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2013 State of the University Address


Greetings and welcome to the 2013-14 academic year.

I will begin this year's address by sharing information on the University Strategic Plan and recruitment and retention. Cabinet recently completed a review of the Strategic Plan in order to assess the results of previous year actions against goals, and also to ensure that the plan maintained its relevancy in our current dynamic higher education environment. A draft of the updated plan will be shared with the Strategic Planning and Resources Committee for review and comment prior to adoption. The plan remains focused on students; particularly student access and success.

In the past year, I have expressed concern regarding our recruitment and retention numbers and projections. While lower figures have been a trend for higher education in general, we must be proactive and do our part to ensure the health of Kutztown University.

In the recruiting area, we are facing a change in demographics among high school graduates. As was predicted in 2007, the number of high school graduates has fallen throughout the commonwealth during this decade. This includes fewer graduates in some of the counties that have been prime recruiting areas for us.

And for the counties where numbers have remained strong, competition for those students has increased. Families also have to make an investment in a college education at a time when the economy has not been stable. And higher education institutions now must do a better job of convincing the public of the worth of a college degree.

We also need to ensure we are doing what is necessary to support student success once they get here. Last fall, we had an above average number of students who decided not to continue at KU for varying reasons --- some of them being poor academics and financial stress. It is obviously a worthwhile investment to retain these students and help them achieve their goal of earning a college degree and entering the workforce.

With this as a background, it is evident that we all must embrace a new perspective on recruiting and retaining students. It is necessary not only to continue to provide an educated workforce for the commonwealth and beyond, but to protect the well-being of our university.\

As an example, our budget fell short again last year by $5 million. The projected deficit for the coming year could reach $10 million. Dipping enrollment plays a primary role in our funding gaps.

I have shared several of the proactive steps we have taken in the past year to overcome our enrollment issues. I will touch on some of those, but want to encourage you to visit our website on the screen for detailed information --- including our strategic enrollment plan.

I am delighted to share that Kimberly Scranage has accepted the position of Vice President for Enrollment Management here at KU and will join us October 7. Kimberly has been the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Shepherd University in West Virginia since 2007 and has worked in higher education since 1997. She will provide leadership to a new division that will focus its efforts on recruitment and retention. In addition to the new vice president, the Division of Enrollment Management will include Admissions, Financial Aid, the Registrar's Office, Institutional Research, the New Student Orientation Office and the recently created Office of Veteran's Affairs.


These are exciting changes, which will be a great help in fulfilling the enrollment plan. Again, I encourage you to visit the website for complete details.

Speaking of exciting!...............Kutztown University was named to the Princeton Review Best of the Northeast list for the third time in the last four years. The region includes 11 states and the District of Columbia. Selection is based on a survey of our students, faculty and staff, as well as our academic standing. It is an honor we can all certainly be proud of.


Another item to look forward to is the update of the Campus Master Plan, which is currently in progress. While we have had to scale back some of our original plans, there are several projects we have identified that will have a very positive impact on our campus.


Recent examples have included the creation of Golden Bear Plaza at the site of the old garage and heating plant, which combines student recreation, history and beauty. We look forward to dedicating this area on September 21 prior to the football home opener against Bloomsburg.


I also want to remind you that we are just two short years away from celebrating our 150th birthday. I am happy to report that Guido and Sue Pichini have agreed to be the honorary co-chairs of the Kutztown University Sesquicentennial Celebration and Matt Santos, Director of University Relations, has agreed to serve as coordinator of the sesquicentennial steering committee. The sesquicentennial planning and events will provide a great opportunity for all of us to pull together to celebrate our past, present and future.


Let's now turn our attention to our various units and share some highlights from each area from the past year.


We begin with the DIVISION OF ACADEMIC AND STUDENT AFFAIRS, led by Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto, Provost and Vice President.


Of the many accomplishments, some of the top highlights included our university being named once again to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service, civic engagement and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. I am proud to say that 30 percent of our students are engaged in service activities, which is an important consideration for this honor. The selection marks the fifth time in the last seven years KU has been included.


We developed a program commemorating Latin honors, awarding medallions to more than 400 student recipients at commencement last spring.


Our faculty and staff produced 78 professional publications; 177 professional presentations and 87 reports of service to profession or community.


In addition, we recruited and hired 42 faculty, including 18 tenure-track, and 24 temporary.

In the area of Student Success and Enrollment, The KU Evidence Team for Equity Scorecard concluded the "access" phase and recommended several changes that should positively impact recruitment of under-represented minority students. The team is currently working on retention, persistence, and college completion phases.


We increased the number of students recruited into STEM disciplines by 8.3 percent.
Academic Enrichment introduced and piloted the Academic Transformation at Kutztown Program to provide peer mentors for at-risk students motivated to improve academic performance.


And we exceeded Department of Education goals in persistence rate (88.6%), good academic standing rate (90.3%), and bachelor's degree attainment rate (65%).


Our Facilities/Technology team is providing residence halls with large-scale wireless network access and completed the redesign and renovation of classroom technology systems in thirteen large lecture halls.

The highlights in the four academic colleges included the completion of the NCATE review and reaccreditation site visit for the College of Education, while the College of Business received AACSB approval to proceed into the self-study process.


The College of Visual and Performing Arts received Board of Governors and National Association of Schools of Art and Design Plan Approval for a Master's of Fine Art in Communication Design.


And the new Sport Management and Leadership Studies Department was formed by merging Sport Management and the Professional Studies departments.

In the area of accreditation, we submitted the Periodic Review Report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on June 1. We have received a report from the Middle States review team, and are currently working on crafting an institutional response.


We have made good progress in establishing a culture that values assessment and we must continue that effort. Assessment work is an important process in examining our work and improving the educational experiences that we provide our students. All of us need to continue to ensure that students learn the skills, knowledge, and dispositions of their specific major, and just as important, the skills, knowledge and dispositions of General Education.

We made some strides in the area of distance education, including introduction of the Advanced Teaching Online Certification Course for experienced online instructors. KUOnline was relaunched with a new web presence, featuring an extensive faculty support page and accompanying YouTube channel. Also, we developed "Graduate Connections", an interactive, online student orientation alternative for incoming graduate students.

Our Financial Aid Services office completed its eighth year with the "College Can Be a Reality" partnership with Lauer's Park Elementary School in the Reading School District, serving 26 students and their parents with monthly exchanges and two campus visits.


I am thrilled to inform you that we have two students who participated in the Lauer's Park program enrolled on campus this fall, and a third student who has applied to transfer from RACC.

The Grants and Sponsored Projects office facilitated the awarding of 20 grants and/or contracts from external sponsors, while $71,000 in scholarships were awarded to marine and environmental science students through the National Science Foundation S-STEM grant.

In the Student Affairs area --- we launched voter registration drive through TurboVote resulting in more than 1,050 students registered to vote in the Fall 2012 election.

Our radio station, KUR, received the "Golden Microphone" award from the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System for broadcast excellence; and the Health and Wellness Center nursing staff achieved a peer review score of 95% in all categories required by the profession of nursing Continuous Quality Initiative Standard.

And we had a record number attend the Family Connections Program with 1,116 participants representing 788 families.

Let's switch to the Division of Administration and Finance, Jerry Silberman, Vice President.

In the area of facilities --- in addition to Schaeffer, we completed the renovation of Lehigh Hall and currently have Schuylkill Hall under construction. These renovations provide a bright, welcome environment for the students in these residence halls. Along with the visible improvements, complete upgrades were made to the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.


The College of Education faculty and staff were temporarily housed in the old Health Center throughout the summer during the replacement of the Beekey building air handling systems. Beekey is now back online and ready for the new semester.

Classroom and laboratory renovations continued this past summer in Boehm and DeFrancesco. DeFran 100 was given several upgrades which will lead to an improved classroom experience for many of our students.


A major roof replacement was performed at Rohrbach Library and concrete repairs continued on the south campus DMZ.


As mentioned earlier, future facility maintenance and revitalization plans were identified through the update of our campus master plan and will be shared with the campus community for comment. The university's architectural firm, Ewing Cole has facilitated the planning effort which will serve to guide the university's facility investments for the next ten years.

In the area of Housing, Residence Life, and Dining --- In addition to planning for renovations related to the residence halls as part of the Campus Facilities Master Plan, the university is also planning on extensive changes to its student meal plan programs.


These changes are intended to dramatically improve student satisfaction with campus meal plans. Modifications to both north and south campus dining facilities are planned to begin next summer, with the full opening of the new program scheduled for Fall, 2016.


Information about these changes, along with the projected timeline will be provided during the fall semester.

Let's next take a look at the former division of advancement, which has been renamed the Division of Communications, Marketing & External Affairs. John Green, Associate Vice President


Beginning with University Relations, our main website and social media pages continued to grow in popularity. Followers of our main social media accounts have grown to 17,600 on facebook (24% growth) and 4,900 on twitter (70% growth). Viewers watched videos 35,000 times on our YouTube Channel and we have begun a presence on Pintrest and Instagram. University Relations also assistedwith more than 100 social media sites managed by other offices via our social media directory.
Overall web traffic increased as well. Last year, the redesigned section of our website received more than 12.5 million page views and 1 million unique visitors.


The university magazine, Tower, was honored for its excellence by the College and University Public Relations Association of Pennsylvania.
We continued to garner strong press through the many efforts of our faculty, students, athletic teams and alumni, highlighted by the many outstanding academic and cultural arts programs we hosted, and the participation of our rugby teams in the nationally televised Collegiate Rugby Championships.


And through merchandising, KU Golden Bears gear is now being carried at WalMart in Temple, Boscov's in Berks County and the Lehigh Valley, several on-line sites and our official headquarters for Kutztown gear --- the KU Student Bookstore. Be sure to stock up on your maroon and gold apparel for the new year!


The Conference Services Office had a great season, rebounding from a slow summer in 2012. Camps being held at KU this summer grew to nearly 60 with approximately 9,000 potential students visiting campus.


After a series of sold out shows last year with Ursa Minors Café, KU Presents is happy to have Schaeffer Auditorium back on line. Under the leadership of new director Robin Zaremski, we have a great line-up of performances planned for you in the year ahead. Be sure to go to KUPresents.com to buy your tickets for this season.


The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center continues to garner excellent media coverage due to its strong connection to our area's past. All of the center's events grew in attendance, and hundreds of tours were conducted. The Heritage Center's usage was increased in cooperation with many academic programs. And the center took over the publishing of the largest Pennsylvania German dialect newspaper in the world.
In the area of marketing, the KU Mobil App went live and now has more than 600 users. Marketing has also been involved in a major push for enrollment, conducting a fall enrollment impact program in the Lehigh Valley, Berks and Lancaster/Harrisburg areas, and leading numerous academic program and admissions campaigns.


Golden Bear Athletics and Sports Medicine continued to excel with nearly 600 student-athletes performing well in the classroom and on the playing venues.


Last fall, the NCAA released the Federal Graduation Rate Report which indicates KU student-athletes have maintained a six-year graduation rate of 72 percent, easily eclipsing the national student-athlete average of 55 percent. It is also significantly higher than the 48 percent national average for students in general.


On the field and courts, the softball team won its second straight NCAA Regional title and first-ever PSAC title before going on to finish as runner-up at the NCAA Division II National Championships.


Our men's tennis team won the PSAC championship once again, while the women's tennis team won its first-ever PSAC East title.


Individual accomplishments included Kori Meshaw of the men's track & field team being named an Academic All-American and Ridhima Borooah (Ba-Row-Ah) of the women's tennis team being named the Champion Scholar of the PSAC Championships. We had All-America performances by Brooke Bower of the women's bowling team, Kevin Morton of the football team, Ziad Haddad (ZEE-odd HAA-DAAD) of the wrestling team and Kori Meshaw of the men's track and field team. Kevin Morton, incidentally, finished his career as one of the top passers in PSAC and NCAA Division II history, breaking most of the school passing records in the process. More importantly, Kevin and his senior teammates completed the most successful three-year stretch in KU football history.


Kutztown University was also in the spotlight at the NCAA convention in January when our alumnus, Captain David Borden was the national selection for the NCAA Inspiration Award.
Dave's story, which received great attention, is truly phenomenal, and we are very proud of him.

Let's switch to the Division of Equity and Compliance, under the direction of Associate Vice President, Jesus A. Peña, Esq.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the Office of Social Equity monitored approximately 195 faculty and management searches. From assisting with recruitment strategies, to reviewing rubrics and interview questions, to certifying candidates to be interviewed, staff 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".


The office staff updated our university's Sexual Harassment, Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies, to be in compliance with recent legal updates, including Title IX, the Clery Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.

In addition, Social Equity contributed to the updating of policies within the area of Academic and Student Affairs, to ensure we are providing an appropriate learning and working environment in compliance with our laws, regulations, and university policies.

The Disability Services Office currently serves 590 students, with an additional 200 students in the process of requesting services. The support and accommodations offered by the office assist our students with disabilities to succeed in all facets of university life, as well as serving and supporting our faculty and staff with disabilities in their professional endeavors.


When a student with a disability is required to take an exam and needs certain accommodations, they may take the exam at the Testing Center in Stratton Administration Building. Last year, the office provided testing accommodations for 1,983 exams.


The KU Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force continues to make Kutztown University a veteran-friendly campus. As "wounded warriors" return to college, common impairments are: hearing and vision loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and orthopedic injuries. In conjunction with the task force, we have developed a recruitment pamphlet and website especially for veterans; actively recruited veterans through an admissions veteran liaison; revitalized the KU Military Club; promoted the availability of scholarships; included information for veterans at Connections; and partnered with a number of community organizations which serve veterans.


The office sponsored various speakers and participated in several high school transition events designed to help students with disabilities and their parents learn about advancing to college.


Disability Services also hosted, planned and facilitated the Transition Academy Day, which is a collaborative effort between the Berks County Intermediate Unit's Transition Coordinating Council and area colleges.


Approximately 40 high school students and staff spent time on campus attending classes and shadowing our students.

Switching to the Kutztown University Foundation.


The foundation had a busy year, highlighted by the hiring of new executive director Tracey Thompson, who will take the helm on September 1. Tracey brings more than 20 years of advancement experience to the position from her time spent working within both higher education institutions and non-profit organizations. Most recently, she served as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Antioch University New England, in Keene, NH, where she implemented an alumni outreach program, oversaw the growth of the annual fund and unrestricted giving, and helped create a robust culture of philanthropy at the university's New England campus. We are looking forward to having Tracey on board.


Before I conclude, I want to share a few important points from an article that appeared recently in University Business. The article, titled "7 Ways to Nurture Graduate Outcomes," re-emphasizes the message I shared earlier and is one that we need to pay heed to.


The author, Mark Oster states:


"As rising tuition and the uncertain job market pressure families to spend their college savings wisely-and to even question the value of such spending-colleges and universities are more likely to be evaluated based on their return on investment.


It is not just academic quality and prestige that today's prospective students look for. They also demand a proven track record of graduate school admissions, job placements, and earning potential in relation to the overall cost of enrollment."


"Institutions have struggled to illustrate their value in these challenging economic times. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 86 percent of Americans still believe college is a good investment, yet 57 percent feel it does not provide a good value for the money and 75 percent say it is too expensive."


This article falls in line with the agenda President Obama outlined yesterday to combat rising college costs and make college affordable for American families. The President's plan will measure college performance through a new ratings system so students and families have the information to select schools that provide the best value.


Oster goes on to say "Amid this harsh reality, higher ed leaders need to create a culture centered on nurturing students' post-graduation success and make a strong case for the real-world value of their degrees."


The magazine solicited feedback from leading colleges and employers across the country, and formally surveyed thousands of graduates and employers. Some of the key recommendations to emerge were:

  • Ensure student success through an "it takes a village" approach. Post-graduation success is everyone's responsibility...institutions must break down silos by designing organizational structures and incentives that facilitate collaboration across all parts of the university.
  • Another recommendation was to think about students' futures from day one.

This is advice we should all keep in our minds and close to our hearts. We must adopt the "it takes a village approach" by combining our gifts and talents to improve our recruitment, retention, and any other areas we can make better.


And we need to focus on making the student's experience with us the best it can be --- beginning at the time of their first contact and continuing through their years as alumni.


I have no doubt that our commitment and teamwork can truly make a difference for all Kutztown University students.


I thank you all again for everything you have done, and all you will do in 2013-14.


Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful new school year.