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Board Approves Master’s Program, Director Emeritus Designation

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Board of Directors on Thursday approved the institution’s first-ever graduate degree offering, as well as the parameters for the college’s state budget request and “director emeritus” status for its retiring vice chairman. The board also elected officers for 2016-17.

The college will begin offering courses leading to the master’s degree in Fall 2017, with conferring of degrees commencing in 2022.

Paul L. Starkey, vice president for academic affairs/provost, said the program would offer preparatory courses in the first three years, with the professional phase reserved for the final two years of the five-year program. Students completing the program will earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He noted that a student’s cost to successfully complete the physician assistant program offered at Penn College will be lower than any other physician assistant master’s program statewide.

President Davie Jane Gilmour said it is fitting for the physician assistant program to be the first master’s program offered at Penn College, because of the high quality of the instruction provided.

“This is a pretty historic day for us,” she told the board.

Conferring a master’s degree in physician assistant studies will fulfill requirements specified by the Accreditation Review Committee on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Thursday's board meeting recapped for campus community
Thursday’s board meeting recapped for campus community

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 30-percent growth in employment of physician assistants through 2024 – nearly three times faster than the average growth projected for all other occupations.

The board also approved the college’s parameters for the 2017-18 state budget request, including a requested increase in the operating appropriation to $22,282,140. Penn College’s request is submitted to the state with Penn State’s budget request.

Retiring Vice Chairman John J. Cahir, who had served on the board since 1993, was approved for “director emeritus” status. Cahir worked at Penn State from 1965-2001, first as a meteorology faculty member and subsequently serving in a variety of administrative roles. He retired from Penn State as vice provost and dean for undergraduate education.

“He has done an amazing job of supporting Penn College during that time period,” Gilmour said of Cahir’s Penn College Board of Directors service.

The board re-elected state Sen. Gene Yaw as its chair for 2016-17, with Robert N. Pangborn succeeding Cahir as vice chair. Joseph J. Doncsecz remains treasurer, and Gilmour remains secretary to the board.

Elliott Strickland, chief student affairs officer, apprised the board about the college’s final year of provisional NCAA Division III status. Additional budget expenses related to Division III participation include those for roster increases, travel for conference schedules and NCAA membership/fees. Recruitment efforts have helped to offset those expenditures by attracting more student-athletes to campus to compete at the Division III level. The athletes are also doing well academically, Strickland said, noting Penn College has had 89 scholar-athletes over the past two years.

The college competes in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, and Penn College administrators serve in a variety of leadership roles for NEAC committees. The NCAA’s annual evaluation of Penn College cited points of distinction such as enhancement to coach and student-athlete handbooks, level of community service and a sport-specific website.

The college hopes to gain full Division III status by Sept. 1, 2017. Future challenges, Strickland said, include generating funding for updates to athletic facilities, as well as ongoing recruitment and retention of the college’s student-athletes.

Paul R. Watson II, dean of academic services and college transitions, presented to the board on the Penn College NOW dual-enrollment program, which allows high school and career and technology center students to earn free credits for college courses, 80 percent of which focus on applied technology. The success rate of the students is 98 percent, Watson noted.

The program has 42 partners statewide for 2016-17, offering a total of 68 courses. In 2015-16, students earned a total of 1,820 credits through the initiative. Gilmour had high praise for the Penn College NOW program.

“This is a significant population of students for us,” the president explained.

Mark Stevenson, vice president and senior regional investment advisor for Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors, provided an update on the college’s long-term investments and current market conditions.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors is scheduled for Dec. 1.

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