SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -While a "perfect storm" - declining state support, modest tuition increases and declining enrollment - came together to create a difficult economic challenge for Slippery Rock University, those same conditions are providing the opportunity for the University's Student Affairs Division to reorganize and reaffirm its mission while cutting costs.
Robert Watson, interim vice president for student affairs, said, "The financial challenges faced by the institution are allowing us to shift gears, refocus our efforts, realign our programs to become more collaborative while providing services needed by our students."
Watson served at SRU for 36 years, including seven years as vice president for student affairs, before retiring in 2006. He returned for a one-year interim position last June.
The reorganization will generate more than $1 million in overall savings toward SRU's 2015 fiscal budget that runs July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015. That savings includes $300,000 trimmed by the division from its 2014 operating budget.
Along with other cost savings, the retirement of an assistant vice president and seven other positions that will not be replaced, contribute to the total savings.
"The senior associate provost, the new chief student affairs officer, will report directly to the provost/vice president for academic affairs. This structure will allow the two areas to form stronger collaborations thus, supporting student success in- and outside of the classroom, " Watson said.
He said the new alignments will allow the University to retain critical student development programs and services currently offered.
Watson said SRU's Office of Human Resources is currently evaluating the new position assignments, reviewing formal job descriptions and determining appropriate titles under State System of Higher Education guidelines. That process is expected to take several weeks.
"The realignment allows us to capitalize on the talents and skills of the people already on staff," he said.
The new organizational chart, created after what Watson called a "massive communication effort," divides the existing student affairs operation into three major units: Student Development, led by Brad Kovaleski; Student Services, led by Deb Pincek; and Student Wellness, led by John Bonando.
"We did everything possible; roundtable discussions, private meetings, emails and other means to gather ideas before our plan was developed," Watson said. "The guiding principles were: save programs, opportunities and services for students; retain as many employees as possible, and meet the needed budget reduction."
Watson credited SRU President Cheryl Norton for setting the direction. "Her vision for better linking academic affairs and student affairs under a single umbrella will pay big rewards in terms of student outcomes."
Watson said the Student Development unit that will be housed in the Smith Student Center will include: multicultural development; University Program Board; Compass Leadership Program; First-Year Leader Scholar Program; Family and Friends; clubs and organizations; Greek Life; community service; Women's Center; Pride Center, and student veterans programs.
The Student Services unit will include: residence life; Smith Student Center operations and conference services, and oversight of dining.
The Student Wellness unit will include: student intervention services; Student Health Center; student conduct, and campus recreation.
The Student Government Association Corp. including Cooperative Activities, bookstore, daycare center will continue as an affiliated entity of the University.
The plan is currently being implemented.
"I am pleased with the direction Student Affairs is moving to support student success both through curricular and co-curricular activities," said Norton.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.