Outreach helping Penn State transition and thrive in 21st century

University Park, Pa — Penn State Vice President for Outreach Craig Weidemann told members of Penn State’s Board of Trustees March 19 that the need for University outreach programs and services has never been greater.

“Penn State Outreach serves a central role in the University’s mission to provide teaching, research and public service to the Commonwealth and beyond.” said Weidemann. “Whether it’s helping adult learners transform their careers through continuing and online education, or leveraging Penn State research to confront national and international issues, like childhood obesity and environmental sustainability, outreach is serving and will continue to serve as the University’s vanguard in providing solutions.”

During his presentation, Weidemann shared excerpts of a video, produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting, that demonstrates how the University’s engagement has transformed the Commonwealth’s citizens and communities. These services in those communities have, in turn, informed researchers and students. Engagement projects covered during the video included Penn State Cooperative Extension’s Marcellus Shale project, the Center for Sustainability and the Philadelphia Field Project.

According to Weidemann, outreach has not been immune to the fiscal challenges that the University and the Commonwealth also are facing.

“Although we are doing good work and are continuing to ensure the University’s investment in outreach is maximized, our world is changing, our business models are changing and our financial challenges are changing,” Weidemann said. “Outreach is using discipline, focus and innovation to continue to provide learning opportunities and public service in this new economic climate.”

Weidemann provided examples of outreach’s commitment to innovation. The World Campus, Penn State’s online campus, is continuing to grow faster than national averages. The World Campus enrollment has sustained a nearly 30 percent annual growth rate in enrollments while the national average is about 17 percent.

The Conewago Creek Watershed Initiative, a Penn State Cooperative Extension project outside of Harrisburg, also was featured in his presentation. Cooperative Extension helped coordinate and promote an initiative to clean up the Conewago Creek watershed by pooling together the combined resources and expertise of University, community and agricultural leaders.

Al Vicere, executive education professor of strategic leadership in the Smeal College of Business and an expert on organizational leadership, has served as a consultant for the outreach effort to transition into a 21st-century land-grant mission that Weidemann discussed during the meeting.

“Penn State Outreach has tackled these fiscal challenges in a strategic, business-like fashion,” Vicere said. “As people in business and industry might know, quickly reacting and re-engineering an organization to face new economic environments and competitive threats are not new strategies in business, but this could serve as a template for how institutions of higher education can confront fiscal challenges while fulfilling their missions.”

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Last Updated November 18, 2010