Walker hosts town hall meeting, discussion of Edinboro’s future continued

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 at 5:08 PM

On March 8, Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker unveiled the “EU Experience” and its inner workings, arranged for the presentation in a three-dimensional, interactive cube. 

Walker addressed a room full of faculty, staff and administrators in the Frank G. Pogue Student Center for a little over an hour.

“It’s really exciting from the standpoint that we are now moving past the conversations, the dialogue and the rhetoric to bringing things forward, which is what our community needs,” Walker said. “We need some tangible outcomes and some results, so this is the timeline that has unfolded.”

Walker said the cube came from seven task forces that were formed in October 2017 consisting of staff, students, faculty and alumni. Six of the groups share the names of the six pillars of the cube, plus a group for mission, vision and values. 

The six pillars are: academics, leadership and life skills, athletics and wellness, experiential learning, co-curricular activities, and ceremony and tradition.

“This 3D cube is not new to you — we’ve seen this for two years now,” Walker said. “Academics are at the top; our goal is to get people to graduation, [and] emerging goals are to get people to graduation in four years with a plan about what they’re going to do to integrate into our communities either as citizens and, or as people driving the economy.

“I think the [Edinboro University] moniker was ‘find your place.’ We’ve gotta do a better job of showing them what it is, what the structure is, [and] how they fit in.”

When one clicks on a pillar of the cube, it reveals descriptions and elements of the pillar. In academics, for example, the pillar is split into two sections with five sub-sections in each of them. First, enhancing the academic experience is set to include a student mentoring program, job placement, academic achievements, and continuous improvements. The second section, enhancing academic advising, contains connection to campus, continuous training, automated scheduling, advising resources, and equal advising loads. Also included in each of the individual pages is a summary of findings from the task forces.

Once one dives deeper into the sub-sections of the pillars, he or she will find a brief explanation of the element and the rationale for including the element. For example, the rationale for a student mentoring program reads: “Retention should increase for those who participate as mentees and satisfaction through NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) responses should increase for those who both participated as mentors or mentees (or both). Graduation rates of students who participate as mentees should also be measured to ensure sustainability and efficacy of the program. Serving as a mentor or a mentee could be included on the student’s co-curricular transcript.”

“So, we are raising our admission standards, and that’s because we should have done that a long time ago to make sure that the students we bring in here are successful academically,” Walker added. 

One member of the audience asked if the university was considering co-curricular activities from high school students while reviewing applications.

Walker said the university hadn’t considered that before, but they see high school student involvement on applications and life experiences in essays. 

“The things that you will not find anywhere in the United States is a structured explanation of what the college experience is all about,” Walker said. “That is something that is going to be unique for our university.”

Walker went on to describe how each academic department will have a new webpage, noting the work is “searching for the appropriate content and working with each of your departments” to create the new pages. The webpages will have updated information to keep prospective students up to date on the departments, Walker noted.

“We don’t have the time or the resources right now to completely rebuild the website, even though that might be one of our most important tools; that’s $500,000 to $750,000 to do that work,” Walker explained. 

Edinboro sociology professor Dr. Lee Williams spoke out, noting that the website is nice, but “we should focus somewhere else.”

“I hear you refer to those folks that didn’t come back after a semester or a year as somehow statistical failures and that we let them in; [it] seems [like] a fairly disenchanting way to think of the human beings that are our brothers and sisters and friends and family that live in and amongst us,” Williams said. “I hope you will take a second thought at how you understand these human beings.”

Williams went on to ask how the public and people on the campus will influence the words on some of the documents and what plan, besides the website, is in place to bring in “some concrete outside knowledge, some donors and some other people to come to this campus’ aid in its time of need, as well.”

He continued: “I believe it’s the priority of the president’s position, as far as I understand the job description, and yet I’ve seen no results, nor have I seen a plan of attack for how we’re going to bring in resources from the outside.” 

Walker noted that after changing the admissions standards beginning in fall 2017, the university has gone from a 99.7 percent admission rate to a 92 percent admission rate, “with the goal being that we’re mid-pack with the PASSHE system, which are 14 schools which all have the same charter.” 

“We’re not trying to create a ‘Harvard of the Midwest,’ but we need to improve our performance to make sure that we’re addressing the concerns of the greater society, which is let’s get the people through the programs that start here,” Walker said. 

He also said when he arrived in July 2016, the enrollment management person was a dean who didn’t have a seat in the president’s cabinet. 

“So we brought Dr. (William) Edmonds up to the cabinet level; we moved him from dean of admissions to vice president of enrollment management,” Walker said. “So, now we have a division of enrollment management that’s got two major responsibilities: recruitment and retention.” 

He continued: “We have to not just shape the hearts and minds of young men and women who come through our university, but we have to help them grow up and understand the world around them. And we’re helping them understand that by, in our own way, leading a structure to that world.” 

The second pillar, leadership and life skills, differs a bit from the academics in that there are two levels. Each student must participate in level one, which requires students to participate in 4 out of 12 life skills attributes and 2 out of 8 leadership attributes. The second level is optional, and students who complete the necessary 8 or more out of 12 life requirements and 4 or more out of the 8 leadership requirements will receive a President’s Medallion for Leadership and Life Skills to wear at commencement.

The third pillar is athletics and wellness, which is then divided into club and intramural sports, fitness, outdoor adventure, varsity athletics, and wellness. Nearly all of these sub-sections simply include a list of current and past offerings of each, with a summary of findings for the entire pillar at the bottom. 

The fourth pillar is experiential learning and includes: community engagement, collaborative scholarship, cross culture experiences, campus involvement, and work-based experiences. In the campus involvement sub-section, it reads, “Students who are involved in campus activities retain at a higher rate and are more engaged as alumni.”

The fifth pillar is co-curricular activities. The sub-sections for this pillar are: conference presenter, studying abroad, personal wellness programs, volunteerism and community service, and Greek life. 

Included in this pillar is additional input explaining how participation will be measured for co-curricular activities on a transcript. The document says it will be measured by “hours served in approved activities, leadership positions in held organizations, initiation of project management by an individual, attendance at a leadership conference/conclave by the national hosting organization, and serving on a structured committee representing Greek life, the student population or a specific student organization.” 

The final pillar of the cube is ceremony and tradition. In this pillar, the task forces have outlined current traditions and ceremonies, along with ways to enhance those events. Additionally, there are suggestions for new traditions, such as an annual Animation and Film Festival, an annual yearbook in digital form, reintroducing monthly recognition awards for employees, and having bagpipes play at every athletic event and public activity. 

Walker shared the timeline for the work moving forward: in April, the university will begin making refinements to the reports; in May through August, the university will implement task force reports; and in the fall, the university will implement the co-curricular transcripts.  

“Please keep in mind that as we looked at all these materials, we’re trying to go with the voice of an employee base of just under 1,000 people,” Walker said. “There’s going to be no way that everybody’s going to eat at Burger King at once and have it your way.”

He emphasized multiple times throughout the meeting that “this was a good day for Edinboro University.”

Dakota Palmer can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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