Monday, April 25, 2016

Best wishes to graduates

Glancing out of my office window on the first warm days of spring, I always appreciate the beauty of Bloomsburg University’s campus.

With that beauty comes the bittersweet realization that commencement is in the very near future. We will soon say “goodbye, for now” to talented students who are setting out to create a future that is all their own. It can seem overwhelming and more than a little scary but, built on the foundation of a Bloomsburg University education, they are well prepared for the next phase of their lives.

I wish the very best to all who are receiving bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees this May. I am proud of their many accomplishments in the classroom, on the athletics field and in the organizations that make Bloomsburg so special and delighted by the close relationships these graduates formed with the dedicated faculty who mentored their research and supervised their internships and community service opportunities.

Although a new chapter of Bloomsburg University’s story will begin when the next class arrives, the plot of the alumni story is being infused with a generous dose of determination, enthusiasm and energy, thanks to the Class of 2016. I wish each class member great personal and professional success. Congratulations!

#CollaborativeLearning #SenseOfCommunity #CoCurricularLearning

Monday, April 4, 2016

Strategic Enrollment Management

As I greeted the audience at the recent Ruffalo Noel Levitz planning session, I was delighted to see so many faculty and staff accepting the invitation to help implement a strategic, coordinated enrollment management approach at Bloomsburg University.

The meeting was one more step in our renewed focus on student success that started with the creation of a new enrollment management division, headed by Tom Fletcher, and continued when we instituted the Student Success Collaborative, an initiative that touches all students through proactive and focused advising. The Council of Trustees’ approval of a Student Success Fee, effective this fall, shows their commitment to supporting initiatives that significantly impact student retention and graduation rates.

Why are we taking these steps? It is no surprise that our enrollment has dipped over the past few years. There are fewer college-age students and we are in competition with other universities for those with the greatest talent and ability. But enrollment management is more than merely recruiting enough students to hit a target number. It is bringing in students who are both a good fit for our university and able to take advantage of the majors, programs and resources we offer. It is increasing the number and percentage of students who complete their degrees.

Five working groups concentrating on the areas of graduate programs, undergraduate programs, marketing and recruitment, student success, and finance and financial aid, are working with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to complete a situation analysis. The analysis will show what Bloomsburg University is currently doing and what we must do to enhance student success. This process will lead to a plan that aligns our mission, fiscal resources and academic resources with the changing market environment. It will identify strategies to further enhance student academic achievement.

The strategic enrollment management process is an institution-wide responsibility and a central component of BU’s strategic plan, Impact 2017. I look forward to collaborating with the entire campus community over the next 10 months as we develop a comprehensive strategic enrollment plan that helps us to better manage the student life cycle, from their first contact with Bloomsburg, through enrollment to graduation and, ultimately, to proud and engaged alumni.

Monday, February 8, 2016

2015 President’s Strategic Planning Grants

During the 2015 spring semester, requests for Letters of Intent for the 2015 President’s Strategic Plan Grant awards were solicited. Eight Letters of Intent were received. Members of the Strategic Planning and Resource Council (SPARC), in consultation with me, asked that four of those Letters of Intent expand to a full proposal for review in the fall semester.

SPARC thoroughly vetted those four proposals for the 2015 President’s Strategic Plan Grant awards and presented their recommendations to me. I have selected three projects that will be funded.

Those projects are:
  • Bloomsburg University Center for Strategic Communications Services — is an applied research learning center for students that provides a full range of public relations and marketing communications services to regional businesses and non-profit organizations. The University-based, student-focused Center is a win-win for both students and the community, as students gain access to professional opportunities and local organizations tap into student skills. Center participants, comprised of students from multiple academic departments, will sharpen expertise in public relations, marketing communications, management, sales, development and entrepreneurism by working with regional community leaders.
  • English-Spanish Summer Enrichment (ESSE) Program — a two-week early outreach residential summer program for area Latino high school students. Participants will live on campus while attending courses targeting the improvement of their English language skills as well as the nurturing of their appreciation for their cultural and linguistic heritage.
  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Research in Collegiate and High School Student Athletesofficially launched in September 2015 aimed at addressing the topic of concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) in conducting research to better understand this phenomenon, provide support and service to the medical community in return-to-play/return-to-learn decisions, and conduct translational activities that contribute to clinical application of knowledge. The medical community has focused efforts to address the need to better understand the diagnosis, treatment, and management of mTBI as a result of sport at all levels of participation.

#CollaborativeLearning #SenseOfCommunity #CoCurricularLearning

Friday, January 29, 2016

Leadership is a community activity, not an individual endeavor

As we spent time over the holidays with family and friends, many of us paused to reflect on what is truly important to us as individuals.

As we begin this spring semester, I encourage you to take this exercise one step further to consider what is important to our lives as members of this campus community, reflecting on Bloomsburg University’s core values, especially those of respect and community.

These values, included in our university’s strategic plan, serve to guide our behavior and define our culture.

My number one priority as president is the education and success of Bloomsburg University students. For our students to be successful, we must have an outstanding faculty and staff working in an environment where all may flourish, learn and grow. And, more importantly, where all students, faculty and staff feel respected.

Respect, particularly within an educational community, obliges us to listen and learn from others, even when we may not agree with or understand their perspectives. Active listening does not seek to advance an idea, agenda or opinion. We listen to gain a broader perspective of the fundamental issues affecting our community. I am well aware that not all decisions my leadership team and I make are understood or accepted by all, but they are made in what we consider to be the best interests of the university and our students.

Bloomsburg University is not unique in the need to strengthen certain areas that will, in turn, enhance our students’ educational experience. There are challenges we must address, including improving student retention, building a strong and proactive student advising model and achieving financial sustainability with continually inadequate state budgets. For each of these challenges, there are many viable solutions. The issue lies in our ability to have true, respectful dialogue while arriving at the best solutions for our university.

This semester, I ask you to join with me as we renew our commitment to our students and our institution. Let us resolve to work collaboratively and creatively, in an atmosphere of respect and community, to address our challenges.

After all, it is our strong work ethic, dedication to service and devotion to our university, our students, our colleagues and our community that define the Bloomsburg University experience for everyone.

#CollaborativeLearning #SenseOfCommunity #CoCurricularLearning

Friday, January 15, 2016

Criticism of BU students unfounded

I wrote this opinion piece, which was published on Jan. 13, in response to a letter that appeared earlier in the month. I want to share it with you as we begin the spring 2016 semester.

Since becoming president of Bloomsburg University eight years ago, I often have been told our institution is the focus of unfounded criticism because we are an “easy target.” That holds more than a small degree of truth.

As a comprehensive public institution, we provide access to higher education for students from all backgrounds, hometowns and ways of life: local students and those who hail from elsewhere, including our traditional stronghold in the five-county greater Philadelphia area; students who transfer from community colleges; veterans entering college after serving our country; and other non-traditional adult students. We welcome students who meet our admissions criteria, based on their high school class ranking, academic grade point average and performance on standardized tests; introduce them to the university and the town with a comprehensive orientation program; and offer support services, as needed, including tutoring, advisement and guidance.

The racial and cultural make-up of our nation and our commonwealth has changed significantly over the years. I am proud that enrollment at Bloomsburg University nearly mirrors the population of our state today with under-represented minorities making up 14.5 percent of our student body, up from just 2.25 percent in 1980. It is, I believe, the responsibility of every college and university to broaden students’ perspectives by introducing them to cultures and experiences different from their own. At Bloomsburg University, we not only believe in the importance of diversity, we embrace it.

We emphasize our commitment to a diverse student body, faculty and staff in our mission statement: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is an inclusive comprehensive public university that prepares students for personal and professional success in an increasingly complex global environment. This statement underscores our belief that diversity is essential to prepare our students — approximately 2,000 graduates per year — for the realities of the world in which they will live and work.

Most of our students take full advantage of the opportunities available to them and make a positive difference on our campus and in the Town of Bloomsburg. I have been delighted to work with student leaders from diverse backgrounds through the Council of Trustees, Community Government Association, fraternities, sororities and other organizations.

Overall, our students volunteer more than 68,000 hours to the local community each year, valued at more than $1.4 million. You’ll find students of all races serving as interns in local schools and organizations, sharing their marketing expertise with businesses, and helping with spring clean-up projects during the annual Big Events. Student organizations have raised thousands of dollars for local charities and provided tons of food to the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard. And this list just scratches the surface.

It is clear: Bloomsburg University students’ skills, talents, energy and enthusiasm enhance the quality of life on campus and in town every day, regardless of where they grew up or the color of their skin. This is one of the many reasons I am proud to serve as president of Bloomsburg University.

#CollaborativeLearning #SenseOfCommunity #CoCurricularLearning