President Neuhold-Ravikumar Takes the Reins
University of Central Oklahoma President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar officially took the reins on July 1, but is excited to start her first full semester as UCO’s 21st president.
“My work is just beginning, but my goal at this point is to spend a lot of time listening and learning from the people here on campus,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “Our community has a voice and I want to make sure that I give time to people to be able to share.”
Some of the things Neuhold-Ravikumar wants to start working on include making the application process easier for upcoming students, as well as growing the online programs UCO has to offer.
“My job is to help make sure that we’ve got the right people at the table and that we’re removing as many obstacles to their work and providing the resources they need to accomplish these goals for all of us,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “It’s important to creating an inclusive community, and that is a goal for me.”
The 2019-2020 budget for UCO showed decreased funding, resulting in a 3.5 percent tuition increase. In 2015, students paid a yearly average of $7,750 in tuition and fees, which has increased to an average $10,125 in 2019. The state department has also decreased funding per student from $3,420 in 2015 to $2,910 in 2019.
“We work really hard to make sure we are not increasing tuition to the detriment of our students’ ability to access an affordable education,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “We’re trying to shoulder as much as the boulder, as an institution, before having to pass any of that onto our students.”
She said that one of the reasons tuition goes up is because of mandatory cost increases, which comes in the form of contracts where UCO has agreed to pay more over time, or in costs the university cannot go without paying, like utilities. The mandatory cost increase this year was about $2.6 million for the university, while the money generated from the tuition increase was only about $2.4 million.
“In order to make up that difference, and cover the difference of the shortfall of enrollment, we had to cut our budgets across the institution and we’ve had to use other sources of funds to offset that deficit,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said.
Neuhold-Ravikumar prioritizes her time at UCO.
“We come to work, in and out, every day. You know, we spend more time at work than we do with our families, and so we have an obligation to work with civility and conscious,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “It calls us to be better people for each other and for ourselves.”
One of her favorite things to do around campus is walk around the Nigh University Center, as she said it is where a majority of the student activity happens. She also enjoys watching student performances at places like the Jazz Lab or Mitchell Hall.
“Really, for me, around campus is just getting to feel the energy of the students,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “I enjoy hearing the drumcore at Plunkett Parkstart to practice for marching band. It’s always a sign that the fall semester is back in full swing.”
Neuhold-Ravikumar also prioritizes her family. Even though her wife, Ruki Ravikumar, lives and works in New York, she said she makes time to go on short trips over the weekend to visit her.
“It’s tough, but we’ve made a commitment to make time for each other,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “We talk several times a day…we talk in the morning before work, we talk in the evening after work and we make time to see each other. So whether I’m headed to New York, or she’s headed here to Oklahoma, we just carve that out.”
Neuhold-Ravikumar is still working on her Ph.D. as an online student at Concordia University-Chicago and is working on a dissertation. While she said she does not want to reveal specifics until it is fully set in motion, her dissertation will focus on organizational commitment.
Being an online student gives her a perspective on parts of the modern higher educational system.
“I miss the personal interaction with other students and with my instructor,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “So much of learning happens in a room with other people, where you’re sharing different perspectives and you generate ideas and thoughts and expand your own thinking in those spontaneous moments and conversations, and I think that’s what I miss.”
However, she said the online environment has been great for her schedule and work and family life balance.
“My schedule and my work and family life balance has required that I have the mobility of an online degree,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “I feel very assured that the quality that I am getting through an online degree is equal to what I would experience in person.”
Neuhold-Ravikumar also noted that her degree does not match up with her line of work, which can be common. She received a bachelor’s degree from Tulsa University in psychology with a minor in management, and went on to get a master’s degree at Oklahoma Christian University in industrial organizational psychology.
Neuhold-Ravikumar said she overcame this barrier by working hard and being willing to take on responsibilities outside of her area of expertise in order to learn them.
“It’s been interesting to expand my own development in that way and outside of a formal classroom, but it’s the skill of learning that has enabled me to do those things,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “So while I didn’t get a degree in those things, I was taught while I was in college how to learn, and because of that I’ve been able to experience personal growth.”
She has been able to relate and incorporate her degree into her job, however.
“Having a strong background in psychology helps me understand motivations, needs, how I need to adjust what I’m doing in order to help other people,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “So at the heart of everything I do, my degree actually connects with every bit of it, because it’s all about people.”
Neuhold-Ravikumar said she is looking forward to the beginning of her first full semester.
“When students are your focus, you can’t go wrong,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said.