Faculty Senate recaps 2013-14 activity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Faculty Senate "made huge strides forward on behalf of Penn State's faculty and students" over the past academic year, "despite substantial distractions" facing the University on multiple fronts, outgoing Senate Chair Brent Yarnal told the Board of Trustees today (May 9).

Yarnal, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller professor of physical geography, said that among the major challenges were the rollout of the "Take Care of Your Health" plan in mid-July, the conversion to the LionPATH information system and the increasing modernization of general education at Penn State, all of which sparked intense Senate discussion and debate. Key University leadership searches, hires and transitions -- including the positions of University president, provost and head football coach -- also added to the challenges.

In addition, major administrative changes took place in the Senate office for the first time in over a decade, with the hiring of a new executive director, Dan Hagen, and a new administrative support coordinator and office manager, Marissa Shamrock.

In 2013-14, standing Senate committees and extra-senatorial task forces examined several topics including:

-- General education modernization, which will have a broad impact on the majority of Penn State's students, faculty and staff across the University. Formed in spring 2013, the 90-member task force, which includes representation from every college and campus, is developing a plan and process to examine and revise Penn State's general education requirements, in consultation with faculty, staff and student stakeholders. 

-- Engaged scholarship, which aims to "give each Penn State student at least one out-of-the-classroom applied educational experience," said Yarnal. Nine out of the 15 standing Senate committees worked together to research and answer questions about engaged scholarship that will confirm the Senate's position and support for the broader University-wide initiative that is getting underway.

-- Health care initiatives for Penn State faculty and staff. In partnership with President Rodney Erickson, the Senate appointed a health care task force that is laying a path for Penn State to navigate the dynamic landscape of health care and health care benefits.

-- The Senate also pressed for improving faculty-hiring procedures in terms of diversity, for establishing a clear balance between tenure track and fixed-term faculty appointments, and for determining guidelines for part-time and full-time faculty loads under the Affordable Care Act.

The Faculty Senate will hold its first meeting of the 2014-15 academic year on Sept. 9. Jonna M. Kulikowich, professor of education, will serve as chairwoman for the coming year.

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Last Updated May 12, 2014