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Amid Formidable Challenges, Faculty/Staff Honored for Exemplary College Service

(The following is drawn from remarks by Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a May 12 all-college meeting to close the Spring 2011 semester.)

Good morning,

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it too many times to count: This is one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s hectic and blurry and exhausting, sprinting from event to event from induction ceremonies to award presentations to two days of commencement activities and all in heels that don’t come off “˜til I dress for Knoebel’s.

But it is a truly beautiful time of year, and one that reflects the core of who we are and what we do at Penn College.

At graduation, we proudly say “Farewell” to the students who give us purpose, who came to us on Welcome Weekends not so long ago and have been retooled for the waiting workforce, ready to become the examples that we have tried to be for them.

We also will honor full-time faculty who so selflessly share their gifts, as well as the alumni who continue to represent us well “¦ long after they leave our campuses.

Today, we pause to celebrate our co-workers 25-year employees, retirees, distinguished staff and part-time faculty all of whom grace us with their friendship, professionalism and unwavering dedication to this institution.

Often, as we salute those with particular longevity, it’s fun to look back at what the world was like when they began their employment.

I started to do that this year, but quickly got discouraged about how much “then” looks like “now.” (Except that gasoline was only 89 cents a gallon 25 years ago!)

It’s really quite true that “Everything old is new again.”

Children discover their parents’ music, clothing destined for Goodwill finds its way back into fashion and yesterday’s headlines look eerily familiar to anyone reading today’s paper.

  • In 1986, for instance when our newest Quarter Century inductees joined what then was Williamsport Area Community College
  • The United States was grappling with the aggression of Libya and its leader, Moammar Gadhafi
  • Congress was debating tax-reform and deficit reduction
  • A nervous world watched the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, just as the next generation would anxiously pace after an earthquake in Japan damaged a reactor there
  • In 1986, Papa Doc was in the news for fleeing Haiti; in 2011, he made headlines for coming back
  • Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson were married, their nuptials echoing a quarter-century later in the royal wedding of William and Kate.

That year also marked the birth of Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, the first computer virus, Megan Fox, the Olsen twins and “mad cow” disease.

I don’t mean to imply a connection among any of those, but I think you can forgive me if I take more comfort in looking ahead than backward.

We’ll have ample reason to do both, actually, with our 100th anniversary just a few years away.

Such a milestone offers us a unique vantage between “then” and “now,” undertaking changes when necessary to stay current “¦ and maintaining the time-tested philosophies that make us unique.

The countdown to our centennial coincides with a time of unprecedented institutional challenge, but the caliber of the people in this room gives me hope that there’s no crisis we can’t solve together.

And, as I was reminded this year even at 100, we’re never too old to learn! our strengths lie as much in the seemingly little contributions as in the larger ones.

How many of you hear me say, “People make the difference at Penn College,” roll your eyes and think, “She can’t be talking about me?” How many of our “little jobs” are essential to the big picture?

One of our co-workers tells of visiting his son’s campus in western Pennsylvania, asking a maintenance worker for directions to a nearby restaurant.

Rather than just rattle off a series of traffic lights and exits and right turns, the man radioed to an employee downstairs and asked him to print out MapQuest directions. A minor thing, yes, and just one of many in the course of that gentleman’s far-busier day.

But did it make an impression as an example of considerate customer service? The fact that I just shared the story is proof of that.

Employee Recognition Week is designed to celebrate those in our midst who, whatever their position, make this college a special place for our students and ourselves.

Soon, this stage will be filled with our co-workers, inspiring Penn College employees whose personal brand of helpfulness can similarly serve as an example to all of us.

In jobs large and small and there are none too small in the service of our students and one another they have earned this recognition.

Before we begin, the early-retirement incentive was very successful. We will have a retirees’ recognition ceremony in December, since so many additional folks are retiring.

Retirees First, our retirees.

This year, 22 people leave us with 502 years of combined employment.

Nine of our retirees have been here for more than 25 years and we have a husband-and-wife team with 60 years (and a lot of precious memories) between them.

One half of that duo Phil Landers is this year’s longest-serving faculty retiree.

As an accountant, he can break it down into days, deductions and depreciation. But, for our purposes, let’s just go with 43 dedicated years of teaching at Penn College and W.A.C.C.

I’d like to ask all of the retirees here today to come to the stage as I call their names “¦ and to remain until we can applaud the entire group.

Marilyn Bodnar Nancy Bowers Linda Cheney Elizabeth Dahlgren Virginia Fedorowicz Rob Fisher Candace Guilds Gloria Hackenburg Gail Landers Phil Landers Richard Matlack Sr. Mike Miller Janice Overdorf Gary Rising Judith Shimp Edythe Sober Billie Spotts Paul Steiger Jocelyn Thomas Francesca Troutman Donna Vaughn Nick Vonada

We wish you all the very best and, on behalf of the many students and employees whose lives you have touched, we say “Thank you.”

Please join me in honoring our retirees.

Quarter Century Club It also is my pleasure today to introduce individuals who joined the college family 25 years ago.

I ask them to come up on stage as I call their names and remain until all of our new Quarter Century Club members can receive our applause.

From Administrative, Professional and Technical staff:

Susan Clark-Teisher Dennis Correll Kay Dunkleberger Crystal Michael Virginia Michael Barbara Natell Debra Sanders Connie Vitolins Sharon Waters

From Classified staff:

Karen Armanda Sharon Weiler

From Service staff:

Clint Ault Carol Dudek

And from Faculty:

Wayne Gebhart Ronald Hartzell Karl Markowicz Judy McConnell Thomas Mulfinger Janet Sherman Lynn Turney Calvetta Walker Jeffrey Weaver Keith Whitesel

A round of applause, please, for our Quarter Century Club inductees.

Part-Time Faculty Award Next, I’d like to introduce our 2011 distinguished part-time faculty member: Judy DeGregorio, who teaches mathematics in the School of Integrated Studies “¦ who also received this award in 2003.

I ask Judy to join me on stage as I read some of the comments provided by her nominators, comments that consistently paint a picture of knowledge, compassion, availability and support.

“She is quick to offer positive reinforcement when students answer a question correctly, while offering encouragement and patient assistance when a student answers incorrectly.”

“She happily gives extra time to her students and displays an obvious interest in and concern for her students as individuals. She takes time to learn their names and provides much one-on-one assistance, especially to those who are having difficulty.”

And one that hits home for many of us, I’m sure: “Generates excitement for learning “¦ even if math is your weakness.”

Please join me in congratulating Judy DeGregorio, instructor of mathematics, our 2011 Distinguished Part-Time Faculty Award Winner.

Distinguished Staff Awards Now, we will present our 2011 Distinguished Staff Awards, which recognize excellence among Classified, Service and APT (Administrative, Professional, and Technical) staff.

Their priceless reactions were captured in the “Prize Patrol” video that we see today. And we hope now that the shock has worn off and our seriousness has registered that these three very distinguished staff members will join me on stage to accept the recognition they so richly deserve.

Our distinguished classified staff member is Sharon Weiler, secretary to the director of General Services and one of two alumni among our honorees this year.

Sharon, who holds an associate degree from Penn College in business secretarial/medical, joined the college in 1977 and has held her current position since September 1986.

“She is the heart of the office at General Services; without her knowledge, we would all be lost,” one of her supporters wrote. “There are times when the phones are ringing off the hook and radio transmissions filling the air she somehow remains calm and handles everything professionally.”

“Sharon is absolutely obsessive about the quality of work that leaves our office,” a co-worker added. “Having someone who always wants the job done right gives me great confidence in all she does.”

Still another shared this: “Sharon’s attitude is that everyone, pulling together, can make Penn College a better place to work and a better place for our students to get a true education.”

Please join me in congratulating Sharon Weiler.

Chad Karstetter, a General Services horticulturist who earned his associate degree in forest technology here in 1999, is our distinguished service staff member for 2011.

“He came on as an entry-level groundskeeper, but by his exemplary work ethic and conduct, has risen to the level of lead person,” one of Chad’s colleagues said.

“He is an excellent staff member, no matter what task he is doing whether laying out a soccer field or riding in an articulating bucket while cutting down a tree on campus.”

“The single most important factor ensuring the successful future of (the college’s) horticulture department involves employing and developing personnel of the highest quality,” another said. “Chad has distinguished himself among his peers and demonstrated an exemplary record during his career at Penn College.”

“Chad establishes and maintains a harmonious working relationship with those contacted in the course of his work,” another noted. “He interacts extremely well with the public and, through being the Penn College archery coach, (with) students.”

I should note we wish Chad and his archers luck as they head off later this weekend for the National Championships. Keep your fingers crossed that these talented women and men will make all of us and most importantly coach proud!

Please join me in congratulating Chad Karstetter, who helps our gardens AND our student-athletes thrive in all conditions.

Our distinguished APT staff member is Kimberly Cassel, director of student activities.

Kim joined the college family as assistant director of student activities in 2004 and has been its director since March 2008.

During that time, a nominator said, “Kim has worked on some of the most significant changes to student life we have had since becoming Penn College. She was a key player in the transition to the extremely successful summer orientation program, Connections. She led the effort to create a Greek Life program. Student Activities has reintroduced its leadership development program, expanded community-service and service-learning programs, targeted first-year students for greater involvement, and made needed facility improvements to the Bush Campus Center.”

Another observed that “Kim has the power to empower her employees, to come up with new ideas and try new things. I never feel like she is too busy, and she is always willing to answer a question. That might seem like an easy task, but, when there are seven employees in the office, that can be a lot of questions!”

Please join me in congratulating Kim Cassel.

On behalf of our entire Penn College community students, faculty/staff and administration I thank the individuals recognized today for setting a standard of excellence that serves as an inspiration to others.

Once again, congratulations to our 2011 distinguished staff and part-time faculty, as well as our retirees and Quarter-Century Club members.

Another academic year has come to a close and it was clearly one to remember.

Stage X was completed and, across campus, faculty, students and staff are working in state-of-the-art facilities. A surprise add to our projects was the Construction Masonry Building, not part of Stage X, but another opportunity we seized and now we can expand in the Building Technologies Center.

More capital work is under way.

The School of Business and Computer Technologies is getting Phase One of its renovation: The former physics space is being renovated for web and multimedia, a moot courtroom and a live trading space for students in that school.

Phase Two is on track for implementation next.

Health Services is expanding into the former Children’s Learning Center space in the Bush Campus Center and, when we begin again in August, you will hear of exciting new opportunities for employees and students: Minor health services will be available on campus for all employees.

We have made significant progress in implementing the recommendations that grew out of last year’s Foundations of Excellence self-study. To date, 12 of 37 action items are complete, and another six are nearing completion.

Of course, completion here does not mean that these items are checked off a list and filed away. Instead, they become part of our ongoing processes, a part of our culture, subject to regular assessment and improvement.

Some of these actions have occurred with less fanfare than others.

We have, for example, filled two open positions in the Office of Assessment, Research and Planning to work directly with the academic schools.

And, we have improved collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs by moving out of our silos, meeting more regularly with each other and sharing more information.

However, most of these actions have been pretty obvious: a series of high-profile diversity-related events, a professional development series on academic advising, professional development on first year student issues, implementing the First Year Experience course required of all new students in the fall, the expanded scope and availability of academic support services.

Perhaps you have already been involved in these initiatives.

You may have attended the screening of “End of America” during Constitution Week in September, witnessed NWC in February or shared the uniquely personal yet universal experiences of Janine Latus or Marc Elliott in April.

Maybe you were one of more than 80 people to attend one of 17 different professional development sessions on topics related to helping first-year students transition to college.

You may have been one of the many faculty members who worked on incorporating FYE into the first semester of all of our certificate and degree programs or who helped shepherd each of those changes through the curriculum process.

Or maybe you helped the Academic Success Center offer all services to all students by volunteering your time in the new Writing Center or being among the faculty and staff who submitted almost 800 referrals through SupportNET in an attempt to help our students deal with academic or social challenges.

In the area of academic advising, we took important first steps toward increasing the frequency and depth of conversations about this process that we know is so critical to students’ success.

Academic advising is not handing students a profile so they can obtain their Scheduling Access Number; in fact, effective academic advising goes well beyond devising next semester’s schedule.

The professional development series piloted this spring gave faculty and staff the opportunity to explore campus processes, policies, and the myriad of available resources to better equip advisers with the information needed to effectively advise students.

The series was not only well received, but the feedback made clear the desire for expanded and ongoing opportunities to further enhance advising skills.

In the fall, faculty can expect a full menu of professional development programs designed to meet the needs of the new faculty who will join our community in August, those who have been through just a few semesters of advising, and even of our most seasoned faculty.

Also available for faculty will be an online handbook, readily available with information on topics from establishing relationships with advisees, to advising needs of different sub populations of students, to the nuts-and-bolts type of information about processes and policies.

While there is always room for improvement, we know that we have outstanding faculty serving who consistently demonstrate excellence in academic advising.

To recognize their work and to provide yet another opportunity for faculty to serve as mentors for one another, the inaugural Excellence in Academic Advising awards will be presented during the 2011-2012 academic year.

More information about these resources and recognition will be made available in August.

To further emphasize the commitment to improving the overall effectiveness of academic advising at Penn College, we have also designed, for implementation this summer and fall, several initiatives to better educate students about their responsibilities in this process.

During both Connections and their FYE class, all new students will be more intentionally introduced to the purpose of academic advising and our expectations for how they engage with their advisers.

Of course, it will be up to all of us to reinforce these expected behaviors and to hold them accountable.

This is truly an example of an opportunity for students and faculty to work collaboratively in meaningful ways outside the classroom that can have a significant impact on our retention efforts.

In my remarks earlier this semester, I spoke about my experience teaching FYE in the fall.

I challenged the entire campus at that time to embrace FYE, and you have risen to that challenge no, you have surpassed that challenge.

While we still have sections to staff for the fall, I am happy to tell you that more than 30 people who have not taught FYE in the past have responded to the call for instructors.

When classes start in the fall, we will have FYE instructors representing every one of the academic schools, as well as student activities, residence life, career services, dining services, instructional technology, information technology services and WDCE.

The list of instructors for the course includes vice presidents, deans, directors, coordinators, and I am especially gratified to report many full-time faculty members are on the list.

In fact, we will have at least a dozen full-time faculty members teaching about 23 percent of the required sections and comprising almost 30 percent of the cadre of FYE instructors.

In both cases, that puts us at more than twice the national average for full-time faculty participation in teaching FYE.

When you consider that another 15 members of that pool of FYE instructors were already adjunct instructors in other disciplines, it is clear that we will have one of the most highly qualified FYE faculties in the country in only the first year of requiring the course.

And all of those instructors will be fully prepared to teach what is, in all honesty, a fairly difficult class to teach.

More than 70 faculty and staff have already participated in some or all of these professional development sessions.

Additionally, more than 30 have registered to begin or continue their professional development on May 21 by attending the inaugural event of the First Year Institute. The Institute will feature a keynote address by popular speaker Brian Johnson about diversity and the FYE classroom, as well as two breakout sessions by Robert Sherfield, one of the authors of the FYE textbook “Cornerstone.”

If you are interested in attending the Institute which is free or in teaching FYE, you should contact Eugene McAvoy.

And if all of this were not enough, I am proud to report on the significant progress we have made in the area of diversity.

Now this is not only a result of FoE.

In fact, in the fall of 2009, at the same time that I announced our participation in FoE, I asked each of you to focus on student-centered ways to ensure a campus environment that fosters a respect for difference.

Your efforts led directly to specific recommendations in the FoE Final Report to create this environment, and we have made great strides this year toward accomplishing the goals articulated in that report.

I have already mentioned the series of diversity-related events and the improved collaboration between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

I have already discussed the FYE faculty development initiative that includes a diversity component and the FYE class that includes a diversity outcome.

But we have done even more than this.

Already, faculty have begun to develop more diversity-related courses and to consider ways to increase the exposure of the college community to world cultures, world religions, different political perspectives and socio-economic issues.

The Cultural Life Committee has helped strengthen diversity-related programming by responding creatively to the world in which we live.

Just two examples of this are the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and an open forum to explore the rash of suicides in the fall by young people presumed to be gay.

Even now we are in the process of filling an open position that will coordinate campuswide diversity initiatives and provide support to students from historically marginalized populations.

I am especially happy that we were able to complete this recommendation from FoE and to improve our campus culture and services for all students without having to create a new position, but by reorganizing the Student Activities Office.

Their open-mindedness and creativity in approaching this goal are indicative of the type of thinking that will help us thrive during challenging budgetary times.

And finally, we have truly staked our claim to the territory of respect.

In its last meeting, the Board of Directors approved a revision, previously approved by College Council, to our mission and values statements that more explicitly highlights our commitment to diversity.

For it is our differences, our individual perspectives and strengths that make Penn College what it is, a dynamic and exciting place to learn for our students, whether in their first or fourth year, and for us.

As you can see, we have accomplished a lot this year and we can be justifiably proud of our efforts.

Although much work remains to be done.

The retention of our current students has never been more critical.

And, never before have we had such a comprehensive plan to improve every way in which we interact with students.

No matter who you are or where you work, chances are that FoE has touched you, and many of you, in turn, have reached out to help a student.

If you have not been part of this movement, it is not too late.

Learn about SupportNET, register for a professional development program, think about ways to improve your level of customer service to students through your respective role.

We can be the difference in the lives of our students; because of us, they will decide whether to stay or leave.

As long as the we includes every single one of us, I am confident that we can make this a better college and the home for all of our students.

You have heard today many times how people make the difference.

Employees provided an unprecedented amount of support for students through the Penn College Fund Employee Campaign over the past year.

Employee donations to the 2010-11 Penn College Fund total $101,230!

That’s an increase of nearly $4,000 over the previous year, and puts the total for annual employee campaigns since 1994 to more than $850,000. Those really are “Gifts that Work!”

The Institutional Advancement Office kicked of the 2011-12 Employee Campaign less than three weeks ago, and already the response has been tremendous $37,994 as of today. In the face of serious challenges, you are going the extra mile by helping to ease the financial burdens our students face.

Thank you!

It is important we talk about Middle States.

The Middle States Steering Committee is in the process of writing and reviewing the first draft of the self-study report.

Over the summer, it will be reviewed, edited and revised in preparation for review throughout the college.

As a part of that review, when you return in August, you will be asked to offer your feedback in a process facilitated by the Steering Committee.

In the interim, if there are issues, concerns or “brain-flashes” that you think should be considered but that you haven’t communicated yet, please click on the Middle States logo on your portal home page and share your thoughts with one of the people listed as a member of the Steering Committee.

Two important messages to faculty:

For our self-study, it is important that we have our syllabi in proper format.

A template has been or is being shared with all faculty; please be certain that your syllabi are in the appropriate shape for the fall semester. Early this coming fall, we will be doing a number of spot audits reviews, if you will to be certain that all are appropriate.

Another requirement is a current vita on all full- and part-time faculty.

Again, a template has been shared and these will be collected the first week of the fall semester.

If you have a current vita that is available, no need to change formats, as long as the information is current and the content is consistent with the sample.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with these two important matters.

I know that, for parents of young children, there is nothing more important that having peace of mind when dropping a son or daughter off at a day-care facility every morning. Offering that important service to our students, faculty and staff has been an institutional commitment since we opened the Penn College Children’s Learning Center in 1994.

And as all things go at Penn College, if we are going to do it, we are going to do it right.

In May 2007, the Penn College Children’s Learning Center earned its Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools Early Age Education accreditation. Just last week, the center was visited by the Middle States Agent of Responsibility assigned to conduct our Mid Point Review.

I could not have been more pleased with what was conveyed to me during the exit meeting.

Under the leadership of the center’s director, Karen Payne, the CLC had already responded to all of the recommendations made by the Visiting Team back in the fall of 2006. Additionally, we were commended for the number of goals that we have either already completed or made significant progress on.

Enough could not be said about the design and functionality of our new facility.

And, most importantly, the quality of the CLC’s curriculum and strength of the relationship with the Early Childhood degree program received the highest praise.

Once again, I would like to congratulate Karen Payne and the Children’s Learning Center staff for their commitment to continuous improvement as evidenced by their Middle States accreditation, their NAEYC accreditation, and their designation as a Keystone 4-Star Center.

WDCE has had quite a year.

They more than did their part to put Penn College on the map, across the commonwealth and the nation.

The Weatherization Training Center continued to garner great reviews and perform at a level that was the envy of all.

In addition, our leadership role in workforce development for the Marcellus Shale play was extraordinary.

MSETC is offering a series of courses today and many more are on the horizon including the establishment of a Natural Gas Training Site, a permanent training facility designed to provide hands-on instruction to support local emergency responders.

The goal is to help them understand and implement effective response practices of the type they may encounter at a typical gas field drilling and production site.

The first class is expected to begin in October.

More workforce assessments are under way, including one for the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and one for West Virginia.

In addition, we are developing a Statewide Economic Impact Analysis for our home state.

What is next for MSETC?

We have applied for an $11.6 million ShaleNET 2 grant to continue that initiative. We are modifying a wide range of existing credit programs to include natural gas-related content and skills in order to make our graduates from many different majors even more marketable in the industry.

In the past 11 months, we have trained 2,500 students in our noncredit, Marcellus-related programming.

The natural gas industry is a key contributor to our workforce-development efforts in both the credit and noncredit areas.

Wecontinue tosolidify our role as key to their workforce, thereby increasing our enrollment and growth across the region.

Employees are a vital component to our success.

Beginning in July, the College’s Employee Relations Office will administer an Ombuds Program for all college employees full time and part time, continuing and temporary to provide employees with an option for solving problems and conflicts outside of formal grievance channels.

The Ombuds Program is established on the belief that, by providing alternative modes of problem-solving/dispute resolution, disagreements can be resolved at an early stage and the quality of the work environment experienced by Penn College employees will be enhanced, leading to greater organizational and operational efficiency and the ability to serve our students and each other better.

More information will be available this fall, watch for the announcements.

Employee Relations staff have also developed a comprehensive On-boarding Program for all new employees and new supervisors at Penn College.

This program has four major components pre-arrival resources and preparation, orientation during the first day and first week, new employee learning path and mentoring program.

The first three components are ready to go and the mentoring program is underdevelopment.

We listened to your feedback; we heard the challenges and issues and responded.

The benefits are considerable and will allow for accelerated employee productivity, work on department and institutional goals faster and improve employee retention by reducing the risk of failure.

More information will be forthcoming and, again, excellent work by Employee Relations.

Coming in April 2012 to the Madigan Library will be the Penn College Mini Comic Con. An excellent planning group is involved, as is John Shableski, a leader in the graphic-novel and comic format. There is much interest and great support, and this should be a special event for us.

We do need to talk a bit about the budget. Much has been done, and there is more to do.

We have had to do restructuring and, with deep regret, there have been individuals who have lost their jobs.

The early-retirement program was very successful and prevented even more loss of employment for some of our colleagues.

We cannot rest on our laurels.

We must continue to examine how we do our work, how can we work more effectively and efficiently as this is a financial challenge not just for one year, but ongoing.

Should we be fortunate enough to hear that we get additional money from the state, I can assure you our first priority is to reduce the cost of attending Penn College.

I commend the cost center administrators for their work but there is more to be done. This is a full-time commitment for our students and our future success.

We have had a great year, one with challenge and opportunity. I am most grateful for your support and encouragement.

Please take time to enjoy the summer months, rest and rejuvenate.

We have much work ahead of us and students who desire our best.

One cannot help but be motivated when you think of the accomplishment of our students.

Tomorrow, we will award a posthumous degree to Tracy A. Garis a dental hygiene student whose life was cut short last summer in a car accident.

Her mother and father will accept her degree and we will announce that, from September until April, a core group of dedicated and caring students endowed a scholarship in Tracy’s name.

They raised more than $31,000. There will be many proud moments over the next few days, but this moment in time will be one to remember forever as these students set a goal and stopped at nothing short of success.

We should all be inspired to do better, make a difference and make Penn College a better place for the future.

Enjoy your summer. See you in August.

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