Monday, December 14, 2009

Another semester in the books

My walk to Carver Hall across campus to start the day has been greeted of late with a biting chill in the air and a light coat of snow on the ground. That means two things. I need to switch to my winter jacket, and the fall semester is coming to a close.

Finals Week begins today. I especially enjoy the energy of campus during this particular week, because I know higher education is in high gear. Faculty are wrapping up their courses, and students are working hard to finish projects. Some of you are conducting end-of-course presentations while others probably are cramming to get research papers done and textbook chapters read. It's a key lesson at this juncture of every semester, especially for freshmen, on time management and workload priorities.

I remember my first set of college finals, about 40 years ago, were quite intimidating. In those days the semesters were longer and ended in January. That meant you had the holidays to study, but it also meant there was the dread of finals hanging over your school vacation. My advice to freshman is to study in a focused and efficient manner, review coursework with other students in your class if possible and don't stay up all night to cram.

The semester officially ends with winter commencement. Four hundred and eighty (480) students will be awarded bachelor or master's degrees during our winter commencement ceremonies, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 18 and 19, in Mitrani Hall, Haas Center for the Arts. They have worked hard to get here, and I'm always proud to shake their hand on the graduation stage. It's a moment that makes being president of Bloomsburg University very special.

Best of luck to our students this week and to all who are searching deep in their closets for that winter jacket. Have a pleasant and relaxing vacation and holiday season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New strategic plan underway

At the beginning of this academic year, I said I would be working with members of the BU community to create a long-range strategic plan. Our plan, as I envision it, will build upon our legacy of success from previous generations of administration, faculty, staff and students. I'm delighted to say we are making very good progress.

It began in September with the first meeting of the Strategic Planning and Resource Council (SPARC), a group representing all sectors of the university community. SPARC was charged with producing preliminary mission, vision and value statements that will eventually be shared with the entire BU community for input.

After completing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, SPARC met for guidance and input with Dr. Madeline Adler, the former president of West Chester University who is now a consultant with Penson Associates Inc. Dr. Adler led West Chester through more than one intensive, successful strategic process during her tenure.

I met Dr. Adler about two years ago at one of my first PASSHE Presidents' meetings after she had announced her retirement. I was impressed with her intelligence and insightfulness and quickly recognized she is a person who is comfortable taking bold actions and setting stretch goals. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew she would be the right person to guide BU through our strategic planning process.

Last week, Dr. Adler visited our campus leading the SPARC team through intense discussions and working sessions to begin to define:
  • "Who we are" as an institution; what makes us distinct from not only the other 13 PASSHE institutions, but from all regional comprehensive universities;

  • What we value as an institution, as demonstrated through our daily actions, interactions and operations; and

  • What we aspire to be as an institution
I'm pleased with the group's hard work and significant progress last week, but there is still much to be done. When the draft statements are completed in January 2010, SPARC members will present them to the entire BU community for review, input and feedback.

SPARC has been charged with leading the strategic planning efforts, but involvement from the entire BU community - faculty, staff, students, alumni and administration - will be the hallmark of developing a successful strategic plan for our future. The greater Bloomsburg community will be consulted as well. As we enter this next phase of development and change at BU, I invite you to participate and become engaged in these strategic planning efforts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A title and a response to adversity

Our field hockey team kicked off this week in grand fashion, winning their fourth consecutive NCAA Division II national championship Sunday with a 3-2 victory over UMass-Lowell. It’s the program’s 16th title overall and the last for our legendary coach Jan Hutchinson, who recently announced her plans to retire after the softball season – a team she has also coached to national prominence in more than 30 years at BU.

We welcomed the news of the field hockey championship after the disappointing ending to our football season with three losses. We’ve confronted losses off the athletic field - as well this fall - as we’ve dealt with several reported thefts on campus, which have included laptops, computers and small electronics. Not only have campus resources been stolen, but items owned by students, faculty and staff have been taken, as well. Theft plagues many campuses, but we certainly don’t view this as accepted behavior here at BU, where safety and security remain among our top priorities.

Last week, we responded to a report of several computers and small digital devices being stolen from offices in Centennial Hall, including a laptop reportedly containing social security numbers from student rosters of psychology classes from spring 2004 through summer 2006. The university replaced social security numbers with alternate student identification numbers in fall 2006, because we take our responsibility as personal data stewards very seriously. Unfortunately, the student rosters on the stolen laptop were stored prior to this change.

We are making every attempt to contact all 574 students who were enrolled in these psychology classes by first-class letter and e-mail to alert them to what took place. We also encouraged them to sign up for free credit monitoring with one of the three major credit bureaus to watch for any suspicious activity. BU is diligent in maintaining the privacy of student information and, as we move forward, we will take appropriate steps to ensure that information on individual university computers is more secure.

As members of the BU community, we all have a great stake in the campus -- it's where we learn, work, socialize and for many of us live. The recent thefts have been unsettling, but through increased communication and collaboration we can deter thefts and work together to maintain the safety of this campus.

Monday, November 9, 2009

School spirit reaches high level

As we hit the home stretch of the fall semester with finals week a month away, our students have gotten a healthy break from the rigors of study to root for several of our sports teams making playoff runs. The success of our fall sports teams is a true testament of the quality balance we have on campus with academics and athletics, where student athletes excel on the playing field and in the classroom. Many more students are great in supporting roles helping these teams as managers and staff, as well as being loyal fans in the stands.

The fall season got off to a great start with our football team gaining national attention as one of the top Division II teams, reaching No. 4 in the rankings before dropping the last three games. Despite those loses, the team ended up ranked sixth in the Super Region but was bumped from the NCAA playoffs due to an obscure rule. I’ve really enjoyed this season, especially joining the cheerleaders on the sidelines doing push-ups after every touchdown. I’ll now be giving my arms and shoulders a rest until next fall.

School spirit hasn’t stopped there as our cross country teams placed well in the conference meet, highlighted by the women’s team finishing second overall. They then finished third in the Atlantic Region championships on Saturday and earned a trip to the NCAA Division II Championships next weekend

It was wonderful to see both soccer teams advanced to the playoffs. For the men’s team, it was their first trip in six seasons. The men lost to No. 1 Millersville in the semifinals, and the women lost to West Chester in the quarter finals. It was wonderful to see the men exceed preseason expectations and the women continuing their established success.

The spotlight, for a special reason this fall, is cast on our traditional national power field hockey team that is again looking strong to compete for the title. A 16th NCAA Division II title is likely would be the icing on the cake as our university prepares to say good-bye to the team’s legendary coach, Jan Hutchinson, who recently announced her intentions to retire after the spring softball season.

In her 32-year career, Hutchinson has amassed more than 1,750 victories coaching field hockey and softball. As head field hockey coach, she is in charge of a program that has won 15 national championships and 16 conference titles in 28 years. As softball coach, she is the NCAA Division II all-time leader in career wins and has made a record 27 consecutive trips to the Division II tournament. But if you really want to know the true impact she has had on our university, just ask any of her current or former players.

As we close the book on another great fall sports season, I continue to be impressed and delighted by our outstanding student-athletes and the contributions they make to Bloomsburg University.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Artist series adds to the BU experience

Now in its 24th season, the Celebrity Artist Series is one of the many opportunities where students and community neighbors can enjoy arts and culture here on campus. I enjoy seeing the campus filled with people heading to the Haas Center for the Arts for a performance. After seeing for myself what the artist series has to offer, I’m sure the audience leaves with another great impression of our university.

This season brings even more excitement as it returns to the newly renovated Haas Center, which has been completely updated and expanded to house our music, theater and dance department. It also features an art gallery and theater production shop. To truly appreciate the improvements, you have to see it for yourself.

Additionally, the renovation transformed the artist series’ home — the 2,000 seat Mitrani Hall — into a wonderful showcase for entertainment, making it one of the preeminent arts facilities in north central Pennsylvania. The Haas Center is a great place to visit and enjoy the great work of our campus community, such as art exhibits by faculty and music performances of our student ensembles. The artist series only adds to that experience. I try to attend these events as often as I can, as I did last weekend with my wife, Robbie, to watch the captivating performance of Cirque Le Masque.

I enjoy the artist series, because it offers such a variety of entertainment. The next show on Saturday features Yamato, the Drummers of Japan, who perform with several dozen drums made of animal skins and ancient trees. This month will also feature the Ten Tenors and a special lecture by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard. In December we will have Annie as our Broadway show for the season. We will also see a professional dance company, jazz festival and ballet theatre visit campus in the Spring as part of the series. I encourage you to learn about these upcoming performances on the Web site and hope to see you filing into the Haas Center this season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Off-campus housing fire disrupts weekend

I intended to write this blog about the wonderful Celebrity Artist Series performances on Saturday by Cirque Le Masque. My wife, Robbie, and I attended the evening performance along with a full house of more than 1,600 in Haas Center for the Arts, Mitrani Hall. The afternoon performance was also to a full house with many visitors here for Parents and Family Weekend. The cirque put on outstanding performances of beauty, comedy, grace, strength and gravity-defying acrobatics.

However, I need to use this blog instead to review the impact of the terrible fire that destroyed three buildings on West Main Street on Sunday morning. I received a call at about 6:45 a.m. informing me that several buildings that provide student housing were on fire. When I arrived at the scene about 7:30 a.m. the buildings were totally involved in the fire. I was relieved to learn from a firefighter that, to their knowledge, no students were injured and they were confident that everyone was out of the buildings.

After walking around the scene and talking with people, including two owners of the burning buildings, I learned that Professor George Agbango had been called by an international student displaced by the fire. He had already taken a group of displaced students to campus and they were being assisted by Linda Sowash and her Residence Life staff. I gathered up two other displaced international students and arranged for a student with a 3-month-old daughter to bring her family to campus. The residence life staff was doing an outstanding job of comforting the students, arranging for on-campus housing, meal cards, replacement student IDs, etc.

Later in the morning Professor Agbango and I took the group of students from campus to the American Red Cross office. They were ready for the group and promptly processed them while providing coffee and snacks. Other students and non-students also found their way there for assistance. When the students went back to campus, they were provided with emergency supply kits and, most important, debit cards to purchase some new clothing, coats and shoes. This was essential because the students had escaped the fire with only the clothes they had on, in most cases pajamas, sweatshirts and sandals. Many had grabbed their cell phones and almost nothing else.

By mid-afternoon most displaced students were settled into temporary campus housing. Dr. Agbango and Dr. Sharma, director of International Education, were ready to take the 10 or so international students to Wal-Mart to shop for clothes. Parents or friends of most of the Pennsylvania students had arrived to assist them. Some students chose to room with friends in town. A few who were away for the weekend had not yet returned, although it appeared that all had been informed of the disaster.

As the week begins, we have been assisting the displaced students -- our current count is 28 -- in regaining some normalcy in their lives. Academic and Student Affairs staff have contacted the students’ professors to inform them of the stressful situation and ask for reasonable accommodations. Replacement textbooks are available on loan and the Husky Emergency Fund is available to assist with other necessities, including school supplies. Dr. Sharma is in contact with the embassies of four countries and our State Department to expedite the replacement of passports, visas and other essential documents for the international students. Various campus and community organizations are arranging for donated clothing and other necessities. The county emergency management office will have a disaster assistance site in the courthouse on Wednesday to expedite replacement of driver’s licenses, birth certificates, etc.

I was impressed by the bravery and fortitude of our students and the non-students who thankfully escaped without injury, but lost almost everything in the fire. I was equally impressed by how the university and town communities came together promptly and effectively to assist all of the victims of the fire. Our shared response to this disaster is another example of how Bloomsburg is a great place to live, learn and work.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Campus welcomes parents, families

Another great weekend of celebration is ahead with the annual Parents and Family Weekend, which begins Friday with several fun activities in the evening from Latino bingo to a 3D laser robot show in Kehr Union. It’s a wonderful weekend to follow the fun-filled Homecoming weekend we just had, despite the wintry weather. Our campus will be brimming with people yet again.

I really enjoy this weekend, because I get to meet so many parents. It’s a great chance for them to put a face to the university by meeting me and an opportunity for me to gain a good perspective of what’s on their mind. A great time for me to do that is during our open forum, which will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. in the McCormick Center. It’s open to everyone, so I hope to see many new faces I didn’t get a chance to greet during freshman orientation. I’ll have more opportunities to meet parents during the many activities scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, which includes our second Celebrity Artist Series show featuring Cirque Le Masque. I’ll be sure to let you know how the exciting gravity-defying performance turns out next week.

As I said earlier in this post, Homecoming was a wonderful celebration. I took part in a variety events and met many great people. Among them were alumni from the Class of 1959, who were celebrating their 50th class reunion, and later Saturday evening I spoke at the nursing alumni celebration. I finished the weekend attending our annual scholarship luncheon, which gives student scholarship recipients a chance to meet their respective scholarship donors.

Homecoming was made even more special with the return of former BU President Jessica Kozloff, who we honored in a dedication ceremony for the new housing complex named after her on the upper campus.

Creating safer student housing was among her priorities during her tenure, and there was no tribute more fitting than to associate her name with a beautiful, high-quality, safe “home away from home” for BU students. Jessica Kozloff left a lasting legacy in making the campus and surrounding community safer and healthier for our students after dealing with two unfortunate tragedies relating to housing issues during her time here. It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of her tribute and to show her how BU has continued building on her initiatives to ensure our university is great, safe place to experience higher education.

Monday, October 12, 2009

BU family reunites

What a wonderful time it is to be on campus. Fall has arrived, the semester is in full swing and Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 17 to 18, is right around the corner. I really enjoy seeing our BU family come together, and of course, being a part of it myself. Homecoming is one of the few times of year when you can see all the pieces that make our university special together on campus – students, staff, faculty, alumni, supporters and our community neighbors.

This year is even more exciting for me as I’ll be able to take part in most of the activities and meet more people. Last year was my inauguration as president, which kept me on a tight schedule. I’m also looking forward to participating in the Homecoming Parade. I really enjoy how our university celebrates Homecoming with the Town and Bloomsburg High School. This weekend truly brings the Bloomsburg community together.

It’s wonderful to see a BU alum chosen to be Saturday’s parade marshal. State Rep. David Millard, who also graduated from Bloomsburg High School, represents the 109th Legislative District in Columbia County and serves as a director of the Bloomsburg Fair, along with being active in the fire department. Rep. Millard is about as locally-tied to Bloomsburg as someone can be. I’m looking forward to spending time with him this weekend. Be sure to join us at the parade, which begins at 11 a.m. in the Bloomsburg Hospital parking lot and later at the football game against Cheyney Univeristy, which begins at 3:30 p.m.

Another exciting part of this year’s Homecoming is the 50th reunion of the Class of 1959, who in turn added to their own celebration of their connection to BU by raising $23,000, including a matching gift of $10,000 from a fellow class member. The donation will be put into a BU Foundation endowed scholarship that will be awarded annually to a junior or senior. The motivation for the scholarship came from the class’s recognition their BU degree afforded them a great quality of life. They wanted to be sure future students with financial need can earn a degree and experience a rewarding career and life, as they have. What a great way to highlight a homecoming reunion.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fall arrives with new TV show

It hasn’t taken long for the leaves to start changing here in Central Pennsylvania, signaling the start of a new season with a collage of yellow, orange and red colors dotting the mountain landscape overlooking our campus. At the same time, there are many new things happening on campus beginning with today’s exciting premiere of our new show, Husky Connections, at 1 p.m. on BUTV's Channel 8 on the local Service Electric Cable network. The first show, "Meet Your Leadership," will continue in rotation and be featured on BU's YouTube channel accessed from our Web site.

First, congratulations to Collette Keene, a junior computer forensics major from Danville, who came up with the winning entry in our contest to name the new show. We received more than 50 creative entries over our two-week campus contest, which made it a tough decision to pick one. Keene's suggestion hit the show’s theme right on the nose.

Husky Connections will showcase why BU is a special place to work, live and learn. Additionally, the program will feature topics such as living healthy and being environmentally friendly on campus. We're also planning episodes around Homecoming and the upcoming Parent and Family Weekend. There will be a lot of variety and many engaging topics will be covered in the coming months.

In each episode, our viewers will see a different side of BU. It's a very exciting new venture, and we're eager to see how it grows throughout the school year. Feel free to offer your suggestions of potential show topics below. The more input we receive, the better the show will be. Husky Connections is about our university community.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Budget impasse, mission continues

Two months ago I wrote about the economic challenges we’re facing as a university, which haven’t gotten easier with the stalemate of the final state budget process. The delay has cast a cloud of uncertainty on the appropriations we receive as part of the state system of universities. Last year the state appropriation amounted to just over 36% of the university operating budget. A full month into the fall semester, we’re still waiting for a state spending plan for this fiscal year.

A lot of my meetings in recent weeks – as you read last week are many - have centered on the budget issue. Continuous work on our own operating budget for next year is nothing new but waiting this long for an indication of a major revenue stream is. As a result, we have been very cautious in projecting our spending – more so than we traditionally do. We have also made a stronger commitment in coordinating fundraising efforts and connections with our alumni. In today’s economy, support of our alumni and friends is even more vital.

Despite this administrative frustration, high quality higher education continues on campus. Our freshmen have survived their first wave of quizzes and section tests, seniors are inching closer to completing their graduation requirements and the faculty continues their hard work in keeping our students on track despite the whirlwind of editorials on potential reduction of funding for financial aid and university operations. Rest assured, nothing is set in stone until we see a final budget, and we are committed to everything possible to prevent negative impacts on direct instruction and student support. However, seeing our mission continue in the wake of the greatest budget uncertainty in my career makes me proud to be the president of this university.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel soon. We were close two weeks ago in seeing a final state budget plan with a “hand shake” agreement on a $28 billion proposal. Let’s hope progress continues, because I don’t want to revisit this blog topic in another month.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Schedule shifting into high gear

Seeing the campus get increasingly busy over the past three weeks with students and faculty gathering on the Academic Quad, filling the halls of academic buildings, and commuting between classes is a wonderful sight to see. It’s a clear reminder the school year has officially begun.

It’s also a precursor that my schedule will shift into a new gear and will remain there for the next seven months. A typical week will have me in various meetings with university staff, students, alums and fellow state system university leaders. My meetings cover the gamut of higher education: academics, student life, budget, fundraising and alumni affairs. It’s a very busy time for me but also a time I really enjoy as president.

Although my schedule seems dominated by meetings and conference calls, I find time to attend some home sporting events, on-campus concerts and community events, such as my weekly Rotary meeting and monthly Chamber of Commerce board meeting. My schedule has gotten even busier this year with the commitment to new media projects like video, which I wrote about last week.

While the campus calms down on Friday afternoon, I tend to overlook the weekend and start to focus on Monday’s full slate of commitments. It happens every Friday on my walk home across campus to Buckalew Place, but I enjoy it. I have to … it’s on my schedule.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Venturing into new media

Having stepped into the world of blogging five months ago, I’m feeling more comfortable communicating through other media and expanding my accessibility to the campus and local communities. Although still a learning experience, speaking through multiple media has been a lot of fun. It’s something I plan to do more of this school year.

Last week was just the start. I was interviewed on WHLM 930AM’s Friday morning radio talk show and covered several important topics concerning BU this school year, the current economic climate and my travels over the summer. It’s always an interesting experience, and I really enjoy my time on the radio.

Also on Friday, I had the opportunity to continue my crash course in video production as I taped a pilot episode of our new campus show that will premiere in a few weeks. The first episode, “Meet your University Leadership,“ enabled me to introduce the new faces of my leadership and executive team, as well as interact with a live student audience who had many great questions for us to answer on camera. You’ll have to wait a week or two for the episode to air in order to see what our students brought to the discussion.

I’m excited to see how the pilot turns out after spending nearly an hour in our state-of-the-art, on-campus video studio with a live audience. Editing the footage down to five to six minutes is a fascinating process to see. It’s still taking some time to get used to seeing myself on camera after the two welcome videos I’ve done.

I’ll continue to provide updates of my work in front of the camera as other shows are produced in the coming weeks, which will include topics covering healthy living on campus, community service, green concepts and our upcoming Family Weekend in October. In the meantime, we’re going to hold a competition to have our BU community name my talk show. The winner, who will receive a prize, will be announced during the week of Sept. 28. So, stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I too was a freshman once

It was the late 1960s, a key time period in our country’s history with my generation leading a social revolution. We were coming into our own, setting the stage for new speaking platforms for women and minority groups, and facing the draft in the time of a very unpopular and ultimately unwinnable war. A college campus was the place to be for a young person, and I was heading there to begin a new chapter of my life.

I arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, a school three times the size of BU with about 20,000 students, following a 400-mile trip in a car with my parents. The first thing I did after they left was buy a carton of cigarettes, even though I didn’t really smoke. It must have been a sign of independence. I quickly learned it wasn’t a wise decision and stuck to my instincts of living a healthy lifestyle ever since then.

As an incoming freshman, I was exposed to the precursor of the Living and Learning Communities — like we have here at Bloomsburg. There was mass advising in the dorms about the first semester courses and general education. We were assigned to an advisor within our major, who in my case had little to no interest in me as a freshman. It ended up being one of the main reasons why I changed majors, from chemical engineering to biology during my spring semester.

My first roommate and I were not compatible. I chalked it up to us having different academic and lifestyle interests, so I moved in with an English major in the spring. We quickly became the closest friends, actually to this day best friends. We’ve gone on an annual fishing trip for the past 25 years. It goes to show many connections you make in college can last a lifetime, as does the commitment you make in class.

In my convocation address last week I quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.: “Man’s mind, once stretched by new ideas, never regains its original dimensions.” I certainly had a mind of different dimensions after my freshman year in college, and I am sure you will as well. I give our freshman my best wishes for an exciting, rewarding, and successful collegiate career at BU.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Welcome to a new school year

Our students, including a record-number 2,000-plus freshmen, and faculty have begun settling back on campus this week in preparation for the 2009-10 academic year, which begins Monday.

The fall sports season also kicks off this week, including our first-ever home football game at night on Thursday, and our women's field hockey team beginning defense of their 15th national championship this weekend with two games.

This week is just the beginning of what we expect to be a great and exciting school year. Enjoy a personal video message I made to welcome everybody back to campus.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Coasters, baseball and the Jersey shore

There is a week left to the summer vacation, yet our campus really hasn’t had a vacation with all the activity since May graduation. There has been something going on every week from summer classes to construction projects to summer camps, and of course, many planning meetings.

In the meantime, I have been able to sneak in some time for fun and relaxation. Recently, I made my second visit to Knoebel’s Amusement Park — this time for an alumni event. I really enjoy the family atmosphere of the park, as well as the food. You don’t see fried pickles on a stick every day. Riding the roller coasters has to be my clear favorite part of the visit, especially the Phoenix and Twister. No matter how often I go on a ride, I can never accurately anticipate the quick dips and sharp turns. I have particularly enjoyed these old wooden roller coasters since I was a kid riding them at Riverview Park in Chicago and The Pike in Long Beach, California.

I’ve also continued to explore the cultural activities of Philadelphia. What a wonderful historic city! This latest trip I took in a Phillies game with friends. Unfortunately, it was a game where the Cubs ended the Phillies 10-game winning streak. The loss still didn’t take away from the great experience of watching baseball in person, being part of a sold-out crowd, and seeing the beautiful Phillies home, Citizens Bank Park. I am still pursuing the perfect cheesesteak, and the one I had at the park was pretty close to perfection.

Another recent road trip I enjoyed was a one-day excursion to the Jersey shore. The family-oriented beaches away from Atlantic City were beautiful. We had great weather, which made the ocean breeze even better. It was a great break from the busy schedule I had waiting for me back in Bloomsburg. However, after enjoying several trips away from campus, it’s been nice to get back home to Buckalew.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Visiting the Rockies, meeting alumni

My second week away from campus continues with an annual planning retreat for the presidents of the 14 PASSHE universities, the system chancellor and his senior staff. These two days will be filled with focused conversation that will help us plan to meet the economic challenges we continue to face as higher education institutions. We're committed to continue our tradition of delivering quality education at an affordable cost. This retreat will help us improve on that plan.

After the retreat, I'm flying to Denver with the director of the BU Alumni Association, Lynda Michaels, for an alumni event. There, we hope to meet up with close to 200 alumni who live in the Denver area.
We will also attend a celebration of the life of Henry Carver, who was the first principal of the Bloomsburg Literary Academy, the precursor of our university, and the builder and namesake of the first building on campus, Carver Hall, where my office is located.

These periodic trips to cities with concentrations of BU alumni are part of our efforts to keep alumni connected to the university, to support us financially and help us in other ways. Last year, roughly 5,200 alumni contributed nearly $902,000 to the univeristy, which was a 7% increase from 2007-08. In addition to their generous donations, our committed alumni have volunteered more than 500 hours over the past year. They have helped coordinate and staff alumni events and organize alumni chapters. Alumni have also served as admissions recruiters, student mentors and guest speakers in classes and for student organizations.

We are very thankful for the support our alumni offer. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to personally thank those alumni living in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ready for a cross-country road trip

The next two weeks will be quite busy for me with plenty of travel, including a flight to the West Coast, a 2,900-mile drive back to Bloomsburg and then a flight to the Rocky Mountain Region. Next week, I will be flying to Washington to meet my wife, Robbie.

As I mentioned in May, she has been involved in a National Science Foundation program with two of her colleagues from Central Washington University and 12 students from universities around the country. The two-month program is focused on water resource management in northwest China and included a four-week research trip to China, where the American students and faculty collaborated with Chinese colleagues. BU students are encouraged to apply for this unique international program, which will continue for at least the next two summers.

Robbie and I will visit our former hometown, Ellensburg, to pick up one of our horses — a 6-year-old, gray, quarter horse mare, Ariel, to bring back to Bloomsburg with us. Before we leave, Robbie and I will make sure we have a blues burger at The Tav and buy some of our favorite Washington red wines. Also, it will be nice to spend a couple of days with my son, Andrew, who is a senior anthropology major at Central university.

As we head home, we will spend three nights on the road with planned stops in Montana, South Dakota and Indiana. We made reservations for Ariel at equine motels and stock companies each night, as we will stay in nearby motels. We have never transported one of our three horses on a 2,900-mile trip across the country. It should be quite an adventure.

In Bloomsburg, Ariel will join our two geldings that came with us when we arrived early last year. Yes, we get great pleasure and relaxation from trail riding in beautiful central Pennsylvania. So far, our favorite rides have been in the state game lands adjacent to Red Roof Farm, where we board our horses just north of Jerseytown.

Alas, there will be no time to ride until next month as the following week I will be attending an annual PASSHE planning retreat before flying to Denver to meet some BU alumni.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer renovations wrapping up

Summer is quickly coming to a close and so are a few key building projects here at Bloomsburg University that will make this fall semester even more exciting. I’ve already highlighted the Jessica S. Kozloff Apartments project on the upper campus, so I will focus on the lower campus here.

In less than a month, the first phase of renovation to Bakeless Center should be finished and just in time for the new semester. The second phase work on the east side classrooms is on schedule to be completed by the spring semester. This is great news for our students, staff and faculty who call Bakeless home during the school year. The $4.1 million renovation will give the 40-year-old building new life with the most up-to-date electrical and ventilation systems and will significantly enhance the existing classroom and office space.

As a result, the great academic programs in economics, English, philosophy and political science located in Bakeless will get even better with improved infrastructure for more technology and teaching space. I’m proud to say those programs have continued to thrive amid the disruption of the renovation, which will continue in part through the winter. The College of Liberal Arts is a very active and comprehensive area of study at BU, preparing graduates for a variety of professions – law, medicine, media, business, health, government service, art and education.

More improvements are on the way for the Liberal Arts departments outside of Bakeless with planned renovations of McCormick Center and Old Science Hall. Plus, we will keep a close eye on what other facilities need updated and possibly expanded as we develop a new strategic plan and a new facilities master plan this school year.

BU prides itself in minimizing deferred maintenance and aggressively funding renovations to keep our academic, housing and dining facilities operating efficiently as possible. This is done to give our students, faculty and staff access to the most current and convenient space, technology and services. Our campus has kept busy this summer with plenty of activity and planning. Things certainly won’t be slowing down for the fall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The value of a BU education

As we adjust to the recent tuition increase and ongoing economic challenges, which include a continued stalemate of the state budget process, I wanted to take time to highlight some of the unique programs BU offers that have proven successful in attracting students and helping them land good jobs in the ever-growing, competitive world. These are just a few programs in BU’s comprehensive catalog that emphasize the high quality education our students get here at an affordable price.

BU's first and, so far, only doctoral program is offered in audiology, which is a clinical program designed to produce audiologists who perform a wide array of diagnostic, remedial and other audiology services. The program places major emphasis on clinical training and practical application of research, theory and technology into clinical practice.

Another unique offering is our computer forensics program, which is the only computer forensics bachelor's degree program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The increased use of computers to commit crimes and growing demand for computer-based data in civil proceedings created a need for individuals with expertise to extract useful information from computer evidence. Our program prepares students for careers as computer forensics specialists who can work with law enforcement, homeland security agencies, law firms, and private companies.

Our College of Business offers a fraud examination career concentration. This unique interdisciplinary program provides in-depth coverage of fraud examination and forensic accounting.

BU, like its 13 sister PASSHE institutions, began as a teacher's college. One of our unique degree programs within in the College of Education is our bachelor's and master's program in American Sign Language and English interpreting program. This program prepares students for interpreting in a variety of jobs settings, such as the legal, educational and medical fields. The program includes hands-on training obtained through in-class practice and personal interaction with the local deaf population.

BU has also has built a solid foundation on it successful programs, such as our bachelor’s program in anthropology. At BU, anthropology is divided into three areas — cultural anthropology, which studies ways of life in societies across the world; physical anthropology, which traces human origins and biological variability; and archaeology, which seeks to explain human behavior by studying material remains from past cultures. These disciplines are blended together so students see the whole picture of humankind, how humans have evolved, what problems they face, what solutions are possible and what the future might hold.

We take pride in knowing our university offers a complete list of high quality academic programs that place our graduates in the best position to land great jobs or continue their higher education. And this is done without placing excessive burden on their families' finances.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Keeping education affordable

Bloomsburg University has always prided itself on providing a top-quality education at a very affordable price and will continue to do so in light of the recent tuition increase established by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors. As a result of their decision, our students will see a 3.7 percent increase in tuition for the 2009-10 academic year. It equates to $196 more a year for a full-time, in-state student.

I wrote last time about how the struggling economy continues to impact business, politics, families and higher education. In order for BU to maintain the level of education and learning opportunities our students and alumni have grown accustomed to and appreciative of, budget adjustments were needed.

BU and its 13 sister state universities are not alone in facing the tough challenges of providing higher education in this economy. Penn State University recently increased its tuition by 4.5 percent, which equates to roughly $585, and other universities in the state and our region are doing the same. However, we have kept cost increases to a minimum, including the recent tuition increase.

It’s also important to keep in mind this key budgetary decision was made without knowing how much funding the state university system will receive once state legislators pass a 2009-10 budget. There is still a level of uncertainty about what kind of cuts we may be faced with. This may impact the total number of courses we are able to offer. Unfortunately the state’s support has consistently fallen for many years, which has left the financial burden more on the shoulders of BU, its students and their families.

Despite the economic hardships, BU and its committed faculty have been resilient and moved forward in providing an excellent higher education. The quality of BU’s academic programs, faculty and staff is evident with the highest enrollment numbers we have ever seen, including an expected record number of freshmen coming this fall in the wake of the current recession. More students are seeing the value of a BU education, especially the quality accessed here at an affordable price. At BU, we are proud to provide our students with an excellent education that prepares them for life in our multicultural society and global economy at a cost that does not leave them with excessive debt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Economic impact still being felt

It is hard not to notice the daily updates on the state of the economy in the newspaper, on radio and in television broadcasts. It has been no secret these tough economic times have had a negative impact on all of us, including Bloomsburg University and our students.

As we move closer to the start of another school year, the economy plays a key role in how we plan for our future. A component of that is tuition, which is set each year by the PASSHE Board of Governors. Our state system of 14 universities has survived the fluctuating economy through excellent leadership, planning, and efficient use of resources and skills.

In the meantime, Bloomsburg University has provided high-quality education to our students while holding down operating costs and fees, along with affordable tuition set by the Board of Governors. In fact, over the past five years Bloomsburg and its sister institutions have seen tuition increased by only $760, from 4,598 in 2003 to 5,358 in 2008, while some universities in our region have raised tuition by as much as $7,000 and $10,000 over the same time span.

The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet this week, and the 2009-10 tuition will be a topic on their agenda. Although we have been successful in meeting the recent economic challenges, there comes a time when tuition increases are needed in order for a university to continue to provide the best education to its students. As we monitor the economic situation and await the result of the Board of Governors’ meeting, Bloomsburg University will continue to build on its success in having top-quality faculty guide our students into the future at an affordable price.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Upper Campus starting to take shape

After five years of constant construction, activity on the upper campus will begin to wrap up next month when the Jessica S. Kozloff Apartments are finished. That will leave the Nelson Field House as the lone site still undergoing renovation.

Not only is this welcome news for the staff and students who work and reside on the upper campus, it is wonderful news for the BU community as we will get to see the upper campus really take shape after five years of hard work and great investment.

The biggest change this fall will be the Kozloff Apartments, which will house 544 students in three, four-story buildings. There will also be a commons building with a fitness center, meeting space and mail room. The $31 million project will be completed just in time for the fall semester, which begins on Aug. 31.

In the meantime, the field house’s $12 million facelift will continue in phases into next summer. The field house will be completely renovated with added space for locker rooms, storage and new labs for our exercise science program. The project also includes a completely renovated swimming pool, refurbished building entrance and new seating in the gymnasium. We can look forward to seeing the renovated pool in September and the gym’s new look and feel in October.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer with family, friends and new faces

I just returned from a pleasant vacation driving to the state of Washington, where I visited family and friends along the way. A highlight of our trip was seeing two of our three children. Andrew is a senior anthropology/archeology major at our last university, Central Washington University. Our daughter, Laura, flew up from Los Angeles with our two little granddaughters, Finn (4) and Erris (18 months).

My wife, Dr. Robbie Soltz, is leaving from Washington this Saturday, June 27, for a month in western China with a group of students and faculty. They will be studying water resource management and the modernization of remote areas in western China. This program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and will continue for at least two more summers. BU students with an interest in China are encouraged to apply for this unique, all expense paid, international experience.

This week I have enjoyed welcoming our fall freshmen and their parents to campus and informally meeting some of them in the Scranton Commons during lunch. I am looking forward to welcoming and talking with ACT 101 students during their scheduled orientation next week, June 27 to 29.

Along with freshman orientation and summer courses, BU has been busy hosting more than 1,600 youths this summer who are participating in more than 30 camps on and near campus. Many BU students are helping with those camps. Some of the camps include computer forensics, math and science, summer adventure, migrant leadership and a variety of team sports. It’s certainly an exciting time to be on campus.
There is quite a bit of summer left to enjoy with the fall semester still eight weeks away. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing more new faces come to campus over the next two months.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New agreement in place before vacation

Provost James Mackin and I traveled to Schnecksville last Friday, June 5, to sign a new dual admissions and transfer agreement between BU and Lehigh Carbon Community College. I was impressed with LCCC’s new state-of-the-art Technology Center, where the signing took place. The dual agreement allows students to complete a BU bachelor’s degree in many of the program majors offered on the LCCC campus.

In a time when many students are choosing to attend community college, the BU degree completion programs are quite valuable to time- and place-bound students. It offers students flexibility in class locations. Many of the BU courses offered can be taken on the community college campus. All courses will transfer seamlessly if students follow the established course sequence. In addition, these programs make college affordable for many potential students.

BU also has a dual admission agreement with Luzerne County Community College for our elementary education and exercise science degree programs.

Last week, I encouraged you to take time to enjoy family and friends. Beginning Monday, June 15, I will be traveling to my home state of Washington for a week’s vacation. I am looking forward to spending time with two of my three adult children and my two young granddaughters. I am particularly excited about a road trip to relocate my grandfather’s farm in Indiana and the house we lived in after I was born in Wisconsin. Just like we are proud of the history of Bloomsburg University, I am very proud of my family history and learning more about it to share with my granddaughters.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Campus stays busy over the summer

Summer vacation has officially begun at Bloomsburg. While campus may be a little quieter these days, I can’t say things have slowed down. Summer classes are in session and we are busy planning for the start of the 2009-2010 academic year. Here are some important changes and additions students, faculty and staff can expect to see this fall.

We have reorganized some departments and colleges to more accurately reflect academic relationships and synergies. The department of audiology and speech pathology and department of nursing have moved from the College of Professional Studies to the College of Science and Technology. And the department of exercise science and athletics joins them from the College of Liberal Arts. By moving these three departments, along with the department of biology and allied health, we bring all of our excellent health science programs together in one college. Also, the College of Professional Studies has been renamed the College of Education, reflecting a unified focus on our core teacher preparation programs.

Bloomsburg is growing to meet the global educational demands and challenges of today. The Council of Trustees endorsed a proposed Master of Arts in public policy and international affairs at today’s quarterly meeting. Following approval by the PASSHE Board of Governors, this program will prepare students for careers in domestic and international policy. We expect the program to attract students not only from Bloomsburg but also from more distant locations, as many courses will be offered online or through teleconferencing technology.

In September, Bloomsburg will offer the Principals Academy for beginning principals. The academy, which meets the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership core standards, will focus on leading change for 21st century schools. Bloomsburg has long held a distinguished reputation for training leaders in academia. The Principals Academy adds to this legacy and demonstrates our continued success and excellence in teacher and administrator preparation.

We will continue to identify programs of interest to our current and prospective students and provide a wide spectrum of choices in high-quality academic programs. While there is a lot to do before September, be sure to take time to enjoy family and friends, relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the warm summer days that, surely, will arrive soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New vice president of university advancement

Today I announced a new member to Bloomsburg University's leadership team. Erik Evans, currently associate vice president for advancement at Juniata College, Huntingdon, will join BU as vice president of university advancement on July 27. Erik brings a wealth of fundraising experience, campaign management and leadership to Bloomsburg University. He will be responsible for all aspects of the advancement functions of the university, including development, alumni relations, communications and government relations and will work closely with the Bloomsburg University Foundation.

Here's the press release announcing Erik's appointment.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

University & Town Relations

The spring 2009 semester ended at Bloomsburg University with a flurry of activities, academic honor society inductions, a nurses’ pinning ceremony, research presentations, recognition ceremonies for dozens of high achieving graduates from each college, and commencement -related activities, just a few examples of the optimism, ambition, energy and enthusiasm students bring to our campus and to the Town of Bloomsburg. Because of them, we have a relatively vibrant downtown and amenities other towns our size do not share, such as a professional theater company, boutiques and fine dining. Our students add to the local quality of life with their volunteer activities, including an estimated 58,000 hours of volunteer services, through the University’s SOLVE Office, during the 2008-09 academic year and to the prosperity of the region, contributing $57 million to Columbia County’s economy each year.

Along with all that is positive comes the challenge of every college town - student gatherings and occasional large outdoor parties. Bloomsburg’s Block Party started as a fundraiser and grew by word of mouth, the Internet, social networking sites and YouTube, to name a few. Much of its growth can be attributed to young people with no affiliation to Bloomsburg University. In fact, preliminary information compiled by our student standards office shows that nearly 75 percent of this year’s alcohol-related citations and offenses were issued to non-students.

I truly believe that cooperative efforts among representatives of the Town of Bloomsburg, the university administration and students, specifically the Social Gathering Task Force, have helped make Block Party a more manageable event. Rules and standards were established which Bloomsburg Police Chief Leo Sokoloski and the University reinforce in letters to each student. Landlords must sign off on the permit applications for large parties and hosting organizations issue wristbands to identify those who may legally consume alcohol. Bloomsburg University students know what type of behavior is expected and the limits of what will be tolerated. But regardless of our involvement in the task force, Block Party is not a university-sponsored event. Block Party is hosted by students who live in town, with their landlords’ consent.

The issue of Block Party is complex. Both the university and the town share the challenges of reigning in the exuberance of young people - our students and, especially, those from outside our community - and protecting the property of local residents. Mayor Dan Knorr and I have discussed expanding the Social Gathering Task Force into a Town/Gown Task Force that addresses Block Party and the broader issues of diversity and town climate for all students, faculty and staff. I am pleased to be involved in this continuing dialog and I welcome your participation as part of the task force.

This letter was also published in the local media.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Looking Forward

Saturday was a perfect day for commencement ceremonies on the Academic Quad. The beauty of the day was only surpassed by the many smiles I saw on the faces of the proud graduates, parents, partners, family and friends.

The 2008-09 commencement brings years of hard work and studying to a close. It also marks new and even greater challenges for both the graduates and University. Now that summer vacation has officially started and the end-of-year celebrations are complete, let’s take a few moments to reflect on the previous academic year and look forward to the new one.

I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to and learning from the BU community. Throughout the year I asked individuals to comment on Bloomsburg’s strengths and weaknesses as well as highlight critical issues and challenges facing our institution. The majority of faculty, staff and students noted the beauty and location of our campus as the most distinctive characteristic and strength of Bloomsburg. Many of you commented on the dedication and quality of our faculty and excellent academic programs offered. Others noted our progress in attracting a pool of well qualified students and providing opportunities for students to excel.

While we have made much progress in many areas, many of you mentioned a need for a clear vision for the university, increased fundraising and scholarship efforts, and improved communications and campus relations.

In 2009-10 we will embark upon a strategic planning process that will focus much of our attention and efforts on two major initiatives as central organizing themes “vision and communication.” Thanks to everyone who helped make 2008-09 a successful year. I look forward to working with faculty, students, staff and community partners to build a strategic plan and vision to position BU as an exceptional institution where students will continue to choose to attain a high-quality education that is within their family’s financial reach.

Have a safe and wonderful summer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Year End Celebrations

The end of the academic year is a busy, but exciting time. From year-end celebrations to finals to commencement, there is much to do. On Monday, April 20th I attended the Presidential Leadership Program dinner. This group, comprised of 25 students, meets with me several times throughout the academic year and participates in service, social, educational and other activities. I look forward to working with next year’s participants and introducing a new leadership workshop series for all students.

On Tuesday, April 21st, BU student athletes were honored at the Top Scholar Athlete Dinner. The dinner was for outstanding athletes and recognized MVPs for each sport and graduating seniors. Congratulations, athletes! BU’s athletes excel both on the field and in the classroom.

This week the Quad will be transformed into our graduation platform. I am delighted to have David McCormick, son of Maryan and James H. McCormick as the commencement speaker. Jim was BU’s president from 1973 to 1983 and PASSHE’s first chancellor. McCormick Center is named after him.

Congratulations, graduates. Good luck to all students on your finals.

Tuition Relief Plan

Last Thursday, I testified before the Pennsylvania Legislature on Governor Rendell's proposed Tuition Relief Plan. I took this opportunity to impress upon the Legislature the tremendous benefit this plan would be to the more than 112,000 students enrolled in the PASSHE institutions, including the more than 8,000 that attend Bloomsburg.

Walking from Carver Hall to Buckalew, I observed students reading and playing Frisbee on the Quad. I begin to feel a renewed sense of optimism. I embraced this energy and the opportunity to support a creative solution that would keep college affordable for students attending Bloomsburg, her 13 sister institutions, and all of the commonwealth’s community colleges.

Click here to read the editorial I submitted to the local media based upon my testimony.