WSU’s president promises a new type of higher education.
By Jamie Kenny
Strong educational resources, natural talent and a spirit of innovation don’t always come together on their own. According to Wright State University President David R. Hopkins, growing talent and spurring innovation only happen when great partners come together.
“At Wright State, we want to provide access to higher education to everyone, whether it is the first generation college student or someone looking to expand their talents,” shares Hopkins. “Today’s student needs different skills to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the 21st century. Workforce development and globalization are increasingly important to colleges and universities as we strive to serve our students and communities in ways that are relevant for driving our economy and our quality of life.”
Taking the Helm
Hopkins was appointed the sixth president of Wright State University on July 6, 2006. Hopkins had previously served as the school’s provost, the university’s chief academic and operating officer, from 2003 until he assumed the presidency Feb. 1, 2007. Under Hopkins’ leadership as president, Wright State has reached record high enrollments, obtained a record high level of research funding and achieved national recognition for community service and engagement.
Describing himself as a homegrown Ohio boy, Hopkins finally found his way back home after traveling around the country for 29 years, with various jobs from Minnesota to Texas to Indiana. Born in Portsmouth, Ohio, Hopkins moved north to Elyria, Ohio, when he was two years old and spent the majority of his young life there. He graduated from the College of Wooster (also in Ohio) with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in mathematics. He later earned a doctorate in kinesiology from Indiana University.
Hopkins came to Wright State from Indiana State University where he held a variety of positions from 1988-2003, most recently serving as a senior associate vice president for academic affairs and interim dean of IU’s School of Business. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 publications and is the inventor of ACUFLEX instruments, which are used worldwide to evaluate joint flexibility.
While Hopkins thinks mathematics and physical education might seem like an odd combination of experience and skills for a college president, he says it has served him very well.
“These two disciplines combine to help me understand human nature and how to make data-based decisions to move Wright State forward by meeting the needs of the 21st century student.”
The 21st Century Student
“I was attracted to Wright State initially because I realized it was a new breed of higher education. I discovered a university and community that were eager to serve students and that matched my personal core values of helping give all people access to a quality education,” says Hopkins. “I care deeply about providing a quality education…one that gives students real, marketable skills and helps them actually cross the finish line with knowledge they can use in today’s world.”
According to Hopkins, there has been a major gap over the last few decades of people earning a degree versus people prepared for what employers need. The faculty at Wright State is working to resolve that issue by meeting students where they are and finding the best ways for them to contribute effectively to the workforce.
“We see a variety of students here at Wright State…students with disabilities, military veterans, gifted students, those struggling with finances and even those who are looking for a second chance,” says Hopkins. “We equip each and every one of them with an education that provides critical thinking and problem solving, but we also help them understand they need to take ownership of their future and quality of life. When it comes to their own success, that definition is up to them.”
In 2017, Wright State University will celebrate its 50th anniversary and Hopkins knows that would have never been possible without the support of the Dayton community. Whether it is partnering with the Air Force Research Lab at Wright Patterson Air Force Base or providing students as employees for area companies, Wright State reflects the long-term commitment to innovation and success that is Dayton’s heritage.
“People and organizations throughout the Miami Valley have been huge supporters and motivators for our institution,” says Hopkins. “They have always welcomed our students with open arms and worked with us to provide co-ops, internships and even experiential learning opportunities. On behalf of the students, faculty and all of us at Wright State University, we want to thank those people and companies who have encouraged and supported us and our students.”
To that point, Hopkins consistently gives back to the community and to the cause of higher education. He serves on several boards including:
• National Collegiate Conference Association (NCAA), Division 1
• Executive Committee and Board of Directors
• Higher Education Capital Funding Commission of Ohio
• Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute
• Dayton Development Coalition
• Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education
• Miami Valley Research Foundation
• Advanced Technical Intelligence Center
• Ohio Board of Regents Commercialization Task Force
He also serves as chair of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, the Wright Brothers Institute and is co-chair of the Ohio Board of Regents Articulation and Transfer Advisory Council.
Supporting WSU and Dayton
After spending more than 10 successful years at WSU, Hopkins is thrilled to be a part of the university and the Dayton community. When Hopkins moved to Dayton in 2003 to accept his first position at Wright State, he says it definitely felt like coming home.
“Dayton has been a great place to raise our family and it has been a perfect fit for us,” says Hopkins. He refers to moving here with his wife Angelia and their six kids as a transition for the whole family, but they felt welcomed by the community and immediately became entrenched in the city’s culture and history.
While it was Wright State that initially drew Hopkins back to Ohio, he has enjoyed all Dayton has to offer, including its strong arts community and many respected charitable organizations. David and Angelia have served on several local boards and spearheaded campaigns with the March of Dimes and the United Rehabilitation Services. Today, as empty nesters, they are able to enjoy more time together and events to support the community and the university.
According to Hopkins, Dayton has much to offer and it is up to individuals to reach out and take advantage of the community’s assets. “The best for Dayton and Wright State University is yet to come…and it is already on its way!!”