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March 8, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

SRU students exhibit drone research for trustees

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Members of the Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees today got an up close look at research using drones that is being conducted by SRU computer science students and faculty.

Students demonstrated how they are working with drones to make use of extended wireless technology and expanding the payload possible by reducing the size of components. They are also working to allow the remote-controlled drone to be able to fly without direct human control. The students flew a small drone, showing it lifting off from a table, hovering in mid-air, and then making a soft landing on the floor of the Russell Wright Alumni House and Conference Center meeting room.

Sam Thangiah, professor of computer science, led the presentation that included computer science students Shawn Forsythe from Patton, Daniel Arnett from Butler, Shane Chesnutt from Kittaning, and James Mullen from Franklin. The students are working on a joint research project involving the use of drones and predict the unmanned flying planes will someday be able to easily fly over the campus to deliver packages, show visitors how to navigate the campus or perform other tasks controlled only by pre-programmed computers.

Cheryl Norton, SRU president, introduced Philip Way, newly named provost and vice president for academic affairs. Way, who joined the SRU staff in February, replaced retiring Provost William Williams who had served the University for 31 years.

Way has been granted tenure and full professor of management status within the School of Business based on a vote of the School of Business faculty after review of his resume and an interview.

Norton outlined a lengthy list of accomplishments and accolades received by faculty, staff, students and the University as part of her President’s Report to the council.

She pointed to the success of SRU’s winter session, which provided additional educational opportunities to 946 students who took online classes during the traditional break between the end of fall semester and the start of spring semester.

“Winter session saw an increase of 119 percent over last year. The session generated 2,821 credit hours, an increase of 1,563 credit hours compared to the previous year,” she said. “All winter session courses were offered through the University’s Desire2Learn online system. Students tell us they found winter session attractive for a number of reasons. It allowed them to complete work toward graduation, get a jump on the upcoming year’s load and explore new academic areas. We see winter session as a growth area and have already begun to study how we can provide more learning opportunities for our students next year.”

The president outlined a recent campus lecture by 1976 SRU graduate Robert Stevens, executive chairman of Lockheed Martin. “Bob grew up the son of a steelworker and was the first in his family to attend college. He used that opportunity and personal initiative to become arguably one of the most accomplished business leaders in the world. During his visit, he spoke to students about leadership and the importance of honesty, integrity and character. He had the 300-plus, standing-room-only crowd mesmerized when he told them, ‘leadership potential resides in everyone. But more than the potential, I believe it is everybody's responsibility to find those moments in time where your leadership, and only your leadership, will be essential to what outcomes you can achieve,’” she said.

“Finding one’s moments. A message that clearly underscores the University’s commitment to produce competent, civil and caring citizens who will make their communities and our world a better place for all people to live and work,” she said.

Norton said the University had “received external validation of our success in this area when it was notified SRU was named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The Honor Roll recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful outcomes in their communities. Selection to the Honor Roll is recognition from the highest levels of the federal government of our commitment to service and civic engagement on the campus and in our nation.”

Trustees were told of the presentation of SRU’s inaugural Title IX Champion Award to Carol Matteson, a 1968 SRU graduate and retired president of Mount Ida College and a nationally recognized leader and champion for the advancement of higher education. This award, presented at the three-day Diversity and Inclusion Series, which focused on Title IX: Today and Tomorrow, recognizes and honors an individual who has made significant contributions to the advancement of gender equity.

Norton also cited SRU’s therapeutic recreation program for joining an elite group of only three other institutions in the United States to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Similarly, the SRU Student Counseling Center has been re-accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services Inc.

Norton credited a number of individual athletes for their success along with the men’s and women’s track and field teams and the SRU men’s basketball team currently in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship race. She cited five athletic teams, field hockey, football, women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s track and field, for winning All-PSAC academic honors.

Rita Abent, executive director of University Public Relations, told trustees her staff had won 10 national and two regional awards in three adjudicated competitions. “And, they were competing against both professional advertising agencies and in-house designers. SRU won five awards in the national Collegiate Advertising Award program, five awards in the Educational Advertising Awards program, and two awards from CUPRAP, the association of communicators in education,” she said.

Trustees were told that 16 external grant proposals totaling $612,390 for the period July 1 – Dec. 31, 2012, had been awarded. The president noted the four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who had entered in fall 2008 was 48.6 percent. SRU’s six-year graduation rate increased from 59.2 percent last year to 61.9 percent in 2012-13. That national six-year graduation rate at public institutions for students entering in fall 2004 is 56 percent.

During the meeting’s formal portion, trustees voted to request $12.6 million for renovations for McKay Education Building and $18.6 million in renovations for conversion of the University Union to a new Student Success Center as the University’s top priorities for possible inclusion in PASSHE’s 2013-14 Capital Budget Authorization Request. Council’s recommendations will now go PASSHE for evaluation before being sent to the governor. If the projects receive approval, they could be included in projects undertaken in 2016 or thereafter.

Council voted to increase the Recreation Services Fee to $110 per student, per semester.

The fee primarily supports operations of the Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center, an auxiliary service at the University. The fee had remained steady at $87 per semester since 2002.

SRU’s Student Government Association had voted earlier to support the increase with the stipulations that the facility’s operation hours be extended on weekends, the center return to free fitness classes for students and the faculty/staff and community membership fees be increased by at least $5.

Council also approved a 2 percent increase in the Residence Hall Fee for students living in traditional University housing, including Rhoads and North halls and the ROCK Apartments complex effective fall semester. The increase means a $34 per semester increase for students living in a double room. SGA had also endorsed the increase with the codicil that the Internet system in the residence halls be upgraded.

University’s Meal Plan Fees were increased 2.5 percent, in accordance with the Food Service Contract with AVI, the campus contract food vendor. The contract is directly linked to the Consumer Price Index, which rose 2.5 percent. The increase will add $38 per semester to the 14-meal plan, and a proportional amount to the 19-meal and 10-meal plans.

Trustees voted to expand the use of the Student Life Enhancement Fee, controlled by the Vice President for Student Affairs, to be used for athletics. Previous rules had prohibited funds in the account being used to support any activities, programs or supplies within athletics.

The council approved a letter to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors evaluating President Norton’s first 10 months in office. Such presidential evaluations are required by the BOG.

In routine action, council approved the contracts, fixed assets and service and supply purchase orders reports.

Trustees were told of instruction staff appointments and other hirings.

Retirements announced included: William Williams, 31-year provost and vice president for academic affairs; Laura Bateman, 27-year certified registered nurse practitioner in the McLachlan Student Health Center; Janice Druschel, 28-year clerk typist 2 in the Office of International Services; Frank Genareo, 17-year maintenance repairman 2 at the McKeever Environmental Learning Center; and Donna Peters, 21year custodial worker 1 in facilities and planning.

Williams was given provost emeritus status. Joan Condravy, a 31-year professor of English who retired in January, and Maribeth Knaub, a 41-year professor of music, were granted professor emeritus status.

Council’s next scheduled meeting is June 7.

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.