Board of Trustees meets; President Erickson delivers remarks

Penn State President Rodney Erickson offered his regularly scheduled President's Report at the start of today's (Jan. 17) Board of Trustees meeting in Dean's Hall of The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at the University Park campus. Following is a transcript of his remarks.

Thank you, Keith and Happy New Year! 2014 is off to a great start at Penn State, and we’re fortunate to begin the year with a few new outstanding leaders.

Last week, Amr Salah Elnashai began his tenure as dean in the College of Engineering, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet him in coming months. On Feb. 1, Penn State Brandywine will welcome a new chancellor – Kristin Woolever, who comes from Prescott College in Arizona, where she served as president. She too is looking forward to getting started.

As you know, on Saturday we welcomed Penn State Football’s 16th head coach, James Franklin, to the Nittany Nation. Within hours, our downtown merchants had welcome messages in their store windows, and the Family Clothesline even ran a contest for T-shirt slogans, which prompted suggestions like “Bankin on Franklin” and “James Wins Games.”

We owe our gratitude to the search committee led by Dave Joyner.

The committee did a remarkable job … so remarkable in fact, that Onward State gave them an A, which is impressive coming from students!

Before I introduce Coach Franklin, I wish to offer our deepest appreciation to Larry Johnson, who stepped up to serve as interim coach. His steady leadership, commitment to student-athletes and enthusiasm for the program were vital during the transition. We also wish Bill O’Brien our very best in the next chapter of his career. I for one will be cheering on Houston as long as they’re not competing with the Steelers or Eagles.

Today, I’m pleased that Coach Franklin has made the time to stop by our meeting and say hello. We’re thrilled that you and your family have joined the Penn State family, and we look forward to your contributions to our storied Nittany Lion football program. I realize you have a very tight schedule, but would you care to come to the podium to say a few words?

(Franklin speaks)

Thank you, and again, welcome to Penn State!

Now I have a few other items to share before we move on to the business of the afternoon.
First, I’m pleased to report that credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s announced that it has revised Penn State’s outlook from negative to stable and affirmed its ‘AA’ long-term bond rating. This move, on the heels of the Moody’s rating outlook boost, clearly affirms the ongoing progress that’s been made and provides recognition of Penn State’s commitment to fiscal responsibility and overall improvement.

Another sign of stability and strength at Penn State can be found in our latest admissions cycle report.

After last year’s dip in the overall number of applications, from all indications, this admissions cycle could well produce a new high.

To date, applications for undergraduate baccalaureate applications are up 19 percent over last year at University Park and up 7 percent at the Commonwealth Campuses; that adds up to 7,600 more baccalaureate applications received this year, compared to last year.

Some other notable statistics include:

-- Pennsylvania applications at all campuses are up 8 percent.

-- Out-of-state applications are up 26 percent.

-- International applications are up 18 percent.

-- African-American applications are up 14 percent.

-- Hispanic-Latino applications are up 18 percent.

-- Graduate applications are up 10 percent.

What’s more, we have seen a record number of applications to the Schreyer Honors College. This year, 3,277 students are competing for 300 spots. That is an all-time record for Schreyer applications, and it’s a 29 percent increase over 2013.

Also, the Honors College now offers an optional interview opportunity with Schreyer alumni. More than 1,500 prospective students have signed up, and about 450 alumni are conducting the interviews. We greatly appreciate the alumni engagement, which enhances the experience for all of our students.

Penn State’s World Campus also continues to attract outstanding students and accolades.

Most recently, the World Campus ranked in the Top 10 for its online undergraduate and graduate programs among the hundreds of higher education institutions included in U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best Online Programs rankings.

Notably, Penn State’s World Campus rankings include:

-- No. 3 for best online bachelor’s programs.

-- No. 5 for best online graduate engineering programs.

-- No. 6 for best online graduate computer information technology programs.

This is the time of the year that brings people together at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

This annual event is part county fair, part educational experience, and part food extravaganza. Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences always plays a prominent role. This year, more than 200 Penn State students, faculty and staff were on hand to help make many of the show’s activities successful.

I had the privilege of attending a special ceremony during which Gov. Corbett proclaimed Jan. 9 Cooperative Extension Day in Pennsylvania. The honor recognized 100 years of Penn State Extension, and it was a pleasure to share the honor with our many state and local government officials and private sector partners.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show Foundation honored 10 Penn State students, including eight enrolled in the College of Agricultural Sciences, with $3,500 scholarship awards. The College of Agricultural Sciences will contribute an additional $2,000 for its student winners.

The winners are selected based on leadership qualities and excellent academic performance, and are shown here with U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson and Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig.

On Wednesday of this week, we celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual Forum on Black Affairs banquet. I had the opportunity to share some of Penn State’s progress in our diversity initiatives.

For example, in December Penn State was honored with the 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award by INSIGHT into Diversity Magazine. This honor recognizes higher education institutions for exceptional strategies and programs in place to help achieve diversity and inclusion across campus.

In addition, results from an assessment of Penn State’s diversity and inclusion efforts ranked the University among the top 20 higher education institutions in the nation.

The assessment, conducted by Halualani & Associates, found that Penn State ranks in the top four in comparison to peer institutions for diverse undergraduate student enrollment, diverse student graduation rates and new minority faculty hire numbers.

The report concluded that “the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity leads one of the top 10 diversity strategic planning frameworks in the country, and stands out as one of the few offices nationwide that focuses on diversity achievement outcomes and impact.”

Certainly there is more work to be done, but I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Terrell Jones, vice provost for educational equity, for his leadership of the Office for Educational Equity and his support of diversity initiatives in our community.

As I do each year, I’d like to recognize the Penn State faculty members who have been recently named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is the world's largest general scientific society.

The new fellows for 2014 include: Ottar N. Bjørnstad, professor of entomology, biology and statistics; Squire J. Booker, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and molecular biology; William H. Brune, distinguished professor of meteorology; Kevin P. Furlong, professor of geosciences; Bruce E. Logan, Evan Pugh professor and Kappe professor of environmental engineering; Alan M. MacEachren, professor of geography; and James R. Broach, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the College of Medicine.

Congratulations to these faculty members, as well as the many others who are making discoveries in their respective fields, while inspiring the next generation of scientists, innovators, artists and scholars.

Penn State is continuing our work to improve the lives of children and families.

Later this afternoon, you’ll hear from Dr. Susan McHale about some of the research under way through the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being.

And next week I will be at Penn State Hershey to participate in a Grand Welcoming Event for the Center for the Protection of Children. Led by Dr. Benjamin Levi, this center is a collaborative effort whose goals are the research, prevention and treatment of child abuse.

In other campus news, the Pennsylvania College of Technology is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year.

Started as an industrial-arts shop in the Williamsport High School, Penn College has developed a unique approach to education by focusing on hands-on, real-world experience in skilled and technical career fields.

Pennsylvania legislatures have played an important role in the success of Penn College, our Commonwealth Campuses and our institution. I look forward to sharing some of the highlights at the House and Senate Appropriation hearings, in which I’ll be participating on Feb. 13.

Since our last board meeting, we have had some significant accomplishments in athletics, too.

Eighty-three Penn State student-athletes earned fall Academic All-Big Ten honors; that’s the Nittany Lions’ second-highest number of honorees all-time among fall teams.

Football All-American and mathematics major John Urschel will need an extra suitcase to take home all of his awards, including the Campbell Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top college football scholar-athlete. He is the first Nittany Lion to win this award, and he was honored at the BCS Championship Bowl game. John also picked up the 2013 Senior CLASS Award for his abilities both on and off the football field.

We also had a thrilling conclusion to our women’s volleyball season when the team captured its sixth NCAA national championship in program history, rallying past Wisconsin in a decisive victory. This marks the fifth national title in the last seven years for the Nittany Lions. With this title, the team is now tied with Stanford for the most women’s volleyball national championships.

Congratulations go to Coach Russ Rose, his staff and to the student-athletes, who have made us so proud.

Continuing their record of excellence, the Penn State wrestling team is ranked No. 1 in the nation.

In addition, on Dec. 8, Penn State Wrestling set the NCAA attendance record for the largest crowd at any college wrestling dual meet  ̶ 15,996 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center -- all cheering on the team on to victory.

Last year, the Lady Lions donated a record $260,000 to breast cancer charities, and this year the Pink Zone game will be played Sunday, Feb. 16, against Wisconsin. There’s always a great turnout, and it will be an excellent game.

Finally, a few words on For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. We are closing in on the goal of $2 billion due in large measure to the support of the Penn State community and the outstanding leadership of Rod Kirsch, senior vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, and Peter Tombros, the Campaign Chair.

This campaign has brought out the best in our alumni and friends, and we will be able to celebrate its success on the Campaign Closing weekend, which will be April 11-13.

Also coming up is THON 2014, which will be held Feb. 21-23. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing the passion and commitment of our students and the families they support.
If you wish to join us for THON, please let Jeanie know and we’ll make arrangements.

That concludes my remarks. Now I’ll be happy to take your questions.

Last Updated February 11, 2014