Presidential Newsletters

March 21, 2010

Dear Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Leaders,
Mid-semester break and St. Patrick’s Day have come and gone, March Madness is in full swing, and spring is finally in the air. I look forward to seeing many of you on Tuesday as we celebrate the progress of our Values and Vision Campaign at the kick-off event for the Faculty/Staff effort.
The past few weeks have included some highly successful events:  our fourth annual Employee Recognition Awards Reception honored individuals who collectively have provided over 450 years of service; campus programs featured the Tuskegee Airmen and Palestinian and Israeli Women from Creativity for Peace; and our Scholarship Luncheon and Accepted Student Day attracted record crowds. Enrollment trends are hopeful, but much work lies ahead, including another Decision Day (April 23). The involvement of faculty and staff is essential to our efforts. As we know, “recruitment (and retention) is everyone’s business.”  
Many exciting events are soon to come. "The Challenge of Leadership in Our Urban Cities" (March 25), featuring a panel of mayors, including Reading’s (and Alvernia’s) own Tom McMahon, is the second event in our “Ethics, Leadership, and Community” lecture series. The Library’s Edible Books Festival (April 7) and the spring play, “The Seagull” (opening April 15), provide food for body, mind, and soul.  Earth Day will be celebrated in unprecedented fashion with the Hesburgh Lecture, "Deciding to Be Green" (April 12) and our third University Day of Service (April 22).  Recall the MLK Service Day drew 180 Alvernians!
Since the well-attended divisional “town meetings” in January covered many key issues, let me report on decisions at the March Board of Trustees meeting, including compensation for 2010-11, provide some updates, and highlight a few “points of pride.”


At two plenary sessions, trustees reviewed the implementation of the Strategic and Campus Master Plans, as we near the halfway point of Phase I, 2007-2013. The Board is delighted with the progress and the early success of the Values and Vision Campaign, which is running ahead of schedule.
Trustees approved several important actions, chief among them the renovation of the Francis Hall auditorium into a new theater and music recital hall  and the philosophy and guiding principles for a Faculty Compensation Plan designed to reposition salaries within a new, more prestigious peer group. And based on recommendations from the administration and the Board’s Finance Committee, they finalized employee compensation for 2010-2011.
Salary and Benefits:  Unlike last year, when the national economy caused many schools to defer compensation decisions to the fall (and in many cases to forego salary increases and/or reduce benefits), both the Board and the executive team were committed to finalizing decisions in March, well ahead of the 2010-2011 year beginning on July 1.
I am pleased to announce that the Board approved a 2% or $1,000 salary increase--whichever is greater for the individual employee--effective July 1, 2010. Those making $50,000 and over will receive a 2% increase; those making less than $50,000, will receive a $1,000 increase, an approach designed to advantage employees in lower pay ranges.
In making this decision, trustees considered the significant economic challenges currently facing all organizations, the ongoing uncertainty of the economic climate, and the University’s sound financial planning. The Board also expressed support for the administration’s intention to allocate an additional $50,000 in targeted faculty salary adjustments as part of the new Faculty Compensation Plan and the aggressive approach to faculty hiring (up to seven new colleagues).
Trustees again discussed a national crisis affecting Alvernia and all organizations: the spiraling cost of health insurance premiums. Trustees carefully assessed forecasted increases, estimated at 12% to 18% for the coming fiscal year, mindful that Alvernia has been among the few institutions nationally that has continued both to provide full individual health coverage at no cost to employees and to absorb all increases in health insurance premiums.
Having deferred any change in practice even as costs have risen sharply, trustees concluded that it is now necessary to ask employees to begin to pay at least a small percentage of the cost for health insurance. To that end, beginning on July 1, employees will pay 5% of the cost of their health coverage. As an example, for an employee with individual coverage, this will amount to approximately $7.50 to $9.00 per pay period after taxes. (The Human Resource Office will provide information to explain the employee costs for each plan.) Even with this change, the Board noted with satisfaction that Alvernia continues to offer a highly competitive benefit package that compares favorably with peer institutions and with regional employers.   
Other Board Agenda: Besides the above actions, the Board also approved a new Master of Arts in Teaching, recommended by the Graduate Academic Council, and reviewed reports on retention, the teaching and learning and technology plans, and marketing initiatives. Chair Kathy Herbein read a letter of appreciation from the faculty for the recent Faculty Excellence Initiatives. Guests at lunch were the student and staff leaders for the Alternative Breaks Program, and trustees were serenaded over dinner with Irish ballads sung by Jenny (Nolan) Michalik.


National Recognition: Alvernia has been named again to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. But for the first time, we have been placed in a highly competitive, select category and designated “With Distinction.” Launched in 2006, the Honor Roll recognizes commitment to service and civic engagement.
Alvernia’s Holleran Center is increasingly recognized as a model for connecting college students with community needs through efforts such as the South Reading Youth Initiative (SRYI), an after-school program for middle-school students; a new initiative connecting nursing students with senior citizens; service-learning classes (thirteen in Spring 2010); and the University Days of Service (co-sponsored by Campus Ministry).  
A team of Literary Festival and Holleran Center folks have begun planning the first biennial John Updike Literary Society Conference to be held on campus next fall (October 1-4).  
The Center’s success in attracting funds to underwrite programs and operations continues! The federal grant of $600,000 to expand the SRYI has also enabled us to hire one of our own:  senior Psychology major Chris Fake, who has been a leader in the program since his freshman year.
More National Recognition:  Carrie Fitzpatrick was chair of the national meeting in St. Louis of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honorary Society.   
Media Coverage: Visibility for Alvernia continues to grow. Last December’s announcement of the Updike Conference coming to Alvernia was picked up in more than 200 media outlets, many of which linked to an Alvernia-created web site developed specifically to promote the event. In addition to regular coverage in the Reading Eagle, Alvernia and our faculty members have received recent coverage in USA Today, Fox News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, WFMZ-TV, the Allentown Morning Call, the Philadelphia Business Journal, the Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal, the Harrisburg Patriot and the Pottstown Mercury, among others.
Alternative Breaks Program: Demolishing a house. Underpinning a trailer. Performing skits of “cuidadania” (citizenship). Caulking and painting. Working at after-school programs. Practicing justice and walking humbly with God. What do these describe? Just another set of spring trips for the Alternative Breaks program. Participation is up over 100% from last year!
Trips include spring break travel to West Virginia, New Orleans, and Ecuador and two inner-city Reading projects: Winter Reading (mid-January) and Summer Reading (immediately after May graduation). The program’s success and growth to 62 participants reflects the work of its dedicated leaders--Student Site Leaders Emily Berret, Kate MacHugh, Mark Molchany, Brittany Pesta, and Jessica Seyler and Staff Leaders Meghann Burton, Daniel Flynn, Gretchen Greenawalt, and Jo Pressimone.

Helping Haiti:  Our Student Government Association, in collaboration with Student Activities and Campus Ministry, has produced a three-phase approach to “Alvernia Helping Haiti”:  first, fundraising of $3,000 for Mercy Corps; second, collection of supplies, in partnership with Reading’s Caribbean Community Association; and finally, educational activities and additional fund-raising through Spring Fling (including a performance by The Office’s BJ Novak).

Sophomore Honorary Society: Our First Year Advising program has begun a Sophomore Initiative with the successful petition to introduce a chapter of Lambda Sigma, the national sophomore honor society. All current freshmen with GPAs of 3.5 and higher have been invited to apply for one of the 30 membership slots in the inaugural class.

New Program Success! 17 of the 27 students that entered our Ph.D. Program in Leadership Studies in 2006 have successfully completed their doctoral qualifying examinations. The proctored portion of the exam included questions in a student’s area of concentration, research methods, and leadership theory. Students were also given a hypothetical case designed to assess their analytical skills. Successful students have already selected their dissertation committees, with the next step being preparation of a research proposal for approval by their committee. Overall enrollment in our still-new Ph.D. program has grown to 61 students. Congratulations to the “Gang of 17” and to their faculty mentors, especially director Spence Stober.
Even Newer Programs: Alvernia’s first online MBA program was launched successfully in the fall 2009 semester. The offsite Executive Medical MBA at St. Joseph Medical Center cohort completed its coursework and will be graduating in May 2010.
Women of Excellence:  Trustee emerita and prominent alumna Judge Linda Ludgate is the recipient of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s 2010 Anne X. Alpern Award, presented to a woman who has had a significant impact on the legal profession in Pennsylvania. And Ginny Hand continues an Alvernia tradition by being named a Woman of Excellence by the Girl Scouts. Among others, she joins Karen Thacker and three trustees who are recent awardees—Franki Aitken, Kathy Herbein, and Joanne Judge.
Director, Director!:  As you heard earlier, Kevin Godfrey has been named Executive Director of the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU), the national organization for Franciscan higher education. Quite an honor for Kevin. And wonderful for Alvernia.
Author, Author!: Congratulations to Scott Ballyntyne, Beth Berret, and Mary Ellen Wells who have a book contract for Planning in Reverse:  A Short-Sighted Approach to Long-Term Viability due out late in 2010 or early in 2011.
Another Book? Yes, Spence Stober and Donna Yarri: have a contract for a second co-authored volume, God, Darwin and the Origins of Life, due out in 2013. Their productive partnership has yielded fine examples of mission-centered, interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship


“Searching for Good People”: With up to seven faculty colleagues joining us next fall, in both new and replacement positions, searches are underway in a range of fields, from Philosophy and Communications to Education, Business, and Nursing. For now, only replacement positions are being authorized for all non-faculty positions. Searches are underway to hire a Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Planning and three redefined positions in the School of Graduate & Continuing Studies: Associate Dean for Outreach, Director of Graduate and CS Admissions, and an Enrollment Coordinator (recruiter/counselor).  
Look for an exciting upcoming announcement about staffing in the University Life division!
Fun ‘n Games in the Library:  The library is also the venue for Game Night held on the first Tuesday each month. Originally a Library and Educational Technology collaboration, Game Night is now sponsored by a student-run Game Club, advised by Access Services Librarian Curtis Datko. Game Night features video games displayed on large screen monitors throughout the Bonaventure Room, traditional board games, snacks, and fun!  And please welcome Rebecca Rishar, the new Technical Services Librarian and Marietta Dooley, who has been hired to fill the reconfigured position of Distance Education Librarian.
Nurse, Nurse!  Alvernia sent 44 students to the State Nurses Association of Pennsylvania’s (SNAP) Annual Convention.  Students participated in political activities and educational events. Nursing student Tim Frazier published a book review in the convention issue of Insight, the SNAP journal.
Sister, Sister! If you read her recent e-mail, you know that Rosemary Stets, OSF, newly returned from a sabbatical at St. Bonaventure University, is finalizing a major project, with the working title of Can You Speak Franciscan? A Lexicon for Franciscan Learners. Rosemary anticipates a change in the focus of her work, as she will offer a Franciscan Studies course next fall and expand the Franciscan programs available for faculty and staff.
Crusader Athletes: The Women’s Basketball Team made conference playoffs for the 20th straight season under coach Kevin Calabria. The Crusaders knocked off a pair of top-20 teams, Messiah and Lebanon Valley, and also advanced to the ECAC South Championships. Kelli McIntyre and Alex Velazquez were named Second Team All-Commonwealth Conference.

With Coach Mike Miller back in top form, Men’s Basketball was in the playoff hunt until the last day of the regular season. In the ECAC South Championships, Alvernia won twice before losing in the final. Junior Tad Gillis was named All-Commonwealth First Team.

Ice Hockey made the conference final for a third consecutive year, losing another heartbreaker.
Our most notable individual performance this winter came from freshman Casey Osborne, who was conference champion in the 400-meter dash in our first season of indoor track.  
More (Welcome) Dust and Dirt: Major construction projects have been the center of attention for the last two summers, with the resulting transformation of Central Campus and the development of our South (or lower) Campus. Three projects will begin soon to continue the upgrade of teaching and learning spaces and to improve fine arts facilities.
Francis Hall: As our institution’s original home, Francis Hall is key to Alvernia’s legacy. Next month the first phase of its renovation begins. This project will create a new (air conditioned!) theater and recital hall as well as an elevator and restrooms accessible for those with disabilities. Groundbreaking for the elevator is anticipated around April 15.
Bernardine Hall and the Library: Work will also continue to upgrade teaching and learning spaces in Bernardine Hall and the Library, with an Educational Technology Center and further classroom renovations scheduled over the next few summers. 

O’Pake Center:   Funded by a federal grant of over $550,000 for the acquisition of scientific instrumentation and software, the second floor of the O’Pake Science Center will soon feature a full instrumentation laboratory supplementing our existing equipment, with the basement housing a new laser laboratory. Biology faculty are receiving new skeletons and joint models and an instrument software package for physiology studies; Math faculty are receiving new software packages. This major investment will enhance the hands-on experiences of our students and give them a competitive edge when moving into graduate school or their chosen careers.  

The Schuylkill Center:  The timing of this newsletter enables me to thank publicly a valuable member of the Alvernia team, Mary Sacavage. Well prepared by her experience as the Center’s director and by her new Ph.D., she has just accepted a position at Penn State Schuylkill and will be leaving the University in late April. Mary has played an important role in helping Alvernia provide high quality educational opportunities for those who live and work in Schuylkill County. Please join in wishing her all the best, personally and professionally.
And by the way, our new Schuylkill Center in the Cressona Mall is now linked to the university network via a point-to-point T1 line.

Heads and Beds:  In response to student requests, plans are being finalized to refurbish and reopen the 400-level of Francis Hall and to begin renovation of Assisi and Siena Townhouses. Our successful Honors Residential Learning Community will be expanded next fall, and a new community, focusing on Criminal Justice, will be introduced.


It is impossible to end this newsletter without mention of our dear Sister Pacelli. Her family and the Bernardine Sisters have expressed great appreciation for the overwhelming response of the university community. We, in turn, thank the Sisters for the gift of Pacelli to Alvernia.
I am pleased to announce that the Caron Foundation has decided to change their Educational Excellence Award to the Sister Pacelli Award. I am also pleased to announce that we will dedicate this fall’s Third Annual Founder’s Day Lecture to her and that we will hold a celebration of her life sometime on Homecoming Weekend (October 7-10).  What an occasion that will be!
Peace and All Good,   Tom Flynn

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