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President Recounts Productive Summer, Reveals Challenges to Come

(The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during an Aug. 12 all-College meeting to begin the Fall 2004 semester.)

Amazing, hard to believe, wonderful, exciting all words to describe my feelings today as I stand before you in this room.

Not only in considering that we are actually meeting in this building, but it is the 15th anniversary of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Madigan Library is coming to life, and we are about to embark on another year of extraordinary accomplishments at Penn College.

Summer 2004 flew by: Just ask Nick Vitterite, Ed Owens, Cliff Coppersmith, Walt Nyman, Bill Martin, Veronica Muzic and Jim Cunningham. Each led an exceptional team of people who followed the contractors’ work in this building. We owe them a debt of gratitude for “above and beyond the call of duty.” And, to the faculty and staff of Integrated Studies and Paramedic Technology: Thank you for your patience, tolerance and cooperation. I am most grateful and have retired my “vest” to the Penn College Police Department.

Truly, I did not expect us to be in this room today. We had planned for instructional trailers lining the mall, for both classes and faculty offices. As the reality began to take shape, we did observe the hands of time turn back to restore this building restore its shine and exterior character, illuminate the new and improved hallways and offices for faculty, and renovate the classrooms throughout the facility to the standards our students, faculty and staff deserve.

The paramedic facilities are second to none, and will be the envy of programs across the country.

The new accessible entrance to this building is a fitting tribute to the 90-year-old landmark it withstood the external facelift, wrinkle removal and all.

We are not quite finished, but we are well on our way so far ahead of schedule, the schedule is almost meaningless.

Yes, more remains to be done. There will be more inconveniences and challenges, but the improvement will certainly be worth the wait. “Wrapture” (the new International Cafe) new lounge seating on the “flying bridge” near the mezzanine, International Student Offices, ITS offices and workrooms, and the Academic Support wing all will be as glorious as the balance of the building.

On Dec. 7, 2004, we will rededicate this building with some special recognition of our 15th anniversary. We will place a time capsule in the walls of the building. What will the occupants think when they open the capsule in another 50 years? I am grateful for the committee that will accept recommendations from across campus on what should be included in the capsule and pass those recommendations on for review and approval. Information on the process of suggesting contents will be in your mailboxes early next week. Please take time to consider what represents us today what will tell a great story in 50 years?

My personal thank-you to the General Services staff, who worked above and beyond to allow us to be in this building today, and to the ITS team, who installed computers, telephones and classroom technology under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Please take time to walk around campus. I am struck by the beauty and condition of our grounds and facilities across campus. We can be very proud!

The Roger and Peggy Madigan Library is coming to life. Work has been ongoing to finalize the design that will be taken to the Board for approval on Aug. 19. If you have not seen the preliminary model featured in the entrance to the current library, please stop by and then visit again after Aug. 19 to see an even larger model.

The Madigan Library will not be the stuffy, quiet space that comes to my mind when I consider my educational experiences. Outside light, different seating configurations, computers and more computers, a cafe, a gallery, and a large open-computer lab are some of the features of the building. The facility will be student-friendly and inviting; our goal is for students to “want to spend time there” collaborating, learning, experimenting and researching to supplement their classroom and laboratory experiences.

As we begin this year, it is essential that we take time to reflect on where we have been and where we need to go. You have heard about the Strategic Vision the road map, if you will for the next five years. This map will guide our work, our exploration, and our validation of our mission and objectives for the future. You will receive a copy of the Strategic Vision and our Major Institutional Initiatives in your mailbox as the classes begin.

Please be sure to check PCToday to meet your new colleagues and to see the transfers that have take place.

You will see change across campus: new employees, veteran employees in new positions, a new, exciting approach to New Student Orientation. Thank you to all who agreed to serve on the JAM (“Just Ask Me”) Team. Orientation is vital for connecting students to campus. That one student you take time to help the one who looks lost, alone or frightened may be the one that, because of your interaction, does not leave Penn College for the wrong reasons. Take the time to help students, parents and others. You will be surprised how good it feels.

If you have not volunteered for the JAM team, consider wearing your name tag as you work around campus on Friday, and for those working over the weekend as well.

I also invite all of you and your families to the Orientation Grand Finale Celebration and Fireworks on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on the mall area in the center of campus.

We hosted visitors this summer from the Governor’s Institute for Math Teachers, to Welding Educators and SMART Girls. The campus was busy with guests, students and visitors from many states across the country.

Of course, Williamsport is about to take its annual place on the international map with the Little League World Series. If you get a chance, do not miss the Aug. 20 game, when Officer Bill Chubb will throw out the opening pitch. I am pleased to tell you Bill is back to work full time and doing well.

Various offices on campus have been working with many organizations in the community, Little League, the Chamber of Commerce and the Mayor’s Office, to name a few, to build better connections between the Colleges and the community.

This week, the Resident Assistants and Orientation Leaders were treated to a trip downtown to meet city officials, tour local businesses and become more acquainted with what is available for students in the city.

If you get a chance to drive through Montoursville, Jersey Shore and some locations in Williamsport, you can admire the beautiful hanging baskets created by staff from the School of Natural Resources Management. The Montoursville baskets are incredible. All the baskets were donated to Our Towns 2010 and distributed in those three locations.

While we are continuing to reinforce our bridges with the City and Greater Williamsport area, we are also taking a hard look at the area around the campus.

I told you in May either the City cleans up Vine Avenue and the surrounding streets, or we will. I walked the street this summer and personally took photos with Chief Miller and Gene Yaw, the College’s attorney. I then met with the mayor, the Williamsport Police chief, and a member of the Codes Department staff. We discussed a number of options to address our concerns.

At the upcoming Aug. 19 Board of Directors meeting, we will present the challenges and opportunities on the perimeter of campus. We expect to come away from that meeting with a clear sense of direction to enhance the safety and security for our students off campus.

However, I am notnaive students play a key role in their own health and safety.

We need to provide programming, resources and alternatives for students to make the right choices. Going to a party of 100 people most of whom you do not know then wondering why bad things happen, starts with the decision to go to the party.

In addition, we will be enforcing discipline with all students on and off campus, as we have done this past year. Students must be held accountable for their actions. I have asked Residence Life and the RAs to be firm, and we will be firm when dealing with off-campus landlords and students.

Wonderful new opportunities are under development or already available to you at the College this year. Please take time to review the many staff-development opportunities that are available throughout the year. This has been a conscious effort, and I am so pleased we are offering more for our employees. As we move to a more customized staff-development approach, I ask you to please consider using the GroupWise Calendar function. Faculty members can download their AS400 schedule into GroupWise. For assistance with this task, you can refer to the ITS Web site or call the Help Desk.

Watch for information on the new Honors Program, scheduled to begin in Fall 2005 a great addition to our academic world and one that is sure to be successful.

The whole concept and prospect of Freshman Year Experience will be taken to the next step this year as we continue to explore a special-topics approach to this initiative. You have heard it once, and will continue to hear it as the world of higher education expands the role and importance of Outcomes Assessment. We must keep ahead of this curve; expect new opportunities and ideas across campus this year.

In addition to planning for semester startup, many projects were completed this summer or are in the final stages of completion. The Fitness Center a massive renovation, addition of a juice bar, a modern, more conducive environment, expanded hours. Do not miss the opportunity to visit the center. Watch for reopening announcements on PCToday.

PCToday got a new look, as did Web pages and an entire new family of marketing materials.

I can tell you now, the DVD that was designed and produced in-house is, by far, one of the best pieces of work we have ever seen. I thought we would look at the opening minutes of the DVD this morning you can judge for yourself.

What a tribute to the team who developed this incredible piece of work. Would all the team members please rise. Thank you for a job well done.

Consider this: We will mail 75,000 of these to the names of prospective students we purchase from the College Board and from the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. We select those names, considering career interest, SAT scores, type of institution that interests the student, etc. The majority of the names are from Pennsylvania and contiguous states; however, for programs with larger geographic appeal, we purchase names across the United States.

We will certainly spread our name and increase our recognition with this effort. As in many of our marketing and fund-raising activities, this is often planting seeds for the future.

One new “future”-focused activity to take place this fall is a Parent Career Fair. I have asked Sharon Waters and the staff in Career Services to piggyback on the student career fair and offer an evening version not all of the employers, but a representative group who will be in the best position to speak about what is needed to succeed in the various career fields.

The target audience is middle-school parents. Our goal will be to invite middle-school parents throughout Lycoming County not children to attend and learn more about careers in manufacturing, plastics, health care, graphic design, information technology, just to name a few.

Our other “early intervention” initiatives to create loyalty and interest in younger-than- 11th-and-12th-grade students are coming into their own.

What has to evolve is a continued focus on what happens after a student applies. I am keenly interested in our communication mechanisms between the application, placement testing, and scheduling stages of admission.

We must break down the silos of operation. The “not-mine attitude that too often pervades our work must be changed. I have too often heard, “They are not mine after fill in the blank. They are all ours, all of the time, regardless of the stage.

The key is these are prospective students who have choices. We have competition: at least in their minds and the minds of their parents and friends. It is our job to demonstrate that, when you look carefully and looking carefully is what we want considering the investment of time and money in higher education today, we want them to look at our portfolio, our faculty and our curriculum, and to visit our campuses. Then, they will see we have very little, if any, competition. But, to be successful, we need to get the prospective student and parent to do that careful looking and research.

I will be diligent in working with many offices across campus again this year to be certain our message is streamlined, effective and coordinated. And, we cannot afford to hear the “not mine” words for the various stages of enrollment.

We have had an incredible summer, and the 2004-05 academic year will be another one for the record books. Our accomplishments are possible because, collectively, we are dedicated to our mission and vision.

Do not forget the JAM team begins work tomorrow, and, regardless of the weather forecast or reality, we will have 2000-plus new students and their guests to orient beginning tomorrow morning.

As the fall semester officially begins, I would like to close with a fitting quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

We will no doubt have wind with us and against us over the coming months, but I am not at all afraid, because with all of us working for our students and our mission, we will be invincible.

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