Vision Council charts path for Penn State amid presidential search

The 18-page "A Vision for Penn State" offers an overview of the University and explores the challenges, opportunities and strategies ahead. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Two groups playing an integral role in finding Penn State’s next president now have an important document to assist in the effort.

Today (May 2) members of the 13-member Trustee Presidential Selection Council and the 18-member University Presidential Search and Screen Committee received “A Vision for Penn State: A Report of the Blue and White Vision Council.” The report, available at, will help inform the search as well as provide any candidates with a unique perspective.

The 18-page document offers an overview of the University -- its history, markers of achievement, academic configuration, governance and decision making structure – and explores the challenges, opportunities and strategies in the years ahead. 

"We hope you will find the pages that follow to be both useful and inspiring," said Karen Peetz, chairwoman of the council. “Very few universities in America will have looked at the future through a sharper, more candid lens.”

Peetz, also a member of the Board of Trustees, was joined on the Blue and White Vision Council by fellow trustees as well as academic and administrative leaders, and students. The study was undertaken to support Penn State's ongoing search for the successor to President Rodney Erickson, who will retire in 2014.

“The Vision Council did a fine job of developing the report,” Erickson said. “I believe it will be very useful for the presidential search in laying out challenges as well as pathways for success in the future. It is open, honest and data-driven. Every Penn Stater should read it.”

The Vision Council report gives special note to the challenges and opportunities that will be faced by Penn State's next president and the qualities of character and leadership needed.

"Communication between the president and the board and a collaborative relationship of confidence and trust is crucial," the report states. Later it adds, "The demands of the presidency are unrelenting and call for a person of patience, persistence and resilience; a leader who empowers others and who loves learning and the life of ideas and is committed to excellence and academics.”

The report touts Penn State's statewide reach with 24 locations, impressive programs of research and its academic rankings. The Vision Council lays out the challenges facing the University, especially the new and more difficult economic environment that includes weakened state support, constraints on tuition increases, demographic shifts and increasing costs. The report notes all of these challenges will require tough choices and decisions, including "reforming and redesigning processes, and strategically investing in people and technology. "

The Vision Council devoted special attention to the digital revolution presently under way in higher education. While Penn State’s 15-year-old online World Campus has nearly 13,000 students, and the University has partnered with Coursera to develop five massive open online courses (MOOCs), the report also explores the revolutionary changes on-campus in teaching and learning for resident students. The Council states in the report, "The University must develop policies, structures and practices that enable experimentation in both online and on-campus settings."

The Council has been advised by Stan Ikenberry, former president of the University of Illinois and the American Council on Education, who is now a professor and senior scientist in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State. “This report offers an analysis of Penn State’s academic trajectory and a candid look at the challenges and possibilities that are ahead,” he said. “It gives the University an opportunity to tell its story, not just to potential presidential candidates, but to the American public. Any person who reads the report should come away with a sense of Penn State’s enviable academic quality and stature and its commitment to a brilliant future.”

The University has hired executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist with the process of finding a new leader, launched a website to display presidential search news and allow for public feedback and nominations of potential candidates, and organized forums to gather input from faculty, staff, students and alumni. 

The report will be posted on 

Last Updated October 14, 2013