Remarks To Faculty& Staff Beginning 2006-2007 Academic Year
Good morning. Thank all of you for being here today. In speaking with several of you before the meeting, I gather that your summer was enjoyable and relaxing; and that you were able to spend quality time with your family and friends. I welcome you back to another year of exciting opportunities for our campus. We face the coming year with a great deal more optimism and hope than we did last year. I have much more good news to share this year than I did last year. And I have many more of you to thank. Before I comment on our great prospects for the coming year, let’s reflect for a moment on our experience at the beginning of the last academic year.
A Dismal Beginning
As we began AY 2005-2006, I reported that our enrollments were down and that, as a result, there would likely be adverse budget consequences. I threw out the figure of $300,000 as the amount by which our budget might very well be reduced. At the time, we could not pinpoint precisely the reasons for the decline in our enrollments; however, all of us suspected the PeopleSoft implementation, the system-wide change in the procedures for recruiting and admitting option students, the rising cost of a college education, and our lack of visibility as an institution of higher education. Those suspicions proved to be as accurate as any other reasons suggested.
I also reported at our opening meeting last year that the University had decreased the budgets of all units in the system by 1.5%. This amounted to a budget cut of $200,000 for our campus.
I did remind us that we had a strategic plan in place and that we had already taken the actions to not only sustain setbacks of that sort, but also set us on a course to meeting our enrollment targets within a reasonable timeframe. As we began that second year of implementation of our strategic plan, I emphasized how important it was for each and every one of us to regard as our individual responsibility the recruitment and retention of students.
Let’s now reflect on how we responded as a community to the bad news and the challenges we received at the beginning of last year.
Accomplishments During the Past Year and Promising New Developments
New Academic Programs: In response to my appeal to the faculty for new baccalaureate majors in such potentially high demand areas as accounting, health and physical education, and hospitality management, and stand-alone majors in elementary and secondary education, I’m delighted to say that the faculty responded in a very favorable manner. Those programs are now officially on our inventory, as are a new associate degree major in Engineering Science and a revised associate degree major in Information Technology. We now have 36 baccalaureate majors and four associate degree majors on our inventory of programs.
Also on the books as a new course is the mandatory Freshman Seminar. I commend Dr. Brian Van Schee for his hard work in advancing this promising initiative forward.
To all faculty members who were involved in these program development efforts, I commend and thank you. I thank Dean Hardin for providing the leadership and support for these efforts. I also commend Faculty Senate President Don Ulin (who also served as our PACUP representative). We’d have to go back many years to see more new programs developed during the tenure of a single Senate president. Don, congratulations on a successful tenure. We didn’t agree on all issues (and I wouldn’t expect us to), but you worked very productively with the administration to accomplish a lot for Pitt-Bradford.
Enrollment: As I stated earlier, we began the last academic year at an enrollment level that was more than 100 FTE below our projection. We did rebound significantly during the second semester, however, the fall semester numbers were difficult to overcome. The consequences of this decline were reflected in the tuition incentive calculation and in our leverage with the system administration in Oakland. As all of you now know, we seem to have come full circle again in our drive to increase our enrollments. The current freshman class of 366 is the largest in the history of our institution. The added good news in that statistic is that 289 of these freshmen applied to Pitt-Bradford directly. They were not referred by Oakland. This is not to say, of course, that we do not welcome the 77 freshmen who are coming to us as option students. Rather, it is to emphasize that our future viability as an institution of higher education will depend on our ability to attract increasing numbers of direct applicants to Pitt-Bradford.
We are pleased with the make-up of our freshman class. It appears that 75% of the new freshmen have SAT scores of 920 or above, while approximately 25% have SAT scores below 920. The new students come from 17 different states, including most states on the Eastern seaboard and such distant states as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado.
I commend and thank Alex Nazemetz and his hardworking Admissions staff for a job well done. Just as deserving of thanks and commendations are Melissa Ibanez and her Financial Aid staff, and the friendly and approachable Enrollment Services staff, led by James Baldwin. I think that most of you understand the critically important role that James Baldwin played in getting us though the very difficult PeopleSoft implementation. Jim Evans continues to provide good leadership in the enrollment management area and I commend him for that. I also want to thank the members of the Enrollment Planning Task Force who met with me bi-weekly to monitor our enrollment progress and discuss mid-course adjustments. The outcomes from those discussions were instrumental to our enrollment success. My plan is to continue that task force in the coming year.
Resource Development: When I invited all of you to propose strategic initiatives during our planning efforts three years ago, it was with the caveat that we should not allow well-recognized limitations in financial resources to shape and determine the possibilities. I stated that if we propose realistic, but ambitious initiatives that can help us achieve our shared vision, then the requisite financial resources would materialize. You did submit a broad range of strategic initiatives, some of which seemed beyond our reach at the time. Let’s consider how we did in mobilizing the resources to implement the initiatives.
Capitol Campaign: The achievement of a capital campaign goal of $13 million was a remarkable accomplishment for an institution of our size and a town the size of Bradford. The private funds raised during the campaign enabled us to implement many strategic initiatives across many areas of our institution. For example, we now award over 330 scholarships each year. The average award is $982.00 and the total amount awarded is nearly $325,000. We doubled the size of the campus during the campaign, significantly increased our residence hall capacity, and built or renovated three very attractive buildings. Our classrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Karen Buchheit deserves to be commended for her leadership in coordinating the fundraising efforts of many people, including each of the Presidents who served Pitt-Bradford during the campaign, Howard Fesenmyer, Greg Booth, other members of the Development Council of the Advisory Board, and her hard working staff members ( Ann Conard, Michele Buchholz, Lindsay Retchless, and Tammy Burkett).
Sponsored Programs: Another important way in which we intended to support the implementation of our strategic plan was grant writing. Mindful of the success we had experienced in the previous year with a TRIO Student Support Services grant and a Hewlett Packard grant, we approached grant writing during the last year with a measure of optimism. The outcomes justified our optimism. I’m pleased to announce that we were recently awarded a second TRIO grant to support a Talent Search Program ($220,000 for four years). We received a Department of Labor grant to provide equipment for our nursing lab. And we were awarded a Stackpole-Hall Foundation grant to assist in offering RN to BSN and Information Technology programs in St. Marys. The fingerprints of Liza Greville are all over two of these grants, the Talent search award and the Department of Labor award. Liza worked closely with Gillian Boyce in preparing and submitting the TRIO proposal. She also worked with Dean Hardin, Dr. Perla Ilagen, and other members of the nursing faculty in submitting the DOL proposal. Finally, the Center for Rural Health Practice continues to be very successful in generating grant awards to support research in such vital areas as rural emergency preparedness, rural health workforce shortages, oral health in Appalachia, community health assessments, and a host of other areas. Grant writing will be increasingly important to our future. I want to take a moment to recognize those who have met with success in the last two years in writing or supporting the writing of successful grants. I ask these individuals to stand as I call their names:
Gillian Boyce, Liza Greville, Linda Delaney, Margo Myers, Michael Meit, Lorraine Ettaro, Becky Confer, Pat Demjohn, Sherrie Wallace, Dick Melka, Dennis Siepierski, Marius Buliga, James Baldwin, Steve Hardin, Perla Ilagen, and Karen Buchheit.
Rural Education Outreach Budget Line Item: During the last three years, our rural education outreach line item was increased by $341,000 in FY 05 and $381,000 in FY 06. I’m pleased to announce that our line item was increased again in FY 07, this time by $415,000. The line item total increased from $900,000 in 2003 to $2,157,000 in FY 2007. We have our local legislators, Senator Joe Scarnati and Representative Marty Causer, to thank for these unprecedented increases. These additional funds will enable us to implement the new academic programs we recently developed.
Integrated Marketing: We determined during our strategic planning deliberations that we were sorely lacking in visibility and needed to establish name recognition for Pitt-Bradford in our region and beyond. With the help of the STAMATS marketing firm, we’re well on our way to doing that. We now have a brand promise, recognizable brand and taglines, and clearly defined brand attributes. This fall, Pat Cercone and her staff will work with STAMATS to push our marketing campaign even further by launching a marketing/advertising blitz in Erie. As we advance our marketing campaign, Pitt-Bradford is increasingly recognized as a safe and friendly institution where students can earn a world renowned degree in a personalized environment. Our brand attributes are standing out in the minds of more and more of our different publics:
academically driven; individually focused; warmly accessible; future-oriented, and provide eye-opening experiences for our students.
With the acquisition of a new content management system, our Web site is being completely redesigned. The redesigned Web site promises to be user-friendly and will be much more appealing to prospective students. I want to thank and acknowledge Pat Cercone, Amy Ward, Jim Pisinski, and Martha Simmons for their exceptional work in getting us to this point in our marketing campaign.
We increased the average faculty salary in each rank. Steve Hardin will review these data with the chairs.
We also made good progress in increasing staff salaries in the areas identified by the university as below market.
We have continued to beautify the campus, drawing the praise of everyone who visits. For that, we thank the outstanding Facilities Management staff and the leadership of Pete Buchheit and Rick Esch.
Moving Forward in the Coming Year – Threats and Challenges
As we move forward in the coming year, we will continue to face a number of threats to our long term stability and viability as an institution of higher education. I will offer up a challenge to go with each threat.
- With the threat of failing to meet our yearly enrollment targets (and long term goal of 1500 FTE) come the potential consequences of reductions in our budget, reduction of faculty and staff positions, loss of existing jobs, and reduction in the scope of our academic programming. This threat places a lot of pressure on me and my leadership team. This threat explains why, to some, the pace of change in the last three years has been brisk and why some decisions may have seemed arbitrary. I do want to assure you that I always seek input from those most affected before making any major decision. I will continue to involve as many members of the campus community as possible in the major decisions affecting our university.
My challenge to the Admissions, Financial Aid, Enrollment Services staffs and the Enrollment Planning Task Force is to recruit and enroll another freshman class of at least 350 students for fall 2007.
- Further underscoring the importance of keeping our focus on enrolling new and continuing students is the reality that Pennsylvania
’s population will continue to decline during the next 25 years. The most significant decline will occur in our six-county service area, with the under 18 age group showing alarming declines.
In addition to continuing our aggressive recruiting, it is imperative that we make retention one of our top priorities during the coming year. To that end, my challenge to every single person on our campus is to determine how you will help us increase our freshman to sophomore retention rate from 69% to 75%. I do want to thank and acknowledge the Staff Association and Bridgett Passauer for introducing the suggestion boxes to collect ideas for improving retention. Please
submit your ideas for review by the Enrollment Planning Task Force.
- We’ve introduced a number of new academic programs and other initiatives. We must now ensure that we successfully implement these new programs, while also preserving the integrity of existing programs. We must also continue to bolster the programs targeted for prominence, while assuring that the programs currently offered are appropriate matches for our institution. To that end, I am asking Dean Hardin to work with a faculty committee to review the technology programs offered at Pitt-Bradford (computer science, management information systems, and information technology). After reviewing each program in terms of enrollment trends, cost, currency, and outcomes, the committee should make recommendations by the end of the semester as to an appropriate direction for the university.
- Two major capital projects will dominate our thinking and attention during the coming year—the renovation of Swarts Hall and the construction of a new residence hall. A major priority in the Swarts Hall project will be the creation of as many as 40 private offices for faculty. I will ask in advance for your patience and indulgence when we begin the Swarts Hall construction because a number of individuals and offices will have to be relocated.
- I alluded earlier to the many changes that have occurred on our campus during the past three years. I did not assume that we could introduce as many changes as we have without incurring a toll in terms of stress and strain. Thoughtful change that is propelled by a shared vision and originates in a coherent strategic plan produces positive benefits for all. However, as much as we try to minimize them, inevitably, there are negative consequences for some. Our hope and expectation is that the positive benefits will be enduring and move us closer to our vision and our enrollment goals, while the negative outcomes will be short term and eventually fade away.
We can make Pitt-Bradford the great educational institution we all want it to be. We can make Pitt-Bradford a place where each of you can sustain a rich and exciting career for as long as you choose to be here. For these things to happen, we must pull together as one family, all pursuing the same end, all rowing in the same direction. Our collaboratively developed strategic plan is the road map that will get us to our destination.
- During the summer, I spent a great deal of time thinking about our strategic plan—where it is leading us, what we have accomplished, what remains to be accomplished, what adjustments we need to make, what new initiatives we need to incorporate, how much closer we are to achieving our vision. I engaged my Cabinet in very intense discussion of these issues. I then incorporated that thinking and those discussions into a revised draft of the strategic plan. I will soon submit this document to the Planning and Budgeting Committee for review and action. I will ask the Planning and Budgeting Committee to disseminate the draft of this revised strategic plan to the campus community for discussion and input. My challenge to the Planning and Budgeting Committee and to the entire campus community is to review the revised draft and all that has been accomplished during the life of the plan. I ask that you consider the direction for our campus that is set forth in this plan and offer your reaction and input. Finally, when all input has been considered and incorporated and presented to me for final approval, I will ask for the endorsement of the entire campus community so that we can move together as one in pursuing our shared vision and goals.
I express my heartfelt thanks to each of you for making this past academic year a remarkably successful year.