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Employees’ Shared Responsibility Infuses New Semester’s Launch


At the dawn of 2018-19 classes, Pennsylvania College of Technology President Davie Jane Gilmour gathered with faculty and staff Thursday morning to set a resolute tone for the fall semester. Summarizing the swirl of summer activity – and a wide range of developments from facilities to personnel to athletics – she ended with a reminder that inspiring students is the true bottom line. “When reflecting on the start of a new academic year, so much comes to my mind,” the president told an all-college audience in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium. “First, the new students, fresh ideas, a slight bit of fear, and, yet, their entrusting us to help shape their future. The excitement, the realization of the responsibility we all share and the knowledge that, if all goes right, we will make a difference in their lives and they in ours. Yes, the challenges, the opportunities and the bumps along the road are real and, at times, frustrating. But … for all the challenges we face, the joy in knowing we are some small part of creating ‘tomorrow makers’ fixes everything.”

The following is drawn from President Gilmour’s Aug. 16 remarks:

Welcome back. I hope you had a wonderful summer; campus was very busy with Penn College Summer Camps, NACAT (the North American Council of Automotive Teachers) and PFEW (Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week). In addition, we had any number of summer projects going on across campus.

I want to thank General Services, Conference Services, Dining Services, Le Jeune Chef, the College Police, and all the faculty and staff volunteers for camps, Summer Preview Days and Connections. We appreciate your time and efforts to make our summer a productive and positive one.

There are some new staff and new positions:

Ashley Murphy is in a new role this year the associate dean for admissions and financial aid. Her office is located in the Financial Aid office suite, and we are looking forward to her leadership in this expanded position.

Randy Zangara joins us as the dean of college transitions and first year initiatives.

Tim Rissel is the executive director of General Services, and Jason Bogle is the director of construction projects in General Services.

While not a new person, we have a renamed an academic school – the School of Nursing & Health Sciences. Given our pre-eminence in the field of nursing, it seems fitting to adjust the name. This is a foundation for our campus and for future growth.

There are some title changes on President’s Council. Suzanne Stopper is now senior vice president/CFO; Pat Marty is now chief of staff/assistant to the president for college relations, and Hillary Hofstrom is vice president for human resources, reporting to me. These titles appropriately align with their job descriptions and responsibilities.

This summer is one that we will not soon forget. First, the rain. Yes, we are keenly aware that there are leaks all across campus. Locations change, amounts change and General Services staff are working diligently to address the issues.

We are about to begin the rehabilitation of a building in Wellsboro. The building, gifted to us by UPMC Susquehanna, is an excellent location for our Wellsboro Practical Nursing Program and related activities in the Northern Tier. The building should be ready for January 2019 and will allow us to expand enrollment.

Work on the welding expansion is visible in the area between College Avenue Labs and the Metal Trades Center. This expansion is a result of a federal Economic Development Administration grant and our own financial investment. Significant enrollment increases, state-of-the-art technology and expanded space for our bachelor-degree students drive this renovation/expansion.

I will comment today on a number of areas that have benefited from our fundraising this year. I am very proud to share that the advancement team raised the largest annual amount of cash and in-kind gifts ever in 2017-18. Loni Kline and her team have done outstanding work, and every dollar they raise allows us to complement and supplement what we do for our students.

Budget is something on the radar screen daily. This was not an easy budget-building year. There are real needs across campus, and there are nice-to-haves. This year, we need to mind our money carefully. Yes, we did get an increase in our appropriation of 3 percent. That 3 percent is a bit over $600,000. Let me put that into context; the increase did not cover raises, did not cover increased utility or insurance costs, and my list could go on. As always, we need to work smarter and more efficiently. I have been asked why we had to increase tuition. Our goal is to keep a Penn College education as affordable as possible, but we cannot sacrifice class size, full-time faculty, student support and our commitment to hands-on education. Thank you in advance for your work to be as responsible as possible with our tuition dollars to make the most for our students.

One way we have been trying to expand opportunities for our students is by broadening their perspective of the world outside Lycoming County and Pennsylvania. I am thrilled to share that, from last August until today, Penn College has had the largest number of students participate in study abroad opportunities. Whether short-term trips, clinical experiences or the women’s soccer team “playing” through Italy, these experiences are life-changing for our students.

The 2018-19 Employee Campaign is off to a wonderful start this fiscal year, with over $103,000 in new gifts and pledges. Thank you to all who have participated thus far. You are empowering our students for success as they pursue their “degrees that work.” If you wish to join the campaign, please contact the Institutional Advancement office.

Earlier this week, we dedicated an exciting new resource for our students, The Dr. Welch Workshop: A Makerspace at Penn College. This makerspace is designed to encourage learning and collaboration beyond the curriculum and classroom by providing resources for students’ creative projects. Some of the equipment available for use includes: a laser cutter/engraver, 3D printers, vinyl cutter, sewing machine and sergers, lathe and milling machines, welding and cutting machines, hand and power tools, various woodworking saws and sanders, a CNC router, and electronics and robotic bread-boarding kits. Just as importantly, the staff in the makerspace will provide the guidance and training to bring those creative ideas to reality. The makerspace will support interdisciplinary cooperation and provide a constructive social option for students, and it is open to Penn College students from all schools and departments, as well as faculty and staff.

This space will provide the environment – and essential tools – for students, faculty and staff to collaborate on innovative projects in a dynamic learning setting. During the dedication event, we had the opportunity to recognize the alumni and student designers of the space, as well as the generous donors who turned the vision into a reality. The Dr. Welch Workshop is in the Building Technologies Center, Room 104, and officially opens Monday at 6 p.m. Check the portal department site for the hours this semester and how to get access. There will be an Open House to introduce interested students, faculty and staff to the makerspace on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. Students can drop by and find out about how the makerspace will operate and sign up for access this semester. Please stay tuned for more information on an Open House event for all to visit The Dr. Welch Workshop.

As many of you may be aware, the college participates in a wellness program with the Lycoming County Insurance Consortium. The BeHIP (Better Health Incentive Program) continues this year with an additional Platinum level and more ways to earn points. This program is available to employees and spouses who are covered on the College’s group health insurance plan. BeHIP informational sessions are scheduled. To register, go to the Quick Links on the EIS and click on “Development and Wellness Offerings.”

If you are a full-time or regular part-time employee, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the college provides an Employee Assistance Program that is available around the clock to assist you and your immediate family with a wide variety of concerns. EAP can provide phone counseling and, if necessary, in-person counseling. They also have a comprehensive website with articles, videos and helpful tools to assist you. Additional information is available on the Human Resources portal page under “Employee Benefits.”

In 2015, we did a campuswide leadership evaluation. We will again conduct this important set of surveys. For the fall semester, all non-academic supervisors will participate in this assessment and, in the spring of 2019, academic administrators will be assessed. This is an anonymous survey and will be important for professional development and reflection for all administrators. All employees are encouraged to participate and offer feedback.

Public Relations & Marketing and Enrollment Management, with support from across the college, have been working with Philadelphia-based branding consultant 160over90 to bring a fresh, bold approach to all marketing messaging and materials. You have probably already seen hints of the firm’s influence in recent print and television ads, as well as in billboards like those currently on display on Route 15 – near Reptiland and before the Little League Baseball headquarters in South Williamsport. We are pleased to announce that a team from 160over90 will present a special brand launch in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium on Friday, Sept. 21. We encourage everyone in the college community – faculty, staff and students – to join us. Look for your personal invitation to the event in the coming week.

The Little League picnic (now in its 10th year here on campus) was a tremendous success again yesterday, as was the college’s participation in the Grand Slam Parade downtown. Penn College also featured prominently recently in “Williamsport Beyond Baseball,” a program produced by WBRE/WYOU-TV that aired last month. The program will be rebroadcast during the Little League World Series and is available online on WBRE/WYOU’s website.

Please check the Penn College YouTube Channel for a video documenting the intense, but rewarding, work experience our students receive at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby as key members of the Levy Restaurants team. The 16-minute “Penn College Savors the Kentucky Derby” video, produced by Tom Speicher, who was granted unprecedented access this May, documents the activities of faculty Chef Charles Niedermyer, 28 students and 10 alumni who spent five days cooking for thousands of patrons at the prestigious clubs and suites.

Penn College’s 25 years at the Derby is also the subject of the cover story of the current issue of Penn College Magazine, with a cover illustration by graphic design student Kennedy L. Englert.

Penn College is pleased to announce that we have a new mobile app available for download from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

The app, myPCTmobile, has many enhancements including mapping, access to grades, athletics information, directory and much more. Watch for a portal announcement for more information.

This past year, the Plastics Innovation & Resource Center (PIRC) held 35 training sessions with 94 companies and 523 employees from 20 states, Canada, Kuwait and Mexico.

Nicholas Berdyck, safety coordinator/quality control from Jamestown Plastics Inc. in Brocton, New York, had this to say about a thermoforming workshop he attended:  “The speakers/leaders are very knowledgeable and welcome questions about anything. I knew some, but this has given me more info in three days than I could ever hope to do on my own. Thank you!”

In addition, the PIRC completed 56 projects for 33 companies from 10 states.

At the Spring Commencement ceremonies, we recognized three of our colleagues for their outstanding work in the classrooms and labs. T.J. Mulfinger, associate professor of building construction technology, and Ed Owens, associate professor of mathematics, were both presented Excellence in Teaching Awards.  This was Ed’s second such award. Joanna Flynn, associate professor of mathematics, received the Veronica M. Muzic Master Teacher Award. Congratulations to you all, and thank you for your excellent work.

The Colloquia Series continues this year with two excellent presentations. The college is partnering with the local Notre Dame University Club to welcome Dr. John Deak as part of the Hesburgh Lecture Series.  Dr. Deak, a scholar of the First World War, will discuss the technological innovations coming from that period as we recognize the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice. Dr. Deak will join us in November. Professor Sophia Brueckner, of the University of Michigan, will be with us in the spring. Brueckner’s focus will be the embedding of art and design in software and engineering.

We have a very large group of new faculty joining the college this fall. The upcoming edition of The Teaching Experience will introduce them to you. I ask that you reach out to them, welcome them to the college and assist them in their acclimation.

Our women’s soccer team arrived back in United States after 10 days of educational sightseeing, training and competing in Italy. Our women, led by head coach Christa Matlack and assisted by men’s soccer head coach Tyler Mensch, played women’s teams from Italy and Switzerland, representing us well and winning two of the three matches.

Other student-athletes returned to campus last weekend to begin their preseason training for fall sports. Last year was an extremely successful year for the Wildcats, and this year, I am predicting, will be the best ever! We learned just a few weeks ago that Penn College finished fourth in the North Eastern Athletic Conference President’s Cup, missing third place by half of a point. The President’s Cup measures the best overall athletic programs out of the conference’s 14 member institutions. It takes into account academic success, community service, sportsmanship and athletic success. We have improved every year since being a member by going from 14th in 2014-15, to 11th in 2015-16, to sixth last year. I am extremely proud of what our athletes do in the classroom and in the community. Our Wildcats ended the academic year with a cumulative 3.035 GPA and a record-breaking 58 NEAC Scholar-Athletes; they also worked more than 2,500 hours of community service while raising over $4,600 for their charities. I could not be more proud of our coaches and student-athletes for all of their hard work, dedication and sacrifice.

On June 29, the college received word that our application to establish a chapter of Chi Alpha Sigma, the National College Athlete Honor Society, had been approved at DePauw (Illinois) University, where the society was established in 1992.

Student-athletes who have achieved at least junior standing by their fifth full-time semester, have lettered in their sport and have earned at least a 3.4 cumulative GPA on a 4.0 scale can be nominated for induction with recommendations due by April 1 of the spring semester. Successful student-athletes will be inducted into the society at a ceremony to be held in May.

We’re excited to join Gallaudet University as the second member school in the NEAC to host a chapter of Chi Alpha Sigma. With 58 NEAC scholar-athletes having been recognized during the 2017-18 academic year, we look forward to inducting several of our student-athletes as members of Chi Alpha Sigma this May.

In addition, I would encourage you to come out to see our student-athletes in action!

As many of you know, the Saturday of Welcome Weekend is capped off by our New Student Convocation celebration. This ceremony represents the students’ official entrance into the Penn College community. As students enter the convocation ceremony in the Rose Street Commons Courtyard, faculty, staff and alumni join in lining the sidewalks to cheer on and offer encouragement to our incoming students. Last year, we had more than 100 volunteers welcoming students; this year, we are hoping to double that number! However, that means we need your help. If you have never attended, it is truly one of Penn College’s most exciting traditions!

Convocation includes music, words of wisdom from administrators and students, and fireworks. The event is family-friendly! Supporters should plan to arrive by 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, (that is this Saturday) for an 8:30 p.m. start in the Rose Street Commons Courtyard. Please wear your Penn College gear!

Last semester, a group led by the Office of Diversity & Cultural Life, which included faculty, staff and students, created a handout to share “Tips for Creating an Inclusive Environment.” The goal was to create a resource, applicable to all Penn College community members, that provides some simple first steps towards fostering a more equitable and inclusive space on campus. Its simple suggestions, such as practicing universal design, using preferred names and pronouns in introductions, ensuring inclusive language when speaking to others, and being approachable to students, are easy ways to help ensure all Penn College students feel comfortable on our campus. The handout will be distributed via interoffice mail this week. Additional information can be found on the Diversity & Community Engagement portal site.

During the spring semester, we saw a significant transition in The College Store. Jenni McCracken took the helm as our full-time director as the store moved to the Division of Student Affairs. New staff and a renewed focus on the success of our students is at the center of new developments in The College Store. To start, the store will have expanded hours this fall, opening at 7:30 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. (4:30 p.m. on Fridays). You will also see expanded weekend hours to better support our events in Admissions, Institutional Advancement, Alumni Relations and Student Activities. New relationships with tools, equipment and uniform vendors have created new opportunities for our students. In addition, new inventory will help us all look Penn College Proud and, yes, there is a much broader selection of women’s clothing suitable for Penn College Casual! These changes were recently highlighted in the magazine Campus Marketplace, a publication of the National Association of College Stores.

Nevertheless, we need your help! First, please refer students and parents to The College Store with questions about textbooks and equipment. We have seen an increase in the number of issues students are having with purchasing incorrect texts, texts without online access codes, or incomplete equipment.  The goal of The College Store is not to ensure that students buy from us, but rather to ensure students purchase the correct texts and equipment they need in the most economical way possible! Second, if you have suggestions or recommendations for The College Store, please reach out to Jenni and her staff.  Our goal is to provide the best quality service possible to faculty, staff and students!

I want to thank everyone for the kind words and expressions of support during and after the All-College meeting in May. The 40/20 celebration was a very special day for me, and I thank all involved. I was very surprised and, upon reflection, I neglected to thank a very important person in my life. Valerie Baier and I have been together since 1996. A day does not go by that I am not grateful for her unconditional support and dedication to making my work life better. Val, I would not want to do this without you. Thank you.

The community in which we live is important to me. Forty years ago, the first community organization I became affiliated with was the YWCA – the dental hygiene students and I created care packages of toothbrushes and oral-care items for the Women’s Shelter. The “Y” has always had a soft spot in my heart. When asked to participate in their latest venture, I could not say “no.” Yes, I will be rappelling down the Williamsport Hepburn Apartments on Oct. 27. I have chosen to raise money for the YWCA, YMCA and the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation. You will likely see information on this event in the coming weeks for my going “Over the Edge.” While my heart will always be with Penn College and our foundation, this is an important activity for our community. Stay tuned for updates, and I look forward to beating Steve Johnson, CEO of UPMC Susquehanna, down the building!

When reflecting on the start of a new academic year, so much comes to my mind. First, the new students, fresh ideas, a slight bit of fear, and, yet, their entrusting us to help shape their future. The excitement, the realization of the responsibility we all share and the knowledge that, if all goes right, we will make a difference in their lives and they in ours. Yes, the challenges, the opportunities and the bumps along the road are real and, at times, frustrating. I often tell people that, from August until May, I sleep with one ear open; when the phone rings, it will be Chris Miller, Elliott Strickland or Don Luke, and rarely do they call to check on me sleeping. But here is the deal. For lighter sleep, for bumps in the road and for all the challenges we face, the joy in knowing we are some small part of creating “tomorrow makers” fixes everything.

As we move into the semester, I leave you with this quote from former football coach Lou Holtz. “I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.”

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