On Monday, April 3, Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker held a student dialogue meeting to discuss the future of the campus and answer student questions. About 15 students were in attendance for the hour-long meeting.
“Now we are at the point where we’re going to engage the campus community for the rest of the semester, talking about the sort of things they want to see this university become,” Walker began with.
He plans to schedule a series of meetings with various constituent groups in the university and community to talk about what the groups want to improve and what choices they want to make for the campus.
One student asked if Edinboro will become a specialization school.
Walker responded: “We’re not going to fundamentally change the character of the university. I don’t want to try to make this into a technical school, and I don’t want to try to make this into a research institution. We’ve got to preserve the character of the heritage that we were all entrusted with.”
Additionally, he spoke about how Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Frank T. Brogan has required over the last four years that each university identify three areas of expertise or specialization. Last week, Edinboro submitted four areas to PASSHE that “our campus is going to be really good at,” according to Walker. Those four areas are: arts and visual entertainment; mental and social ally health services; business, applied science, and professional programming; and education.
“Now we’re going to have to start making decisions about where we’re going to grow and where we’re not going to grow, and it’s going to be within those four areas,” he said.
Additionally, Walker would like to implement a doctor of education degree in STEM education.
Another student asked what the university planned to do to help the retention of students of color, to which Walker responded that Edinboro needs to change its admissions standards. The university has already made the admissions standards more challenging for the 2017-18 school year. Walker also mentioned how academic success needs to be more prominent, and he plans to have a committee over the summer compare Edinboro’s academic success programs to those of other state universities.
“Our problem is even more challenging because we’re very rural and we’re not located close to a big population center, so getting the diversity on campus that we like to see is a challenge, any way you slice it,” he said.
One student asked what the plans to increase the revenues of the university are. Walker explained how enrollment has decreased from about 8,700 students to 6,100 students in the span of a few years.
“During that time,” Walker added, “we haven’t really adjusted our faculty and staff ranks, so we’re still carrying that cost structure.”
Since the emergence of the working groups that have been analyzing the university’s academic programs, enrollment and revenue, some programs that have been underperforming in the last five to 10 years have been brought to light. Walker plans to “take offline programs that have a multiple year history of not performing” and “bring a new series of programs” to the university.
He said: “Our charter says we’re going to be driving people into the economy of the commonwealth and our biggest draw is for students who are coming here from counties surrounding us. That directly impacts the way that we look at a lot of programs that we offer.”
He went on to talk about how West Chester University, which is near Philadelphia, has more people in their drawing area, so they can shape students and increase certain admissions standards. Since Edinboro is in a rural area, it is more difficult to narrow down program selections, he added.
Walker guaranteed that students who are on track to graduate with certain degrees would be able to finish those degrees. Those programs, however, would not accept new students if eliminated. “We’ve made a commitment as a university to not disrupt our students, and we did that because it’s the right thing to do.”
One student asked what Walker’s standpoint on restructuring clubs and organizations is, and he said that his focus right now is mainly on academics. However, he said, “One of the things that I’ve said that we’re not doing well as a university is define the Edinboro experience.”
He wants to advertise more than just academic programs for potential students; Walker would like to be able to advertise academics, athletics, and clubs and organizations to persuade people to attend Edinboro. Walker also discussed how he wants to eventually implement more team building, especially with freshmen. He believes it is important for students to bond with each other to really get the full college experience.
“What we’ve got to do is engage people into a pursuit that connects them to the community,” he said.
“I think what I’m hearing is that everybody is sharing their different perspectives and understands that we’re going to have to do things different,” he concluded. “Let’s get on with it.”
Dakota Palmer is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.