SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Cheryl Norton, Slippery Rock University president, honored 108 University employees for their dedication and service Tuesday as part of the University's annual Employee Service Recognition Awards Program. Norton also presented an update on a variety of topics, including the 2014-15 and the 2015-16 budgets, recent accolades and other new academic and campus initiatives.
LaLanda Stromp, assistant professor of parks and recreation, was honored for her 40 years of service. She was presented an SRU-insigniaed clock.
Norton praised the service award recipients saying, "Thank you for coming; Thank you for all you have done; thank you all that you do; thank you, most importantly, for all that you are going to do."
Lapel pins, inscribed SRU plaques and metal plates were presented in the various service-year categories ranging from 10 years to 35. Those employees with 25 years service to the University were awarded ribboned medalions intended to be worn at formal University events, including Academic Honors Covocations and commencements.
A complete list of those honored for their years of service is available at: http://www.sru.edu/publicrelations/newsinfo/documents/yearsofservice2014.pdf
The president urged the assemblage to join in SRU's 125th Anniversary events, including tonight's "Evening of the Arts" presented by the College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts and showcasing students and faculty in art, dance, music and theater. The free event opens at 6:15 p.m. with a reception and art exhibit, followed by a 7 p.m. performance in the Smith Student Center ballroom. She also reminded those attending that in honor of SRU's history as "the place" to attend for Physical Education, she had declared April as a "Month of Movement" at SRU.
As part of the informational portion of the program titled "Slippery Rock University on the Move...125 Years and Counting," Norton cited a number of accolades received by the University, including:
being ranked among the 100 Healthiest Workplace in America by Healthiest Employers, Inc. a data research company that focuses on corporate wellness;
ranking 43 among world universities for green campuses by UI Greenmetric;
ranked 34 in the University Primetime ratings of the top 60 Safest Colleges in America;
The Rocket Online being named one of five top college news websites in the nation;
Enrollment Services winning two higher educational marketing awards, and
University Public Relations earning 11 national awards.
Norton congratulated faculty and staff who will be honored at the April 5 Academic Honors Convocation, including Bruce Orvis, associate professor in SRU's School of Business who will receive the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching; Tom Sparrow, instructor in the philosophy department, who will receive the President's Award for Outstanding Scholarly and Creative Achievement, and Nicholas McIntire, constituent services and database assurance manager in advancement services, who will receive the President Award for Outstanding Service.
She cited Zoey Prokopiak, a biophysics major, for her first-place award at the American Association for Advancement of Science Conference, and the SRU women's track and field indoor team for its first place finish at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships. She said SRU's field hockey team posted the highest cumulative grade point average of all NCAA Division II field hockey teams in the nation.
Norton announced that SRU's Rebecca Burcher, a graduating senior from Walnut Creek, Calif., was this year's winner of the Syed Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence presented by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. This is the first-time an SRU student has won the award.
While citing the University's accomplishments in recent months, Norton also said, "Our budget numbers continue to be a challenge."
"To balance the currently year's budget, fiscal year 2014, we worked together to address the projected $5.2 million deficit," she said.
Factors in the budget challenge include last fall semester's decline in entering students, level state funding, increased personnel and operating costs and only a modest increase in tuition.
Norton said the University had saved $400,000 this year through a strong winter online program, a smaller than expected spring semester enrollment decline, and two benefits adjustments. Adversely affecting the bottom line were higher than normal weather-related expenses due to snow removal and increased utility costs, lower income and additional tuition waivers. "Still, the overall numbers gave us a $400,000 benefit," she said.
"Our online enrollment and our retention efforts continue to add positively to our bottom line," the president said.
She also addressed the fiscal year 2015 budget saying the deficit could run between 7 to 9 percent. "Enrollment will make the difference," she said.
Norton said the deficit projection is based on a number of similar budgetary assumptions seen in fiscal year 2014, including level state funding, a minimal tuition increase for the coming year, a continuing decrease in enrollment and an increase in personnel costs as already covered in contract agreements, healthcare costs and increased pension costs.
In light of those numbers, Norton said all divisions were working to reduce costs by 9 percent.
Norton called on everyone to look for ways to increase revenue opportunities for the University, especially enrollment.
"To further increase enrollment we must increase the number of freshmen, maintain high retention and graduation rates and seek enrollment from other markets," she said. "Our focus must continue to include non-traditional, online and international students."
"Areas we must concentrate on include new master's degrees and doctoral degrees, online programs, and competency-based letters of completion programs," she said. "Our new Letter of Completion in Teaching Online has been approved by the Chancellor's Office and will be implemented this summer," she said.
SRU's Council of Trustees will be asked later in the week to recommend to the PASSHE board of governors that SRU be permitted to offer a doctorate in special education. "We have the programs, we have the expertise and we believe there is a need for those in the field," Norton said.
Norton reported she had created a White Paper Task Force with a goal of developing a report assessing and summarizing current information pertaining to and the potential expected outcomes that would result from leasing mineral rights available on the campus of Slippery Rock University.
G. Warren Smith, former SRU president with a doctorate in organic chemistry, has agreed to chair the committee. (leave out all the other names. Do as a separate story next week, or when the task force launches.
The president said SRU would also monitor progress of Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1275 which would permit member universities of PASSHE with enrollments of 7,000 students or higher to withdraw from PASSHE and become state-related universities, and Senate Bill 1000 which calls for creation of the commonwealth's 15th community college. The college would be created north of Interstate 80.
She said SRU trustees would also revisit the scope of Performing Arts Center project and would consider plans for creation of a Safety Simulation Lab.
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.