Key Speeches

Robert N. Pangborn Remarks
Presentation to the Board of Trustees

Third-Year Progress Report, Priorities for Excellence
May 4, 2012

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Slide 1 Title Slide

Thank you and good afternoon. I’m pleased to update you on our progress with the University’s 5-year strategic plan, which the Board adopted in May 2009.  As we near the end of the third year of the current planning cycle, we remain committed to enhancing student success and fulfilling the University’s mission and goals during a time of increasing fiscal and other challenges.

Slide 2 Background & Overview

Penn State has had a continuous, University-wide strategic planning process for almost thirty years. Since it was formally initiated by then-president Bryce Jordan in 1983, strategic planning has involved all of Penn State’s academic and administrative units and all locations of the University, with planning cycles of 3 to 5 years.  The process itself has evolved such that it features both bottom-up and top-down elements.  Beginning with plans developed at the unit level – a total of 44 academic and administrative unit plans in all – these then become the foundation for the University-level plan.

The University Strategic Planning Council and seven task forces -- appointed to address specific topics such as internationalization or the land-grant mission -- engaged faculty members, administrators, students, and trustees to develop the institution-wide plan for the 5-year period from 2009-10 through 2013-14, known as Penn State’s “Priorities for Excellence.”

Perhaps one of the most unique elements of this most recent plan is its recommendation to drill down into every budget unit of the university, asking that they take a detailed and introspective look at their operations, priorities, aspirations and opportunities.

The Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council is the strategic entity that grew out of that initiative.  Composed of 13 senior administrators and faculty, the Core Council was charged with maximizing academic potential, enhancing efficiency of administrative services, reducing redundancy, freeing resources for higher priority uses, and exploring opportunities for new revenue generation.  With the help of three committees and work spanning 18 months, I am happy to report that the Core Council has completed its assignment, and the effort now turns toward carrying out its many recommendations.

Further, in the face of current fiscal constraints, we are taking the lessons learned from the Core Council’s work and moving ahead with a new Budget Planning Task Force.  The Task Force, just appointed this April, will take a long view of the University’s budget model and organizational structure. 

The remainder of my presentation today will focus less on the processes and more on the outcomes of the Strategic Planning and the Core Council efforts.

Slide 3 Two Decades of Budget Reductions and Reallocations (1992-93 through 2011-12)

Over the 20 years from 1992-93 through this academic year, Penn State has centrally recycled and reallocated almost $233 million dollars.  $67 million of that was recycled in just the last four years.  Individual units have been asked to recycle funds internally as well, continually evaluating programs and activities and trimming those that are of less strategic importance. 

This Board has approved 176 academic programs for elimination or merger over the past two decades.  As Penn State’s enrollment has grown by almost 28 percent over these same 20 years – an increase of 21,000 students – we have shifted funds and employees from administrative to academic areas as a way to meet the needs of additional students while at the same time controlling costs.  

Slide 4 Recap of Strategic Planning Goals

You’ll recall that there are seven overarching goals in the Strategic Plan.  The goals begin with student success, emphasize the building blocks of academic excellence and our Land Grant mission of research and outreach, and conclude with the innovative use of technology to expand access to educational programming, as well as strategies for enhanced efficiency and cost control.

Slide 5 Strategic Planning Outcomes

I’d like to share some of our successes resulting from this current cycle of Strategic Planning.

First, we have made great progress in assessing student learning in order to improve curricula and instruction. The University’s Assessment website includes a multitude of resources and best practices, drawn from a review of approximately 150 assessment plans submitted by the four-year programs at all Penn State locations. The Assessment Coordinating Committee, with leadership from Undergraduate Education, is monitoring our progress on learning assessment.  Central to the new approaches to evaluating learning outcomes are the extensive reviews – conducted by both faculty and external professionals -- of capstone projects and e-portfolios created by students that integrate in a very tangible way their conceptual learning from the spectrum of courses taken in their majors.

Secondly, we’re aware of the important role of the Commonwealth Campuses in providing access to education across the state.  As baccalaureate programs are developed and offered that meet regional characteristics and demand, we are focused on increasing the number of applicants selecting a Commonwealth Campus as their first choice.

More importantly, an increasing number of campuses are now sharing faculty and support staff to offer joint academic programs that expand the options for enrolled students while reducing the aggregate operating costs. Two examples of formal cross-campus collaborations include offering the Administration of Justice major through a consortium of campuses that includes Penn State Beaver, New Kensington, and Shenango, and regional delivery of the College of Engineering’s Bachelor of Science in General Engineering through a partnership composed of Philadelphia campuses: Penn State Abington, Penn State Brandywine, and the Great Valley Center.

Informal collaborations are also being developed based on new distance teaching and learning technologies, such as video conferencing through the Video Learning Network. Five campuses in the northeast are collaborating in this way on VLN delivery of a bachelor’s degree program in General Business in an evening and weekend format.

Slide 6 Update on Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council

As noted earlier, a strategy under Goal 2, Advancing Excellence, led directly to formation of the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council, which was charged in late 2009.  Its task was to review units across the University with the goal of identifying efficiencies, cost reductions, and strategic investments that could lead to revenue generation. 

Slide 7 Review Coordinating Committees

For about 18 months, the Core Council worked closely with three committees whose assessments focused on University Park, the campuses, and academic and administrative services. Each of the committees included a broad cross section of administrators and faculty.   

Slide 8 Academic Recommendations

In terms of academic recommendations, the Core Council emphasized building on existing strengths, eliminating under-enrolled courses and phasing out low enrollment programs.  The next step will be to replace the under-performing degree programs with new, strategically selected ones that have demonstrated student interest and high prospective demand from employers. Targeted task groups have recently been charged by the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses to explore these opportunities.

For instance, considering the substantial cohort of adults in the Commonwealth who have previously earned credits without completing a degree, we will be taking steps to identify and match degree offerings and support services for potential degree completion.  Online learning as well as resident instruction will be helpful to accommodate adults supporting families and constrained by employment schedules.

Slide 9 Revenue Enhancements

There is growing interest in programs in which students are able to earn both a baccalaureate degree and a master’s degree in five years.  One example is the integrated bachelor of science in special education and the master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in the College of Education.

The World Campus is a major enrollment growth area.  Professional master’s degrees, along with professionally oriented undergraduate degrees, are fast growing markets in online education, and we are moving rapidly to develop programs responsive to current needs.  Undergraduate degrees in business, criminal justice, information sciences and technology, labor and employment relations, and nursing are each enrolling more than 400 students a year.  Professional master’s degrees in engineering management, software and systems engineering, human resources and employment relations, and business continue to grow at a rate of approximately 20 percent a year.

New revenue may also result from a comprehensive review and restructuring of Continuing Education. Planning is underway to integrate Continuing Education more effectively with broader campus program planning and delivery, re-balance credit and noncredit programming, and organize the offerings on a regional rather than campus-by-campus basis.

A new budget model to revitalize the University Park Summer Session was implemented this past year. The new model encourages colleges to take a more student-demand oriented approach to the scheduling and delivery of summer courses and to use the summer for piloting new and innovative offerings.  In fact, results after just the first year have shown an increase of 585 enrolled students and a 49% growth in student credit hour generation.

Slide 10 Strategic Planning - Year 3 Progress

As we approach the end of the third year of the strategic planning cycle, every one of the unit heads has received an individualized letter from the Provost with specific Core Council recommendations. The units had the opportunity to respond to the recommendations and are to report periodically to the Provost on their progress.

Meanwhile, we continue to monitor the status of other multi-year goals from the Strategic Plan. These include initiatives to identify the optimal balance and distribution of core services, such as Human Resources, Continuing Education, Career Services, and Information Technology. 

Slide 11 Monitoring Progress and Providing Open Access (Planning and Progress)

We are documenting our progress and providing open access to the information through the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment’s website.  Performance indicators are tied to the various goals in order to identify measurable impacts and trends.

Slide 12 Monitoring Progress and Providing Open Access (Core Council Letters)

Similar to the Strategic Plan goals, a companion web page collects the Core Council letters for each of the academic units, either at University Park or the Commonwealth Campuses, and for the academic support and administrative services units.

Slide 13 Examples of Core Council Recommendations

I’d like to turn now to some other examples of Core Council recommendations, both academic and administrative.

Slide 14 Academic - Student Learning Spaces and Classroom Technology Support

A new study group has been formed to address Core Council recommendations on classroom technology support and student labs, learning centers, and common spaces at University Park. The group will coordinate its work with other Information Technology Assessment initiatives and Master Space Planning.

The intent, here, is to anticipate and be out in front of the dynamic, rapidly changing environment in which students (and faculty) use information, computing and communication technology.  We know full well that if we wait for the future to become the norm before we respond with corresponding infrastructure, we will be cutting the ribbon on facilities that are already outmoded. 

The view you see here is of the new Tombros and McWhirter Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library that opened just this past semester.  The Knowledge Commons is an example of how such forward thinking can result in a state-of-the-art learning space that is on the cutting edge from its outset, in this case creating an exciting blend of digital and multimedia technologies with traditional library services.

Slide 15 Academic - Commonwealth Campuses

Other academic initiatives will explore ways to attract advanced standing transfer students through partnerships with community colleges and program-to-program articulation.  We will also seek to make students more aware of the options and benefits of change-of-assignment from one campus to another campus, as well as to University Park.

Slide 16 Academic - Developmental Courses

The Core Council has recommended a significant reduction in the number of developmental courses taught at the campuses in math and English through better student advising and more accurate placement, use of online diagnostic assessment and learning tools, and selectively tailored supplemental instruction.  While necessary for some students, developmental courses add time-to-degree and associated costs. Alternative assessment methods can pinpoint the specific areas of deficiency, thereby requiring less than a full course or semester of remediation.  Success has already been demonstrated at University Park using embedded modules for adaptive, self-paced skill advancement.

Slide 17 Administrative - IT Assessment

One of the strategies within Goal 6 of the Strategic Plan is to investigate opportunities for cost savings and productivity improvements through and for technology. In response to this strategy, a University-wide IT Assessment was undertaken to identify ways to reduce overlap of services and re-balance service delivery to be as efficient and accessible as possible.

A critically important product of the assessment is a new model for IT planning, governance and decision making, to put the University in a position to regularly evaluate and refactor how IT services are provisioned to meet the changing needs of our students and faculty.

Slide 18 Administrative - IT Assessment - Action Items

Data collected from the assessment identified seven areas to target for service improvement, including adoption of a single solution for email and calendaring, shared data archiving -- especially as related to research compliance, addressing gaps in wireless coverage, software license management, virtualization and security, service desk software and operations, and remote lab/classroom and desktop management.

Another significant project and looming investment will be the modernization of the University’s Enterprise Information Systems.  Older home-grown platforms are due to be replaced by new, web-enabled Student Information, Business Information, Human Resource, and Learning Management systems.  Initiation of these projects is overdue and migration of student and financial processes and data to the new systems could take several years.

Slide 19 Next Steps

Looking ahead to next year, we will continue with the Year 4 implementation of the Strategic Plan and to monitor our annual progress and performance data for both the Strategic Plan and the Core Council recommendations.

Slide 20 Revised Timeline for Next Cycle of Strategic Planning

Typically, unit-level strategic planning begins a year before the last year of the current University-wide planning period. That would have meant starting the next round of unit planning this coming fall. However, to better accommodate the presidential search schedule and give the new president an opportunity to influence development of the overall Strategic Plan during his or her first year in office, the next cycle will be postponed for one year, to commence in 2013-14.   

Slide 21 Charge to New Budget Planning Task Force

We will be busy in the interim.  As I mentioned earlier, continuing budget challenges have motivated formation of a Budget Planning Task Force that President Erickson has charged to undertake a comprehensive study of our budget model, operations and structure.  A report is expected by late fall.

Slide 22 Budget Planning Task Force Members

David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business, and I will co-chair the Task Force, which draws its membership from the Board of Trustees, administration, campus chancellors, college deans, faculty and students.

Slide 23 Final Slide (View of Students)

In summary, we’ve made good progress with Year 3 strategies.  

The lengthy and comprehensive Core Council effort is bearing fruit in streamlined academic programs, improved learning assessment, new integrated undergraduate-graduate programs, more efficient procedures, and a host of cost savings, mostly derived from administration and operations.  

We remain focused on the student experience and our responsibility to offer quality academic programs. We have received excellent cooperation from all corners of the University, including participation by trustees who served on our strategic planning committees and who will contribute as members of the new Budget Planning Task Force. 

And now, I’d be happy to take your questions as time permits.



Executive Vice President and Provost
201 Old Main, University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814) 865-2505
Fax: (814) 863-8583

Copyright 2005 EVPP

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Web page last modified May 14, 2012