A warm welcome to Penn State’s 45,000 new and returning students, along with our faculty and staff. I’m excited to begin my first academic year as president of Penn State, and I’m looking forward to the activity and vibrancy your presence brings to State College. Welcome home!
Over the summer I have been working to learn as much as possible about the people, traditions, campuses and programs offered by Penn State. Although I spent 20 years of my professional career in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, my new role has deepened and expanded my understanding. It’s clear I will continue to learn every day.
As we move into the new semester and new academic year, I have identified six areas that will be a focus of my administration. They are central to your education at Penn State, so I thought I would begin the year by sharing them here.
1. Excellence. Ranked 8th among public universities in the U.S. and among the top 1 percent in the world, Penn State provides an outstanding education and boundless opportunities. We don’t intend to rest. We need to continue to strive to be on the cutting edge of quality, and that will require investments in our faculty and infrastructure.
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2. Access and affordability. Our goal is to provide the highest quality education at a cost that ensures access for all. I’m aware of the financial challenges families face when it comes to paying for a Penn State education. We are exploring new ways to address cost-to-degree and timely completion, with an emphasis on reducing attrition and debt.
3. Student engagement, which I believe is central to educational excellence, should be a fundamental part of a Penn State education. Student engagement goes beyond the classroom. It means involvement in worthwhile activities that extend classroom learning. It could be research, involvement in visual and performing arts productions, student government, clubs and activities, study aboard or service to the community. All of those things are engagement, and those experiences translate into a better peer group, better grades, a better resume and ultimately, a better job.
4. Student career success and economic development. We want to ensure that Penn State students make a successful transition to careers, and that they have an “academic map” to guide them. This means getting the courses required in a timely fashion, understanding where you’re going, as well as what it takes to get there. Career Services is an important component, and Penn State’s strength in career services is also why nearly every business magazine survey places Penn State at or near the top in starting salaries or cites Penn State as the place to recruit.
5. Diversity and demographics. I believe Penn State should be a place that represents a rich tapestry of students of all ages, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic status. This includes non-traditional students, such as veterans.
6. Technology and curriculum delivery. Penn State’s World Campus has grown from 41 students to more than 13,000 in 16 years, and many of you will take online, blended and hybrid classes while you’re with us. The learning curve is steep, but we’re committed to leading the way to excellence in this area.
I ask that you join me in beginning this academic year with a sense of enthusiasm, desire to learn and a willingness to work hard. I’m thrilled to be back at Penn State, and I hope to meet you at an event on campus or at the President’s Open House on Friday, Oct. 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m..
Thank you for being part of the Penn State community. Let’s get started on a new year!