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Board Approves Strategic Plan, Core Education Model/Goals

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved a new Strategic Plan for the college, as well as a proposal for a new Core Curriculum and Goals.

There were no other action items; the board heard presentations about the makerspace being constructed for Fall 2018 and about fundraising efforts for the impending welding expansion.

The Strategic Plan authorized by the board will cover the academic years 2018-19 through 2021-22. The plan has been condensed to three overarching goals:

  • Cultivate a holistic and uniquely hands-on student experience that prepares graduates for successful careers.
  • Seize the attention of a wider, national audience of prospective students with our distinctive educational experience, broad range of global partnerships, and connected alumni network.
  • Seek continual institutional improvement by enhancing the expertise of our people, broadening our culture of innovation, and refining methods by which we measure our success.

Each goal is accompanied by various initiatives/objectives, which are, in turn, supported by success indicators. The plan will feature annual updates to the president in June, followed by presentation to the Board of Directors each August.

Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour said she challenged senior administrators to streamline the plan; to ensure that it reflects strategic, not routine actions; and to make the goals more concise and easy for employees to remember and communicate. She said the plan will inform the annual budgeting process.

Carolyn Strickland, vice president for enrollment management/associate provost, said the new plan is aspirational, transformative and collaborative. She said the plan is a “living, breathing document” with success indicators that can be updated/revised as circumstances warrant.

Thursday's Board of Directors meeting encapsulated for college communityJoanna K. Flynn, Core Review Committee chair and an associate professor of mathematics, presented to the board on the new Core Curriculum and Goals.

She said the process was deliberative, having begun in Fall 2015, and involves a wide spectrum of input from faculty and the college community. Additionally, input was sought from a student focus group and from employers represented on Advisory Committees. The process stems from a recommendation associated with a previous Middle States accreditation visit and from the difficulty in assessing some of the previous goals. To achieve the new goals, the work is divided into four interconnected domains: Foundations, Perspectives, Specialization and Integration.

A Core Implementation Committee is tasked with rolling out the new core to faculty and defining courses to satisfy the requirements. Gilmour complimented the work of Flynn and others, saying, “This has not been an easy two-year long process.” She said it may be Fall 2020 until the bulk of the new core is implemented.

The board heard an update from Loni N. Kline, vice president for institutional advancement, and Tom F. Gregory, associate vice president for instruction, on fundraising and construction for the makerspace that is beginning to take shape in the Carl Building Technologies Center.

Gregory recounted the genesis of the project for the board, describing how typical makerspaces are constituted and relating specific features of the Penn College version, which will be named the “Dr. Welch Workshop” in memory of Dr. Marshall Welch Jr. His son, Marshall Welch III, made a $75,000 gift to the project and is the principal donor. Gregory noted that students could use the makerspace to work on senior projects or perhaps more informal projects with classmates.

Makerspaces typically are divided into designated “clean” and “dirty” spaces. Clean spaces include equipment such as computers, 3-D printers, sewing machines and vinyl cutters; dirty space equipment can include saws, drill presses, routers, lathes, CNC mills and more. George E. “Herman” Logue Jr. made a $25,000 commitment supporting the dirty space (the “Logue Fabritorium”). Fred Gilmour, faculty emeritus, has made the same commitment for the clean space (the “Gilmour Tinkertorium”).

The original $150,000 fundraising goal for the initiative has been surpassed, with $182,000 in commitments secured to date, Kline said. A formal dedication ceremony will be scheduled for the fall, she said.

Gilmour said the facility will be used for prototyping, but not for actual manufacturing. Initially, it will be available to students, faculty and staff. The college will consider allowing alumni and retirees to use the facility in the future, she said.

“I will tell you, this is garnering a lot of interest on campus,” the president told the board.

Kline spoke of efforts to raise funds for equipment to be used in the welding expansion that is being funded by a U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant. The grant pays for the actual facility expansion. The college aims to raise $2 million to equip the facility.

Kline said those efforts include a “Metal” of Honor wall for different donor levels, a crowdfunding page, a website and phone-a-thon solicitations. Gilmour said construction documents should be ready in the next few weeks to submit to the EDA. The expansion will accommodate an additional 40-60 welding students.

In her comments to the board, Gilmour informed the board of the upcoming Science Festival for area fifth-graders on Feb. 15 and the Merit Badge College on Feb. 17, for which 216 Boy Scouts have preregistered.

In his comments to the board, Sen. Gen Yaw, board chair, noted Gilmour has been invited to speak to the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Feb. 27 in support of the college’s annual appropriation. This is the first time the college has been asked to present separately from Penn State, through which Penn College’s appropriation request is submitted.

The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for April 26.

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