Monday, August 27, 2018

Firsts and lasts

This time of year brings an undeniable sense of excitement and optimism as the Fall semester begins. What’s more, this week bring so many “firsts” all across our 14 State System universities…the first day in college for more than 15,000 freshman students—and for many, the first time living away from home. This is the first year for many “Generation Z” students to enter college as we welcome our largest cohort of students born in the 21st century. This also is the first semester on the job for more than 300 new faculty and staff members, who are dedicated to helping all of our students succeed.

It seems that with “firsts” come some “lasts.” This is my last week in the State System, having served seven years as president of Clarion University and one year as interim chancellor. Looking back on the past 12 months, it’s amazing how quickly the time has gone by, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together as we launched our System Redesign effort, which is transforming the State System for the future.

This is my last blog in the chancellor’s seat, but this is not the last you will see of me. No, this great System will forever be a part of my life. My spouse—Peggy—is a proud faculty member, so I will enjoy observing the State System’s continued forward momentum from that vantage point.

You have made these years more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. The laughter and sorrow we’ve shared, the triumphs and challenges we’ve experienced, and the moments and memories we’ve created have enriched my life enormously. I only hope that—in some small way—I’ve been able to do the same for you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A year of transformation and transition

To say 2017-18 was a year for change would be an understatement. I was honored when the Board of Governors asked me to serve as interim chancellor this past year and to ensure the forward momentum of transformation across the System while we searched for a new chancellor.

As you know, the System’s transformation process began two years ago with a top-to-bottom review aimed at ensuring the long-term success of our 14 universities. Based on input from stakeholders like you, the Board established three strategic priorities: 1) Ensuring student success; 2) Leveraging university strengths; and 3) Transforming the governance/leadership structure

Over this past year, we have undertaken a System Redesign effort that is guiding our decisions for the future. We developed a process to operationalize the System Redesign by establishing small, focused task groups to accomplish specific objectives. Based on the work of the task groups, the Board has begun cutting red tape and already is reshaping the State System to be more student focused and less bureaucratic. Thus far, the Board has:
  • Delegated authority to the chancellor to approve new degree programs brought forward by the universities—increasing the speed at which new programs move from concept to reality and allowing our students to have quicker access to new programs. 
  • Streamlined the processes for facilities planning and real property acquisition/disposal—allowing our universities to operate more efficiently. 
  • Eliminated or updated more than two dozen outdated, unnecessary, or burdensome policies—enabling our universities to be more nimble. 
  • Identified additional policy changes to provide greater flexibility to our universities—empowering them to better meet the needs of students. 
  • Launched a webpage to enable everyone to engage in the System Redesign effort, provide comments on proposed policy changes, and track the progress of the task groups—ensuring you the opportunity to provide input into the process. 
The System Redesign will move forward under the leadership of our new chancellor, Dr. Dan Greenstein. He spent some time last month meeting with stakeholders as part of his onboarding and transition efforts this summer and is excited to hit the ground running on Sept. 4. In fact, he is planning to visit every university within the first 100 days to meet with students, faculty, staff, trustees, and community/business/legislative leaders. It’s going to be a busy Fall semester, but it will certainly reflect Dr. Greenstein’s energy and enthusiasm for the State System as our forward momentum continues.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ready. Set. Succeed.

I love summertime in PA, and I hope you’re finding time to spend with family and friends. Before we know it, our 14 universities will be welcoming more than 100,000 students back to campus for the start of another academic year. As you continue to make the most of the summer, I thought I’d update you on some of what’s been happening around the State System.

  • We’ve welcomed two new students to the Board of Governors. Rodney Kaplan Jr., president of the Student Government Association at West Chester University, and Joar Dahn, president of the Community Government Association at Bloomsburg University, were recently nominated by Gov. Wolf, confirmed by the state Senate, and have joined fellow student Brian Swatt from IUP on the 20-member board that oversees our 14 universities.
  • Four new university presidents began their presidencies on July 1—Dr. William J. Behre at Slippery Rock University, Robert M. Pignatello at Lock Haven University, Dr. Daniel A. Wubah at Millersville University, and Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson at Clarion University. They have joined us from all around the country to come to Pennsylvania to advance our priorities of student and university success. We welcome these experienced leaders to our campuses and communities.
  • Our System Redesign efforts are moving full steam ahead as we advance our three priorities: 1) ensuring student success, 2) leveraging university strengths, and 3) transforming the governance/leadership structure. The Board of Governors is cutting red tape and streamlining how we do business. Our universities are offering more degree programs that are of great interest to students and are what our communities need to be successful. We are laser focused to ensure the success of every student!

Transitions. Transformations.

My year as interim chancellor will wrap up September 3, when Dr. Daniel Greenstein will become the System’s fifth chancellor. He led the Postsecondary Success strategy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and previously was a top administrator in the University of California system. We couldn’t have found a better person to continue our System Redesign—to ensure that student success continues as our #1 priority and that all 14 universities will be successful. The System is transforming itself, and this next year will be one of continued transformation.

Stay tuned for more updates as we get ready for the fall, and ready for the future.

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.