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