Wednesday, May 2, 2018

14 Stronger

We all agree that the State System’s mission is to provide students with access to high-quality, high-value educational experiences. We also agree that our 14 universities offer innovative academic programs through their talented faculty to help prepare students for successful lives and careers. Let’s face it, we all need each other to succeed. While sometimes we might disagree on some things, we all want what’s best for our students and our great state.

So, last year we undertook a strategic, top-to-bottom review of all of its operations, which resulted in the Board of Governors affirming its commitment to the long-term success of each and every one of our 14 universities. Throughout that process, we collected input from students, faculty, staff, university and system leaders, legislators, community leaders, and a national consultant. In October, the Board of Governors adopted three strategic priorities that have been guiding our efforts to redesign the System for the future: 1) Ensuring student success 2) Leveraging university strengths 3) Transforming the governance/leadership structure.
Yes, we have a sense of urgency to address the challenges facing the System, but we have a greater sense of duty to our students, our faculty and staff, our local communities, and the entire Commonwealth to make sure the outcomes are sustainable and the changes we pursue are meaningful. The future of our 14 universities depends on it. Dare I say, the future of the Commonwealth depends on it.

There have been other conversations about the State System in recent days, and we welcome a robust dialogue. It’s a clear sign to me that people understand the important role our 14 universities have in the lives of our students and the economic vitality of our communities.
What can you do? You can stay informed about the System Redesign, and you can share your thoughts or concerns as stakeholders. You can help make the case to our state’s elected officials for more investment to help accomplish our mission (visit our new advocacy site).
United as one, our 14 universities are a stronger force for good, and I’m confident that the 14 universities’ best days are ahead if we all remain united on what matters most—our students.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Pennsylvania is a remarkable place to live and work. After all, where else can you experience all four seasons in the same week? Weather aside, what I find most wonderful about Pennsylvania is how very proud we are of our past, and—at the same time—we are always looking forward to the future. This place, which gave birth to our American democracy, is now on a short-list to host the future headquarters of internet giant Amazon. That’s impressive. That’s PA.

The State System’s 14 universities graduate more students than any other higher education sector, and it’s our responsibility to prepare our students for a successful future. Successful futures include exciting careers that make a real difference. Our talented faculty and staff prepare students by providing real-world experiences that prepare them for life after graduation. Our universities offer innovative programs designed to fill the state’s greatest needs. It’s one thing to have a degree; it’s another to have a degree that prepares you for a successful life and a successful career. And, that’s what we want for each and every one of our 100,000 students.

Over the next several months, our #Prepared4PA advocacy campaign will highlight these innovative programs and opportunities that prepare students to be PA’s next generation of leaders in business, health, education, the arts, and beyond. It will include alumni who share their stories of how a State System education prepared them for success.

I hope you will support the campaign by telling your story on social media (use our #Prepared4PA hashtag) or by following the State System on Facebook and Twitter. Your stories best describe our collective value to the Commonwealth—you are the real face of PA. When we invest in our state universities, we invest in our state’s future. It’s really that simple.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A new year, full of promise

As a lifelong educator, what I like most about this time of year is the energy and enthusiasm that comes with the new year, and a new semester. No matter what happened before now, this is a fresh start. There is a certain expectation, a profound hope that all things are possible.

That’s true for those of you among our 100,000 students returning to campus after a much-needed winter break. It’s also true for those of you among our dedicated faculty and staff, who have been working hard to gear up for the first week of classes.

As we all march forward into this semester, there will undoubtedly be moments that will test our patience—that will try to chip away at the hope and optimism we feel today. Whether you’re facing a seemingly impossible deadline, navigating a difficult relationship, or struggling to complete a challenging task, your best bet is to breathe and reflect on the sense of possibility.

In those trying times, remember how far you’ve already come. Stay focused, press on, and consider the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you cross the finish line at the end of the semester.

Let’s go in 2018!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Prepared to Shine

This weekend, we’ll celebrate the outstanding achievements of more than 7,000 students who are graduating from one of our 14 universities—taking the next step in their lifelong journey of learning and discovery. Some might say they are NOW ready for the “real world,” but that’s not really a precise statement. In fact, they’ve already been in the “real world” while at our universities. Whether working as an intern, handling conflict as an RA, providing leadership in a student organization, applying feedback from a professor, managing time as a student-athlete, or simply prioritizing on-campus and off-campus obligations—it was as “real” as it gets.

They are prepared to not only attain careers in the Commonwealth, nationally, and internationally, they are prepared to shine in these areas because of their hard work and because of the opportunities they had at a State System university. What makes this even more impactful for all of us who live in Pennsylvania is that nearly 80 percent of our graduates will remain here to contribute to our economy and meet the needs of the Commonwealth.

To our graduates, we say congratulations on a job well done. To those returning next semester to continue this journey, we encourage you to enjoy the break, enjoy the holidays, and enjoy some down-time. We’ll all be here when you get back in January—ready to do whatever we can to help you succeed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Power of 14

Our 14 universities are remarkably diverse places at which to learn and work. While they have much in common, it’s their differences that make each of them—and the entire State System—extraordinary. Leveraging the unique strengths of our universities is what will help advance every student’s success for years to come.

Recently, I had the privilege of being part of our 10th Annual Summit on Inclusive Excellence and International Education at West Chester University. And—like our 14 universities—the diversity among our students, faculty, and staff is what makes our campus communities so vibrant. Because we are Pennsylvania’s public universities, we must continue to recruit and graduate students who have not had opportunities in the past to start and finish college. We are determined—now more then ever—to enroll more students of color; older students; students with some college/no degree; students from a variety of family income levels; and students from across the entire state.

We are redesigning ourselves to be a dynamic System of constituent institutions focused on the needs of every student and their surrounding regions. We are creating a climate of trust, transparency, and collaboration, across every level of the System.

The Summit is just one example of the collective power of our 14 universities and our 100,000 students when we work together. I challenge us all to look for new ways to help each and every student succeed.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

“Giving back” is more than a slogan

As a former university president, I know first-hand how much you—the students, faculty, and staff at our 14 universities—do to make your local communities a better place. Whether it’s cleaning up a neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon, raising money to support a local program, or utilizing student and faculty expertise to solve a problem, our universities are deeply woven into the community.

We don’t do this because we have to; we do it because we want to. We want to give back to the communities we call home—the communities that make it possible for our universities to provide enriching academic opportunities and ensure student success.

Giving back is important to me personally. It’s both rewarding and inspiring. As citizens, I believe we should offer our time, talents, or resources to help impact the lives of others. Our universities continue to answer the call by creating opportunities for you to give back.

To spotlight these selfless acts, the State System is launching the #givebackPA campaign to bring awareness to the impact our universities have on their local communities, their regions, and the entire Commonwealth. Follow #givebackPA on social media (or here) from now until the end of 2017 to see real-life examples of this generosity.

I am so proud to be part of the State System, and look forward to reading the stories of how you are making a difference every day.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“Day One”

This is my first blog as Interim Chancellor of the State System, and I’m very excited to not only have this new opportunity to serve, but to do it at such an important time for our universities. In the coming weeks and months, I hope we will get to know each other a little more as I visit the 14 universities and have conversations with our students, faculty, staff, and others.

I’ll spend my first days as head of this system listening and learning—to hear about what’s important to our students. Everything we do at each of our universities—and as a system—should be focused on our students and their success. So, my first days on the job will be spent on university campuses, meeting with students, faculty, staff, and campus leaders. I’m starting at Slippery Rock and IUP, but these are just the first of many visits I plan to make to our state universities.

Real, genuine dialogue is important if we are to have collaborative, open, and trusting relationships across the System. As we build these connections, we will enhance our ability to advance the distinctive roles of each of our universities. All of this will help us shape the future of the State System to ensure our universities are able to continue providing high-quality, affordable higher education for decades to come.

But talking is only part of the equation. We need action too.

I am pretty much a “what you see is what you get” kind of person. I listen well and will always tell you where I stand. From day one, I can guarantee you that I will work very hard to advance every one of our 14 universities. I can also guarantee you that everyone who wants to work with me will be very involved in advancing our system of universities.

Now is the time to take bold steps toward increasing educational opportunities for students, modernizing how we do business, and ensuring a successful transition to the next chancellor. That’s my focus.

As we get to know each other, you’ll find that I’m an enthusiastically positive person.

We’re all in this together. So, let's get started.