Remarks To Faculty& Staff Beginning 2011-2012 Academic Year
Greetings and Welcome
Good afternoon. I extend warm greetings to all of you, especially those whom I didn’t get the opportunity to greet during our brief pre-convocation reception. If you’re joining us for the first time, I welcome you officially to our Pitt-Bradford college community. I hope you find Pitt-Bradford to be a warm, hospitable and friendly place and a place in which you can be inspired to do the best work of your career. If you’re returning to the “launching pad” prepared to take off on yet another fast and furious journey, welcome back as we prepare to write yet another chapter in our great history.
In my remarks today, I’ll share a few thoughts about the anxiety and worry that gripped our campus as we wrestled with budget issues during the spring and summer months. On a much larger scale, I’ll issue an advisory about a gathering storm on the horizon; but I also want to show how we’ve weathered storms in our recent past and produced great results in the process. I’ll then focus on the future and indicate how we will need to make some changes in the way we do business in order to ensure a bright and viable future for our campus.
Finally, when we look at our budget for the coming year, you’ll see that in spite of the unfortunate budget reductions we’ve had to absorb, we’re still in good fiscal health and we will continue our positive momentum. I will admit up front that some of what I share with you today may be alarming. This is in the interest of being open and candid and not hiding from you what I see as looming challenges. However, no matter what you hear from me today, underlying all of that is my full confidence in our ability to successfully advance our institution and realize our vision.
As we begin the 48th year in the life of our institution, we’re one year away from the 50th anniversary of the agreement by the University of Pittsburgh and local community leaders to establish a University of Pittsburgh regional campus in Bradford. Most of you know that we actually began operating as a higher education institution in 1963, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of that event will take place in 2013. The countdown to that celebration continues, however, a critical event leading to the opening of our campus was the agreement to establish the campus in October, 1962. We’ll mark that occasion next October.
The 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee continues to meet and will intensify its planning for the celebration of our treasured 50th anniversary milestone. I’m sure the Committee will welcome your thoughts and ideas on ways to celebrate and mark the occasion. As a part of our commemoration, a professional historian, Dr. Sherrie Mershon, is making excellent progress in telling the Pitt-Bradford story in a history of the first fifty years. The scheduled completion date of her work is December 2012.
As I reflect on the recently concluded 47th year, I marvel at how the enterprising spirit that has characterized us throughout our history once again came into play when faced with challenges and opportunities. Each of you displayed that spirit in important ways during the past year, and I’m deeply grateful to you for the part you played in making the last year a successful year. By no means was it an easy and uneventful year; and we certainly took our lumps along the way. However, your responses to the challenges and opportunities we faced throughout the year was phenomenal.
I am particularly mindful of the anxiety and worry that swept through our campus during these summer months as we struggled with the disagreeable task of reducing our $2.5 million rural education budget line item by $433,000 (or 19%). The 19% reduction in the rural education line item and 50% reduction in the Center for Rural Health Practice line item were final outcomes from four long months of deliberation in Harrisburg that began with the Governor’s proposal to reduce our state appropriation by 50%. We’re also dreading the possible loss of our federally funded TRIO Educational Talent Search Program. When we review our FY 2012 budget in a few minutes, I’ll explain how we accommodated these reductions.
Storms on the Horizon
As I examine the landscape both near and far, I’m increasingly alarmed by emerging forces on the horizon that threaten to derail our efforts to achieve the vision articulated in our strategic plan. I worry about these forces day and night. Perhaps the most menacing of these forces are persistent demographic changes in our service region and throughout Pennsylvania (PowerPoint slides illustrating downward trend in our population). Other potentially damaging forces include: stagnant economies at the local, state and national levels; increased competition for a declining student population in our region; and pressure at the state level to increase our retention and graduation rates.
These potentially catastrophic forces have already begun to have their effects in the form of:
- Declining FTE enrollment;
- Major reductions in our rural education outreach and Center for Rural Health Practice line items;
- Possible defunding of our Educational Talent Search TRIO program and threats to federal and state financial aid; and
- Questions by state officials about the efficacy and value of higher education institutions that cannot graduate most of their students in four years.
These emerging forces notwithstanding, there is reason for optimism. Let’s take a moment to reflect on a few of the highlights of the past year.
The most startling development of the past year was the enthusiastic way in which donors continued their longstanding support of our campus. On the heels of the most debilitating recession since the great depression, most institutions of higher education expected and experienced significant declines in giving. Pitt-Bradford saw an increase across virtually all constituents: friends, alumni, corporations, foundations, faculty and staff, Advisory and Alumni Association Boards. (PowerPoint slide showing giving for FY 2008 through FY 2011)
These giving outcomes beg the question: Why do people give to our institution, especially since giving at other comparable institutions is below giving at our institution? Conventional wisdom stemming from studies by advancement specialists conclude that the most important factor in motivating a person to make a major gift is belief in the mission of the institution (Panas, 2006). The person has to be very familiar with the institution’s vision, strategic plan, and programs and convinced that the institution can make a positive and dramatic difference. As I meet and greet people throughout our region, they sing the praises of our campus and remark freely about the profound impact we have on the region.
Although far beneath the first in importance, two other factors motivate donors to give: the financial stability of the organization and belief in and regard for the people who work at the institution (Panas, 2006). The third factor gives me the opportunity to reinforce the notion that securing gifts for our institution doesn’t result exclusively from the work of the president and chief advancement officer. Every single person on our campus is a fundraiser because every single person helps to advance the mission and every single person performs work that is highly valued by donors. Their gifts represent their confidence in our ability to make a difference in the lives of people.
Other highlights of the past year worthy of note were:
- Achievement of 1500 FTE enrollment for the second consecutive year;
- Dedication of two additional landmark buildings on campus, the Harriett B. wick chapel and Sarah B. Dorn House;
- The renovation of the science laboratories in Fisher Hall;
- Ranking by U. S. News and World Report in the first tier at the 31st spot among the baccalaureate colleges in the North;
- Chancellor Mark Nordenberg’s presentation of Chancellor’s Affirmation Action Award to our Admissions Office for their success in recruiting minority students to our campus;
- Successful collaboration with the City of Bradford in securing $2.5 million in commonwealth funds to renovate Kessel Athletic Complex.
All of these wonderful highlights mean we’ve earned the privilege to celebrate another remarkably successful year. What makes it possible for us to succeed while so many others failed? I state again, as I have in previous years, that it is our ability to hold our ranks together and row in the same direction, even in the face of setbacks and challenges. I thank each and every one of you for your hard work, entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity, persistence, passion, dedication, and your commitment to our vision and strategic plan.
I especially wish to acknowledge those whose achievements we’ve celebrated and publicly recognized during the past year.
Years of Service
- 40: Isabelle Champlin
- 35: Jeff Armstrong
- 30: Warren Fass, Mark Burns, Donald Johnson, Vickie Pingie, Don Robbins
- 25: Lisa Fiorentino, Jeff Guterman, Ron Mattis, Rick Nelson, Sharie Radzavich, Karen Stroutman
- 15: Bernie Meyer, Rick Esch
- 10: Gillian Boyce, Don Lewicki, Klaus Wuersig, James Baldwin, Pat Frantz Cercone, Steve Ellison, Sue Gleason, Tad Haight
- 5: Dianna Beaver, Judy Cameron, Mandy Colosimo, Laurie Dennis, Liza Greville, Carma Horner, Jean Luciano, Diana Maguire, Julie McGuire, Kristin Morris, Margot Myers, Cindy Nowacki, Emily Parana, Hillary Stitt, Sheryl A.H. Wallace, Steve Williams
- TRiO Student Support Services
- Student Government Association
- Dr. Donna Dombek, from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor
- Dr. Tony Gaskew, from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor with tenure
- Dr. Mark Kelley, PhD in Education from Capella University
Let’s now take a brief look at what’s in store for us as we anticipate the future.
A couple of years ago, I stood before you and asked how many of you expected to serve out your careers at Pitt-Bradford over the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more. Many of you raised your hands. My questions now are: Will our institution be around 5, 10, 15 or 20 years from now? If it is, will it be smaller or bigger? What will it look like? What would you like to see it become?
From all that I’m learning as I talk to colleagues at the national level and study the trends in our society and in higher education, there is a chance that we will not be around if we do nothing to influence how certain emerging trends impact us in the near- and long-term future. And so the question we must ask is: Can we afford to simply continue doing what we have been doing and do nothing to influence our fate as an institution of higher education? If we examine the institutions that are advancing and those that are declining, three major distinguishing features stand out:
- Those that consistently advance tend to embrace and celebrate their core mission and values and protect them at all cost.
- They’re nimble and stand ready to change whenever they perceive threats to their mission or see opportunities to sustain or strengthen their institution.
- They promote environments of mutual respect and trust where all “row in the same direction” towards a shared vision.
By all accounts, we’re numbered among those institutions that have advanced consistently over the last few years. Our successful planning efforts during the last 8 years have demonstrated that we’re not resistant to change and actually embrace it when convinced that change can sustain or strengthen our institution. However, the landscape is changing rapidly. It is imperative that we change even more dramatically in order to ensure we continue to advance and keep alive our positive momentum.
Fortunately, our “Plan for the Fifth Decade- Phase II” strategic plan is adaptable, even as it continues to serve as the template to advance our institution. Two years into the five-year plan, the major strategic goals continue to reflect our overall direction:
- New Levels of Academic Excellence
- Student Enrollment and Academic Success
- Human Resources and Diversity
- Rural Engagement and Outreach
- Reputation and Identity
- Financial and Material Resources
- Campus Ambience and Sustainability
I refer you to a handout in your materials displaying the Strategic Initiatives Targeted for Completion in Fiscal Year 2012. These initiatives represent both our continuing effort to implement the plan as originally conceived and our resolve to nimbly respond to a rapidly changing environment. The following is a sample of those initiatives.
- Complete the renovation of science labs and first floor area of Fisher Hall
- Strategically expand the number of full-time faculty members so that all majors are supported by at least two faculty members
- Develop long-range plan for delivery of online instruction which includes cost-benefit analysis, projections for impact on enrollment, assessment and quality, faculty development and pedagogy, and the instructional environment
- Develop a baccalaureate program in Energy Technology
- Implement series of faculty professional development seminars to enable faculty members to better meet the instructional needs of a new generation of students
- Implement reorganized structure for academic support services for a new generation of millennial students
- Restructure orientation programs to emphasize academic preparedness
- Implement transportation program to provide greater mobility to students, including access to Bradford and travel to locations in the tertiary markets over breaks
- Develop specific programming for sophomores, juniors, and seniors designed to improve retention and graduation rates
- Bring average salaries of faculty across all ranks to the averages of appropriate benchmark groups
- Take appropriate steps to ensure that applicant pools for faculty and staff vacant positions contain adequate proportions of individuals from underrepresented groups
- Promote Pitt-Bradford as a cultural resource for the region and offer programs and activities in support of the arts
- Conduct a study of the economic, social and cultural impact of Pitt-Bradford on the region
- Redesign Pitt-Bradford website
- Plan and launch Capital Campaign beginning with kickoff celebration
- Host cultivation and stewardship events for alumni through regional receptions, Pitt football games and personal visits
- Increase number of submissions of grant proposals produced by faculty and Staff
- Renovate and upgrade Kessel Athletic complex
- Finalize acquisition and display of Marilyn Horne archive collection
- Develop a comprehensive plan for increasing sustainable practices on campus
Each summer, members of our campus leadership at all levels gather to take part in a retreat to review our progress in implementing our strategic plan and address core challenges facing our institution. As in previous retreats, important recommendations came out of our most recent summer retreat. The most important of these recommendations are the following:
- Adopt and implement a proposed restructuring of academic support services
- Engaging the entire campus community in the effort to increase graduation rates, making it a universal goal
- Assess our current status and expanding our offerings in distance education, perhaps as high as 25% to 30% of total credit hours.
My singular response to the question I posed earlier in my remarks is that we cannot afford to ignore the transforming forces that are literally re-defining the higher education landscape. We cannot afford to ignore the different set of values about work and personal responsibility that the new generation of millennial students brings with them as they enroll in our colleges and universities. Nor can we ignore the technology-driven instructional modalities that are now used to appeal to new markets of students. We must respond to these transforming forces; and we must respond decisively.
Accordingly, I have approved the proposed restructuring of academic support services within the Academic Affairs administrative area. The affected areas include: Academic Success Center; Advising Center; Disability Resources and Services; TRIO Student Support Services and Educational Talent Search; Enrollment Services; and Registrar. The new structure will also work very closely with the Freshmen Seminar, Career Services and the new Writing Center. James Baldwin will oversee this restructured administrative area under the banner of Academic Affairs; and the major focus of this complex of services will be to increase the freshman-to- sophomore retention rate to 78% by 2014 and to increase the four-, five-, and six-year graduation rates to 32%, 42% and 52% respectively, beginning with the fall 2008 freshman cohort. With each ensuing cohort, the target graduation rate percentages will increase by 2%. This will be a major challenge for James Baldwin and the staff members who work in these areas. However, they are strongly committed to achieving these targets.
A significant and likely irreversible trend at colleges and universities is the escalating percentage of credit hours generated by distance education. Mindful of this development, during the last few years we’ve moved cautiously and very deliberately in our experimentation with online instruction. We’ve “dipped our toe” in the water, so to speak. However, as we watch our enrollment numbers stabilize below the desired level, we must move more aggressively and purposefully in using our technological resources to reach new student markets. I do realize, of course, that a number of important questions will have to be addressed as we contemplate expansion of our effort in distance education: Do we have the technological capacity and expertise to offer a broader range of courses and programs to designated markets? Do we have the appropriate staffing resources? What is the upper limit of credit hours that we can generate through distance education and still maintain our identity as a personalized, friendly institution?
To tackle these and other questions, I have appointed a committee to assess our current status and position in distance education and develop recommendations that would enable us to increase course offerings to a higher level, perhaps as high as 24% to 30% of total credit hours. Professor Don Lewicki and Mr. Bernie Picklo have agreed to co-chair the Distance Education Committee. Other members include: Dr. Warren Fass, Dr. Hashim Yusef, Dr. Flora Wei, Dr. Ken Wang, Dr. Lauren Yaich, and Mr. James Baldwin. I thank them for agreeing to serve.
The Year Ahead
In the interest of ensuring that you’re as informed as possible about the financial resources available to us in the coming year and recently completed capital projects, I’d like to review the budget information which is displayed on the slides prepared by Steve Williams and Rick Esch. (BUDGET AND CAPITAL PROJECTS SLIDES)
As we look ahead, let’s welcome and introduce our new faculty and staff colleagues who have come to help us advance our institution. Introductions will include those who joined us during the past year and those who are joining us as we begin the new academic year.
Thank you and have an enjoyable and productive year.
Panas, J. (2006). Asking. Medfield, MA: Emerson & Church Publishers.
Thank you and have an enjoyable and productive year.