Monday, February 22, 2010

Extending BU’s reach to new heights

As a result of new federal funding, Bloomsburg University will be a part of a new venture to establish a high-performance, fiber optic communications system linking rural communities with education, health care and economic development entities across the state.

This is great news for our university, as a member of PASSHE and the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER) coalition, to be involved in an effort that’s providing access to a state-of-the-art broadband system at an affordable cost. When finished, the fiber optic cable network will extend nearly 1,700 miles through 39 counties, including 22 counties considered to be unserved or underserved based on their access to affordable broadband services. Families and organizations in those areas, whose only current option is dial-up service, will soon have other affordable choices.

In addition, this network has the potential to facilitate research collaborations – regionally and globally – which could lead to new technologies, medical treatments and scientific discoveries. Not only will BU’s educational potential reach new heights, our role as a valuable resource to the region will strengthen.

Last week, the Obama administration awarded more than $99 million to KINBER, a coalition of colleges and universities (including PASSHE), health care organizations and economic development entities, to develop this much-needed broadband technology. The network will expand broadband Internet access to 60 institutions, including public and private universities, schools, libraries and medical facilities. More than $29 million will be used for similar purposes in underserved areas north of Interstate 80, many of whom are our neighbors.

Once in place, the broadband network will enhance BU’s capabilities to conduct more effective distance education, extensive research and offer real-time, high-performance computing, video conferencing and collaboration with international students and faculty. Just as important, it will ensure our community neighbors have access to the same high-speed technology.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Setting the pace for new opportunities

We recently built on our commitment to increase opportunities for students to pursue a Bloomsburg University degree through a partnership with Lehigh Carbon Community College that will serve as a model for other PASSHE universities.

Donald Snyder, Lehigh Carbon’s president, and I formalized a program-to-program articulation agreement for students who earn an associate’s degree in early childhood and elementary education to seamlessly transition into our bachelor’s of education program, either at our Bloomsburg campus or at Lehigh Carbon’s Morgan Center in Tamaqua. This allows students to pursue their higher education goals closer to home while receiving a high-quality BU education.

More opportunities are to come as BU will sign similar agreements later this month with Luzerne County Community College and Northampton Community College. At LCCC, similar to the Lehigh Carbon agreement, students will be able to complete the four-year degree at the campus in Nanticoke without traveling to our campus.

These program-to-program articulations are the first of their kind and another example of BU’s leadership in teacher preparation and curriculum innovation. Our outstanding faculty in the College of Education worked creatively and collaboratively with their community college colleagues in developing the curriculum that led to the articulation agreements.

This model should lead to program-to-program articulations in other majors at BU, providing additional seamless pathways for community college students to complete bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields. In addition, the pathways will increase the number of well-prepared transfer students as we enter a decade in which the number of high school graduates is expected to decline.

Friday, February 5, 2010

BU in focus at the Super Bowl

As we settle in Sunday evening with family and friends to watch the Super Bowl matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, the Bloomsburg University community can be immensely proud to know one of our own is on the playing field representing the best our university has to offer.

Jahri Evans was a star player for our Huskies football team before being drafted in the NFL in 2006, and as the Saints starting offensive lineman, he will take center stage this Sunday in Miami in front of 80,000 fans and an expected 98 million television viewers. Not only has Jahri excelled athletically, he achieved success in the classroom and remains connected to BU through an annual scholarship he established last summer.

Jahri completed his studies while playing for the Saints, graduating in May 2007 with a bachelor's degree in exercise science. As a way to acknowledge the importance of his own college education, he has pledged to annually cover tuition and fees for an out-of-state minority student enrolled in BU's Master of Science in clinical athletic training program. The Jahri Evans Scholarship is one of many ways our alumni give back to the university and help ensure more students have opportunities to pursue higher education at Bloomsburg.

During the on-campus announcement of his scholarship in July, Jahri said, "It's always good to help someone in need further their education. Bloomsburg was instrumental in getting me to where I am today. I was brought up to always give back and be grateful for what you have. This is a great program and great place to go to school."

Sunday will cap a great year for Jahri, who had his best season ever as a player for a team having its best season in its 42-year existence. He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl as a starter and recognized as one of the NFL’s overall top players when he was named to its All-Pro Team. Through it all, Jahri never lost touch with BU. His story has been a popular topic in the weeks leading up the Super Bowl covered by more than 200 media outlets, including The New York Times, ESPN, The Sporting News and USA Today, as well as the cover story of our new-look Bloomsburg: The University Magazine. In every article, Jahri made a point to highlight how attending BU impacted his life.

Jahri makes an effort to visit BU every year to meet the team, attend a game or scrimmage and touch base with BU football coach Danny Hale and the coaching staff, his mentors and former professors and friends who are still in the area. We look forward to welcoming him “home” again soon, hopefully as a Super Bowl champion.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Diversity and inclusion take center stage

Our campus celebration of Black History Month began last week, highlighted by numerous activities and events our students and community neighbors can enjoy. Bloomsburg University recognizes the importance of campus diversity and embraces inclusion throughout the year but celebrating Black History Month enables us to shine our spotlight a bit more brightly on the contributions of African-American culture on campus and in our community.

The celebration began on Jan. 28 by bringing Dr. Ronald Walters, an eminent scholar of African-American politics and noted political analyst, to campus. His evening lecture, “The King Legacy and the Obama Presidency,” was a well attended analysis and discussion of the first year of the Obama presidency and his first state-of-the-union address.

Our celebration continues on Friday, Feb. 5, when the renowned Harlem Gospel Choir will perform in the Kenneth S. Gross Auditorium, Carver Hall. The choir, which has performed worldwide, promises to bring a special style of gospel to our campus, one deeply rooted in New York City heritage. My wife, Robbie, and I are looking forward to a dynamic, inspirational performance, beginning that night at 6:30.

A week later, we will host students from several PASSHE schools and many BU alumni for the 16th annual Sankofa Conference. “Sankofa,” an Akan word meaning “We must go back and reclaim our past, so we can move forward,” provides the fundamental theme of this interactive conference. Several BU alumni will lead workshops on Saturday, Feb. 13, covering topics such as getting into graduate school and being a mentor. Our students will also be networking with diversity leaders and students from our sister institutions, such as West Chester and Lock Haven universities.

After the conference, the focus of our celebration returns to our campus community for African Heritage Week from Feb. 22 to 25 with festivities coordinated by a student organization, the Black Cultural Society. Planned activities include the Harlem Renaissance, a night when we’ll enjoy a variety of performances, from poetry readings to dance routines and songs, all celebrating the rich heritage of Harlem.

This month’s events are a wonderful opportunity for our campus community to further embrace diversity and grow a deeper appreciation of the contribution each person makes to our learning environment.