Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You can help shape the future of the State System

As you likely know, the Board of Governors has been undertaking a strategic review of the entire State System, including the Office of the Chancellor and all 14 universities. The goal of the review is to ensure that we are organized to meet the needs of students and the changing needs of Pennsylvania for decades to come. 

A team from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) is assisting with the review and has been meeting with students, faculty, staff, and others to gather insights. They also want to hear directly from you. As we approach the end of the semester, we want to be sure you have an opportunity to provide input directly to NCHEMS, which has created a website through which you can track the status of the review and share your thoughts. 

Together, we can shape an even brighter future for the State System and all 14 universities—a future that ensures we hold true to our mission of providing a high-quality, affordable higher education. Please take a few minutes and provide your input at www.NCHEMSproject.com/system-review.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Students take center stage

At each quarterly Board of Governors meeting, we have a special “student spotlight” to focus on examples of how our students—working alongside talented faculty—are accomplishing remarkable things. The April meeting was no different, except that we had even more opportunities to celebrate students even beyond the student spotlight:
  • the State System’s Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence was given to Sarah Polinski of Mansfield University; 
  • previous winners of the Student Business Plan Competition shared how winning helped them make their business ideas a reality while this year’s winner, Nathaniel Treichler of Bloomsburg University, was announced; and 
  • art and design students from East Stroudsburg University demonstrated the capability of 3D printing and how they are putting it to good use in the community. In fact, they did a live demonstration of this technology by doing a 3D scan of my head (go ahead, insert your own jokes here.)
We are also pleased to report that three students have taken their places on the Board. A little over a week before the April meeting, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously confirmed these student leaders who were nominated by Gov. Wolf to serve on the Board. Shaina Hilsey (CalU), Brian Swatt (IUP), and Logan Steigerwalt (Slippery Rock) are the elected heads of student government at their home universities and will serve on the Board of Governors until they graduate. The students are full, voting members of the Board of Governors and have an equal voice in helping to steer the future direction for our State System and its 14 universities. That seems fitting because everything we do—the very reason our universities exist—is for the students.

Looking at the caliber of the students we met with last week, I know the future of the State System and the Commonwealth is in very good hands.

Friday, March 3, 2017

You are our best advocate

During our State of the System address earlier this semester, Board of Governors Chair Cynthia Shapira and I discussed the pivotal year that lies ahead for the State System and our 14 universities—including the many opportunities that can help ensure their long-term sustainability.
We often use the phrase Infinite Opportunities when referring to what our state-owned universities can—and do—provide students and their families, but Infinite Opportunities can also refer to the many ways you can advocate for the continued investment in our universities.
We are very appreciative of the fact that Governor Wolf proposed a third straight year of increased investment in the State System. His support and that of the General Assembly underscores the value of our state-owned universities for the Commonwealth. Despite those increased investments, our current appropriation is about the same as we received in 1999, even though we are serving thousands more students today.

We are seeking an investment of $61 million over our current funding amount, and we need your help to make the case on behalf of our talented students, faculty, and staff. Everyone who believes in the State System’s mission to provide high-quality, affordable higher education has the opportunity to share their stories demonstrating the important role our 14 universities have in helping to secure Pennsylvania’s future.

Individuals have the most powerful stories to tell, so I encourage you to share your stories regarding why your State System university matters to you, your family, your business, or your community. Use the hashtags #InvestinOURuniversities and #fundPAfuture as you post encouraging and positive messages, images, and videos in social media.

The more we advocate together and remind the Commonwealth how our universities shape the future, the stronger our universities will be for years to come.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gaining a competitive edge

When our students return to campus next week after a well-deserved break, those competing in the 2016-2017 State System Business Plan Competition will be busy putting the final touches on months’ of work that will be judged by a panel of business experts. Thanks to private sponsors, we will be awarding $17,000 in cash investments that will help get three of the most promising business plans off the ground. While we often talk about the winners, and rightfully so, what shouldn’t be forgotten is all of the hard work that goes into getting each of the 200+ business plans ready for center stage.

Perhaps the best way for me to convey the lasting impact of this competition is through the eyes of a former student who competed in 2012-2013 and who now helps support current students with their own business development efforts. Joshua Domitrovich, who holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Clarion University, is the coordinator for career mentoring and internships at Clarion’s Center for Career and Professional Development. While Joshua was a student, Dr. Kevin Roth introduced him to the competition during an entrepreneurship course.

Joshua assisted his classmate, Andrew Naugle, with developing Maddie’s Promise—a non-profit designed to provide elderly individuals with the opportunity to make one last wish a reality. While the plan didn’t win, Joshua found the experience he gained in the process immeasurable: the exposure to successful high-profile professionals, the feedback he received to make the plan a reality, and the relationships he developed with faculty.

I encourage everyone across the State System to congratulate all of the students who made the commitment to this competition last fall, and to thank the faculty and administrators who have helped them along their journey. We know that each student will walk away with the skills they need to compete.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Giving of Ourselves

This time of year, it’s hard not to get caught up in the stress that comes with the end of the semester and the start of the holiday season. For some students, the countdown to graduation is entering its final days. To all students—no matter where you are in your academic journey—I’ll remind you to take the time to consider how you got here today. The hard work you put in each and every day, the sacrifices that you—and perhaps your family—have made, and the unending guidance provided by faculty and friends have made this year possible.

I like to remind our 11-year-old son that amid all of the excitement of the holidays this is also the time of year to think about others. And that is something I’m proud to say our students, faculty, and staff do extraordinarily well. Many from all across the State System have chosen to lend a hand in their local communities during this holiday season. As examples, Bloomsburg, Cheyney, and Mansfield held clothing and food drives; California students hosted a holiday event for the community; East Stroudsburg, IUP, and Slippery Rock collected money, toys, and stuffed animals for families in their communities; and Edinboro students participated in the Holiday Mail for Heroes program through the local chapter of the American Red Cross. Add those to the efforts at Clarion, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Millersville, Shippensburg and West Chester, and the list goes on and on.

While education will always be our top priority, serving others should never be far behind. Those experiences help shape our students into the global citizens they will need to be after they graduate. On behalf of the Board of Governors and everyone at the Office of the Chancellor, I extend our best wishes for a happy holiday season and a great 2017.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Season of Thanks

To our faculty, staff, and all university supporters, please know that we are blessed to have so many talented and dedicated individuals helping our 100,000 students and their families attain their piece of the American dream. Your contributions to their success and your support of the State System are invaluable, and for that we are all thankful.
To our students, we hope that you take a few days to recharge, rest up, and prepare to finish strong as the end of the semester quickly approaches. Your success is our reward.

Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2016 State System Summit focuses on diversity

As society has become more diverse, it’s essential that we all strive for greater cross-cultural competency. And our universities are doing just that. In a very real sense, these campuses can be microcosms of society that serve as examples of how communication and engagement can help to create a rich and inclusive environment for learning.

Toward that goal, faculty, staff, and students from our 14 universities came together last week for the ninth State System Summit, which was held this year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). I was honored to offer remarks at the Summit, which was appropriately titled, “Rising to the Challenge: Making Inclusion Matter.”

Sessions such as “Pursuing Faculty Diversity” and “The Cost of Integration” allowed attendees to think critically about racial and gender equity, while sessions on campus disability inclusion at IUP and a transfer learning community pilot at West Chester showcased some of the strong work our universities are doing to provide opportunities to all of the populations we serve.

We’ve long recognized the importance of social equity and have leaders on university campuses and in my office to ensure dialogue continues with faculty, staff, and students. As Dr. Pablo Mendoza, IUP’s assistant to the president for social equity, said, “Opportunities like this make the System stronger…we become more united because we learn what our colleagues are doing across the System and around the country.”

I couldn’t end without mentioning the tremendous support from students during this year’s summit. The student poster session was very well done—showcasing research-based engagements between students and faculty from across the System. Students from the IUP Department of Theater performed We are Proud to Present, which reminded everyone of the need to develop cross-cultural communication skills. Also, the Voices of Joy choir shared their talents at the welcome reception.

Our diversity makes us stronger, and important events such as this foster the kind of dialogue and discovery that help unite us.