University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
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Office of the President

Our aspiration to build on a legacy of excellence is intended to position us as a compelling choice for potential students who have many options for a quality education.  In the dynamic and highly fluid environment of contemporary higher education, to stay ahead, we must press ahead.  Yet, we seek this New Dimension of Excellence not simply because we aim to leapfrog ahead of the competition, but because, at the very core of it all, there is a solemn and restless obligation to be excellent – in the ultimate sense.   -- Jem Spectar, President


Jem SpectarDr. Jem Spectar is the President of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Previously, he was Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor at Western Oregon University, Associate Provost and Professor at the University of Scranton, Director of Studies and Lecturer at Princeton University, and, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of Law at the University of La Verne College of Law. Jem Spectar left his birthplace in Africa, to realize the dream of a higher education and greater opportunity in the United States. Since then, he has gone on to become a widely educated scholar and an outstanding academic leader. He holds a BA in international studies from the University of La Verne; an MA from the George Washington University; an MBA from Frostburg State University; a JD from the University of Maryland School of Law; and, an MA in politics and a Ph.D. in political science from the Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Spectar has taught several graduate and undergraduate courses and has received two awards recognizing teaching excellence. In addition, he has published scholarly articles on contemporary international law and made presentations on pressing global issues.

With a leadership style based on shared governance as well as an ability to engage faculty, staff, students, alumni and other constituents to pursue a shared agenda for change, Dr. Spectar has established a reputation as a bold, energetic, and visionary leader with a proven record of leading institutional transformation.  In leadership positions of increasing responsibility (assistant dean, associate provost, provost and president), Spectar has an exemplary record as a collaborative student-centered administrator who supports excellence in teaching and research - including faculty scholarship that involves students, and, that focuses on pressing community needs.

Since Jem Spectar became president of the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown in July 2007, the Pitt-Johnstown community developed a transformational strategic plan whose implementation contributed to improvement of the institution’s profile, rankings, retention and graduation rates; the development of several new academic programs including a baccalaureate nursing degree, as well as extensive faculty recruitment; expansion of campus facilities including construction of an $11 million Wellness Center; construction-planning for a $12 million Nursing and Health Sciences building (groundbreaking 2012), renovation of various academic, residential, dining, and athletic facilities including integration of contemporary technologies.  Strongly committed to teaching and learning excellence, Spectar increased support for faculty-student research through a mentorship fund to support collaborative scholarship; strengthened student advising; expanded career placement and led the development and implementation of the university’s innovative civic, community and campus engagement initiatives, the RealWorld Action Program and RealWorld Interest Groups.   The institution has also improved diversity, increased international enrollment (up 1,800%) and significantly expanded study abroad. Significant friend-making, fundraising, and community outreach re-engaged the university’s alumni, doubled alumni giving, and resulted in several large private and public gifts and grants, including a rare $4 million grant from the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the institution’s purposeful engagement with external constituencies has enhanced relationships with the Johnstown community, fostered partnerships with area schools and organizations on STEM, healthcare and economic development.  The campus’ momentum has contributed to greater recognition in venues such as US News & World Report, national assessments of student engagement, as well as consistent recognition on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. 

Dr. Spectar serves on several boards including NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the Johnstown Educational Foundation, the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Committee on International Education of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Johnstown Area Regional Industries. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, golfing, gardening and listening to an eclectic mix of music from across the world. An avid art collector with a passion for the art of dance, he has developed an extensive collection of sculptures, paintings, antiques and folk art that spans the globe.

Last Reviewed: April 2012