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College Community Prevails in Year of Challenges, Opportunities

(May 2004 – The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Gilmour during a May 13 College-wide meeting to close the Spring 2004 semester.)

Good morning.

To say this has been a year filled with challenges and opportunities would be an understatement.

I doubt that, when we gathered in this auditorium in August, we ever would have imagined the circumstances we together would face as this academic year unfolded.

We would not have predicted that students would have died by car accident and by an unknown infection. Never did we expect a student to fall the equivalent of three stories at an off-campus apartment and walk onto campus in the spring.

We certainly did not expect to have co-workers – or, better said, we prayed not to have co-workers called to military duty – and, of course, we never imagined that we would have a police officer shot while stopping a non-student off campus.

All of these things did happen – and more.

One constant remained: Penn College responded the only way we know how. As individuals and as a community, we supported those in need and reminded ourselves – and each other – why this really is a special place.

Today, we need to talk about the issue of the area surrounding our campus and our relationship with the community.

Our campus is safe; our neighborhood, for the most part, also is safe. Students and, for that matter, employees need to make smart choices. Students need to think before they invite non-students to parties and open their doors to whomever wanders in. Students need to decide if their education is important or if the parties and related activities are their priorities.

I have met with the mayor – Vine Avenue will be cleaned up, either together with the city or we will do it ourselves.

I suspect that the initiatives we are considering for this “cleanup” will not make me or the College popular with some landlords or with some students, but we are not here to be popular. We are committed to provide safe surroundings contiguous to campus for students to learn and grow.

I am very proud of Chief Chris Miller and our police department. They are doing a great job and will play a key role in our secure future.

I ask each of you to do your part. Get the facts straight – we are up front with what happens on or near campus.

Check PCToday, do not contribute to ill-founded rumors, be positive with each other, with students (current and prospective) and our guests.

We cannot let these events impact our mission or our work.

Each of you needs to stand up and be proactive. More than ever before, it is time to help Penn College in putting our quality, success and commitment to teaching and learning in front of everyone with whom we interact.

Of course, we are not always popular in the city. As it is, our contributions of money, police vehicles, student and faculty expertise are valued, but you read the same press I do and you certainly have read that some believe we do not do enough.

I disagree – and do so strongly. To do more, in the critics’ view, is to pay money. That money will come from only one place: students. With tuition supporting the vast majority of our budget, we would have no choice.

We have over 1,500 full- and part-time employees, a payroll of almost $40 million, and 6,000-plus students buying goods and services.

These are some numbers that we will continue to use as we demonstrate all that we do for our community. In addition, many of you in this room do projects, volunteer your expertise and contribute to the welfare of the Greater Williamsport area.

We will begin a positive process to try to educate people about what Penn College does to make a difference.

But I certainly understand – and ask you to do so, as well. There are some we never will influence; so be it. We do make a difference in our community and we will not be deterred.

We also have had an extraordinary year of successes:

The largest class in the institution’s history will graduate on Saturday.

Our academic competitions brought us national and international recognition – Construction students, Construction Management Students, BattleBots, just to name a few.

Our sports teams won, as well – conference and state championships.

Faculty and staff were recognized by outside organizations on a regional and national level.

These accomplishments are what make Penn College distinctive and they provide much-deserved recognition for your work.

This year, we also have embraced different types of challenges. The residents of this building (Klump Academic Center) have risen to the occasion. I cannot begin to thank you enough – I know it was noisy, it was messy and it was a royal pain on some days, but we are very far ahead of schedule and you played a key role in that schedule.

You were flexible when we asked, moved on short notice and were cooperative beyond reasonable expectations. It will be worth it. You can see the building taking shape, with more to come. My sincere thanks for all that you have done to get us to where we are today.

The Madigan Library is beginning to take shape.

We have worked hard, and I think it is fair to say we will have an incredible facility that will be a library and so much more. If our plans stay on track, we will hold a groundbreaking in February 2005 – with approximately 18 months of construction time.

We say “goodbye” to kindergarten on campus. These young children have been part of our fabric for years. The Children’s Learning Center will continue to distinguish itself with wonderful opportunities for toddlers and preschool students.

We updated our Strategic Vision. The focus of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Strategic Vision for 2004-09 will be asking – and answering – these three questions:

Where do we want to be? What do we want to be? How do we get there?

The Board of Directors approved the Strategic Vision in April. Prior to the Board’s review, the vision also was endorsed by College Council and the Corporate Advisory Board. The plan, which is more aggressive, more measurable and more specific than previous plans, focuses on these 12 goals that will mark our path for the next five years:

Determine the optimal size for Penn College to allow quality, mission and vision to flourish.

The College has enjoyed steady growth in recent years. We established a record high enrollment of 6,255 at the start of the current academic year.

Now is the right time to ask ourselves: How much enrollment growth we can manage while maintaining the culture, the environment and the quality of education that make us special?

Together, we will explore the opportunities and the challenges of continued growth and establish future enrollment goals that are consistent with our mission.

Bigger is not better and we need to answer this fundamental size question to provide a firm foundation for the future of Penn College.

Improve retention rates, graduation rates and consistently achieve a 95-percent positive placement.

Maintaining a student-centered learning environment is central to fulfilling our recruitment pledge of “degrees that work.” This means we must do our best to keep students in class – meeting their academic requirements and doing their best to complete their programs of study.

Our institutional philosophy speaks to our belief that all individuals should have opportunities for lifelong education in order to realize their maximum potential.

Implement a comprehensive institution-wide outcomes assessment plan.

We will never know how well we perform – or where we need to apply extra effort – until we effectively and consistently measure outcomes in all our programs and related services.

The Provost’s Task Force will resume work to gather and review data for development of a new outcomes-assessment plan.

Driving the process is our desire to know for certain that what we put into our students’ education truly works for them after graduation.

Expand faculty/programmatic involvement with professional and educational associations, business and industry.

Our connections with the “real world” set Penn College apart from many institutions of higher learning. Throughout our history, we have maintained committed partnerships with business and industry.

From work-based learning experiences and equipment donations to student scholarships and professional endorsements, these “real world” connections are important in making our degrees work.

Increase the number of accredited and certified majors.

Program accreditations and certifications enhance the value of our degrees and provide more opportunities for our students to advance in the workplace.

Today, 42 academic majors are accredited or certified by professional organizations.

We plan to increase that number over the next five years by exploring what opportunities exist in other academic majors.

Add work-based experiences to a broader set of majors.

Thirty-four majors require some form of work-based experiences. These experiences give students the opportunity to gain skills in the workplace, to earn academic credit and, in some instances, to earn a paycheck while they learn.

It is our goal to make this experience available to as many students as possible over the next five years.

Implement the 2004-09 Site and Facilities Master Plan.

Completion of the Klump Academic Center renovation is the current priority of the master plan. We soon will have a center that is truly focused on academics.

As we complete the Academic Center, the focus will shift to construction of the Madigan Library and Learning Resources Center on the southwest corner of the main entrance.

The new master plan also calls for the administration to index on-campus housing capacity to enrollment, using a standard of 25 to 30 percent of the total enrollment.

The 1,442 beds currently available on campus represent 23 percent of the Fall 2003 enrollment (6,255). Over the five-year life of the plan, enrollment is projected to moderate, growing at annual rates ranging from .73 percent to 2.54 percent.

For the first time in its history, Penn College has the ability to add facilities – including additional student housing – without having to acquire additional property for the 112-acre main campus.

Even if the College opts to build more student housing to keep pace with rising enrollment, there is sufficient space for additional housing construction at the west end of campus, near the College West and Rose Street Apartments.

Retrofitting of spaces will be a major focus for us over the next five years as we capture the opportunity to reassign space to meet current and planned needs.

Increase the percentage of out-of-state enrollees to 15 percent of the student population.

In 2003-04, 7.4 percent of our students were out-of-state residents.

That number has grown steadily in recent years as we have increased our direct recruiting efforts in neighboring states and increased our overall marketing outreach nationwide.

There is potential for continued growth as the Internet opens marketing channels worldwide and as we gain greater name recognition outside of Pennsylvania.

We will continue to reach out to prospective college students outside of the Commonwealth in order to double our out-of-state enrollment over the next five years.

Double the use of College facilities during the summer months.

This summer, many events are planned to bring visitors to the Penn College campus. One such event has materialized quickly: We have recently been notified of 99 prospective students who have selected Penn College as one of their higher-education options. These students have SAT scores of 1050 or greater.

We will ask some of you to move a mountain to allow us to showcase Penn College to these students this June.

The good news about the beauty and friendliness of the campus is spread by word-of-mouth from visitors who have a good experience.

By increasing the number of visits and by ensuring that our guests have a positive experience, we contribute greatly to the marketing and outreach of the institution.

Increase the number of scholarships by 25 percent while also increasing the average award.

In 2003-04, Penn College and its Foundation offered a total of 441 institutional scholarships, valued at just over $281,000, to 190 students.

The value of student scholarships goes far beyond the dollar amounts shown. In many cases, these awards make the difference between a student having the ability to complete his or her program of study or not.

Increasing the number of scholarships and the average award for scholarships will enable us to make education accessible to greater numbers of deserving individuals.

It is a goal we must pursue with vigor and with commitment.

Generate $5 million in annual contributions.

Fund-raising is an important part of securing the future growth of Penn College. Penn College and its Foundation have raised $1,697,148 in cash and in-kind gifts (as of May 7, 2004).

By 2009, we hope to achieve our goal of raising $5 million per year in gifts and donations through the efforts of the College and the Foundation.

Assess the work processes and staffing levels in all areas of the College.

It often is said that, given our status as a premier technical college, we need to reinforce our position by employing every technology possible to be efficient and effective.

Technology has and continues to change our world of work. As an organization, we need to examine all aspects of our work and determine if we are, in fact, working as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Over the next five years, we will conduct a comprehensive assessment of our work processes across the entire campus.

With quality and service as the cornerstones of our vision, we will review department processes and staff functions and we will make the changes necessary to ensure that we are efficient and effective across the board.

The next five years will hold many opportunities and many challenges for Pennsylvania College of Technology.

As always, it is the people of Penn College who will determine how well the institution is able to meet its challenges and take advantage of the opportunities to advance and remain viable in an ever-changing world.

Each of us holds the future of this institution in our hands.

I ask you to take seriously the challenges and opportunities before us. I also ask you to put forth your best effort to cooperate and to participate in the realization of our Strategic Vision. To make our vision a reality will require the continued investment in our faculty and staff.

To that end this summer, we will continue with our professional-development offerings, beginning with PCEO – Penn College Employee Orientation Summer College – from May 24-26. If you are relatively new to Penn College, I encourage you to sign up for this professional-development experience and get to know Penn College better.

More information can be had by contacting Workforce Development and Continuing Education. (By the way, that is the new name of our Technology Transfer Center.)

The Second Annual Teachers Learning Institute will be held Aug. 4-5. For more information, you again can contact Workforce Development and Continuing Education or go to the Professional Development website.

Before we even realize, it will be August and we will be ready for Orientation and the start of the Fall 2004 semester.

Watch for information on a new and improved approach to Orientation for students and their families.

We also will be launching our new two-year campaign for marketing Penn College. You will recall we moved to a two-year catalog, and the campaign coincides with that cycle. In addition this year, we move from a CD format to a DVD for the multimedia piece of that marketing family of publications.

We have more to do this year – we need to finalize our budget for the coming year and we are hoping for some level of increase from the commonwealth.

At the same time, we are working diligently to keep tuition increases as low as possible to allow students to fulfill their dreams.

We would not be where we are today without the commitment of each of you in this room.

We have had an extraordinary year – yes, filled with challenge and opportunity – yet, on our most difficult of days, I never doubted for a moment that we would prevail, we would rise to the occasion and do what we do best: make a difference in the lives of our students and each other.

I offer my congratulations to the Distinguished Staff winners; the Part-Time Teaching Award winners, the retirees and Quarter-Century Club members, and I look forward to recognizing full-time faculty during our commencement ceremonies on Saturday.

May the coming summer bring time for each of us to reflect, recharge and re-energize; to once again begin a new academic year this fall with the dedication to make Penn College and our individual contributions the best they can be.

I struggled to find a closing quote for today. My desire was to find one simple statement that, above all else, you might remember as you go about the next few months. I found that to be a tall order.

Thomas Aquinas said, “There is no joy of life without the joy of work.” I firmly believe he is correct. To make our work successful and satisfying, we need to be certain we find the joy of work. I ask each of you to find time to realize the joy in your work and I am certain it will make a difference for our students, our co-workers and our personal well-being.

I look forward to seeing you in August.

Thank you for your time and attention.