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!


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.