEO at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In that role, she oversaw three hospitals, 120 health centers and clinics, and a medical school that accounted for $3.3 billion in annual revenue and $490 million in research funding.
“One of the things that’s compelling about the school of medicine is that our students are trained to focus on the whole human body and person, along with taking a family-centered approach in caring for patients,” she says. “We’ll continue to focus on that type of training while working with Beaumont Health to explore other opportunities for our students.”
She also wants to boost the university’s philanthropic activities, as tuition accounts for 82 percent of the annual budget. “You’ll see us reaching out in new ways to make people more aware of how vital an institution we are,” she says. “We definitely see more opportunities for growth.”