Presidential Newsletters

January 3, 2006


Dear Faculty, Staff, and Student Leaders,

Happy New Year to one and all. I hope the Christmas and entire holiday season provided ample time to be with family and friends and maybe enjoy a few minutes of quiet rest.

As you know from my report at our recent campus-wide breakfast, many of you emphasized that we need much improvement in communication and information-sharing. While offices and divisions, like Athletics and the Library, share news from their areas, there is no comprehensive or inclusive approach to campus communication. There is no office responsible for communication, and we have only a one-person public relations staff expected to focus on external outreach. Listening to many of you certainly convinced me that we should explore some practical ways to communicate better.

Here’s my own modest ASAP contribution: for this semester, I will experiment with a monthly e-mail. Besides asking my cabinet colleagues to ensure this e-mail list is as inclusive as possible, I would ask that these updates be posted conveniently for individuals without regular e-mail access.

Personally, I don’t appreciate getting frequent e-mail messages sent to a mass audience unless they contain pertinent information of potential personal interest. (Electronic bulletin boards are always available for other notices.) So these monthly newsletters will be relatively brief and necessarily selective in coverage. Many worthy items will get overlooked, but maybe in the process we will get some good ideas about how to communicate better overall. Please do give me feedback and suggestions!!!

Board of Trustees:  Thirty trustees participated in a 1½ day Board workshop/retreat on December 14-15 in addition to conducting their regular winter business meeting. Trustees endorsed the framework for strategic planning (presented at the recent campus meeting) and provided valuable feedback which I will share directly with the new Strategic Planning Council. Trustees also received an in-depth briefing on enrollment management and pricing strategies from a leading national expert and participated in several sessions focused on trustee and board responsibilities, including fundraising.

In the view of trustees, our most important strategic issues are a) clarifying institutional identity; b) expanding fundraising and marketing efforts; c) engaging alumni; d) broadening student recruitment efforts; e) improving the residential campus experience; and f) strengthening (and assessing) the quality and distinctiveness of an Alvernia education. Trustees identified strategic planning/institutional direction; advancement (fundraising and marketing); and the monitoring of educational quality as their three most important responsibilities for the next two years. They also expressed a strong commitment to deepening their understanding of the “student experience” at Alvernia—both undergraduate and graduate, on main campus and at our two other sites.

The large turnout of trustees and their high level of engagement were inspiring. Especially memorable was the opening session of the workshop at which all trustees were asked to talk briefly about why they were committed to Alvernia and to trusteeship. Their commitment to our Franciscan identity and to our educational mission was impressive.

Science Grant:  Hopefully many of you read the e-mail announcement and saw the nice media coverage of our $500,000 grant from the federal government to support our new science wing. Congressmen Jim Gerlach made this happen.  It was terrific to see so many folks, especially our science faculty, join in the formal announcement.

Campus (Facilities) Master Planning:  During the coming months, and coordinated with the strategic planning process, we will address the need for a comprehensive long range plan for facilities and make progress on some more pressing related issues.

A quick review and update:  About two years ago, preliminary plans were drafted for a significant renovation of our University Center and two major decisions were made:  to purchase over 45 acres for athletic fields and to lease a portion of the Upland building and to explore long-term uses for this facility.  We are now actively considering the best potential uses for the Upland building, including possible purchase. With the construction of a new science wing, we now have the additional opportunity to determine the best use of the former science spaces in Bernardine Hall. A plan for “lower” campus must be created.  And as many of you have commented, significant improvements are needed in campus signage and landscaping. All of this must be well coordinated.  

Comings and Goings:   Welcome back to Carrie Fitzpatrick who returns from sabbatical. Mike Pressimone begins officially on January 9, with his family joining him at the end of the school year.

After a decade of service in Admission and Advancement, and a student experience as a graduate of our MBA program, Francis Schodowski has decided in his words to “spread his wings” and accept a professional opportunity as Director of Development at Millersville University, his wife Amy’s alma mater. I know Francis plans to express personally his appreciation and strong loyalty to Alvernia before his last day on January 20, but let me take the opportunity to salute him publicly for his dedication and contributions and, on our behalf, wish him and Amy (and their gang) the best.

To provide direction to one of Alvernia’s “emerging priorities,” and as part of the transition in leadership in the provost’s office, I am pleased to announce a new assignment for Anne Skelder. Besides being part of the provost office’s team, with focus on the range of college-wide academic offices and programs, Anne will be assisting me directly in the exploration and development of strategic community partnerships. This will involve gathering information about the community outreach efforts already underway and coordinating our emerging initiatives. In addition, I will look to her to help target potential major opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships.

A full list of new employees, promotions, and job reassignments since September will be included in the February newsletter.

Awards and Honors:  Dolores Bertoti received a welcome early Christmas gift:  she is one of this year’s ten educators to be recognized as an “Outstanding First-year Student Advocate” by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience. Awardees will be honored at the 25th anniversary annual conference in Atlanta in February. These annual awards recognize individuals and also exemplary institutional efforts. So congratulations to Dolores and many other good colleagues across our campus.

Our Athletic Program has received Honorable Mention recognition in a national competition—one of only thirteen Josten Community Service Awards selected from among the 437 NCAA Division III schools and 40 conferences. These awards highlight programs “focused on the student-athlete and based on sound educational philosophy.”

Provost Search:  Under Judy Warchal’s direction, and with assistance from our search consultant, the Search Advisory Committee launched the process in December. They will be making progress reports to the campus.

Strategic Planning Council (SPC):   The SPC also launched its work in December and has scheduled several preliminary meetings. The Council also will be making periodic progress reports as well as enlisting the campus’ involvement.

Upcoming Events and Activities:  We are fortunate each year to host the annual Hesburgh lecture by a distinguished speaker sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Reading.  Dr. Dennis Jacobs, Associate Provost of Notre Dame, will be this year’s speaker. His topic is timely for us at Alvernia:  “Learning In and Through the Community.”  Date and Time: March 22, 7:00 (Francis Hall Auditorium).

Bill Burrell is leading plans for appropriate events to celebrate Martin Luther King Day at all three of our locations, timed for after classes are fully underway. Details will be forthcoming.

Best wishes to all for a great semester. Tom Flynn




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