Creating a Strong Future Through Student Success

I have good news to share. Our Imagine Unlimited Campaign is 88 percent to its $75 million goal. We have you and your steadfast support to thank.

The campaign has three overarching goals—academic excellence, student success, and diversity and inclusion–that have guided us in structuring the university we aspire to be through the lens of the campaign.

Academic excellence and diversity and inclusion are tangible: we are committed to creating eye-opening experiences through engaging academic experiences and by exposing students to new people and situations, preparing them for the world they’ll encounter after graduation. In terms of the Imagine Unlimited Campaign, those relate to ensuring the next generation can access innovative programming and leading-edge facilities.

Student success is closely aligned with that kind of preparation, but sometimes, the concept is not as clear cut. As I see it, student success begins and ends with a first-rate, engaging, and transformative experience–with the emphasis on completion, but what happens in between can vary greatly, depending on each student’s background and educational journey.

For students who are willing to work hard to better themselves, we are ordering all of our resources and all of our work to ensure that each is successful—both here and after graduation.

That means focusing on, among other things, pressure points they might have. If it’s financial burden, we are working to fill gaps through scholarships and financial counseling. If it’s uncertainty about what sparks their academic interest and what they want to do after graduation, we have stepped up our efforts while working with them through programs like the new University College and the Center for Career Development.

In the next edition of IUP Magazine, you’ll read about the growing concern on the national level for the mental health of students on college campuses. We’ve responded with initiatives that include expanding services in the Rhonda Luckey Center for Health and Well-Being and providing more training to our personnel to ensure that any student who needs some extra emotional help can get it.

Just as we’ve worked to open doors to students of varying circumstances—the Labyrinth Center for students with autism, for example, or the Military and Veterans Resource Center—we are finding new and different ways and are striving to make sure those who come here can succeed here, with dignity and on their own with appropriate guidance.

With you, we are facilitating a greater future by guiding students to be academically prepared and well versed in the ways of the world and who are able to adapt to new situations and challenges and are confident, because of the success they experienced at IUP.

Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.

With sincere thanks and great wishes for 2020,

Michael Driscoll


Opening Eyes, Expanding Minds

Photo of Dr. Ben Ford with students at dig site in Blairsville.

Dr. Ben Ford, right, with students at the dig site near Blairsville.

Why should we care that Josiah Townsend found a new species of pit viper last summer?

I’ll admit it. Snakes terrify me, but I have an important reason to celebrate Dr. Townsend’s triumph. The American Association of Colleges and Universities has declared that in this century, all students must master the arts of inquiry and innovation. It recommends that all institutions increase the number of opportunities for students to work with faculty members and others on research.

And you wonder what this has to do with pit vipers, right?

When Dr. Townsend discovered that new species and 22 others, he was working in Honduras on a Fulbright grant, and he took along with him more than a dozen assistants who just happen to be IUP students.

Dr. Townsend is back in Honduras completing his research as part of the grant, but the students returned to IUP with fresh perspectives about their academic journey and benefited from an international experience that will fuel their résumés and their budding careers.

One of the advantages we brag about is that while we are in the company of Pitt, Penn State, and Temple on the statewide scene, our professors, unlike many of theirs, teach undergraduates and engage them in the research. IUP’s rating with Carnegie Classification of Higher Education Institutions bumps up to the second highest level of doctoral universities, if you examine that measure today, based on IUP’s research expenditures and the number of research doctoral degrees we award.

Imagine the value of uncovering a historical truth, as Ben Ford and Bill Chadwick’s students recently did. During the summer Archaeological Field School, the students excavated the village of Newport, an area near Blairsville that was thought to have been first inhabited in 1780. The students found 8,000-year-old artifacts that prove humans settled along the Conemaugh River much earlier than anyone knew.

What I’ve described to you scratches the surface of what is occurring across our campus. Eye-opening experiences like these are what set our undergraduate students apart, are what inspire them to aspire for more, and what put them on the inside track for graduate school and careers.

Now, match up those hands-on discoveries with traditional coursework and value-added credentials like our minor in Leadership and Teamwork or our new Living-Learning Certificate programs in Global Scholarship or Scientific Communication, and you have an undergraduate experience that is pretty tough to beat.

It’s right here at IUP.

As always, I appreciate your interest and support. If you have any questions or comments, please ask or share.

When They Are Ready, We Are Ready

In this day of the rising cost of college tuition, it is refreshing to see a few universities in our area freeze tuition this year—including IUP. Our students will not experience a tuition hike. Making sure that the children of the next generation can obtain a degree is worth for the well-being of our society, as well as for them, personally.

You will find many sources that verify that obtaining a bachelor’s degree is worth the investment. While credentials of other kinds are useful, the bachelor’s degree is still the best way to strengthen lifetime earnings and employment potential.

Being agile and adapting to the needs of young people who want to obtain that education is something universities across the country are striving to do, and IUP is no exception. For the traditional-age student, I see the two scenarios.

  1. You are a graduating high school senior who is academically prepared and eager to begin college. IUP will support and challenge you, even if you don’t know what major course of study to choose. The University College can help you explore options. (Refer to IUP Magazine for details or my post on December 19.)
  2. You want a bachelor’s degree, but academically, you aren’t ready. We at IUP think it’s unethical to admit you and ask you to assume debt for a program you might not complete. Nonetheless, we want you to persevere and suggest you start with a lower-cost option, like community college or trade school first. Or, grow with a job or consider military service before enrolling.

For prospective students who fall into the second category, IUP takes advantage of an array of agreements with community colleges. Our agreement with Westmoreland County Community College, for example, enables qualifying students to easily glide into a bachelor’s degree program. If a student comes to us before they earn an associate degree, WCCC will accept IUP credits in a reverse agreement to award the student an associate degree, a valuable credential.  We also respond to a demand for special niche offerings through our Municipal Police Academy and our Culinary Academy and Clinical Medical Assistant program in Punxsutawney. After all, public universities are obligated to fulfill the needs of the regions we serve.

As we continue to fine tune our admissions standards and adapt to the decreasing number of high school graduates, we want our prospective students and their parents to know that when students are ready to come to IUP, we will be there, ready for them.

Michael Driscoll

In case you missed it…

IUP Ranked in Top 20 Best Online Schools

Biology Professor Chosen as Fulbright US Scholar

Young Students Participate in Serafini Math Camp at IUP

Rising Above

No university president welcomes unproductive controversy, but when it happens, you have two choices. You can ignore it until it festers, or you face it head on. This year, we stared it straight in the face.

It was just a year ago, in IUP Magazine, that I said campuses across the country have become battlegrounds for issues related to the First Amendment. In fact, that same edition of the magazine featured the story, “Speak Out, Listen Up,” which provided readers with coverage and an honest look at related circumstances at IUP.

Since then, the IUP community has dug into the issues during what we’ve referred to as the Year of Free Speech. As a public university, IUP is obligated to uphold the tenets of the First Amendment, regardless of the offending rhetoric’s flavor at any given time. Our aim has been to make students understand that those with opposing viewpoints have the right to say anything they want. Likewise, we want our students to recognize that just because they can say anything doesn’t mean they should.

Throughout the academic year, students, faculty and staff members, and the entire surrounding community have accessed a broad spectrum of programs and viewpoints that have included appearances by Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and author of The Coddling of the American Mind. If you want to get a sense of all the programming, you can see videos of many of the presentations—including Lukianoff’s and Rosen’s—on the IUP Free Speech Project website.

It is quite likely that IUP’s Year of Free Speech could stretch into a few more years. After all, it’s our job to make sure students understand the power of their words as well as our nation’s laws. We must challenge them to rise above what they see on the mean streets of social media and the 24/7 cable cycle—that disagreeing is acceptable, but, to be effective as leaders and community members, they must disagree lawfully and through thoughtful, civil discourse. It’s a must, not only because employers demand people skills and interpersonal qualities but also because we’re in the business of shaping discerning critical thinkers and great human beings.

Triple Crown

Last week, I addressed the campus community in a new forum we call 50 Minutes with President Driscoll. The forum is meant to engage faculty and staff members and students. I provide an update on things that are happening at the university, and then we open the floor for questions and comments. It’s a good way to keep in touch with issues and concerns in a way that includes everyone.  

Much of our discussion centered on student success, overall brand image and reputation, and the Imagine Unlimited Campaign. 

While some might view those things as separate, I view them as interdependent. Student success breeds university success. University success breeds a stronger reputation and image. Stronger reputation and student success create confidence in what we do, which leads to your support. Your support breeds even more student success. Student success secures a better future for us all. 

As we move forward with the University College, which I discussed in my December message to you, we continue to hone the ways we ensure our student experience leads to flourishing graduates who are ready to take on all the challenges we face as a society. 

I’m pleased to give you advanced notice that we are preparing to launch a new brand image later this year. Based on thorough research conducted in person and online with all of our stakeholder groups, the new brand and its accompanying communications plan will assist us in telling the IUP story in a more amplified fashion, with consistency and deep emotion. We know our alumni and friends are proud of their IUP connection, but we want to inspire you to share our stories with your networks.  

And, with your help, we are making incredible leaps through the Imagine Unlimited Campaign. Currently at 81 percent to goal, with a little more than $60 million in hand, the campaign already is creating momentum that will last for years to come. Philanthropic support is ensuring we can prepare students for those eye-opening experiences that make them thrive. 

Student success, a strong image, support from those who invest in the future. Together, they create a cycle of achievement—a triple crown.  

Please leave a comment or question. I always appreciate hearing from you. 


Michael Driscoll

In Case You Missed It 

New Science Facility, College to be Named in Honor of Alumni Couple 

Alumnus Named to National 30 Under 30 Literacy Association List 

A Place for Explorers

We expected a positive response when we decided to establish the University College to better serve our exploring students—those who enter the university without a solid vision for their own future and, therefore, what major to pursue. But, we’re gratified to see real enthusiasm from the people who count most.

Prospective students are quite interested in entering the university without a major, and I can understand why. Imagine yourself as the student who realizes the subject matter of the major you hastily chose, because you had to choose something, doesn’t inspire or excite you. And you have a loan, and the clock is ticking.

While many students know exactly what they want to do as they graduate from high school and move on to college, many do not. Our goal is to give these students a home base and a peer group.

What’s more, prospective students who have ticked the box to enter IUP in the University College are quite bright. Their average high school GPA of the 273 prospective students who have so far indicated on their application that they’d like to enter IUP as exploring students, is 3.3. We’ve admitted 201 of them, and that group’s GPA is 3.4.

We don’t make decisions about establishing new resources like this one without doing our homework. We’ve had a team of faculty members and administrators researching the best approach, and our decisions are confirmed by sources such as EAB, a national firm that assists educational institutions. EAB has concluded that students who enter their post-secondary experience as explorers can finish sooner than students who change majors several times. We all recognize that changing majors several times puts students at risk of not graduating in a timely manner and racking up more debt.

You can learn more about the University College in the current edition of IUP Magazine. The college is one of many goals of our comprehensive Imagine Unlimited campaign. As you probably know, the campaign’s overarching themes are to enhance student success, academic excellence, and diversity and inclusion. I daresay the University College rises to all three of these goals. After all, what better way to facilitate unlimited possibilities than giving students the opportunity to explore their options with expert faculty guides?

As I extend my best wishes to you for the new year, I also would like to say that without you and your support, we couldn’t implement new and innovative programs or accomplish all that we do to prepare the next generation. Your support makes our world a better place through our students’ accomplishments. Thank you for your confidence in us.

Finding Your People. Strengthening Your Network.

Relationships count. I know they do in your life, and they certainly do in mine.

I’d go so far as to say that relationships are the most meaningful thing we as humans have. Whether personal or professional, they are what we lean on in hard times and what we depend on in times of celebration.

As a lifelong educator, I can assure you they are what make the difference between an experience that is passable and an experience that is valued and loved for the ages.

You may know that last year, we conducted a study that polled alumni on their perceptions of IUP and their experience as students. The results were both insightful and gratifying—94 percent of alumni rated their decision to attend IUP as good to great. One bit of feedback caught my eye, though, and it’s what I’d like to address in this first edition of Your Leadership Update. Survey respondents said they’d like to have had more opportunities during their student years to forge relationships with alumni.

I have been impressed since my arrival at IUP at how alumni marvel at their IUP experience—I point to the public announcement of our Imagine Unlimited campaign as an example of how important relationships are. All of our speakers that evening made a point to talk about the friendships they forged and the mentors who encouraged and inspired them. My hope for the future is that each and every one of our students has the opportunity to forge at least five mentor relationships in their time at IUP.

And, wouldn’t it be such an advantage to our students to have had one of those relationships with an alumna, alumnus, or friend of IUP—someone who is familiar with the city they might settle in or the company that might hire them? Someone who knows the ropes. You might know that our Office of Alumni and Friends holds many networking events for our students to connect them with working professionals. We also are grateful for times when alumni and friends come to campus to engage with students, whether it’s in the role of a discussion panelist or guest lecturer. Your contact can make all the difference for a student who might not have the courage to venture far from home or to take a risk in a professional field.

Alumni and donors set the tone. Alumni and donors keep the IUP network strong. Your keep the circle of IUP’s strength alive. As a Leadership Society donor, you already do so much for IUP with your generous commitment of philanthropic support. If mentoring a student is something that would interest you, we would be most grateful for your involvement. Please contact Khatmeh Osseiran-Hanna, our vice president for University Advancement, or Mary Morgan, our director of the Office of Alumni and Friends. Either will be glad to direct you and connect you.

Today, I addressed the university community in our annual fall opening. I invite you to see what I told the audience about our direction in the face of some the big societal challenges our nation faces.

I also told them that because of people like you, our alumni and donors, I have a great deal of hope for our future. If you have a question or comment, please leave it below.

In Case You Missed It
IUP Magazine’s latest edition covers the Imagine Unlimited Campaign Announcement, What Free Speech Means on Campus, and More

Summer Honors Program Gives High School Students Taste of Cook Honors College


Together, We’ve Soared

If you attended Michael Hood’s retirement celebration at the end of May, you heard the testimony and know how fortunate we’ve been to have a dean of Fine Arts who has provided 20 years’ of innovative leadership. But, don’t take my word for it. Ask the scores of donors who invested or reinvested in IUP’s arts programs by endowing a scholarship for students and naming the College of Fine Arts dean’s suite in Michael’s honor. They know how important the arts are to our region and that IUP makes a resounding impact on ensuring we benefit from all they offer.

Worthy of our support, the arts create prosperity—of the heart as well as within the economy. People want to live and work and raise their children in communities that are rich in arts and culture; and so businesses want to be in those places, too. Art, in its many forms, brings us together regardless of our ethnic, religious, or political backgrounds. It enables us to express our values and build understanding. Fundamental to our humanity, the arts inspire goodness and beauty, even in the darkest of times.

Now, let me switch gears.

Perhaps you saw in the news that we received another transformative gift in support of our Imagine Unlimited campaign—this one a $2.8 million gift of software from LMKR, an international petroleum technology company. The Geoscience Department’s need for software came to LMKR’s attention through IUP alumnus Patrick Imbrogno ’78, a Pittsburgh area geologist and owner of GEO-COM, LLC.

LMKR’s Geographix and GVERSETM platform will give our students experience with a tool they can expect to see when they enter the workforce. IUP is now the only university in the Northeast where they can gain that edge. Plus, the gift itself is a great illustration on how universities and industry can partner to keep curricula up to date and ensure that the work place has access to the best prepared young minds.

Situated here, in the heart of western Pennsylvania, atop one of the world’s largest natural gas deposits, IUP must be a leader in ensuring safety as industry responsibly leverages this resource. The software will enable students and faculty members from across disciplines to understand the risks as they master this exploration and production tool.

Seemingly different topics, geological exploration and the arts do, indeed, share an attribute. Both profoundly affect people and communities.

Back in September, my first message of the academic year to you was titled The Year We Soar. Then, I expressed gratitude for your support, which signifies your confidence that our work to empower students for life ripples well beyond Indiana and western Pennsylvania. I thanked you then. I thank you now.

If you have a comment or question, please leave one for me below. We’re always glad to hear from you.

In Case You Missed It:
IUP Launches $75 Million Campaign with $23 Million from Alumni Couple

Planetarium, Atrium Named in Honor of Cejkas

Wildlife Biologist Jeffery Larkin Selected as Next Distinguished University Professor

IUP Opera Theater Tours Area Schools

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.