Monday, November 15, 2010

BU’s stewardship of America’s future

Recent events have cast a spotlight on two key initiatives helping to solidify Bloomsburg University’s future: the unveiling of our new strategic plan, Impact 2015: Building on the Past, Leading for the Future, and the extensive and intensive faculty review of the general education task force proposal.

Both initiatives are essential to building on BU’s standard of academic excellence while tackling the challenges of the changing economic landscape facing higher education. From Nov. 21 to 23, I will share the steps we’re taking at Bloomsburg with fellow university presidents and chief executive leaders at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ annual meeting in Charleston, S.C. Just as important, I will have a chance to hear how other schools are approaching these same challenges.

More than 420 public colleges and universities, ranging in size from 1,000 to 44,000 students, are members of AASCU, including Bloomsburg University. The association was established nearly 50 years ago in response to the growing impact the federal government had on higher education, particularly in relation to research grants and federal assistance programs – two avenues of financial support BU actively pursues. AASCU serves as a strong national presence representing the interests of students in public colleges and universities, especially in efforts to address higher education policy and the declining government appropriations. I am pleased to have been selected to serve on the AASCU Committee on Policies and Practices and look forward to a meeting of this committee of 15 presidents during the annual meeting.

This year’s theme, Stewardship for America’s Future, will focus on specific institutional strategies to help advance public progress in areas such as P-20 education, economic competitiveness and charting the future of our regions and communities. In addition, there will be discussions on key internal leadership challenges, such as identifying new revenue sources, setting academic priorities, budgeting strategically and leading institutional realignment and change.

There is plenty on the agenda for this three-day meeting – workshops on partnering with regional school districts to advance college success, strategies for boosting productivity and public perceptions in higher education, and the role of the regional comprehensive university in meeting the needs of community college transfer students. Seminars, presentations and workshops will cover key issues we, as university presidents, must address to position our institutions for success in this challenging environment of higher education. Working together will surely aid us in these efforts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A new look to Bloomsburg University

Amongst the excitement of this fall semester has been the much-anticipated openings of two renovated buildings on campus, Hartline Science Center and Nelson Field House. Both projects are finished, in use and ready for a formal dedication, which we will do on Friday, Nov. 12.

We expect to be joined for the dedications by descendents of the buildings’ namesakes, as well as members of the campus community, alumni and area residents. The Hartline rededication will begin at 3:30 p.m., followed by Nelson’s rededication ceremony at 6:30 p.m. just before our wrestling team hosts Penn State University at 7 p.m. I encourage all to join the tours of each building following the respective ceremonies. This will be an opportune time to see the results of the hard work done by the contractors and the investment Bloomsburg University has made to ensure our students have access to the most up-to-date technology and conveniences.

Hartline, the largest science facility in northeast Pennsylvania, is designed to meet the needs of the growing programs in the College of Science and Technology. The renovated East Wing, which was the original portion of Hartline, allows BU to make long-needed laboratory curricular adjustments and acquire cutting-edge instrumentation in areas ranging from biology to physics.

The laboratories are now equipped with the latest in fume-hood technology, which will save energy, increase safety, and reduce air flow, making doors easier to open. Miles of telecommunications cables wind through the ceiling and walls connecting to high-resolution projection units, high-speed networks and experimental laboratories, a vital consideration for any science building.

Nelson now features a new entranceway, basketball court and football locker room along with renovated offices and labs for our growing exercise science program, including the recently nationally accredited Clinical Athletic Training graduate program. The renovation is a fitting tribute to Dr. Elna Harrison Nelson, a faculty member at Bloomsburg for 21 years, where he also served as director of health education from 1924 to 1945. As a noted sports fan, he coached many teams, including Bloomsburg’s undefeated baseball team in 1935.

As both of these facilities come on line, I look forward to next year when our students will benefit from the current project on campus — the renovation of Sutliff Hall, home of our College of Business.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A model approach to general education

This week the Bloomsburg University Curriculum Committee (BUCC) will begin an extensive review of a new general education plan we believe will become a model for higher education.

Some college students, it seems, view general education courses as unnecessary and unrelated while they apply stronger focus on the academic requirements of their major and minor. Nothing could be further from the truth. A general education curriculum is a very important piece of students’ higher education experience forming the core competencies of their education and helping them foster a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the world, its possibilities and their part in it.

BU is working to transform its general education curriculum to meet the needs of the ever-changing, multicultural world of the 21st Century. A significant change — one I feel is extremely innovative — is to base general education on learning outcomes and move beyond the general education content in the standard 120 credit hours most students need to graduate to a system based on General Education Units (GEUs) aligned with the general education goals. A strong foundation of credit hours would continue to exist, but students would also receive some general education units for approved co-curricular activities, such as an international study abroad experience or having a leadership role in the Community Government Association.

This new plan opens doors for students studying in programs with rigid requirements, such as nursing and teacher education, who currently cannot fit elective courses into their tight academic schedules. The proposed GEU system will ensure all students get both breadth and depth in their BU educational experience.

I truly appreciate our General Education Task Force’s work during the past year and a half to create a thorough and innovative proposal. As with any proposal, the current draft is not set in stone and changes have been suggested to make it the best plan for our university. In fact, the proposal sparked a spirited e-mail debate among faculty in recent weeks. The next phase in the approval process goes to BUCC, which will welcome comments and input at public meetings on Wednesdays, Nov. 3 and 17, at 3 p.m. in the Schweiker Room of Andruss Library.

I encourage all who have an interest in this proposal, including students as well as faculty, to participate in these BUCC meetings and help make our new general education program the best possible educational experience for our students and a model plan for other universities to follow.