Norton surveys University strengths, thanks colleagues
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - President Cheryl Norton summarized Slippery Rock University's many academic, student and facilities strengths during her State of the University Address Tuesday, telling more than 300 faculty and staff, "This is our home, and we can be proud of it."
Norton, speaking in the Smith Student Center Ballroom, acknowledged 51 new employees and shared the University's Action Plan. The plan, which each member of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education was required to prepare, was presented to the System's board of governors at their July meeting.
"I normally do not read speeches," Norton told the assembly, "but this is so important, I wanted you to hear word for word what I told the board of governors."
Norton's 15-minute snapshot cited academic programs that are unique, have been nationally recognized or that comprise a signature discipline representing an investment into the commonwealth's future.
Norton said SRU's foundational purpose remains the same - student success.
"Our strategic goals support this purpose. They are focused on student outcomes; providing market responsive programs; innovative delivery systems; supporting students' persistence through graduation; fostering career choices, and developing problem-solving capabilities through applied undergraduate research and collaborative critical think opportunities," she said.
SRU's performance footprint includes numerous success stories. Norton said. "More than half of SRU freshmen graduate in four years, the highest in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, and for two years running, SRU has led the State System universities in meeting or exceeding performance indicators," she said. Norton thanked the entire University community for helping SRU reach these successful outcomes. "It does take a village," she said.
Norton began her back-to-school discussion by describing how SRU's summer was defined by construction, planting, resurfacing, giving new directions, and she joked; rain, rain and more rain.
The president referenced many developments. Including: creating new chemistry labs in ATSH; renovating the Archives and second floor of Bailey; building a new collaborative classroom in Eisenberg, renovating a child-care classroom in McKay and classrooms in Spotts; and undertaking a major redo of Morrell Field House.
She also touched on the approval new majors, a bevy of accolades the University garnered over the summer and the launch of the University's new website
Norton made special note of the campus beautification program saying, "Visitors, staff, faculty and students alike have told me they've never seen the campus look better."
She then recognized the facilities and grounds crew for their efforts. "You can have ideas, but you need the people to make it happen," she said.
Norton said SRU entered the international spotlight in August when more than 400 of the world's top disc golf players participated in the 2015 Professional Disc Golf Association world championships on campus. The president earned a laugh by saying, "Don't you dare call it a Frisbee."
Amidst all the positive change, the University does face challenges, Norton said. "It should come as no surprise that our major challenge revolves around the struggle to continue to invest in the people, plant and equipment necessary to provide educational opportunities that our students need and deserve in this time of limited public and private resources," she said.
If the University is to reach its goals, it will have to leverage its strengths such as location, the ability to develop strong graduate programs and the potential for growth in the international market.
"After all, we have already tightened our belt, we have reduced our costs and we have picked our tree clean - not just the low hanging fruit," she said.
Wrapping up her presentation, Norton said, "I have stated before that SRU is an institution strong in its roots, rich in its history with unlimited potential for the future...I have not changed my mind. After all, the sun always shines in Slippery Rock.
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