Penn State provost is 'cool' with New Kensington campus students

Nicholas Jones, executive vice president and provost at Penn State, continued his tour of the University’s 24 campuses Feb. 19 with a stop at Penn State New Kensington. Jones, who was appointed to the position in July, met with students, faculty and staff, and toured the facilities.

Accompanied by Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, Jones solicited thoughts on the academic environment and opportunities at the campuses. At Penn State, the executive vice president and provost is the University’s chief academic officer. Jones is responsible for all the academic units (colleges, schools and campuses) as well as major academic support units, such as the University Libraries, Educational Equity, Affirmative Action and Information Technology Services. Hanes is responsible for oversight of Penn State's 19 undergraduate campuses. She is charged with promoting curricular integration across all Commonwealth campuses, and with University Park academic colleges, to ensure a common foundation for all students as they proceed through their major programs.

In his opening remarks, Jones stressed that Penn State was one university comprising 24 campuses. He said there is no “main campus,” as Penn State University Park is often referred, and campuses such as New Kensington aren’t “satellite campuses.” According to Jones, “Penn State is one University, with 24 dispersed campuses.”

In his talk with students, Jones answered questions and sought positive and negative opinions of New Kensington as a campus and Penn State as a university. He wanted to find out what the Penn State administration could do to forge stronger bonds with all campuses.

Students praised the New Kensington campus for its top-notch faculty and its size. The small classes, usually 25 students or fewer, are conducive for one-on-one contact between students and faculty. Concerns were raised about the need for more housing, additional bachelor’s degrees programs at the campus, and research opportunities for underclassmen.

“He didn't try to answer questions that he didn't have the whole answer, so he deferred to Dr. Hanes,” said Jack Ramsey, a junior in the administration of justice program and a U.S. Army veteran. “All of the questions that were asked were answered to the best of his ability.”

Jones said that new residence halls won't be built in the next few years but five years from now could see a change that might warrant such a capital project. New four-year programs would be addressed if there was a demand. Calling upon his past experiences on the faculty at Johns Hopkins, Jones noted that he is a strong proponent of research opportunities for freshmen and sophomores.

“I thought he was a cool guy, the way he was talking to us, asking what we feel about the campus,” said Sandra Muhhuku, an international student from Uganda and freshman in petroleum engineering program. “Hopefully, some of the requests we made can be considered.”

Housing for New Kensington students is available at a private apartment complex located adjacent to the campus. The two- and three-bedroom units are fully furnished and are rented only to campus students. The campus offers nine bachelor’s degrees and five associate degrees. The curriculum of four of the bachelor’s programs can be completed at night, a boon for military veterans and adult learners.

Regarding research for first-year students, Penn State New Kensington is ahead of the curve. Since 2009, the Chancellor Fellows initiative has attracted academically-talented students to the campus, where they partner with faculty during their first year. Freshmen can learn first-hand about the intricacies of scholarly analysis and gain valuable research experience that is usually reserved for upperclassmen and master's degree candidates.

“I think that he was genuinely listening to what we had to say,” said Marissa Russo, a junior information sciences and technology major. “He told us that as provost, he wasn’t at Penn State to answer questions but to raise them. I know he took our questions into consideration.”

At the end of the session, Russo introduced herself to the provost. He had referenced the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy during his informal conversation with the students. All three movies were shot in New Zealand, his native country, and parts of the blockbuster were filmed near his hometown. The comments elicited unbridled exuberance from Russo and a chuckle from Jones.

"I said I was having little heart attack,’’ said Russo, who is a "Rings" aficionado. “Afterwards, he pulled me aside and told me some "Lord of the Rings" trivia, which was awesome. I thought he was a cool guy.”

About Nicholas Jones
Jones received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Auckland in 1980; he received master's and doctoral degrees, also in civil engineering, from the California Institute of Technology in 1981 and 1986, respectively. He began his career as a member of the faculty in the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins in 1986 and was appointed chair of the department in 1999. He accepted a position as professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002, before returning to Johns Hopkins to take the role of dean in 2004. He was appointed dean of the Whiting School of Engineering in 2004 and was named the school’s inaugural Benjamin T. Rome Dean in 2008. As dean, Jones has overseen a strategic restructuring that has led to strong gains in enrollment; expanded academic offerings; significant gains in funded research; diversification of the faculty and student body; and the establishment of several institutes focused on interdisciplinary research, among other achievements.

About Commonwealth Campuses
Commonwealth Campuses comprise the 19 undergraduate campuses statewide. The campuses are Abington, Altoona, Beaver, Berks, Brandywine, DuBois, Erie (The Behrend College), Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Schuylkill, Shenango, Wilkes-Barre, Worthington Scranton and York. The campuses that feature graduate and doctoral studies are Erie, Carlisle (Dickinson School of Law), Great Valley, Hershey Medical Center and University Park. Some students choose to remain at one campus for all four years, while other students spend their first two years at one campus and transition to another for their remaining two years. To transition between campuses, the only requirement is that you meet the entrance to major requirements for your selected major. The vast majority of majors can be completed in this fashion. It is called the 2+2 plan and it is the most common path to a Penn State degree as about 60 percent of our students opt for this path in a typical year. Students choose this path for many reasons, including the desire to stay close to home and to save money. Others are looking for a particular campus environment, perhaps smaller classes or particular sports.

About Penn State New Kensington bachelor’s and associate degrees
The campus offers nine bachelor’s degrees: administration of justice; psychology (bachelor arts and bachelor of science); business; communications; electro-mechanical engineering technology; information sciences and technology; nursing; organizational leadership; and five associate degrees: biomedical engineering technology; business; information sciences and technology; letters, arts and sciences; and radiological sciences. Four of the bachelor’s programs: business, information sciences and technology, nursing and organizational leadership; are designed for military veterans and adult learners and can be completed at night. Under the 2+2 plan, students can begin the course work for most of Penn State’s 160 degrees at the New Kensington campus and finish the degree at another Penn State campus.

For more on degrees at the campus, visit

For more on admission to the New Kensington campus, visit

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Last Updated February 27, 2014