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March 28, 2014
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

Trustees seek permission to begin special education doctorate

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University’s council of trustees agreed today to ask the Pennsylvania System of Higher Education’s board of governors to allow the University to begin offering a doctor of education degree in special education.

SRU, a longtime leader in special education for K-12 teachers and those involved in related-services, has proposed a 60-credit program leading to a doctor of education degree. If approved by the board, it would become the first such doctoral program in the system. The program could being spring semester 2015.

The doctorate program is designed for those who are leaders in K-12 schools and administrative offices, leaders in accreditation agencies and government positions, personnel in non-profit organizations geared to helping those with disabilities learn to transition to be productive citizens and faculty at other universities involved in special education work.

It was noted the doctoral program fits well with SRU’s vision statement, “Slippery Rock University will excel as a caring community of lifelong learners connecting with the world.”

Trustees were told there are 294,963 K-12 students identified with special needs in the commonwealth and that there is a “chronic shortage of special education teachers.” And, “many jobs outside higher education also require the knowledge and skills that would be developed by this degree.”

SRU’s special education master’s degree program is the largest in the commonwealth, with more than 200 students currently enrolled. “Our estimates are that 65 of those students would ‘likely enroll’ in a doctoral degree program in special education if it were offered,” said Keith Dils, dean of SRU’s College of Education.

In other business, trustees unanimously agreed to submit a letter of support for continued employment of Cheryl Norton as SRU’s president to PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan. Presidential contracts for all 14 PASSHE presents are controlled by the chancellor and the PASSHE.

“I personally appreciate the wonderful, wonderful leadership you have shown in the last year here at Slippery Rock University,” said Robert Taylor, chair of the SRU trustees.

Norton, a Cleveland native, was selected by the board April 5, 2012, and joined the University in June.

Trustees agreed that a Capital Project Cost Estimate and Category Justification Report be forwarded to the PASSHE board. It calls for $16.1-million in renovation work for the current University Union to convert it to a Student Success Center, and $1.7 million in renovation work to McKay Education Building, home of the College of Education. Services offered at the University Union were moved to the newly opened Smith Student Center last year leaving the University Union available for repurposing.

Trustees approved a 2.1 percent increase in the University’s meal plan program for fall semester 2014, after rejecting a motion to raise the fee by 2.75 percent. The 2.1 figure is in keeping with the federal Consumer Price Index and is a requirement of SRU’s contract with AVI, the campus contract food vendor.

A motion to increase the non-mandatory Payment Fee from $25 to $40 for those who elect to make installments on their student account bills rather than a lump sum payment, and a motion to increase the Returned Check Free, from $15 to $30, were approved. Motions to increase the Late Payment Fee and the Parking Permit Fee were defeated. A motion to increase the Residence Hall fee University-operated residence halls – North and Rhodes halls and the ROCK Apartments – was not approved nor was a proposal to implement an Applied Music Fee covering private music lessons.

Trustees also approved a memorandum of understanding related to the affiliation between SRU and the Student Government Association. The MOU stipulates that SGA is affiliated and makes a financial contribution to the University on a regular basis that is satisfactory to the council and the president.

Norton used her President’s Report to present a certificate to and congratulate Rebecca Burcher, a graduating senior from Walnut Creek, Calif., who is this year’s winner of the Syed Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence presented by PASSHE. Burcher is SRU’s first-ever winner of the $1,000 award, which will be formally presented at the board of governor’s April meeting.

Norton praised Burcher for her academic efforts, noting she, after five years at SRU, would graduate with three degrees.

“The candidates for this award were outstanding students and citizens and serve as a testament to the opportunities PASSHE provides not only for success, but to excel,” said Frank Brogan, PASSHE chancellor. Each PASSHE university is permitted to submit one nominee.

Ali-Zaidi nominees must demonstrate outstanding academic performance; be recognized by members of the university faculty; participate in extra/co-curricular activities; and submit an essay addressing how the university has prepared them for the next step in their career.

Burcher has a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate in May with dual degrees in dance and community programs for Americans with disabilities with a specialization in adapted physical activity. She has been part of the fifth-year master in science program in adapted physical activity at SRU and will earn her master’s degree in 2015. She plans to also earn a master of fine arts degree.

Stacy Hrizo, assistant professor of biology at SRU and two of her student researchers, Rachel Hollingsworth, a biology major from Independence, Ohio, and Andrew Zelasco, a biology major from Meadville, appeared before the trustees to discuss their work on “Using Fruit Flies to Understand Neurodegeneration in Humans.” They hope their work will provide answers related to such human health problems as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease.

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Laura Ordaz, a pre-engineering major from Cooperstown and a trustee, shared her experience as part of a recent 10-day winter break CareBreak trip to Gabon, Africa, where she and fellow volunteers worked with local residents, including helping with medical issues, food and art skill development. Myra Balok, SRU assistant professor of English, who supervised the visit to Libreville, the capital, accompanied the CareBreak students. The SRU students also spent time at the House of Hope orphanage.

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In routine action, council approved the submitted reports for contracts, fixed assets and service and supply purchase orders reports. Trustees also approved the minutes of the Dec. 13 session.

Council was informed of instructional, administrator and support staff appointments and the retirements of four faculty and three support staff employees.

Faculty retiring are: Michael Matambanadzo, 42-year assistant professor of history, retiring in May; Susan Herman, 34-year assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, retiring in July; Stephen Hawk, 25-year professor of music, retiring next January; and Thomas Stewart, 29-year associate professor of communication, retiring in June.

Staff retiring are: Ann Curtis, 29-year fiscal assistant the Accounts Payable Office, who retired in January; Elaine Hughes, 10-year registered nurse in the Health Services Office, who retires in June; and Melvin Nagy, 19-year equipment operator in facilities and planning, who retired this month.

Charles Tichy, 46-year professor of modern languages and cultures, has been named a professor emeritus.

Trustees concluded their session by reading names of 1962 graduates, as part of a yearlong project organized by SRU’s Green and White Society. The project calls for the reading of the names of some 80,000 students affiliated with SRU since its 1889 founding as Slippery Rock State Normal School. The project, which began in January and concludes at SRU’s December commencement, continues daily at various campus locations and events as part of SRU’s 125 Anniversary celebration.

Council’s next session is June 5-6.

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.