Prosperity Through Diversity

Through our efforts at being a more diverse academic community, we are contributing to western Pennsylvania in a way that will help to secure its transformation and success.

Photo, ribbon cutting, Center for Multicultural Leadership and Student Engagement

At the ribbon cutting of the new center

Did you hear that we opened our new Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement Center? Our student leaders are thrilled to have a new space dedicated to their extracurricular activities. Our new and improved Elkin Hall provides the place and space where students can be individuals and confer with others of like interests, and it’s a place where they can collaborate and work together with people who are completely different. The center is abuzz from early morning to late at night, as various councils and groups and subcommittees meet to govern, plan fundraisers, and learn from doing.

I couldn’t be more pleased. In our much more globalized world, creating this center and the opportunities it presents is at its most simple definition a practical approach to providing our students with a dose of reality.

We owe them the opportunity to develop an appreciation for what commonalities and differences between people might mean in the workplace and in our communities. We owe it to them, so that they will know how to build better teams, to navigate circumstances that are new and different to them, and to find solutions to problems that plague us all.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the first in a series of meetings with alumni in Pittsburgh. As you might imagine, speaking with alumni in Pittsburgh includes telling them why IUP is important to Pittsburgh. It’s an easy tale to tell with an abundance of research and service occurring.

With our status as one of only four public doctoral/research universities in Pennsylvania—Pitt, Penn State, and Temple are the others—we are interested in forging more corporate partnerships. My presentation was full of examples—from how our Regional Planning faculty and students are assisting communities to prepare for the construction of the Shell Cracker plant in Beaver County to how an array of our academic departments are making life better for people with autism.

Yet, out of those examples, I think the most important point I made was how, through our efforts at being a more diverse academic community, we are contributing to western Pennsylvania in a way that will help to secure its transformation and success.

The Pittsburgh media has reported often about the region’s lack of diversity and how it diminishes the chances for organizations and corporations looking to relocate. Likewise, the Pittsburgh metropolitan region continues to have one of the oldest populations in the country. Despite what we all know and love about southwest Pennsylvania’s blend of rural beauty and city sophistication, we face being left behind in favor of other cities that have access to qualified, forward-thinking, young workers.

Corporate leaders understand that having a diverse staff is good for business—for understanding a changing customer base, for bringing a variety of perspectives to the table. Regions with a well-educated and diverse citizenry grow.

As we continue to educate the children of Pennsylvania, we have found it most important to reach farther into minority populations here and across state lines. Well more than 20 percent of our student body consists of underrepresented groups, while we host more than half of the State System of Higher Education’s international population. To bring together students of all backgrounds sets the stage for eye-opening educational experiences and prepares them for what they’ll face after they graduate.

A diverse and inclusive environment is a pathway to better business, better communities, and general prosperity.

No doubt, IUP is a part of the solution to making our region vibrant through diversity.

In Other News…

We are in the midst of planning our new science building. Interest and charitable investment are building for our science and math programs, including two recent million-dollar gifts from Bill and Audrey Madia and Terry Serafini.

If you love March Madness, you’ll want to stay tuned to our basketball teams, both of which have had top rankings in the NCAA Atlantic Region. Our women’s basketball team is hosting the semifinal game in the PSAC tournament this weekend.

IUP earned a top ranking from Affordable Colleges Online, while our doctoral program in Clinical Psychology was ranked the nation’s second by “Best Counseling Degrees.” 

From Competitors to Well-Rounded Leaders

It’s a competitive world we live in. What better way to prepare students for the world they face than placing them in a competitive atmosphere?

Research tells us that even small doses of adversity and challenge help to develop resilience and that competition heightens relationship-building skills through emotional and social intelligence. Drive, passion, and empathy—winning and losing with grace—are essential ingredients in leadership. Competition breeds all of those qualities and abilities.

That’s one of the reasons I relish the fact that IUP is a big player in NCAA Division II. Thanks to how IUP embodies the Division II philosophy, our athletes benefit from a well-rounded experience. They are immersed in their academic coursework and extracurricular activities, they spend a great deal of time with their teammates doing volunteer work in the community, and they still face fierce sports competition. Division I athletes can’t necessarily say they do all three.

What a year we are having so far!

Our football team just won the PSAC championship, and with our Number 1 ranking in the NCAA Super Region, we have a bye for the first round and will host the second round on November 25. I hope to see you in the stands! (We’re having a pregame party that day. See details.)

Our men’s cross country team placed third at NCAA regionals, ensuring our runners a spot at the NCAA Championship meet in Evansville, Indiana, today.

The women’s basketball team beat the University of Pittsburgh—yes, Pitt!—at a preseason game and go off to a fabulous regular-season start with two big wins during the S&T Bank PSAC-MEC Challenge.

The golf team won another PSAC title, and senior Joshua Bartley won the individual championship title.

Likewise, the volleyball team made it to the quarterfinals of the PSAC tournament and still might receive an invitation to the NCAA regional tournament. We’ll know more next week.

The nationally ranked men’s basketball team has been traveling to area schools as part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Stay in to Win program, which encourages students to stay in school.

It’s easy to brag about IUP’s outstanding students, and our athletes represent us so well. They truly are leaders in the making.

We are moving full speed ahead on a number of fronts. In the last installment of Your Leadership Update, I noted that we have the best people working to have the most positive impact on our world.

Here are a few examples.

Our graduate Applied Archaeology program was identified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists as a top 10 producer of registered professional archaeologists. In other words, we are producing the best qualified people responsible for preserving history and culture. You’ll read about one instance of that in the next edition of IUP Magazine.

Professors associated with the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Research and Training Institute at IUP are hard at work combatting the nation’s opioid crisis. Rural communities like Indiana are struggling with this epidemic, and we have a cross-disciplinary group actively planning training and prevention and preparing to conduct research on causes and solutions.  All have involved students in their work, providing that hands-on approach to learning that I often describe.

Our campus community is actively exploring racism in the United States, illustrated by a recent cross-curricular discussion that examined race and diversity, the First Amendment and free speech, forms of protest, and historical perspectives and cultural perspectives. Likewise, our President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion is on the advent of releasing the draft Diversity Action Plan to the campus community.

I welcome your comments and questions, and, always, I thank you for your support and interest in IUP.


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

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.