On Tuesday, August 6, the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was presented a proclamation by the City of Johnstown in recognition of the successful completion of its strategic plan, A New Dimension of Excellence, which resulted in a major institutional transformation. The proclamation was presented to Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar by Mayor Thomas Trigona at City Hall in downtown Johnstown.
In acknowledgement of the proclamation, President Jem Spectar said, “This recognition from our friends in the City is deeply meaningful because we are very proud of our long-standing presence in Johnstown. The University and the City are inextricably tied together by a bond that is strengthened by the historic support the City has demonstrated for Pitt-Johnstown from its very inception. As always, we are very grateful for the support we have received from the community, and especially from our Advisory Board members.“
The proclamation stated, “During the plan period, Pitt-Johnstown achieved its vision of greater academic excellence; enhanced campus experience and environment for student success and active involvement; stronger connections with its local and global communities; enhanced resource base and strengthened capacity to support the success of students, faculty, staff; and greater accountability for institutional effectiveness and success.”
Since launching the strategic plan in 2007, the campus developed 12 new academic programs including nursing, green chemistry, justice administration and criminology, special education, and management information systems. The expansion into nursing and healthcare, spearheaded by the new Division of Nursing and Health Sciences, was a direct response to student needs as well as the community’s interest in better healthcare. The first nursing class of 25 just graduated and many now work in the area!
The transformation of Pitt-Johnstown is palpably evident in campus infrastructure. Since 2007-08, capital projects totaling about $45 million resulted in construction or renovation of more than one-third of the campus, including the new Nursing and Health Sciences and Wellness Center buildings. Classrooms, laboratories, dining facilities, and many residence halls have been extensively renovated. The University will soon begin renovation of the Engineering building and construction of the new Murtha Center at a cost of $20 million. In addition, technology-classrooms have doubled, wireless is now available in academic buildings and will be in all residence halls by September, and the Web site redesign is underway.
To enhance town-gown relations, Pitt-Johnstown strengthened connections with the Johnstown community and increased responsiveness to community needs. Various initiatives, including the development of needed academic programs, have precipitated a sea-change in the University’s profile and fostered goodwill. Stronger ties were developed with organizations such as the Windber Research Institute, the Johnstown Area Regional Industries, and various K-12 schools through the University’s STEM initiative.
Meanwhile, effective enrollment management enabled the campus to minimize the impact of demographic shifts. The “Get Ready for the Real-World” marketing campaign and expanded recruitment led to a 35 percent increase in applications; the fall 2012 class was the largest since 2007 and the fourth largest in 11 years; African American and Latino enrollments are up by 78 percent and 91 percent respectively; out-of-state enrollment is up 133 percent; enrollment in STEM majors is up 21 percent. The average SAT of the most recent freshman class is 1040 compared to 1023 in 2007. Furthermore, the retention rate is 75 percent (up 3 percent) and the 2012 graduation rate rose to 63 percent (up 4 percent) – both higher than most peer institutions. Overall, Pitt-Johnstown has held its own in a highly competitive region in terms of overall direct applicants and percentage of yield.
The campus today is more globally-oriented, far exceeding even some very high expectations. Since establishing the Office of International Services in 2008, overall enrollment of international students increased over 2000 percent from 3 to 93 students, representing fifteen countries. Likewise, since 2007, there has been a 31 percent increase in Study Abroad.
The institution received a major boost when it fulfilled a long-held aspiration to join the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Membership will improve Pitt-Johnstown’s visibility in the state, enliven campus life, and enhance student recruiting and alumni outreach. Meanwhile, since its inaugural event in September 2007, the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Fame now boasts 26 distinguished members!
All of these improvements have raised the campus profile and earned Pitt-Johnstown noteworthy accolades. Since the launch of the strategic plan, the University climbed the US News & World Report rankings to Tier I from Tier 3, is a Princeton Review “Best College in the Northeast,” is regularly honored in the President’s Community Service Honor Roll, and is considered one of Pennsylvania’s highest returns on investment. The Noel Levitz student satisfaction survey and the National Survey of Student Engagement place the University above peers in key performance criteria. Pitt-Johnstown faculty is increasingly recognized for noteworthy scholarship, sometimes involving their students.