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President Previews New Year’s Initiatives in All-College Remarks

(The following is drawn from remarks by Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a Jan. 12 all-college meeting to begin the Spring 2007 semester.)

As we have reached the midpoint of our academic year, it is reasonable to take stock of what we have accomplished, preview new ventures on the horizon and, as always, take time to be grateful for what we have as individuals and as an organization.

I would like to welcome a group of new employees: On Jan. 1, the Industrial Modernization Center (or IMC, as we know it) became affiliated with Penn College and will receive administrative services as a result of this agreement. These 16 current IMC staff members are now Penn College employees.

This arrangement will provide great opportunities to collaborate on initiatives that spread the names of both organizations across multiple constituencies and further contribute to the economic development ofour region.

Please join me in welcoming themto Penn College. I offer special thanks to David Kay, who took a leadership role in this project and facilitated the smooth transition for these new employees.

The holiday was busy across campus: our athletic teams practicing, our General Services staff and the Penn College Police maintaining campus in a healthy and safe manner, staff from Financial Aid, Mail and Document Services, Admissions and the Registrar’s Office worked over the holiday for the benefit of a smooth start to the spring semester.

And, of course, our Outlook team.

I hope everyone is surviving the transition to Outlook! (I, myself, recommend “Outlook 2003 for Dummies” or “Outlook 2003: A Quick Guide.”)

A major technology switch like this is always challenging, but, thanks to the leadership of Mike Rae and Ron Miller, and the hard work of their Information Technology Services staff, the transition has been very smooth. Jim Cunningham assures me that this change, while a little painful, positions ITS to offer the campus community some amazing new technology capabilities in the coming months and years.

ITS also was busy during the fall semester. Under the leadership of Mike Cunningham and Randy Monroe, the ITS programming staff worked on a number of projects to support our efficiency and effectiveness initiatives. A major new system was developed for the Financial Aid Office that will ultimately save hundreds of staff hours every year. They also added some new features to the Employee Information System. My favorite is the online pay-stub program, which will save the institution thousands of dollars every year in printing and postage costs. If you have yet to visit the EIS, take time to do so. You can find a summary of your staff-development activities, you can find class rosters if you are a faculty member, and, of course, your payroll information.

We have a number of new initiatives as we begin this year. You will receive a letter from me announcing a collegewide refresher course in harassment prevention. This year, we begin a three-year cycle of online education for all employees. Watch for the letter indicating your place in the cycle; this refresher will be good for all of us.

As you know, we have an eight-hour standard of staff development for all APT, Classified and Service employees. Henryk Marcinkiewicz will be conducting an assessment of this standard and you can look for a survey instrument some time this semester.

“Homecoming” means something different for each of us. Here at Penn College, it means a series of events where we invite alumni to return, rev up our school spirit and have the opportunity to participate in any number of great activities. This year, homecoming is Jan. 25-27. You will not want to miss the donkey basketball game at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25, in the Bardo Gym. This event, sponsored by SGA, will create a student-legacy fund in conjunction with annual giving. Following the game at 9:30 will be a bonfire by the Rose Street Warehouse.

Friday is Penn College Pride Day and all are encouraged to wear college logo apparel AND feel free to wear jeans. As I have heard this request over and over, we will give it a go this year. The faculty/staff vs. student basketball game will be held at 7 p.m. Friday in the Bardo Gym and, in the event you do not know, the faculty/staff beat the students last round. Please turn out to cheer them on to victory once again. Many other activities take place that weekend, including a comedian, intramural athletics, a Chillin’ and Grillin’ prior to the women’s and men’s basketball games on Saturday. Events conclude with an RHA Homecoming Dance.

On Homecoming Weekend, we also celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Residence Life program at Penn College. Invited are all past RAs, RHA members and Residence Life staff members to visit, reminisce and celebrate this milestone.

Beginning next year, we will move our homecoming activities to the fall and use soccer as our highlighted sport.

As you leave today, you will receive “Penn College Pride” buttons to wear throughout the homecoming celebrations and especially on Penn College Pride Day on Jan. 26.

I mentioned the annual giving and student legacy associated with the infamous donkey basketball game. I am thrilled to report on the status of our Employee Annual Fund Campaign. Gifts and pledges to the 2006-07 Annual Fund Employee Campaign stand at a record $70,353 (as of Jan. 10). That’s about $7,500 over the last campaign and more than $4,000 over the previous employee campaign record set two years ago. To date, 295 employees have made gifts or pledges to the current Annual Fund campaign, which also is a record. We’re still accepting gifts and pledges! Thank you. Your generosity of money and support are symbols of your faith and commitment to Penn College for the benefit of our most important work: our students.

Our work is important, but we also can have some fun. This year, we are trying something new. Reward yourself for your hard work and generous spirit. How? By participating in the Office of Institutional Advancement’s first-ever online auction March 5-16. This online auction gives you the opportunity to support a great cause by bidding on items that will help you relax and enjoy your free time with family and friends. Online viewing of the auction items begins Feb. 19. Auction rules and instructions for submitting bids will be posted online.

Among the items to be auctioned:

  • A luxurious four-person whirlpool spa, donated by PDC Spas, Williamsport, a great solution to your cold-weather aches and pains.
  • A Weekend Escape Package for Two, featuring dinner at Le Jeune Chef Restaurant, tickets to “Three Men and a Tenor” at the Community Arts Center, and overnight accommodations in the Victorian House at Penn College. A wonderful way to spend time with that special someone.
  • An exclusive dinner for 10 in the grand dining room of the Victorian House on the campus of Penn College. Select your party’s dinner from a list of 20 entrees and 15 delicious dessert choices.
  • A machined brass and aluminum chess set, created by students in the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies, and handcrafted wooden case with drawer, crafted by Bill Geyer, assistant professor of building construction technology, to hold the chess set when not in use.
  • A collector’s package of Penn College memorabilia, featuring nine items from The College Store

Watch for more details on PCToday and in the next issue of One College Avenue. All proceeds benefit the Roger and Peggy Madigan Library campaign.

This year, we really divided new initiatives among a number of work groups. These cross-campus work groups have been very busy this past fall semester and have done some excellent work.

The Matriculation Committee has looked at a number of processes and activities associated with the new student-enrollment process; its work has resulted in changes to processes, procedures and ideas for policy changes under consideration.

The Mid-Management Council has served as a clearinghouse/sounding board for employees and their work has resulted in the initiation of the President’s Monthly Forums, the separation of the Presidential Scholar Program and the Student Ambassador Program, the provision of shredding personal documents to help us all avoid identity theft. Currently, the group is examining ways for the college to be more efficient and effective in our work.

The Employment Management work group is examining the life cycle of a Penn College employee. This comprehensive assessment is examining recruitment, hiring and orientation of all employees. Its work has resulted in a number of activities to clarify or streamline our work to better serve the needs of prospective and new employees.

The Marketing Committee is very busy this year, working through a number of activities that will lead us to a comprehensive marketing plan, after which we look forward to engaging a consultant on higher-education marketing. In addition, Admissions has worked to implement the Hobson’s electronic-communication software that is allowing us more technology-driven and student-specific communication with prospective students.

Adult students those of us over 25 or so are a dwindling population at Penn College. Couple that with our distance-learning program and it is time we look at developing a presence in the market to attract adult students in some cases, our own alumni and the returning adult learner. To that end, we have a group looking at the needs, communication vehicles and programs we offer that may attract the adult learner in larger numbers to Penn College.

This week, we conducted our normal preparation for the semester startup and the School of Business and Computer Technologies entertained 300 high school students members of the Future Business Leaders of America.

The School of Construction and Design Technologies hosted the Beating the Odds Foundation one of the organization’s goals is to steer young people into making the right career decisions and representatives from the North American Technician Excellence (the national organization for HVAC). Great exposure for the college in both examples.

Anumber of schools, Admissions and Alumni Relations represented us well at the Farm Show in Harrisburg. This is a huge event and we were able to connect with prospective students and alumni from across the commonwealth.

“Welcome Weekend” will be held Saturday and Sunday for new students and, of course, returning students will be moving back to campus all weekend. In addition, we are fortunate that the Armstrong Art Exhibit, featuring the works of Chris Armstrong and the late David Armstrong, remains in the Gallery of the Madigan Library. The Gallery is open tonight and all weekend; check PCToday for the specific hours. This exhibit benefits the Lycoming United Way, with prints and originals available for sale.

2007 will be a great year for us. The Center for Business and Workforce Development will be completed. Jeff Weaver and Rick Calvert have done an exceptional job with Larry Fryda to design fabulous electronics facilities. Larry Michael, the IMC staff and local Penn State staff also have worked on their spaces. This new gateway to business and industry, via West Fourth Street, will be a great addition to campus.

Many on campus are working on what we are calling Stage X the retrofitting of the former library, relocation and expansion of a number of offices and areas across campus. We are being very deliberate in our planning and work. It is critical that we go to the Board with a complete package and, until then, we will continue to refine our facility wants and needs. We may have to sacrifice some speed for accuracy and thoroughness, but, in the end, we will be better served by this approach.

We need to continue to explore ways to be more efficient and effective at the same time providing quality instruction and service to students. Our competition is not diminishing and all are working for a declining population of traditional-age students. More than ever, we need to be mindful of our interactions with visiting students, families and don’t forget each other.

Please consider attending an upcoming President’s Forum; the next one is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Thompson Professional Development Center. We will be having a conversation on ideas of streamlining, becoming more effective in our work, and I would welcome you to the discussion.

I have a habit of tearing articles or quotes from magazines, newspapers or publications and I promise they are ones I subscribe to or pay for, not the “tear and hide” from the doctor’s-office waiting room. This time, I found an idea in the November/December issue of the CASE Currents publication. I believe it is a good idea and would like to launch this activity at Penn College this spring.

We will call it “Good Morning, Penn College” once per month, from 8:15 to 9 a.m., a department will be asked to host a good-morning conversation, explaining office functions and initiatives,and introducing staff to all who attend. Institutional Advancement has volunteered to be the first office; please watch PCToday for the date and location, Creativity is key: No PowerPoints, no long-winded speeches get creative, find a new and interesting way to share what you do and who you are, make it something people will remember and have some fun along the way.

I will give you one example from the publication and I want to give proper credit to Allegheny College, the originator of the idea the public affairs office created baseball cards with photos and a map to that person’s office. Of course, included were temporary tattoos and a stick of gum.

I am certain you can be more creative and engaging.

I look forward to departments volunteering for this activity to improve communication and, as Allegheny found out, improve social interaction and campus morale. Departments can schedule through an e-mail to me, Valerie or Kathy in the President’s Office.

Before we know it, we will be gathering here again in May to celebrate another successful academic year. I expect on most days the semester will fly by and, on some of those days unless we take time to savor the moment we will miss special opportunities. Whether it is reading that perfect paper from a student, feeling particularly satisfied for solving a difficult problem, making someone’s day go better even if they do not know who is responsible, or simply admiring that sunrise or sunset before it passes on to the next day.

As we make a difference this spring semester, please remember “people do make the difference at Penn College” and, working together, absolutely anything is possible.

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