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Welcome Back from President Hawkinson

January 22, 2018

My warmest greetings to all members of the Kutztown University community as we embark on a new year and the beginning of our spring semester.

KU continues to excel at providing a high-quality education that "awakens" our students to new ideas and self-discovery, and prepares them for a very competitive workforce. We continue to receive many distinctions from numerous entities. In our publicity and news releases, we regularly celebrate the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff, highlighting the hands-on, applied educational experiences our students are having in the laboratories, at off-campus sites and in study abroad programs. Our faculty produce hundreds of articles and papers each year, many with contributions from our students. Our students indicate on surveys that the most significant impact they experience from their KU education is the extremely positive influence of their teachers, in and outside the classroom.

We continue to put in place a strong administrative leadership team with the hiring this past semester of Mr. Matt Santos, vice president of Communications, Marketing and External Affairs; Dr. Anne Carroll, dean of the College of Business; Dr. Michelle Kiec, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Dr. John Ward, dean of the College of Education; and Mr. Alex Ogeka, executive director of the Kutztown University Foundation. We have filled other important positions among the administration, staff and faculty. With regard to faculty positions, the provost has released 17 tenure-track positions with several reallocated lines in emerging disciplines.

I am pleased to announce the transfer of two new departments to the Division of Communications, Marketing and External Affairs. The Department of Recreational Services and KUR (Kutztown University Radio under the leadership of Mike Regensburger) will be joining the division, effective immediately. Amy Sandt will report directly to the vice president, and will assume the title of assistant vice president for Recreational Services and Athletic Resources. She will continue to manage Recreational Services.

You have seen the presentation earlier on the rolling out of our new university "brand" or marketing campaign. This new brand provides us with a new way to tell our story and highlight many points of pride. The brand goes back to our roots as a university. It celebrates our first generation students and students who come from working class families, historically, from farms, coal mines and the mills - where strong character leads to hard work - to support the fact that we serve students who have "grit." Ultimately, this important effort will be crucial in helping us attract more students to KU.

University Relations directed the development of our new, responsive, attractive homepage which was completed last spring. Feedback from key campus constituents was gathered last fall, resulting in a full screen site with enhanced news items, photos and additional links.  We have begun the process to redesign the balance of the website.

One of the most important endeavors we have been engaged in is to prepare for our upcoming Middle States Commission on Higher Education Accreditation. We had a successful visit from the leader of our accreditation team this past October. More than 100 faculty, administrators, staff and other supporters of our university have participated in seven working groups and a steering committee to ensure that our self-study was completed on time, and that we are ready for the accreditation visit that will occur March 4-7, 2018.

An enormous effort has been put forth over the past 14 months by many faculty, staff, students and administrators to redesign our general education program. We believe that this new general education program is essential to our success in recruiting and retaining students. I will have a separate letter sent to the Kutztown University community later this week outlining my thoughts on the general education proposal. My thanks to the many groups and individuals who worked so hard on this initiative and to those who have provided important feedback.

Our incoming freshman academic profile continues to be the highest since 2008 and we are expecting continued success. The full-time, degree-seeking freshman average GPA for the Fall 2017 class was 2.64 compared to 2.59 from Fall 2016. We have to continue to make progress in this area, as we are evaluated partly on the quality of our students by the State System. 

We are up in freshman applications, from 6,891 to 8,042 - nearly 1,200 more applicants. We have admitted 5,769 freshmen compared to 4,161 at this time last year, which speaks to the very strong academic profile of students applying with an average high school GPA of 3.36. More impressive for Fall 2018 is our net deposits for freshmen, which have gone from 224 at this time last year to 459 this year, and our overall deposits have increased from 259 last year to 505 this year (as of January 21, 2018). 

While many good things are happening, we have several challenges to meet in the coming semester, most notably the insufficient resources from the commonwealth and a smaller pool from which to recruit new students. While we are optimistic that the many initiatives in our Enrollment Management Plan will result in an increase in new students next year, we are still graduating large senior classes. It is unknown at this time if our overall enrollment will be up. As explained last year and in previous messages, our personnel and operating costs continue to outpace our revenue, and with shortfalls from previous years, have left us with huge deficits. We simply do not have the resources coming in from the state or from tuition to balance our budget. After the governor's budget address on Feb. 6, I will distribute a budget letter to campus with greater detail on our challenges in this area, and some actions we will need to take to address our deficit.

These challenges must be addressed on many fronts; the most practical way to address our budget shortfall is to increase our enrollment. We continue to ask the help of all members of our university community in this effort to recruit and retain our students and ensure that our academic programs are meeting the needs of the commonwealth. We ask this of our administrators, faculty and staff, as well as our alumni and members of our local community. We must do all we can to get the word out that Kutztown University is a vibrant, safe place that respects all people and welcomes them into a community of learning. 

Our challenges have not only been financial. We have had to deal with outside groups coming to our campus to express values that are not consistent with the vast majority of the members of our community. My thanks to all the members of the Bias-Response Task Force. I encourage the community to go to the Website that has been developed to help us deal with these significant issues (https://www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/administrative-offices/dean-of-students/bias-response-task-force.htm).

For more than 150 years, our institution has made a difference in young people's lives and, with the help of the many members of our community, we will ensure that we will continue to have the resources to make a difference in students' lives next year and beyond. My best wishes to you all in the coming year!

Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson
President