University sees success in achieving strategic plan goals

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Improving student labs and learning centers at University Park, and developing baccalaureate programs that meet regional demand at other campuses are just some of the measures Penn State has taken during year three of the University's strategic plan, the Board of Trustees learned Friday (May 4).

The program changes are focused on increasing the number of applicants selecting a Commonwealth Campus as their first choice, Rob Pangborn, interim executive vice president and provost, told the board.

Pangborn said much of what was done this past year for the strategic plan took place through the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council.

"The lengthy and comprehensive Core Council effort is bearing fruit in streamlined academic programs, improved learning assessment, new integrated undergraduate-graduate programs, more efficient procedures and a host of cost savings, mostly from administration and operations," Pangborn told the board. "We remain focused on the student experience and our responsibility to offer quality academic programs. We have received excellent cooperation from all corners of the University."

Composed of 13 senior administrators and faculty, the Core Council was charged with maximizing academic potential, enhancing efficiency of administrative services, reducing redundancy, freeing resources for higher priority uses and exploring opportunities for new revenue generation. With the review process complete, efforts now are under way to carry out the recommendations.

"Further, in the face of current fiscal constraints, we are taking the lessons learned from the Core Council's work and moving ahead with a new Budget Planning Task Force," Pangborn said. "The Task Force, just appointed this April, will take a long view of the University's budget model and organizational structure."

Pangborn and David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business, will co-chair the task force, which will include members of the Board of Trustees, the administration, campus chancellors, college deans, faculty and students.

Cost-cutting recommendations that came out of the Core Council process include an increased sharing of resources and infrastructure; sharing of faculty across campuses; building on existing strengths and priorities; and closing or merging degree programs and departments.

The Core Council process also included recommendations for revenue enhancements, including developing integrated undergraduate/graduate programs; expanding World Campus programming; and implementing an improved summer schedule and budget model.

In terms of academic recommendations, the Core Council focused on building on existing strengths, eliminating under-enrolled courses and phasing out low-enrollment programs. "The next step will be to replace the under-performing degree programs with new, strategically selected ones that have high student interest and high prospective demand from employers," Pangborn said. "Targeted task groups have recently been charged by the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses to explore these opportunities."

One initiative that both enhances student learning and at the same time increases revenue is the development of integrated baccalaureate-master's degree programs. These programs, such as the integrated bachelor of science in special education and the master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in the College of Education, enable students to earn both a baccalaureate degree and a master's degree in a single, five-year program.

Pangborn also cited the World Campus as a major enrollment growth area. "Professional master’s degrees, along with professionally oriented undergraduate degrees, are fast-growing markets in online education, and we are moving rapidly to develop programs responsive to current needs," he said.

Pangborn said planning also is under way to integrate Continuing Education more effectively with the broader campus program, rebalancing credit and noncredit offerings, and organizing programs on a regional basis, rather than using a campus-by-campus approach.

A new budget model to revitalize the University Park Summer Session was implemented this past year as well. "The new model encourages colleges to take a more student-demand oriented approach to the scheduling and delivery of summer courses and to use the summer for piloting new and innovative offerings. In fact, results after just the first year have shown an increase of 585 enrolled students and a 49 percent growth in student credit hours," Pangborn said.

Other Core Council recommendations include:

-- Improving student learning spaces and classroom technology support. A group has been formed to address this recommendation at University Park, to anticipate and be out in front of the dynamic, rapidly changing environment in which students and faculty use and communicate through technology. An example of this is the new Tombros and McWhirter Knowledge Commons in Pattee Library, which opened this past semester. The state-of-the-art learning spaces are on the cutting edge in blending digital and multimedia technologies with traditional library services.

-- Facilitating change of assignment. The University will look at ways to attract advanced-standing transfer students through partnerships with community colleges and program-to-program articulation. "We also will seek ways to encourage change-of-assignment of Penn State students from one campus to another campus, other than University Park, to facilitate access and completion of the degree of interest," Pangborn said.

-- Reducing the number of developmental courses. The Core Council recommended alternative assessment methods to pinpoint the specific areas of deficiency, requiring less than a full course or semester of remediation in math and English. This not only reduces time-to-degree for students, but reduces associated costs for the University as well. Pangborn said the use of embedded modules for adaptive, self-paced skill advancement already has shown success at University Park.

-- Assessment of IT services. One of the strategies within Goal 6 of the Strategic Plan is to investigate opportunities for cost savings and productivity improvements through and for technology. In response to this strategy, a University-wide IT assessment was undertaken to identify ways to reduce overlap of services and re-balance service delivery to be as efficient and accessible as possible. "A critically important product of the assessment is a new model for IT planning, governance and decision-making, to put the University in a position to regularly assess and re-factor how IT services are provisioned and changed, to meet the needs of our students and faculty," Pangborn said.

Pangborn also informed the board of a revised timeline for the next cycle of strategic planning. "Typically, unit strategic planning begins a year before the University-wide planning cycle. That would have meant starting the next round of unit planning this spring. However, to better accommodate the presidential search schedule and allow the new president an opportunity to influence development of the overall strategic plan during his or her first year in office, the next cycle will be delayed for one year," Pangborn said. Unit strategic planning now is scheduled to begin in 2013-14.

To view the strategic plan, visit online. For complete information about the Core Council process and the recommendation letters sent to each unit, visit online.

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Last Updated May 11, 2012