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Board OKs emeritus status, approves parameters for state budget request

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved emeritus status for a longtime faculty member, agreed to tentative parameters for the college’s 2023-24 state appropriation request and authorized the purchase of a property near main campus.

Emeritus status was approved for Thomas A. Zimmerman, retired associate professor of psychology and faculty athletic representative. Zimmerman taught psychology full time at Penn College and its immediate predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College, since 1984, retiring in August 2021. He continued to serve as faculty athletic representative until August 2022. He also served as an adjunct faculty instructor at the college from 1978-84.

Faculty nominees for the emeritus designation must be honorably retired in good standing and have served the college for a minimum of 10 years, demonstrating a record of distinguished service to students, their department, their academic school and/or the college. Nominations are reviewed and approved by the Promotion and Sabbatical Review Committee and recommended for Board of Directors consideration by the president.

The board approved the basic parameters for the college’s 2023-24 state budget request, which is submitted to the state with Penn State’s funding request. Penn State is seeking parity in funding for the university to bring it more in alignment with other state-related institutions. Suzanne T. Stopper, senior vice president for finance/CFO, said the request would elevate per-student funding at Penn College to the level of the least-funded state-related institution. “We feel that this is at least a step in the right direction, at this point,” she said.

Board summaryBoard member Zack Moore, who serves as vice president for government and community relations at Penn State, said that, while Penn College students warrant the same per-student funding as those enrolled at the highest-funded state-related institution, “this is an incremental approach” that can be addressed again in subsequent years.

He said Penn College “is tragically underfunded on a per-student basis” by the state, and he encouraged everyone to visit Advocate Penn State for more information about the initiative, which seeks to raise awareness of the issue.

Timothy O. Rissel, executive director of general services, said the college was approached by the owner of 917-19 Second St., Williamsport – which is located in the Maynard Street corridor, just north of the college’s Davie Jane Gilmour Center, adjacent to two college-owned parcels – about acquiring the property.

Board Chair Sen. Gene Yaw said the college has traditionally explored all such opportunities when they arise. In response to a question from the board, Rissel added that plans call for the property to be razed and left vacant for now.

In other business, the board authorized President Michael J. Reed and Stopper to sign contracts on behalf of the college.

Stopper also provided the board with an update on the college’s long-term investments managed by Wilmington Trust. While last year, unprecedented earnings were reported, the converse was true for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, as significant unrealized losses were reported, she noted.

Nesli Alp, vice president for academic affairs and provost, provided a profile of 19 new faculty – 15 who joined the college in Fall 2022 and four who arrived in Spring 2022. Ten are in the School of Engineering Technologies, five in Nursing & Health Sciences and four in Business, Arts & Sciences. Two hold doctorates, five hold master’s degrees and 11 are Penn College alumni. Ten have teaching experience in high school, career and technology centers, or postsecondary positions, and 17 have related industry experience totaling more than 225 years. Orientation and mentorship programs are in place to support new faculty, especially in their first year, she said.

Matthew Krepps, chair of College Council, presented to the board on the Internal Governance System’s 2021-22 Annual Report.

Despite ongoing challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Internal Governance has continued to adapt and was able to operate largely uninterrupted, he said.

Notable highlights from the 2021-22 academic year include:

  • The Student Affairs standing committee developed a new textbook donation program to support students who may not have the financial means to purchase or rent their textbooks – a boon to student retention.
  • College Council provided its unanimous support to the college’s revised Mission, Vision & Values statements, as well as the Strategic Plan.
  • The Elections and Communications standing committee continued to take steps toward increasing awareness of, and involvement with, governance on campus. With the reduction of pandemic-related limitations, events to engage with the campus community have been reintroduced and steps have been taken to further streamline nomination and election procedures.

In his comments to the board, Reed said the first eight weeks of the Fall 2022 semester have been quite productive. Referencing Penn College’s exceptional showing in the 2022-23 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings, he said it’s nice to have external sources confirm what is already known on campus.

Reed said the Fall Career Fair, which featured interaction among 1,575 students and representatives of 200-plus industry partners, featured “truly dynamic interactions.”

Moore, who accompanied Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi on her Oct. 4 visit to campus, which included a stop at Career Fair, noted, “It is incredible, the energy in that room.”

Yaw, noting the energy associated with a new Penn College president, a new Penn State president and a variety of successful developments on campus this fall, observed, “I have a very positive feeling that the stars are lining up right.”

The next regularly scheduled Penn College Board of Directors meeting will take place on Dec. 15.

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