2019 State of the University Address

Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, president

Welcome to the 2019 Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration.  Congratulations to those who have been honored with rewards – your dedication to our institution truly makes a positive contribution to our community. My thanks to the prior speakers for their remarks and for their dedication to our institution.  

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 meet you all at the reception at our house on Monday.  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; Robert Grim; Jolynn Haney, secretary; Dianne Lutz and Uttam Paudel, student trustee, for being here today. 

And thanks to provost Anne Zayaitz for serving as emcee 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 the areas listed on the PowerPoint.  Working with the Strategic Planning Committee, these initiatives are continually assessed and posted to my website.  I will be touching on a few of the initiatives in this address, but I encourage you to go on the webpage to get a full update on our progress. 

Let me point out that I will present a great deal of data and information this morning.  As always, my speech with slides will be posted on my website.   

I am now two months into my fifth year as president of Kutztown University, and it is a good time to examine a number of the key areas and initiatives of the university, and the accomplishments and challenges that exist within many of these topics. 

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 numerous events at our home each year.  The fifth faculty art exhibit is being hung 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.  I continue to serve on the board of directors for Hawk Mountain and Berks Encore.  I meet regularly with the mayor of Kutztown and host town/gown meetings at my house for local elected officials, police chiefs, and leading members of the business community. 

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 (listed on PowerPoint).  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. 

Of course, much of our recognition comes from the work of our faculty and staff.  Last year 55 books and articles were published, 168 professional presentations were offered and numerous creative activities were conducted.  

With regard to grants, $10,424,472 was awarded last year, which is nearly three times the amount of two years ago. 

I know that many faculty have included undergraduate and graduate students in their scholarship and creative activity, ensuring that the next generation is ready to follow their path in the academy.  

New Construction on Campus and Deferred Maintenance

Since July 1, 2015, we have invested more than $18 million into maintenance projects at Kutztown University (if we included auxiliary renovations, the investment is an additional $41 million). KU has been acknowledged by the State System as a leading university for the amount of money we devote to maintenance and the high quality of our physical plant. 

If anyone walks around our campus, they will see the beauty of our grounds and the continual upkeep we perform on our roofs, facades, sidewalks, landscaping, underground steam lines, and HVAC systems in our buildings. 

Our buildings range in age from 10 to 125 years old, and it takes a continual effort and investment to stay in front of the maintenance needs of our campus infrastructure. For example, this summer we invested more than $4 million in repairs of our buildings and grounds.  Generous donors have helped us with a number of these projects. 

We are on the State System list of authorized projects to include:  

deFrancesco Hall, which has been funded for a total project budget of $16.2 million.  This includes $13.7 million from the state, and $2.5 million dollars from Kutztown University. 

The Poplar House/Visitor/Admission Center funded at $7 million.  

Keystone Hall is on the list for $21.1 million.  

Building a new Lytle Hall with a commitment of $18.6 million from the state and $6.2 million from Kutztown University 

A new synthetic turf sports field has been installed adjacent to Keystone Hall ($4.5 million).  The new field and lights will provide additional space to accommodate student use for intramural sports.  It will also be the home game venue for women’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, and many club sports.  

This project has been funded through student fees and I am grateful to Braden Hudak, SGB president, and other student leaders for their support of this important project.  My thanks also to Amy Sandt, assistant vice president for Recreational Services and Athletic Resources, who contributed funds from the Recreation Center reserve. 

Funded from our central budget, we will finally have bathroom facilities to serve those using the new field, as well as those who attend special events at the field house, such as commencement and recruiting events. 

We are very excited to have received gifts that are allowing us to renovate the Professional Building into the Pennsylvania German Library and Archives, as well as the new Center for Mallet Percussion. 

So, we have received significant funding from the state, support from auxiliary funds, and funds from the KU Foundation.  

Finally, I want to again commend and express my appreciation to the physical plant workers, and so many others on our campus, who are tireless in their effort to make our campus a safe, healthy, and beautiful place to learn, live, and work. 

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 work force.  This past year the following new programs have been approved or put in place:

New Programs effective Fall 2018

BS in Public Relations (English)

New Programs effective Spring 2019

Minor in Social Media Theory and Strategy (Communication Studies)

New Programs effective Fall 2019

Certificate in Data Analytics (Computer Science/Information Technology)

Concentration in Supply Chain-BSBA (Business Administration)

Concentration in Visual Impairment and Elementary Education-BSEd (Special Education)

Concentration in Criminal Justice-MPA (Political Science and Public Administration)

Minor in Game Development (Computer Science/Information Technology)

New Programs under preparation/consideration

Certificate in Geospatial Information Technology (Geography Dept),

Certificate in Social Media Strategies (English Dept)

Concentration in Entrepreneurship-BSBA (Business Administration)

MEd in Multicultural Education (Special Ed Dept)

Concentration in Health Care Administration-MPA (Political Science and Public Administration)

Masters in Addictions Counseling (Counselor Education and Student Affairs)

I encourage departments and colleges to initiate new courses and programs so that we can meet the emerging needs of our students and society.  While maintaining our current programs, we need to establish new programs that will attract new students.

Over the last three years, an enormous effort had been put forth by many faculty, staff, students and administrators to implement the redesign of 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.

Middle States Self-Study Update

One of the most important endeavors we have been engaged in in recent years was to prepare our university for a successful visit from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation.  While the final report of the accreditation team had many positive findings, we were placed on warning due to non-compliance with Standard V --- Educational Effectiveness Assessment.  

I am sure you have all heard the good news.  Because of the tireless efforts of provost Anne Zayaitz; vice provost and dean of Graduate Studies, Carole Wells; interim director of Assessment, Krista Prock; past chair of the General Education Assessment Committee, George Sirrakos; the members of the Academic Assessment Council; the college deans, associate deans, and department chairs; and the members of individual department assessment committees, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) has acted on the pending accreditation matter for Kutztown University. We were informed that the action of the commission reaffirmed “accreditation because the institution is now in compliance with Standard V (Educational Effectiveness Assessment).” 

We will need to submit a monitoring report March 1, 2020, “demonstrating sustainability of the implemented corrective measures.  Following the submission of the monitoring report, a small team visit will occur.  As a reminder, the next self-evaluation visit will be during the 2025-26 academic year. 

We have come a long way and now we need to ensure that our efforts are sustainable.  We still have much to do!  Please mark your calendars for Kutztown University's Fall Assessment Day on September 20. Dr. Fred Burrack from Kansas State University will be guiding us on assessing our assessment. 

Thanks to everyone for their hard work in improving assessment at Kutztown University.  The team efforts at every level resulted in this success. Well done!

Admissions and Enrollment Management

We are all aware of the challenges we have with regard to demographics: fewer 18-year olds, increased competition from other schools (over 160 four-year colleges/universities in Pa); and increasing costs.  I was just at the Reading Area Community College signing for a new agreement, and I spoke to an administrator of our one of Berks County tech centers.  She said that they have increased from 350 students to well over 500 students this year in their program.  Many of these students would have gone to college, but the opportunities for high- paying in jobs in our economy are giving many young people an alternative to higher education. 

However, we are continually renewing our efforts in enrollment management. You all are aware of our new branding efforts, “It is Good to be Golden,” our new responsive website, the attractiveness of current and new programs, and the tireless efforts of our admissions staff, as well as the entire university community.  These efforts resulted last year in, for the first time in eight years, essentially breaking even in overall students. 

However, as you heard from Warren Hilton’s and Krista Evans’ enrollment report this morning, it appears we may be down in our overall numbers of students this year.  Our Admissions staff and Enrollment Management team, as well as our entire Kutztown University community worked hard to maintain or even increase our numbers.  Going into this year, we must strive to utilize every best practice and initiative possible to turn our numbers around.

Scholarships

Our new scholarships have helped in the increase of high achieving students (see PowerPoint for examples of new scholarships that have been developed). 

For this coming year, we have budgeted $6.2 million in institutional aid, up $1.9 million from last year, and up $2.8 million from the 2017-2018 academic year.  We know that a major reason students choose not to come to KU, or fail to stay at KU, is because of cost.  With the tuition freeze for this year, along with this significant increase in institutional dollars for financial aid, we are making a significant commitment to keep our costs down for our students. 

Also helping, as shared earlier this morning, our foundation has over 800 scholarships available, and distributed 123 one-time awards last year.  The foundation awarded $1.3 million last year to assist our students.

Budget 

As many of you know, we were able to balance our budget in 2018-19 for the first time in eight years!  This means our projected annual operating revenues matched our projected annual operating expenses.  However, budgets and actual results can vary, and we did recently close the books for last year with a small deficit, as our actual expenses exceeded our actual revenues by about 1 percent.  

We have made some tremendous strides in rightsizing our annual expenses to be more in line with our annual revenues.  I am pleased to say, that once again, based on our current assumptions, we were able to enter the current year with a truly balanced annual operating budget, wherein we don’t plan to use any cash reserves. However, you will understand how difficult it was, as I describe the measures we’ve been forced to take to achieve this. 

Our current year projected revenues are less than last year due to projected losses in enrollment, continuing implementation of our out-of-state student pricing model, the tuition freeze approved by the board of governors last month, and a very moderate (2.2%) state appropriation increase.  Overall, revenues are down about $2.7 million.

For the current year, expenditures continue to increase at a greater rate than revenues.  Despite the elimination of 44 vacant staff positions that were in our budget last year, we still experienced cost increases related to salaries and benefits of about $1.8 million.  In addition, as I said earlier, we continue to invest in our institutionally funded scholarship programs, adding $2 million to the current year budget to support our recruitment and retention efforts. 

We’ve implemented budget reductions of over $5.8 million in the current year; most of these were true cuts including the elimination of the 44 positions and a 10 percent operating budget reduction.  This brings the total budget reductions that I have implemented since my arrival to over $14 million.   

Normally in this presentation, I list the strategic initiatives that were selected to be funded with funds from our gainsharing program.  Because of our budget challenges, and the fact that there are still a number of unknowns about costs for this coming year, I have put on hold the expenditure of any funds for previously submitted strategic initiatives requests until we have a clearer picture of what our financial situation will be.

We are a strong university, but we are in challenging times.  We have many needs and limited resources, so we must continue to do all we can to recruit more students, retain more students, and reduce our costs.  I am fully aware that the reductions we have made have put stress in certain areas of our workforce, but we are doing all we can to ensure the long-term viability of our university.

We are appreciative to the state, board of governors, and our students for the increased contributions all have made to help us to balance our budget. 

Matt Delaney, chief financial officer, 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

As many of you are aware, Kutztown University, the State System, and higher education institutions across the country are at a crossroads.  Here in Pennsylvania especially, enrollments are down, public investment continues to lag behind the needs of our state universities, and as a result, student debt has risen as our students are forced to carry more of the financial burden.  This is not unique to Pennsylvania. These are trends sweeping the nation.  It is not a sustainable situation, and that is why we are undertaking a massive System Redesign effort to fundamentally change the operating model of all of the System universities, including Kutztown. 

So, what does System Redesign mean?  It means we will begin to operate more as an actual system of 14 universities, rather than as a loose association of institutions. We are harnessing the power of our scale– nearly 100,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff – to drive down costs, reinvest in our students’ success, and ensure we will continue providing the most affordable, quality higher education experience in the commonwealth.  It means we will be able to stop putting more and more financial burden on our students, and give students from Kutztown —and from all across the System— better access to what the entire System has to offer. 

This is an effort that has quite literally never been done before in U.S. higher education.  It is complex, it is difficult, and it must be done.  The chancellor, the board of governors, and all 14 System university presidents, myself included, are tackling this head-on and together with the help of faculty, staff, and students.  You have already seen some of the effects.  Last month, the board of governors voted to freeze tuition, a decision that had only occurred one other time in the System’s 36-year history.  But this is not an effort that can be successful without engagement with, and input from, all of you.  This will continue to be a transparent process, and I challenge you to ask questions, propose ideas, and track the progress as we continue the journey together. 

Division of Equity and Compliance

Under the leadership of vice president Jesus Pena, I have moved the Division of Equity and Compliance to cabinet level status.  The office will continue to monitor all senior-level management and faculty searches and handle all complaints of discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment, and Protection of Minors. Jesus and his staff will now handle all Article 42 and Article 22 complaints, regardless of the nature of the complaint.  The Department of Public Safety and Police Services, now reports to the Division of Equity and Compliance. The overarching goal of this reformed division is to provide an inclusive, welcoming, and safe campus.  

Additionally, as the interim State System Title IX coordinator, Jesus will provide support and coordination for matters related to Title IX within the State System.  

The Office of Disability Services will continue to ensure compliance with laws and regulations in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. 

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, with the support of Jesus Pena and his office, and consisting of faculty, staff, community, and student leaders who established protocols on how to address these situations.  You will find the Bias Response Task Force website at www.kutztown.edu/biasresponse.  The site 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. 

Retention

As explained earlier, we are putting forth great effort to recruit new students to Kutztown University and will continue to work hard to increase our enrollment.  However, with a limited pool of students to recruit, we must retain more of the students who are already at KU.  

We have had many initiatives and activities with regard to retaining our students over the last few years:

  • Achievement Initiative for Male Success (AIMS) program
  • First Generation Success Initiative
  • OER-Open Education Resources
  • General Education Redesign and First Year Seminar
  • Tutoring Services and Supplemental Instruction (SI)
  • Champions Program for Freshman Retention
  • STARS program
  • CASA  Deatrick Success Center
  • PLACE—Planned Learning About Academic and Career Exploration for Exploratory Studies students
  • Student Success Workshops and individual meetings with students
  • Student Success Team
  • KUBears—Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Grant Funded Programs: ACT 101/RISE program and SSSP/TRIO program
  • Intermural Academic Competitions including Mathematics, Supply Chain, Business Idea
  • Alumni speakers
  • Career Development Center programs and services
  • ALEKS Math Placement EXAM
  • Summer Academy
  • Deans’ Offices: Assistant to the Dean/Assistant Dean positions in place
  • Learning Communities and Living Learning Communities
  • Graduate Student Orientation
  • Expansion of the Sophomore Year Residential Experience (SYRE)
  • Addition of a Transfer Special Interest Housing program

In addition, we reconstituted the student affairs area, 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.   

We need to continually make ourselves aware of the many factors that lead to students not succeeding at school and try to alleviate these factors.  Professor and scholar, Vicki Nelson in her article “Is Your College Student Academically at Risk?,”  identifies a number of factors that may contribute to students being at-risk: 

  • Students from lower socioeconomic status and those who are academically disadvantaged or have challenges in reading, writing or technology.
  • Students with certain learning or physical disabilities.
  • Students who are from ethnic minorities.
  • Students from single parent families.
  • Students who may have had an older sibling drop out of college.
  • Students who have changed schools multiple times.
  • Students with unrealistic goals based on instant gratification.
  • Students with a weak self-concept, who do not trust their abilities as a student.
  • Students who have learned helplessness – who do not believe that they have control over their life.
  • Students who are not motivated or goal oriented or who lack a sense of personal responsibility.
  • Students who have a low ability to cope with life situations.
  • Students who are the first in their family to attend college.

So, how do we deal with these many challenges and assist our students to overcome these challenges?    

Certainly, students need to know what to expect when they come to college.  They may need remediation in certain subjects. Highly skilled advising and even intrusive advising is necessary. Aligning their skills and talents to an appropriate major is essential, as well as ensuring that they have the psychological and health support, and providing the financial support that allows them to concentrate on their studies. 

In determining how to help students at risk, I think we need to continue to first look at what conditions lead to student success and completion of college.  You will recall I presented the following areas wherein we have high retention.  We are making progress in increasing students, or our efforts, in all areas:

  • Student athletes retain at a rate of 85 percent, 10 percentage points higher than our regular students (We are working on plans to increase the number of student-athletes).
  • Honor students retain at 84 percent (Full review of our honors program with the intent of increasing participation and retention of honors students).
  • Students who have a job on campus retain at 92 percent (At KU we are increasing job opportunities on campus for this reason). 
  • Better-prepared students are retained at a higher rate (Our top academic scholarship recipients retain at 94 percent; students who have over 1100 on SAT retain at 85 percent).  For those students who are not well prepared – aggressive advising can provide positive results.
  • Students involved with a club activity retain at 85 percent (We now ask all students to identify a club or activity to be engaged in as part of the admission application). 
  • We lose too many students for financial reasons, so we  increased financial aid for current students (We have nearly tripled the institutional financial aid for our students in last four years, doubled the money raised by our foundation, and developed special programs to help students with food insecurity, housing costs while student teaching, and “just in time” funds).
  • Certain majors and programs tend to have higher retention rates than others, and we need to learn from these successful programs.

So, what do nearly all of these examples of success have in common – student-athletes, students who work, honors students, students involved in clubs, students who have aggressive advising, students who are in certain majors with high retention rates?  They all are in direct contact with faculty, staff, and their peers.  The greatest success in increasing retention rates, is to increase the opportunities for students to have this direct interaction with their professors and other university personnel such as coaches, student affairs personnel, and office staff.  This interaction can occur in the classroom, lab, studio, and on the athletic field.  It can also occur through engagement through a club, a field trip, in the residence hall, study abroad opportunities, through on internship or student teaching experience, at a social gathering, or a department picnic at the beginning or end of the year.

Studies show that when students believe faculty and staff care about them, they develop greater self-confidence in their studies and when they go out into the job market.

Kutztown University is indeed known as having an exceedingly engaged and caring faculty and staff, but I hope that we all can continue to find ways to more fully engage our students, thereby, inspiring them to stay and fulfill their dream of earning a college degree.    

Student Talent and Creativity 

Finally, at Kutztown University we are very proud to utilize the talent of our students to help us in many aspects of our mission.  For example, we rely heavily on students in our University Relations division to accomplish much of the work, including marketing, communications, and coordinating our social media.  We hire students, interns and graduate students to assist with video production, web production, photography, sports information, web and publication design. We also use talented and creative student workers in our I.T. division, to help in our offices, and to work as tour guides and provide other functions in our Admissions office. 

I would like to highlight the work of several of our students who, on their own initiative, created a promotional video that has been sent to all potential students who have expressed interest in KU.  Our students wrote the script, recorded the scenes, edited and did the sound for this wonderful production.

In the audience today are the students who put the video together for us – Rachel Wolfe, Kean MacLelland, Nick White, Matthew Relkin, and Daniel Wentzel. 

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. 

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. 

And so this concludes our Faculty and Staff Convocation.  My best wishes to you all!  Have a great year! 

IT IS GOOD TO BE GOLDEN!