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Board authorizes exploration of second graduate-level offering

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved the college administration to explore offering a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

After a curriculum is developed and approved through the required campus processes, the proposal will return to the board for final approval.

The master’s degree, which would be offered online, is proposed to include two program options: family nurse practitioner and nursing education. There is a significant demand in the health care industry for such nurses, said Sandra L. Richmond, dean of nursing and health sciences. She told the board that a shortage of nursing educators is limiting the number of nursing students schools can enroll, and more nurse practitioners are needed both in urban and rural markets.

The proposed timeline calls for a Fall 2021 launch date for the master’s degree. This would be the second graduate program offered at Penn College. A combined Bachelor/Master of Science in physician assistant studies was offered starting in Fall 2017, with the first graduates expected in 2022.

“It’s a significant step for the institution, and one that we take very seriously,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said.

In other business, the board approved minor updates to two policies related to the college budget.

Presenting to the board on Thursday were Carolyn R. Strickland, vice president for enrollment management/associate provost, who addressed the incoming class overview; and Hillary E. Hofstrom, vice president for human resources, who offered an overview on the Safety Committee and new safety initiatives.

Board of Directors meeting summarized for college communityThe Incoming Student Overview offers a comprehensive look at the fall incoming student population: who they are, where they came from, and insights on what the college did to recruit them, Strickland said. The purpose is to assess the value of recruitment efforts and to direct strategic planning for future recruitment cycles. The overview is available to employees (and the Board of Directors) through the Enrollment Management portal site. Strickland demonstrated to board members how to navigate key elements of the site.

Of note in the Fall 2018 data, Strickland said, are that the college had modest increases in new-student enrollment, the yield rate of students who were admitted and enrolled, and the acceptance rate of students who applied and were admitted.

These numbers are significant, she added, in that total applications were down compared to Fall 2017 and Fall 2016, indicating the college was more effective in moving applicants through the admissions process.

Hofstrom told the board the Safety Committee holds regular meetings, features a well-rounded membership representing different areas of the college, maintains an intranet portal site, issues quarterly campus newsletters and conducts monthly safety training activities for employees.

The committee reviews all safety-related incidents, injuries and accidents on campus, conducts monthly workplace inspections, monitors accident/incident trends, offers prevention plans, and annually evaluates the college’s safety program, recommending improvements as needed.

Jason K. Bogle, director of construction projects/construction manager, updated the board on progress of construction for the welding expansion at the Lycoming Engines Metal Trades Center, as well as the retrofitting of the college’s new instructional facility in Wellsboro – gifted by UPMC Susquehanna – which will house an expanded practical nursing program.

The welding expansion will be ready for students in Fall 2019. Move-in at the new Wellsboro facility is anticipated sometime in March.

In her remarks to the board, the president noted that the ruptured 8-inch sprinkler-system pipe in the Hager Lifelong Education Center that resulted in a campus closing on Jan. 22-23 triggered approximately $250,000 worth of repairs/replacements. Fortunately, she said, insurance is expected to cover all but $25,000 of those costs.

In his closing remarks, Board Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw spoke of how Penn College adeptly addresses a trio of critical workforce issues noted in a recent Deloitte/Manufacturing Institute study: unfilled manufacturing jobs caused by Baby Boomer retirements, a shortage of adequately skilled/trained workers to replace the departing workers, and the persistent stigma associated with hands-on type employment.

It’s a perfect road map for what we do,” he said.

The next Penn College Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for April 25 at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center.

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