Trustees meet with commission leaders for annual discussion

University Park, Pa. -- Prior to their bimonthly board meeting today (Jan. 22), University trustees held an annual conversation over breakfast with chairs and other leadership of the Commission for Adult Learners; Commission for Women; Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity; and the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity. The annual breakfast gives commission leaders, who oversee a wide range of diversity-related issues, a forum to share updates and goals with trustees in an informal setting.

Keith Hillkirk, chancellor of Penn State Schuylkill and chair of the Commission for Adult Learners, said he sees the meeting not only as a venue to share his commission's ongoing work but also as a chance to solicit trustees' ideas and answer any questions they may have, particularly regarding the needs and interests of nontraditional student populations.

"Adult learners are very important to Penn State," he noted. "At some of our campuses, nontraditional students who are 24 and older comprise the majority, or a significant portion, of the student body."

During the meeting Hillkirk and his colleagues shared some of the Commission for Adult Learners' current priorities, which include increasing financial aid for adult learners, strengthening the network of adult enrollment coordinators across the University's campuses and reviewing and making recommendations for ways to improve assessment of prior learning and experiences that adult learners bring to Penn State. The commission also wishes to increase participation in the highly successful Hendrick Best Practices Conference, which brings together adult students, faculty, administrators and staff from all Penn State campuses annually in May to share research, practices and creative approaches to teaching and learning.

Representatives from the Commission for Women, chaired by Auden Thomas, director of the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg, apprised trustees of several of the commission's new initiatives. Among them are findings and recommendations from its forthcoming report, "Work-Family Balance at Penn State: Findings from the 2008-09 Focus Groups of Faculty and Staff;" the commission's renewed emphasis on issues facing women students at Penn State; and its mentoring program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary with more than 340 participants from all employment categories. In addition, the Commission for Women shared the activities of its newly formed ad hoc committee that focuses on personal safety and sexual assault awareness issues.

Leadership from the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity (CORED), chaired by Olivia Lewis, administrative support coordinator in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, offered updates on a collaborative task force the commission is leading on student debt. The task force has focused on first-generation and low-income students' level of debt and how the University can develop strategies to support the success of these students. In addition, CORED is celebrating its 25th anniversary this academic year and will host a celebration later this spring.

"This breakfast is an excellent opportunity to exchange information and ideas," said Terrell Jones, vice provost for Educational Equity. "Board members get to hear what issues the various University commissions are working on, and commission members gain valuable insights into trustee perspectives on how these issues impact University actions and decision-making. The meeting also provides both groups with an opportunity to network and get to know one another."
 

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Last Updated January 22, 2010