University explores opportunities for efficiency and achieving goals

November 08, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In support of strategic initiatives related to access and affordability, educational innovation, research, outreach and service, Penn State is continuing to examine new opportunities and ideas for identifying operational efficiencies and optimizing University resources and impact.

Among these efforts is “One Penn State 2025,” an initiative that began in 2016 to reimagine student learning and support services across all Penn State’s campuses to boost student success and engagement, address affordability of a high-quality education, and achieve greater institutional efficiency. Other efforts include the launch of a philanthropic campaign to financially support and open academic doors for students; an expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem to promote economic development and student career success across the Commonwealth; and various initiatives outlined in the University’s 2016-20 Strategic Plan, “Our Commitment to Impact.”

“We’re always looking at new ideas and methods to be more efficient in meeting our strategic priorities to find effective ways to help students graduate on time, be on the cutting edge of online learning and research and spur entrepreneurship and philanthropy,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “Penn State is in a strong position to use our collective operational, reputational and financial position to define how we approach access and affordability, innovation and services that benefit our students, faculty and staff.”

Penn State is a leader among higher education institutions in exploring ways to implement cost-savings and efficiencies. In addition to projects like “One Penn State 2025,” is another multi-year initiative to study the affordability of a Penn State degree and to examine new ways to manage costs, enhance revenue, improve quality and ensure leadership priorities are being met in the most efficient ways possible.  

Progress related to this effort was discussed at a meeting of the Penn State Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, Business and Capital Planning today (Nov. 8) at University Park.

Like many universities, Penn State has a history of continuously examining how to best manage resources while fulfilling its strategic mission. In April 2018, University leaders and the Board of Trustees engaged an outside team, Huron Consulting Group, to conduct a study to identify areas, themes and opportunities where additional insight, data and analysis could be valuable in achieving greater operational efficiencies across the University. Huron recognized these efforts in the report, concluding the University is well positioned to progress with the identified recommendations.

In September 2018, based on several recommendations by the consulting group, President Barron established 11 small working groups to lead comprehensive studies focused on gathering data and developing recommendations.

While still at the beginning of this process, each working group will examine broad areas and themes — such as information technology, online learning, communication, health benefits, human resources and more. The working groups include:

  • Financial Transparency: This group is chaired by David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business; Joe Doncsecz, associate vice president for finance and corporate controller; and Mary Lou Ortiz, University budget officer.
  • Human Resources Transformation: This group is chaired by David Gray; Lance Kennedy-Phillips, vice provost for Planning and Assessment; Lynn Presto, associate vice chancellor for administration and finance; Mary Lou Ortiz; and Dan Heist, director of internal audit. 
  • IT Transformation: This group is chaired by Michael Kubit, vice president for Information Technology; Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of the College of Engineering; Andrew Sears, dean of the College of Information Sciences and Technology; Hari Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and School of International Affairs; Jim Nemes, chancellor of Penn State Great Valley; Keith Hillkirk, dean of Penn State Berks; and John Hoh, senior director for information technology for the Commonwealth Campuses.
  • Communication: This group is chaired by Lawrence Lokman, vice president for Strategic Communications; Marie Hardin, dean of the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications; and Damian Fernandez, chancellor of Penn State Abington.
  • Research: This group is chaired by Neil Sharkey, vice president for Research; Lee Kump, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; Doug Cavener, dean of the Eberly College of Science; and John Mason, chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg.
  • Non-Sponsored Research Expenditures: This group is chaired by Neil Sharkey; Joe Doncsecz; and Andy Reisinger, director for budget and reporting.
  • Health Benefits: This group is chaired by David Gray; Greg Stoner, senior director for compensation and benefits; Dennis Scanlon, Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Administration; Kevin Black, vice dean of Penn State University Park Regional Medical Campus; and William Bird, senior vice president for Penn State Health.
  • Procurement and Sourcing Policies: This group is chaired by Kurt Kissinger, associate vice president for Finance and Business; Duane Elmore, director of procurement services; Jim Dromazos, grants and contracts manager at the Applied Research Laboratory; and Jen Stedelin, senior director for strategic initiatives for Penn State IT.
  • Physical Assets: This group is chaired by David Gray; John Papazoglou, associate vice president for Auxiliary and Business Services; Jennifer Eck, associate general counsel; and Duane Elmore. 
  • World Campus: This group is chaired by Renata Engel, vice provost for online education.
  • Commonwealth Campus Academic Portfolio: This group is chaired by Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses; Zack Moore, vice president for Government and Community Relations; David Lieb, senior associate vice president for development; Patti Cochrane, director of budget and finance in the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses; and Lance Kennedy-Phillips.

It is unknown what the results of the working groups’ analyses will be, but each group will seek to propose actions focused on optimizing resources, boosting innovation in support of learning, maximizing talent and technology, and strategically leveraging the scale of the University to drive down procurement costs and increase savings.

The effort will help support Penn State’s core mission as a land-grant institution to keep education accessible and affordable, which is one of President Barron’s core imperatives, while supporting other critical efforts, said David Gray at the meeting. 

Since each working group is proceeding at a different timeline, a mix of short, medium and long-term activity is expected to emerge from this work. As the work of each group progresses in the coming months, updates will continue to be shared with the University community.  

Last Updated November 12, 2018