Presidential Newsletters

July 26, 2007

Dear Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Leaders,

This annual “mid-summer” newsletter is arriving as our summer days are becoming especially precious and we anticipate the fall semester. I hope that the two months since graduation have brought vacation time and restful moments as well as productive work. There is, as always, much to report. We are, after all, a year-round campus. The implementation of our strategic and master plans and launch of our comprehensive campaign provide a helpful sense of urgency and the focus for our efforts.


There will be ample publicity from the Provost’s Office about orientation and related events, so I will only highlight three:

The first of several campus-wide events is our annual Mission Day, Monday, August 20, at the Bernardine Franciscan Motherhouse. Mass will be in the chapel at 9:00 A.M. Continental breakfast will be at 10:00 A.M. in the dining room of the Conference Center, with the program at 11:00 A.M. in the upstairs conference room, featuring Sister Sandra Lyons, OSF on the theme of “Franciscan Care for the Environment and All Creation.” The morning will conclude with a noon lunch in the student dining room and the kick-off of our United Way campaign. This year’s program focus on the environment is timely, given its emphasis in our strategic plan.

The annual State of the College program, Tuesday, August 21, begins at 8:30 A.M. with breakfast in the student dining room and will conclude by 11:00 a.m.  

Our final event, scheduled after the hectic first weeks are behind us, emphasizes the importance of the Catholic tradition in our institutional identity.  This year, like many other schools, we will hold a Mass of the Holy Spirit (Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.) to mark the beginning of the academic year.  As with the baccalaureate liturgy, all faculty and staff are asked to join the formal academic procession for this event and invited to participate in the liturgy in whatever way they feel comfortable.


As always, we have some fine new additions to our faculty and staff. And as always, talented and respected colleagues already on campus are often the best individuals to assume campus leadership positions.

I am personally delighted that Spence Stober has agreed to become the Director of the Ph.D. Program. A recognized leader with considerable experience as both a faculty member and administrator, Spence assumes responsibility for one of Alvernia’s highest profile and most ambitious initiatives. As we move toward university status and begin to approach 1,000 graduate students, Spence will also work with deans, graduate faculty coordinators, and other colleagues to help ensure appropriate support and oversight for graduate education and its close articulation with our undergraduate program, even as it grows in size, scope, quality, and reputation.

Hopefully, many of you saw the news coverage of our new leadership team for the Center for Community Engagement. Ginny Hand, currently Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Reading and former Assistant Dean of Graduate & Continuing Studies (working with Spence), returns home to become our new director and an adjunct faculty member. She is joined by Jodi Radosh who will assume the new position of Associate Director of Community-Based Learning. They will be ably assisted by April Cunningham who has been a vital contributor to the Center’s successful launch. And they will benefit greatly from the work of Anne Skleder (also returning home, but to Pittsburgh), who initiated a range of promising projects and partnerships. Ginny’s passion for civic activism, sensitivity to community needs, connections to diverse leaders, and experience in the classroom, community, and city hall make her the right person at the right time in the right position. Jodi is a talented teacher, an emerging scholar and respected broadcast journalism professional, and an involved citizen who models the engagement of faculty in community-based learning (one of the four hallmarks in our new vision statement). Together, they are well suited to forge strategic community partnerships and to ensure that the community becomes an essential part of the Alvernia curriculum. Along with Jerry Vigna, director of the Center for Ethics and Leadership, they will be catalysts for innovation who will represent Alvernia well externally.

As with our new teams in enrollment management and marketing, we have been fortunate to make key hires in the College Life division. This past week Kristél Kemmerer assumed the position of Dean of Students. Kristel comes to us from Albright where she has had experience in both academic and student life administration along with work as a faculty member. She will be joined by Jennifer Gittings-Dalton, our new Coordinator of Career Services, a position critical to support our students, and David Stuart, the new Assistant Director of Residence Life. These new additions bring new energy and enthusiasm to an already motivated staff. The position of Dean of Student Success has not been filled, so Sister Margaret will at present directly coordinate our academic support and learning services. As new staff arrive, it is important to recognize the dedicated and generous service of Dolores Bertoti and Mike Nerino, who are returning to full-time faculty positions.                         

Along with staff changes, we are on the verge of major improvements in student activities spaces. Sometime in late October, key staff in student life, student activities, campus ministry, and multicultural affairs will take up residence in a new Student Activities Center, the newly renovated building formerly housing graduate and continuing studies. Key student organizations will also have office space. There will be 24/7 access for all students to a computer lab and lounge as well as to the new coffee house opened last spring. Sister Margaret is leading a working group this fall to develop a full plan for 24/7 access, including expanded weekend programming. All this also responds to a key goal in the strategic plan.

Construction remains on track for mid-August completion of construction at the Upland Center. The offices of Graduate and Continuing Studies are moving this week; the Center for Community Engagement moves in mid-August. Advancement is already in place (though still unpacking boxes).  A grand opening is planned for early fall.

Starting with the fall semester, additional and overflow parking for staff and faculty will be available at the Ken Grill Pool parking lot. Shuttle service will be provided on a regular schedule throughout the day. The shuttle will service both the Upland Center and the Ken Grill Pool. Details will be announced in August.


University Status:  Alvernia submitted its application for university status prior to the July 1 deadline. This monumental task was possible because of the efforts of many persons on and off campus. In addition to the work of the campus-wide task force and the vice presidents, many contributed to the preparation of the report, among them Dolores Bertoti, Judy Bohler, Jada Campbell, John Kissinger, Mike Laws, Joan Lewis, Daonian Liu, Eleanor Logan, Vickie Lutz, Gale Martin, Evelina Panayotova, Jennifer Reimert, David Reppert, Marti Smith, Beki Stein, Sister Deborah Ann Surgot, Karen Thacker, Jerry Vigna, Stacy Yerger, and Connie Ziegler. Tracy Hine and Ann Ruccius prepared the final documents for mailing and distribution. Special congratulations to Shirley Williams who coordinated this process.

Pennsylvania Department of Education visit:  Preparation for this November visit has been an exceptional team effort. The full self-study and supporting documentation have involved scores of people on campus. Major progress to date includes creation of a Community Advisory Board; complete revision of every education program, the entire teaching process, and evaluation methods; addition of a developmental field experience process connecting classroom theory to the school setting; establishment of formal admission and progression policies and formalization of the Orientation for Supervising Teachers; and creation of an electronic student database to monitor and document progression standards. Two new professional staff positions have been added—Director of Field Experience and Certification Coordinator—and we are employing the assistance of qualified consultants. This work is being directed by Ellen Engler, Bill Harst, and Shirley Williams. (We are fortunate indeed that our provost is a former dean of education!) By Shirley’s count, over a third of our faculty—including numerous faculty from arts and sciences and business as well as from the education program—and a number of key staff and administrators have pitched in to rewrite syllabi, address program improvements, and help meet accreditation standards. Much work remains, but the quality and quantity of (team) work to date is indeed impressive.

Enrollment Management:  This newly constituted division has been full steam ahead in the integration of its enrollment operations. The news is very promising regarding new undergraduates, both first-year and transfer students. We are on track for meeting our new student goal, fueled by the highest numbers of inquiries and applications in Alvernia history, and are running slightly ahead of last year and 10% ahead of two years ago, even as we have been more selective in acceptance standards. The Graduate and Continuing Studies Division, while similarly focused on fall enrollment—including a new cohort of doctoral students—has also been busy bringing in new students throughout the summer for the MOD’s at a range of sites.

The Office of Student Financial Planning, under Rachel Gordon’s leadership, recently renamed to more accurately reflect the services provided to our students, has moved rapidly to implement major improvements. The packaging process for new and returning students is now fully automated, thereby enabling award letters to be turned around and mailed out within 24-48 hours.  This is at the benchmark level for such operations.

With excellent collaboration between the enrollment and marketing staffs, and expert work by the Lawlor Group, new admissions publications will be rolled out in late summer and early fall. The Lawlor Group has also completed drafts of the brand audit, based on widespread campus participation, and an in-depth audit of our website. Much more to come on this front!    

Even as our enrollment team is focused on Fall 2007, they have made excellent progress in the recruitment of our next class for the fall of 2008. Not only have we greatly accelerated the timeline for this critical work, but we have expanded the scope and sophistication of our outreach. Throughout July and August, Summer Information Sessions (SIS) are being held on Friday, with attendance approximately double last year’s programs. Please feel free to drop by and join families for lunch in the dining room.  

Diversity Initiatives:  One of the guiding principles of the strategic plan is diversity, and “inclusive learning” is among the four hallmarks of our new vision statement. Throughout the planning process, there was strong consensus that improved responsiveness to the needs of current underrepresented students and open engagement of diversity issues were preconditions to fostering a more fully inclusive collegiate community. Good initial steps are being taken.

Evelina Panayotova, Director of Institutional Research, and Mary Lozada, Coordinator of Multicultural Initiatives, will be developing an electronic Alvernia Diversity Survey for all faculty, staff, and students, to be sent during the Fall 2007 semester.  This baseline data will be helpful in developing multicultural and diversity programs for the institution, and we ask your cooperation when the surveys are emailed later in the semester.

Faculty and Staff Development Workshops, entitled “Give and Grow Rich,” will be offered on August 15th and 16th and are intended to help each of us better serve our diverse community of students and engage cultural and other differences respectfully. Our presenter, Dr. Joe Martin, has spoken at over 550 colleges throughout the United States and was recently named “America’s Campus Speaker of the Year.”  

Planning and Emergency Management:  A team of administrators, faculty, and staff have met over the summer to ensure that the Alvernia community is better prepared to handle emergencies, including the campus-wide transmission of information and instructions should incidents occur. Research into best practices in higher education and elsewhere has guided this work. Revised emergency procedures booklets will be distributed and focused trainings for and simulations of hypothetical emergency situations will occur during the Fall semester. In addition, a new emergency communications system called e2campus will be instituted. This is a web-based, mass notification system that will empower us to send instant alerts to all student, faculty, and staff cell phones, email accounts, pagers, and or web pages automatically and simultaneously. Other safety measures are being considered to facilitate rapid response in the event of an emergency. With all of our full cooperation, Alvernia will be better prepared for unforeseen events.  

Alvernia’s Recycling Committee, chaired by Doug Smith, will launch a strong campaign to promote environmental sensitivity and campus recycling during the fall semester. Respect for all creation is a core Franciscan value, and the Committee hopes that all of us will make recycling an Alvernia community effort. More information and educational programming will be available on Mission Day and subsequently.

In March, DSS (Distributed Systems Services) began a technology audit of the role of technology in our strategic plan. They are assessing the infrastructure, college-wide use of applications, necessary technical support, and operational efficiencies.


At its session on July 5, 2007, the Executive Committee for Substantive Change of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education acted to include within our initial accreditation the following locations: Cardinal Keeler Center, Harrisburg; Caron Foundation, Wernersville; Easton Area High School; Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., Wyomissing; Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Pottsville; Harcum College, Bryn Mawr; Harrisburg Area Community College-Lebanon Campus; KidsPeace, Orefield; Philadelphia Center, Melrose Park; Reading Hospital and Medical Center, West Reading; Solanco School District, Quarryville. The committee also acknowledged Alvernia College’s decision to close the location at Philadelphia Center, Community College of Philadelphia-Northwest Campus. Alvernia has requested two additional locations. Within the next six months, PDE will have a site visit to one of the additional locations:  Luzerne County Community College, Shamokin; and the Phoenixville Educational Campus at Franklin Commons. This list reminds us that we are a regional, not simply local presence, in adult education.

With a lot of hard work by the science faculty and staff, we have satisfied all the environmental compliance issues that were raised as a result of Alvernia’s voluntary participation in an AICUPA sponsored environmental self audit. All deficiencies have been corrected and appropriate policies put in place to insure our continued compliance.

Plans are well underway for the AFCU Franciscan Conference in June 2008. The schedule and registration forms will be on the Alvernia website by October, and the event includes an impressive list of visiting presenters. Several faculty have already begun preparing presentations, and we hope to have a strong representation from both faculty and student life professionals.

The Center for Community Engagement continues to raise Alvernia’s profile in addition to connecting campus and community. As host of the Russian Judges visit, we were prominently featured in media coverage. The South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI) was among the 10 select programs chosen from nominations by many of the state’s 82 private colleges and universities to be featured prominently on Independent College Day in the State Capital. Lehigh, Bucknell, Allegheny, and St. Joe’s are among others selected.

Finally, as you may have seen earlier this summer, the City Council has approved the Alvernia-City Angelica partnership. Work will begin this Fall.  I am told that already the park road appears on mapquest as St. Bernardine Street. A comprehensive landscaping plan is under development, with a major initial project the creation of a central campus greenspace. Initial plans for our new entrance and approach road to Francis Hall have also been completed. Signage and other necessary components will be addressed. Over the next several years, an attractive campus will become even more so!

The year ahead will be exciting. There has been exceptional campus engagement in discussions and good thinking about Alvernia’s future. We have an excellent strategic plan developed by a campus-wide group, with appropriate faculty leadership and equally appropriate input and direction from our trustees. We have a transformational campus master plan. Our first comprehensive capital campaign is underway, with a special Berks County business mini-campaign to be launched this fall. Our plans, like those of our foundresses, are suitably ambitious.

While it is possible to characterize the past year or so as a time of intensive planning, that would not do justice to the range of challenging projects already well underway, initiatives begun, key improvements made. Everywhere I go in our local community I am told how impressive is Alvernia’s momentum. We have much to be proud of, beginning with the quality of our people and the quality of our commitment.

Look forward to seeing you all at our campus-wide August events.

Cordially,  Tom Flynn

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