2018 State of the University Address

Dr Kenneth S. Hawkinson, president

Welcome to the 2018 Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration.  My thanks to the prior speakers for their remarks and for their dedication to our institution.  Our foundation is making great strides in increasing funding to support our students and faculty, and the new hotel will be a boon to our entire Kutztown community.  It is truly amazing that we have gone from an endowment of $19 million in 2015 to $31 million today.  My thanks to Alex Ogeka, executive director of the KU Foundation, and all the staff in the foundation and alumni association.

And despite our difficult economic situation, as Terry Brown, assistant vice president for Facilities just shared, we continue to do all we can to address our maintenance needs, improve our facilities, and to make our campus beautiful and inviting to new and current students and employees. We are very excited about State System authorization for a new Lytle Hall, a new visitor's center, and we will soon receive funding for a full renovation of the DeFrancesco Building.  

It is my pleasure to welcome all the new faculty and staff who are with us today.  My wife, Ann Marie, and I enjoyed getting to know you at the reception at our house on Tuesday.  This is a wonderful place to live and work and we thank you for joining our community.

I would like to again acknowledge our Council of Trustee members for all they do for our university!  My thanks to Tom Heck, chair; Jolynn Haney, secretary; and Bob Grim for being here today. 
And thanks to Provost Anne Zayaitz for serving as M.C. for this event. Let me also acknowledge my office staff; Toyia Heyward, Pam Rex, and Amy Ridenour.

I believe that the purpose of this gathering is to celebrate the accomplishments of our faculty and staff and to update you on significant happenings at the university and on our progress in moving the university forward. 

You are all aware of the president's or university checklist - the 53 initiatives that were established when I arrived and that are now embedded into our strategic plan.  The initiatives fall into nine categories.  They were assessed in the spring of 2018 term and were presented to our strategic planning committee and posted to my website.  

I am now two months into my fourth year as president of Kutztown University and it is a good time to examine the accomplishments and challenges of recent years and what lies ahead in the coming year.

Accomplishments

National Recognition

We are very proud of the national recognition we continue to receive. It should also be noted the many programs on campus that have been accredited by national organizations. It is a testament to the hard work of our faculty who prepare the reports and meet the standards of these agencies.  Thanks to all those who put in the extra effort to ensure their programs are rated among the best in the country in their given field.

Admissions and Enrollment Management 
As I have explained in previous years, we have developed an Enrollment Management Plan and put great effort into expanding our markets for recruiting new students.

We are all aware of the challenges we have with regard to demographics... fewer 18-year-olds... increased competition from other schools (over 160 4-year colleges/universities in Pa.) ... and increasing costs.  

But our efforts in enrollment management -- our new branding efforts - It is Good to be Golden - the attractiveness of current and new programs, and the tireless efforts of our university community have resulted in higher numbers of applications and deposits from new students this year. As of now, for the first time in eight years, we are up in overall students.  We are up in new student enrollment for freshman, international and graduate students.  We are grateful to all KU faculty and staff who assisted with recruitment efforts this year.  

But our efforts are not over as the numbers will change until the freeze date of September 17.  Let's do everything possible in the coming days to ensure that the overall enrollment is up this year - we are so close.  

Student Success, Access, and Academic Quality 
Our incoming Freshman academic profile has improved in recent years and at this time the high school GPA is 3.20 and the SAT average is 1061 -- as I explained in the past, we are evaluated by the state system partly on the quality our students.  

Our retention rate has improved to nearly 76 percent from 74 percent last year (and 73 percent the year before); our persistence rate has risen one point to 66 percent; our four-year graduation rate has fallen one point to 38 percent; and our 6-year graduation rate is steady at 53 percent.  Final numbers will be available after the freeze date (September 17th).

Our new scholarships have helped in the increase of high-achieving students.  In addition, this year the university will provide more than $3,227,000 in institutional financial aid, up $700,000 from the year before, and up $1.9 million from the 2016-17 school year.  

As you heard earlier this morning, our foundation has more than 800 scholarships available and gave out 123 one-time awards last year.  Last year the foundation spent just under $1 million to assist our students.

As we go into this next year, we will devote additional resources to help our students.  

Two-Year Housing Requirement
Our two-year housing requirement is now fully implemented. Our research shows an increase in retention rates when students reside on campus for the first two years.  Now that the requirement is fully in place, I can report that we have nearly a 100 percent occupancy rate in our residence halls.  This not only brings in additional resources to our auxiliary budget, which allows us to reduce housing rates this year, but, more importantly, it will contribute to a higher retention rate for our students leading to higher graduation rates.   

New Programs
Kutztown University must continue to innovate and offer new programs that will attract students and prepare them both for life and for the workforce.  This past year the following new programs have been approved or put in place:

New Programs effective Spring 2018

  • Minor in Art Education  (Art Education and Crafts Department)
  • Minor in Case Management (Social Work Department)
  • Minor in Studio Art (Art and Art History Department)
  • Endorsement in STEM Education (Secondary Ed Depts)
  • Endorsement in online learning (Library and Learning Technologies Dept) 
  • Endorsement in instructional coaching (Elementary Ed Dept)
  • Post-baccalaureate certification in Special education preK-8 (Special Ed Dept)
  • Post-baccalaureate certification in special education 7-12 (Special Ed Dept)
  • New Programs effective Fall 2018BS in Public Relations (English Dept) 

New Programs effective Spring 2019

  • Minor in Social Media Theory and Strategy (Communication Studies Dept)

New Programs under preparation 

  • Certificate in Data Analytics (Computer Science Information Technology Dept)
  • Certificate in Geospatial Information Technology (Geography Dept) 
  • Certificate in Social Media Strategies (English Dept)
  • MEd in Multicultural Education (Special Ed Dept)
  • Major in Supply chain management (DBA)
  • Track in MPA for healthcare administration (Political Science)
  • Track in Entrepreneurship (DBA) 

In addition to the many new programs, I'm delighted to acknowledge that the first doctoral students graduated from Kutztown University in the DSW program in May 2018.
I encourage departments and colleges to initiate new courses and programs so that we can meet the emerging needs of our students and society.

Over the last two years, an enormous effort had been put forth by many faculty, staff, students and administrators to redesign our general education program. We believe that this redesign was essential to our success in recruiting and retaining students. My thanks to the many groups and individuals who worked so hard on this initiative and to those who have provided important feedback.

Small Business Development Center
Kutztown University received a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to serve as the new site of the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center Lead Office, effective July 1.  Additional grant money has come in that has put the total amount of funding at over $9 million. The PA-SBDC Lead Office is responsible for the financial and programmatic oversight of the statewide network of 18 college- and university-based centers and more than 90 outreach centers throughout the commonwealth.  The lead office had been headquartered at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School for 37 years.  KU competed with other prestigious universities to earn the new lead designation. This initiative will result in many assistantships and internships opportunities for our students, and collaboration possibilities for our faculty. My congratulations to Ernie Post, Jeff Werner, and the many others who contributed to this project.

Strategic Initiatives 
You may recall that in 2016 we established a new planning initiative for the allocation of resources.  The first two request years were very successful as we garnered nearly 180 requests from across the university and were able to allocate nearly $2.4 million in support of these wide-ranging initiatives. Please note that these and other projects also received funding from the requesting department, college/unit, and VP division.  The total from all these sources was $3.7 million.

An integral source of funding these initiatives comes from our gainsharing process which returns a portion of excess funds at year-end to a central account.  We were able to recover $370,000 this past year.   
A total of 56 new requests from departments and individuals were reviewed and prioritized this summer with 39 requests being funded for the coming year at a total cost of $2.3 million.  A significant amount of the approved requests will provide resources to renovate existing academic spaces and enhance our current technology in order to help with recruiting, retention, and overall student success.  

Transparency and openness
I continued to meet with numerous units, offices, and constituents through the course of the year.  My schedule is provided to the Council of Trustees before each meeting and is public record for anyone to review in the trustee meeting book that is available in the library.  

Ann Marie and I continue to host around 100 events at our home each year.  The fourth faculty art exhibit is being put in place in the residence with around 25 works on display, and faculty continue to submit their books for display in the library.  Numerous people view the art and books each year and we are delighted to display the talent and scholarship of the faculty.

In the coming year, I will continue to host a monthly open "office hour" so that anyone can come and speak with me on any issue.  We have in place a number of roundtable/advisory groups and these groups continue to meet and provide important advice:  

Advisory Groups

  • President's Faculty Advisory Group
  • President's Roundtable on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
  • President's Town/Gown Council
  • Provost Faculty Advisory Group
  • Human Resources Advisory Group
  • Marketing Faculty and Staff Advisory Group
  • International Programs Faculty Advisory Group
  • Alumni Board
  • Foundation Board
  • There are numerous other advisory groups, such as those serving Instructional Technology, and in other areas.

Of course, I meet with leaders of the unions, senate, and other campus leaders to learn of their concerns and suggestions to improve our university community as well as meetings with area leaders in business and other professions; and I continue to serve on the Board of Directors for Hawk Mountain and Berks Encore.

I am very much aware of the talent of our faculty and staff, alumni and other stakeholders and want to provide as many avenues as possible for that talent to be recognized and used to move us forward as an institution.

Challenges 

While I have summarized a few of the accomplishments from the last year we also have before us some major challenges or projects for which we must be prepared.

Middle States Self-Study Update
One of the most important endeavors we have been engaged in recent years was to prepare for our Middle States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation.  My thanks once again to Dr. Carole Wells and the many others who worked so hard to prepare for this visit.  While the final report of the accreditation team had many positive findings, we were found lacking in two key areas.

The first was Standard V: Educational Effectiveness Assessment.  This past June, Middle States issued to Kutztown University a "Warning" with regard to our non-compliance with this standard. Warning indicates that the commission believes that, although the institution is out of compliance, the institution has the capacity to make appropriate improvements within a reasonable period of time.  

The university has been given two years to make these improvements; a first monitoring report is due March 1, 2019.  Submission of a monitoring report is always followed by a small team visit when an institution is on warning.   

On September 12, our Middle States liaison and Vice President, Dr. Idna Corbett, will be visiting campus to meet with campus leaders and faculty.  

On September 14, Ms. Linda Suskie, a well-known consultant on assessment and accreditation, will be on campus to meet with faculty and campus leaders as well.  

Assessment provides a means by which we can improve all facets of the university--this includes, but is not limited to, the academic endeavors, the student affairs areas, the administrative offices, our processes and policies, and our facilities.  

Just as we ask our students to assess how they can improve their performance on an exam, on the athletic field, in an ensemble, in the studio, or in conversation with others, we must assess our own areas in the realm of a student-focused approach.  This involves having student learning outcomes (SLOs) defined and then assessing or measuring whether or not the objectives were attained.   

Middle States has indicated that we need 100 percent of academic programs to have defined SLOs and to be measuring them and assessing where change needs to occur.  

So, for Academic Affairs and the entire university --- we have work to do.  This is an extremely serious situation and all of us need to work together to be a part of the solution.

The second concern raised by the Middle States visiting team is our ongoing budget deficits and reliance on reserves to balance our budget.  Our expenditures have to equal our income.  We have drawn down our unrestricted net assets or cash reserves $18 million in the last four years, from $52 million to $34 million and -- I cannot emphasize this enough --- both by mandate from Middle States and directive of the State System, we cannot rely on our reserves to balance our budget going into the future.

Budget 
As you all know we have had many financial challenges in recent years - a major drop in state funding, falling enrollment (we have gone from 10,700 students in 2010 to around 8,300), rising costs in all areas, while doing all we can to keep tuition increases as low as possible.  Our tuition rates are among the lowest in the state.

We have implemented budget reductions of nearly $9 million since my arrival --- $11.5 million over the last five years, and we cannot cut our expenditures much more without significantly harming the support we give to our faculty and students.  

As I announced last year, and the two years before, there will be no layoffs of personnel for reasons related to budget this year.  

But we continue to struggle.  The good news is that for the first time in eight years we will have a balanced budget this year --- without using our reserves.  

Our improving budget situation is a result of an improved enrollment outlook, the 2.99 percent tuition increase, a 3.6 percent appropriation increase, the new Campus Support Fee, and income from other areas.  We have also had to make significant budget reductions, exceeding $2.5 million, across the university.  

We are appreciative to the state, board of governors, and our students for the increased contributions all have made to balance our budget.  Behind me, you will see the increase in income from last year to this year and the dollars associated with each increase.  

Vice President Silberman and his team will continue to present a budget update to our governance groups, as requested or as updates become available through the course of the year.

State System Review
 Last year in my address, I spoke of the external reviews that have been done of the State System and the resulting effort by our interim chancellor, Dr. Karen Whitney, State System staff, and the Board of Governors, to "redesign" the state system.  On the PASSHE website, Chancellor Whitney explains what has been happening with the redesign over this past year.  She explains "The review gathered input from students, faculty, staff, university and System leaders, legislators, community leaders, and a national consultant. Based on that input, the Board of Governors established the following three priorities: 

  • Ensuring student success 
  • Leveraging university strengths
  • Transforming the governance/ leadership structure 

The System Redesign effort seeks to enhance efficiency and effectiveness by cutting red tape and already is reshaping the State System to be more student-focused and less bureaucratic. Thus far, the Board has: 

Delegated authority to the chancellor to approve new degree programs 

Streamlined the processes for facilities planning and real property acquisition/disposal

Eliminated or updated more than two dozen outdated, unnecessary, or burdensome policies

Identified additional policy changes to provide greater flexibility to the universities; and 

Launched a webpage to enable everyone to engage in the System Redesign effort.

The System Redesign will continue under the leadership of the new chancellor, Dr. Daniel Greenstein, who will be visiting our campus on November 1.  

Speech on Campus and the First Amendment
As an academic community, we cherish the expression of free speech and the robust exchange of ideas. The ability to engage in academic discourse in an open, honest and respectful manner is what makes us unique.

I created a task force, under the leadership of Dr. Donavan McCargo, dean of students, consisting of faculty, staff, community, and student leaders that established protocols on how to address these situations.  We must fight speech that is inconsistent with our values with more speech that addresses our tolerance, strength of our diversity, and respect for all people.  The Bias-Response Task Force website --- www.kutztown.edu/biasresponse --- outlines protocols we will follow with regard to how we will respond to speech and actions that may fall outside the values of our community.  

We continue to ask that should any of you see something on our campus that is inconsistent with our values, please report what you have found to the website.   

Retention 
As I explained earlier, we have had success in recruiting new students to Kutztown University and will continue to work hard to increase our enrollment.  But with a limited pool of students to recruit we must keep more of the students who choose to come to KU. 

We have had many initiatives and activities with regard to retaining our students over the last few years.  Here are a few examples are on the screen behind me: 

  • Achievement Initiative for Male Success (AIMS) program [with Student Affairs]o First Generation Success Initiative [with Student Affairs]
  • Golden Bear Guide [with Student Affairs]
  • OER-Open Education Resources-discussions and increase use by faculty
  • KU Writing Center moved to first floor of Library
  • Library first floor renovation-collaborative learning spaces/computer stations
  • General Education Redesign and First Year Seminar-will begin fall 2018
  • STARS program [with Student Affairs, Residence Life]
  • CASA  Deatrick Success Center-CASA in Deatrick and TRIO in Deatrick
  • PLACE-Planned Learning About Academic and Career Exploration for Exploratory Studies students Student Success Workshops and individual meetings with students
  • Student Success Team [with Student Affairs]
  • KUBears-Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Grant Funded Programs: ACT 101/RISE program and SSSP/TRIO program
  • Tutoring Services and Supplemental Instruction (SI)
  • Learning Communities and Living Learning Communities
  • Intermural Academic Competitions including Mathematics, Supply Chain, Business Idea
  • Alumni speakers o Career Development Center programs and services
  • ALEKS Math Placement EXAM
  • Summer Academy 
  • Deans' Offices-Assistant to the Dean/Assistant Dean* positions in place--outreach to and meetings with individual students
  • Graduate Student Orientation Expansion of the Sophomore Year Residential Experience (SYRE)
  • Addition of a Transfer Special Interest Housing program

In addition, we have reconstituted the student affairs area, hired a FYE coordinator, put in place a first-year seminar class, established the two- year housing requirement, and many of our departments/colleges have developed retention plans and/or activities.  The first time I spoke to the University Senate, I pointed out that if we could retain just three more students per department it would mean an additional million dollars a year in tuition and fees to help us pay our payroll and cover other expenses.  

In the coming year, I would like to focus on the following initiatives or best practices that lead to higher retention rates for universities:

  • Increase the number of student-athletes (85%)
  • Increase the number of international students (75%)
  • Increase the number of out-of-state students (79%)
  • Increase the number of jobs on campus for students (92%)
  • Continue to increase the academic profile of new students -- better-prepared students are retained at a higher rate (Sesquicentennial Scholarship recipients retain at 94%; students who have over 1100 on SAT retain at 85%).
  • Ask all students to identify a club or activity to be engaged in as part of the admission application (85%) - as an example of how retention efforts in this area can lead to student success... ten years ago, when marching band director Dan Neuenscwhander came to KU there were 75 members of our marching band - today we are at the highest number in history at 173 and these students retain at over 90%.
  • Increase the size of our Honors Program and provide increased support for special programming (84%)
  • Increase financial aid for current students (we lose too many students for financial reasons) 
  • Identifying majors and programs with the highest retention rates and increase support for these areas
  • Employ aggressive advising for students having academic difficulties
  • Develop a mentorship program for freshman
  • And, we need to invest in additional programs that bring faculty in direct contact with their students

The greatest success in increasing retention rates is to increase the opportunities for students to have direct interactions with their professors and other university personnel such as coaches, student affairs personnel, and office staff.  The reason students retain higher in these categories is most often tied to their opportunity to this direct and personal relationship.  In my inauguration address I referred to David Brooks' thoughts on this subject written in his book "The Social Animal."

Brooks writes that many students learn best through imitation, by being mentored by their professors in the recital hall, the art studio, the science or computer lab, the athletic field, in the residence hall, in the field experience, on the Study Abroad trip, the internship, the student teaching experience, and in the classroom.  

We have recently been recognized nationally for our summer KU Bears Research program wherein students are given a stipend during the summer (so they don't have to work) to serve as research assistants to faculty.  We need to expand this program and replicate it across the university.  

This personal attention needs to be stressed across campus - in every office, by every employee - I know that all our employees strive to provide a good educational experience for our students but we need to continually renew our efforts to help our students fulfill their dream of earning a college degree. 

Conclusion
We had many accomplishments last year and many challenges - and I look forward to the accomplishments to come ... as well as the challenges - they are inevitable but working together we can meet them and come out stronger as an institution. 

Things are getting better - we are moving forward more and more each year.  As you all know success breeds success - and there are few things more satisfying than feeling the pride of meeting one's goals and accomplishing one's mission.  

I pledge to work with the faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and all other constituencies to do all in my power to continue to move the university forward to ensure our sustainability and enhance the important role our university plays in our region and society.  Let us all strive to go forward with a humility and a gratefulness that will join us together as we work to create an enlightened community and strong educational experience for our students.

My best wishes to you all!  Have a great year! IT IS GOOD TO BE GOLDEN!