Strategic Plan progress among topics at December Faculty Senate meeting

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tax reform implications and progress on Penn State’s strategic plan were among the topics of interest at Tuesday’s (Dec. 5) meeting of the University Faculty Senate.

In his remarks to the Senate, Penn State President Eric Barron spoke about the federal tax reform bill and how the University is addressing the negative impact it would have on Penn State’s students, faculty and staff, and all of higher education.

“We’ve gone through every single tax issue that we think would influence the University, and mapped out what the impact might be, and then that guided our efforts through Governmental Relations to focus on our Pennsylvania delegation to seek support,” said Barron, who explained that the three elements that would have the most profound impact on students would be taxing student-loan interest; taxing the tuition grants-in-aid received by graduate students; and taxing employee tuition benefits.

Barron said the University’s highest priority is the bill’s impact on students: “Our senators know this is our very highest priority, they get it, and I see also significant support from other people in the House in the state of Pennsylvania.

“We’re all working so incredibly hard not to have any greater burden on students – any student – if we can help it,” said Barron.

Barron also said that philanthropy to the University would be affected as a result of changes to the individual standard deduction, among other impacts. The president shared his thoughts in a letter to the Penn State community in November.

Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones gave senators an update on the progress of the University’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, Our Commitment to Impact, noting that Penn State is well into the implementation phase of the five-year cycle.

Significant progress has been made toward the overarching plan goals, said Jones. “The University strategic plan committees have spent a significant amount of time and effort identifying synergies between University and unit goals; developing methods to support each component of the plan; and gathering ideas for strategic initiatives to support their goals through a comprehensive request for proposal process.”

Jones cited several examples of initiatives that tie in to and support the plan’s thematic priorities — transforming education, enhancing health, stewarding our planet’s resources, advancing the arts and humanities, and driving digital innovation — and that show how Penn State is putting into action the strategic plan across the University.

Jones also spoke about a variety of ways in which new strategic plan initiatives can be funded, including combinations of unit investment, University investment, philanthropy and grants; as well as strategic reallocation of funds. In addition, the University’s fundraising campaign identifies three imperatives inspired by the strategic plan: Open Doors; Create Transformative Experiences; and Impact the World. “For the first time in Penn State’s history, our fundraising campaign is directly tied to the goal of our University-wide strategic plan,” Jones said. “The campaign’s success so far suggests that this is an approach that resonates with donors.”

Seed grants for projects that cross unit boundaries and have the potential to develop into sustainable programs are available via the Strategic Plan Request for Proposal process, which is open to current students, faculty and staff. The rolling submission process will continue through the end of spring 2018; awards will be announced three times in the year. The first cohort of 10 strategic initiatives has been awarded for the first cycle.

Among other business, the Faculty Senate:

— received a report on plans to replace the current University Bulletin web-based interface in 2018 with CourseLeaf Catalog, an academic catalog management system solution that will improve the accuracy, functionality and maintenance capabilities of the degree-program bulletins, from University Registrar Robert A. Kubat and Alan Rieck, assistant vice president and assistant dean for undergraduate education.

— received a report detailing an initiative to begin in 2018 to move the University to a single email and calendar system, based on Microsoft Office 365, from the current plethora of systems currently being used across the University. A comprehensive communication and training plan is being developed, with both face-to-face and online training to be made available for all users, said Michael J. Kubit, vice president for information technology and chief information officer.

— heard a report from Lawrence Lokman, vice president for strategic communications, on efforts to communicate more broadly the University’s excellence and quality of life impact, and build voter advocacy and support for the University’s priorities. Lokman shared several examples from a storytelling campaign, launching this fall, around Penn State’s unique 24-campus and online education model and the breadth of the University’s research enterprise.

— received a biennial report on the University’s fundraising efforts and the progress of “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” presented by O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. Bundy detailed the progress of the three campaign imperatives and noted that the campaign is slightly ahead of predicted pace, with $459.5 million raised over 28.3 percent time elapsed as of Nov. 30. He also provided an overview and progress report on the University’s Matching Gifts Program.

— approved a change to senate policies that guide administrative actions related to the provision of multi-term contracts for full-time fixed-term faculty.

— approved changes to the bylaws allowing only elected senators to vote for Faculty Senate officers.

— approved a change to senate policies to clarify a pathway for continued success for military students to handle unanticipated, short-term class absences due to unexpected calls to duty.

The University Faculty Senate’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 23, 2018, in 112 Kern Building at University Park.

The full agenda for the Dec. 5 meeting is available on the Faculty Senate website. Meetings also are livestreamed and archived via Mediasite.

Last Updated December 06, 2017