FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2009
Contact: K.E. Schwab
SRU trustees hear 2006-07 alumni pleased with education
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Ninety-eight percent of Slippery Rock University graduates from the 2006-07 class rate the quality of their education as "Good" or "Excellent" according to a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Survey, SRU President Robert Smith told the University's Council of Trustees today.
The president's remarks were part of his regular report delivered at the trustees' meeting.
The survey, published in February, also found 98 percent of SRU graduates reporting they would recommend SRU to others.
"The survey found 95 percent of the graduates were satisfied with their instructors and 91 percent satisfied with the intellectual life on campus," Smith said.
The University tracks the annual report as a way of monitoring graduate opinion and uses it to make program improvements. The survey includes all 14 state system universities.
Trustees also heard updates on a number of campus projects and programs, including the progress and success of the Presidential Taskforce on Cultural Awareness.
In a pre-council workshop, Catherine Massey, associate professor of psychology, and Paula Olivero, assistant vice president for student development, both co-chairs for the taskforce, described efforts to help build more cultural awareness and diversity into the fabric of the University.
"We held a number of meetings, including town hall sessions, that have helped students, and others in the University community, understand the need for diversity and respect for other cultures," Massey said. The taskforce issued a 35-page report to President Smith calling for programs and campus initiatives to further strengthen the diversity movement. Smith said he will implement a number of the recommendations.
Trustees commended the taskforce for its work and offered their endorsement.
A separate workshop Friday updated trustees on the national effort to start discussions regarding underage drinking and the drinking age. Michael Giuliani, executive director of Choose Responsibility, based in Washington, D.C., opened the discussion, emphasizing the need for balance, maturity and common sense. Among students addressing the issue were Larry Brink, president of the SRU Student Government Association and a graduating finance major from Uniontown, and Nick Barcio, SGA president-elect from Erie. Joining in were representatives from campus fraternities, residence halls and individual students.
Staff from SRU's Counseling Center and Student Health Center shared information about SRU's alcohol and other drug programs designed to educate students.
"Young people have to understand the consequences and responsibilities related to drinking alcohol. But the current situation is not working," Giuliani said. He urged the campus community to continue to discuss the issue and to voice concerns to their governmental leaders.
As part of the regular meeting, Grace Hawkins, a trustee, commended the discussion participants, saying the discussion was "very informative and well presented. It was interesting to hear from those who are actually facing such problems on a daily basis and to see the caring and commitment they have to our students."
Trustees also recognized retiring College of Education Dean C. Jay Hertzog for his 10 years of service. John Hicks, a trustee and professor emeritus from SRU's College of Education, presented a resolution to Hertzog on behalf of the trustees.
"He served as a dean and was instrumental in obtaining national accreditation through two successful National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education evaluations, led the College of Education through two successful Pennsylvania Department of Education reviews, guided the departments through significant curricular and program initiatives - all with honor and distinction," Hicks said.
In formal action, trustees approved a resolution request to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to provide bond funding of up to $10 million to cover costs of a new Student Information System and related infrastructure needs.
"This is a project we need to undertake," Hicks said. "We really didn't have an option. The equipment is out of date; it is hard to find people with the right skills to run it. The new system will provide great service to our students and faculty."
The project, expected to be completed in 18 months, will replace the University's current 40-year-old student data system known as "The Mainframe."
Trustees were told the system's computer language, Cobal, is outdated making it difficult to find new employees with appropriate skills. "The two programmers that keep our system operating, Fran Hensler and Carl Miller, do a tremendous job, but they have 45 and 40 years of service respectively, and we need to anticipate they will retire at some point," Simeon Ananou, associate provost for information and administrative technology services, said. Ananou is leading the SIS project.
The new, state-of-the-art SIS system will handle data storage of campus and home addresses, admissions information, class scheduling and class registration along with financial aid processing. The system will also be compatible with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System used by the federal government to track international students and with other members of the state system. Plans call for system universities to rely on one another for information backup.
The new system will allow students to update student information, such as address and phone numbers. "Faculty will be able to pull e-mail addresses for students registered for a specific course in order to send information such as class schedule changes, special assignments or other important information," said Ananou.
In addition to the software and hardware portion of the project, major data network and electrical infrastructure upgrades will be required.
Planning for the system has been under way for eight months. The project was formally announced to the campus earlier this month.
John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the state system's board of governors called on all 14 system universities involved to work together in the spirit of collaborative partnerships in creating new student data systems on their individual campuses. The overall plan is to share knowledge and strategies in the implementation, Cavanaugh said.
The board of governors said it would provide the necessary bond funding for Universities needing financial support.
Plans for an all-encompassing PASSHE data system were revised by the board of governors allowing each university to develop its own system and meet its individual needs. Some of the original plan ideas were captured for use in development of the new systems.
SRU has established an SIS Core Implementation Team as well as an Executive Steering Committee to lead and coordinate project activities.
Request for service providers have been released, and campus demonstration reviews via videotapes by various vendors are scheduled for May 11-12. A final recommendation is scheduled to be sent to Smith May 20.
Ananou said SharePoint software has been implemented to allow all members of the University community to share ideas and to track project activities. The site is available at: http://sis.sru.edu.
In his formal report to the trustees, Smith also outlined a plan he will submit next week to Chancellor Cavanaugh that, if approved, would provide tuition assistance to SRU students on a need-based basis beginning fall semester. The president said the program, offered in conjunction with the Slippery Rock University Foundation Inc., would initially help 175 students and could grow to affect 940 families.
The president shared information from his recent State of University report with the trustees. "Setting the course for the next 50 years, or even the next 10 years, will not be without challenge. The convergence of four factors: changing demographics, a condition for which we have spent seven years in preparation; rising costs of education, a condition that has been the passion of the state system board of governors for the past six years; increased competition for students and donated dollars; and duress and panic about our economic state are all converging to create a 'Perfect Storm'" Smith said.
The competition for quality students and private support has never green greater. Smith said the faculty and staff are "a shining beacon in this story." He cited their support and involvement in last fall's Campus Family Campaign which drew a 49 percent participation rate, up from 26 percent in the previous drive. Smith said 11 departments or offices had 100 percent participation in the drive.
Smith described the economic difficulties facing students, their families and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. He noted the University faces a $6.2 million shortfall in budgeting for the coming year and outlined the University's priorities, pointing specifically to academic programs. He said he would not resort to "across the board" cuts, "because that only leads to mediocrity."
Smith said SRU had much to celebrate, including recent accolades from the Butler Community Development Corp. Survey of Business Leaders that listed the University and the Slippery Rock Development Corp. as two of the 25 most significant economic enterprises of the past 50 years influencing Butler County. Pittsburgh Magazine's April issue cited the SRU student-driven "Green Fund" as one of the region's Top 50 Best Eco-Friendly Projects.
In other action, trustees formally approved the submitted contracts, service and supply purchase order, and fixed assets reports.
In addition to Hertzog, the retirements of Glen Brunken, 40-year professor of art, Bernice Brown, 31-year associate professor of elementary education/early childhood, and Mary Ann Nagel, 22-year manager of constituent relations in Advancement Services, were announced.
Support staff retirements included Harry Stuchal, 34-year auto mechanic, and Ronald VanDyke, 15-year custodial worker, both from facilities and planning, and Dorothy Thompson, 23-year library assistant in Bailey Library.
Three retired faculty were granted professor emeritus status. They are Ramona Nelson, 14 years, and Joyce Penrose, 11 years, who both retired in 2008 after serving as professors of nursing, and Terry Steele, who retired in 2007 after 32 years as associate professor of music.
Council's next meeting is June 19.
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.