Our 149th year of educating students who will go out and change the world has begun, and we are excited and optimistic.

We are excited about Kopchick Hall. On Friday, September 1, we officially took possession of the new building, and it looks amazing. I can’t wait for our students and faculty to begin the learning, research, and knowledge-sharing with that special IUP approach that creates teams of students and faculty.

We’ll soon begin the process of moving from Weyandt Hall into Kopchick Hall, and the first classes will be held there when the spring semester starts in January.

We’re also excited about our enrollment. During these tough demographic and economic times, we are projecting a freshman class larger than last year’s, which was our largest in five years. Although our official enrollment won’t be known until after the September 18th freeze date, this is good news.

While enrolling a larger first-year class is important to our overall headcount, we also know that improving our retention and persistence is the other side of the coin. The hard truth is that 3 out of 10 first-year students don’t return to IUP for their second year. This trend must stop.

This semester, we have begun our largest effort yet, with the installation of our new student success infrastructure. The overarching theme is that every student must be supported by every member of the administration, faculty, and staff, and every student must have every opportunity available to be successful during their time at IUP. In essence, we’re changing the culture of IUP so that student success is first and foremost on the minds of everyone here.

A key component of this infrastructure is our navigators. We hired 15 new staffers, and every student has been assigned to one of them. The navigators will serve as a proactive source of support who can help students as soon as they need it, not when it’s too late. They’ll work with faculty and staff to identify students who may be struggling, and they’ll use resources to ensure no student is left to handle things all on their own.

This new infrastructure should help increase our retention and persistence rate, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. The culture at IUP must change so every student is supported so they can achieve their goals. Their success is our success.

Today, I presented to the Council of Trustees my list of goals for the next five years, which I am asking you to endorse. The plan has seven strategic goals that will shape our work as a university, enabling it to reach a brighter future.

  1. Keep every student who comes to IUP.
  2. Grow market share in traditional market.
  3. Educate other student groups.
  4. Grow IUP’s reputation.
  5. Engage the internal and external IUP team in realizing the vision.
  6. Find alternate revenue streams to support our work.
  7. Focus resources on the highest priorities.

These goals are the framework to support everything we do to help IUP get through these tough times. As I said in my speech on August 25 at the Opening of the Academic Year, IUP is facing its toughest challenges in more than 100 years. But I am confident we can reach our goals, if we stay the course, work together, and focus on the outcome we desire.

 One of the seven goals is to educate other student groups by opening new markets. One way we’re working to do that is our pursuit of a college of osteopathic medicine. To attain accreditation, we must have a dean for the college in place, and we have brought five good candidates to campus for interviews and presentations. We’re close to reaching a final decision, and we hope to be able to announce the new dean later this month.

While increasing our revenue is a chief component of a brighter future, so is reducing our expenses. We’ve been looking at our organizational structure to find ways to both streamline student resources and reduce our spending, and in May we announced some changes that accomplish both of those.

The Divisions of Enrollment Management and Marketing and Communications have joined the Division of Student Affairs under the leadership of Student Affairs Vice President Dr. Tom Segar. The positions of vice president for enrollment management and chief marketing officer have been eliminated.

The University Advancement division has transitioned to reporting directly to me, for the near future, and the role of vice president for University Advancement is currently not being filled.

The position of associate vice president for human resources has been eliminated, as has the position of associate vice president for academic administration.

Since May, we have continued to make targeted reductions in personnel. We will continue to look at our structure to find more ways to improve our financial outlook without reducing student success opportunities.

As part of that work, on June 14, we submitted a Comprehensive Planning Process report to the State System. Since submitting that report, we have reduced our budget deficit even further, using both permanent and one-time strategies. Our deficit now stands at approximately $12.1 million for fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25. 

Related to that, Governor Shapiro’s state budget was signed into law in August. IUP’s share of the funding is $59.4 million, which is an increase of 4.4 percent from last fiscal year. It’s also $2.3 million more than we had provided in our budget projection.

Our student-athletes returned to campus before classes began to prepare for their seasons and have had solid efforts so far.

Our football team won its opener in front of more than 5,000 fans at Miller Stadium, our volleyball team entered play this week on a three-match win streak, our women’s field hockey team won its season opener, the men’s cross country team placed second at its first meet, our men’s golf team finished second in its season-opening tournament, and the defending regional champion women’s tennis team begins its season tomorrow. We’re excited about these great starts and look forward to another fall season of success in the classroom and on the playing fields.

I started this report by saying how excited I am for the new year to begin. We have a plan for our future, and there are already some great examples of people changing the way things are done, with amazing results.

Here is one.

As the director of the IUP Marching Band, Dr. Zach Cheever has done a remarkable job of bringing pride and prestige back to The Legend, and he’s been here for only about a year.

Dr. Cheever has actively recruited students to come to IUP and join the band. He held signing ceremonies, similar to one student-athletes have, where high school students sign on to join the IUP marching band, and maybe you have seen some of those photos on social media.

By being proactive in growing the marching band, Dr. Cheever has achieved something remarkable. When he came to IUP last summer, the marching band had 88 members. This fall, it has 165.

It’s things like this that show me that some great things can be done, and I look forward to many more to come.  Your university is marching smartly toward an amazing future, and I am both honored and humbled to work with the incredible IUP team, including our trustees.

This concludes my report.