50 Minutes with President Driscoll Event Announces New Chief Diversity Officer and Listening Tour

Posted on 2/15/2019 4:02:53 PM

At the second 50 Minutes with President Driscoll event on February 15, 2019, President Michael Driscoll discussed student success, IUP’s rebrand, the Imagine Unlimited Campaign, and announced his plans for a campus-wide listening tour. He also revealed the name of IUP’s new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Read his full remarks below. The next 50 Minutes with President Driscoll will take place Wednesday, April 24, at 3:00 p.m.

I’m glad to touch base with all of you today. The academic year is moving fast, and we have so much to do. As we did last semester, we’ll end this program with questions and answers. You are welcome to ask a question or comment on anything you think is important. After you indicate your interest to speak, please wait for a microphone to reach you. We want everyone to be able to hear what you have to say.

I’ve been to the State System’s office and the capitol twice in the last two weeks to collaborate with partners on the system redesign and to advocate for funding for all the universities but especially for IUP. The general approach for the redesign is called the Sharing System. It leverages the strengths of each university to better serve students, Pennsylvania, and the system as a whole. The details aren’t final, but I can tell you that this will be a collaborative, participative, and fast-moving process.

In the last four weeks, the chief academic and financial officers from all 14 system universities worked together to draft recommendations. The chancellor and presidents endorsed their work on Monday, and the next step is to involve more people.

As you may have heard, the governor’s proposed budget for next fiscal year includes a 1.5 percent or $7 million increase in appropriations for the State System. On Tuesday, the chancellor testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee and emphasized three immediate issues, all directly relevant to student and university success: control costs, control tuition, and deal with the challenges of the small universities. The hearing was refreshingly different, indicating that the chancellor’s work to rebuild the legislature’s trust is bearing fruit. I remain hopeful that we can work together to make changes that will help us thrive in the decades ahead. More later as things progress.

Back in 2013, we did a great job crafting our shared vision and then, in 2015, our strategic plan. In that time, we’ve learned a lot as we’ve tackled our Middle States accreditation reaffirmation process, rebudgeting, launching a campaign, planning the University College, and so much more.

Our experiences together have given us more clarity, and it’s time to take stock of where we are, what we’ve done, and how we might refocus our efforts in certain areas. Provost Tim Moerland will be working with the University Planning Council on the next generation strategic plan, based on what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned, and the changing world. The UPC is redefining itself to more effectively help with planning and guiding us forward.

Diversity and inclusion are a big part of the strategic plan, as you know. Informed by the climate study spearheaded by Dr. Pablo Mendoza, who recently left us to work in a warmer place, the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion developed a strong Diversity Action Plan to help guide our efforts to be a place in which all people can work, learn, and lead.

The plan has two primary recommendations. We addressed the first, to develop a mechanism for reporting and responding to incidents at the beginning of last semester. Our Title IX coordinator, Elise Glenn, has served as the first point of contact. We’ve been working for months on the best way to address the second recommendation, to restructure and centralize existing units and personnel, while taking advantage of the many offices and people already doing great work.

I’m pleased to announce that I have appointed Elise to the position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Title IX Coordinator. She will report to me as a member of the President’s Cabinet and direct the Office of Social Equity with the broadened charge to engage all of us to accelerate progress toward our vision of an IUP that promotes and celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion.

She will collaborate with others to raise the visibility and increase the impact of all the great things going on across IUP.

This seems a good time to also thank the recently retired Kate Linder for her tireless work cochairing the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion with Yaw Asamoah. I’m glad to announce that I’ve asked Dr. Meghan Knoch, faculty member in Biology, to pick up where Kate left off as we continue to implement the Diversity Action Plan.

The Diversity Action Plan also recommends that IUP establish ways to resolve disputes that arise as we learn to work and learn together. Likewise, many have identified the need for informal and collegial dispute resolution across a wide range of issues.

At the start of last semester, I appointed an Informal Dispute Resolution Work Group to review best practices and develop recommendations that make sense for IUP—for us. The work group members are broadly representative of the university. Drs. Kelly Heider and David Piper chair the group, and this week they briefed me on the progress. While it’s a bit too early to give you details, the group is doing remarkable work. You can expect an update later this semester.

We all can look forward to a most exciting diversity and inclusion opportunity. Stephanie Taylor-Davis reports that Second City Works has signed on to help shape a workshop that will take place April 9. Details will become available soon.

I also want to remind you of the Difficult Dialogues training coming up on February 28. This training is part of our year of free speech, and the registration deadline is February 21. Perhaps as important as attendance is your participation in advance. From those who participated in last semester’s training, Gwen Torges is looking for examples of how you are using Difficult Dialogue techniques in your work. Please be in touch with her.

This Monday’s Six O’Clock Series features Greg Lukianoff, author of the best-selling book The Coddling of the American Mind and executive producer of the documentary Can We Take a Joke? [Note: Since the remarks, Mr. Lukianoff canceled his appearance on campus because of illness.]

And, later in the semester, on April 17, Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, will be on campus to discuss the Constitution and free speech. These are wonderful opportunities for further discussion and just two of many.

IUP’s efforts about free speech are not going unnoticed. In a series of luncheons in Pittsburgh we’ve had with people in various industries, I’ve mentioned the Free Speech Project, and we’ve received incredible feedback. Free speech remains an important topic not only on campuses but in a wide variety of settings. Our students need to have a broad understanding of the issues and implications. More accurately, we all do.

In addition to free speech, you’ve heard me talk often and loudly about student success. Student success is Goal 2, Strategy 1 of the strategic plan, and I’d like to focus on that a bit today.

First, I’d like to take a moment to praise all the people who spent the first weeks of January reaching out to students who had not registered for spring semester. Had they not conferred and hustled, our fall-to-spring freshman retention rate would not have risen to a bit more than 86.25 percent. That’s progress. Thank you!

As I told a group of prospective students who visited campus this past weekend, academic and personal success are the most important things we facilitate at IUP. I also noted for them the word “facilitate” and emphasized that their success is up to them and no one else, that it is their responsibility. However, I also assured them that they can trust the IUP community to support and guide them.

When students come here, we expect them to give it their all—to try hard, to stretch their thinking, and to be independent. In return, they expect us to guide them—not do the work for them, but guide them, so that they can succeed.

Our students have been wooed and served by tools and brands they’ve come to trust. Uber. Netflix. Amazon. Book any flight through Expedia. Alexa can get you anything. All you have to do is ask. They came to age in an era of raging consumerism, with products and services that are designed to treat the customer as king. On demand. With clarity and efficiency and excellent customer satisfaction. That’s transactional stuff, but it’s important.

Students also have been accustomed to partnerships their entire lives, through organized sports and activities and with their parents. Our relationship with them is a partnership, too. When they succeed, we succeed as an institution and as a community.

It’s a fine line we walk. We are expected to help our students grow and become discerning thinkers, collaborators, and leaders. They must work for their credentials here. And yet, we also should accept the fact that we must offer things in a way they—and their parents—have come to expect in the age of consumerism.

You surely saw the last edition of IUP Magazine. The cover says in bold print: IUP is raising the bar. That cover story ties to the University College. Certainly, the University College is the latest, best example we have of meeting the expectation of great service while also raising our own ante.

Not long after the last 50 Minutes event, a student approached me. She has a great academic record and is closely connected to two different official university entities. She was short of finances and on the verge of dropping out. Imagine her anxiety, because of a bad assumption that she had no options and because no one had pointed her in the right direction. She almost fell through the cracks, but she didn’t. The moment she was connected to some financial aid counseling, all of that changed. She has returned for the spring semester.

In fact, I had a chance to say “hi” to her while we were beating Slippery Rock at basketball a couple weeks ago.

That story had a happy ending. We must make sure our students are connected to the resources they need to succeed. I have no doubt that every day, many actions that create student success occur in your operational units, but we must make sure we do that consistently, across the university, and for every one of our students. Student success cannot depend on a student being strong enough to come to an event to talk to the president, who helps her make the right connections. It takes all of us, all the time and for every student. And I’m very pleased to report that you get it. Over 130 people, representing all of IUP’s divisions, attended this morning’s Summit on Student Success and Retention to learn how to do more, more effectively, together.

So, here’s what I’m going to do.

Over the course of the next 18 months, I’m going to do a listening tour. I want to hear about your operations’ successes and find ways to systematize them and capitalize on them. I want to know what you view to be our barriers to creating more success. I also want you to hear what I’m thinking. A few minutes ago, I talked about how much more clarity we have after working through some very large objectives. Clarity like that happens when we connect, communicate, and collaborate.

I’ll be visiting all quarters of the university—divisions, colleges, and various groups of people, including students. I look forward to meeting with all of you.

What we do to create a common IUP experience that our constituents know and trust connects nicely to my next topic.

When we were together last semester, I mentioned that we’re working toward a solid new plan for a refresh of our brand and image. Our consultant, 160over90 has completed the extensive survey process—students, faculty and staff, prospective students and parents, and alumni have been asked to weigh in by survey, in addition to the focus groups we had last semester.

Right now, our MarCom team is working with the consultant to synthesize those results, and in the coming weeks, two brand advisory councils, one comprising faculty and staff members and the other comprising students, will review the conclusions and weigh in on the direction.

As our Marketing and Communications team is preparing for the rebrand, they’ve begun meeting with college deans and chairs to start gathering rich ideas and content we’ll need to tell IUP’s story to the world. Don’t underestimate the power of our success stories.

At a meeting the University Advancement Division had last week—a campaign planning retreat—we discussed the power of storytelling as it pertains to philanthropic investment and how one inspiring story can influence or turn an opinion and shape minds and hearts. We also talked about how we must leverage the campaign’s momentum for success across the university.

Certainly worthy of note: we are at 81 percent of our $75 million campaign goal, with more than $60 million in pledges and gifts--proof that our alumni and friends believe in us.

I hope you can see that everything I’ve just talked about is interdependent. We are creating momentum and positive impact. Inclusion. Student success. University success. A good image and cohesive set of messages that influence. Alumni and donors investing in us, because they believe in us. All of it tied to the highly important job of preparing the leaders of the future.

We are on a roll. We’re working hard, and I know it’s sometimes fast paced and even overwhelming, but we can’t stop now. Please know I appreciate everything you do, every single day.

Let’s keep pushing forward together.

Now, what questions can I answer, and what information would you like to share?