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President Mobilizes Auxiliary Ambassadors to ‘Spread Our Name’

President Davie Jane Gilmour opened the Spring 2016 semester with a wide-ranging address, effectively deputizing all faculty and staff as Admissions Office representatives and rallying them to publicly share Pennsylvania College of Technology’s unique attributes. While outlining phenomenal growth in outreach to prospects, as well as an enhanced focus on branding – to travelers in “a galaxy far, far away” and in markets closer to home – she said the challenge is clear. “We have over 100 majors that are recession-proof, our graduates get jobs, we have an excellent placement rate of 96 percent, we provide the full collegiate experience to our students – residence life, collegiate athletics, clubs and organizations, and national competitions – and outstanding industry recognition of our programs and graduates,” she told a Klump Academic Center audience Friday morning. “Why is it so hard for us to spread our name and enroll students?”

The following is drawn from President Gilmour’s remarks at a Jan. 8 all-college meeting in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium:

Good morning.

Happy New Year!

To begin, I would like to end a rumor.

Over the holidays, I took the time to declutter my office – edit, if you will, the collections of things on my window sills and around the office.

It did not take long this week for me to be asked, “Are you trying to send a message?” No – I read a book about lightening your life by tidying up. I just refreshed the space and started simplifying for the new year. My resolution, of sorts. One of just a few I made. I wish you all success in keeping your resolutions; so far, I am 1 for 3.

To the business at hand. The 2016-17 Governance election process is soon upon us. Nominations will start on Jan. 27 through Feb. 3. You received two forms when you entered today: a flier listing the open seats and a new marketing initiative – a card – to get students involved in Governance. You can recommend a student to Governance, and if you need more cards, you can contact Tina Strayer.

At the January all-college meeting, we present the President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment of Student Learning. The annual assessment award reflects the college’s commitment to ongoing assessment of student learning outcomes through the recognition of initiative and creativity in facilitating student learning.

Given the ongoing collaborations among faculty and staff in assessing instructional programs and services, both individuals and groups are eligible to apply. Full-time faculty and staff are eligible for the award through application. The assessment must have been conducted within the previous four years, allowing for adequate time to conduct/use closing-the-loop activities, an integral component of the application.

This year we had four outstanding applications; I would like to share with you the four.

Kelly Butzler conducted research to determine how different learning environments (flipped types vs. traditional) affect student learning in general chemistry. Two significant findings emerged through her study that could be beneficial for our college as we attempt to maximize student success.

First, students’ mathematics levels were a significant predictor of overall success in general chemistry, regardless of the learning environment.

Second, students entering our college with a mathematics level of 4 or higher mastered more content (statistically significant) in a flipped-based classroom in comparison to a traditional lecture classroom. No significant differences were found for students entering at a level 3 or lower.

The librarians have created and administered a “library tutorial,” a foundational instructional piece provided to every student taking English 111. This instructional object exemplifies the assessment cycle we promote here at the college. This includes identifying standards to be measured and accompanying benchmarks of student success.

Student achievement of these standards is measured, and the librarians interpret the results. Their analysis of student performance leads to decisions on changes needed to the library tutorial piece, the librarians’ instruction or to the assessment instrument. Further results are then collected, and another analysis is completed on the success rate of the changes. Then, the librarians begin the whole cycle again.

Their library tutorial truly is a model for assessment and the analysis cycle.

Joni Pyle, Jane Oehme and Dottie Mathers’ rubric for the Capstone Project clearly links achievement of student learning outcomes for each of the three courses, the end-of-program student-learning outcomes and the professional standards of nursing practice.

Demonstration of this linkage ensures validity of measurement and closes the loop on substantiating student achievement of the student-learning outcomes for the major. Such substantiation is critical for accreditation in educational programs today.

And the winners of this year’s President’s Award for Outstanding Assessment of Student Learning: Joanna Flynn and Edwin Owens have been conducting various assessments in an attempt to determine how to improve student retention by increasing success in gateway math courses. Their most recent project measured what remediation efforts have had the most significant impact on improving student performance on the mathematics placement exam.

The Penn College mathematics placement exam measures the algebraic skills that a student knows and does not know, and provides information about student anxieties and feelings toward math. This information is used for math course placement.

To help students enter Penn College with no or fewer developmental classes, our Mathematics Department strongly encourages students to remediate deficiencies that a placement exam reveals and then retake the placement exam following remediation.

Flynn and Owens’ most recent assessment provides direct insight on what type of intervention strategies are most effective and how students can increase the likelihood of improving their mathematics placement level.

This is relevant because the assessment provides sound recommendations to help students decrease or eliminate the amount of time necessary for developmental coursework, thus allowing students to begin major courses earlier in their collegiate career.

This assessment provides relevant recommendations that will be immediately implemented through the advising process. Joanna and Ed, please come forward. Congratulations!

As most of you know, this will be the first year that Penn College will observe the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. as an official college holiday. While we believe this observance honors King’s legacy, it also means that this will be the first time that Penn College will be closed on the day our country celebrates the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. I would strongly encourage you all to make this a day “on,” not a “day off.” and volunteer with our annual MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 18.

The day starts with a Peace Walk at 9 a.m., which begins at the Yasui Peace Memorial at the corner of Little League Boulevard and Pine Street. The Peace Walk will progress through town and end on campus at Penn’s Inn.

After a light breakfast and short orientation, participants will sign up for volunteer experiences in the community. Those service activities will last until approximately 1 p.m. This event is co-sponsored by Penn College, Lycoming College and The Beloved Community Council.

Lycoming College President Kent Trachte and I will be at this event to welcome and thank all the volunteers. Check the portal this afternoon for more details on this event.

In addition to Monday’s activities, we are excited to welcome Nontombi Naomi Tutu, daughter of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to campus as part of our observance of the MLK holiday.

Tutu will present on “Our Shared Humanity: Creating Understanding through the Principles of MLK” on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m. here in the ACC Auditorium, followed by a book signing. Her book, “The Words of Desmond Tutu,” is available for purchase at The College Store.

For those interested, Tutu will also be presenting a Professional Development program on Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Please use the EIS to register for that event, as seating is limited.

Penn College will conduct a second Leadership Series for all full-time, nonfaculty employees in, or desiring to serve in, leadership positions. The series for nonfaculty employees will begin on Jan. 29, and the class will meet Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. A calendar of specific program dates will be provided to program participants. I am excited about this opportunity for all employees.

Whether you see yourself as a leader, a key person in your department or wanting to learn to be a more effective employee, this series will be ideal professional development for those involved. Each class will comprise 25 full-time employees. You must apply for the series. Applications are due by Jan. 12 and will be screened, with results announced by Jan. 19.

A big “Thank you” to the 119 employees who contributed to the United Way Campaign this year. We exceeded our goal of $36,000 and raised a record amount of $36,177 for 2016. In addition, my personal thanks to Katie Mackey for becoming our United Way leader on campus. Great job, Katie!

Since July, Mike Reed has led the school of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications as interim dean. Mike has done a great job in this capacity. We asked the faculty in SHVC to provide insight on Mike’s leadership late in the fall term, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

I am pleased to let you know today that Mike has agreed to remain as dean for SHVC on a continuing basis. Congratulations, Mike, and thank you for your work!

The Admissions Office was challenged this year to help meet our enrollment goals by increasing recruitment travel visits by 7.5 percent during the fall of 2015 and an additional 7.5 percent in the fall of 2016.

This would result in a 15-percent increase in total recruitment visits over a two-year span.

“Visits” include traditional high school visits, College Fairs, and career and technical center visits.

Our Admissions reps hit the road to make their visits all throughout Pennsylvania, as well as out of state and in the region, in addition to a few key states nationwide. To achieve a 7.5-percent increase in visits, the goal set for Fall 2015 was 577 total visits.

I am pleased to report that our Admissions staff, with the additional support of Academic Services & College Transitions and volunteers from the college community, met and exceeded our expectations. Fall 2015 travel was increased by 47 percent, with a total of 794 visits completed!

How did they do this?

There were an additional 107 visits made to CTCs this year. CTCs host a very specific population of students that Admissions wants to strategically recruit to Penn College.

One hundred nine additional College Fairs were attended. College Fairs are excellent places to meet students and parents that are exploring their postsecondary options.

Lastly, there were an additional 41 high school visits completed, where new relationships were forged.

Several initiatives were created to reinvigorate partnerships with counselors and instructors who have a longtime relationship with Penn College.

Admissions is also proud to announce that first-time visits were completed in Ohio, West Virginia and California.

And these are just some of the changes that Admissions has made this year. We are very proud of the work of the Admissions staff and those assisting with recruitment efforts.

Creating new ideas, developing new plans, and the ever more critical and difficult work of implementing new initiatives is not easy work. But if we want a different outcome, if we want change – it will be worth all the effort.

As the focus on increasing enrollment remains a high institutional priority, I encourage all to submit any idea that may positively impact the recruitment or matriculation processes.

I also encourage all to consider the ways in which you personally contribute to the collective work being done to impact enrollment and retention. This is a team effort, and only when we all work together can we create the Penn College that we want for the future.

We are proud to announce the establishment of the Penn College Patriot Scholarship for veterans of the U.S. military who are on active duty or enlisted in the Reserves or National Guard, and second preference will be given to their dependents. This scholarship committee will build to endow this scholarship and has its first $2,000 donation from an area VFW post.

The Dress Down February Committee, in coordination with the Penn College Veterans’ Fraternity, will coordinate this year’s Dress Down month. Watch the portal for announcements about how you can participate and help endow this exciting new scholarship fund as part of Dress Down February.

The office of College Transitions has sought to be a positive disruption to secondary education and our higher education competition. One of the ways in which we have sought to achieve this objective has been via our dual enrollment program, Penn College NOW.

Working with 36 districts (up from 26 last year) and almost 1,100 secondary students (up from 742 last year) has enabled us to positively challenge and educate many students, parents and staff in the K-12 environment with regard to their perceptions of Penn College. Many of you are involved as faculty liaisons and we thank you for that.

The challenge is that, as the program continues to grow, we need to ensure that we continue to expand on-site with adequate faculty liaison coverage. Please note that we are currently working with four new districts seeking to onboard in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017.

I encourage all faculty, full-time or part-time, to consider taking part in our dual enrollment program. This will enable valued postsecondary opportunities in our communities and Penn College degree program awareness.

So, please consider becoming a faculty liaison, with the support of your dean, of an established PC NOW course. If you are interested in hearing more about your possible future involvement in Fall 2016, contact Tanya Berfield at ext. 7659 or via email.

As you have heard before, our retention rate of first-year students has shown progressive growth whereby we have increased 12 percent over the past five years. Many factors have contributed to this effort, such as meaningful faculty advising and staff interventions.

However, we seek your assistance in maintaining the strong faculty presence in a key program in these efforts, the First Year Experience class. In a few months, which will come rather quickly, we will be planning our First Year Institute (a professional development event for new and continuing FYE instructors) and assigning FYE instructors for Fall 2016.

We thank those among the faculty and staff who have been able to consistently contribute to, lead and teach in the FYE program, but we continually seek to remain above the national benchmark of 12 percent for faculty involvement.

If you are interested in hearing more about your possible FYE involvement in Fall 2016, please contact Paul Watson at ext. 7120 or via email. There are many resources to assist in the successful delivery of the FYE standard course, and a short conversation with Paul will aid in understanding the expectations of the program before committing to a future assignment.

Thank you for considering this worthwhile endeavor. I ask you to please consider this opportunity to make a difference.

There has been much talk this year about budgets. As of today, there still is not a state budget. In the governor’s latest stopgap measures, he “zeroed out” Penn College.

Let me be clear, that was not just making us “flat” with last year, but he actually took us out of the budget.

We are in good company. All state-related institutions are zeroed out. In case you don’t know, that is $17.9 million for us at Penn College.

For now, we are financially OK. We have money in the bank, but this cannot go on for long.

In addition, the biggest issue is our students. PHEAA is still not completely settled. We are making all the necessary adjustments to assist students, but our receipt of the funds remains in great question.

$3.3 million of PHEAA is owed to the college from the state for fall, and $3.7 million is pending award for spring.

That is a total of $7,125,139 owed to Penn College from PHEAA; this impacts 2,234 students.

In addition, our enrollment shortfall from fall was a $1 million budget deficit and, as of today, spring is $2.4 million, or 4.5 percent compared to budget projections. We are talking major dollars.

Let me be clear, we have a lean budget already. We kept our tuition increase very low last year and, to do that, we had to postpone or delete many items from the budget. There is not a surplus waiting to be used for balancing the budget.

When it comes to spending money, you need to ask yourself, “Is this necessary – I mean, really necessary – or nice to have?” Seriously, we often do not think like that, and we must.

I have already spoken about the great work in Admissions to address enrollment.

We have been conducting a campuswide analysis of our staffing, programs and structure beginning this past August. With almost 1,000 fewer students since 2008, we need to be certain we are staffed accordingly and have the resources balanced in the growth areas of our curriculum portfolio.

This right-sizing has been a meticulous and challenging process. For some at Penn College, this is an ongoing process. For others, this is a new idea and has taken some work. For all of us, it is an important assessment tool to determine how we can be more effective and efficient.

In addition to admissions work, we have expanded our marketing efforts.

If you attended the “Star Wars” movie in Williamsport, Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, Allentown or Lancaster, you would have seen our on-screen ads and ads in the theater lobbies.

If you watch “Super Girl” or “NCIS,” you will see our television commercials, and we also bought commercial times for the AFC Championship pregame, Super Bowl pregame and Big 10 basketball championships. (Not the Super Bowl multimillion-dollar ad slots, but the pregame on local television.)

For 26 weeks, we are running Sunday newspaper ads:

  • Altoona Mirror
  • Times-Leader, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
  • Patriot-News, Harrisburg
  • Lancaster Newspapers
  • Morning Call, Allentown
  • Reading Eagle
  • York Dispatch/Daily Record
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Philadelphia Cluster-Digital First Media (Daily Local News, West Chester; Delaware County Daily Times; The Mercury, Pottstown; The Times Herald, Norristown; The Reporter, Lansdale)

And, you should see a series of static billboards on the Route 15 Corridor for the next six months.

All of this in an attempt to market, and expand, the Penn College brand.

For me, the greatest challenge is this: We have over 100 majors that are recession-proof, our graduates get jobs, we have an excellent placement rate of 96 percent, we provide the full collegiate experience to our students – residence life, collegiate athletics, clubs and organizations, and national competitions – and outstanding industry recognition of our programs and graduates.

Why is it so hard for us to spread our name and enroll students?

I, for one, will not rest until we turn around this enrollment picture.

I hope you will join me. The future of Penn College depends upon our success.

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