Remarks To Faculty& Staff Beginning 2011-2012 Academic Year
Greetings and Welcome
Good afternoon. I extend greetings to each and every one of you. If you’re joining us for the first time as we begin a new Academic Year, I am delighted to welcome you to our campus. I’m confident that you’ll find Pitt-Bradford to be a friendly and hospitable place and a place that will inspire you to do your best work.
If you’re returning after a relaxing summer or a hectic one, welcome back, as we continue our journey together.
Here’s what I have planned in my remarks today. As I do at the beginning of each year, I’d like to take a little time to review a few of the wonderful things we accomplished this past year. Although we understand that everything we accomplish at Pitt-Bradford is a product of our collective effort as a community, I do want to shine the spotlight on those members of our community who received special recognitions, reached milestones or went the extra mile in helping to advance our mission.
Lest we become overconfident and complacent, I also want to touch on a few challenges we’ll probably have to confront in the coming year. I’d like to brief you on a few new developments and then end with a review of our FY 2013 budget and ongoing capitol projects.
Sources of Pride
I begin with our all-important sources of pride from the past year, which reflect to some degree how well we’re advancing toward our shared vision. While we have a fully developed vision statement, the essence of that statement is embodied in the following statement:
By 2014, Pitt-Bradford will be
- Well-established as one of the premier baccalaureate institutions in the North
- Top of mind for programs of prominence and equally strong arts and science majors
- Serving more than 1,700 total students
- Rich in ethnic diversity
- A showcase campus, featuring state-of-the-art science and other academic facilities
- Established as a “green campus”
Our review of sources of pride begins with national recognitions.
We’ve certainly grown accustomed to citations by national publications that rank us each year among the top baccalaureate institutions in the North or Northeast. However, no one expected the one accorded us this past year. Pitt-Bradford was one of two public institutions in Pennsylvania named to the list of 150 “Best Value Colleges.” The other public college: The University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Campus. That recognition reaffirms our long-held conviction that we offer the highest quality student experience at a reasonable cost.
A second source of pride is our progress in fundraising for our campus.
Successful Public Launch of Fifty and Beyond Capital Campaign
Fundraising campaigns generally have two phases—a private phase and a public one. Campaigns remain in the private phase until at least 50% of a fundraising target has been raised. For several years, we had been endeavoring to move to the public phase, a move that would enable us to let the public in on our priorities and more aggressively invite the public to participate in the campaign. We surpassed the 60% fundraising threshold this past year and celebrated a successful public launch of our Fifty and Beyond Campaign. Our overall campaign fundraising target is $17.5 million; we’ve raised $10.6 million and are currently working on a number of major commitments that will bring us closer to our target.
By now, most of you are very familiar with the campaign priorities:
1. Scholarships (more important than ever as families struggle to cover college costs)
2. Academic programs (Striving to secure support for all academic programs, with major focus on Broadcast Communication, the Energy Curriculum and Hospitality Management)
3. Capital Projects (the major capital projects target in the campaign are completed)
4. Technology endowment
5. Athletic Endowment
6. The Annual Fund
We’re pleased, of course, with the levels of participation of our various constituent groups: the Advisory Board at 100% participation with total giving at $106,829; the Pitt-Bradford Alumni Association Board at 100% participation with total giving at $11,378; and faculty and staff at 54.7% participation with total giving at $36,118. I thank you for your support of the campaign.
A third source of pride was our ability to document to external evaluators the high quality of our institution as a whole and of our academic programs.
Regional and Specialized Accreditations
During the past year, we had the opportunity to document the high quality of our institution as a whole, while also documenting the quality of two of our academic programs.
Every ten years, institutions of higher education are required to submit to a comprehensive review by a regional accrediting agency. The agency that accredits the University of Pittsburgh and its four regional campuses is The Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The accreditation site visit review at Pitt-Bradford occurred on April 13, 2012. The visit was part of the overall review of the University of Pittsburgh and the good news is that the assessment of the reviewer was extremely favorable. In general, there were no concerns or recommendations to report and no issues that were cause for alarm. The reviewer reported very positive feedback from his meetings with the faculty and the staff. According to the reviewer, faculty and staff commented favorably about the positive developments on campus during the last ten years and about the openness and transparency in their communications with the administration.
As to the meeting with students, the reviewer reported that students were extremely positive in reflecting about their experience at Pitt-Bradford. Of particular interest were their comments about the personalized nature of the overall campus environment and the care and concern for their well-being consistently shown by faculty and staff. Obviously, this kind of reaction from students is a reflection of how strongly all of us have embraced the Brand Promise, which, by the way, my wife tells me I often recite in my sleep:
Pitt-Bradford is safe and friendly institution for students who want to earn a world renowned degree in a personalized setting.
In the end, the reviewer commended our campus for our coherent strategic planning approach, for our efforts in assessing learning outcomes and our use of data to improve programs and services.
I’m also pleased to report successful discipline-specific accreditation reviews in nursing and athletic training. I commend and congratulate the nursing and athletic training faculty for a job well done.
I thank all of you for your determination, resourcefulness, entrepreneurial spirit and deep commitment. As I reflect on the glorious history of our campus, I find that those are the qualities that have consistently carried us through the difficult and challenging periods. Those qualities are as evident today as they were 20, 30, 40 and nearly 50 years ago. And those are the qualities that enable us to boast of another successful year.
Fourth, but not least, was the pride we shared as members of our campus community reached milestones during the past year or received awards or special recognitions.
Years of Service
35 Years: Ms. Cindy Cavallero, Dr. K. James Evans, Dr. Michael Klausner, Dr. Richard Melka, Mr. Thomas Sheeley
30 years: Dr. Shailendra Gajanan, Dr. Helene Lawson, Dr. Holly Spittler
15 years: Mr. Rhett Kennedy, Ms. Cathy Reiley, Mr. Dan Songer, Ms. Betty Spindler
10 years: Ms. Karen Branch, Ms. Brenda Brandon, Dr. Kira Leck, Dr. Nancy McCabe, Mr. John McGriff, Dr. Biodun Ogundayo, Ms. Jody Randolph
5 years: Ms. Tonya Ackley, Ms. Mary Boser, Ms. Kimberly Boyer, Mr. John Eaton, Dr. Tonty Gaskew, Dr. Richard Knott, Ms. Jessica Kramer, Ms. Lindsay Retchless
Chairs’ Faculty Teaching Award: Dr. Tammy Haley
PBAA Teaching Excellence Award: Dr. Shailendra Gajanan
Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the University: Ms. Christina Graham
Publications: Dr. Kevin Ewert, Dr. Nancy McCabe, Drs. Flora Wei and Ken Wang
Brand Champions: Biology program, Athletics and Recreation office, Student-Athletes
Robert H. Shaffer Award/Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors: Dr. Ron Binder
On behalf of our entire campus community, I extend congratulations to these members of our community who celebrated milestones or received special recognitions.
We now turn our attention to threats looming on the horizon.
The Potential for Derailment
As in every year of our history, we expect to face a number of challenges or potential threats during this Academic Year. We would be foolish not to take them seriously—as seriously as if the very future of our institution depended on it. Continued advancement of our campus will require that we respond appropriately to these challenges; however, I do not want us to face the future with undue apprehension or fear. As an institution, we are well regarded at the University of Pittsburgh (at every level, from Chancellor and Provost to faculty and staff) and we have the strong support of our legislative delegation in Harrisburg. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to review the challenges we can expect to face each year lest we become complacent and oblivious to the threats in the environment that can derail our progress and reduce us to mediocrity.
Sustaining our FTE Enrollment
Our enrollment numbers peaked in 2009 and 2010 and then declined in 2011 and 2012. The overall declines in FTE are undoubtedly attributable to record numbers of graduates during the last three years and significant declines in our retention rates. We don’t have definitive answers as to why our retention rate declined, but strongly suspect the poor economy’s impact on families and decisions to relocate to colleges closer to home. Fortunately, we continue to recruit strong freshman and transfer cohorts; however, the challenge going forward will be to strive even harder to achieve retention rates of 74% to 78%. We’re currently languishing at 66% to 68%.
We’ve all had our frustrations with students, the millennials who have come of age in a culture in which easier is better and faster is best; and having one’s parents just take care of it all is best of all. I know, and I don’t minimize the challenge of having to adjust to this cultural mentality.
On the other hand, we have great students. The Admissions staff works tremendously hard all year to find young people who are a good fit for Pitt-Bradford. The worst part of my job is that I don’t have the opportunity to interact with them as often as I’d like. When I do, I am reminded of all the reasons I’ve chosen a career in higher education. Sometimes I see aspects of my 19-year-old self and I remember those people who helped me—those who channeled my enthusiasm, those who motivated me when I felt like quitting, those who were patient with me as I figured out how to become an adult.
There is a lot that we are doing right, and here is the evidence of that:
1. Affordability. I am not unmindful of the problem of the rising costs of higher education and the increasing debt burden young graduates face. However, I am proud that as an institution, we have made affordability a strategic priority, letting it lead the charge of our fundraising campaigns. We are able to provide some form of financial aid to 94% of our students in the form of federal and state aid, institutional merit awards, and donor and labor scholarships.
2. Jobs. This is a tough job market. I’m sure you’ve had conversations with former students who are not where they hoped they would be. At the same time, we have students who are achieving what they hoped they would when they enrolled in college. They are competing and succeeding in the best firms, and they are making real contributions in the region. Nursing is a prime example.
3. Not only are our students succeeding in the job market, they are getting into some of the best graduate schools in the country.
So, even as we continue to be mindful of our stagnant full-time equivalent enrollments, we can take pride in our impressive student success outcomes.
Declining Support at the State and System Levels
Each of the last four years, we, along with all public colleges and universities, have had to live with the reality of crippling budget cuts. While we averted proposed cuts to our appropriations of 50% last year and 30% this year, we have still absorbed well over $1.5 million in cuts during the past four years. Just last week I received a letter from the Provost informing us that the mid-year reduction announced last January is now a permanent cut and that we will have to forfeit an additional $158,179, in addition to the salary and fringe money lost as a result of the Voluntary Early Retirement Program.
The threat of additional cuts still looms on the horizon as long as the economy continues to sputter and as long as higher education continues to be devalued in the Commonwealth. That threat will impel us to guard our resources wisely and limit new expenditures to support of our most important strategic priorities.
Throughout the recent period of declining state support, the one constant has been the support of our local legislators, Senator Joseph Scarnati, Representative Marty Causer and more recently Representative Kathy Rapp. Please extend your thanks to them if the opportunity presents itself.
Administrative Re-alignment with the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville
We have discussed at length in previous meetings the conditions and circumstances that prompted the University to ask us to re-align administratively with Pitt-Titusville. Much of the summer has been spent implementing the first phase of the re-alignment. Of course, those of you who have been here for a while know that this is not the first time that the idea has surfaced. In spite of resistance at many levels in the Titusville community, I can report, with some resolve, that the process is moving forward. Administratively, we’ve already consolidated the Business Affairs areas of the two campuses, with Rick Esch overseeing Business Affairs for both campuses. We will also provide guidance and support in Admissions and Marketing.
Clearly, the challenge for our campus will be to continue to pursue our own top priorities, while lending our administrative support to Pitt-Titusville. Discussed at length during our Summer Leadership Retreat, our Cabinet meetings, our Enrollment Planning Task Force meetings and meetings with individuals is the importance of keeping the focus on our own strategic initiatives and enrollment targets, even as we continue to lend our administrative support to Pitt-Titusville.
Adjusting to Changes in Diversity of our Student Population
The diversity of our student population has changed dramatically during the last 5 to 6 years. It will likely become even more diverse as we intensify our efforts to recruit more Hispanic and international students. What became apparent during the past year is that neither the surrounding communities, nor, to some extent, our campus are prepared to deal with the realities and implications of an increasingly diverse population of students. Our campus actually is on the tail end of a demographic shift that has transformed our nation’s colleges. What’s happening on our campus mirrors changes that have been taking place on other campuses for several decades. Some colleges have learned how to accommodate diversity; others have not.
To ensure that we appropriately address the changes taking place on our campus, I will soon appoint and charge an Advisory Committee to the President on Diversity. I am asking the President of the Faculty Senate and the President of the Staff Association to nominate two persons each to serve on the Committee. My office will appoint two additional persons. Those six members will be joined by two students. The purpose of the Committee will be:
To help create a more sustainable, diversity-friendly campus and surrounding community by:
1. Assessing and monitoring the campus and community climate either formally (surveys, questionnaires) or informally (feedback from conversations, anecdotes) to determine level of receptivity to diversity
2. Hosting campus-wide diversity conversations
3. Engaging key members of the community in conversations aimed at overcoming obstacles to healthy and productive intergroup relationships
Increased Emphasis on Graduation Rates at State and System Levels
Government officials at the state level continue to raise questions about the value and efficacy of higher education institutions that cannot graduate most students in four years. Accordingly, the University of Pittsburgh is requiring that all campuses establish targets that are comparable to current four-, five- and six-year graduation rates at benchmark institutions. The slide you’re viewing shows our graduation rates for the 2004 freshman cohort, along with the comparable graduation rates of our benchmark institutions. As you can see, we have a lot of ground to make up. Our intent is to make incremental progress each year until our rates are comparable to the rates of our benchmark institutions.
We’re confident the newly constructed and re-organized academic support unit on the second floor of Hanley Library will enable us to reach these targets. In reality, though, that unit is only a part of the solution to the problem of low graduate rates. Every single member of the campus will have to pitch in and I will soon ask James Baldwin and the staff members in the unit to identify ways other members of the campus community can help us to reach the desired targets.
Let me now shift to some exciting new developments.
Exciting New Developments
Kessel Athletic Complex Renovation
The completion of the renovation of the Kessel Atheltic Complex enables us to address longstanding inequities in our athletic programs. The softball field, which is used by our female athletes, is now comparable in quality to the baseball field used by our male athletes. Many other improvements to the Complex resulted from the renovation project and we’re once again thankful to Senator Scarnati and Representative Causer for securing the $2.5 million in state funds to cover the cost of the renovations.
Confucius Institute and Growth in International Student Population
We are thrilled to host two talented scholars from China during the 2012-2013 Academic Year, as they share their knowledge and expertise in Chinese language and culture with our students and members of the surrounding communities. (Ada) Huang Yidan and (Lillian) Liulin Zhang come to us through the University of Pittsburgh’s Confucius Institute. Both are graduate students in the College of Chinese Language and Literature at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. We welcome them warmly to our campus community.
As we begin the 2012-2013 Academic Year, we also welcome the largest number of new international students in our history. The total number of new international students coming to our campus this fall will move us over the 50-student target we had established only one year ago. Clearly, the world is reaching out to us, even as we reach out to the world through our various study abroad and exchange programs.
Growth in Bridges and College in the High School Programs and EITC Contributions
The number of students enrolling in the Bridges Program and the number of high schools
participating in the College in the High School (CHS) Program continue to grow. The growth in Bridges and CHS is fueled by the eagerness of high school students to get a head start on college, even as they complete high school requirements. The growth is also driven by the availability of Educational Improvement Tax Credit moneys that enable us to provide financial aid to help students. The growth in CHS is a promising development principally because a significant number of the students who participate in CHS eventually enroll as full time students at Pitt-Bradford.
Strategic Initiatives Targeted for FY 2013
I refer you to a handout in your materials displaying the Strategic Initiatives Targeted for Completion in Fiscal Year 2013. These initiatives represent both our continuing effort to implement our strategic plan as originally conceived and our resolve to respond nimbly to a rapidly changing environment. The following is a sample of those initiatives.
FY 13 Strategically expand the number of full-time faculty members so that all majors are supported by at least two faculty members
FY 13 Expand and focus distance education program by developing online, ITV and hybrid courses targeted for specific groups of students (i.e., commuting and part-time students)
FY13 Build a test kitchen for Hospitality Management program
FY13 Establish Confucius Institute
FY 13 Develop specific programming for sophomores, juniors, and seniors designed to improve retention and graduation rates
FY 13 Take appropriate steps to ensure that applicant pools for faculty and staff vacant positions contain adequate proportions of individuals from underrepresented groups
FY 13 Expand student recruitment activities in secondary and tertiary markets and beyond to ensure that students from underrepresented populations apply and matriculate at Pitt-Bradford
FY13 Communicate the results of the study of the economic, social and cultural impact of Pitt-Bradford on the region
FY 13 Produce a book chronicling the history of Pitt-Bradford in anticipation of 50th anniversary
FY13 Hire a vendor to develop a unique virtual tour for the website
FY 13 Convene a 50th Anniversary committee to plan celebration events
FY 13 Finalize acquisition and display of Marilyn Horne archive collection
FY13 Develop comprehensive plan to gradually phase out the aging Townhouse Apartments and replace them with suite-style apartments
FY13 Purchase locking devices so classrooms can be locked from within and install emergency phones in every classroom
FY13 Develop a comprehensive plan for increasing sustainable practices on campus
Launch of New Website for Pitt-Bradford
Those who visit our website in the near future will see major changes as we launch a new website for our campus. The slides you’re viewing are sample pages of our new design. I encourage everyone to ensure that your unit web pages are kept up to date.
Economic and Community Impact Study
During the past year, we finally implemented a strategic initiative that had been in our strategic plan for several years. We engaged the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research to conduct an economic and community impact study. The remarkable findings produced by this study confirm that Pitt-Bradford’s contribution to its service region is massive in scope and profound in its impact. The most significant result is that the total economic impact of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford for McKean County and a four-county region of North Central Pennsylvania was a stunning $67.5 million in 2011. This economic activity produced a total of 740 jobs.
University expenditures, salaries paid to faculty and staff and student spending have multiplier effects throughout the region. The report explains how this economic impact is distributed across many sectors of the economy in the region. These effects are concentrated in local enterprises such as, banking and business support services, legal services, food services, the hospitality industry, retail establishments, real estate, health care facilities and practitioners and taxes to local municipalities.
Yet another stunning result from the study is that from 2001 through 2010, capital project expenditures on the Pitt-Bradford campus averaged more than $6.3 million annually.
In a dramatic statement about the role Pitt-Bradford plays in the community, the economic and community impact study characterizes the college as an “anchor institution,” i.e., an organization that creates the conditions that improve the quality of life of residents in a community. Four areas of community activity define Pitt-Bradford’s role as an anchor institution. These areas include: scholarly engagement and presentation of artistic events; community economic development; lifelong education and human capacity building; and proliferation of community partnerships.
This is all good news, of course, and I hope that we will be reading about it in tomorrow’s paper. Just a couple of hours ago I hosted a luncheon for editors and reporters from numerous regional media outlets to share the results of the study. The full economic and community impact study is available on our website.
The conclusion we draw from reviewing our work during the past year is that we continue to make a significant impact in the lives of students and on the economic growth of our service region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As we continue to make plans to celebrate our 50th anniversary, we do so with full confidence that we can meet any and all challenges to our long-term health and viability as an institution of higher education.
Review of FY 2013 Budget and Capitol Projects