A Student-Centered University

Posted on 4/15/2020 3:13:06 PM

IUP Family:

I hope that you and your loved ones continue to be safe and well.

At the fall 2019 Opening of the Academic Year and the November 50 Minutes with President Driscoll events (which feel like a lifetime ago), I spoke about IUP’s “new reality” and the need to be student-centered in all that we do.
“New reality,” indeed.

Despite the uncertainty of life for all of us during the pandemic, I see example after example of how faculty and staff members are taking that directive to heart, and how students are responding by caring even more deeply for one another and for the IUP family.

This week, I wanted to share just a few examples of a student-centered IUP.

  • After hours of research and discussion, University Senate recommended, and I approved, academic policies to create a new pass-fail procedure, extend deadlines for withdrawals and incomplete grades, and allow students on academic probation extra time to get to a stronger grade point average. This was a challenging consensus to reach, but it was done to help ease the worry and concerns of our students, many in their very first distance class.

  • Generous donors—alumni, faculty and staff members, and students—have grown our Emergency Response Fund, which helps students in financial distress caused by the pandemic, to more than $173,000; many have made separate gifts to the Food Pantry and Help Center.

  • The Division of Student Affairs has established the Student Support and Engagement Team. Since spring break, members of the team have reached out to almost 700 students in need of support and have continued to stage virtual events to maintain connections with them. If you are a student who needs help, please reach out to Student Affairs personnel. 

  • Research Appreciation Week events, essential for our students to gain experience in presenting their scholarship and original research, are continuing virtually. The 3-Minute Thesis competition was held last week via Zoom; the competition winner, Brian Sateriale, donated his $500 prize to the Emergency Response Fund. Look for more information about the annual Scholars Forum and how to participate soon. 

  • Orientation will continue in an online format. Plans include an expanded Welcome Week for new students and their families.

  • Despite working remotely, the University Planning Council is continuing its important work on culture change, identifying our key principals, and streamlining those imperfect procedures that hinder student success. You’ll be hearing from cochairs Paula Stossel and Scott Moore soon.

  • At the heart of it all is the work that faculty members are doing to present courses remotely and the willingness of our students to adapt to this change. It was not an easy task to move courses and other face-to-face experiences to an alternative delivery, and it has not been easy for students to learn in a new way. There have been some bumps in the road, but every single course is continuing so that students don’t lose progress on their path toward completing their studies.

While we have seen tragedy during this awful time, we also have seen goodness. Be aware of helpful information about the pandemic, but don’t lose sight of the heroes—people who take care of their friends and neighbors and who are sacrificing for the greater good. Take time to celebrate your successes, no matter how small. When we get to the other side of this crisis, I want you to remember how you have persevered.

Thank you for all that you are doing. Every day, I find new reasons to be grateful and proud of our IUP family.  

Michael A. Driscoll
President