Ivy Leaf - Spring 2001
Thoughts from the Dean
Dear Alumni and Friends,
I think a large part of the American experience is relocation. As just one example, BJ (my wife, Betty Jean) and I have moved four times over the years, each move taking us at least a thousand miles from what had become home. But I base my observation not so much on our experience, but on the most common question I'm asked whenever I meet someone new. Everyone wants to know "Are you settled in yet?" That is certainly a question born of personal experience. We have all learned that moving is a major event, indeed most unsettling, and it takes quite some doing to feel at home in a new place. And then we talk about how things are unfolding with the new job, for discovering the mysteries of one's new position seems to be another experience shared by most of us. I'm happy to tell you that we are coming to feel very settled in this wonderful community, and it has been a great pleasure to come to know the people that make Penn State Altoona such a special place. Let me share with you some of the happenings that made my first year so memorable.
Our students are the best. Through their efforts, and at their request, we held our first fall commencement ceremony last December. Our region's distinguished State Senator, the Honorable Robert Jubelirer, delivered the inaugural address to the graduates. Meanwhile, another group of student leaders was working to create a circle (chapter) of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national honorary leadership society. On December 9, 2000, we inducted our charter members. In the sports arena, the women's basketball team had a championship season. The Lady Cougars captured a share of first place in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, and went on to win the conference tournament. Who cannot be proud of this group of student athletes who win not only on the court but also in the classroom, where they maintain a B+ team average. In addition, our Lion Ambassadors are visible every day (and night!), assisting tirelessly in helping us to meet prospective new students and their families, greet guests to campus, and help us with outreach. They, like other students at Penn State Altoona, demonstrate a committed work ethic, respect for faculty, staff, and for each other, and a pride for this campus. I am so very proud of our student body.
The faculty at Penn State Altoona are nothing short of extraordinary, and their talents continue to expand as we add new educators to our community. Under the leadership of Faculty Senate Chair Valerie Stratton, and with the hard work of many others, we added new academic minors in English, History, Psychology, and Spanish, hired nine new tenure-track faculty, created an academic convocation program for next fall, brought three new baccalaureate programs to life this year, and graduated the largest class of students ever. Faculty from our Information Technology Committee came together with other faculty and administrators to formulate a strategic plan for computing that will lead us into a secure and carefully constructed technological future. Our Retention Committee is implementing several new programs to help students in academic distress. We had a grand time with Fulbright scholar Zenaide Silva, artist in residence with us for the past year. We examined the impact of the icon "Barbie" on American culture, began plans to make a similar intellectual exploration of Vietnam, and hosted a diversity of speakers on campus. Penn State Altoona's intellectual energy is palpably real.
On the administrative side, our staff has worked tirelessly to improve every facet of campus life. We are adding computer laboratories in each residence hall. To better serve our students and create a meaningful future for them and for this campus, we have conducted extensive surveys of our current students as well as prospective students. Results from these surveys will form a foundation for our academic planning next year. Our enrollment management plan, the result of a joint committee of faculty and administration, will guide our growth over the next several years. We continue to improve our physical plant through renovations and additions, with a new classroom building to be designed this summer. Our soccer field and track will be complete by next fall, just in time to allow us to enter our fourth and final year as a provisional member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The ideal of creating and sustaining excellence is a continuing commitment by every member of the Penn State Altoona community. As we solve one matter, opportunities arise for achievement in a new direction. As I look to next year, I see proposals for new baccalaureate degrees coming forward, a campus-wide examination of a broad range of diversity issues, an evaluation of our scholarship resources, and overall campus strategic planning, as topics that will occupy much of our attention. I think also that we will be looking more and more to external funding to support our research initiatives. We are creating at Penn State Altoona a premier institution for undergraduate education. It is an exciting moment in our history.