Our spring semester is almost half over, and so far, it’s been a good one.

I am excited to report that we have evidence that shows the new student success infrastructure that we adopted last summer is already having positive effects. Our enrollment for the spring semester is 8,536 students, which is a 6.5 percent increase from the spring 2023 semester.

The really impressive statistic relates to our class of students who were new to IUP last fall. We retained 90.1 percent of those first-year students from the fall semester to the spring, the first time we have retained more than 90 percent of a first-year class in 14 years.

Not only are the students here, but they are also thriving. Thirteen percent of our first-year students attained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average in the fall semester. If we zoom out on that statistic, we see that nearly one in five undergraduates earned a perfect 4.0 GPA last semester.

Some of the credit for those improved statistics should go to the work we have put into ensuring our students have the best opportunity to succeed. It begins with our 18 navigators who were hired last summer to help transform the student experience.

Every IUP student, undergraduate or graduate, from first year to last year, is assigned to a navigator for assistance with pretty much anything they need to be a success. From talking with our navigators, we have heard that there is no typical IUP student with typical problems. So, our work to help students succeed has been varied in depth and detail. Yet it has taken everyone at IUP using their time and knowledge to help our students, and the results we have seen so far are proof that our students are benefitting from our work.

But this success does not mean we are done with the work. In the next few months, we will be doing more to ensure our goal continues to be student success, including more training on a key set of tools that we will all use to help monitor and support students as they move through the streamlined curricula to achieve their goals.

Last semester, I introduced the list of presidential goals that we are using as tactics to follow our Strategic Plan. The first of the seven goals is to keep every student who comes to IUP, and the fact we are showing improvement is something of which we can be proud.

Another of the seven goals is to grow IUP’s reputation, and the opening of Kopchick Hall certainly does that. The new home for our STEM work opened on January 22nd, and already the students and faculty are diving into research, experimentation, and learning that will help raise our profile as a regional leader in science and mathematics. We waited a long time for Kopchick Hall to open, and we are excited to see what will happen as we settle in and begin maximizing the opportunities it provides.

Another one of the goals is to engage the internal and external IUP community in realizing our vision. In December, we held “A Conversation About IUP’s Future,” where we provided details about some important topics, and we followed that with three more conversations, with five more yet to come. Some of them are for faculty and staff, and others are just for students.

At these conversations, which have been led by the cognizant members of my cabinet, we shared details and took questions about our financial outlook and what we all can do to improve it, our academic restructuring and what it means for students, faculty, and staff, and the Long-Range Facilities Master Plan and how it will impact everything we do. These conversations are critical to getting everyone on board with the work we’re doing and the vision we have for our future.

The Academic Restructuring is a plan to fit our curriculum to our current and projected enrollment, simplifying the program array to match student and employer demand, reducing costs, and allowing re-investment in key areas. It was created using input from many people across campus: faculty, students, staff, and administration. It’s a good plan that has been enhanced by the teamwork shown by those involved, and it proves the results possible when we unite to work for a better future. I am humbled by the work done by the committees and individuals who have invested their time and knowledge to create a plan that will greatly benefit our students.

We have been planning and organizing the restructuring following lots of good conversations with faculty, staff, and students, and we are at a point where our plan is ready to be presented at the Council of Trustees meeting in May, for seeking final approvals where needed.

Speaking of facilities, we have begun the demolition of a few buildings that are no longer useful in our work. The Reschini House has already been razed, and work is happening to tear down Pratt and Eicher halls, plus University Towers and the R&P Office Building. Fencing is up around Weyandt Hall and soon demolition will begin there as we transform the footprint of the university.

A couple of weeks ago, we met with the leadership of the Community College of Allegheny County to further strengthen our partnerships with them, building on a strong base and history of shared programs, including teacher education and business, which are key areas of workforce demand for Pennsylvania. It’s part of a long tradition of work with community colleges, including Westmoreland County Community College’s Indiana Center, and joint admissions agreements with many more across the state, with more in the works.

These working agreements align with what Governor Shapiro is calling his “blueprint” for higher education in Pennsylvania. The key principles of his plan are affordability, accessibility, and providing the educated workforce and citizenry that our state requires for a strong future. These are areas in which IUP and the State System have already made strong progress. What we need now is further investment in universities and students to improve our standing across all states. Currently, Pennsylvania is 49th in the country in terms of higher education funding per student, a statistic that must improve if our colleges, universities, and trade schools are to supply the state’s workforce with skilled and educated workers.

Another of our presidential goals is to educate new student groups. One way we are planning to do that is with the proposed IUP College of Osteopathic Medicine. The founding dean, Miko Rose, came to IUP late last year and has begun laying the groundwork for the college, and other areas of campus are pitching in to help us reach our goal of becoming the first public university in Pennsylvania to open a college of osteopathic medicine.

We received a great sign of the belief in this plan recently when state senator Joe Pittman announced in January that $2 million from the state budget had been set aside to help get our medical school off the ground. That’s a great sign of faith from our public officials, and we appreciate it greatly.

Although there is more work to do on this front, we are making progress and are hoping to enroll our first class of students in the fall of 2027.

Before I close with an update on IUP Athletics, I’d like to announce that Dr. Jack Frank has been awarded the President’s Medal of Distinction for his continued dedication to his alma mater. A 1958 graduate of Indiana State Teachers College, Jack is a past winner of the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award, is a faculty emeritus, and a longtime supporter of all things IUP. The president’s medal is the highest non-academic award IUP can bestow, and Dr. Frank is most definitely worthy of this honor. Today, I am also asking you to approve the award on an honorary doctor of public service to Ellen Ruddock, another remarkable member of the IUP family, which we will award her at the May commencement.

Since our last public meeting, our student-athletes have continued their winter seasons and most of our seven spring teams have begun their seasons.

Last week, four of our swimmers qualified for the NCAA Division II championships and will compete alongside the country’s best next week in Ohio. Those achievements came at the PSAC championships, where our women’s team placed second and our men’s team finished fifth.

Both our basketball teams earned spots in the PSAC tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated last night.

Our women’s softball team won seven of its first eight games, the lacrosse team began its season this week with the lofty expectations that come with being picked second in the league in the PSAC preseason coaches’ poll, and our baseball team enters the weekend on a winning streak.

This concludes my report.