I am pleased to present our latest Community Report, a summation of the collective efforts of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends in the community that are evidence of the momentum, talent, and commitment at Pitt-Johnstown. From the grand opening of our Wellness Center to last weekend's 39th Commencement ceremony, it has been a semester of great progress at our fine institution.
The year in learning culminated with the graduation of 550 students. Our annual Academic Honors Convocation recognized 72 students for exemplary academic achievement, and dozens of students presented at the annual Symposium for the Promotion of Academic and Creative Enquiry (SPACE). Once again, Pitt-Johnstown sailed to the top as our Concrete Canoe team advanced to the national competition.
The accomplishments of our students would not be possible without the excellent teaching and mentoring provided by our talented faculty and the support offered by our dedicated staff. Numerous faculty accomplishments from the year included Dr. Elena Constantin's receiving the President's Award for Teaching Excellence. Several faculty produced substantial scholarship, including book chapters and articles in prestigious outlets. In addition to building our faculty for the future, we are currently in the final stages of another historic hiring initiative that will bring 22 new faculty members into our Pitt-Johnstown community of teacher-scholars. Like our faculty, our dedicated staff continue to make us proud through their fine work. For example, Bryan Valentine was recognized as the recipient of a 2011 Chancellor's Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the Community.
One of the most noteworthy events of the year was our first-ever “Celebrate Teaching Showcase,” which was developed through the efforts of Dr. Eric Schwerer in our Faculty Resource Center. Presenters Professor Brian Houston, Dr. Patty Wharton-Michael, and Dr. Veronica Wilson engaged their colleagues in a stimulating conversation about teaching and learning. They discussed varying pedagogical approaches and shared best practices in effective teaching. Everyone in attendance commented very positively on the event, indicated they were reminded of the centrality of high-quality teachers, and eagerly anticipating the next event.
In addition to their academic endeavors, our students are continuing to be highly engaged outside the classroom. Participation in the RealWorld Action Program continues to grow, and our students are performing more service hours than ever before. The recent Habitat for Humanity Shack-a-Thon raised awareness of poverty and homelessness worldwide. The assessment of student engagement and satisfaction by Noel-Levitz showed that Pitt-Johnstown rates above its peers in three key areas: quality of campus services, services to help students decide on a career, and overall service to students. And, of course, our student-athletes continued to make us Mountain Cat Proud with several teams reaching the WVIAC quarterfinals and a number of our student-athletes earning Dean's List honors.
We continue to make significant progress in engaging our more than 19,000 alumni through efforts including the recent receptions in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. In addition, our fourth annual Athletics Hall of Fame was enriched by the great turnout of alumni who regaled us with tales of yesteryear.
We are also continuing to strengthen our ties with the community through various collaborative endeavors. For example, through our signature "Pitt-Johnstown @ Your Service" project, we partnered with Goodwill Industries to setup collection sites across campus during finals week.
The Wellness Center opening kicked off a brisk pace of activity when it comes to the critical task of upgrading academic facilities. Throughout the Spring Term, faculty in nursing, biology, and chemistry had numerous meetings to discuss the scope and layout of the Nursing and Health Sciences building, culminating in a basic schematic that is in the development stage, with groundbreaking scheduled for September. Likewise, the Biddle Hall renovation project included faculty and student representatives from areas who provided input into the extensive redesign of the building, the first major upgrade to the facility since its construction. In addition to a complete updating of the building's interior finishes, technology, and lighting, the project will create a suitable home of the Pitt-Johnstown Business and Economics faculty and students as well as a future Small Business Enterprise facility. Work has also started on an extensive renovation of Briar Lodge. In addition to enhancing our campus, these projects totaling about $30 million over the last three years, also create jobs in our region.
The forecast for the Commonwealth continues to be of great concern particularly in new proposed cuts to Pennsylvania's education budget. Consequently, we continue to manage our limited resources with prudence and caution. Nonetheless, even in these challenging times, we anticipate a slight increase in our enrollment. To date, applications for the coming year have increased by 20% and international applications are up by 11%. Furthermore, generous support from donors has resulted in a 50% increase in gifts received during the first quarter of 2011 over the same period last year.
As challenging a period as we face in the days and months ahead, we must not lose sight of the progress that we are making, as evidenced by the many great accomplishments contained in this report. We have continued to fulfill our mission by burnishing a record of academic excellence, enhancing our collegiate environment, improving our facilities, and strengthening ties with our respective communities and constituencies. Thank you all for your service to the University and the contributions you make toward the realization of our institutional mission and vision. Thanks to your dedicated efforts, we continue to make progress as a leading institution at the forefront of baccalaureate colleges when it comes to preparing students for the real world.
To view the Community Report, please click here.