Monday, October 25, 2010

A healthy dialogue with student leaders

Last week, I had the privilege of joining the Community Government Association (CGA) Senate meeting where I fielded questions from students ranging from curriculum concerns to off-campus issues and tuition inquiries. The Q&A lasted nearly 45 minutes. I was very impressed with the students’ openness to ask me tough questions that show their genuine concern for maintaining a high quality of education and life here at Bloomsburg University.

The invitation to the student Senate meeting also gave me a chance to hear directly from the student leaders, who in turn serve as liaisons for the student body. We covered a lot of ground, cleared up a few misconceptions and laid the foundation for what I hope are regular open discussions between the students and me.

In addition to many key issues, such as off-campus housing and student parking, I was glad to hear one important topic that was brought up. It allowed me to set the record straight on a misconception that filters throughout the community. One student asked how the recent building renovations and expansion translated into tuition increases, which BU has seen over the past two years set by PASSHE. His belief, as many hold, is the university had to raise tuition to cover the cost of construction.

In reality, Bloomsburg University does not control tuition rates. They are annually established by PASSHE in the summer for the following academic year across the entire State System. In addition, the money used to fund construction projects comes from a capital budget, which is completely separate from the operational budget that impacts tuition. I was also able to inform the students that these building projects not only help boost the local economy by providing work for construction companies but ensure BU continues to offer the best and most up-to-date facilities for students to live and learn in. This productive exchange was one of several I enjoyed last week, which I also believe the students appreciated.

Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to participate in these types of student forums as often as I wish I could, however, I enjoy hearing your comments and concerns. Feel free to share your thoughts with me while I’m walking on campus, attending a student event or through e-mail and my blog. The students who serve as representatives and senators on the CGA Senate are a communication link to me, too. And from what I saw last week, this Senate group is more than capable and motivated to serve the student body well and make a difference – not just for them — but for the classes of students who will be follow in the coming years.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Home(coming) is where the heart is

They say the best years of your life are spent at college. I wouldn’t argue with that. At no other time in your life will you be in an atmosphere like this that blends abundant opportunities to have fun with the tremendous amount of learning that forms the basis for great personal success well into retirement. It’s what we’re committed to here at Bloomsburg University and celebrate every October during Homecoming Weekend.

Earlier this month, the BU campus got off to a quick start to this year’s Homecoming: Rollin’ the Dice and Enjoying the Nights in Vegas, Oct. 23 to 24, when students decorated windows of their residence halls for a competition and began campaigning for their friends for Homecoming king and queen. It’s captivating to see our freshmen be filled with Husky spirit after only a few weeks on campus. This energy intertwines with the passion our alumni bring back from the far corners of the state and other areas of the country, as they return to a changing campus they once called their own.

I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley about 40 years ago and went on to graduate school more than 400 miles away at UCLA, never living closer to Berkeley than that. Yet I have revisited the UC Berkeley campus more than 30 times in those intervening years; most recently last month while on Bloomsburg University business in the San Francisco Bay area. Every visit is a true Homecoming for me. The sights, sounds and even the smells of the campus bring both nostalgia and excitement, as I visit the places that were so important to me in my undergraduate years and see all of the changes.

Last month, I was able to share my visit with a colleague from BU. I was delighted, and I don’t think he was too bored, as I showed him the dorm and fraternity house where I lived, the library where I spent so many hours studying, and the beautifully restored and renovated, 100-year-old Life Science Building where I studied and worked in my formative years as a biologist. I often make the return trip to campus with my freshman roommate and best friend, who teaches high school biology and chemistry in the area.

Many BU alumni, including those in the Class of 1960 celebrating their 50-class reunion this year, will be surprised to see how much our campus has grown, especially upper campus with the newly renovated Nelson Field House and the Jessica Kozloff Apartments that opened in fall 2009. On the lower campus, alums can take notice of an updated Hartline Science Center and the gutted Sutfliff Hall that’s undergoing its own transformation to be completed next fall.

In addition to the sightseeing, there will be plenty of activities to enjoy with your family and old Husky friends on Saturday with the traditional BU/Bloomsburg High School Homecoming Parade, Alumni Tent Party at the Fenstemaker Alumni House, and of course, the Husky football game against one of our biggest rivals, the West Chester Golden Rams.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reacquainting with a growing student

This week’s blog contains a word of warning to those I call “freshmen parents.” That word is “beware.” When you come to visit your first-year student at Bloomsburg University during Parents and Family Weekend, Oct. 8 to 10, you will most likely find a young adult who seems very much like the person you moved into a residence hall room in late August … but is, somehow, different.

College, even just six weeks of college, has a way of changing the parent-child relationship. As president, it will be a delight for me this weekend to watch so many proud parents greet their college freshmen for the first time since move-in day in late August. I’ll also enjoy seeing our students show their parents how well they have transitioned to college and introduce them to aspects of the BU experience not seen on campus tours or at orientation.

This year, we’re celebrating our 40th Parents and Family Weekend with a long list of activities and events for all to enjoy. Some of the highlights include a performance by Joshua Seth, a comedic hypnotist whose act has become a hit on college campuses across the country; Quest clinics on the high ropes course and climbing wall; miniature golf and live music on the Academic Quad; and field hockey, men’s soccer and women’s soccer competitions on upper campus.

I’m really looking forward to two events in particular. I’ll host an open forum on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 11 a.m. in McCormick Center, room 1303, where I’ll update parents on campus events and answer their questions. This is an opportune time for me to connect with parents and put a face to Bloomsburg University.

Later that evening, my wife, Robbie, and I will enjoy a journey back to the days of disco with the Boogie Wonder Band at the Haas Center for the Arts. This 10-member band will bring a high level of energy and wild fashion to the stage as the second performance of our Celebrity Artist Series’ 25th anniversary season. There will be two exciting performance, one at 2 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m.

With wonderful weather in the forecast, it’s shaping up to be a pleasant and relaxing weekend on campus. I hope to meet many of you as you’re becoming reacquainted with your student.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Doing more with less

Three thousand miles may separate the West Coast from Bloomsburg University, but the distance doesn’t diminish the love and pride our alumni and friends have for our university. I saw this firsthand recently when I traveled to California with Erik Evans, vice president for University Advancement, to meet several alumni and prospective donors.

I enjoy these trips, both short distances and across the country, because they give me an opportunity to see how successful our graduates become after leaving their mark on campus. It also gives me a chance to personally update our Husky faithful on the great advancements our university has made in the classroom, through renovations, scholarly activity, and skilled teaching and learning. Even more important, it’s a chance for me to reaffirm our increasing need for donor support, which helps BU plan for the future and provide financial assistance to students. Today, as many as 80 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid.

Although recent news reports announced the recession ended months ago, it’s no secret the economy continues to struggle. This has direct impact on our university budget as we face decreasing state government support each year. Unfortunately, a change in momentum is very unlikely. With state appropriation to PASSHE schools at an all-time low of 29 percent – down from roughly 40 percent a decade ago – it’s increasingly important to generate our own revenue and become self-sustaining.

The recently unveiled new strategic plan, Impact 2015: Building on the Past, Leading for the Future, emphasizes our need to identify and develop new resources, one of the main reasons for my California trip. This will help BU maintain fiscal responsibility and enhance academic excellence, while becoming less dependent on tuition and state appropriations. As months go by, you’ll hear more about a new initiative, the Henry Carver Fund, named for our first president and geared to raising financial support to meet immediate needs.

Support for our university, both monetary and in-kind, will allow our students to continue to choose Bloomsburg as a place where they can attain a high-quality education that’s within their family’s financial reach. Whether you’re near or far, I hope we can count on your support.