President Sees Promise of Tomorrow in Honoring Students' Investment Today

Published 08.14.2014

Corporate Relations
President News
Faculty & Staff

Just past the midpoint of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s yearlong Centennial celebration, President Davie Jane Gilmour opened the Fall 2014 semester with an all-college address to faculty and staff. “Focus on today and look to tomorrow,” she said Thursday morning, recapping a hectic summer before outlining initiatives aimed at student success and faculty/staff engagement. “Take time to attend to those students who have invested their money and time in Penn College. They seek a full, rounded college education with all that we can provide for an excellent Penn College experience.”

The following is drawn from President Gilmour’s remarks at an Aug. 14 gathering in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium:

Good morning and welcome to the 2014-15 academic year.

We are halfway through our Centennial celebration, beginning a new academic year and wrapping up a busy, but productive, summer. I have much to share this morning.

We have a large group of new faculty joining our full-time ranks this year. You will soon receive a message from Paul Starkey (vice president for academic affairs/provost) introducing our new colleagues. Please take time to get to know them and welcome them to our family.

You will also see there was an announcement earlier this week of all the moves that took place over the summer. You may want to reference that list for up-to-date locations of your colleagues.

Before we fully move into the fall semester activities, I want to take a few minutes and share what has been happening this summer. First, have you ever seen our campus look more beautiful? Thank you to Andrea Mull, Chad Kerstetter and the entire grounds staff – you did a masterful job. The living plant walls with our PCT initials, the plantings, the flowers. Every day, someone comments on the beauty and cleanliness. That takes me to the General Services staff. Look around campus at the moves, the renovations – large and small. They all worked very hard to get it all done for the start of the fall semester. And to the mechanical team who solved water leaks, air-conditioning complaints – too hot and too cold – all summer, in addition to their part of the renovations, we say, “Thank you.”

We have had a busy, but great summer. Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, Camp ESCAPE, Digital Futures Camp, Health Careers Camp and Youth Training for Athletic Development Camp, just to name a few. The Centennial Gala, when people who have not been on campus for 30 years were back and – there is no other way to put it – were blown away. The tour and their comments will stay with me forever. Don’t miss the pictures on PCToday. The three living presidents and Dr. Kenneth Carl’s daughters. A weekend to remember.

Big “Thank you” to all who helped with Senior Visit Days – 165 students and families over the three days from as far away as California; 111 applied the day they were here.

To the faculty and staff who spent all summer working to prepare for this startup, thank you. Remember that people DO make the difference and I am most grateful for your time on behalf of the college and our students.

If you haven’t already noticed, over the summer, we adopted a new way of scheduling spaces and planning events on campus. The Office of Facilities and Events began implementation of the Event Management System in July and has already trained a large number of people in this new process. Every event, meeting space, facility request, Victorian House reservation – even catering, audiovisual and General Services event-related needs – will now be done using Virtual EMS, which can be found on the myPCT Portal home page. Within a month, we will roll out another component of EMS: Master Calendar, which will provide us with one of the biggest advantages to this new system – seeing at a glance what is happening in every space, at any campus, at any given time. Additional EMS training classes are still being offered, including two sessions tomorrow, and you can sign up on the Employee Information System to attend.

The fall holds much for us; let me begin.

With only a few months to go, we are winding up the Centennial Celebration. Don’t forget to submit your time capsule content suggestions. The capsule will be located in the Madigan Library on the first floor. We will “install” it in December.

In 2008, the My Last Words Lecture Series was renamed the "David London My Last Words Lecture Series" in honor of former associate professor of speech communication/composition David A. London. David, who joined the Penn College faculty in 1990, was a popular teacher, a former chair of College Council and a strong proponent of the internal Governance system.

Each spring, students and alumni are invited to nominate an inspiring professor who has made a difference in their lives. The purpose of the Lecture Series is for faculty to share with students, and the college community, their "final" thoughts if he or she knew it was the last chance to impart wisdom and life lessons.

This year’s David London My Last Words Lecture Series is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., here in the Academic Center Auditorium. This is a slightly earlier date so the lecture can occur the Thursday before Homecoming to accommodate alumni who wish to attend while here for the weekend’s festivities.

It has also become tradition that the selected faculty member is announced to the campus community at the August convocation. So, in keeping with tradition, it is my pleasure to introduce our 2014 David London My Last Words Lecturer: Dr. Jacob R. Miller, associate professor of computer information technology.

Congratulations, Jake.

Those of you that didn’t eat breakfast this morning will enjoy this next one. Dining Services is offering a coupon book to encourage faculty and staff to utilize our dining units and interact with students and one another. The $10 book is a $20 value with coupons for $1 off soups, sandwiches and salads; free fountain drinks; a free lunch buffet at Capitol Eatery; and much more. Coupon books are available for purchase after this all-college meeting in the first-floor lobby of the ACC or any time in the Dining Services office.

I hope you are ready to help us cheer the Wildcats on to victory this year! Sept. 1 marks our official start in the NCAA as a provisional member and our inaugural year in the North Eastern Athletic Conference. Please join us for all our home athletic contests this year, but pay special attention to our NCAA kickoff games: Women’s volleyball and women’s soccer are Friday, Aug. 29: volleyball at 5 p.m. against Lycoming College and soccer at 7:30 p.m. versus Rosemont College. Men’s soccer is Tuesday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. versus Alfred State.

More information can be found on the new and improved Wildcat Athletics website, which I encourage you to visit!

As we are all keenly aware, the mass campus migration has already begun! RAs and other student leaders returned to campus last week; student-athletes arrived for preseason practice on Wednesday; first-year students and their families are arriving this morning for our final Connections orientation program; and returning students are back on campus Sunday. This Saturday is the beginning of Welcome Weekend. First, I’d like to thank the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni who will be volunteering part of their day on Saturday to help us check in, then move in, these new students. If you’ve never volunteered, it is truly one of the most special days to experience at Penn College. If you would like to help, but missed signing up to volunteer, please contact Student Activities today. We can always use an extra pair of hands!

A new initiative we have during this year’s Welcome Weekend involves our counseling staff. We all know that homesickness affects many of our students. Each fall, we have students who decide to leave the college before the first day of classes because of this feeling of separation. This year, counselors will be on staff in Rose Street Commons on Saturday afternoon and evening, ready to help support these students. We find that, if we can get students connected with positive support, homesickness soon passes. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet our students where they are, and I would like to thank our counselors for this worthy undertaking.

I’d also like to make a special invitation to all of you and your families to attend our new student welcome program on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. We will line the walkway inside Rose Street Commons as all first-year students process. There will be a very short program in which Ryan Gibson, our Student Government Association president; Paul Watson, our dean of academic services and first year programs; and I will formally welcome the students to campus. Then we invite you to sit back (or lie back if you want to bring a blanket) and enjoy one of our most popular campus traditions: our fireworks display. You are also welcome to stay for our comedy hypnotist Eric Mena (just a reminder that the show is PG-13). I won’t be staying, but not because it’s PG-13; that will just be past my bedtime!

Our campus is becoming increasingly diverse and more “out” about our hidden diversity. The reality is that some of our students don’t feel welcome on our campus. Whether it is the color of their skin, their sexual identity, the way they dress. Their perception comes from years of messages (sometimes overt, sometimes unintentional) that they are not the norm and, therefore, not welcomed. While most of our campus issues are peer-related, faculty and staff can play an important role in creating an environment that is welcoming and supportive and that fosters student success.

I’m excited to tell you about a new campuswide program with just this aim. The Penn College Safe Zone is an employee professional-development program that strives to increase the campus community’s understanding and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and provide support and a greater sense of community for our LGBT students.

The first training is tomorrow, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in ACC 218. Please register for the event via the EIS. If you aren’t able to make it, watch for more training this entire academic year.

Once you successfully complete the training, you will be given a sticker that we encourage you to post outside your office. This will serve as an outward sign to our LGBT students and allies that you are an ally to them and that your office is a “safe zone” for them to be themselves and share problems or issues they are having.

I know that many of us might feel uncomfortable or uneducated about these types of issues. Don’t let that stop you from participating. The purpose of this program is to help educate everyone about what we can do to help all students succeed!

I need to take a moment to talk with you about a serious issue, one of life and death. The Penn College community lost four students and one former student to suicide last academic year, a tragic reminder of the prevalence of mental health problems on our campus and on campuses across the nation. Many of our students seek, and receive, the help that they need through the Counseling Services office. But preventing suicide is not just Counseling’s responsibility, or even just a Student Affairs problem. We all have a responsibility.

What can we do? Keep doing what we do best. Penn College is a caring community – we hear that all of the time – and statistics support how much you care. The Counseling Center received 93 referrals from MAP-Works alone last year, and that doesn’t include referrals from other students or those directly from faculty and staff.

Faculty, staff and students are the front-line gatekeepers. When you sense that a student is struggling, take the time to talk with him or her, find out what the student needs, and how you can help. Be sure to follow up.

Many students who leave college do so because of a mental health-related reason, and many avoid seeking help for fear of stigma. We can help by letting students know that it is OK to ask for help. To help faculty and staff identify students in need, you will be receiving information in your campus mailboxes from Counseling Services on identifying, talking with and referring students in need. Please take time to review this document and keep it in an easily accessible location for future reference.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of students – and sometimes, the difference we make is life itself.

New this fall begins a weekly professional-development hour – these sessions will be each Wednesday from 2 to 3 p.m. from Aug. 20 through Dec 17. Some examples of topics are: Procurement, the new drug and alcohol policy, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Faculty Part-Time and Overload Pay Process, Governance, etc. We are looking at topics such as: Faculty Salary System, APT Salary System, the college’s organizational structure, ShaleNET, Workforce Development & Continuing Education, the new Virtual EMS, and others.

We will do a portal announcement the day of the meeting. The schedule will be on the Human Resources portal site. Send additional ideas for programming to Tina Strayer in the Professional Development Office. This idea stemmed from our inaugural Leadership Development Series. We have taken the feedback from that program very seriously and are reviewing the curriculum, in addition to finalizing the curriculum for a faculty course. Watch the portal for announcements on the next sessions to begin in the spring

The Centennial Colloquia Series continues into this semester; again, we feature faculty and one external presenter. First, on Sept. 16, Lisa Bock, assistant professor in computer information technology, will address the matter of identity protection; in October, we shall hear from Alan Lightman, an MIT professor, who will bring us up-to-date on life in this technological age; Craig Miller, assistant professor of history/political science, ends the series in November with his discussion of technology, power and responsibility. Session flyers will be in your mailboxes; they include bibliographies. Encourage (perhaps require?) your students to attend (there’s even free food after the presentations).

The President’s Office portal site includes the detail you need regarding two opportunities:The Strategic Initiative Fund is described on my portal site. That fund has an open submission date; the two projects funded to date will be detailed in President’s Forums: Bill Stepp (associate professor of aviation) on Aug. 26 and Tina Evans (associate professor of applied health studies) on Sept. 23, during College Hour. Watch for the details.

The Annual Assessment Award has a Nov. 17 deadline. The president’s portal site includes the application form. Visit the Quality Through Assessment website to see the “Best Practices,” which include the two previously awarded assessments.

Open House plans are in full swing. This year is different: This is our Centennial Open House. Our day will be from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. From 9 to 3, we will focus on prospective students and their parents with our traditional Open House activities and presentations. Beginning at 2 until 4 p.m., the public will be invited to visit Main Campus, the Earth Science Center and the Aviation Center.

What does this mean for all of you? We need more volunteers – plenty more – and we need to be prepared to tell our story and engage the public during this Open House. Thank you in advance for your assistance. Specific offices will be updated on operating hours for the day through regular staff and faculty communications.

As I have previously mentioned, the Penn College Scholarship Campaign is being conducted in conjunction with our Centennial Celebration. I am pleased to tell you that the campaign has raised over $5.5 million in gifts, pledges and planned gifts to support our students. Due to the increase in funds for scholarships, the Penn College Foundation is awarding more than $600,000 in student scholarships this coming academic year, an increase of approximately 35 percent over awards made last year. Thanks to all of you who participated in this important initiative. This campaign will be wrapping up in December. All donors will be invited to a free concert by the group Home Free, which won NBC’s “The Sing-Off” last spring.

In May, I shared with you that, as an incentive to encourage our alumni to participate in the campaign, the Penn College Foundation offered a matching-gift program. The Foundation made a $250 gift in the name of each first-time alumni donor who gave a gift of $25 or more. Combined, those gifts are being used to create one-time scholarships in the alum’s major. I am happy to announce that 183 alumni participated in this opportunity, translating to 183 new one-time scholarships for first-year students who are starting this semester. We are proud of our alumni supporters.

As the fiscal year came to a close this summer, so did our 2013-14 employee campaign. During that campaign, 463 employees donated a total of $165,324 to support the college. I thank you for your generous support. We are already off to a great start with the 2014-15 campaign that kicked off in April. We asked you to recognize the Centennial with 100 new or increased gifts, and to date:

  • 14 employees became first-time donors

  • 57 employees increased their gifts

  • 294 employees have already committed to the 2014-15 campaign, totaling $123,419 in cash and pledges

If you have not yet supported the employee campaign, or if you are a payroll-deduction donor who is considering an increase, I encourage you to do so during this Centennial year.

As always, for more information about the various campaigns I have mentioned, visit online, contact Institutional Advancement or visit the IA portal page to use the new payroll-deduction form.

Thank you for your continued support.

The proposed strategic initiative for 2014-17 on the expansion of Penn College NOW, our dual-enrollment program, has gotten off to a strong start. Since last year, participation by career and technical centers and high schools has increased from 24 to 28.

Penn College courses available to secondary schools increased from 36 to 59 different courses, with expansion in both technical and academic offerings.

Internal processes have been streamlined from application, to placement testing, to registration and the data systems to support these changes.

Preliminary estimates for fall enrollment show doubling the number of course sections to over 200 being offered at secondary schools resulted in Penn College NOW enrollments increasing from 352 students last fall to more than an estimated 700 students for this fall.

A crucial part of the Penn College NOW dual-enrollment program coordinated by Outreach for K-12 is the mentoring provided by Penn College faculty serving as liaisons with our secondary partners.

The program had 10 liaisons when we started nine years ago and, this fall, we have 44 faculty participating. Without their diligence it would be impossible to offer high-quality dual-enrollment course work.  Their efforts have enhanced our program and have led many students to matriculate to Penn College.

Thanks to all who have participated. We look forward to expanding the program to more courses and majors over the next three years. The cooperation of our Penn College schools, faculty and staff is deeply appreciated.

Outreach for K-12 will coordinate events that allow faculty and staff to host workshops that engage middle and high school students in Penn College and our technical programs as potential career options. Better yet, many events will target school districts with Penn College NOW courses, enabling students to begin their Penn College journey in high school. Please think about how you will participate when requests come through the various communication channels on campus. Prospective student engagement begins with us all.

Events planned for this year include:

  • Career Day in October for high school students

  • Career Day in May for middle school students

  • Penn College NOW student days in November and April

  • Williamsport After School (for middle and high school)

  • SMART Girls Summer Camp

  • Tech Futures Science Night

Here we are again at the threshold of another academic year. There have been questions about our enrollment, budget, etc. My message to you is this: Focus on doing your job, whatever that is. We have students and we need to facilitate their matriculation to college. Would we want more? The answer will likely be “Yes,” but now is not the time to second-guess yesterday but to focus on today and look to tomorrow. Please take time to attend to those students who have invested their money and time in Penn College. They seek a full, rounded college education with all that we can provide for an excellent Penn College experience. Our work today will lay the groundwork for our future.

Following a 10-minute break, all faculty and those others would like, will be treated to "The Future of Learning and Our Roles in It," featuring Dr. Kyle L. Peck, professor and research fellow in the College of Education at Penn State University, co-director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning, and principal investigator of NASA’s Aerospace Education Services Project.