50 Minutes with President Driscoll, November 2018

Posted on 11/28/2018 1:49:06 PM

On November 27, 2018, students, faculty and staff gathered for a university-wide forum, “50 Minutes with President Driscoll.” During the program, the president provided details about the University College; updated listeners on the university’s new branding and marketing efforts and the Imagine Unlimited campaign; and provided information on the status of several searches.

He also announced that Susanna Sink, associate vice president for finance, will serve as interim vice president for Administration and Finance while a search is conducted to replace Cornelius Wooten, who is leaving the university on November 30, 2018, for a position at North Carolina Central University.

The event is a consolidation of previous President’s Forum and Mid-Semester Briefing events and included a question and answer session.

Watch the President’s remarks in the video above, or read them below:

I’m glad to have this opportunity to talk to you about where we stand on issues that affect us all greatly. My aim today is to provide you with both a high-level view of our shared work. The question-and-answer session after my remarks is your chance to seek answers to questions that you think are important in moving us toward our shared vision. As you know, this new format replaces both the open forums we’ve had each month as well as the mid-semester briefing we’ve done the last two years. I hope you find it more efficient.

I want to start out by sharing an important number.  


Small number. Big significance.

It represents the average number of times students change their major during their undergraduate career.
Now, imagine yourself as the student who realizes the subject matter of your current major doesn’t inspire or excite you. You don’t know what might spark your interest. And, you have a loan, and the clock is ticking. And, you wonder why you picked that major when you enrolled.

Very often, we lose these students. I see no need to cite those statistics now. You’ve heard them before.
Now, let me give you a different number.


This is the average high school GPA of prospective freshmen who have indicated they want to enter IUP as truly exploratory, because they have no idea at present about what field they’d like to enter or what they’d like to become. The number of students who tick that box on our application is growing every day. To date, we’ve received 177 such applications, and we’ve admitted 166 of those students. 

To reach our shared vision, all that we do requires reaching across the aisle and cooperating. I say with confidence that the University College might be the grandest example I can cite.

Most important, this is something our future students want. Sources like EAB inform us that students who enter their post-secondary experience as explorers can finish sooner than the students who change majors several times. 

And, we know that only 63 percent of the students who joined us last year as undeclared majors returned this fall.  In contrast, we retained 72.4 percent of students who declared majors.1 That hurts our bottom line, but more important, it hurts students and says a great deal about what this population of students isn’t getting. We’re changing that. The University College will provide the guidance to raise our retention rate with these students.

Let me ask you: How many of you want IUP to be a place where students succeed—to be an academic destination of choice?

At our annual opening of the academic year event, you might remember I referred to the recent Alumni Attitude Study we conducted. The results indicated our alumni were happy they chose us, but they wish they had been challenged more. The University College responds to that. Many of you may not know how it all will work, so here’s the elevator speech. 

Exploring students in the University College will enter theme tracks that will provide them with coursework and resources to help them make choices about their future. They will benefit from camaraderie that students who have chosen a major begin to develop early in their academic careers, and they will have access to a wealth of resources all in one place.

This includes nine embedded faculty members who will teach Pathways courses in general areas, like STEM or the arts, and serve as mentors. The courses will be linked with Liberal Studies courses. The embedded faculty members will be ready to help students connect dots and solve problems. The students won’t just make their way here. Our special team will help them succeed here.

Meanwhile, 19 faculty and staff members are working closely with Michele Norwood to design the programming for exploratory students and hammer out the finer points of this operation that will ensure we do the best job of creating avenues for student success while focusing on students’ needs.  

While the University College currently is focusing on students who require extra guidance and explorers, our vision is that all students may access this resource to discover their passions, to blaze trails, to not only earn credentials but to graduate with a vision of what comes next and how to get there.

Look, even when you know IUP well, this isn’t the easiest place to navigate. Think of the University College as a way finder. It brings together insight, advice, experience, and inspiration—the best we have to offer our students—right next to the powerful resources of our University Libraries. The possibilities are endless for thematic collaboration and student discovery.

Now, many of you have walked by the big hole on the back end of Stabley Library. I’m pleased to report that area will become the entrance to the University College. Construction is moving forward and should be completed in March. This thing is real. We’re doing it. And, it’s going to be great.

So, I asked a few minutes ago how many of you want to make IUP an academic destination of choice. If you answered yes, know this—the University College is one of those things that will help us do just that.
It also will help our enrollment. As we continue our conversations about what we want IUP to be in terms of size, we all must acknowledge that will not return to the days of enrollment of 16,000. That’s a fact, not a prediction.  

You’ve all heard we’re working with a shrinking population here in Pennsylvania. Many people ask me why we aren’t seeking students elsewhere. The answer is easy. We are. We are reaching across state lines into Northern Virginia and Maryland. We now have a recruiter embedded in Philadelphia. But everyone needs to understand that we face cutthroat competition with colleges and universities that are moving swiftly to find niches and articulate their advantages very well. Retention is the key to keeping our student population at a desirable size, as is recrafting programs to meet the needs of graduate students and nontraditional students. 

As discussions on how we continue to transform to meet the changing needs of students, we have begun the work of solidifying our brand.

If you’ve listened to my remarks the last few years during the opening of the academic year, you’ve heard the term “shameless bragging.” Put another way, we have needed to find ways to tell the IUP story—who we are, what we mean to students and alumni, and how we impact the world.

Three weeks ago, around 150 people on campus—perhaps some of you—were asked to participate in focus group sessions with our new brand marketing partner, 160over90. 

You’ve heard that retention is everyone’s business, and I can say with certainty that marketing and branding are, too. That’s one reason we asked 160over90 to interview so many people—from students and alumni to faculty members, our affiliated organizations, and staff members from across campus, deans, vice presidents, custodians, police officers, admissions personnel, and many more. All of that was qualitative.

The firm is conducting an exhaustive look at data we sent them, and soon, they’ll conduct quantitative surveys among faculty and staff members, alumni, and current and prospective students to find out what people are thinking about IUP. We really want to get into people’s heads. 

We’re doing all this, because we need rich insight to build our brand strategy and help to find who we are to our constituents. 

The firm’s timeline is aggressive. They assured us when we signed on that they’d make us sweat as we work alongside them to provide data and studies and feedback. You can expect to see some of the results of their work by March, when they return to roll out their findings.

We are relying on 160over90 to work with us to better define what makes IUP special and increase our relevance with our many audiences. They’ll provide a foundation for messaging and help us do a better job of shining light on our students, faculty members, and alumni.

A new brand image and pumped up marketing presence will help us greatly, but there is no denying that our Imagine Unlimited campaign also accentuates all that we do. We’re seeing a steady stream of support, and at the same time, we’re building a stronger network of connections.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with the University Advancement team to New York for visits with prospects, an alumni networking event, and to attend the first-ever New York Advancement Council. We’re also creating regional Advancement Councils in other cities—Houston is next—and holding alumni events in cities we’ve not penetrated in the past—Chicago and Cleveland, for example.

I’ve witnessed some wonderful collaboration between the Advancement team and the colleges, and I urge you all to continue to work together to make sure our messages are clear, that we are not missing opportunities, and that we are good stewards of philanthropic funds and information.

The campaign is about raising funds, most obviously, but raising friends, emotional equity, and trust is as important. 

All the same, I’m pleased to report that we’ve reached the $58 million mark, which is spectacular, particularly when you consider that we started out with an original goal of $40 million. You already know that we adjusted our goal to $75 million after receiving a $23 million commitment from alumni John and Char Kopchick. 

But, consider this. If we hadn’t received the Kopchicks’ commitment, we’d still be nearing that original $40 million goal with $35 million in commitments. Today is Giving Tuesday, and between now and the end of the calendar year, which is a generally a time of heavy giving, I think we can expect a few leadership-level gifts.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. IUP is worthy of philanthropic investment. People believe in what we do here. 

I’d also like to take a moment to provide a brief update on our free speech initiative.

Since IUP Magazine covered the incidents of last academic year in its summer edition, our year of free speech has brought to campus a wide variety and multitude of programming, and I know many people on campus have appreciated the videos featuring Gwen Torges’s explanation of First Amendment issues. I’m also delighted to see the student Speech Space Squad conduct pop-up interviews on campus.

I want to thank David Chambers and his committee and all who are working to open eyes and minds to what free speech really means and why it’s vital to the American way of life.

Before I take your questions, I’d like to take a moment to catch you up on several items related to searches.

We’re moving forward with searches for tenure-track faculty members, which currently are in the deans’ hands, and the job announcement for a new Athletics director is posted.

Regarding the dean of Libraries search, we’re looking at a few more candidates, and we’re in discussions with a finalist for the dean of the College of Health and Human Services position. Finalists for the dean of the College of Fine Arts position will visit campus next week. 

Tammy Manko and Ben Rafoth have agreed to serve as chairs of the search for the new vice president for Student Affairs. The search committee will have its first meeting next week, and we’re aiming for a mid-summer start date. In the meantime, Charlie Fey is doing a great job as interim and will be with us until at least the end of this academic year. 

Finally, many of you know that Cornelius Wooten departs for his new position in North Carolina in a few days’ time. For the last decade, he has been a steadying presence, guiding us through challenging times.  I will miss his rock-solid ethical compass and his ingenuity. From his deep humility, he asks that I not say more, but I encourage you to thank him.  I also know that he will be a great asset to North Carolina Central University, which is an HBCU, and that he and Clarice will also be closer to the family that are so very important to them both.

I’ll soon be working to appoint a search committee to help us find IUP’s next vice president. I’m pleased to announce that Ms. Susanna Sink has agreed to serve as interim vice president for Administration and Finance while we are searching. 

As you probably know, Susie has been a key part of IUP for 34 years and served as interim vice president once before. It is hard work to keep IUP’s finances and facilities in tip-top shape, and I’m confident that Susie has the experience, expertise, and leadership ability to keep IUP on the right path. 

I also know, as does Susie, that the shifting landscape for public higher education requires IUP to accelerate our work to completely redesign how we do business while still providing an incredible student experience.  To help further this process, cabinet, Susie, and I will soon be engaging external support to help us all drive the change IUP needs to remain a strong, vital university in the future.  Watch for more news and thank you, Susie.

With that, I’d like to talk about what’s on your mind. I’d like to open the program up for questions.

1Refers to students enrolled as first-time and full-time in baccalaureate programs.