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Message From the President

Beyond Expectations

President Tony Atwater

The academic year is well under way, and great things are happening at IUP. I am pleased to report that for the sixth consecutive year, IUP has been identified by the Princeton Review to be among the nation’s top 361 colleges and universities. Student success remains our first priority at IUP.

For today’s college student, the transition to college life is a complex proposition. The university experience represents an unfamiliar set of norms, traditions, rituals, language, and environments. Making the transition from being a high school student to being a successful college student does not happen instantaneously, and the transition is aided by effective initiatives and services.

IUP is taking additional steps to convey a clear sense of the expectations for student behavior as well as a feeling of university citizenship and community. Consequently, we have instituted several “first-year” programs designed to provide valuable experiences to help students transition to IUP and college life.

To that end, we began the academic year with a new tradition. In late August, I was pleased to address more than 3,200 new students during a very well-attended Freshman Convocation. Dr. Ron Shafer ’68, M’70, professor of English; Patrick Barnacle, president of IUP’s Student Government Association; and Dr. Samuel Heastie, who is nationally known for his work on ensuring student success and successful transitions to college life, joined me in presenting messages to our new students. Not only did we have a “full house” of freshman students, but many faculty and staff members also participated in the event, which culminated in a universitywide cookout at Miller Stadium.

Fast Food Nation, a thought-provoking book by Eric Schlosser, is on the desks of all of our freshman students as we begin the first Common Freshman Reader program at IUP. This book, chosen by a broad-based university committee of faculty members and administrators, will be the basis of discussion groups, an essay and poster contest, a film series, research projects as part of the Undergraduate Scholars Symposium, course-based assignments, and group projects and field trips throughout the academic year. IUP will host Mr. Schlosser for a lecture, a book-signing event, and classroom visits on March 21 and 22. This initiative is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the academic expectations of university life and to continue to enhance collaborative learning among faculty, staff, and fellow students. I expect impressive outcomes from these and other freshman-year initiatives.

One of the most exciting—and perhaps challenging—tasks facing the university this academic year is the completion of a new university strategic plan. Our Middle States Self-Study Report will inform significantly the university’s strategic planning process during the forthcoming academic year, and I will ensure that this process involves input from all of our constituent groups in a very careful and deliberate fashion. Our strategic plan will not only define our mission and set our goals over the next five years, it will be the foundation on which we work to position the university as a leader in teaching, learning, scholarship, and research.

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President Atwater, left, and Dean of Fine Arts Michael Hood look over some of the twenty-three Steinway pianos delivered to Cogswell Hall in July. The All-Steinway initiative is described elsewhere in this issue. [photo: Keith Boyer]

In my State of the University address at the beginning of the fall semester, I made it clear to the IUP community that we will not be satisfied with a standard that is less than excellent, that excellence is the standard to be attained and sustained on all fronts at IUP, and programs that meet this standard will be rewarded and recognized.

We will continue to walk the walk of excellence and innovation at IUP. And as we do, our students and faculty members will be the beneficiaries.

While moving forward is a necessity for any vibrant and dynamic institution, I want to assure you that the great work of our predecessors will not be forgotten. As a university community, we will respect and maintain our core values, traditions, and history, while maintaining and advancing IUP’s academic mission in new and dynamic ways. IUP cannot afford to stand still, for we owe it to those who have gone before us not only to maintain our legacy of academic excellence but to build upon this legacy in new and innovative ways. In this edition of IUP Magazine you will see more examples of how IUP is “moving forward!” 

(The text of President Atwater’s State of the University address is available at www.iup.edu/president.)