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Board approves Mission, Vision, Values; accepts financial audit

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved the college’s revised Mission, Vision and Values; accepted audited financial statements for the college; and heard presentations on the Middle States Self-Study and a tribute to first-generation college students.

Joanna K. Flynn, dean of curriculum/instruction, and Anthony J. Pace, dean of academic operations, presented on the process for creating the new Mission, Vision and Values, which are part of the college’s Strategic Plan for 2022-26.

Flynn and Pace served as co-chairs of the Mission, Vision & Values Committee, which featured collegewide representation including Sumer A. Beatty, Public Relations & Marketing; Kimberly R. Cassel, College Relations; Alison A. Diehl, Workforce Development; Audriana L. Empet, Enrollment Management; Allison A. Grove, Student Affairs; Stacey C. Hampton and Eric W. Nagy, Academic Affairs; and Zakariah Marshall, students.

The committee surveyed students, employees, alumni, industry partners and K-12 partners and then developed the proposed Mission, Vision & Values for review by President’s Council, the campus community and College Council.

The board-approved Mission, Vision and Values are:

Mission:
Inspiring and preparing Tomorrow Makers—the next generation of industry leaders with real-world experience and innovative spirit.

Vision:
To cultivate a diverse community of innovators and creators determined to shape a better tomorrow.

Values:
Strength Through Respect: We celebrate our differences, foster a culture of belonging, and recognize that mutual respect is the foundation of our learning community.

Real-World Education: Through a variety of learning experiences, students benefit from a purposeful, workforce-driven education that blends theoretical principles with hands-on applications.

Student-Centered Environment: Students are thoughtfully immersed in experiences that invite exploration of diverse subjects and perspectives, promote critical thinking, and ignite lifelong learning.

Business and Industry Partnerships: Coursework, experiences, and skillsets are intentionally designed to mutually benefit and maximize opportunities for students and their employers.

In other business, Suzanne T. Stopper, senior vice president for finance/CFO, presented the results of the college’s audit – performed by Baker Tilly – for the fiscal year that ended June 30.  COVID-19 impacted the year, as revenues declined and costs increased; however, Stopper noted that Higher Education Emergency Relief funds helped to ease a portion of  the financial burden.

As interest rates declined, the college was able to refinance the 2015 and 2016 bond series in the spring of 2021, saving $7.3 million, or 13.14%. Total assets for the college were $286,770,000 at the end of the fiscal year, which is an increase of 3.3% over the prior year. The college received an unmodified opinion on its financial statements for the fiscal year, which is the highest level of assurance given in an audit.

Board of Directors meeting summarized for college communityFlynn presented an update to the board on the college’s Middle States Commission on Higher Education Self-Study.

As part of the self-study design process, the campus endorsed three meaningful institutional priorities that were drawn from the college’s mission and values, linked to the MSCHE Standards for Accreditation, and connected to the Strategic Plan 2018–22. The priorities directed the work of seven work groups, who used institutional data within their self-study chapters to suggest strategies for advancing the priorities.

Throughout the two-year self-review, the work groups investigated how well the college fosters student success through continuous, evidence-based approaches. They explored not only the degree to which the College seeks to support and improve the student experience, but also the systems and processes that support this work. The report represents the college’s commitment to using the self-examination process to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement and innovation.

Flynn said documenting and uploading the college’s evidence is 96% complete and will be finished prior to the closure for the holidays. She said the Middle States site visit, which will be virtual, will take place Feb. 27 to March 2.

“Joanna and the team have done an exceptional job,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said.

Christie A. Bing Kracker, director of the LEAP Center, and student Abby Hooker-Yates, a human services and restorative justice major from Wilkes-Barre, presented to the board on first-generation college students.

Bing-Kracker noted that, from 2015-16, the national Center for First-generation Student Success reports that 42% of college graduates nationwide were First Gen students. Penn College’s Assessment, Research & Planning office reports there are 2,025 students who identify as first-generation.

The college celebrated National First-Gen Day on Nov. 8 with a reception for students, offering a First-Gen webinar from the Center for First-Gen Student Success and creating a campuswide awareness campaign.

Bing-Kracker said the college is aware from national data that First-Gen students have specific needs in finances, family engagement, extracurricular and co-curricular engagement, and academic support. She said using best practices, and building on existing support services, the college will continue to develop ways to maximize the positive impact for First-Gen students.

Hooker-Yates spoke of her upbringing as an adopted child who needed assistance navigating the matriculation process to enroll at the college. She said she is thriving now due to tremendous support from faculty, the Student Engagement Office, the Center for Career Design and her LEAP adviser, among others.

“I am eager to make a difference in another child’s life, just like this school has done for me,” she told the board.

In her remarks to the board, Gilmour said 1,470 high school students participated this fall in the Penn College NOW dual enrollment program, and 19 more high schools will participate in Spring 2022.

She said the new model for Open House – featuring six sessions each in fall and spring and offering families a choice of visiting on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday – has been “wildly successful.”

“We know that coming to campus makes a huge difference,” she added, noting positive feedback from students and parents.

Gilmour also told the board about the college’s efforts to market and recruit at the state’s career and technology centers, reaching 70,000 students whose career aims align with the programs offered at Penn College.

In his closing remarks to the board, Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw offered congratulations to Penn State on its appointment of a new president. Current University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi will become the first woman, and first person of color, to serve as Penn State president. She succeeds Eric Barron, who announced plans earlier this year to retire at the end of his current contract in June 2022. Yaw expressed his hope that Bendapudi would visit Penn College as soon as possible.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting is Feb. 3.

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