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2011 State of the University Address

Greetings and welcome to a new academic year at Kutztown University.    

First, I want to recognize Guido Pichini, KU class of 74, who was named the new chair of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors over the summer.  Mr. Pichini, who will remain a member of the KU Council of Trustees, is the first-ever PASSHE alum to serve in the role as chair of the Board of Governors.            

A loyal supporter of Kutztown University was the Honorable Michael O'Pake, who passed away last December.  As a part of our Family Day activities on September 24, we will honor Senator O'Pake's memory by naming Keystone Fieldhouse in his honor

I will begin by reflecting on how the recent budget reductions will affect our university in the year ahead, and leave you with a vitally important charge for us all. 

As you all know, our institution has faced unprecedented budget challenges and changes over the past three years.   As commonwealth funding has decreased, we have dealt with very painful decisions which I am sure, have touched us all in one way or another.

Earlier this year, we were confronted with the shocking possibility that our commonwealth funding could be reduced by as much as 50 percent.   Thanks to our supporters, including many from the KU family, the importance of a Kutztown University and State System education was communicated loud and clear to the decision-makers in Harrisburg.   In the end, an 18 percent reduction in state funding and a 7.5 percent tuition increase resulted in a deficit of $3.8 million.  Over the past three years, we have cut our expenditures by nearly $10 million, primarily through the elimination of 86 positions.

Our decisions this summer resulted in a major reorganization and established the framework for an updated strategic plan.   Protecting our academic core and doing what is best for our current and future students has, and will continue to be, at the center of our mission and vision.   We can and will move forward, and I am confident, we will continue to achieve excellence, while providing our region with graduates who will make a difference in the workplace and community.

With that in mind, I want to share with you the major changes in the structure of our university moving forward.  Effective July 26, Dr. Charles Woodard announced his retirement as vice president of student services and campus life.  Dr. Woodard was a great influence to this campus for the past two decades, and I want to thank him for all he accomplished.  The growth and improvement of our student life area, the outstanding success of our athletics programs, the expansion of our on campus housing, and our strong community relations can directly be attributed to Chick and his excellent staff.   We are very grateful for his service to KU.   
With Chick's departure, we decided to eliminate his former position to help meet budgetary needs, and have disseminated the duties of his division to the remaining members of cabinet.
Intercollegiate Athletics and Sports Medicine have become a part of the Division of Advancement and will report to Associate Vice President, John Green.

Public Safety and Police Services, Recreational Services, the Student Union and the newly termed Housing, Residence Life and Dining Services will report to the Division of Administration and Finance under Vice President Jerry Silberman.

The freshman orientation program, Connections, Health and Wellness Services,  counseling, the Multicultural and Women's centers, the GLBTQ and the Dean of Student Services and Campus Life will become a part of the newly named "Division of Academic and Student Affairs," and will report to Vice-President and Provost Carlos Vargas Aburto.

Another major change we have implemented is the transfer of the previously state-funded Alumni Relations function from the Advancement Division to the Kutztown University Foundation.   The responsibilities will be handled by existing KU Foundation staff, and will result in a savings of nearly $300,000 annually for the university.

We believe after a short adjustment period, that all of these changes will allow each of the aforementioned areas to continue to thrive, grow and help guide our university into the future.
I am also pleased to announce that KU will host Felix Vallejo, from Universidad del Valle de Mexico as an ACE Fellow during the 2011-2012 academic year.   We are thrilled to have him on board.  

On opening day last year, I shared with you the three primary goals of cabinet related to our strategic plan and driven by our Middle States accreditation.  I am proud to report that we made significant progress on all three goals, and I would like to briefly share the results at this time. 
Our first goal was to begin the new general education model implementation process.
This was met with success, as the new general education curriculum is being introduced this fall for all incoming freshmen.  It has clearly stated learning goals which will be used to assess learning successes and enhance the educational experiences of our students. 
With this new model, KU is joining the national conversation about transforming higher education to more clearly, explicitly, and collaboratively provide our students with the knowledge and skills needed for success in the 21st century.   For those who are new to general education, I invite you to learn more by visiting the website: 

Our second goal was to demonstrate evidence of continuous assessment of student learning outcomes and institutional effectiveness. This would include verification that budgeting, planning, and resource allocation are used effectively in decision making processes -- processes that support institutional programs and structures that enhance student learning and success.  We made significant strides in this area over the past year, thanks to the hard work of our institutional effectiveness implementation team. 

Instructional and non-instructional units identified goals, worked to achieve those goals, documented progress, and will continue to use evidence to improve planning and decision making.  In addition, we are concentrating on the development of the monitoring report which we will send to Middle States next March.   There is still important work to be done in this area through the update of our strategic plan, which you will read about shortly.

Our third goal was to improve the overall communication on campus.  This was to begin with my office and include regular communications reaching the entire university community.
To accomplish this goal, we instituted a periodic update to the campus community during the academic year.  The "President's Update" provided information on current issues and highlighted some of the many outstanding accomplishments of our campus.  

In addition, we enhanced the faculty/staff newsletter "The Daily Brief" to make it easier to read, more interesting and more dynamic through the use of Flickr, video, and KU personality features.  We have also enhanced our communication through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which has more than 10,000 fans.

I want to thank everyone who played a part in helping us achieve these goals.  The results have definitely enhanced our campus and established an excellent foundation for future planning.  

It is always encouraging at the start of the fall semester to look back to review the key accomplishments of our university over the past year.  They are a clear indication that no matter what challenges we face, we continue to remain focused to accomplish our goals. 

Let us start with a review of ACADEMIC & STUDENT AFFAIRS, led by Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto, provost and vice-president.   I want to thank Carlos' division for taking the lead in the aforementioned general education and assessment goals and highlight the following:
We had 12,000 student applications, a record number, received and processed by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions for this academic year.  18 percent of the freshmen class is students of color, the highest level of diversity ever. More than 1,900 transfer applications were received.

Our student honors were highlighted by KU senior Alison Koser, a double major in Physics and Mathematics, who received the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence.  This award is given to only one PASSHE student each year and it is the first time a KU student was the recipient.  In addition, 27 students received university funding to carry out undergraduate research.

On the faculty side, Dr. Kunal Das and Dr. Adrienne Oakley, received research grant awards from one of science's most prestigious research funding agencies, the National Science Foundation.   Also, there was approximately a two percent increase in professional publications over 2009-10 (118), an approximate five percent increase in professional presentations (233), and an approximate nine percent increase in service to the profession or community (113).  

We are excited to report that The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accepted the first annual progress report submitted by the College of Business.  The second report is due in June 2012. 

Three new program proposals were submitted to PASSHE for approval.  They include an M.S. in criminal justice, a professional science masters in computer science, and a minor in art history.  Two letters of intent were also submitted, a B.S./M.S. in mathematics and an M.F.A. in communication design.   

This past spring, the Department of Human Kinetics was moved from the College of Education to the College of Business and renamed the Department of Sport Management.  
Although we went live in the spring, fall 2011 is the first semester in which we are utilizing the new PeopleSoft software from start to finish.  We provided electronic bills for the first time in our history and "MyKU" is now open for business to access Campus Solutions. 

In the student affairs area, 3,400 students provided 47,544 hours of community service to the borough, township, and surrounding communities in 2010-11.  The Community Outreach Center provided 1,500 students hundreds of opportunities to complete 10,000 hours of volunteerism to local food banks, community agencies, and educational organizations.
2,002 freshmen attended Connections in June 2010 --- a record number, with 24 more students than 2009.  906 family members attended Family Connections, an increase of 95 from 2009 and an increase of 114 from 2008.

A new ADA-compliant Health and Wellness Center opened in 2010, allowing for better student healthcare and increasing the number of students that can be served.  The University Counseling Center made a successful transition as it completed its first year in this new facility.

Switching to ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE, Jerry Silberman, Vice President

Significant construction is underway on campus, however much of it is related to non-glamour projects, such as concrete work, chiller replacements, water infiltration remediation, etc.  Nevertheless, there are a few capital projects that warrant mention:

First, Schaeffer auditorium - the design of this project is nearing completion with construction to commence in January of 2012.  This $18.2 million project includes the renovation of the entire facility as well as an addition of 14,000 gross square feet.

Second, the Maintenance building - Construction has commenced on this $8 million project which will include an expansion to the existing maintenance building and the demolition and relocation of the University Garage and former heat plant. 

And Beck Hall - Final work has been completed on this project which provides a much needed facelift and upgrades to the student housing rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor of this facility.  Beck Hall is the first of several residence halls which will be renovated, while maintaining their traditional room configuration.  These changes will improve the housing environment for our students, particularly freshmen, as they transition into college life. 
One of the great features of our campus is its beauty.   And that continues to be acknowledged at a national level.   For the second year in a row, our campus grounds were honored with a Green Star Honor Award by the Professional Grounds Management Society.  This annual competition is designed to find the most beautiful publicly and privately maintained campus in the nation.  Congratulations again to our KU grounds crew led by Associate Vice President Jeff Grimm and Assistant Director of Campus Services, Will Meeker.

We will now move on to the division of UNIVERSITY ADVANCEMENT, led by John Green, associate vice president

A primary tactical difference in our 2010-11 marketing was the inclusion and expansion of social and digital media into our campaigns.

Master's programs, Summer Sessions, and transfer students specifically benefited from social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and targeted online banner advertising.
Highlights of our marketing efforts included: a new KU Presents website; the creation of new videos and DVDs for the College of Visual and Performing Arts; and a new electronic media program brochure.

In addition to taking the lead with our communications goals, the University Relations Office was responsible for the development of a new series of recruiting brochures for our admissions office.   Work continued on project r.edu, the revamping and redesign of our website, which is expected to launch at the beginning of the new calendar year.   Our web team has completed its research and worked to develop the site design, which we can share with you at this time, by showing you what the homepage will look like.  The new brochures and website will be crucial in our marketing efforts to continue to attract the brightest and best students.  In addition, thanks to University Relations' work, KU continued at the forefront of regional news and sports media throughout the year.

KU Presents served more than 6,500 patrons last year and more than 2,000 elementary, middle and high school students through education and outreach performing arts programming.

The year also featured the successful opening of the new presenting series: Ursa Minor's Café in the MSU Multipurpose room, with four concerts of diverse world class artists.  This series will also serve as a primary performing arts and entertainment series during the renovations of Schaeffer Auditorium.

Our Conference Services office continued to increase the number and quality of camps, increasing revenue approximately $60,000 over the previous year, while our Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center reorganized personnel and its advisory committee, while developing a master plan for its future.

The newest member of advancement, intercollegiate athletics had another year to remember in 2010-11.  Eleven of our 21 teams competed in NCAA championships, highlighted by the best-ever season for our football team.  Our Golden Bears finished with a team-record 10 wins, advancing to the NCAA playoffs for the first-time ever and attracting record setting crowds in the process.  

In addition, our men's tennis team won its third consecutive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title and unprecedented 10th in the past 12 years.

And our student-athletes continued to excel in the classroom, highlighted by women's basketball standout Melissa McQuade.   Melissa finished as our all-time leading women's basketball scorer and rebounder while graduating with a 3.94 GPA and earning a spot on the national Capital One Academic All-America Second Team. 

She joined 99 other KU student-athletes on the Dean's List this past spring, and was one of 125 Golden Bear student-athletes earning PSAC Scholar-Athlete status during last academic year.  That is the second highest number in school history.  Congratulations to all of our student-athletes and coaches for their outstanding success.

Switching to the division of EQUITY AND COMPLIANCE, Jesus Pena, esquire, associate vice president.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, the Office of Social Equity monitored more than 150 faculty and management searches.  From assisting with recruitment strategies, to reviewing rubrics and interview questions, to certifying candidates to be interviewed, the Office of Social Equity worked side-by-side with our search committees to hire the best qualified and diverse faculty and staff in furtherance of our university's mission "to provide a high quality education".

As in previous years, the Office of Social Equity compiled and made available to the campus the university's annual affirmative action plan, which serves as a snapshot of our university's workforce and is designed to identify and address the underutilization, if any, of qualified women and minorities within our workforce. 

The Office of Social Equity updated our university's sexual harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to ensure we are providing an appropriate learning and working environment in compliance with our laws, regulations, and university policies.   Within the next few weeks, the Office of Social Equity expects to unveil the policies training program online through D2L so faculty and staff may receive the training electronically at their convenience.
In furtherance of our university's mission and vision of access, inclusion, and equal opportunities, the Disability Services Office currently serves 510 students, with an additional 317 students in the process of obtaining services. 

Finally, let's take a look at the KU Foundation and Alumni Engagement, Jason Ketter, executive director

As you may recall, about a year ago the KU Foundation separated its operations from the university.   This move ensured that KU donor records remain confidential and are protected by the foundation. This was a necessary step and very much in line with the actions taken by the other PASSHE schools. The foundation remains the non-profit fundraising organization for Kutztown University, though it is legally separate from the university. 

2010-11 was a successful year for the KU Foundation, though one that also brought with it a series of changes.  First, the foundation received new leadership with the appointment of Jason Ketter in February.  Jason, a KU alumnus, brings more than 20 years of fundraising and alumni relations experience to the job.  We welcome Jason's leadership, enthusiasm, and passion for KU.

As I mentioned previously, the foundation is now responsible for alumni services and programming.  The foundation reorganized its staff to carry out all alumni relations activities under its existing budget. On account of this change, the foundation will use a working name, one that reflects its new, dual purpose: Kutztown University Foundation and Alumni Engagement. The Alumni Engagement office will continue to build beneficial relationships among KU alumni and between the university and its graduates.

The foundation had some excellent accomplishments during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.  There have been some significant gifts, for example: a $50,000 gift from the Diebold Foundation to support the PA German Cultural Heritage Center, the establishment of a $250,000 endowed scholarship from alumnus Jim Zellner and his wife Joanna, and a substantial gift from Carole and Ray Neag to fund undergraduate research by students within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This research fund will directly impact the students' work by providing the equipment, travel, or financial wherewithal necessary for the completion of a research project, and will help support students in their academic and intellectual endeavors.  

In addition, one of the most exciting efforts undertaken by the foundation is the formal launch of a comprehensive capital campaign called Setting the Stage, the Campaign for Kutztown University, so named because one of the priorities set by the university for this campaign is the renovation of Schaeffer Auditorium. This campaign is designed to help celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of the founding of KU by securing much-needed resources to benefit both the university overall and its students and faculty.  To date, the campaign has raised approximately $7.1 million of its $15 million goal, and will conclude its operations in time for the celebration of Kutztown's sesquicentennial.

Finally, a major undertaking by the foundation has been the development of a new website for the Foundation and Alumni Engagement.  With the launch of www.give2ku.org, you can browse  information about  supporters of KU, the impact of philanthropy, detailed resources on planned giving and estate planning, information on the campaign, and ways  to make a gift in support of our students and faculty.   We look forward to more good things to come out of the Foundation and Alumni Engagement operation.

Finally, I want to share with you what has to be the priority for all of us in the months ahead --- the update of our strategic plan.  

For anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to current affairs, global strife and conflict, crushing human need around the world, and, closer to home, grave financial fluctuations, high unemployment, confrontational politics, and general concern and anxiety, we know these are extraordinarily challenging times.  Higher education, particularly public higher education, is not removed from this larger context.

States across the country, including Pennsylvania, are struggling to match modest resources and revenues with rapidly expanding public needs, including education at all levels.  In this environment of ever-rising expectations regarding "return on investment," it is absolutely critical that we be able to articulate a clear and defensible vision of the role our university plays.

With the perspective of hindsight, some of our past years now seem to have been quieter, gentler times.  The years ahead, with likely fluctuations of public funding, greater calls for accountability, and the need to use our resources as prudently as possible, it is all the more urgent that we have a strategic plan that is grounded in a realistic and rigorous assessment of our environment, our resources, and our opportunities.   This plan must be the road map to allocate our finite resources and fulfill our mission.

The strategic planning process we embarked upon in 2008 was certainly consultative and inclusive, but what was formulated in the end was something akin to a "wish list" of initiatives.  What was lacking in the final version was any priority of initiatives or specific action steps to accomplish them, and equally important, the metrics by which progress might be assessed, any assignment of responsibility to particular parties or individuals, and a timetable.
I am convinced, therefore, that we must revisit the current strategic plan.  We must sort through the 39 initiatives listed under the four major goals, and we must put a smaller number of key projects and initiatives in priority.  Moreover, for each of these, we must supply specific details, metrics for assessment, and assign responsibility.  By doing so, we will also be complying with the mandate of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  

Kutztown University has a noble mission and a venerable tradition of which we are rightly proud.  If we are to distinguish ourselves among the Pennsylvania state colleges and universities, we must recognize - however painful the consequences may be - that we simply cannot do everything.   The substance of our planning must be selective and to be so, we must have an overall strategic plan.

Recognizing the importance of this effort, and, indeed, the added urgency that it be completed in a timely fashion, and at the same time keeping up with our tradition of shared governance, during the last few days I consulted with our Governance bodies and appointed a Task Force to work on the plan.  The group will be co-chaired by Dr. Carole Wells and Dr. James Delle.  The Strategic Plan Task Force will begin work immediately, with a deadline of December 1 of this year to deliver an updated and restructured strategic plan.  Throughout the work of the Task Force, there will be regular communiqués to the campus community via our web site, with invitations for comments, suggestions, and revisions.  These will be complemented by two campus-wide meetings where the Task Force will share its work to that point and the entire campus community will have the opportunity to offer its comments and ask questions. 
The stakes are high and the times ahead uncertain.  But the optimist that I am sees this route as our best way of drawing on our traditional strengths, eliciting the best, creative ideas of our colleagues, and setting our course as clearly as possible.

In closing, I want to thank our faculty and staff for their commitment to our students.  Although the way we approach our work in the future may be different than it has been in the past, I know that we will all continue to do what is necessary to provide an outstanding education to the region and beyond --- just as we have done for the past 145 years.