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President Eyes Year of Massive Overhaul, Major Undertakings

The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a College-wide meeting to begin the Fall 2003 semester.)

Good morning.

The 2002-03 Annual Report is titled “One for the Books”, a theme derived from our accomplishments, our library funding and the overall success we enjoyed during the most recent academic year.

As incredible as it may feel to me and to many of you, we are standing here today ready to begin another academic year and if you pause to think about what awaits us this year just imagine what we will look back and say about 2003-04.

This summer has been a blur for many.

We have struggled to work through our budget challenges with the state. As of today, we still do not have an approved state budget. The Board of Directors held a special meeting in July to set tuition and fees, and to give us authorization to move forward. The political landscape is rocky right now and we are certainly hopeful that a conclusion is coming . . . and soon. In the meantime, we will be prudent with our money and plan accordingly.

For any number of you this summer, the work has been intense. Many packed and moved from the Academic Center to temporary locations across campus. In addition, we “readied” this building for the facelift it is now getting a more appropriate term may be “bionic overhaul.”

The work on the Academic Center has begun, and it will not be without sacrifice. Read carefully when looking for a rest room: Women are on the second and fourth floors, and men are on first and third. Take your time and look carefully at the signs.

As the work is under way recall my end-of-the-year message temporary inconvenience, permanent improvement. We have great contractors working on the project, and we have done all the preplanning possible to make things work. What I can tell you: Construction is never silent, it is never spotlessly clean, and, in addition this semester, the smoking pavilion is inaccessible. I must ask for your patience and understanding. We will do all we can to make the environment appropriate for instruction this is our No. 1 priority. We will respond to concerns as we hear them; the end product will be worth the effort.

In addition to Late Registration, Drop/Add and New Student Orientation, this is dedication week. Tuesday, we dedicated the College Avenue Labs building. I am pleased to tell you it is an incredible facility my sincere thanks to Bill Martin, Walt Nyman and Andy Richardson. Your tireless commitment to the project is greatly appreciated. Veronica Muzic, thank you for your work on the strategies, bridging and overall project. You are now a seasoned “physical-plant soul” and are well-prepared for the Academic Center project.

To Don Luke and the General Services staff . . . to Jim Cunningham, Mike Cunningham and the other ITS staff . . . thank you for helping us create incredible classrooms and computer laboratories. To the faculty, staff and school deans Colin Williamson, Al Thomas, Leonard Filipkowski, Larry Fryda, Don Praster, Lamont Butters, Bill Sprinsky, Jo Ann Stephens, T.Jay Cunningham, Eric Albert, John Good and Rick Hendricks, Michelle Aunkst, Charles Oldt and Paul Steiger for you, the labor was (I hope) a labor of love: First, the design, then the relocation of equipment and preparation of facilities for classes. You did not have much of a summer, but we are forever grateful . . . and I hope you share in the pride we have for the world-class facilities available for our students and their learning opportunities.

All of you will have the opportunity to experience College Avenue Labs. We will hold a campuswide open house and picnic for all employees on Friday, Sept. 5. Watch PCToday for details of this event.

Rich Weilminster and his students will add the finishing touches by landscaping the Third Street side of the building this fall. We look forward to their contribution to the facility.

Be alert to the new traffic patterns on campus, the extension of College Avenue and the closing of Third Street access from the College Avenue Labs building: all designed to make the campus a safer place to walk, ride and drive.

Some have asked why we dedicated that building before classes began. After careful review, there is not one night of the week during the fall semester when you will find fewer than 200 students taking classes in College Avenue Labs. We chose to dedicate the facility on a weeknight to better allow our program advisory board members and corporate contributors to attend, and it was worth the sacrifice. Our major contributors all attended, and were duly impressed.

To complicate matters, we will dedicate the new Rose Street Apartments this evening.

The College Information and Community Relations staff, Document Services, Special Events and Hospitality staff have been put through a real test thank you all for your hard work and dedication to get it all done with unrealistic deadlines and less-than-ideal circumstances.

The 370-bed, two-building facility opens tomorrow for students and will be full, as it was the most-requested residence on campus. We will hold a campus open house for Rose Street Apartments later this fall. You soon will see the variety of living options available for students: efficiency two-person apartments, super suites for four students, one- and two-bedroom suites. Overall, a great location I, for one, can tell you it is far more square footage per room that I experienced in college! The project was not without challenge, as we have experienced one of the rainiest years ever. The contractors rose to the challenge and we are ready; minor work will continue, but, all in all, an incredible task.

We can thank Jim Fitzpatrick, Steve Jacobson, Elliott Strickland, Tim Mallery and Colleen Speno for their great work. Bill Martin again led the team of on-campus designers, along with Walt Nyman and Andy Richardson. We could not have completed this project without your hard work and tenacity thank you for your leadership, patience and willingness to go the extra mile and get us to move-in day.

What an incredible opportunity for our students.

We have done much more than building and relocating folks this summer. Although, when you go to PCToday and look at the new locations of staff, you will doubt that statement.

Many of you have spent countless hours on search committees and in interviews I normally would introduce new employees at this meeting. The numbers this year are far too large. Visit PCToday for a full list of new and transferred employees and a picture of the new faculty.

This summer, we hosted international guests from Mexico and two Governor’s Institutes for teachers, hired 26 faculty and many new staff to take our total number of employees to almost 1,200. When you consider our enrollment of over 6,300, it is incredible to consider our impact on the community.

The wonderful projects that various programs and student groups undertake throughout the year make lasting contributions to our community. . . in addition, you may have read recently about the computers we donate to nonprofit agencies. If you are asked about computer donations, please forward the information to Barb Danko.

We have extended our world to the community via Wildcat Plus a great project led by Linda Sweely and ITS that allows student ID cards to be used for purchases at businesses contiguous to campus.

I want to thank the faculty, school deans and staff for their book-order processing. I am told this was one of the smoothest years ever; thank you for making this part of the registration process for students an easier one . . . by allowing the College Store to be as ready as possible for the students.

We have been committed to providing more experiences for all staff, and I am pleased to tell you about a number of programs coming this fall:

  • RENO Recurring New Employee Orientation, an online and face-to-face project to orient new employees to the College
  • A Teachers’ Learning Community is being organized as an outgrowth of the Teachers’ Learning Institute.
  • An organized program of development for Classified Staff

A strategic planning and communications workshop was held for Department Heads, Health Science Directors and School Deans, a professional-development day for adjunct faculty was held Aug. 2, and 85 adjunct faculty members attended sessions presented by 20 faculty and administrative staff.

Many have been asking about the status of the Madigan Library and Learning Resources Center. Architectural proposals are due in Harrisburg tomorrow. The Department of General Services shortly will review with us our role in the selection process, and we expect an architectural firm to be identified early this fall. We then will actively begin the process of designing this all-important building for our campus.

Sept. 7 is a special day for all of us: The School of Hospitality, led by Dean Fred Becker, is hosting a culinary extravaganza to support the William Butler Lecture Series. The event, from 3-6 p.m., is $35 per person affordable, we hope, for many. (Come anytime before 5; early reservations are suggested.) We have asked local restaurants to donate funds toward the food, and our goal is to maximize the largest amount of money possible to the endowed account. We are hoping for as many as 250 people. Watch your mail for information on this special event.

New Student Orientation begins tomorrow with over 800 more students and guests pre-registered than last year. As of yesterday, we had 3,607 students and guests registered with more online overnight.

We have adopted a new format, one we believe will be appropriate for all students and parents. We will NOT hold the “new student convocation” on the mall The reality of “August” weather, challenges to our staff and the “on-again, off-again” preparations for 4,000 people. Also, we recognize that parents and students have other things on their minds have led us to this decision. In its place, Dee Hostetter (the Student Government Association president), Veronica Muzic, Jill Boyle (our vice president for student affairs) and I will address multiple groups of students and parents in the Field House throughout the afternoon.

The theme for this year’s orientation is “The First Step to Your Future.” The program looks wonderful, the orientation leaders are ready to begin another great year at Penn College and so are we. I invite all of you to join us on campus Sunday evening for the culmination of orientation the fireworks best viewed from the lawn between the Campus Center and the Victorian House. A great event, set to start at 9 p.m. Bring your families and enjoy the last moments before the fall semester begins Monday.

Next week is certain to be a busy week: Offices providing services to students will remain open until 6:30 p.m. through Thursday, and many across campus will be adjusting to new surroundings and finding their way through new classrooms and laboratories.

We have much to do this coming year. On our agenda are some major institutional initiatives that will be mailed to each of you this week. These include:

  • Researching the idea of a freshman-year experience
  • Examining the academic probation process
  • Finalizing our outcomes-assessment plan
  • Integrating information literacy across the curriculum
  • Expanding services to and interaction with students who reside off-campus and with landlords. Residence Life on this campus means all students, NOT simply on-campus residential students. I am very pleased that Colleen Speno is now assistant director of residence life, with a focus on off-campus students and landlords.
  • Planning a capital campaign for the library is an important step for us this year
  • Continuing to expand staff development
  • Updating the Facilities and Site Master Plan. We have done so much, it is time to take a look, evaluate what remains to be done and establish priorities.
  • It also is time to update our strategic vision: Where will we be in the next five years?

This September, Chairman of the Board Bob Dunham will report on “Penn College: The Past Five Years” to the Corporation for Penn State. While we can take a deep breath, we need to look forward, evaluate what we have done; consider and plan what the future holds for us.

I have asked Mike Cunningham to provide leadership in a large and important task: We are moving away from using Social Security numbers for employee and student identification. As we discussed the significance of that project, I asked Mike to lead us through a multi-year project, converting our “green screens” character user interface to graphical user interface. This is a daunting, but important task, and one that will include an examination and evaluation of all of our computer-driven processes. For this to work across campus, we are going to be asking the very hard questions of departments: Why do you need this field? Why do you need this information?

We will collapse databases and apply all of this technology in a homogeneous, user-friendly format, not silos of departments creating their own “power base” of data, screens upon screens of text and instructions that require daily review for use. This will be challenging and rewarding. We have the talent to do this . . . we will be adding others to assist us . . . but it must and will be done.

It is not clear whether we will meet again in this auditorium in January. We will remain flexible; we may explore options for other means of communicating as a group. Of course, it was been suggested we can miss one or two of these meetings if construction so dictates!

You can expect to hear from me regularly throughout the year on a variety of topics, and you will see a concerted effort to professionalize and streamline our internal-communication strategies.

It is difficult for me to grasp that this is my fifth year as president. I have loved every minute of this journey I thank you all for your daily contributions to our students, for they are the heart of our mission.

Each of you make a difference. As we begin what will be another “one for the books,” I ask you to consider this quote from James Allen:

“For true success, ask yourself these four questions: ‘Why?’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Why not me?’ ‘Why not now?’ ”

Remember, people make the difference at Penn College. Have a great day.

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