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Opening of the Academic Year, 2012–2013

The following is the text of the speech President Michael Driscoll gave during the Opening of the Academic Year on August 24 in Fisher Auditorium, Performing Arts Center.

Greetings and Gratitude

Good morning and welcome to the opening of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s 137th academic year! I give a special welcome to those who are joining us from Punxsutawney and Northpointe via technology.

It is with the greatest pleasure and in great humility that I stand before you as IUP’s 26th president. I am grateful to you for entrusting to me the sacred honor of leading this great university. There is no question in my mind that I am now in the best of company.

When my wife, Becky, and I first visited with you, we recognized that this is a special place and hoped we would be able to join you. Now we are here and have experienced the warmth and hospitality of this community. We have learned more about the incredible faculty, staff, students, and alumni of this great institution. And we have unpacked most of our boxes. We know that we made the right decision. It is most definitely a wonderful life in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and at IUP.

Celebration

As we look forward to a new academic year, I want to highlight just a few of last year’s successes.

IUP provides excellent academic programs. Last year the Middles States Commission reaffirmed our institutional accreditation. Many individual programs were successful in reaffirming or achieving programmatic accreditation. A Ph.D. in Safety Sciences was approved. The new Liberal Studies program was completed on schedule and is being offered this fall. It’s no wonder that Forbes magazine recognized IUP as one of “America’s Top Colleges” for the second year in a row and U.S. News & World Report selected IUP as one of the nation’s top universities for the 18th consecutive year. IUP provides excellent academic programs.

IUP has fabulous faculty. Three faculty members received Fulbright Fellowships to conduct research and to teach abroad. Four faculty members were named to the Princeton Review’s Best 300 Professors. After a rigorous review by their peers, 17 faculty earned promotion to the rank of associate professor and 12 were promoted to the rank of professor. Our teacher-scholars were productive researchers, receiving $9.7 million in external grants, publishing 316 peer reviewed journal articles, books, and book chapters, and participating in 15 national and international performances and exhibitions. And they did all this while teaching 1,952 courses producing 424,586.50 student credit hours. IUP has fabulous faculty.

IUP has amazing students. There are so many examples, and I can only mention a few. Last year, undergraduates were recipients of or finalists for prestigious Fulbright, Goldwater, Udall, and Gilman scholarships. Speech Language Pathology major Jackie Hynson, a student in the Cook Honors College, was one of 147 IUP student athletes named as PSAC Scholar Athletes. Jackie also won a national swimming title in the 200 meter butterfly. For the fourth consecutive year, IUP was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. If IUP students were paid minimum wage for their community service last year, they would have earned $1 million. IUP students are remarkable leaders. I highlight the example of Student Trustee Andrew Longacre. IUP has amazing and engaged students.

IUP has dedicated, hard-working staff. Last year, Financial Aid staff distributed $160 million, helping over 80 percent of our students. Our 15,100 students were kept healthy, safe, fed, supported, and educated. We all received our paychecks. This summer while I was unpacking, staff were hard at work preparing for the new academic year. Dozens of construction projects were completed and our campuses are more beautiful than ever. New students and their families were oriented to campus. Student housing was prepared for new arrivals. Right now staff members are hard at work making sure our students have the best possible experience in their first days back. IUP has dedicated, hard-working staff.

IUP is a good investment. As you’ve probably heard, the Pennsylvania Legislature recognizes the value of IUP to the state—in tough economic times, they held the line and kept our appropriation from being cut. Don’t forget to thank our legislators – Senators Don White and Joe Scarnati and Representatives Dave Reed, Sam Smith, and Jeff Pyle. Last year you prepared for large budget cuts that, fortunately, didn’t materialize. We have some challenges ahead, including retirement and health care costs, but thanks to your work, we are in solid shape this year. Thanks to the thoughtful stewardship of Provost Intemann and the academic deans, we didn’t have to reduce the number of faculty lines this year. Thanks to Vice President Wooten, his staff, and all of you, we are controlling costs wherever possible. IUP received just over $6 million in charitable gifts and private grants last year. Thanks to Vice President Speidel, his team, and the rest of you for making that happen. The Foundation for IUP provided $1.3 million to help start the Sutton Scholarship, which is being used to attract high-achieving students to IUP. And the Class of 2012 directed their Senior Class Gift to the Sutton Scholarship. IUP is a good investment.

I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m sorry that I don’t have time to highlight more of you and your many, many successes. IUP continues to be a great university.

Challenges

I would be remiss if I did not share with you the challenges we must face and overcome together, challenges to our reputation, to our finances, and to our morale.

Nationally, public higher education faces growing expectations. We are being asked to provide access for more students, students who come to us with various levels of preparation. We are being asked to graduate more students to help maintain the United States’ leadership in a rapidly changing world. We are being asked to produce and apply new knowledge to further economic development and to improve the human condition. And we are being asked to do all of this while reducing our costs.

In Pennsylvania, as in most states, we are dealing with declining investment from the state we are charged to serve. In the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the commonwealth provided 38 percent of our total budget; tuition and fees paid by our students provided 59 percent. This fiscal year, 2012-2013, only 29 percent is provided by the state and 70 percent is paid by our students. This trend is likely to continue into the future.

We face a projected decline in the number of high school graduates in our region. Vice President Begany and his staff will be working even harder in the years ahead to attract the new undergraduates we want at IUP. We must also do an even better job of retaining and graduating the students who come here. Each of us needs to be engaged in helping our students in getting here, in staying here, and in completing their degrees in a timely fashion.

We also face challenges attracting the very best graduate students. Dean Mack worked closely with the academic deans and the graduate program coordinators to enhance our reputation and connect potential students to our programs. As a result of Dr. Mack’s advocacy, we invested $150,000 this year to fund graduate tuition waivers. But there’s a lot more to be done. This year we will need to clarify the role of master’s and doctoral programs and make focused investments to move us ahead in this important part of our mission.

Our society has become less civil and less safe. Each of us needs to do everything we can to not allow that to happen here. IUP already does many things right. Groups like the Concern and Response Team (CART) and the Haven Project provide education, intervention, and support. Our police officers know how to work with tact and sensitivity to stop trouble before it starts and, if necessary, are prepared to act quickly and courageously should the unthinkable occur. Vice President Luckey is spearheading a series of Title IX trainings to help us learn more about how to respond to sexual harassment and violence. Please participate in these trainings. The cabinet and I will be doing so. And please, please if you see or hear something that makes you concerned about someone’s safety and well-being, call University Police, so we can intervene. Simply put—notice and respond.

To make sure we don’t overlook concerns, I have asked Dr. Luckey to work with others throughout the university to conduct a survey of campus climate. The results will help guide further work to ensure that IUP continues to be a welcoming, safe place, open to people with different perspectives and opinions.

The Year Ahead

To continue IUP’s tradition of excellence into a future filled with challenges and uncertainty, we must take several steps in the weeks and months ahead. When I say “we,” I do not mean me. I mean us. I don’t see my job as telling you who we are and what we want to be. My job is to help us discover those things together.

First, we must develop a shared vision for our future. That vision will be based on a clear, compelling, and actionable understanding of IUP’s core values and of the most important elements of IUP’s tradition and mission. It must ensure IUP remains a vibrant university amidst the dramatic changes affecting higher education in our country. We cannot continue to be all things to all people and everything we do must be of high quality. To start us thinking about this, I’ve been asking everyone two key questions: What is it that makes IUP distinctive? And what do we want to be able to celebrate at IUP’s Sesquicentennial party in 2025?

I will be engaging the University Planning Council to help structure a series of discussions with our stakeholders on and off campus. These discussions will be the basis for a draft vision for IUP, which will be shared broadly for comment before it is finalized.

Second, we must use our core values and focused mission to guide the difficult decisions we must make to achieve our vision. We will set intermediate goals, choose measures of success, and decide what to sustain, what to enhance or add, and what to stop doing.

Third, we must work together to achieve our shared goals. IUP is filled with the smartest and most creative of people. Once we are clear on where we want to go, we will work together to experiment, innovate, and take us there.

There a few things we need to do right now. First, we must diversify and enhance IUP’s revenue streams. That means making the case for support to the government. It means maintaining enrollment. It means expanding our continuing education and summer offerings to increase net revenue. It means increasing philanthropic giving, growing funded research, and turning new ideas into revenue-producing products and services. Each of these areas will need focused, near-term investments to ensure success.

We must also work tirelessly to demonstrate the solid return on the investments made in us by students, government, taxpayers, donors, and the communities we serve. You and I know that we are doing remarkable things with fewer resources than ever. We need to make sure that everyone outside of IUP knows that, too.

Closing

I want to again thank you for all of your kindness, welcome, and support. IUP is a great university and Becky and I are fortunate to be part of it.

IUP is the place to be. In case you haven’t noticed, students are returning to campus. Last year we had a record enrollment of 15,132 students with an increase in average SAT scores among first-year students. This fall we will again serve more than 15,000 students. I could give more numbers, but let me tell you a story.

Last month, Patti came into my office and told me that there was a father outside who wanted to see me. This is almost never a good sign, but I invited him in. His older daughter had left IUP early in her first semester. That was several years ago but left a very negative impression. He and his wife were not happy when their younger daughter decided to attend IUP. When they came to campus for orientation they saw a different IUP. He told me how beautiful campus looked, about the enhanced residence life experience, about the great outreach from our recruiting staff, about the strong connection with our faculty and staff, and about our high-quality academic programs. Your work has made IUP the place to be.

While we face the challenges of heightened expectations and declining resources, I am confident that by working together and collaborating with the communities we serve, we can continue to be the place people want it to be, filled with excellent students, dedicated staff, and fabulous faculty.

In closing, we should take a moment to thank Dr. David Werner for his wise and principled leadership as interim president. I think he had it right when he said that “IUP’s best days lie in the future, not in the past.”

It is our job to envision and build that future. Let’s get to work!

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