Current Speeches

Rodney A. Erickson Remarks
Presentation to the Board of Trustees

First-Year Progress Report, Priorities for Excellence
May 14, 2010


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Slide 1 - Title Slide

The University's new 5-year strategic plan was adopted last May by the Board of Trustees. Three trustees served on the University Strategic Planning Council, several others contributed to various task forces, and all of you are aware of the difficult and changing environment in which Penn State and all of higher education now operate.

Slide 2 - First-Year Progress Report

The continuing challenge for Penn State and for our peers is to find ways to enhance student success and fulfill the University's mission and vision while operating within tight financial constraints. The Strategic Plan provides a useful roadmap for addressing this challenge. Today I'll provide a progress report on the first year implementation of the plan.

Slide 3 - Recap of Strategic Planning Goals

There are seven overarching goals in the Strategic Plan. These goals are: 1) to enhance student success; 2) to advance academic excellence and research prominence; 3) to realize Penn State's potential as a global university; 4) to maintain access and affordability and enhance diversity; 5) to serve the people of the Commonwealth and beyond; 6) to use technology to expand access and opportunities; and 7) to control costs and generate additional efficiencies.

Slide 4 – Strategy Implementation

There are 38 total strategies for the seven goals in the Plan. Each of the goals contains from 4 to 8 strategies.

Slide 5 – Strategy Implementation Matrix

A Strategy Implementation Matrix identifies the key administrator or groups responsible for each strategy, and also identifies the projected start date for various strategies ranging from Year 1 to Year 3, selected measures to assess performance, and a general indication of the fiscal impacts of each strategy.

Some strategies will result in cost savings. Others are cost neutral. And some strategies will require new sources of funding as the economy improves and as we free up resources by no longer doing some things we currently do.

Slide 6 – Strategic Plan and Implementation Matrices Website

The complete plan, including the implementation matrices, is available online at the URL shown here. ( http://strategicplan.psu.edu/StrategicPlancomplete.pdf )

Twenty-three strategies were targeted to launch in this academic year. Final reports for Year One accomplishments will be submitted to me by the end of June. Today, I'm going to share some preliminary highlights of our progress with some of these strategies.

Slide 7 – Goal 1: Enhance Student Success

Within Goal 1, Enhance Student Success, three strategies were projected for implementation this year.

•  (Strategy 1.1) I can report that more than 90% of our undergraduate programs now have formal learning objectives. This strategy also corresponds with the goals of the 2005 institutional self study that we completed for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence has been leading the way by providing shared resources, networking, and workshops to advance program-based learning outcomes assessment. I'm confident our Year 1 report next month will demonstrate significant progress.

•  (Strategy 1.1) We are conducting research on the distribution of grades in large enrollment courses to identify course sequences that contribute to student retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the so-called STEM fields). The goal is to foster more effective advising and scheduling for student success in the STEM fields.

•  (Strategy 1.2) An intercollege minor in Civic and Community Engagement is now available to students at eight campuses, focusing on what it means to contribute beyond the classroom, laboratory, or studio.

•  (Strategy 1.2) We are creating more opportunities for undergraduate research, with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Division of Student Affairs leading the way. More information is now being disseminated about undergraduate research opportunities through small grants programs, travel to conferences, and research assistantships availability. Information from academic units is also being gathered to share best practices for stimulating undergraduate research.

•  (Strategy 1.3) A Student Transitions Steering Committee is working on ways to improve the transition process at key points in students' lives. This strategy flows through our initial interactions with students, through their first experiences on campus, orientation, changing campuses, through graduation and beyond. We have recently altered our approach to students changing campus assignment to University Park, providing information on academic and co-curricular resources, creating a helpful calendar of events, and instituting a visitation day experience.

 

Slide 8 – Goal 2: Advance Academic Excellence and Research Prominence

Goal 2 of the Strategic Plan is to “Advance Academic Excellence and Research Prominence.”

•  (Strategy 2.1) While many peer institutions have instituted hiring freezes, furloughs, and even terminations of tenured faculty as a result of current economic conditions, Penn State's deans and chancellors have continued replacement hiring in a conservative manner. As a result, we have been able to attract truly exceptional faculty to the University in our recruitment efforts this year. This is a great time to be searching, and candidates see Penn State as a stable institution that continues to move forward. A majority of our new hires are directed toward clusters of excellence where we can build from strength.

•  (Strategy 2.3) The College of Medicine and Penn State Hershey Medical Center have several major initiatives to increase research and clinical capabilities in Central Pennsylvania and the local Centre Region. These include

•  The Regional Medical Campus planned for University Park

•  The Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute and the Northern Appalachia Cancer Network

•  Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital

•  Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital

Considerable progress has occurred in each of these initiatives.

 

Slide 9 – Goal 2: Advance Academic Excellence and Research Prominence (Strategy 2.4)

I'd like to briefly discuss Strategy 2.4, “Consolidate Academic and Administrative Programs through Targeted Reviews.” After 18 years of internal budget reductions and reallocations, Penn State is an efficient University. But we still need to shrink, merge, or eliminate additional programs or activities in order to invest in promising new ideas.

Slide 10 – Review Coordinating Committees

A group called the Academic Program and Administrative Review Core Council was charged last fall by President Spanier to review academic programs and administrative services in order to find resources to help reduce tuition increases and to provide funds for new investments. The review process is systematic, broadly based, and decision making is data-informed.

The Core Council, which I chair, is working closely with three coordinating committees whose assessments feed into the overall recommendations of the Core Council. The membership of the Coordinating Committees includes a broad cross section of administrators and faculty. Each of the Coordinating Committees is chaired by a member of the Core Council and includes at least three members of the Council.

Deans, chancellors, vice presidents and vice provosts have been asked for their ideas about mergers, reconfigurations, program viability, and efficiencies within their units. A site on the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment's webpage requests ideas from faculty and staff about ways to be more efficient and effective in the delivery of programs and services.

Slide 11 – Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council

These are the members of the Council, which has been reviewing academic programs and administrative units. Criteria for the review of academic programs include:

•  enrollments as a reflection of student demand

•  critical mass

•  degrees awarded

•  student quality indicators such as SAT and GRE scores

•  faculty productivity

•  external validations of program quality

•  cost per student credit hour generated

•  research funds secured, and

•  centrality to the core academic mission.

Savings on administrative services will have a more immediate financial impact than academic programs, given the lesser number of steps that must be taken to make administrative changes, and our obligation to allow students time to complete their majors. Criteria for review of administrative services include:

•  contribution to the core mission

•  demand for the services

•  quality of services provided

•  external availability and comparative pricing

•  efficiency, and

•  the balance between central and distributed services

The Core Council is considering both permanent, long-term budgetary savings and short-term cuts, and looking at how cost savings in one unit may impact other units so we are not simply engaged in cost shifting. The focus is on vertical rather than across-the-board cuts. Our goal has been to identify $5 million in recurring savings for the 2010-11 budget and $10 million the following year.

The Core Council will be rolling out recommendations over the course of the next several months, getting feedback, providing feedback, and implementing changes. Some changes will require Faculty Senate review, and some will require Board action in the months ahead.

Slide 12 – Goal 3: Realize Penn State's Potential as a Global University

Moving back to the goals, Goal 3 is to “Realize Penn State's Potential as a Global University.”

•  (Strategy 3.1) The University Office of Global Programs has been restructured and strengthened. We have centralized additional student and faculty services in UOGP, and will add others.

•  (Strategy 3.2) We have completed six faculty-led task forces on “Global Engagement Networks” or GEN's for important regions of the world such as China and India. Our GEN strategy has identified key university partners and thematic areas where we can build successful international relationships.

•  (Strategy 3.5) And, we are seeing significant increases in enrollment in new international undergraduate students. Total international undergraduate enrollment has nearly doubled over the past six years to approximately 2,000 students, and we continue to enhance and refine our recruiting strategies to attract the best and the brightest students from around the world.

 

Slide 13 – Goal 4: Maintain Access/Affordability and Enhance Diversity Goal 4 recognizes the important role that Penn State plays in providing higher education to the Commonwealth.

•  (Strategy 4.1) As a means of providing access and affordability, we are committed to maximizing student access to Penn State's campuses and to growing the tuition differential between the campuses and University Park.

•  We are continuing our commitment to the 2 + 2 model, which has clearly helped to rejuvenate enrollments at our Commonwealth Campuses.

•  University Outreach is working with our Commonwealth Campuses to offer returning adult students a choice of various delivery options for courses—online, blended, or face-to-face.

•  (Strategy 4.3) We are increasing our focus on campus-based scholarships. Last fall, 864 first-year students at the 19 Commonwealth Campuses received a Chancellor Award, intended for students who data indicate might not have otherwise enrolled at our campuses. Our tracking and analysis indicates a positive return on investment.

•  (Strategy 4.4) And, we are making great progress in meeting the “Ensuring Student Opportunity” goal of the “For the Future” campaign.

 

Slide 14 – Goal 5: Serve the People of the Commonwealth and Beyond

With respect to serving the people of the Commonwealth and beyond,

•  (Strategy 5.1) A Video-based Learning Network has been established to serve adult learners with real-time, interactive learning. Eleven campus locations have been identified with the goal of five campuses up and running in 2010.

•  (Strategy 5.3) With respect to the sharing of programs, faculty and staff, the Campus Academic Officers at 19 campuses are developing operational principles and guidelines for successful cross-campus collaborations. Penn State Beaver, New Kensington, and Shenango now offer the Administration of Justice program using shared faculty, while five of the eastern campuses are collaborating on the delivery of the Bachelor of Science in Business through a weekend/evening format to adult learners by sharing faculty.

 

Slide 15 – Goal 6: Use Technology to Expand Access and Opportunities

•  (Strategy 6.1 ) Penn State's largest future enrollment growth will occur in the World Campus. World Campus course enrollments this year should reach 32,000 by the end of June, a 33 percent increase over last year. We launched two new online undergraduate degrees this year, two graduate degrees, and three certificate programs. We have an aggressive slate of offerings scheduled to open during the coming year. We have now defined the World Campus as a unique cost center. And we are refining our business model and revenue sharing relationships with the academic units, developing a 5-year plan for expanding faculty capacity, and better integrating World Campus administration and student services into central University systems.

•  (Strategy 6.2) Some of the new initiatives in IT infrastructure include:

•  The Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library, which has been supported extensively through private philanthropy

•  The partnership among Big Ten universities to share digital content through a contract with Google, and

•  The eLearning Strategy Committee, which is working on ways to expand shared eLearning across all campuses at Penn State.

•  (Strategy 6.4) And, members of the Board's Educational Policy Committee had an opportunity this morning to experience firsthand some of our recent efforts to make our IT resources even more secure.

 

Slide 16 – Goal 7: Control Costs and Generate Additional Efficiencies

•  (Strategy 7.1) All of our colleges and campuses are well on the way to completion of formal and transparent instructional workload policies to improve instructional productivity, reduce the number of under-enrolled course sections, better manage special topics courses, and create greater equity in teaching loads among their faculty.

•  (Strategy 7.2) Two task groups have developed recommendations concerning classroom scheduling, the software systems used for scheduling, and systematic approaches to facilities utilization. We are vigorously pursuing changes to both policy and practices that will provide greater central control over class scheduling.

•  (Strategy 7.2) Several of our major research units are actively exploring how they might better share core research facilities and instrumentation, and the Materials Research Institute and Institutes of Energy and Environment have merged their grants offices to provide more streamlined and efficient support.

•  (Strategy 7.3) The increase of future health care costs will be reduced through a number of new policies and practices. Employees hired effective January 1, 2010 now have University contributions to health savings accounts that can be carried into retirement, thus moving from a defined benefit to a defined contribution approach that will produce major savings to the University over the next 30 years. In addition, we are carefully analyzing prospective changes to the Penn State health care plan that include premium contributions, co-pays, and incentives to utilize in-network services, as well as a much greater focus on employee wellness and disease management. I noted earlier that we are expanding the presence of the Hershey Medical Center in the Centre Region.

•  (Strategy 7.7) During the past year, 60 continuous quality improvement teams have worked to improve everything from grants and contracts post-award services to math advising to Emergency Department patient throughput.

•  (Strategy 7.8) “ Sustainability” was a recurring theme in the strategic plan, and we are incorporating elements of sustainability at many levels within the curriculum and University operations. As President Spanier noted this morning, Penn State is now purchasing about 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences will soon open a new online undergraduate degree in Energy and Sustainability Policy through the World Campus. Faculty are engaged in several major research projects from federal agencies and companies to study promising avenues for energy transformation and utilization.

•  (Strategy 7.8) We are focusing the University's leadership for sustainability education in the Center for Sustainability, a unit that you learned more about in a recent presentation to the Board. The Center is taking the lead to increase the number of courses focused on sustainability education and courses that incorporate aspects of sustainability. The faculty affiliated with the Center have now developed a proposal for a Minor in Sustainability Leadership.

•  Strategy 7.6 – (listed for Year 2) I should note that, although Strategy 7.6 is listed for Year 2 implementation, central allocations to Outreach have been capped beginning with the 2010-11 budget year. Major units within Outreach have been established as individual cost centers, some are being moved to status as self-supporting auxiliaries, and we are now in a much better position to determine the revenues and costs of various Outreach activities.

 

Slide 17 – Summary Slide (Tulips)

I hope you'll agree that we've made good progress on Year 1 implementation, enhancing student success and access, supporting academic excellence and internationalization, while reducing cost increases and becoming even more efficient. But many decisions still lie ahead. We must continue our efforts to shrink, consolidate, or eliminate some programs or activities in order to keep tuition increases as low as possible, to remain competitive with our peers, and to carve out some limited funding for new investments that will move us forward.

Recommendations for action will follow shared governance practices, including review and approval by the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees. For this strategic plan, just as for earlier plans, we have identified a set of performance indicators to track the University's progress toward our goals. I look forward to providing the Board with periodic updates as we move forward with implementation.

 

 

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