President Embraces Opportunities as New Semester Dawns

Published 08.16.2007

President News
Faculty & Staff

(The following is drawn from remarks by Davie Jane Gilmour, Pennsylvania College of Technology president, during an Aug. 16 all-college meeting to begin the Fall 2007 semester.)

Good morning, and welcome to the start of a new academic year.

This gathering is a time for us to reflect on the summer accomplishments, look forward and embrace the opportunities for the coming year, and to share information that is important to all of us as we begin our academic adventure.

The speech-writing challenge before me is to do all that and successfully motivate or even inspire us to do our best on behalf of our students for the coming year. A tall order for 8:30 a.m.!

This summer was one of our busiest on record. Our May-term enrollment was record-setting, we hosted more young people in a variety of camps throughout the summer, and we conducted our second annual Connections program for new students and their parents.

Connections continues to provide an exceptional transition program for students attending Penn College.

Parent and student feedback was excellent and, again, the entire campus community pulled together under the direction of Carolyn Strickland to make a lasting positive impression for all involved.

Many offices and staff worked on special projects for the start of the new year, Financial Operations and Student Accounts took all necessary steps to insure the integration of Higher One, the automated refund process for our students.

General Services worked with Food Services and the College Store to renew and refurbish spaces to make them more functional and attractive for our students. The "residents" of the Advanced Technology and Health Sciences Center will certainly welcome the addition of Fresh, the newest food venue on campus.

College Information & Community Relations created new publications, in addition to updating Web sites and creating television shows, commercials and billboards, to name just a few of their projects.

Information Technology Services produced the myPCT portal, our new communication mechanism for all across campus. This intranet site is the on-campus communication and information-access vehicle for our work.

Please watch for information on use of the portal, portal announcements and classes to allow you to fully embrace the powerful communication and work-group tool.

PCToday remains an important communication vehicle for us for both internal and outside audiences.

Daily, you will find important information at both locations. Keep up with the news of the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff via PCToday and stay current with items relative to all employees on the portal.

A week ago, we opened the Center for Business & Workforce Development. This new facility combines:

Workforce Development & Continuing Education
Over 30 professionals in Workforce Development & Continuing Education, dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to the community to leverage our resources to benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth and business and industry.

Over the past 10 years, WDCE has directly trained more than 60,000 individuals in skills-related, short-term noncredit classes. They also provide product-development and technology-transfer services to entrepreneurs and to industry.

The IMC assists small and mid-size manufacturers in our region to enhance their competitiveness by working with them to develop and implement strategies for all facets of today's business, including technology, manufacturing practices, marketing, product development and more.

The IMC has worked with over 500 manufacturers in the region since beginning operations in 1988 and, in the past year, has completed 165 projects with 95 manufacturers resulting in a total reported impact for the year of over $63 million.

Keystone Innovation Zone
This new facility also houses the KIZ initiative, which is a partnership among the IMC, Penn College, Lycoming College and other community stakeholders to provide services to the "innovation sector" of our regional economy.

There are currently seven KIZ companies within the geographic zone approved as part of the Williamsport/Lycoming KIZ.

I am pleased to report to you that this new facility has been approved as one of the designated zones and that we have provided both office space and support services for KIZ companies.

To date, KIZ companies have created or retained 70 employees, and advisory services have been provided to 124 entrepreneurs, inventors and/or business startups.

One patent has been obtained by a KIZ client and six patents are currently pending.

Our building dedication was well-timed to coincide with National Inventor Month!

The local Penn State office is also a resident of the building.

Together, these resources provide an incredible economic-development impetus for our community.

As Bill Martin said during the dedication last week, to use a culinary metaphor, "That is the steak now for the sizzle": Amazing new electronics laboratories for our faculty and staff.

I want to personally thank the faculty for their work this summer to relocate and prepare the facility for classes.

I am certain you will agree with me the results are fabulous. One more demonstration of our commitment to advanced and emerging technologies across all programs.

I hope you will take time today following this meeting to visit this new facility.

Under the leadership of Chief Miller, Elaine Lambert and Bill Martin, our Emergency Response Manual has been updated, reviewed by the Emergency Response team and is ready in the event of campus emergencies. A one-page reference sheet will be distributed to all employees, and will be posted in all classrooms and laboratories.

Thanks to the ITS programming staff, we do have a text-message emergency-alert system: PC Alerts.

Initially designed to notify students when a class or classes are canceled, the system was modified to provide emergency messaging to all registered cellphone users.

All employees may register their cellphones, as well; watch the portal for instructions.

Our campuswide emergency-alert system is tied to an audible siren currently mounted on top of the Academic Center. This siren will be supplemented with additional sirens located to the south of campus.

When the siren sounds three short tones, the entire campus community is directed to turn on their cellphones, access e-mail, turn on the campus radio station or locate the nearest information monitor for instructions.

There are only two messages likely to be sent: "Shelter in place" or "Evacuate."

It is important to realize that the message sent to one building may, in fact, be different than the message sent to another building. We could be evacuating the Academic Center and sheltering in place people in the Madigan Library.

I am confident that we are as prepared as we can be. Our police department is trained, our plans are refreshed, our communication strategy is in place.

As a community, it is important that we do all we can to provide assistance to those in crisis, recognize the signs and cries for help should they occur.

This year, you will see staff development offered to all employees that assist with strategies and protocols should you encounter a student with odd behavior, actions or work products.

If we come together, we can provide the most appropriate support and safety for all of those in the living and learning environments.

We have a number of key initiatives and projects this year.

Last summer, a new work group accepted the challenge to institutionalize outcomes assessment.

Known as the Quality Through Assessment committee, the nine members have gathered at least 20 times to attack the charge with which I tasked them.

They have studied our current assessment approaches, gathered evidence, identified "holes" in our processes, educated themselves, and created both a plan and a process.

The assessment commitment we established in 2002, and which continues today, is now solidified by the creation of this oversight group.

They have positioned the college to satisfy not only the Middle States accreditation standards but more importantly have devised a transparent, manageable means of demonstrating that we are meeting the promise of our Philosophy and Mission statements and delivering quality instruction.

Their work has already been recognized through the Periodic Review Report reviewers' comments about assessment.

Though we will not receive Middle States' official response to our PRR until late in the fall, the reviewers' comments suggest a successful outcome; the two reviewers state that "Penn College should be commended for developing a systematic, thorough, and qualitative student learning outcome assessment plan"¦ clearly defined at the unit, program and course level."

As positive as is this response to our efforts, the QTA members recognize that additional work remains, and they move into this next academic year committed to assisting with the work on their first two recommendations, both of which appear among the year's Institutional Initiatives in addition to their other agenda items.

Today and tomorrow, they will be updating the faculty during the school meetings and introducing their Web site as a source of assistance.

Throughout the academic year, additional activity both informative and instructive will be scheduled.

We have a great new opportunity for faculty and staff: Penn College was awarded a Keystone Innovation Grant in July to support the Williamsport/Lycoming Keystone Innovation Zone.

This award will allow us to create a Product Innovation Center, continue supporting business-plan competitions for college students in our region, and continue our Plastics SourceNet initiative to serve the Commonwealth's plastics industry.

The Product Innovation Center is a joint initiative between the IMC and Workforce Development & Continuing Education, and will provide a resource for industry and entrepreneurs to help develop ideas, determine market feasibility, and to create prototypes and proof-of-concept models.

We will be looking for faculty and staff that are interested in supporting the Product Innovation Center.

As industry or entrepreneurs have a need for a specific expertise or technology discipline, the Product Innovation Center would like to have a predetermined list of supporting faculty and staff that would be willing to work on projects.

Look for more information on this initiative this fall.

You will begin to hear more about our emerging Greek-life community on campus.

The student life staff has prepared an excellent plan to advance Greek life in our community. Our steps are deliberate and measured, and recognize the value of Greek life on college campuses.

Beginning in Fall 2008, residential students will be required to have a minimum board meal plan to reside on campus. This decision was not easy and was developed with the best interests of students guiding the decision.

You are likely to hear a variety of student feedback, No, the decision was not a financial one. While it does have financial impact, the decision was based upon one more connection point for students studies show that students that are more engaged in the campus community demonstrate a greater satisfaction with their college experience.

With consistent and predictable demand, Food Services will be able to offer greater variety for dining options and food choices for students.

In addition, not all residence halls have the facilities for proper storage or preparation of food certainly not nutritious well-balanced meals.

Thank you in advance for your support of the decision and assistance in garnering student support.

We will more clearly direct our focus on student retention. Under the leadership of Mark Paternostro and colleagues, we will develop a comprehensive retention plan to more fully develop and assess our current activities.

Over the course of this year, our budgeting model will change significantly.

Cost-center administrators can expect meetings and training on base budgeting as we transition to that mode of operation.

We are going to look at our planning to make sure it is connected to our budgeting and our overall effectiveness as an institution.

Where necessary, we will adjust the plan and the process to reflect contemporary models and effectiveness.

I look forward to sharing with you the elements of our Stage X building program later this semester.

We have the vacated spaces across campus to utilize; we have facilities in need of updating and expansion. Our plans should be finalized sometime this fall semester.

This summer brought us personnel changes:

  • Sharon Waters, dean of health sciences

  • Mary Sullivan, dean of natural resources management

  • Brett Reasner, assistant dean of natural resources management

  • Jennifer McLean, director of counseling, career and disability services

  • Jim Cunningham, vice president for information technology and business process improvement

  • Ward Caldwell, special assistant to the president for student affairs.

I ask you to offer them your support as they fully engage in these new roles.

I have full confidence in their leadership and their ability to make a difference for Penn College and, in particular, for our students.

I am also pleased to welcome the new faculty and staff; watch PCToday for the lists of new employees.

They bring great experience and opportunity to the learning environment.

Welcome Weekend is upon us as we bring students back to campus.

Thank you to all of you who have volunteered for this weekend, it is important that as many of us as possible assist so that the check-in and Welcome Weekend activities go as smoothly as possible for our students and parents.

It is also important that we not let technology replace good quality personal service. Unfortunately this summer, some employees took a short cut to quality service and sent students to the Web for tasks instead of providing personal service.

Technology is wonderful, making our world more efficient and allowing students from a distance to conduct business and replace unnecessary trips to campus. But when students and parents are standing in front of your desk or workstation, sending them to the computer is not the quality of service with which we pride ourselves.

Higher education is a competitive world. Our majors, our environment and our service to students sets us apart from others; careless treatment of guests or students and parents does not serve us well.

Again this year, I will hold monthly presidential forums. The topics have been selected and are posted on the portal. In addition, we will continue our "Good Morning, Penn College" series a way to learn more about the various offices and their functions. They, too, are scheduled for the entire academic year and, yes, you can find them on the portal, as well.

As a concluding event to Welcome Weekend, we will once again welcome students at 9 p.m. Sunday in the center of campus followed by fireworks. All are invited to bring families and share in the festivities, (I also hear free ice cream will be available!)

This evening, Penn College students and staff will join those from Lycoming College in the Grand Slam parade marking the start of the Little League World Series.

This is one of the many College Town activities you are certain to hear about in the coming months.

The class of students who begin classes on Monday will be one for the record books.

Freshman students beginning college this year were likely born in 1989. Now, we can all read the Beloit College Mindset list that reminds us what was happening in 1989 "¦ and generally makes us seem older than we feel.

I did some homework of my own; 1989 was an incredible year: the Berlin Wall was opened, the first full-length episode of "The Simpsons" was aired, the Exxon Valdez disaster struck, Tiananmen Square became a common symbol for protest and freedom, the first of 24 global-positioning satellites was placed in orbit, Time Inc and Warner became Time Warner.

But here, in Williamsport, something pretty special happened Williamsport Area Community College became Pennsylvania College of Technology.

I, for one, believe this historical event changed the course of this college for all time, creating a new vision and destiny. I am uncertain if anyone would have predicted where we would be today; from my seat, the ride has been incredible from 4,156 head-count students then to 6,569 last year.

We have grown, matured and created the full college experience for our students.

We have come a long way, and it is the talent and tenacity of the people in this room that allows our continued success.

Let us join together to chart a course for Penn College that will begin another decade of accomplishment under the banner of Pennsylvania College of Technology, the premier technical college with a great history, a strong sense of now and a future that is there for the taking.