President Looks Back on Busy Summer, Ahead to Fall Semester

Published 08.16.2001

President News
Faculty & Staff

(The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during an Aug. 16 College-wide meeting to kick off the Fall 2001 semester.)

Good morning, and welcome to the Fall 2001 semester at Penn College. Plato, who might be the only person who wouldn't benefit from a "Speech 101" course, once said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate . . . is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

Penn College's Governance system is set up to avoid inferior representation by making it easy for anyone to participate. As with many public-service positions, the pay is not the purpose in the participation the meetings can sometimes be less than inspiring. And there is no high-profile press coverage to further any personal ambition.

But the results practical decisions that affect you, your co-workers and me are certainly worth your time.

One of the things I enjoy about these all-College meetings is that they give us an excuse to come together, an opportunity for us to celebrate long-standing connections and form new ones, a moment for us to look back at what we've done and look ahead to the wondrous things we're bound to accomplish.

We have much about which to be proud, and we have much good news to share.

As an institution, we've done extremely well in getting our message out to the world. Our television shows are bringing the national spotlight onto our campus, our publications consistently present a high-quality image of Penn College, and our various ambassadors be they current students, alumni, faculty or staff spread the word wherever they go about this phenomenal place in which to work and learn.

Where we've often been hit-or-miss, however, is in the way we talk to one another.

We have e-mail capability among our scattered campuses, we have communiques and administrative announcements, and we've had New Week News and PCThis Week. That's a lot of tools at our disposal, but not one of them is capable of reaching everybody at once with a unified message and mission.

Until now.

Many of you might remember the movie version of "2001," in which computers were more human than humans . . . technology made lives more sterile; relationships couldn't be more impersonal

Not so in the Penn College version of 2001, in which the computer will be the conduit through which we interact better as co-workers and through which we find common ground among our varied specialties.

Today, we're unveiling a new communications vehicle, which while always a work in progress aims to be your one-hop stop for news and events at Penn College. With the talented help from the specialists in Digital Media Production and our team of Web wizards from Computer Services and the Office of College Information & Community Relations, I bring you PCToday.

We ask you to make a conscious choice and select PCToday as your home page, read the messages each morning or place the icon on your desktop.

At PCToday, you will find the latest announcements of importance to us (and to our students), a schedule of each day's sporting events, a look at what's on special in our many Food Services dining units, reports from the various committees that make up Governance, and, even the weather plus a few news headlines from beyond our campuses.

The FYI e-mail list will be replaced on this site by a bulletin-board concept, through which the College community can post its "wish list" in a variety of categories: employees looking for Penn State tickets, puppies looking for a home, students looking for a ride, etc.

You also will have the opportunity to send a letter to the editor, which we hope will be used to comment constructively on what PCToday needs to best serve you. And there's a link for submission of items to be placed on the calendar or to pitch story ideas to our Office of College Information& Community Relations.

I am pleased to use this vehicle today to share some of what has been happening this summer at Penn College.

As we begin, I'd like to thank everyone who worked through the season to keep a variety of projects alive.

A lot of dust was flying, a lot of committed faculty and staff were whizzing about interviewing faculty and new deans, working comeback days for the large number of new students we are anticipating, a lot of busy visitors got a taste of Pennsylvania's premier technical college (The Governor's Institute for Career Education and Work, and the Keystone Commission on Education for Employment in the 21st Century, to name a few). Many preparations were being made for the re-start of classes next week.

We sit today in the eye of the storm, that momentary calm between what was a wild summer and what promises to be an equally busy semester. While some of us vacationed over the summer, while some of us relished the less-hectic pace of a season with fewer students, it was no picnic for General Services.

Among the highlights: A new electrical system for College West and the Field House . . . the rebuilding of plumbing workstations in the BTC ... a total makeover for the drafting lab across the street ... a facelift for automated manufacturing ... more new equipment for the plastics department ... new carpeting in several areas ... the move of Penn College Police from the Bush Campus Center to Penn's Loft ... repainting ... flooring and cabinetry work in child-care rooms ... handicapped-accessible curbing and crosswalks at Hadley and Susquehanna streets ... tackboards and benches and drains ... what a busy season.

And that doesn't count the big-ticket items.

To the west of the Academic Center, for instance, traffic has been heavy all summer. Trucks, trucks and more trucks hauled away dirt and brought in asphalt so many trucks that we had to actually close the lot to College users for a few days.

But, for all of the dust and confusion, we have a beautiful, new paved and landscaped and fenced-in Third Street parking lot I dare say the most beautiful parking lot in the city.

Among the historical trivia surrounding Penn College and its predecessors i s that, during an exhibition baseball game nearly 80 years ago Halloween of 1923, to be precise Babe Ruth hit a 500-foot home run that landed somewhere near the north end of campus. I think it is safe to say that parts of Bardo Gymnasium had not been touched since that monumental day, and we remedied that neglect during the summer of 2001.

The gymnasium has undergone a wonderful transformation, both cosmetically and structurally, including new lockers, a Labor and Industry upgrade, installation of rescue-assistance phones, renovated locker rooms and rest-room facilities, a fitness room, etc.

Now it is important to note: Harry Specht worked very hard on the design and "rework" of the gymnasium Thank you, Harry. When you tour, please note that Harry has a bit of an unusual desk: two folding tables. It seems that we kept him so busy, he forgot to order himself a new desk, a situation we are in the process of fixing as we work!

A spruce-up also was completed at College West, the newest and most far-flung of the College's three residence-hall complexes. We've installed new security lighting, paved over dirt parking lots and added beautiful landscaping, among other attractive and functional changes.

"SMART Girls" took over for three days in June, part of our initiative to interest high-school girls in careers in math and the sciences.

The idea might not seem novel to those who've seen this sort of thing done at other campuses, but I'm convinced we're the only place where a 10th-grader can design an animated Web page, learn through occupational therapy how to put on undergarments one-handed, sit behind the controls of a bulldozer and make it work, wade into a pond for sludge samples AND wield a dental instrument in the dental-hygiene clinic.

In the '60s, few boys didn't want to grow up to be astronauts. In this new millennium, we're out to show that girls can fly just as high. The fact that I stand here as your proud president is proof that gender is no measure of a man; we owe our daughters no less.

Despite what you may have gathered from the newspaper that we're a land-grabbing threat to the very tax base of this community all of our expansion has been in the furtherance of students and services.

We will continue to grow as needs demand, and we can overlook such criticism, sleeping very comfortably in the knowledge that we give as good as we get.

One thing that can't ever be overlooked, no matter how far and wide we expand, is our roots. Just as no parent can turn his or her back on the first-born, we never will forget the programs and people that formed our very foundation.

A June 19 reunion of Williamsport Technical Institute alumni was one way in which we celebrated the fruits of their wartime labors, and another example of how our growing Alumni Office is staying connected to our priceless graduates.

Decades have passed between those W.T.I. days and the group of students that will begin Orientation tomorrow, but the wide-eyed reactions of alumni and freshmen when they cross our campus are much the same.There is a common thread that runs between their generations, and our Alumni Office is using it to weave an organization of which we all can be proud.

It is, I needn't remind you, all about students.

Our students are as diverse as the areas from which they come. We draw from a growing list of states, and our enrollees from other countries also find a welcoming home at Penn College.

Downstairs in the Academic Center, you will find our International Programs Office and our International Cafe. Soon, you will see flags from the varied nations that are home to our growing community of students from around the globe.

For the Fall 2001 semester, students from the following countries have enrolled at Penn College: Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Korea, Barbados, Antigua, India, Kenya, Japan, Zambia, Botswana, Malaysia, China, Nigeria, Canada, Germany, Pakistan, Brazil and Hong Kong.

We welcome them and the cultural mix that they bring to our vibrant College community. As we try to fulfill our educational responsibility to them as with all of our students I'm sure they'll teach us a few things, as well.

For them, and for all of you, we've included a calendar function on the new PCToday site that allows a daily ( and monthly) glance at events on campus . . . as well as a few off-campus events of interest to College employees.

You can readily see the busy week of Orientation that we have ahead, including a first-ever workday convocation tomorrow afternoon. And, if I click on Aug. 27, for example, you'll see that it's Penn College"Pack the Park Night" with the Crosscutters. We hope all of you will use the tickets you received in interoffice mail to encourage the 'cutters and show your "Penn College Pride."

We will begin construction late next month on the Student and Administrative Services Center the name of which was changed from the College Services Center to reflect its student-minded focus.

Those offices that directly serve our students now will be in one centralized location with handy parking. Equally important, once those offices vacate the premises, the Academic Center will live up to its name again. The suddenly empty space will be re-fitted for classroom use, where teaching and learning again will be the hallmark of this historically significant building.

Institutionally, we have a number of major opportunities this year we are expecting very favorable enrollments in a number of program areas. With this growth comes challenge we must carefully examine the need for full-time faculty and support staff to be certain we are providing the excellence in education we believe is vital for student success.

Academic competitions for students are critical for their co-curricular development. We hope to develop mechanisms to encourage and support student participation in more activities.

To validate our fulfillment of our mission, we must continually strive to evaluate our effectiveness; our institution-wide outcomes-assessment plan is critical for our continued development. Our recently updated philosophy and mission statements position us well for our work in outcomes assessment and our Middle States self-study process.

I'm happy to report that assessment is alive and well at Penn College. In fact, most of us have been doing assessment for quite a while under various guises. Accreditation activities, benchmarking visits, program reviews, institutional research's numerous surveys and reports, and the valuable feedback we receive from advisory board members, employers and students are all pieces of the assessment puzzle.

But we still have work ahead of us within outcomes assessment. We need to bring these pieces together into an organized plan.

The first step toward creating this plan is to tie each academic School's mission and objectives to the mission of the college. Program objectives, although identified, need to be assessed and from that assessment, we need to move forward with changes that will strengthen the programs and services we offer our students.

I'm asking for your help during this upcoming semester, since I, too, have several goals that I would like to see become a reality prior to our visit from the Middle States team.

First, I am asking that each School create or finalize a mission statement. Obviously, that mission statement will speak to the overall mission of the College, but each also will reflect the uniqueness of your Schools, your majors and what it is that you view as the "spark" that your faculty contribute to Penn College and our students.

I am also asking that you dust off your program objectives and select two or three from each major to assess this next year.

That will also include determining several methods of assessment and recording the results of the process so that you can build on that process as you begin planning for 2002-03. For those of you in Student Affairs and services housed within Academic Affairs, you will have a similar task if you have not done so already creating or in some cases refining a mission statement, developing department or service objectives and assessing those objectives.

I am committed to assessment within the College and am encouraged by the strong interest you all show in incorporating assessment into your daily work lives . Throughout this academic year, we will continue to provide benchmarking and staff development opportunities in the areas of classroom assessment and student affairs.

Now for the deadlines as you well know, a fact of life in academe mission statements and objectives should be developed and finalized by the end of the fall semester. Methods of assessment should also be identified and in place by then as well.

By the end of the spring semester , there should be some results to report based on your activities conducted. I encourage all supervisors to have staff report on this important task at mid-year reviews and produce some form of documentation of results at your year-end performance review.

Mary Sullivan, director of outcomes assessment, is here to be a resource to all of you and she is in the process of scheduling meetings now with individual departments and work groups. She is the facilitator, not the "doer" of the work.

I look forward to reviewing your outcomes for the year. This is the year the culmination of our self-study work and our Middle States visit in March. Special thanks to the countless members of the College community who have worked very hard in completing the self-study process and very special recognition to Doreen Shope, Tommy Gregory, committee chairs and Bonnie Powell for their endless work this summer.

As the fall semester begins, we are prepared as a campus community to react to the great deal of time that Governance spent on the "smoking" issue last year. Over the next semester, you will see our implementation of the revised policy we are trying hard to accommodate everyone.

The changes will be obvious and will require your cooperation, but I believe our actions will go very far to implement the spirit and the reality of the feelings on campus.

At our August Board of Directors meeting, we will launch a new approach to the marketing of Penn College. The new CD will be previewed that day as soon as available, a copy of the CD will be given to each employee. Give it away or keep it, the goal is to spread the word about Penn College in this new format.

There is much to be thankful for and proud of at Penn College. I am honored to stand before you again this year as your president. In this room, we are blessed to find the talent and the skill of each one of you certain to impact the daily life and success of our students.

Before us are great opportunities and no doubt some known and unknown challenges. I cannot imagine facing the future with any other group of people people who together do make a difference .

The chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee Rep. John Barley visited Penn College this past spring. During his visit to our ever-beautiful Earth Science Campus and our ever-spectacular Main Campus, he made the following statement when asked about his visit: "I was impressed in, not only the student body, but the instructors and the quality of the classrooms, the quality of the equipment, the caliber of the students, quite frankly by all measures, I would say it's a home run if not a grand slam."

That's a fitting tribute to all of you on the opening day of the Little League World Series, the opening day of PCToday and opening day at Penn College. May this year bring you teachable moments, satisfaction in knowing you make a difference, and the anticipation of more opportunities for all at Penn College.