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The Will to Win: The 2008 State of the University Address

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The following is the text of the State of the University Address, “The Will to Win,” delivered by university President Tony Atwater at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 21, 2008, in Fisher Auditorium.

Thank you, Dr. Davies. And thank you, Trustee Osikowicz, for your generous introduction.

I am very pleased that you are here today to mark the beginning of a new and exciting academic year. This address gives me an important opportunity to give thanks to all of our university employees who make IUP work...and work exceedingly well.

While they have already been introduced by Dr. Davies, I want to welcome, once again, two new members of the University Executive Team. They are Dr. Gerald Intemann, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Cornelius Wooten, vice president for Administration and Finance. They have hit the ground running, and we look forward to the valuable contributions that each will make in advancing IUP.

I am especially pleased that we meet this morning in the newly renovated and expanded Fisher Auditorium. The completion of the $12-million IUP Performing Arts Center project is the result of the fine and dedicated work of many professional craftsmen and campus personnel. Please join me in offering them our sincere thanks and appreciation.

The Performing Arts Center will enhance the look of our campus and answer the many functional needs of our university. It also will match the caliber of the outstanding performances and programming offered to the Indiana community. We will celebrate its opening at a public event September 18. I look forward to seeing you there.

I want to frame today’s address by using the symbolism of an exciting story that captures the essence of IUP’s motto… “Beyond Expectations.” Here’s the story…

The runners took their marks. It was a cloudy and overcast day in Walnut, California, for the national championship of the 800-meter run. John had trained hard for this day. He had never won a national championship in his undergraduate track career. If he was to do so, it would have to be today. His coaches, trainer, and teammates had prepared him well for this race, but it would be a difficult contest to win. Other athletes had also earned the right to compete in a national finals meet. And, each would be giving it his “personal best.”

A gunshot rang out, and the race was on. The first 200 meters of the race constituted a fast start for John. He ran it in 25 seconds, and he remembered that his coach had warned him not to start too fast. Otherwise, he might not have the stamina to finish the race with the speed required to win down the stretch. John led all runners into the final 100 meters, and then it began. A formidable competitor had caught up with John and was matching him stride for stride. As the finish line came into view, he knew that the final leg of the race would be a “gut check” proposition. Whoever summoned the “will to win” and wanted victory more would claim the national championship.

But could he, John, pull it off? He had been injured in a previous contest in which he had tripped and fallen. It was in that race that he had been favored to win. He had gotten off to a fast start in today’s race, and his rival was gaining ground in the final stretch. He looked his competitor directly in the face as they approached the finish line. The intensity on his face matched that of John’s. Who would win this race at the wire and claim a national championship?

John dug down deep for new grit. And, inwardly, he resolved that he would not be denied his ultimate goal as an undergraduate athlete. Both runners approached the tape at “full throttle,” and, at the last moment, John lunged into the tape with his chest to claim victory, only two-tenths of a second ahead of his rival. In so doing, John had claimed a victory for a lifetime. He would go down in history as a national champion in the 800-meter run. Through his “will to win,” he truly had gone beyond expectations.

Like John, IUP is at an important crossroads in its development as a nationally ranked, public research university. Indeed we are the “flagship” of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Like John, we have made significant progress in our race for national distinction and greatness. However, what takes place over the next five to ten years likely will determine our success in advancing IUP to the next level of national academic distinction. Like John, we must summon the will to win…and to win against formidable, competitive forces. But win we will! In fact, we are making steady progress to that end.

Let us now revisit some of the major accomplishments in which the IUP community can take great pride.

First, IUP recently was notified that it will be included, for the eighth year in a row, in the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges Guidebook for 2009. Students surveyed for the publication recognized that IUP is “academically challenging,” and they applauded their university for our “awesome professors who are concerned with their welfare and academic growth,”… who are “strong educators” who push students to “think critically.” I am very pleased to see our excellent faculty recognized in this publication and to see IUP consistently ranked among the best major universities in America.

Second, enrollment for this coming year is projected to increase sharply. Total enrollment for the fall semester is estimated to approach 14,300 students, up from our Fall 2007 total of 14,018. This projection includes a record number of more than 3,000 freshman students. This number surpasses the 2007 freshman enrollment count of 2,664. Consequently, we look forward to welcoming the largest freshman class in IUP’s history.

The number of transfer students also is higher for this fall, almost 10 percent higher than 2007 totals.

The SAT scores of our new students are at higher levels than in past years, reflecting our expectation of a capable and academically prepared student body.

We achieved our admissions goal for the Punxsutawney regional campus in March, and enrollment at IUP’s Northpointe Campus has almost doubled.

New recruitment efforts, including tuition differentials for academically talented out-of-state students, resulted in an increased number of these students attending IUP this fall.

Also, it is gratifying to know that our retention rate is stable at 76 percent.

Third, I am pleased to report that IUP’s Act 101 proposal to the Pennsylvania Department of Education has been fully funded at approximately $351,000 for both the Indiana and Punxsutawney campuses. The focus of this program is to provide first-year experiences for qualified students to assist them in making a successful transition to college.

Please join me in recognizing the leadership of Dr. Carmy Carranza, Ms. Stacey Winstead, and the Developmental Studies Department faculty for their fine work in securing this grant.

IUP recently was notified that its master’s programs in Counseling, Community Counseling, and School Counseling have been awarded two-year accreditation by CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. I want to congratulate faculty members and administrators of the Department of Counseling and the College of Education and Educational Technology for their commitment and hard work that resulted in this important achievement.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Foundation has selected IUP to receive a Nursing Education Grant for the upcoming academic year. The grant total is based on the number of graduates of our nursing program. This year, it will result in $111,000 coming to IUP. This grant supports and recognizes institutions that answer the critical need for nurses and nurse educators in the commonwealth.

IUP has regained a valuable tool for supporting our educational mission, thanks to a gift from our friends at First Commonwealth. On October 1, IUP will host the inaugural First Commonwealth endowed lecture. The program will feature political commentators James Carville and Mary Matalin. As we move closer to the Presidential election, this is a presentation you will not want to miss.

IUP’s new endowed lecture series will enhance the university’s intellectual environment by enriching the teaching and learning experience for students, faculty, and the Indiana community.

As you know, IUP cannot continue to offer that “margin of excellence” that our students need and deserve without private financial support.

I am pleased to inform you that alumni support for the university continues to increase at a significant rate. For 2007-2008, gifts from alumni increased by more than 31 percent, or $337,080, from the previous year and totaled $1,441,152. The average gift from an individual increased by 32 percent to $221.31.

Giving to endowments also has increased, and fifteen new endowments were created during the past academic year. The proceeds from endowments provide much-needed scholarship and program support for IUP’s students. IUP’s university endowment totals $44,415,168. It is the largest endowment among the fourteen state-owned universities.

I think that you’ll agree that this is a great way to start our new academic year.

I have titled today’s address “Beyond Expectations: The Will to Win.” Like a runner, we are making strides toward the finish line of greatness. But, it won’t be easy. IUP continues to face significant challenges as it advances in this race of institutional growth and development. We must proceed with strategic vision, courage, and teamwork. And, we are doing just that.

Together, as a community, we have built a pathway for our future. We developed new mission and vision statements, core values, and a strategic plan designed to advance our legacy of excellence.

This plan includes eight major, strategic goals. They include (1) academic excellence; (2) student development and success; (3) civic engagement; (4) marketing and promotion; (5) enrollment management; (6) continuous improvement; (7) resource development; and (8) university safety and security. We have begun our journey, and with our roadmap, we are on the way to a promising and rewarding destination. Without question, hard work and experience have helped us achieve many of the accomplishments noted today. However, I believe that these successes ultimately are a result of our collective “will to win.”

Consider, for example, the amazing progress underway in upgrading and renewing our physical plant.

Our Performing Arts Center is complete. Our $270-million Student Residential Revival, the largest project of its kind in the nation, is on track. And, our Phase II buildings, the Suites on Maple and the Northern Suites, are open for business. All five of our Residential Revival buildings are occupied at full capacity, with waiting lists.

Projects of this magnitude have their share of risks and challenges. It took a great deal of effort to get the necessary funding released for the Performing Arts Center. In fact, the project was behind schedule before site preparation got underway. But there was no question that this project would be completed in due time…because IUP had the “will to win.”

A project like the Student Residential Revival, a public-private partnership, had never been undertaken anywhere else in the United States. As we know from the headlines, our nation is facing a volatile housing market and an uncertain economic environment.

Yet, days after Phase I buildings of the project became available for reservations, they were filled to capacity, with a waiting list. The same thing happened with the Phase II buildings, the Suites on Maple East and West and the Northern Suites.

Students have responded in an overwhelmingly positive way to the Living-Learning programming integrated into the Residential Revival. For example, the residence halls were cited in the 2009 Princeton Review guidebook as places that instill a strong feeling of community and that provide a bonding experience for students.

I want to recognize the Foundation for IUP and the members of its board. Several of them are with us today and they certainly have demonstrated their “will to win.”

On October 9, we will hold groundbreaking ceremonies for the KCAC--the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. This $44-million facility will advance the Indiana community and IUP in extraordinary ways. The KCAC is projected to inject $22 million into the region’s economy during the next three years of construction. It will provide $12.5 million in annual economic impact when operations begin in the spring of 2011. This facility will be a major economic and cultural resource for the university and region.

In July, we made the announcement of the developer for the KCAC hotel project. A high-end, attached hotel will add to the viability and attractiveness of the KCAC for visitors and event planners.

There were many who doubted that the KCAC would ever be constructed, and for many reasons. However, a strong contingent of university and community leaders refused to let this dream die. Consequently, I look forward to celebrating the historic groundbreaking of the KCAC on October 9. The occasion again will demonstrate that the university and community have an indefatigable “will to win.”

Enrollment projections indicate that we will face a precipitous decline in high school graduates in our targeted admissions region in the near future. This is certainly an area of concern, and IUP could have chosen to accept these dire projections and prepare for a major enrollment decline.

Instead, IUP’s enrollment management team worked to develop new initiatives and ways of recruiting students. These included enhanced Academic Expos and Crimson Showcases. And, these strategies have proven successful. Our admissions picture is not only strong for this year, but projections through fall 2012 predict stable and increased enrollments over this period. Our enrollment management team indeed is demonstrating the “will to win.” Student recruitment and retention will continue to be a key priority for the entire university community. Working together, we need to address courageously and creatively the future enrollment challenges with a constant resolve to win this race.

During the past year, we have added several new and important academic programs to our curriculum. In particular, our doctoral program in nursing is designed to answer the national, critical shortage of nurses and nurse educators. Quite frankly, the approval process included numerous obstacles and challenges along the way. But, the resolve of the administration, the Nursing Department faculty, and the College of Health and Human Services eventually led to approval of IUP’s ninth doctoral program. Together we showed our “will to win.”

Today, we are proud to offer ten very well-defined doctoral programs, including our most recent Ph.D. program in Communications Media. IUP also recently added a master’s degree program in Applied Archaeology. It is one of only four such programs in the nation and is unique in the commonwealth.

While there are many IUP success stories in which we take pride, I would like to highlight some additional achievements of which the university can be proud. IUP saluted two Fulbright winners during this past year. They were May 2008 graduate Gina Russo and faculty member Dr. William Oblitey; Dr. Gian Pagnucci won the Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Technology Award from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning; Dr. Paul Arpaia won the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize and pursued a year of studies in Rome.

In 2007, I reinstituted the University Professor award to recognize faculty members who demonstrate extraordinary instructional and scholarly success. Dr. Jack Stamp, a professor of music and chair of the Department of Music, has been selected as IUP’s 2008-2009 University Professor.

IUP students were the recipients of seven awards for international study. These included three Gilman Awards and four Freeman-Asia scholarships. Two members of the IUP Nursing and Allied Health faculty, Dr. Susan Poorman and Dr. Teresa Shellenbarger, were selected as inaugural fellows in the Academy of Nursing Education, formed by the National League for Nursing.

The IUP chapter of the National Art Education Association was selected, for the second time in three years, as the top student chapter in the nation.

Certainly, hard work and dedication played a role in each of these noteworthy achievements. Each of these individuals had an unrelenting resolve to achieve their respective goals. One could say that they summoned the “will to win.”

Shortly after arriving at IUP, I began to explore ways of enhancing the student’s first-year experience to ensure a successful transition to university life. The Common Freshman Reader program, in its third year, has been one vehicle for accomplishing this goal. I hope that you will have the chance to read this year’s excellent selection, Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

This Sunday at 5:30, we will continue our tradition of the IUP Freshman Convocation, which will be held here in Fisher Auditorium. This event marks the beginning of the higher education journey for the Class of 2012. Student development expert Dr. Samuel Heastie will serve as our featured speaker. Freshman Convocation helps to establish institutional community for our entering freshmen. And, I hope you will be able to join us for this memorable event.

At the beginning of this address, I described John’s experience in achieving a lifelong goal of winning a national championship in the 800-meter run. Permit me to disclose that John is really IUP student Sean Strauman, the 2008 NCAA Division II Champion in the 800 meters. Sean also is the 2007-2008 male IUP Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He holds PSAC records in both the indoor and outdoor 800-meter runs. I am now pleased to present to you Mr. Sean Strauman. Sean, please remain standing as we view a video of your championship performance.

Congratulations, Sean, and thanks for bringing pride and honor to IUP. Sean always gives credit to his family, coaches, teammates, and friends for his athletic success. He shared with me a powerful bit of advice that his mother has given him over the years. It goes like this: “Failure begins the moment you miss an opportunity.”

I believe that this is also good advice for our university. Let’s capitalize on every opportunity for advancing the institution, and we will not fail to achieve our greatest expectations.

Sean told reporters that the reason for his victory was that “This was the first year that I thought I could do it.” He also told a reporter from the Indiana Gazette that one of the reasons for his success was that mentally he had been prepared for victory by his coaches. I believe that Coach Fry and Coach White of the Track and Field team are here with us today…would you please stand to be recognized?

In concluding, I would like to pose a question to myself and to the IUP community. Do we, as an institution, believe that we have it in us to achieve a higher level of academic prowess and even greatness? When Sean began to believe he could achieve a national championship, this may have been the first important step to realizing his extraordinary victory. We are here today to affirm that as a team we believe that we are on the pathway to greatness. Against all odds we will sprint the final 100 meters together with courage, skill, diligence, and resolve….realizing, as Coach John Wooden stated,“The star of the team is the team.”

The finish line is before us. I am confident that IUP will win the race for greatness and, in the process, continually go “Beyond Expectations.” I know that we have it in us. The coming academic year provides another opportunity to advance our magnificent university. And, advance we will…in order to continue a legacy of academic excellence and pride for now and for future generations of IUP students. Thanks for attending our program today. May each of you enjoy success and happiness as IUP enters the new academic year.

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