The Year We Soar

Even though each new academic year is a time to look forward, it also provides the opportunity to reflect back. We’ve accomplished a lot together—our faculty, staff, and students in partnership with our alumni—and you, our donors (many of whom are members of those groups I just named).

I can see momentum. Indeed, it has taken some time to get things into position—like our new programs in environmental engineering and public health and new facilities. We’ve done so in the context of Pennsylvania’s decreasing demographics, with a disciplined approach to spending.

As I told the campus community on our opening day, with a solid freshman class and our strong position amidst the other universities in the State System of Higher Education, this is our year. Don’t get me wrong: We have plenty of challenges—things I addressed candidly in my public remarks, but we also have the very best people assembled here and a track record of working together that, in comparison to many other universities in Pennsylvania, puts us in an enviable position.

Enviable, but it’s ours to lose if we don’t hustle. No doubt, we are at a critical turning point. If we were doing a SWOT analysis, I would call the perception of American higher education, lack of state funding, and competition our threats. I’d also label those as opportunities, because I am convinced that IUP’s collaborative brand of doing things is a rare quality in today’s higher education landscape, that our disciplined and strategic spending habits are part of what sets us apart from our State System counterparts, and, while the market is competitive, prospective students have more reasons than ever to choose IUP. Much of that is a credit to you and your support.

I am not naïve enough to believe that you invest in IUP to make it the best university ever. You do it for broader reasons, such as ensuring that the world has access to well-rounded leaders and problem solvers. For that reason, everyone at IUP is ever grateful for your trust in us to make that happen.

That’s why I challenged our faculty and staff to seize this time and soar. I invite you to read my address to the university community or watch the video above.

Please take a moment to ask a question or make a comment.

2,426 Reasons to Believe: A Year in Review

Photo of commencement, taken at Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex

To accommodate all of our graduates, we held three commencement ceremonies this year. It was an honor and a pleasure to preside over each.

Last month, I provided to the university’s Council of Trustees an overview of the academic year. This was just a few days before commencement. I’d like to share those remarks with you, too. After all, as a member of the IUP Leadership Society, you are an investor and stakeholder. I’ve added links to some of the items, to provide context and so that you can follow up on the details, if you wish. By all means, please leave a comment below. What you think matters.

The remarks follow…

When we opened this academic year, I emphasized to our faculty and staff that their work matters and that it has impact. I told them that it’s sometimes difficult to recognize the impact, because like a big jigsaw puzzle, IUP’s work takes place across a continuum of people and time, with smaller pieces fitting together to make a big picture.

Milestone years tend to make you ruminate during quiet times, and as I finish my fifth year at IUP, I see impact everywhere I look.

We started out this academic year buoyed with the reaffirmation of accreditation and ready to tackle big challenges—and we’ve proven that we can, indeed, do so, together, as a community of remarkable students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Several times this year, in different venues, people have heard me refer to the IUP Way. That’s what it means—that we face and rise to occasions together.

That’s not to say that we haven’t had real challenges. We have. Excessive partying, the region’s economic development, the strike we weathered last fall, and dynamics of state government and the State System Higher Education are on the list. After all, problems and challenges also are part of the continuum, and just because we haven’t solved them all doesn’t mean we haven’t made progress. Indeed, we are working to turn them into opportunities.

Being able to show progress is important. We’ve jumped in with both feet to enhance diversity and inclusion, to design great new programs and revise current programs to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. In fact, you’ll vote today on an extensive list of curriculum changes in addition to 10 new programs and tracks. Among them are the long-anticipated Environmental Engineering program, a new Ph.D. in Business, and a new interdisciplinary minor in Teamwork and Communications. [Note: The IUP Council of Trustees approved these programs after my remarks. Now, we await approval from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors, and then we’ll open up these programs to students.]

Partnerships are important to an organization as complex as IUP, and I couldn’t be more pleased at how the IUP Alumni Association, the Foundation for IUP, and the Student Cooperative Association have actively sought ways to improve the IUP experience for students.

Our incredibly generous and dedicated faculty and staff, in addition to their work every day, has set a new all-time participation rate in the University Family Drive.

Because of that kind of support, we have students who rise to challenges, take leadership positions, and generally prepare for what they will encounter after graduation and beyond.

Every faculty and staff member of this university has a different day-to-day view of the continuum, but the one common focus each of us has is facilitating a superior student experience. Many other important things come out of all that work, but the student experience is the epicenter. Our people work hard, and I am grateful for all they do.

I hold up the transformation of the Punxsutawney campus as one example. The new programs that I mentioned are another. Life cycle maintenance and new construction projects are yet another. In fact, so many projects will be underway this summer, campus might be difficult to navigate.

Alumni relationships and fundraising also contribute to that superior student experience. Connected to our comprehensive campaign, we have, in its leadership phase, recruited and welcomed more than 90 volunteers to serve in an advisory capacity to each of our colleges and the athletics department. Most are alumni, but not all. As of March, we had in hand between $15 million and $16 million dollars in gifts, with several large proposals under consideration.

As we press on toward the next fiscal year, we continue to focus on our fiscal challenges, too, balancing our budget for next year, within about $400,000.

At the moment, we are projecting an enrollment of 12,705 for the fall, but the actual number could be higher.

As we await the results of the State System of Higher Education’s study internal study, I want you to know that I believe our future is bright. And, on the eve of our three commencement ceremonies, when we congratulate 2,426 students on their rite of passage, I see 2,426 reasons to believe our work has a wonderful impact on the future.

So, that’s what I reported to the Council of Trustees the day before commencement weekend. Again, I hope you’ll check in with a comment or question. What you have to say is important. After all, you are very much a part of our students’ experience.

Transformative Moments

Willis Pratt in 1949

Willis Pratt, in 1949. Photo courtesy of IUP Special Collection and Archives. Did you know you can find in our online archives IUP yearbooks, alumni publications, and a wealth of other historical information? Visit www.iup.edu/archives.

As I prepared my commentary for the next edition of IUP Magazine, which will be distributed in April, I was prompted to consider what makes IUP the great place that it is. The spring issue will carry an article written by Randy Jesick, who has served the university for decades, first in an administrative position and then on the Journalism and Public Relations faculty. He interviewed his mentor, Sam Furgiuele, a long-retired English Department faculty member and  public relations director.

It made me think about how IUP has gotten to where we are today. I am in awe of so much of the hard work that went into shaping the strong learning community we all know and support. You surely could name at least a few people who influenced your life during your association with IUP, and I have a succession of dedicated and innovative faculty and staff members to thank for this firm foundation on which I and the entire IUP community stand right now.

To be sure, over the course of decades, they executed a series of transformative decisions that have positioned IUP for the very next steps we will take as we work toward our shared vision.

Think about this: Most people know IUP achieved university status in 1965. Did you realize that President Willis Pratt and the faculty worked together beginning in the late 1940s to transform the curriculum to a broader set of offerings than teacher training? That decision led to the establishment of a graduate school and the eventual distinction of being the only institution in what would become Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to confer the Ph.D., in addition to a selection of applied doctoral degrees.

That’s a distinction we continue to enjoy today.

Later, in the 1990s, with the help of alumnus and philanthropist Bob Cook ’64, IUP further distinguished itself by establishing a residential honors college. While the Cook Honors College provides an intense environment that has resulted in students bringing home to IUP numerous prestigious national prizes—such as Fulbright Awards—it also has influenced academic programming across the university, inspiring more students than ever to participate in hands-on research and study-abroad opportunities. From this perspective, the decision to establish the honors college was, indeed, a transformative moment.

IUP has a responsibility to be a good steward to its host region. I view the decision to join forces with community partners, to dream big and develop, plan, and build the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex as another transformative moment. While the complex is expected to pump more than $300 million into the local economy by 2021, its worth to the university and the community is priceless—while facilitating athletics contests, conferences, commencement, and other large-entertainment events, it has become a beloved destination for the region’s residents.

I’d be delighted to hear what you think our other transformative moments have been—or what our next ones might be. Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think. After all, your philanthropic investment has helped to place IUP in a position to transform students from hopeful high school students to our world’s hope for the future.

I have invited Leadership Society members to a special reception February 22 at Kovalchick Complex in between women’s and men’s basketball games. I look forward to saying hello, but if you can’t make it, perhaps you will be able to get to IUP for our annual Leadership Society reception on April 22. Your invitation will be in the mail soon. This is one small way we can thank you for all you do for IUP.

Until then, please take a look at some of the latest news about IUP.

 

Our Promise: Innovation and Teamwork for the Greater Good

I’ve spent a great deal of time this semester impressing upon everyone the ideal of the IUP way. It’s a term I used in my remarks at our annual opening of the academic year.

Simply defined, it’s how our university community works together, with positive spirit and civility—to solve problems when they arise but, more proactively, to achieve our shared vision of empowering students to become the world’s transformative leaders through high-quality academic programs, strong support structures, and interconnected, hands-on learning experience outside the classroom.

Perhaps it’s better coined as a promise to do things in a way that is particular to IUP—collaborative, with an eye to the future and employing practices that we know to be successful but not being shy about new and innovative ways of doing our work, all with the shared desire to empower our students to become leaders and solutionists and to have the most positive impact on the world.

mb-for-blogThat promise’s return on investment shines brilliantly, as demonstrated by our successes this semester with our alumni constituency. Record numbers of alumni returned for homecoming, and shortly after that, we hosted reunions for both the marching band and ROTC.

In each case, an unprecedented number of alumni returned to recall the good times, to reconnect, and to make new friends. It shows our alumni are truly invested in our mission and vision and their IUP experience.

After all, we are a community that takes care of community—whether it’s a network of people or a place in which people work, learn, and live.

Like Punxsutawney.

Assessment, discussions, and changes in Jefferson County’s economy and workforce have led us to the conclusion that we need to make changes at our Punxsutawney campus to help our students and the region reach their full potential.

In some ways, we will return to the campus’s original intent—to be an educational resource to Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, and the surrounding region.

Starting in fall 2017, rather than assigning large numbers of freshmen, who originally applied to the Indiana Campus, to Punxsutawney, we will provide first-year classes to local students and offer the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies with concentrations in Culinary Arts, Business, and Health Office Administration. We are also working with local school districts to expand our dual enrollment program to high school students in that area, giving them the opportunity to get a great head start with a higher education degree. We continue to discuss with area stakeholders the possibility of other blog-culinaryprograms and degrees the region needs.

We will further emphasize and expand Culinary Arts by looking for more opportunities for students interested in Hospitality Management and, I hope, through completion of a culinary master plan, build a new kitchen facility for this programmatic gem.

And, I’m pleased to report on even more changes. We now are accepting applications for our new programs—the bachelor’s degree in Public Health and the PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, and we expect to make similar announcements about other exciting and innovative new majors—particularly Digital Science and Environmental Engineering.

Among all the innovation and new programs in development, we have a most unusual one that received a boost from the National Science Foundation. Justin Fair, and Anne Kondo of the Chemistry Department and colleagues from across disciplines are developing a new minor in Teamwork.

The group did their homework by talking to employers to learn what skills they needed in their workforce. As Dr. Fair has noted, IUP is leading the nation on this topic. We are creating the blueprint for other universities to emulate.

I could spend hours writing about all the positive energy and activity that is happening here at IUP, which is a reference to something else I said in my annual opening remarks. This university will never have a difficult time finding good things to brag about. The trouble is knowing when to stop!

 

Where Has Civility Gone?

In a world in which rhetoric has taken a downhill turn, President Michael Driscoll discusses how IUP’s students, in the face of a negative incident, have taken the high road.

Safe spaces and trigger warnings on college campuses—you’ve read about them often in the last two months, which just happen to be, coincidentally, right in the middle of what many believe to be the meanest presidential campaign in recent U.S. history.

I wonder if we would be talking about safe spaces and trigger warnings at all—if they would be necessary—if the tone and tenor of public interaction were, simply, more polite.

And, I worry.

Young people are shaped by their environment, and it seems as though the Jerry Springer approach to problem solving and discourse now defines how we resolve differences.

We Americans should employ our precious right of free speech to come together and address the challenges we face. But far too often, free speech is invoked in the lesser cause of justifying name-calling, petty bickering, and the lowest of unreasoned ad hominem attacks on people rather than in protecting a debate about their ideas.

The genesis of safe spaces and trigger warnings is the basis of civility with which we are all familiar.  In our daily lives we appreciate and understand when someone says “please sit down, what I have to tell you won’t be easy for you to hear.” But safe spaces and trigger warnings as implemented and debated have often been reduced to caricatures of caring—a way to mollycoddle weak people who can’t bear the truth.

Frank discussion is important and useful, but what coarsened our culture? When did the culture of disrespect overshadow mutual respect? When did cheap sound bites overtake rich debate? Is it the instantaneous nature and faux anonymity of social media? Has the desire to create a social media trend driven a need for showmanship over substance?

Strife, fear, and heartache abound throughout our history, but through my nostalgic view of the past, I imagine that a sense of decorum and decency once prevailed in public forum and debate. At least until I read the accounts of debates in the antebellum United States or the rhetoric justifying the holocaust.  We must teach our students how to rise above the proclivity, exacerbated by today’s technology, to demean and belittle.

Some of you may have read the Spring 2016 edition of IUP Magazine, in which we explored issues related to race on campus. Our campus community, indeed, experienced an ugly incident last December. When a racist SnapChat photo was transmitted, many people were rightfully outraged, and I’m sad to say it was not an isolated case of prejudice.

But, that outrage did not reach a low level. In fact, it served as a catalyst for taking action. Since December, our community has come together in many ways over this issue. In presentations about our newly completed diversity climate study, a day-long summit in which we discussed these issues, at an open meeting in Punxsutawney, and in a wide variety of other settings, we have talked about sensitive issues, but the discourse has been respectful.  Further, I’ve seen at least one group of students reach out to our local law enforcement community to help bridge gaps. Such progress calls for candor on all sides of the table, and by all reports, that candor has not broken the barriers of civility.

That impresses me. I’ve seen our students, faculty, and staff agree and respectfully disagree—without talking over one another, without interrupting one another, without name calling, without shouting, without dirt digging, and without a cad’s put down. And no trigger warnings were required.

It happens here at IUP. It can happen elsewhere, too.

I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that watching our students tackle these issues has been a real joy, and while I worry about what’s to come in our world, our kids give me hope.

The Bonus Experience

Who doesn’t love a bonus?

After all, a bonus is always something good and usually something extra. Yet, when it comes to higher education, what might once have been considered a bonus experience is now considered essential.

If I could, I’d send every single undergraduate in the nation head first into some kind of bonus experience—the kind that would snap their heads up from tracking Pokemon on their cell phones and engage them in life’s real issues.

IUP political science major Maggie McGahen, on right, participated in a discussion on whether delegates should be unbound from candidates in Cleveland as part of The Washington Center's Convention Academic Series.

IUP political science major Maggie McGahen, on right, participated in a discussion on whether delegates should be unbound from candidates in Cleveland as part of The Washington Center’s Convention Academic Series.

Internships, study abroad opportunities, hands-on service and research—whether you call them bonus experiences or engagement—open students’ eyes and force them to live and learn in the moment.

Right now, our International Education Office is tracking about a hundred students who opted to study abroad this summer—some in groups with faculty members and others independently. Jessica Halchak, who oversees study abroad opportunities, says that IUP students are in 17 countries, including China, Thailand, Costa Rica, and United Kingdom. Imagine being a young American in London with a front-row view of the Brexit vote.

Likewise, more than 500 students are in the midst of internship experiences this summer. More than 2,000 annually participate in some type of internship—roughly one in every seven IUP students.

And then there’s the gang from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Michele Papakie and David Chambers, who chair our Journalism and Public Relations and Political Science departments and who worked together to get IUP students accepted into the 2016 Convention Academic Series sponsored by The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. The program immerses college students from around the country in the national political party conventions’ inner workings. Papakie and Chambers were chosen for residential faculty duty, which entails sitting in on seminars presented by those running all facets of the convention—from security to rules–and then moderating synthesis discussions with the students and reviewing their journal essays.

Papakie accompanied students to Cleveland the week before the Republican National Convention for the seminar portion of the experience. Now, during the convention, IUP political science students have been assigned to work with the Pennsylvania delegation and the journalism major with CBS. They all are putting in 12-hour days in this power-packed week of national impact.

“During the synthesis discussions, the students just came to life. It’s so exciting to watch their passion for issues explode,” she said of the students.

Chambers will accompany six journalism and political science students to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Back home at IUP, science and math students are in the thick of the Research Experience for Summer Scholars program, which we featured in a recent edition of IUP Magazine. In this residential program, the students choose a topic and take it through the paces to come to solid conclusions with long days in the lab and evening and lunchtime discussions about science. The topics have been, to say the least, highly impressive. At the end, they are expected to present on their findings. But, as chemistry professor Justin Fair said, it’s more than drawing and presenting scientific conclusions.

“They learn how to actually sell themselves—that’s a skill they’ll need down the road,” he said.

Opportunities like these come to students at a cost above and beyond tuition and housing, but they are crucial learning moments. Bonus experiences help to differentiate IUP students from others as they move to the job market, and their impact is even greater. Because engaged students have an enhanced understanding, their impact on the key problems, challenges, and opportunities are greater moving forward, putting them in the best position to make the world a better place.

Private support makes rich experiences like these possible, and I know our students are grateful for your investment in IUP. Often, your support is what enables them to participate and thrive.

Preparing Them for a Future We Don’t Know

I’m not sure why I dug out my college transcript the other day.  Perhaps it was nostalgia born of a birthday of minor significance—one that ends in a five.  More likely it was creating my example video for IUP’s inaugural Three-Minute Thesis competition, which required that I review the research captured in my doctoral dissertation more than 25 years ago.

(Watch the video, then leave a comment to let me know how I did. Then, please take a moment to see our graduate students’ presentations. Our Three-Minute Thesis program is part of a worldwide competition, and we are excited about the opportunities it presents to the IUP community.)

Whatever the reason, as I looked at the course titles I was pleased with how they evoked faces and memories of faculty members and fellow students who were important to my learning and growth as a scholar and as a person.  I smiled as I traced the obvious connections between my mathematics, science, computing, and engineering courses and my research, my dissertation, and the first phases of my career.

I was more impressed as I scanned the list of my general education courses—the courses in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts that I was “forced” to take to graduate.  Viewed through the lens of decades of life experience, I see how these courses, chosen out of idle curiosity or scheduling necessity from a list of requirements, served me well as I navigated the world.


Our job today is to carefully craft an experience—in the classroom and in the world—that will serve our students well in a future we will not know.


A series of courses on the Old and New Testaments gave me a deep intellectual understanding of the basis of my personal faith, an understanding that served me well as I learned to be a transformative servant leader in the crucible of a challenged church in Oregon.  And my struggles in a course on Hinduism (I barely managed to get a C+) helped me to understand the many ways people approach the spiritual side of life, an understanding that developed into strong empathy for all approaches—something that serves me well as the leader of an incredibly diverse university.

Introductory political science courses showed me that there were as many philosophical frameworks for human society as there have been great political philosophers.  A following course in international relations posited the professor’s theory that war is the natural condition of nations, a theory strongly supported by history and as strongly rejected by me as I have since had the chance to work with people from around the world.  I think that my conviction that we must build bridges between people from different lands is of immense value as IUP prepares today’s students to be global citizens and as we welcome nearly a thousand international students to Indiana, Pennsylvania, every year.

And the music appreciation and performance courses gave me enhanced knowledge and love of this art, enriching my life and my 30-plus years of marriage to a woman who studied opera performance.

The most important lesson of my walk down memory lane was to recognize that as a college student, I had no understanding that what I learned in these courses would so enable my success in my life and my career.

Our job today is to carefully craft an experience—in the classroom and in the world—that will serve our students well in a future we will not know.  And just maybe we can help them to get an early glimpse of how that student experience will enrich their lives many years hence.

Meaningful, Memorable Nuggets

Especially because winter break cuts so late into January, February at IUP is jammed pack with activity. It tends to move at what seems like lightening speed—a blur that keeps all of us moving toward that one common goal of creating meaningful and memorable experiences for students.

Photo, 2015 Undergraduate Scholars Forum

A glance at the 2015 Undergraduate Scholars Forum.

 

The academic side of the house is putting the final touches now on this year’s Undergraduate and  Graduate Scholars forums, which coincide with Research Appreciation Week in April. In the last few years, the topics students have explored have been impressive. More important, they have been tangible efforts at solving some of life’s real problems. Last year, we saw studies in kidney regeneration in Zebrafish, which could have larger implications on the human kidney; high school and college student drug use; and pedestrian fatalities in Pittsburgh, among many others.

Students work closely with faculty mentors to identify topics, lead their own research projects, and then, after months of study, make a convincing argument on their findings at the forum.  Many go on to present at professional and scholarly conferences.

Photo - Leslie Stapleton, a senior on the basketball team roster who is pursuing a degree in biology.

Both the women’s and men’s basketball teams are in the postseason hunt. In the photo, senior Leslie Stapleton, in IUP’s match up against CalU.

Our athletes are in the thick of the winter season. Swimmers are focusing on the PSAC championships this coming weekend, and we have high hopes for the post season for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. It has been nice to see many IUP Leadership Society members at basketball games and receptions. Let’s hope for more!

February also is the traditional beginning of our internal fundraising efforts, starting with Philanthropy Day. On February 25, students, faculty, and staff will gather in Stapleton Library’s commons to jot out postcards of thanks to people who this year have invested for the first time in the IUP experience. Annually, we also ask students to reinvest in their own education through the Senior Class Gift program, and we ask our faculty and staff members to give to IUP through our University Family Drive.

Some might find it odd that we ask our own employees to give—and even odder that we ask students. Think of it this way: If our faculty and staff members invest charitable dollars into their own work, we believe we make a statement that our work is worthy of the investment of alumni and others. Likewise, when students give to the university, they take responsibility for the future.

When you attend the annual Leadership Society reception on March 2, you’ll have the opportunity to see the results of some of their generosity. As you know, this year’s reception takes place in the new Humanities and Social Sciences building. Gifts from current and retired faculty members helped to establish the building’s Irwin Marcus Public History Room, and students who gave to the Senior Class Gift last year chose to restore stained glass windows from the long-demolished Thomas Sutton Hall. You’ll see the windows in the lobby and on the second floor.

I am thrilled with both efforts. In the case of the Marcus Room, students now are working to archive historical materials that will be used for generations to come.  The stained glass window project returns to the public eye craftwork that has been in storage since the 1970s—nearly two decades before the Senior Class was born. Both cases illustrate that students have an appreciation for our historical culture and that they want to pay that forward.

Engaging students—involving them with worthwhile pursuits—can happen in many different ways. What’s important is that they take away a meaningful nugget—an experience they’ll draw from later in life.

We value your involvement in the university. Please feel free to leave a comment here–or share a meaningful experience you had at IUP.

Volunteers Lend Many Hands, Deliver Better Results

English, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Geography and Regional Planning, and Journalism departments will move into the new Humanities and Social Sciences building in January.

English, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Geography and Regional Planning, and Journalism departments will move into the new Humanities and Social Sciences building in January.

In my last message, I described initiatives in our new strategic plan, which includes developing new programs in environmental engineering, public health, and digital science and security. You’ve seen in IUP Magazine or in IUP Alumni Connections that in January we will open a new building for our Humanities and Social Sciences programs and that we are planning a new building for our science programs.

You might wonder, after we decide to do these things, how we push them forward from shared idea to reality. Doing them takes an incredible amount of team work from the people who daily interact with students, who understand what their needs are now, and who must predict the needs of future students. What might surprise you is the number of volunteers who work right along with us.

Our Council of Trustees, the Foundation for IUP Board of Directors, the IUP Alumni Association Board of Directors, the IUP Research Institute, and the Student Cooperative Association all play a role in the variety of details, but we have other volunteers who will play a starring role in our success.

In recent interviews, our current Deans Merit Scholarship awardees have described how the people they have met at IUP—professors and peers alike—have had a most positive influence. This is something we hear often from alumni. We believe the time is right to capitalize on that sentiment and facilitate more opportunities for alumni to make further IUP connections and also to ask for their counsel. We are forming regional networks where the greatest concentration of alumni live and work, starting closer to Indiana, in New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. We will eventually branch out from there.

In addition, our academic colleges and our Athletics Department have formed Advancement Councils.

In mid-October, we brought to Indiana 60 or so alumni and friends from across the country for our first-ever summit of those seven councils. We’re asking these subject-matter experts for their advice and wisdom, to help us be sure that we’re providing students with the right opportunities while at the same time working toward securing IUP’s financial future through philanthropy.

Among those volunteers is Tim Cejka ’73, the retired president of ExxonMobil Exploration Company, who serves on the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Advancement Council. He and his wife, Deb Phillips Cejka ’73, have now fulfilled their $5 million commitment to our science initiatives. We are grateful for their confidence in us and for the confidence of all the members of the councils who have volunteered to work with us. The Cejkas’ transformative gift illustrates how far we’ve come and how much farther our careful planning and hard work can take us.

This conceptual drawing shows how a new sciences building could look, from the perspective of Oakland Avenue. Wilson Hall is shown in the center. Tim and Deb Cejka’s $5-million gift supports the building.

This conceptual drawing shows how a new sciences building could look, from the perspective of Oakland Avenue. Wilson Hall is shown in the center. Tim and Deb Cejka’s $5-million gift supports the building.

Last Saturday, we celebrated commencement—a ceremony that marks a brand-new beginning for the students who will cross the stage and then move their tassels from one side of the mortar board to the other. It seems like IUP itself is in the throes of a commencement, too. Students are thriving—thanks in large part to investors like you—and as we shore up these groups and networks, we are sure to receive the very best advice, direction, support to march on.

After all, what better source of wisdom and advice could we seek than that of those who know us best?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Best wishes for a happy new year.

What You Mean to Us

Our university is in an advantageous position. As I told the faculty and staff at the beginning of the academic year, AmericanDriscoll, Dr. Michael 82815D17 public higher education is at a crossroads. Institutions across the country are under fire for not delivering the very best return on investment, yet all are suffering from a lack of support and investment themselves from their traditional sources.

Many of those institutions are tripping up on new fads and finding it difficult to find focus and concentrate on the things they do best and on the things that will serve students best. As I told the faculty and staff back in August, we must face the realities of our time and redesign the way we do our business. I also told them we cannot let go of the things we know we do well—providing those eye-opening experiences to the first-generation college student,  being the place where students make lifelong connections, and providing the motivation or inspiration to try new things.

Over the last several years, you may have read in IUP Magazine articles about how the university community came together to confer and reach agreement on a shared vision for our future and then about our new strategic plan. The vision and the plan are our destiny.

In both of these documents, we have committed to ensuring that all students will participate in intentional and interconnected learning experiences in their studies, in their lives, and in the world; that we will engage students in carefully designed open-ended, hands-on experiences to reinforce and enrich what they learn in the classroom; and that we will demonstrate an excellent return on educational investment, whether it’s the student’s investment, the commonwealth’s, or yours.

Among the most exciting components of the plan are new programs in environmental engineering, public health, and digital science and security—programs we know will answer burgeoning societal needs as well as provide students with programs they want and deserve.

With the strategic plan, we have a vigorous roadmap for accountability to ensure we do not fail. We have a faculty and staff who all want the same thing—and they share those aspirations with many alumni who have expressed agreement and endorsed our plans.

Members of the IUP Leadership Society are a key force in IUP’s future. Your influence and your investment lift our university up so that our faculty, staff, and students can reach for and grab onto that proverbial brass ring.

I encourage you to follow the links I’ve provided in this message, read over some of the materials, and leave a comment. After all, this is your university, too.