Next fundraising campaign to push Penn State’s global impact, strategic goals

L. Reidar Jensen
September 18, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State President Eric Barron discussed his vision for the University’s upcoming capital campaign with the Board of Trustees on Sept. 18, emphasizing the overarching importance of a campaign whose themes will advance the institution’s core strategic goals and strengths. Though themes have not yet been finalized, he said the campaign will focus broadly on helping Penn State’s students, faculty and staff to maximize their impact in the world.

“Penn State must take its place as a truly global university, advantaging our students through a global view, creating global leaders, and ensuring that our expertise in solving problems and enhancing the quality of life has global reach,” Barron said. “Our focused approach during this campaign, in close partnership with our talented faculty, staff, students, supporters and donors, will allow us to bolster Penn State’s existing strengths as a major influencer and problem solver, here in Pennsylvania and around the world.”

Campaign themes currently under consideration include global engagement; developing Penn State as a cultural destination and a hub for cultural literacy; population health and personalized health; food, water and energy security; access and affordability; digital innovation; discovery, excellence and community; and Invent Penn State, an initiative to leverage Penn State’s powerful research and creative engine to drive job creation, entrepreneurship, economic development and student career success.

Barron focused on existing efforts that would be bolstered by each theme, but also touched on new ideas and examples of new initiatives that could see support in the upcoming campaign.

The potential themes, available online as part of the president’s presentation to the board, support areas of current, long-term strategic focus for the University, and promote interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty and students for maximum effect. Barron said the themes are being developed to mesh with and deepen the impact of Penn State’s forthcoming strategic plan, which is nearing completion after a two-year-long, broadly participative planning process. The strategic plan will serve as the University’s roadmap from the 2015-16 academic year to 2019-20.

Also critical to the conversation are the six major areas for focus introduced by Barron as he took office in May 2014. These foci continue to be a major driver of strategic direction at Penn State and have been incorporated into the strategic plan and the upcoming capital campaign.

The campaign is expected to last six years, beginning in the summer of 2016. Traditionally, Barron said, capital campaigns in higher education have been longer, on the order of 10 years or more. A focus on Penn State’s priorities and a more compact timeline will allow the University to move toward solutions with a greater sense of urgency.

“We want to connect with donors on a different level. We are determined to create a campaign that touches on issues that are meaningful and important to our donors, to Penn State and to Penn Staters,” he said. “Nobody wants to wait a decade to get the ball rolling when we’re talking about progress in areas such as human health; global water, energy and food security; and sustainability. Penn State has the breadth and depth of expertise necessary to make an enduring impact in the world, and the coming capital campaign will help us to significantly strengthen that impact.”

A campaign fundraising goal will be established next year.

Barron spoke to trustees not only as members of the body charged with governing the University, but also as longtime leaders in Penn State’s development efforts. During the previous capital campaign, For the Future: the Campaign for Penn State Students, current and former trustees alone gave $111 million.

“Penn State is so very fortunate to have a dynamic board of trustees whose members have taken on a critical leadership role in each campaign, in addition to their roles as leaders of the University,” Barron said. “Current and former students, faculty and staff are better positioned to make a significant impact in the world as a direct result of the board’s leadership. Our trustees have made an indelible and positive mark on Penn State’s long-term health.”

Barron’s presentation to the board was one of many conversations that have taken and will continue to take place throughout the fall and into the spring as University leaders solicit feedback from key stakeholders. In his dialogue with academic leadership across the University, all eight potential themes have received strong support, with global engagement, and access and affordability, ranked highest.

The potential themes, outlined below, will be refined as conversations continue. The number will be winnowed down from the current eight and each theme will be designed with scalability in mind – the goal is for final themes to support fundraising at multiple levels, from University-wide initiatives to those at the college, campus, department and program levels.

POTENTIAL THEMES

These items also are available as part of the president’s presentation, available here.

Global engagement

Draft theme statement: “Penn State will take its place as a truly global university, advantaging our students through a global view, creating global leaders and ensuring that our expertise in solving problems and enhancing the quality of life has a global reach.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • Scholarships supporting study abroad and embedded course travel.
  • Student programs to expand engaged scholarship opportunities, here and abroad.
  • Faculty fellowships to facilitate global research and education partnerships.
  • Visiting scholar programs.

Penn State as a cultural destination / cultural literacy

Draft theme statement: “We will build upon our growing reputation in the arts and humanities by establishing Penn State as a cultural destination, thereby strengthening our programs, providing exceptional opportunities for our students, and adding vitality to our communities.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • Arts and Arboretum complex as a cultural destination
  • Multipurpose arts facilities at Penn State campuses
  • Community outreach partnerships led by Liberal Arts and Arts & Architecture faculty
  • New courses and curricula that integrate humanities and the arts with other fields
  • Student scholarships
  • A visiting scholars program

Population health / personalized health

Draft theme statement: “Penn State proposes to bring together the power of multiple colleges and programs to create a holistic approach to individual and population health. We will harness Penn State’s formidable capabilities to become a leader in improving health and well-being.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • Telemedicine network
  • Personalized medicine research funding and endowed positions
  • Interdisciplinary graduate/post-graduate programs and fellowships

Sustainability and human security

Draft theme statement: “Water, energy and food security present some of the most enduring and pressing problems facing society. Penn State has the breadth and depth necessary to create comprehensive and sustainable solutions, and we intend to become “the” university in managing and stewarding our most important resources.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • A new energy institute leveraging comprehensive strengths
  • A food safety institute

Invent Penn State

Draft theme statement: “Our objective is to leverage the powerful research and creative engine that is Penn State to drive job creation, promote economic development, and ensure student career success.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • Start-up grants for new businesses created through Penn State/public partnerships
  • Entrepreneurial “boot camps” across the Commonwealth
  • Endowed positions for entrepreneurs-in-residence and other faculty
  • Innovative investment funds to promote new companies

Access and affordability

Draft theme statement: “We aspire to be a truly great university -- one that ensures access and then delivers an affordable world-class education for capable, hard-working students, regardless of their heritage, individual characteristics, or financial well-being.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • New/reimagined scholarship matching program(s) for students taking World Campus courses
  • Emergency assistance/completion funds to keep students on track to graduation
  • Scholarships encouraging student leadership and engagement

Digital innovation

Draft theme statement: “The potential for technology to transform education, enable research and serve communities is far from realized. Penn State intends to be a leader in how we prepare students to succeed in the digital age to how we use digital tools and technologies to empower research to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • New curricula and collaborations in fields such as cybersecurity
  • Innovation funds for digital teaching and learning
  • Digital literacy outreach programs in Pennsylvania communities

Discovery, excellence and community

Draft theme statement: “Excellence is the very foundation of Penn State’s success in learning, discovery, and innovation. We must always foster the level of excellence required to inspire achievers to improve lives and benefit the world.”

Examples of current initiatives and program / philanthropic opportunities:

Other potential areas for investment:

  • Endowed faculty positions in areas of existing strength
  • Seed funds for high-risk, high-payoff research
  • Undergraduate research

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 18, 2015