A lot has happened at IUP since our last meeting of the Council of Trustees.

The fall semester is almost over. We had an overall enrollment of 9,254—our first year-to-year increase in 11 years. We are up 422 students from last year, the largest gain in the State System.

That’s great news considering the state of higher education across the country, where more schools are competing for fewer students.

This weekend at the commencement ceremonies here at the KCAC, we’ll be adding 521 new graduates to the IUP Alumni family. We are excited to see what they will be doing when they leave here. We know they are confident, prepared, and ready to flourish.

Last month, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kopchick Hall, our new science building. Next month, Kopchick Hall will open. At one time, a new building for our science work seemed like an impossibility. But it’s now here, and our students and faculty are excited about the possibilities it will bring.

So am I.

As Kopchick Hall is opening, we are saying goodbye to several buildings on campus that we no longer need. Fencing is up and demolition has begun at the Reschini House, R&P office building, University Towers, Eicher Hall, and Pratt Hall. Soon, Kopchick Hall’s predecessor, Weyandt Hall, will be razed.

As I update you on facilities, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to speak about a topic that has generated some public interest.

As you know from my prior consultation with you, our plan is that starting next fall, students in the Cook Honors College will not live in Whitmyre Hall, where all first-year, and some returning, Honors College students have lived in 23 of the past 28 years. However, they will continue to take their core classes in Whitmyre. In fall 2024, Honors College students will live in a living-learning community in one of our suite-style residence halls, much like their predecessors did when Whitmyre was closed for renovation, taking advantage of the amenities that today’s students want.

The draft Long Range Facilities Master Plan, which you have been reviewing, includes options for Whitmyre Hall, which is expensive to operate, and which will need some costly maintenance in the next few years. One option includes its eventual demolition, but the draft plan has not yet been approved and statements that a decision has been made to demolish Whitmyre are not correct.

Should we move forward with razing Whitmyre, we would have a plan in place to house the Honors College in a location that will support its philosophy and programming, including the living-learning community and having classrooms, office space for the Honors College administration, and gathering spaces for students in one area in the building, which would mirror the current Honors College offerings in Whitmyre Hall.

Data from a recent student survey clearly indicates that many of today’s students do not want to live in Whitmyre Hall because it lacks the privacy and square footage that our suites offer.  Students with disabilities or other special needs are also challenged by living conditions in the building.

Wherever it is located, the Honors College will remain a vital part of IUP’s offerings. We are proud of the history and traditions of the Cook Honors College, and we look forward its growth and evolution in the years and decades to come.

The demolition of the buildings that is underway has been in the works for a long time. But now we are making a new Long-Range Facilities Master Plan, replacing the one that the Council of Trustees approved in 2010, and updated in 2011, 2014, and 2017. To create the new Master Plan, we have brought in consultants, held public input sessions, and presented multiple plans to use our buildings and grounds in the best ways.

The result will likely mean some departments and offices that have been in one location for a long time may end up moving to another building. Those decisions are not yet final, but they will be made to organize our campus in ways that make the most sense taking into consideration student and faculty needs, as well as the changing size of IUP.

That’s also part of the rationale behind the Academic Restructuring Plan, in which we are evaluating all our academic offerings and working to organize them better to streamline students’ opportunities. There are multiple ways we could reorganize our colleges, and we have presented these to the IUP community.

There is still a bit more work to be done before the final plan can be announced, but we have seen some good work done by different areas of IUP, and we expect the final plan to be a benefit to our students.

We currently have five academic colleges, but we are working to add a sixth, the IUP College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Council of Trustees endorsed this plan a year ago, and we have made much progress. One of the biggest pieces was put into place last month when Dr. Miko Rose was hired as the college’s founding dean. She comes to IUP from Pacific Northwest University, where she was the Assistant Dean for Clinical Education.

With Dr. Rose in place, IUP is one step closer to accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, which is a three- to five-year process that will include site visits and a feasibility study.

At our last Trustees meeting, I introduced a list of seven presidential goals for the next five years. They are seven things that if every member of the faculty, staff, and administration incorporates into their daily work, I believe will ensure IUP has a brighter future.

One of the seven goals is to educate new student groups, and the proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine fits well into that goal by bringing in students who want to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. No public university in Pennsylvania currently has an osteopathic medical school, and if we are successful in launching ours, we will be able to offer an affordable option that will help the rural parts of our state that are badly in need of medical professionals.

The first of the seven presidential goals is to keep every student who comes to IUP. That’s a broad statement that speaks to retention and persistence, as it’s clear that far too many students have come to IUP but left before graduation for one reason or another.

For too long, students have found that IUP’s bureaucracy sometimes put barriers in their path to success. Sometimes the bureaucracy worked well for employees but was difficult for students. We have changed many things in this area to help students stay on track, and the most ambitious of these was to install an academic success infrastructure that ensures every student has what they need to succeed.

The keystone to this infrastructure is the Navigators program. This summer, we hired 15 new staff members and trained them to be to front line of student support. Each of IUP’s 9,254 students has been assigned to a navigator, and we are seeing results that show we are on the right track.

Here is one proof point: One of our students was feeling uneasy after some off-campus violence earlier this semester. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay at IUP. But he reached out to his navigator, Marcia Briscoe, and she listened to his concerns. She even met with his mother to hear her worries. Marcia showed the student and his mother all the resources IUP offers to help students cope with any event they encounter, and soon after he decided to stay at IUP.

He reached out to Marcia a few weeks later and said he was doing well and was glad he did not give up and go home.

There have been many other stories like that, but that one explains why navigators are needed and so critical to our future as a student-centered university.

I’ll close this report with an athletics update.

This fall we saw the resurgence of the IUP women’s volleyball team. The Crimson Hawks, under second-year coach Lo Hoyer, advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament, and in the regional semifinals, they upset two-time defending regional champion Gannon. Although we lost in the regional final, the playoff run shows the trajectory this program is on.

We also had more solid seasons from traditional powers men’s golf and women’s tennis, and many of our other fall teams made their mark with good seasons. The winter season has begun, and we are excited about the progress of the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as swimming and diving.

And just last weekend, our men’s rugby club team won the College Rugby Association of America Division II national championship in the 15s division by beating the University of Memphis in Houston, Texas. That’s a great accomplishment for those young men who continue to shine on the national stage.

This concludes my report.