Council of Trustees looks ahead as state system struggles

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 8:00 PM

The Edinboro University Council of Trustees held its quarterly business meeting on March 22 to discuss the financial, academic and enrollment status of the university.

After reports surfaced about the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) possibly shutting down or merging schools, students began to question if their university or campus would be affected.

Overall, the council had positive things to say about the status of Edinboro as each trustee gave confident reports about their respective aspects of the university.

President Dr. H. Fred Walker started the meeting by delivering his report, which included some details about the university’s budget.

“We’re engaged in the budgeting process right now with the university and of course, by Act 188, we’re required to submit a balanced budget so we’re working very, very carefully on multiple approaches on how to make that so,” Walker said.

He also mentioned the progress of the working groups, which were created to determine the status of the university and analyze where it can improve.

“There is a series of additional work that is being performed, most notably in academic affairs where we’re undergoing academic program review,” Walker said.

After Walker concluded his report, Dr. Michael Hannan, provost and vice president for academic affairs, gave his report on Edinboro’s academic situation. Hannan discussed the improvements and modifications the university made to many different academic programs.

He spoke about the success of Edinboro’s the Department of Business and Economics, which is one of less than 10 schools in the commonwealth that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

“We did have our master’s in social work, which is one of our largest graduate programs, receive top 10 national ranking by the SR education group,” Hannan said.

Edinboro’s social work program also earned a regional award as The National Association of Social Workers selected Professor Elaine Rinfrette as the 2017 Social Worker of the Year in the Western Division.

Hannan also discussed his pleasure for the new renovations to the second floor of the Baron-Forness Library.

He said, “That was an incredible transformation of space that held bound journals over acres of land which has now been transformed into a very interactive space for academic success coordinators and the career development office.”

Next, Hannan recognized different members of the faculty and highlighted their recent achievements.

"Art professor Brad Pattullo was invited by the PBS children’s series 'Sesame Street' creative team to pitch his animation. He is one of our lead animators in our cinematic animation program. He directed and animated the episode ‘G’ for Sesame Street,” Hannan said.

He continued: “Dr. William Mackay who is a professor in our biology and health services area, was invited to speak at a major breast cancer research conference this summer in Vancouver, and is going to present his research on mutagenic and procarcinogenic effects of two inhibitors."

After Hannan’s report, Eric Sheppard, Associate Vice President of Financial Operations, gave his report on the financial status of the university.

“The university's year end forecasted deficit has gone down from approximately $4.5 million to $4.2 million,” Sheppard said. “Hopefully that will continue in that direction for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

Sheppard also discussed how the university now has access to PASSHE’s new reporting tool called the instructional cost model. This tool allows the office of academic affairs and the budget office to research and analyze direct instructional costs and non-instructional costs.

He also mentioned how the new bursar is discovering hidden information that the council was previously unaware about.

He continued: “One example, we found about $4 million of dormant receivables that has not been worked by a collection agency for quite some time. We repacked those and sent them to the attorney general’s office. We’re now actually collecting money on something we thought never even existed."

Sheppard continued his report with details about the identification card office’s move from the Van Houten dinning facility to the second floor of the Pogue Student Center. He also spoke about the upgrade campus media received with the addition of high definition cameras.

He concluded his report by discussing the parking issue on campus. Parking still seems to be a problem at Edinboro so Sheppard, the Edinboro chief of police and a few other individuals are founding a new parking committee to help resolve these problems.

Marilyn Goellner, Assistant Vice President for Advancement, was next to give her report. She spoke mainly about the efforts Edinboro is making to establish and retain its relationship with alumni.

“At the end of February, we are at $2.7 million in dollars raised and we are predicting $3.2 million at the end of the year,” Goellner said.

To help maintain the relationships with Edinboro alumni, Goellner and her staff started a phone-a-thon and are creating an alumni newsletter to keep Edinboro graduates updated about the status of the school.

“The phone-a-thon is doing well, we’ll have direct mail, and an alumni newsletter out this spring that brings our alumni up to date on things that are happening,” she said.

Next, Dr. William Edmonds, Vice President for Enrollment Management was next to give his report and listed the initiatives he has been working on.

The enrollment management plans to remain engaged with the students who have committed to come to Edinboro in fall 2017.

"We sent out letters to school counselors and guidance counselors regarding the health of EU and that letter was well received,” Edmonds said. “I did receive some feedback that counselors received the letter and were appreciative because they weren’t certain what the health of the university was, so the letter helped to elevate some of their concerns,” Edmonds concluded.

Edmonds also mentioned an external marketing audit that was conducted by Paskill Stapleton & Lord, a marketing agency. They performed an audit and analyzed the current functions in the marketing area. Edmonds stated that he was optimistic about the results from the audit.

Edmonds stressed the importance of making future students feel more comfortable with the university before they start taking classes.

“We’re going to expose students to what it’s like to be a student at the university. So, students will engage with our faculty, they have the opportunity to walk away with their campus ID, and also get their housing assignment," he said.

Dr. Mary Beth Mercatoris, Interim Dean of Students and Campus Life, gave the final report in which she detailed some of various programs that her department offers students.

“Our center for diversity and inclusion has been working aggressively in 2017, serving our students though a multiple of programs,” Mercatoris said.

One of the programs which she highlighted was the 21st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Award ceremony along with the first Annual Dr. Joseph Laythe Award ceremony. Edinboro University honored recent retiree Rev. Melissa Burnett along with sophomore Ryan Stratton for their outstanding work on and off campus.

The council will hold its next quarterly business meeting on Friday, May 12. 

Aaron Foster-Williams can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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