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The New Dimension of Excellence Draft Plan: 2008-2013

The New Dimension of Excellence Draft Plan: 2008-2013

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April 25, 2008


I am pleased to share with you Pitt-Johnstown's New Dimension of Excellence Strategic Draft Plan that will enable us to fulfill our commitments and attain the aspirations in our mission and vision statement.  The vision and plan which chart the course for our future are a culmination of our shared visioning and strategic review processes, including wide-ranging campus discussions about our strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats (SCOT), as well as Task Force studies and recommendations, and input from community members. This draft plan integrates and incorporates task force recommendations into a single document.

Over the past eight months, we have diligently and inclusively worked on a comprehensive and systematic strategic planning process.  Since July 2007, when I issued "A Call to Campus Conversations," our community has come together to review the efficacy of our institutional endeavors, explore untapped opportunities and develop a shared vision for our future.  The wide-ranging discussions have involved members of our campus community as well as many of our supporters, friends and alumni in the external community. In both formal and informal settings, we have discussed our history, our present circumstances and our future; we have explored long-standing issues and concerns, unfulfilled aspirations, missed opportunities and vexing challenges, as well as significant accomplishments and triumphs.  Central to the effort was an understanding that the campus could not afford inertia or complacency at a time of rapid change in our external environment. It was acknowledged that Pitt-Johnstown had to adapt and to make urgent changes if we were to sustain or increase our relative competitiveness in a  challenging environment.

Since the strategic review process began, there have been dozens of meetings, tons of emails and, to be sure, gallons of coffee.  In various forums, we have undertaken a forthright analysis of our strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats (SCOT).  We discussed how to best position the institution for the future focusing on issues, such as enhancing educational quality, developing responsive programs, strengthening the living/learning environment, connecting with our communities and ensuring that our students are better prepared for the real-world of the 21st century. 

The lengthy and, at times, challenging process has now reached its final stage.   As you can see from the draft New Dimension of Excellence Strategic Plan will enable us to fulfill our commitments and attain the aspirations in our mission and vision statement.  While we certainly will not accomplish everything overnight, the plan provides a solid glide path, identifying key goals that we must keep in sight if we are to do right by our legacy, as well as our students, faculty, staff and student and members of our extended communities. Moreover, as we aim high, we will pursue all avenues to raise the resources needed to support this ambitious agenda.  As we wind up the planning and transition year, I thought it useful to recap some of the key steps in the planning exercises started eight months ago.

On July 18, 2007, the newly formed Leadership Council, (consisting of all mid to senior level administrators) met for over three hours to engage in a SCOT analysis during the early stages of the strategic review process.  The 31 participants (who had served the University for nearly 700 combined years) were encouraged to participate in the development of a shared vision for Pitt-Johnstown, to discuss our accomplishments, challenges and opportunities going forward. Key questions included:

  1. What is our campus culture? 
  2. List elements that make us stand out, distinct, special.
  3. What are our challenges?
  4. What is our niche?
  5. Does UPJ lead or dominate its niche?  Why?  Do we want to?

On July 24, 2007, I met with the Staff Activities and Concerns Association to discuss the strengths, challenges, opportunities, and threats facing Pitt-Johnstown. During a lively two-hour meeting, the members offered suggestions on how to improve the quality of our students' experience at the University and position us for the future.

Later on August 22, the entire Pitt-Johnstown staff was invited to attend a town meeting facilitated by the President's Office. Since most offices were closed during the meeting, over 140 employees had the opportunity to attend the four-hour meeting.  Divided into 12 groups, the staff first completed and then discussed their answers to the following "Shared Vision" survey:

  1. What do you love or admire most about UPJ?
  2. How would you describe UPJ's institutional culture?
  3. What are UPJ's primary strengths?  List one to three characteristics that make UPJ distinctive?
  4. Please comment on the UPJ's mission statement.  Should the current mission statement be revised, updated, clarified or maintained? If you indicate a need for rewriting or revising the mission statement, please provide an articulation of the mission and vision as you would wish for it to be.
  5. Please list the key issues, challenges and problems that you would like to see addressed as we go forward.  What is the institution's biggest challenge?
  6. In view of the changes in the internal and external environments, please list UPJ's opportunities for greater excellence and prominence.
  7. Please list what you believe UPJ's priorities for the future should be in order of importance.  Do you have specific suggestions/ideas for new academic programs, majors, minors or certificates?  Do you have any suggestions for new co-curricular initiatives?
  8. What advice, guidance or suggestions do you have for me as the new president?
  9. In the coming months, there might be a few opportunities to serve on task forces addressing campus issues of importance.  Please indicate areas of interest that you may wish to serve as time permits, of course.
  10. How can I be most helpful to you?  Is there some particular issue of singular importance to you as a faculty or staff member that you wish to bring to my attention?

In September 2007, faculty members completed the "Shared Vision" survey on-line pPlease see questions above).  After reviewing the responses, I met with faculty in small focus groups to discuss their responses and to listen to their insights, suggestions and recommendations. In extensive and engaging discussions, faculty so generously shared their aspirations for (and occasionally frustrations about) Pitt-Johnstown. The process was highly edifying for me; I remain grateful to all who participated in that segment of our visioning process.  More importantly, I took your comments to heart (and head); I have continued to reflect on your observations, and I am constantly seeking ways to accomplish our fondest hopes. 

From September through December, Pitt-Johnstown Academic Division chairpersons completed extensive program reviews of all academic programs offered at Pitt-Johnstown.   Among other things, the reviews highlighted needs of various programs, as well as challenges related to professional development, workload, facilities, labs and faculty resources.

In a parallel and related assessment procedure, all members of the President's Cabinet completed administrative audits of their respective units.  The audits included evaluations of the strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats facing individual units - a comprehensive "SCOT" analysis. The Cabinet members shared their reviews and critiques on December 19th during an all-day retreat focusing on moving the University to the next level of excellence.

"Shared Vision" surveys were also sent to alumni, community leaders, educators, and members of the Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board in August and September.  Also, over 12,000 alumni who received the UPJ Magazine in November were encouraged to complete the survey on-line.  Respondents were invited to answer a number of strategic planning questions about Pitt-Johnstown and to describe the strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats facing Pitt-Johnstown in both the near-term and long-term.

By the end of the Fall term 2007, several general themes were apparent from the survey responses and subsequent discussions. To further explore various issues and concerns identified in survey responses and discussions with various members of the community, the New Dimension of Excellence task forces were created and charged with making recommendations for our emerging strategic plan.  

While key members were named to form the core of each task force, campus governance bodies played an important role in staffing the New Dimension of Excellence Task Forces. Besides naming individuals on the basis of either their cross-functional expertise and /or interest in particular areas, the President of the Faculty Senate, the President of the Student Senate, and the President of the Staff Activities and Concerns Association were also asked to recommend representatives to these Task Forces. In addition, other members of the campus community were strongly encouraged and welcomed to submit their names for consideration on each Task Force.  As a general matter, virtually anyone who wished to participate in the Task Forces was included in the process.  Campus and external constituencies, including Advisory Board members, were encouraged to provide input to Task Forces of their choice.  

The following Task Forces or Working Groups were charged:

UPJ Enrollment Management and First Year Experience Task Force:  Led by the Senior Assistant to the President for Enrollment Management, Dr. James Gyure, this cross-functional work team will review recruiting and student success/engagement initiatives; conduct a peer/competitor analysis; propose a comprehensive enrollment plan (including a related assessment plan); and make recommendations regarding our means of achieving the totality of our enrollment goals. Other  members who have agreed to serve include Ms. Marilyn Alberter, Registrar; Mr. Kelly Austin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs; Dr. Nina Girard, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education; Dr. Jon Gonder, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Ms. Jeanine Lawn, Director, Student Financial Aid; Ms. Amy Miller, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology; Ms. Kimberly Miller, Director of Marketing; Dr. Jerry Samples, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Mr. Jeffrey Sernell, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology; Ms. Janet Valine, Manager, Business Office; Ms. Susan Wieczorek, Instructor of Communications;  Ms. Sharon Wilson, Secretary, Social Sciences Division and designated representatives from the Faculty Senate as well as the Staff Activities and Concerns Association.  Thank You!

UPJ Facilities, Infrastructure and Technology Task Force: Led by Vice President for Finance and Administration, Mr. Jeffrey Lavine, this cross-functional group will review assess our current situation relative to facilities, infrastructure technology and related areas; conduct a rigorous SCOT analysis relative to peers; and draft a comprehensive report for actions required to achieve a first class living and learning environment. Other members of the task force are Ms. Marilyn Alberter, Registrar; Mr. Kelly Austin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs; Ms. Nicole Babik, Assistant Athletic Director; Ms. Neelima Bhatnagar, Assistant Professor for Management; Mr. Robert Blaschak, Director of Construction and Planning; Mr. Jeffrey Burtner, Vice President of the Student Government Association; Dr. Anthony Capon, Associate Professor of Sociology; Mr. Andrew Csikos, Director of Maintenance & Operations; Ms. Helen Golubic, Director of Development; Dr. Janet Grady, Associate Professor of Nursing; Dr. Stephen Kilpatrick, Associate Professor of Biology; Mr. Robert Knipple, Director of Alumni & Community Relations; Ms. Angela Mazur, President of the Student Government Association; Mr. Patrick Pecora, Wrestling Coach; Ms. Joyce Radovanic, Assistant to the President; Ms. Pamela Sabol, Director of Human Resources; Dr. Jerry Samples, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Mr. Jeffrey Sernell, Assistant Vice President for Information Technology; Mr. Christian Stumpf, Assistant Vice President for Auxiliaries & Director of the Conference Center; Mr. Ronald Vickroy, Associate Professor of Management; Mr. Jon Wescott, Director of Housing & Residence Life; and representatives from the Faculty Senate and the Staff Activities and Concerns Association. Thank You!

UPJ Global Education Task Force: Led by Dr. Reinhard Heinisch, Professor of Political Science, and Mr. Douglas Reed, Assistant Professor of Management, this work team will  undertake a study and assessment of global or international education and make recommendations on the following areas:  a strategic plan for internationalization;  study abroad and related international exchanges;  international student enrollment and engagement;  foreign languages and culture; global learning outcomes; international courses in the curriculum, including related interdisciplinary courses; international faculty development activities in teaching, scholarship/research and scholarly exchanges;  international partnerships and various forms of inter-institutional collaboration; and rigorous assessment processes.  Other faculty and staff who have agreed to serve include Ms. Neelmina Bhatnagar, Assistant Professor of Management; Dr. Dolores Buttry, Assistant Professor of German; Dr. Elena Constantin, Assistant Professor of Mathematics; Dr. Monica Frolander-Ulf, Associate Professor of Anthropology; Dr. Seung Hyun Im; Assistant Professor of Computer Science; Dr. Ola Johansson, Assistant Professor of Geography; Dr. Thomas McGahagan, Associate Professor for Economics; Dr. Barbara Petrosky, Assistant Professor for French; Dr. Andrew Rose, Associate Professor for Civil Engineering Technology; Ms. Anita Thompson, Instructor of Mathematics; Dr. Frances Zauhar, Chair of Humanities Division and yet to be designated representatives from the Faculty Senate, as well as the Staff Activities and Concerns Association. Thank You!

UPJ Inclusive Community Task Force:  Led by Co-Chairs Dr. Jon Darling, Professor of Sociology, Dr. Mark Previte, Assistant Professor of Education and Ms. Josette Dau, Coordinator of Judicial Affairs & Leadership Development,  this work team is expected to conduct a comprehensive review of issues related to inclusivity, draft a comprehensive plan, including an assessment plan, and make recommendations for further actions required to achieve our vision of a more inclusive internal environment as we hire faculty and staff and recruit students including historically underrepresented persons and international students. Overall, this group shall explore and make recommendations on ways to enhance the intercultural climate, foster understanding of other peoples and culture and enrich community life and learning.  Other community members who have agreed to serve on this work team include Ms. Helen Golubic, Director of Development; Dr. Jon Gonder, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Mr. Bobak Karimi, Student Representative; Dr. David Magill, Assistant Professor of English Literature; Dr. Patty Michael, Assistant Professor for Communication; Ms. Andrea Sadvari, Secretary, Natural Sciences Division; Mr. Abba Shettima, President of the Black Action Society; Ms. Jeanne Susko, Senior Coordinator of Outreach and Professional Services; Mr. Jeffrey Webb, Associate Professor of Music;  Dr. Veronica Wilson, Assistant Professor of History and designated representatives from the Faculty Senate as well as the Staff Activities and Concerns Association. Thank You!

UPJ Student-Friendly Culture of Service Task Force:  Led by Co-Chairs Ms. Jeannine Lawn, Director of Financial Aid and Mr. Kelly Austin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, this work team will review and assess our current situation relative to student services, conduct a peer/competitor analysis, draft a comprehensive plan for assessing services at UPJ and make recommendations for further actions required to achieve a more student-friendly, welcoming and service-oriented environment.  The following have agreed to serve on this work group Ms. Susanne Bodenschatz, Administrative Assistant for Admissions; Mr. Christopher Caputo, Sports Information Director; Mr. Mark Dougherty, Associate Director for Housing & Residence Life; Mr. Robert Eckenrod, Director of User Services; Ms. Katherine Kinsinger, Academic Support Coordinator; Mr. Robert Knipple, Director of Alumni & Community Relations; Ms. Andrea Leibfreid, Secretary, Social Sciences Division; Ms. Joyce Radovanic, Assistant to the President; Mr. Christian Stumpf, Assistant Vice President for Auxiliaries & Director of the Conference Center; Mr. Bryan Valentine, Director of Student Engagement & Union Operations; Ms. Janet Valine, Manager, Business Office; Ms. Donna Vickroy, Enrollment Services Specialist; Mr. Joseph Wilson, Instructor of Mathematics;  Ms. Loretta Zerby, Financial Aid Specialist; and designated representatives from the Faculty Senate, as well as the Staff Activities and Concerns Association. Thank You!

In addition to the broad-based New Dimensions Task Forces, there were more narrowly focused Eorking Groups consisting of persons with expertise in certain limited issue areas: 

(1) Discussions were initiated pertaining to a "good neighbor" collaborative partnership with the Penn Highlands Community College.  Members:  Dr. Jerry Samples, Dr. Charles Hinderliter, Dr. James Gyure, Mr. Douglas Reed, Mr. Kelly Austin, and Penn Highlands Community College representatives, Jeanine McDevitt, Jason Wojcik, Tracy Polinsky, Erica Reighard. The charge given to this working group was to begin a purposeful dialogue and increase productive interactions between the two institutions. The goals were to create pathways of accessibility to enable college access to more students, to find areas of inter-institutional collaboration and to share expertise. Thank You!

(2) Also created was a K-12 Outreach Initiative by charging a working group to explore collaborative arrangements in the following areas: (a) STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math); (b) global education; and (c) cooperative activity related to pedagogy, curriculum as well as professional development. Participants:  Dr. Karen Scanlon, Dr. Nina Girard, Dr. Mark Previte, Dr. Donna Kowalczyk, Dr. James Gyure, Robert Knipple, Superintendent Barbara Parkins, and Greater Johnstown representatives, Daniel Resenic, Darren Buchko, and John Jubas. Thank You!

(3) Discussions intended to explore the needs of the region with respect to Nursing/Allied Health and to encourage the development of responsive and distinctive programs in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh began. Participants in various discussions:  Dr. Janet Grady, Dr. Lisa Bell-Loncella, Dr. James Gyure, Mr. Bruce Colbert, Mr. Jeffrey Ankney, Dr. Karen Lee, Dr. Jerry Samples, Mrs. Mary Claire Furman, and Dr. Charles Hinderliter. Thank You!

After extensive deliberations, the Task Forces produced comprehensive reports and recommendations to guide the strategic plan and campus vision.  The reports were submitted to the President's Office on March 7th, and were immediately thereafter made available on-line for review and comment by the Pitt-Johnstown community.  By March 21st, 300 people had reportedly visited the web site to review the documents. Subsequently, from March 18-31, a series of three- to four-hour town meetings were conducted with the Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board (3/19), staff (3/21, 3/31), students (3/24) and faculty members to discuss Task Force findings, recommendations and outcomes and to solicit further input (3/25, 3/31).  Presenters for the town meetings included:  Dr Jon Darling (Inclusive Community); Dr. Reinhard Heinisch and Professor Douglas Reed (Global Education); Mr. Jeff Lavine and Mr. Jeffrey Sernell (Facilities Infrastructure & Technology); Dr. James Gyure (Enrollment Management & First Year Experience);  Mr. Kelly Austin, Mr. Bryan Valentine, and Ms. Jeanine Lawn (Student Friendly Culture of Service); Dr. Janet Grady (Nursing/Allied Health); and Dr. Jon Gonder (K-12 Outreach Initiative and Community College Collaborative Partnership). 

During two full-day retreats in early April, the President's Cabinet began incorporating and integrating all recommendations of the Task Forces and Working Groups into a cohesive operational plan of action. Task force recommendations as well as the other inputs were sorted and organized around key themes that provided a framework for articulating goals and objectives. These strategic themes centered on a shared concern for preparing our students and communities for the rapidly changing, highly competitive and increasingly interdependent 21st century world - the real world. This document integrates and synthesizes the various recommendations and related inputs (including Task Force recommendations, survey responses, formal and informal discussions and various program reviews) into one draft document for your review and comment.  Please kindly take a moment to review the document (either the short or long version) and provide feedback and comment.

Finally, the document you read today is the product of hundreds of hours of work by our colleagues throughout our community.  This has been both exhilarating and exhausting for virtually all concerned. Many Task Force leaders and participants speak with great pride about the high degree of collaboration, camaraderie and dedication.  Several participants observed that the process, which brought together persons from various units of the institution, also created opportunities for faculty/staff to meet and become acquainted, for the first time, with ‘new' colleagues - sometimes after as much as a decade of service here at Pitt-Johnstown.  

The Task Force leaders and participants deserve special kudos! By successfully facilitating a challenging process, they have contributed to a document that fulfills many of the fondest dreams and aspirations for our Pitt-Johnstown community.  Moreover, by interacting and consulting with other members of the community as they engaged in their work, the task force leaders created a wider degree of ownership and co-authorship, as it were.  Words cannot express my gratitude to you, members of our community whose time, talents and myriad contributions resulted in this draft plan. Your care and concern for our students and the future of our community has been inspiring and serves as a model for how a community can come together for the common good.


Jem Spectar, PhD


Posted by Kim Lang on 4/25/2008 1:20:00 PM


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