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Board OKs faculty contract, new architecture major, property purchase

Thursday's Board of Directors meeting encapsulated for college communityThe Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved a new four-year employment agreement with the Penn College Education Association, gave the green light to a new Bachelor of Architecture major and ratified the purchase of a property adjoining main campus.

The new PCEA agreement covers the four academic years ending in 2026-27. Annual salary increases called for in the agreement, which has some elements taking effect in the 2022-23 academic year, are: 2022-23, 2%; 2023-24, 2.4%; 2024-25, 2.6%; 2025-26, 2.7%; and 2026-27, 3%.

The PCEA’s more than 270 members – including full-time faculty, librarians and counselors at the college – voted to approve the contract in late-January.

“The negotiation process was very cordial and collegial,” said Penn College President Davie Jane Gilmour.

Board Chair Sen. Gene Yaw also complimented the process and the faculty members.

“I think it’s obvious they really care about the culture of this institution,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a new bachelor-degree architecture major that will be offered by Fall 2023, or possibly sooner – one that will shorten graduates’ path to professional licensure. The new offering will add a fifth year to the current bachelor’s degree framework, providing students with a career-advancement opportunity that does not require postgraduate study.

The accreditation process for the new major will take approximately six years to complete; if granted, accreditation will extend retroactively to the new major’s first graduating class.

Ellyn A. Lester, assistant dean of construction and architectural technologies, told the board that, by approving the new major, it would facilitate a much quicker path to licensure for architecture students, reducing the time needed by half, among other advantages.

“This one action can make the difference to many, many lives that come through our college,” she told the board.

“Ellyn Lester is a big part of this happening. … It would not have happened otherwise,” Gilmour told the board.

The board also approved the purchase of a property at 969 Second St. The college reserves the use of the property for future academic or co-curricular use, said Patrick Marty, chief of staff.

In her comments to the board, Gilmour relayed information about the academic performance of the college’s student-athletes. For Fall 2021, the department had an overall GPA of 3.2, with 96 individuals making the Dean’s List and 37 achieving a perfect 4.0 GPA. Eleven teams had a GPA of 3.0 or above. Gilmour said it shows a dedication to balancing athletic competition with a commitment to academics.

“We’re very proud of that,” she said.

Gilmour noted that 230 of 237 spots for employers at the Spring 2022 in-person Career Fair on March 1 have been reserved already, demonstrating how much industry values Penn College graduates.

In his comments, Yaw told the board about a recent visit to campus by alumnus Shawn M. Steffee, the business agent for Boilermakers Local 154 in the Greater Pittsburgh region. Steffee earned a welding degree from Williamsport Area Community College, a Penn College predecessor, in 1987, and was greatly impressed by the changes to campus since then. Yaw said Steffee is quite appreciative of the education he received here and has pledged to return for Career Fair.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Penn College Board of Directors is April 21.

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