Punxsutawney’s Holistic Approach
As it nears its fifty-year anniversary celebration, IUP Punxsutawney facilitates the education of some 350 first-year students—a good number for the campus’s current purpose, according to Terry Appolonia ’79, M’81, the newly appointed dean.
The academic building is what visitors see first upon arriving at the Punxsutawney campus. It is attached to a living center, home to 190 of the campus’s 350 students. Dean Terry Appolonia hopes to add outdoor recreational facilities in the near future.
“This campus offers a terrific opportunity for any student,” Appolonia said. “Our one-year curriculum and comprehensive support framework are designed to intentionally facilitate a smooth transition to higher education and lay a foundation for successful university study. We don’t measure the potential of our students by SAT scores, intelligence quotient tests, and high school grades. We hope to help them discover their attributes and passion for their chosen field of study.”
What differentiates Punxsutawney from Indiana amounts to size and a focus that doesn’t usually happen on the typical college campus. Upon their arrival, students often are not aware of what they need to do to succeed, Appolonia said.
“We are a smaller, more intimate campus. We’re more intrusive. We will tap students on the shoulder if they aren’t actively addressing the needs we perceive they have. And, because of that, we think this experience is going to be more advantageous to them and to their success,” he said.
“The goal is to develop a regular and ongoing relationship with each student. We want to be certain the student and faculty advisor or peer mentor are seeing each other frequently throughout the semester. There’s actual coaching going on—academic and nonacademic. A team of people comes together to assess the needs a particular student might have and how best to help the student successfully continue at IUP. We have an academic standard we will abide by, but a student’s emotional and behavioral health are indicative of predicting—not determining, but predicting—a student’s ongoing success as well.”
Appolonia said, thanks to the efforts of teaching and library faculty members, students at Punxsutawney, in addition to the usual classes taken during the freshman year, take two classes designed specifically for the campus’s transition atmosphere—one focused in general humanities and social sciences and another in library science and technology. He said the faculty members who work closely with the students—Ray Beisel, Portia Diaz, Tess DonGiovanni O’Neil ’74, M’80, Lynn Shelly, and Rosalee Stilwell, to name a few—have a longtime commitment to the campus’s curricular component. Colleen Lyons Casaday ’77, Carol Asamoah, and Theo Turner ’95, M’98 provide support and structure student life components.
Appolonia served in various student life roles in Indiana for the last twenty-five years, most recently as associate vice president for Student Development and dean of students. He said he wishes he could offer every student on the Indiana campus what the Punxsutawney campus offers students.
“If we could be as intrusive with all students at Indiana, offer as much mentoring as we do here, and be as intentional with the entire freshman class as we are with our 350 students here in Punxsutawney—well, any university would want to be able to do that with their freshmen.”