Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Year of Potential and Promise

As an educator, this is my favorite time of year. With students returning for the start of a new academic year, college campuses everywhere are bursting back to life. Whether they are first-time freshmen or returning students, students’ faces beam with excitement, while those of their families and friends radiate with pride. They are all full of promise and potential.

In many ways, each new year starts the same—with our talented, dedicated faculty and staff preparing to welcome students to the 14 universities within Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. But, for those who are coming to campus for the first time, there is nothing routine about this experience. No doubt, it can be both exasperating and exhilarating all at the same time.
I’ve always believed that when we embrace both the challenges and opportunities that come with new experiences, great things can happen. If you doubt that, just look at some of the phenomenal things students and faculty from each of our universities have accomplished. On our website (www.passhe.edu/stories), you can read stories about these remarkable people and their achievements.
As examples, read about an Edinboro student and a faculty member collaborating on cutting-edge forensic research; a Cheyney student who was selected to serve as an ambassador for an important White House initiative; an IUP student’s summer internship with electric car maker Tesla; and an East Stroudsburg alumna’s experience in the Peace Corps.
More than 100,000 students are back on campus at our State System universities. All of us must work together to help ensure each of those students receives the high-quality, high-value education they expect—and deserve.
As Pennsylvania’s public universities, we bear a special responsibility not just to our students, but to the entire Commonwealth. Nearly 90 percent of our students are Pennsylvania residents; almost 80 percent will remain here after earning their degree—to live, to work and to raise their families. In a very real way, Pennsylvania’s economic success depends on our universities’ success.
We must ensure the success and sustainability of the System, and the Board of Governors is committed to that. Our chairwoman, Cynthia Shapira, recently said, “We must define what it means to provide an excellent educational experience in our System.” Toward that goal, the Board of Governors is undertaking a top-to-bottom review of the State System. That review will engage all of our stakeholders and will involve asking important questions: What will this System look like in the next decade? What will our universities look like? How do we ensure our mission of providing a high-quality, high-value education?
As our students return for the fall semester and start another year of classes, we offer a special welcome to each, and a pledge to do our best to help them prepare for their futures, as challenging and promising as it might be.
Yes, these are interesting times, but we are optimistic that the System’s future can be brighter than its past.