The Ohio State University at Marion

Ohio State launches community discussion to grow Marion’s middle class

June 21, 2018
Ohio State launches community discussion to grow Marion’s middle class

A group of 63 Marion business and community leaders, educators, and citizens came together at Ohio State Marion’s Guthery Community Room Thursday, June 21st to engage partners in a robust brainstorming process on how to grow Marion’s middle class.

The discussion was kicked off by Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, who stopped by the Marion campus as part of his statewide tour. The Marion discussion is part of a larger joint initiative by Schmidt Futures, a foundation formed by former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, and The Ohio State University. Called the Alliance for the American Dream, the effort is intended to develop ideas and strategies to strengthen America’s middle class and move people out of poverty.

Schmidt Futures selected Ohio State and three other universities to participate in the Alliance for the American Dream in spring 2018. The other three universities participating are Arizona State, University of Utah and University of Wisconsin. In Ohio, the immediate goal is to find strategies that will increase income for 10,000 middle class families by ten percent or more. Ultimately, the Alliance hopes to develop strategies that can be scaled up to a national level. Schmidt Futures is willing to put up to $100 million toward the effort.

“As a modern land-grant university, Ohio State is committed to expanding opportunity, unlocking talent and increasing economic vitality,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “We are absolutely thrilled to join the Alliance and to partner with individuals and communities on this important and timely endeavor.”

The Alliance seeks to inspire investment in research and development across public, private and nonprofit sectors, and to build effective partnerships between academic communities and engineers, scientists, policymakers, investors and community advocates.

Alliance attendee and Executive Director of Marion Matters, Heidi Jones shared that with Marion having one of the higher poverty rates in Ohio, it is crucial that we come together as a community to solve these challenges.

“Since we already know the need is here, this initiative could help us better identify those who struggle with instability so we can help them into a more middle class and stable life,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent at Marion City Schools, Jennifer Lawson said the Alliance for the American Dream initiative gives the school system the prospect of collaborating with community and business leaders for the betterment of student lives in Marion.

“Anytime we have an opportunity to partner with those who influence the community and share the same passion we have about upward mobility of our students,” Lawson said, “it’s a great opportunity to share their ideas and to get additional ideas that we haven’t considered yet for our programing and our schools.”

Marion downtown developer and entrepreneur Lois Fisher said, “We’re very interested in raising the standards for our community because Marion has been very good to our family, and we want the other families in Marion to be able to reside here, live here and prosper here.”

“I think the importance of what we’re doing here today,” Fisher explained, “is to come to some solution or put some sort of plan into place that is going to make for the betterment of this community.”

Marion’s Public Health Commissioner Tom Quade co-hosted the event with Ohio State Marion Dean and Director, Dr. Greg Rose. Quade said he was honored to be part of the event, since the ideas generated will directly affect the public health and well-being of Marion area residents.

Ohio State Marion Assistant Dean, Leslie Beyer-Hermsen felt Ohio State’s role as a land grant university was crucial because the university has both the resources and responsibility to initiate and be part of bold ideas like the Alliance for the American Dream.

“Ohio State provides citizens educational opportunities to help obtain a job or career. Ohio State also conducts research that can to be an economic driver in Marion and surrounding areas. It is only natural for the university and the campus to be part of this partnership,” said Beyer-Hermsen.

Ohio State is accepting ideas on how to grow and improve the middle class through July 15th at