To mark the tenth anniversary of the Voinovich School’s founding, the School has partnered with the Kennedy Museum of Art and the School of Visual Communications to host an exhibition of a photojournalism project entitled, “Sighting Progress,” which tells the story of the Voinovich School’s impact on the region and individual lives.

Sighting Progress brings together for the first time the images showcasing the legacy and impact of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, to mark the tenth anniversary celebration of its founding. The exhibition features photography by Voinovich School Photojournalism Fellows, a partnership with the School of Visual Communications, to visually share the stories of select projects from throughout the School’s 10-year existence. Documentary images provide an inside look into the important work of the School’s vital stakeholder collaborations in the areas of economic development and entrepreneurship, environmental restoration, educational attainment, healthcare outcomes and public policy within the Appalachian region, the state and beyond.

The exhibition documents the vital collaborative work that the School conducts in conjunction with various stakeholders and partners, including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio EPA, JobsOhio, the Department of Energy, Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, Battelle for Kids, the Department of Education, the Small Business Development Center and many more.

Curated by Merry Foresta, Voinovich School Scholar in Residence and the Senior Curator and Director of the Smithsonian Photography Institute, the exhibition premiered at the Kennedy Museum of Art on October 20 and is open through April 1, 2018.

The photo essays featured in the exhibit are available online here.


The School’s economic impact on the region is significant and growing. New companies are forming, established companies are expanding, jobs are being created and saved, and new sources of capital investment have blossomed. By leveraging funding from the State of Ohio, Ohio University and investments from partners, the School’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has contributed nearly $1.8 billion in economic activity since 2012.

TechGROWTH Ohio illustrates how the Voinovich School has made a difference to the economic challenges of Appalachia Ohio. TechGROWTH Ohio resides in the Voinovich School and spurs high tech business start-ups, implements programs in entrepreneurship and builds economic ecosystems in order to benefit the people of southeast Ohio. Since 2007, TechGROWTH Ohio has engaged nearly 1,800 entrepreneurs and more than $380 million in economic impact.

The Voinovich School provides business startup assistance for small businesses through the Small Business Development Center, and helps companies of any size work with the federal government through the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Additionally, the School and TechGROWTH Ohio helped Ohio University establish two novel, first of their kind initiatives which assist researchers in commercializing their technologies: iCorps@Ohio and the Ohio Innovation Fund.

“Global Cooling Inc. has developed its technology for a number of years, but finding the right application has been a challenge. So, the Voinovich School helped develop a business plan that had the highest chance of succeeding and the largest possible benefit to the community. That’s the heart of what the Voinovich School has done for us, which is figure out where we can apply our technology in a way that creates the most value.”
—Neill Lane, CEO, Global Cooling Inc.

In its support of the region, the School enjoys the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) as an EDA University Center in partnership with Bowling Green State University. Together, Bowling Green and the Voinovich School serve 59 rural Ohio counties, including 32 Appalachian counties, providing direct business assistance services, applied research initiatives and an annual State of the Region Conference.

However, the School’s expertise in venture development does not only benefit regional businesses, communities and professionals – it also benefits Ohio University researchers and student innovators. For instance, the Center for Entrepreneurship, an internationally recognized and award winning program offered in partnership with the College of Business, reaches thousands of students, faculty and staff annually. The Center provides applied learning opportunities, valuable work experience and development of problem-solving skills.

Ohio – and especially rural Ohio – faces formidable challenges when it comes to health and wellness. Not only does the state rank 40th in overall population health, but Ohioans tend to pay more for their care. Opioid addiction has reached crisis proportions, and high incidence of chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes plague families statewide. Helping to alleviate Ohio’s myriad health and wellness issues has long been a priority for the Voinovich School.

For example, the Voinovich School partnered with the Diabetes Institute at Ohio University on a community health needs assessment project, designed to understand diabetes prevalence rates in the region and challenges to diabetes care and self-management in order to inform the future direction of the Diabetes Institute.

The Voinovich School also helped the Health Policy Institute of Ohio assess population health in ways that lead to better public policy by creating the 2017 Health Value Dashboard. Faculty researchers considered more than 100 diverse metrics from sources associated with public health, ranging from food insecurity to seatbelt use and income inequality. The final product identifies which states are doing the best on individual metrics, pointing policymakers to effective programs.

To begin healing one of the most significant problems identified in the dashboard, the School is involved in an ongoing process of building, testing and implementing innovative drug prevention, treatment and community outreach programs.

“The shared vision and focus of a healthy Ohio by both the Voinovich School and OhioMHAS has been paramount in our collaborative efforts. The Voinovich School has been instrumental in developing the foundational evidence of Ohio’s youth-led programs supporting the adult allies working with young people to use local data and evidence-based prevention strategies to create meaningful change within Ohio’s communities.”
—Tracy Plouck, Director, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

In the areas of substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion, the Voinovich School has a longstanding relationship with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) to provide services designed to support Ohio’s rural and Appalachian communities as they work to address mental and behavioral health issues at the local level. In partnership with OhioMHAS, the Voinovich School has provided training and technical assistance for adult allies as they work to engage and empower youth to address substance abuse within their communities. Public health goes beyond chronic conditions and addiction. Consequently, the Voinovich School is also leading projects on child abuse prevention, smoking cessation, suicide prevention, food security and other community health issues.

The protection and restoration of southeast Ohio’s natural resources has long been a hallmark of the Voinovich School’s research. The School’s Energy and Environmental Management Program has more than two decades of experience working with faculty and staff from across Ohio University and with dozens of local, state, and federal agencies to develop practical solutions to improve energy, water, air, and land systems.

The School is also the home of Ohio University’s Environmental Studies program, which offers an innovative, interdisciplinary master’s degree and undergraduate certificate. More often than not, the program’s students are engaged in the projects of the Energy and Environmental Management Program, working on environmental issues including surface water, groundwater, wetlands, waste reduction, energy, sensor technology, wildlife habitat, and environmental mapping/analysis. Some of the School’s major environmental initiatives include:

  • The Appalachian Watershed Research Group, which has been instrumental in restoring rivers and streams polluted by abandoned coalmines. A key, long-term, public-private partnership, the group has supported more than a decade of research, curricula, fieldwork, watershed treatment, data collection and analysis for the acid mine drainage-impacted streams of rural southeastern Ohio. More than 200 miles of Ohio streams have improved water quality results.
  • The Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, which has utilized recycling and composting in multiple campus locations and events, and won the 2015 and 2016 intercollegiate Game Day recycling challenge. The School’s community partner, Rural Action, met significant zero waste goals in the region, reducing waste both at businesses and local events.
  • The PORTSfuture project, which supports the cleanup of a former uranium enrichment facility, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon, Ohio. PORTSfuture collaborates with site stakeholders and leverages Ohio University resources and expertise in a variety of activities to support the cleanup, with the end goal of developing the land and facilities for economic diversification and to promote regional economic development.

In total, the School’s environmental work has expanded to receive nearly $2 million in annual grant funding.

“What I found intriguing about the Voinovich School, and what brought me to the school, was the ability to bring my teaching, my research and my service together. What I value most about the school is the ability to drive that great interdisciplinary body of work based on the needs of the community around us.”
—Dr. Natalie Kruse, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies

More than a decade’s work in educational research, evaluation and program implementation at the Voinovich School underscores the institution’s deep involvement in, and impact on, K-12 education improvement statewide – particularly in the School’s rural, southeastern Ohio home communities. The Voinovich School’s efforts focus on improving educational outcomes, attainment and career opportunities in rural Ohio.

In addition to developing and directing programs, the Voinovich School also evaluates numerous, existing school programs to empower districts with the knowledge necessary to improve education for their students. For 8 years, the School evaluated a K-12 STEM enhancement program implemented by University of Rio Grande biology and chemistry faculty employing inquiry-based instruction with regional K-12 science teachers. During this time, the School amassed data regarding regional math and science curricular change and its impact on student achievement.

Currently, the School is working with long-term partner Battelle for Kids, local school districts and area businesses to pilot an Appalachian New Economy Partnership-funded initiative to identify ways to improve workforce preparation in primary and secondary Washington County schools.

The School’s educational impact is not limited to the K-12 level. The School’s professional and executive education program targets the developmental needs of a wide range of government and other public sector employees, along with nonprofit professionals – from emerging leaders to executives – who are looking to update and sharpen their knowledge and skills. The program is especially relevant to those currently serving in leadership positions or moving into leadership roles.

“The Master of Public Administration program introduced me to public policy issues in education reform. My involvement with the Voinovich School drove me to realize my passion for trying to influence public policy and positively affect the lives of Ohioans and underprivileged students throughout the state.”
—Jonathan Olivito, Master of Public Administration alumnus

Voinovich School has a long history of helping state, county and local governments, as well as nonprofit organizations, by providing innovative applied research and technical assistance, and by building leadership and organizational capacity. New programs in social entrepreneurship bring venture development tools to non-profit enterprises, combining the mission of the organization with the market-driven approach of a business.

“The wonderful thing about being a faculty member at the Voinovich School is that it’s an applied faculty position, so a lot of my work is on projects that are out in the 32 Appalachian counties in the state. I get the best of both worlds: I get to teach, and I get to do work and research on real-world projects that affect the people I grew up with – my neighbors, my friends, my family.”
— Marsha Lewis, Associate Professor

The School supports public and nonprofit entities focused on areas such as health care, education and community economic development, by assisting with operational and program development, performance measurement, program evaluations, strategic planning, process improvement and policy innovation. The School also helps such entities build leadership capacity through its professional and executive education programs for public and nonprofit managers, as well as degree programs for students.

Ohio University undergraduate students receive valuable instruction and experience in applied policymaking and analysis through the Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, a selective and extremely popular yearlong academic curriculum.

In addition, the School is home to Ohio University’s interdisciplinary Master of Public Administration program, which gives graduates the knowledge and skills they need to address difficult social problems, meet complex challenges and enhance public value in organizational contexts.

The School also offers the Executive Master of Public Administration and Online Master of Public Administration program, as well as weekend residencies and distance learning, providing academic opportunities to professionals and nontraditional students.


Ohio University created the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs to meet the interdisciplinary needs of the 21st century university and its students, blending entrepreneurial and nonprofit approaches to make a positive impact on the broader region.

Undergraduates can take advantage of the Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars program and the many activities of the Center for Entrepreneurship, or they can earn an Environmental Studies certificate. Graduate students may pursue the Master of Public Administration or the Master of Science in Environmental Studies programs.

The interdisciplinary and applied nature of the School’s educational approach allows students to work with real clients and organizations, creating solutions to the problems facing the region and state. Meanwhile, faculty apply their knowledge to some of the toughest challenges of today.

Since the School’s creation, it has continually expanded its impact. The School has been responsible for nearly $1.8 billion in economic activity since 2012 and the creation or retention of more than 30,000 jobs. The School’s impact has also extended to environmental and energy sustainability projects, as well as research projects designed to find innovative solutions to challenges facing society, and particularly challenges facing the Appalachian region.

Like the late Senator George Voinovich, whose 44 years of public service included terms as mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and U.S. senator, the School that takes his name recognizes that solutions to the world’s toughest problems will be found only by reaching across boundaries, some artificial and some real. The Voinovich School assembles under one umbrella a broad set of capabilities and collaborations in order to find innovative, research-driven, public/private partnership-based solutions to challenges facing communities, the economy and the environment. While we at the Voinovich School recognize that we have accomplished a great deal over the past 10 years, we also look forward to continuing expanding our impact through a future of service focused on our region, state and world.

The Ohio University Board of Trustees created the original organization, the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD). Mark Weinberg was the founder and has served as Director since inception. From 1981 to 2007, the organization was part of the College of Arts and Science.
The Rural Universities Program (RUP) is created by the Ohio General Assembly. This program and its metropolitan companion, the Urban Universities Program, serve as major statewide public service programs for the Ohio Board of Regents. Ohio University directs this to funding to ILGARD.
The Ohio University Board of Trustees creates an umbrella center called the Center for Public and Environmental Affairs (CEPA) to house ILGARD and the Environmental Studies Program.
The George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs is established on December 11 in partnership with the College of Business when the Ohio Board of Trustees votes to rename and expand the existing academic center, including an Executive Leadership program and entrepreneurship program.
The Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars program is established in is original form as a collaboration between the George V. Voinovich Center and the Honors Tutorial College. The program provides paid, applied research opportunities for undergraduates.
Governor Taft, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the Ohio General Assembly recognize the opportunity to use Ohio University to implement a new strategy, the Appalachian New Economy Partnership (ANEP), to strengthen the region’s growth and competitiveness in the current and emerging knowledge-based economy.
The George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs is established on April 20, when the Ohio Board of Trustees votes to rename the center. The School becomes the first multidisciplinary school at Ohio University.TechGROWTH Ohio is also established.
Voinovich School’s first class of Master’s in Environmental Studies students earn their degrees.
In February, Ohio University announces the creation of the Center for Entrepreneurship, a partnership between the Voinovich School and the College of Business, designed to bring entrepreneurial experience to students while supporting the economic growth of the region.On June 10, a group of 25 Master’s in Public Administration students become the first students ever to receive degrees from the Voinovich School of Leadership in Public Affairs.
Mark Weinberg, the director of the Voinovich School since its inception, is appointed Founding Dean of the School.
At the Voinovich School’s 10-year anniversary, the School continues to focus on applied research, leadership development, and service to the region, state, nation and world.

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