President Reviews Year of Change, Challenge and Opportunity

Published 05.17.2002

President News
Faculty & Staff

(The following is drawn from remarks by Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during a College-wide meeting to close the Spring 2002 semester.)

As mentioned yesterday at the wonderful celebration for employee recognition, this is just about the best time of year on this or any college campus. If you were able to attend yesterday's event, you would have been able to see just how people really do make a difference at Penn College.

We said goodbye to those retiring, we offered recognition and congratulations to the new members of the quarter century club, we recognized excellence in part-time teaching, and we recognized distinguished staff at the APT, classified and service levels. All in all, a great day and we said goodbye and good luck to 14 kindergarten students who are off to first grade.

There are more celebrations this week, and they will recognize the accomplishments of our students and the milestone of graduation for almost 700 students who are off to the world of work, higher education and new opportunities.

It does not get much better than this.

I look forward to seeing many of you over the next three days the honors reception this evening, the "Relay for Life," Commencement ceremonies Saturday and at Knoebel's on Sunday.

I consulted Webster to find the perfect word, to define what 2001-02 meant to Penn College. Realizing there is no one perfect word, I began to narrow my search and landed on "serendipity" but, upon closer examination, I was not certain that was the best choice. You see, the "accidental" part of the equation was troubling for me. More appropriately, we had a year of unexpected opportunity. A year in which astonishing, challenging and rewarding things happened with us and around us.

Healthy organizations have a sound fiscal position, they have annual and long-range plans and they have the ability to respond and react accordingly when opportunity knocks. Those words describe Penn College, and, this year, we had many opportunities planned (and some unplanned) and we were able to capitalize on them to the benefit of our students, our faculty and our staff.

We did have a full agenda of institutional objectives for the year:

Middle States Wow! An arduous task, a process that had us take a hard look across the College at a number of key areas and you can be very proud of our results. The final action of the Commission will be coming in June, but to hear the exit report that was presented to us something we can all be proud of. Doreen Shope, Tommy Gregory, the steering committee and committee chairs, Bonnie Powell a job done with distinction.

We are now responsible and energized to take our own recommendations, and that one from the team, and integrate them into our institutional planning, give them the attention they deserve to allow us to improve Penn College.

Outcomes Assessment We made strides this year and are well-positioned to make assessment an integral daily part of our work at Penn College. I am thrilled that Sandra Lakey has agreed to serve as Chair of the Provost's Task Force. I want to thank Mary Sullivan for her leadership and tenacity to work us through OA and Middle States. We need a comprehensive plan and we will have one. We need an ongoing institutional commitment and we already have the elements in place for such actions.

I look forward to updating you next year on the work of the soon-to-be-appointed task force to work with Sandra and the school deans on their work with elements of OA.

Faculty Development an important focus for us this year. Actually, staff development in general, we expanded the offerings to faculty and staff and I look forward to those professional-development opportunities expanding even more in the upcoming academic year.

Buildings We are ahead of schedule by one week with the Student and Administrative Services Center; the gym, College West, and Lion's Court came into "the real world" this year.

We did much searching for new school deans and assistant deans a police chief and any number of new faculty and staff, and have the benefit of new leadership, new perspectives and I look forward to the contributions of our new colleagues.

PCToday was born and matured. I hope you took time to read the recent communique a status report if you wish I continue to have confidence in this communication mechanism as a way to keep all of us informed.

Smoking on campus an issue that we worked hard to address and I can assure you will have a great part of my attention over the summer in preparation for the return of students in August. We have found another college that has undergone some of the changes we have, and we can learn from its mistakes and successes. Count on a visible, active campaign when August arrives for students and all staff to allow us the full implementation of our revised policy. I thank those of you who have been patient and who have taken time to communicate your frustration and your kudos on what we have done to date. We will do better and I am confident you will see a difference as a result of our actions.

I began with suggesting there were astonishing and unexpected opportunities that defined 2001-02 as much as our planned activities

9/11 will be a day with us forever. What also will be with us forever is the pulling together of the College community to react and respond to this life-changing day. As difficult as this was for all of us, each in a personal and different way, each day was better because we work with people who care, listen, reach out and support our community and one another.

We did not predict record-setting setting fall and spring enrollment, although our predictions were positive. All of you responded to assist Veronica Muzic and the deans in adding sections and staffing them accordingly. Thank you on behalf of those students who had opportunities they would have otherwise not been able to experience.

The miracle gift, as I call it, of the former HON facility. Over 100,000 square feet of space for academic programming . . . and contiguous to campus. It really was astonishing and unexpected and we are poised to make it wonderful: new Collision Repair laboratories, Civil Technology and Surveying out of the basement of the Academic Center, Automated Manufacturing and related laboratories, other programs to expand in the Advanced Technology Center and 25 percent undedicated space for planning. If all goes well, we will be holding classes in that building by Fall 2003.

We have had quite a year. I could go on about the community projects completed by our students and faculty, the external recognition both students and faculty received.

We have much to be proud of and much to celebrate. But we also have our work cut out for us.

We have a budget to finish the governor's budget calls for a 5-percent reduction in our appropriation. I must commend all of you for submitting reasonable, responsible and rational budgets. We are waiting now for the final appropriation numbers, but I can tell you this: We have worked hard and are determined to maintain services to students, a quality work environment for our employees and keep any tuition increase as low as possible. Because of sound budgeting, all of those look very possible.

We have to acknowledge that those around us are initiating programs that directly compete with us. I appreciate the frustration you feel I have heard from any number of you asking what we can do.

Pennsylvania has no coordinating or approval process for duplication of majors. That is both a blessing and a curse. The veteran staff in the room remember the time when we matched the others billboard for billboard.

I cannot support that approach who wins? the only winner is the billboard company. Why spend money on advertising quid pro quo when we can better spend our time and money being the best we can be to borrow a phrase. Quality programs, quality faculty and quality facilities will carry the day. I would much rather spend our money on students, employees and instruction than on unsuccessful or competitive advertising.

Yes, they cost less than we do, but I suggest value will carry the day, as will quality. Work together to position your programs in such a way that cost is not a deciding factor; let the experience and outcome drive the market and we will prevail.

As we have experienced this year we know there are some constants in our work: Change Challenge Opportunity Planning And the unplanned.

This coming summer, no doubt, will bring more constants to us and we are ready. I hope each of you takes time for yourself and time for your families time to recharge, because one thing is for certain: We will have the opportunity and privilege to make a difference in one another's' lives and the lives of more than 5,600 students (at least) come August, and we need to be ready to shape the future.