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Co-Workers Recognized as Key Component of Student Success


During the hectic end to another academic year, a whirling week that culminates in a trio of graduations over two days, Pennsylvania College of Technology paused Thursday to reflect on the distinguished contributions of its employees. “I thank all of you for the daily commitment you make to one another and to the students who are entrusted to us,” President Davie Jane Gilmour said in a campuswide address to close the Spring 2013 semester – and preview the challenges and opportunities ahead. “As we move ever closer to being a national leader in applied technology education, your contributions and credibility are among the keys to achieving that goal.”

The following is drawn from President Gilmour’s remarks at a May 16 all-college meeting:

The culmination of another successful semester takes place at the Community Arts Center this weekend, as we hold three commencement ceremonies to applaud the transition of our students into graduates – working women and men newly empowered and energized to take on the world and carve out their place in it.

At those graduation exercises, which provide a brief opportunity for reflection before we gear up to welcome new students in a fresh academic year, we will also celebrate the full-time faculty members and distinguished alumni who have made student success their day-to-day mission.

More and more, the calendar pages flip past in a blur, each year racing from Connections to Welcome Weekend to Open House to Career Fair to another Open House to another Career Fair, with five commencement ceremonies sprinkled over several of those months.

But we should never be too busy to acknowledge the sustenance we draw from one another to keep this college vital and vibrant, providing a safe, productive and aesthetically pleasing workplace for students and employees alike. As we have since the 1990s, we take the time today to recognize our co-workers – retirees, 25-year employees, distinguished staff and part-time faculty, an academic adviser and (for the first time this year) an outstanding example of learning assessment.

We begin, appropriately, with our retirees.

Retirees
Seventeen of our colleagues – who have favored us with 394 years of their combined wisdom – are leaving for whatever wondrous pursuits they choose to fill their days. Ten of them have been with the college for more than 25 years, and three – Linda M. Morris, Edward J. Bergstrom and Ruth E. Hameetman – for more than 30 each.

Retirement is a bittersweet occasion. Especially during this Countdown to the Centennial, we appreciate the contributions that our employees have made all along the thread that stretches from Williamsport Technical Institute to Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Removing nearly 400 years of experience in one academic year is sure to leave a void, but we’re also cognizant that these fine employees deserve the opportunity to turn the pages of their own histories and to turn their attention to other endeavors.

I ask all of the retirees present to come to the stage as I call their names … and to remain until we can acknowledge the entire group.

Edward J. Bergstrom
Jack E. Fisher
James J. Folmar Sr.
Cherie S. Foust
Ruth E. Hameetman
Barbara A. Hanford
Flora J. Hicks
Carol J. Kafer
Kenneth J. Knaus
Larry L. Michael
Linda M. Morris
Karen Woland Payne
LaRue R. Reese
Debra A. Sanders
Janet A. Sherman
Debra L. Simmers
Constance M. Vitolins

On behalf of all we represent – students, co-workers and institutional pride – please accept our most sincere gratitude for giving so completely and competently of yourselves, day after day, year after year.

Let’s honor our retirees together.

Quarter Century Club
It also is my privilege today to introduce another group of familiar faces: the faculty and staff who joined our college family 25 years ago – when a postage stamp was 24 cents and Microsoft introduced Windows/286.

As I just told the retirees – and as I will tell our students during commencement Friday and Saturday – these longtime employees are part of an honored tradition. Their story is our story, and I ask them to join me as I announce their names.

From APT
Raymond J. Fischer
Colleen K. Hauser
Linda J. Miller
Andrea L. Mull
Karen L. Stugart
Colin W. Williamson

From Classified
Brenda M. Kline

From Faculty
James E. Doebler
John M. Good
William P. Kilcoyne
John G. Marshalek
LaRue R. Reese
William H. Schaefer
Dennis R. Williams

Please welcome this year’s class of Quarter Century Club inductees.

Michael K. Patterson
Michael K. Patterson

Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award
Now, I’m proud to present the Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award to our 2013 recipient – Michael K. Patterson, who holds a two-year certificate in welding from Williamsport Area Community College and who has been an adjunct instructor in the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies since January 2006.

Those of you who know Mike are well-aware of his consummate storytelling abilities – no surprise given that his extensive and eclectic background includes employment from small fabrication shops to nuclear power plants … not to mention 10 years in the Antarctic and two decades as a metalworking artist.

Any one of those would be life enough by itself, but we get the combined benefit of Mike’s far-reaching experience.

As an instructor and an artist, readily exhibiting his confidence and enthusiasm, Michael’s mastery of his craft is evident. His one-of-a-kind creations can be seen in Market Square downtown, on the South Williamsport side of the Susquehanna River Walk just off the Maynard Street Bridge near campus and – very soon – in a centennial sculpture he is creating with his students.

No mere resume can accurately tell Mike’s story … so I ask him to join me on stage while I illustrate through the comments of his colleagues.

“Mike presents well-planned and structured lessons with appropriate supplemental materials to support the topics intended, utilizing both theoretical and practical examples to enhance the lecture,” his nominator wrote. “He exhibits all the characteristics of a good instructor during group and individual conversations, drawing on the students’ experiences and reinforcing them with real-world examples.”

“Mike readily shares (those) life experiences with his students, encouraging them to continue to grow and develop their skills and to try new things,” he added, “relating to them how he has had many opportunities throughout his career because he was willing to try something new. Mike is aware of the varying level of student skill in his classes and encourages those that struggle and challenges those that excel.”

For putting students first when it comes to welding education … and for using artistic expression to leave his community better than when he found it … it is my pleasure to congratulate Mike Patterson, this year’s Distinguished Part-Time Teaching Excellence Award winner.

Susan Slamka
Susan Slamka

Excellence in Academic Advising
Last year, as we re-emphasized the importance of properly guiding our students through the maze of curricular opportunities before them, we handed out the first two Excellence in Academic Advising Awards. This is an award to be cherished because the nominations come from those in the best position to decide: the students on the receiving end of the advice we offer.

This year’s recipient is Susan Slamka, assistant professor of human services/psychology.

“Dr. Slamka is always willing to meet and is enthusiastic in regards to what courses I want to take and which ones are relevant to my degree,” her nominator said. “She has always supported my intellectual curiosity, and respects my decisions regarding courses. She has given me the space to choose what I am fascinated with, along with making sure I satisfy my graduation requirements on time.”

“Despite a busy personal life, she is always available and present 100-percent for students and separates work from home effectively,” the advisee continued. “She plans well-thought-out lessons and helpful assignments, and always has time in her office despite being busy professionally.

“I have truly enjoyed having her as a resource here at the college. Whenever I have needed something, be it a letter of recommendation for my internship or a simple clarification of my educational goals and requirements, she has been there.”

And so we honor Susan Slamka, the latest recipient of our Excellence in Academic Advising award.

Craig A. Miller
Craig A. Miller

President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment of Student Learning
New this year, the President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment of Student Learning recognizes an assessment activity that demonstrates initiative and creativity in facilitating student learning.

The first recipient has met both criteria while focusing on a general education course that functions as a diversity elective; the effort thus will influence far more than the 108 students in his test group, while also contributing to the assessment of core.

Using carefully structured pre- and post-tests, Craig A. Miller (assistant professor of history/political science) examined student performance in his World Civilizations course, focusing on the students’ understanding of major world cultures and appreciation for diversity.

He developed a detailed rubric for assessing student response to two key questions related to their reading of primary source material. The assessments and course tweaking will continue into next year.

Watch for the professional development session through which Dr. Miller will share his approach and its outcomes.

Congratulations to our first winner of the President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment of Student Learning.

Distinguished Staff Awards
Now, we present our 2013 Distinguished Staff Awards, which – since 1996 – have recognized exemplary work by our Classified, Service and APT (Administrative, Professional and Technical) staff.

Darlene A. Warner
Darlene A. Warner

Our distinguished Classified staff member is Darlene A. Warner, secretary to the Robert and Maureen Dunham Children’s Learning Center and a 1983 graduate in computer information systems, who joined the college on a part-time basis in August 2005 and became full time when the center moved to the Hager Lifelong Education Center nearly two years ago.

“It is hard for me to remember how the Children’s Center managed to function at all in the years ‘before Darlene,’” one of her nominators said. “She has become indispensable for the variety of activities she performs and the professional grace and courtesy with which she performs them.”

The considerable gymnastics that are required in the operation of such a highly regarded child-care facility – confidentiality, invoicing, policies, grant funding, recordkeeping, accreditation, supervision of work-study students and interns, staff needs and, above all, a diverse population of girls and boys – would be enough to intimidate any of us.

Not Darlene, who takes it all in stride … and then some.

She “is a very accommodating, kind-hearted individual,” a colleague wrote. “She’s always going out of her way to help her co-workers and friends, and is always willing to help us with things that we don’t necessarily have time to do.”

“Darlene is usually the first contact for telephone callers or walk-in visitors,” her nominator said. “She handles this aspect of her job beautifully, greeting everyone in a friendly yet professional manner. Sometimes, she has to relay bad news, as when a hopeful prospective parent has to be informed about our lengthy waiting lists and enrollment preferences. She is able to do this clearly and honestly, yet still warmly.”

“She also clearly enjoys the company of small children – an important characteristic in someone whose workspace is often full of them!”

Please help me congratulate Darlene Warner.

Jerry W. McNett
Jerry W. McNett

Our distinguished Service staff member this year is a proud Dad to Penn College alumni and former student-athletes, but today belongs to him.

Jerry W. McNett, a General Services horticulturist, is a dedicated 23-year employee of the college and earned an associate degree from its predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College.

“He takes great pride in … the work needed to keep the college looking good for present and future students and the general public,” his nominator wrote. “He does things … that go unnoticed by most people,  and the things he does greatly improve the appearance of our campus. While most people are getting ready for work, he is already here: spraying for insects, cleaning up campus, or doing snow removal or salting.”

Daughters Maria and Michelle, both former Lady Wildcats, have graduated … but that hasn’t stopped their father’s interest, according to the nominator’s comments.

“He recognizes and interacts with the students who are involved in athletics. He seems to know their names and what sport they play. Even if he doesn’t personally know the person, he can strike up a conversation with them because he knows what sport they are involved in.”

“He is absolutely unfailing in his high degree of work performance,” another co-worker noted. “The important fact that Jerry has a one-hour commute to work and never been late in all his years sums up his attitude and dependability for his work. Whenever I encounter Jerry anywhere on campus, he is hard at the job, but never too busy to respond with a wave and a smile. He has been an excellent team player as well as a valuable member of the GS group. His fingerprints remain all around and part of the landscaping here at Penn College.”

Please share in our recognition of Jerry McNett.

Timothy J. Mallery
Timothy J. Mallery

This year’s distinguished APT staff member is Timothy J. Mallery, assistant director of residence life and housing operations coordinator.

Many of us remember a day, not so long ago, when there was no Residence Life at Penn College. Today, it is a collaborative $10 million enterprise involving General Services, Information Technology Services and Penn College Police that has exceeded revenue projections for four consecutive years.

Equally important, student satisfaction with living on campus is at its highest level in 15 years.

Tim has worn many Residence Life hats since joining us in 1997, his nominator noted, all of them instrumental in the development and growth of on-campus student housing. Whether mentoring Residence Life coordinators, providing a helping hand to Resident Assistants, intervening to resolve a parental crisis or joining colleagues in professional development, he is very much a team player.

“Tim is motivated by working with people, in particular the students we serve,” his nominator said. “He is kind-hearted, understanding and extremely supportive of his co-workers. Tim is one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals in the Penn College community.”

“Tim’s work ethic and dedication are to be admired,” a co-worker said. “His vast knowledge of the many facets of student housing is a major factor that enables the department to run like a well-oiled machine. His responsibilities are many and varied, including facilities operations and management, housing assignments, budgets, working with General Services, and judicial matters, to name a few. In addition, Tim is continually seeing new ways of implementing technology to increase efficiency and productivity.

“He is the embodiment of Penn College’s commitment to excellence.”

Please join me in acknowledging Tim Mallery.

On behalf of our entire Penn College community, I thank all of you for the daily commitment you make to one another and to the students who are entrusted to us. As we move ever closer to being a national leader in applied technology education, your contributions and credibility are among the keys to achieving that goal.

With one more round of applause, let’s congratulate our 2013 distinguished staff and part-time faculty, our honorees for excellence in advising and assessment, and our retirees and Quarter Century Club members.

At the August Convocation, I announced that the Penn College Employee plate on the SASC Donor Wall would move to the Millionaire’s Society level, the top level. On April 24, the employee plate was officially moved to the Millionaire’s Society level.

We randomly selected five employee donors to represent all employees at our April reception. I am pleased that Mary Jane Baier, Joan Gilbert, Bob Karschner, Sandra Lakey and Dana Suter represented all employees at this event. This was a very proud moment for me to recognize these individual employee representatives with many of our friends and supporters.

The employee commitment to the college and our students sends a very positive message to our other donors – that you believe in our mission. Since 1995, your generous support has brought the total cumulative employee giving to the Penn College Fund to nearly $1.1 million. I hope you’ll take the time to stop by the donor wall in the SASC lobby to see the employee plate.

In a few weeks, we will wrap up our 2012-13 Penn College Fund Employee Campaign. As of today, employee contributions and pledges to the 2012-13 campaign have exceeded the 2011-12 campaign by 2.4 percent. I am grateful for the generous support we have received from all employee donors. Thank you.

By now, student Megan Endres should be a familiar face to everyone on campus. Megan is a Penn College scholarship recipient and agreed to be the student spokesperson for the 2013-14 employee campaign. From a student’s perspective, she has articulated the importance of scholarship support and the assistance that it has provided her with tuition, books and related educational expenses.

In late April, we kicked off our 2013-14 Employee Campaign for the Penn College Fund. You should have received your employee gift/payroll deduction form in interoffice mail, but you can also find this form and an online gift form on the Institutional Advancement portal under the “Penn College Fund Employee Campaign” link.

Your gift or pledge to this campaign can be designated to support specific scholarships, the General Scholarship Fund, academic schools or majors, or to be used where institutional need is the greatest. There are over 200 scholarships representing majors in all schools, as well as those open to students in any major. I urge you to check the website to find a scholarship that matches your area of interest. And as always, you can call the Office of Institutional Advancement with any questions. Again, thank you for your support.

The Academic Affairs reorganization is progressing – the implementation team has been hard at work since the January announcement. It will be impossible to simply flip the switch on July 1; therefore, there will be evidence of the transition throughout the summer.

This may be particularly true about signage. Be mindful when giving directions to prospects, parents and current students that school offices remain in their current location until July 1, but we may see signs indicating pending changes prior to that time. Direct calls to current school offices until July 1. Thank you for your assistance and attention to detail during this time.

This summer is filled with ambitious renovations designed to expand our capacity in nursing and upgrade facilities elsewhere to assure that our instructional spaces are state-of-the-art.

Following the AdminWire earlier this week regarding our radio station, we will be transferring the license to a local nonprofit. Many thanks to the students, faculty (especially Brad Nason) and volunteers for their service to WPTC-FM through the years.

By now, you are surely aware of the large-scale initiatives and programs we have put in place to help our students. These include ongoing professional development on the role of advisers, improved recognition and reporting of students who need additional assistance, and making FYE a requirement for all new students.

Our efforts are having an effect. The number of early referrals continues to rise each semester, as does the ratio of students responding to outreach efforts. The number of referrals for first-year students has dropped 14 percent since the FYE requirement was introduced. Our fall-to-spring retention rate of first-year students has increased for the first time in at least five years. And first-semester GPA is now on an incline.

Clearly, these are trends we want to continue. And I ask today that you think about how you can help us continue our trajectory of increased student success.

Here are some concrete ways you can help.

Consider teaching a section of FYE. The benefits I just mentioned can only be strengthened by the participation of knowledgeable and caring employees working with our new students – especially full-time faculty with whom our students long to connect. We still have about 15 sections available for the fall. With the First Year Institute to prepare you for the course and a wealth of materials to help you teach the course, the return on your investment can be immeasurable.

Every academic adviser should have a plan in place to reach out to their advisees, especially their first-year students, during the first weeks of school in August and at key points throughout the semester leading up to the scheduling process. Let’s make sure that, this fall, every student on campus knows and has met in person with their adviser well before scheduling so that they fully understand the tremendous ally they have available to them in their academic adviser.

Connect with students – not only those who are already on campus, but also those going through the matriculation process.

We will have hundreds of students on campus this summer for tours, placement testing, pre-enrollment advising and, of course, Connections. The human connection can make the difference between a student being lost or retained. And the time you take to connect with one of these students will be time well spent.

If you have been asked but not yet volunteered to help with one of these events, please respond. If you are a presenter during one of these important events, know that what you say and how you say it is important, so please invest the appropriate time in preparing. And at all times, for each one of us, in each of our respective roles, remember: High-quality customer service in all that we do matters.

An announcement was recently shared about one of the new initiatives that will grow from the reorganization in Academic Affairs.

This fall, you will see some new outreach efforts to students from special populations whom we know face increased risk. While we will not depart from our approach of all services available to all students, we will focus specific efforts on these populations to ensure we are able to connect with them early in the matriculation process with some concerted effort to increase their retention. Look for more information on these efforts in the fall.

Workforce Development and Continuing Education has had a very busy year this year.

As of April 29, 5,462 students have been enrolled in noncredit classes or training; the North Campus was sold and the services located to the Wellsboro High School; the one-millionth employee for the WEDnetPA program was trained; and we were awarded a $14.9 million Shale Net 2 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor with Stark State College, Navarro College and Westmoreland County Community College.

Shale Tec expanded and offered affiliate status to a number of Penn State campuses, Weatherization became the National Sustainable Structures Center, and the PMC became the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center.

CICR was busy spreading the college message: a New York Times article on natural gas; national distribution of the article on the Campus Community Garden; the publication of “Legacy of Leaders,” the next book in the Centennial series; the launching of a student blog, and expanded social media announcements and information-sharing, to name a few.

Wildcat Rewards were launched at The College Store. If you have not visited lately, The College Store has been renovated and looks terrific.

Human Resources is implementing the Medicare Advantage plan for retirees and continues to offer a variety of wellness programs to all employees. We just learned that the American Heart Association recognized us as a Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite.

In January, we announced that Penn College was pursuing NCAA affiliation.

When I made this announcement to you, I was very clear on two points. First, we would constantly analyze this process and, if we ever felt it was not in the best interest of the college and our students, we would withdraw from it immediately. Second, that NCAA affiliation would not change our long-held focus that student-athletes are students first and that their academic experience is pre-eminent.

A great deal has occurred this semester, and I wanted to share some highlights.

In March, we were notified by the NCAA that we had been accepted into the first-year exploratory phase of Division III affiliation. This begins in September, and we will spend the year learning more about the NCAA and what membership would entail. If we choose to continue our NCAA affiliation process, we will apply for provisional status (a four-year process) starting in 2014.

Earlier this semester, we were also asked to apply for membership in a Division III conference. If asked to join this conference, membership would take effect in 2014, provided we chose to pursue and were selected for NCAA provisional status.

Conference membership is an extremely important aspect of athletic affiliation and the conference we are applying for has member institutions in our geographic and student-recruitment regions including Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; Pennsylvania and New York. They represent public and private colleges and universities including several from the Penn State and State University of New York systems.

This year has also seen unprecedented success for our student-athletes, both inside the classroom and on the field and court.

Athletically, we:

  • Earned four conference championships
  • Sent five teams to USCAA national tournaments.
  • Had seven wrestlers qualify for the NCWA National Tournament.
  • Had four coaches earn PSUAC coach of the year awards.
  • Saw our first female basketball player, Kierstin Steer, reach the 1,000-point mark. (By the way, Kierstin is Friday’s commencement student speaker.)
  • Had 24 student-athletes earn all-conference standing and eight earn all-American status.

But I think I am most proud of the success our student-athletes had in the classroom and in their labs:

  • We had 51 students earn academic all-conference standing and 22 earned academic all-American status.
  • We continue to see the GPAs of student-athletes outpace that of nonathletes.
  • And, for the first time ever, Penn College swept the PSUAC John S. Egli Award for the most Outstanding Male and Female Scholar-Athletes: Kelly Hebert, an applied health studies major in radiography and women’s volleyball player, and Cody Buterbaugh, a building automation technology major and baseball player.

These are students that truly make us Penn College Proud!

Over the last semester, the Athletics Department has offered multiple professional-development programs on our NCAA process. If you have questions or would like to learn more about Wildcat Athletics, please feel free to contact them.

A very busy year. And yet, we are looking forward to a great summer: the Summer Institute, Connections, renovations, Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week and RAMP Up, just to name a few.

Today, we celebrate our employees and the people who make a difference at Penn College each and every day. I hope all of you find time to rest and rejuvenate this summer but, remember, together we make a powerful difference and our work is not done.

I look forward to seeing you in August. I leave you with this, my own version of what 1974 alumnus Tom Baloga shared with the campus earlier this spring, adapted for all of us at Penn College:

  • You are as good as any and better than most.
  • Do you have a hobby or a career?
  • The first two weeks on a job define your reputation; if you need a do-over, take it.
  • Deliver 110 percent or 100 percent and keep moving.
  • You are paid only to solve our problems, not make them.
  • Always be fair, but expect there to be unfairness in the world.
  • Trust, but verify.
  • Ask for the hardest jobs.
  • What’s not in your head must be in your heart.
  • You will change the world for better or worse.

Thank you for making a difference.

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