Ivy Leaf - Spring 2002

Thoughts from the Dean

Dear Alumni and Friends,


The end of the spring semester brings us the opportunity to take stock as we look back at the past year and look ahead to the future.

As CEO and Dean of Penn State Altoona, I am filled with both a sense of pride and wonderment — pride for the fine academic institution that we are and wonderment at all that we have achieved.

The transition that began in 1997 from being a predominantly two-year institution, typically sending most of our students to University Park to complete their baccalaureate degrees, to one that is a full-service, four-year, residential college has taken much work. While the past five years certainly have resulted in some growing pains, the tireless work of our faculty and staff during this process has produced incredible results. I joined Penn State Altoona almost two years ago and was fortunate to enter an environment accustomed to success.

Engaging in this reflection prompts me to ask what the keys have been to our successful transition to a four-year college. First and foremost are academics. Offering high quality degree programs that meet student demand is essential to success in public higher education. We are fortunate to attract faculty who possess the credentials to be successful at the finest universities in the United States. They are joining a group of scholars at our college who nurture a culture of excellence. Through the efforts of our faculty, we will add baccalaureate degrees in mathematics (fall 2002) and elementary education (fall 2003) and have plans for degrees in communications, psychology, and biology within two years. Beyond that horizon, we are considering baccalaureate degrees in information sciences and technology, visual arts, and history. Penn State Altoona is in the process of becoming a premier institution for undergraduate education within the Penn State organization. We value teaching that is informed by the scholarship and creative pursuits of our faculty, we value individual students and small classes, we value student life and its connection to learning, and we value our beautiful campus and the environment for education that it creates. We value quality in everything we do.

As a residential college, with most of our students living either on campus or within close proximity, we have a responsibility to provide a vibrant out-of-classroom program that enhances the learning experience. Over the past five years, we have seen an explosion of student activities. A typical week at Penn State Altoona provides students with the opportunity to hear world-renowned speakers, see movies, concerts, and plays, join other students for a trek to midnight bowling or go-kart riding, participate in intramurals and fitness programs, join organizations such as the college newspaper, student government, the dance team, roller hockey team, fraternities, sororities, and more. This spring, we unveiled our new cyber-café, "The Common Grounds," a fully-wired coffeehouse for students to gather between and after classes.

A major component of our transition to a four-year college has been the addition of NCAA Division III varsity athletics. With 12 sports teams, we are able to provide students with the opportunity to participate in varsity athletics for all four years — either as a player or fan. During the past two seasons, our women's basketball team has won its division championship. This year, both our men's and women's tennis teams won conference championships, our women's volleyball team made it into post-season play, and four of our coaches earned Coach of the Year honors in our conference. Completion of Spring Run Stadium adds a soccer field, eight-lane track, seating for 2000, and a press box. This addition complements our outdoor athletic complex and will assist us in our continuing development of athletic programs.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle associated with our rapid transition to a four-year college is the need for more space. Adding degrees, students, and faculty means a growing need for more classroom space to deliver the programs and teach students, as well as more office space for new faculty to work and advise students. Locating our entire Continuing Education department in the downtown Altoona area permitted us to use much of Cypress Building for academic expansion. Designs are now underway for Penn State Altoona's new classroom building, a $10 million state-of-the-art facility, located on grounds adjacent to the Chapel and library. This building will alleviate many of our space concerns and allow us to improve the quality of our library as well. The construction of a new Student Health Center building, to be operational for January 2003, will allow for the expansion of our nursing program as well as our student health services.

My excitement for Penn State Altoona continues to grow as I enter my third year as CEO and Dean. I look forward to bringing you more news of our progress and achievements in future editions of the Ivy Leaf and encourage you to look inside this issue to share in our Penn State Altoona pride.