President Barron reviews Penn State goals, achievements from past year

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —President Eric Barron reviewed the goals that he and the University Board of Trustees established for the previous year, accomplishments and progress on achieving those objectives, along with insights gained during their implementation, during his remarks to the trustees, May 5.

Barron and the trustees set seven goals at the start of the 2016-17 fiscal year, ranging from expanding access and affordability initiatives to addressing major issues of campus and public concern. Those goals will remain at the forefront in the coming year, but Barron noted that measurable progress has been made on many fronts.

“I continue to be impressed with the accomplishments that come from the University and the dedication and vision of our administrators, faculty, students and staff,” Barron said. “Establishing these specific goals and taking time to reflect on our progress in meeting them allows us to not only assess how we have done, but also to look ahead to the upcoming years and see where we can grow. This is true whether we are talking about finding effective ways to help students graduate on time, being on the cutting edge of online learning, sparking entrepreneurship or pursuing a capital campaign that will support our students.”

The priorities for the year were:

—Expanding access and affordability. Penn State has created a number of pilot programs to help lower the cost of a degree while ensuring high levels of success for students with financial need and from underrepresented groups. Those include creation of Pathway to Success Summer Start (PaSSS); enhancements to student advising; and expanding the Student Transitional Experiences Program (STEP).

With PaSSS, an intensive summer program to help students graduate on time, students participate in summer courses and employment. The University is expanding this initiative to include World Campus, with a launch slated for fall 2017. World Campus PaSS is focused on first-time students who are first-generation, adult learners or who have financial need.

—Continuing cost cutting and efficiency measures across the University. Barron pointed to a number of initiatives that were implemented, including the Voluntary Retirement Plan, which is expected to bring $12 million to $16 million in savings while providing the University with flexibility in filling the positions and responding to current needs.

Other cost-saving changes that have been implemented include $19.8 million in budget reductions and cost savings in 2016-17 from areas such as restructuring the post-retirement health care liability and streamlining administrative overhead. Those savings are expected to continue in 2017-18, with $27 million realized through various initiatives, including transforming the Office of Human Resources. New initiatives focused on energy and strategic procurement will together bring $5 million in savings.

Barron noted that at the same time the University is pursuing opportunities for increasing revenue that are in keeping with the University’s mission. For example, the University is creating new professional master’s degree programs, cultivating lifelong learning opportunities and adding residence halls at several campuses.

—Expanding Invent Penn State and career success initiatives. Now in its second year, Invent Penn State, the University initiative to spark entrepreneurship and economic development among faculty, students and staff and in communities across the Commonwealth, has already seen six LaunchBoxes open in 2016 and four in 2017. LaunchBoxes are downtown centers that provide work space, no-cost legal and other services for business start-ups.

In New Kensington, Penn State has worked with a number of agencies, including local and county industrial development corporation, to establish an entrepreneurial center, “The Corner,” which in turn is creating spin-off companies.

At University Park, Morgan Advanced Materials, a U.K.-based global leader in engineered carbon and ceramic materials, is partnering with Penn State to establish a research and development facility at Innovation Park.

Over the course of two years, 40 technology projects have been funded, $2 million has been invested in emerging technologies at Penn State, and 230 students have pursued entrepreneurship and innovation minors.

—Launch of a significant philanthropic campaign. The campaign, A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence, has already reached 20 percent of the overall goal of $1.6 billion.

In keeping with the University’s strategic goals, the campaign is focused on: having open doors for students financially; creating transformative educational experiences; and impacting the world by focusing on compelling issues.

While still in its quiet phase, the campaign has already seen success, including a $30 million gift to create the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

—Addressing major issues of campus and public concern. The University has made significant headway on this goal across a number of fronts, including: promoting diversity and inclusion through “All In at Penn State;” taking unprecedented action to curb sexual assault, hazing and excessive drinking; making significant progress to completing the 18 recommendations from the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Task Force; and being selected as the site for the National Institutes of Health’s first national center for child maltreatment studies with $7.7 million in funding.

Barron noted that the initiatives to create safe and welcoming environments are being implemented across the University. They range from discussions in classrooms and among faculty and administrators to public events. Examples include: the creation of and hiring of the first senior director of talent, diversity and inclusion; holding the first “All In” conference, which attracted 400 people from 20 Penn State campuses; and training for Penn State police on “enhancing relations in a diverse community.”

—Creating a strategic framework for the future of online learning and the World Campus. The Transforming Education Task Force has been meeting with groups of stakeholders and will be issuing a report on how Penn State can be a more flexible, integrated University across educational platforms, and in doing so support student access, learning, engagement and success.

— Implementing the University’s long-range Strategic Plan, which provides a vision for Penn State’s future and guide for achieving the University’s goals. During the spring semester, a series of forums were held at the Commonwealth Campuses, with each focused on one of the five thematic priorities in the plan: transforming education; enhancing health; stewarding our planet’s resources; advancing the arts and humanities; and driving digital innovation.

The forums, which were attended in person and University-wide via livestream, offered a way to share the objectives that have been developed and gain ideas on specific tactics for how these objectives can be implemented in the coming year. Now, committees are taking those insights and actively overseeing the implementation of the 2016-20 Strategic Plan, which will include looking at how to leverage philanthropy and direct investment to support new initiatives.  

Last Updated May 10, 2017