Walker elaborates on Edinboro’s 10-Year plan

Category:  News
Thursday, September 7th, 2017 at 12:55 PM
Walker elaborates on Edinboro’s 10-Year plan by Dakota Palmer
University president H. Fred Walker speaks at a town hall meeting during the spring semester. Photo: Allison Duda

Today, Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker laid out his 10-year plan for the university at the Frank G. Pogue Student Center multipurpose room.

In a conversation with The Spectator the day prior, the university president walked through the plan.

Walker began by speaking about how he’s going to schedule meetings with individual departments and students continue working together for the future of the university.

Walker emphasized the three issues that the university working groups and focus groups have been working on since the fall 2016 semester, which are: ensuring student success, balancing revenue and expenses, and aligning the academic program offerings to the needs of students and employers.

In the spring, the university used an outside consulting firm to analyze the data from the working groups in order to help determine how the university should successfully move forward.

Walker stated the development of solutions is based on identifying opportunities and challenges, collecting data and performing initial analysis, seeking external validation, making decisions in a timely manner and monitoring performance outcomes.

The first part of the process is to reaffirm or revise the university charter, mission, values and its vision. The current charter, which Walker believes people have forgotten about, is, “Edinboro University is a public, regional, comprehensive institution.”

Walker explained in the meeting prior to the presentation that by changing these, everyone in the University community will have a common foundation of goals, values and vision moving forward.

At a student focus group meeting in April of this year, Walker said former Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Frank T. Brogan has required each university to identify three areas of specialization. Walker reaffirmed that Edinboro has four main areas of emphasis: arts and digital entertainment; business, applied science and professional programming; education; and social and mental health services.

“Students are voting with tuition dollars not to participate in certain programs, [so] it’s up to us to move forward,” Walker said.

Additionally, Walker emphasized the importance of the “EU Experience,” which he stated includes six pillars: academics, leadership and life skills, athletics, experiential learning, co-curricular activities, and ceremony and tradition.

“We want people to come to EU because we have a solid experience as students,” he said.

Walker wants to place an importance on the student experience, both in and out of the classroom. He also wants to create a co- curricular transcript, which would include a student’s courses, grades and list of clubs and activities they were involved in.

“We want employers to see students as more than 30 classes,” he said.

In the experiential learning component, Walker wants to require students to participate in community service, a supervised research project, study abroad opportunity, or another form of experiential learning. He also plans to include student and faculty input about other experiential learning opportunities.

Another point he spoke on was how the definition of a full-time student in Pennsylvania is a student who takes at least a 12-credit course load. However, most academic programs require students to take 120 credits, and when a student takes 12-credits per semester, they end up not being able to graduate in four years.

Walker hopes to help increase full-time students’ course loads from 12 credits a semester to 15 credits, so that students are able to graduate in four years.

The next part of the presentation focused on plans that are required to “ensure student success.” This is a six-step process with some changes that will immediately take place, including the rebranding of Porreco College and transitioning of academic programs to meet the demands of employers.

Waker also stressed that no tenured or tenure track faculty will lose their jobs, as he retracted the retrenchment letter on Aug. 30, which he previously issued to APSCUF.

“We are not cutting programs. We are transitioning to program areas that are more attractive,” he said.

While the transition occurs, current Edinboro students will be able to successfully complete their degrees without disruptions or delays. Students, as early as the 2018-19 school year, will face new and adjusted choices in academic programs.

Deans are currently in the process of meeting with academic chairs to discuss the academic programs and will provide details to students in the coming weeks. The programs that will be affected are the programs with low or no enrollment. He did not specify any particular programs at this time.

“New students will have new choices, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Next, Walker said he wants to adjust the faculty complement to be consistent with enrollment patterns. Currently, the university has approximately 6,100 students and 350 faculty members.

Walker mentioned the university has been reducing its labor spending through faculty attrition, efficiencies and retirements.

“This cannot be an exercise in cost-cutting alone — we’re preparing to invest significant resources in new programs and new processes.”

Walker said in order to align the courses and faculty members, the tenured and tenure track faculty will teach courses that temporary faculty members currently teach.

The third action is to budget properly for athletics. The Edinboro student population has decreased, while the spending for athletics has increased, so Walker hopes to “close the gap” between the two. Currently, the university has an $800,000 deficit in athletic spending.

The university plans to bring an outside firm to assess athletic spending and assist the university in finding where it can cut costs without violating Title IX regulations.

The fourth action is to outsource external marketing efforts by “redeploying [Edinboro] staff to other places where we haven’t done a good job.”

The fifth action is to restructure administrative positions. Right now, the university has $1.3 million in open positions, which Walker said will stay open for now. Some administrators are working on multiple assignments as part of this plan.

Walker said he spent $750,000 to add to student support positions, such as the career center, counseling and admissions.

“We’re trying to do the best we can for our students,” Walker said.

The final action for the university is to separate itself and Porreco College from the community college stigma that has been placed on it. Walker said since people think Porreco, and by extension, Edinboro, are community colleges, people assume there is no academic standard.

“They don’t see us as a university.”

Walker plans to reposition Porreco away from the community college image.

“We’re going to move Porreco out of the community college market, and rebrand it away from ‘the community’s college,’ as Edinboro University at Porreco,” Walker said.

Walker plans to use Porreco to focus on adult education by offering courses on nights and weekends. During the day, the university could lease the Porreco space to an actual community college in the Erie area.

“Adult education is in the mission of a university, community college is not. We need to stop the bleeding.”

This academic year, Walker plans to prepare an academic and facilities master plan. During the 2018-19 academic year, Walker wants to complete a “traditional, university, campus- wide, inclusive of students” strategic plan.

Additionally, during this time until 2026- 27, the university would design a capital campaign, which the university has not had in the last 12 years.

“There are no assurances we are going to hit the mark on every single step, every single time,” Walker said. “If we stay right where we’re at, staying here doing what we’re doing, we’re going to fail. As long as I’m here, my goal is to do what’s right for the students and the institution first. This is a 10-year plan, and I am committed to staying.”

He continued: “It’s (the 10-year plan) even and fair to all elements of the university. No one group can say they’re unfairly singled out. I want Edinboro students to understand, my entire life and career is dedicated to enhancing student success. It is first and foremost, [and] everything comes after that.”

“This is the most important time to be calm. Don’t polarize, and speak with one voice.”

Dakota Palmer is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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