On Thursday, Sept. 16, University President Greg R. Weisenstein delivered the annual President’s Welcome Address in Asplundh Concert Hall, revealing the recent accomplishments and prospective initiates for the upcoming school year.The address was given during the 12:30-1:45 p.m. class block, and several professors were given the opportunity to bring their students to sit among faculty and administrative staff for the speech.
Prior to beginning the president’s address, a brief video was shown that encapsulated various aspects of WCU from both student and professor perspectives. This video was later revealed to be geared towards prospective students, that will be placed on the WCU website as a marketing tool.
After the video was completed, Dr. Weisenstein was introduced. He began by thanking those in attendance and introducing new staff. Among the campus faculty, eight colleagues have assumed new roles as deans or executives for WCU offices, and 23 new professors have filled positions across a variety of majors.
The first topic addressed was that of the 2010-2011 budget. The PA Commonwealth support for the West Chester University budget has dropped drastically in the past 20 years.
In 1990, the University received 60% of the annual budget from the Commonwealth, which dropped to 48% by 2000. Since 2000, support has dropped a further 17%, meaning the University has received only 31% of the 2010-2011 budget from the commonwealth.
Weisenstein announced several ways the university is prepared to try and increase funds:
“Unlike many other PASSHE institutes, we do not plan to lay off people,” he said. “We do not plan to sit by and see our excellence diminished.”
One plan involves continuing the WCU Campaign for Excellence – a program that is supported by alumni, organizations and businesses.
The previous fundraising goal was $35 million, which was met and exceeded by two percent. Contributors to the Campaign for Excellence can choose which projects their money is donated to, like facilities renovations or community outreach.
In addition, it was confirmed earlier Thursday morning by Governor Ed Rendell that the Commonwealth will be making $18 million available for the Campaign.
West Chester has also recently acquired two new properties: 624 S. High St. and the College Arms apartments. College Arms, located on High Street across from the FHG Library, will continue to be used for WCU student housing after its renovations are complete.
The second topic Weisenstein discussed involved several initiative programs for the campus, each of which has been assigned a task group to research and conceptualize each plan of action.
The first program revealed was distance education at WCU. This program is looking into creating online courses available to students.
“Though we are late coming to this market, we have a great product, a wonderful reputation, and a very competitive price,” Weisenstein said. The distance learning program will initially focus on creating classes for graduate degree programs.
A different program that is launching this year is the winter course session. Currently in its two-year pilot program, a winter session has been cabinet-approved for January 2011.
Though courses have not yet been chosen for this January, workshop classes, distance education hybrid courses and travel studies classes will be the type of courses available. There will be the courses chosen for January 2011, and 30 for January 2012, during the second year of the pilot.
Another task group is assigned to the expansion of international programs at West Chester, not only on-campus, but also abroad. Some of the groups that are increasing include the Center for International Programs, English as a Second Language and study abroad programs.
Also, specific University websites will be translated into Spanish and Chinese to be available for parents of international students.
A final expansion in international programs involves the Knowledge Crossing Borders program.
The first KCB program took place in March 2010 in Costa Rica. It became one of the premiere opportunities worldwide to present transnational higher-education collaborations. The second Knowledge Crossing Borders conference will take place at WCU in 2012.
West Chester has also moved forward in other areas in the past academic year. In July, all of North Campus became Wi-Fi accessible. The next wireless project involves spreading Wi-Fi access across South Campus.
Through the Sykes After Dark programs and World Series campus events, WCU cut down on the number of alcohol-related citations by providing alternate programs for students.
The amount of volunteer work by students also increased to a record-breaking level in the past academic year. Students accumulated over two million hours of community service.
The university has also become a leader in green technologies. For example, the data center in Allegheny uses half of the energy the previous center consumed.
To continue these types of green success stories, the campus has newly appointed a Sustainability Coordinator (Timothy Lutz) and assigned a corresponding advisory committee.
Weisenstein also commented on the success of WCU students. He specifically showed the academic prowess of the athlete population on campus: 358 (approximately 2/3rds) of athletes at WCU received a 3.0 or higher GPA in the last academic year.
In addition to showcasing the academic success of campus athletes, Weisenstein mentioned a publicity event that will take place October 7.
On this date, the WCU football game will be televised, as well as the WCU Golden Rams marching band’s half-time show. During this televised event, WCU will also premiere a 30-second commercial derived from the video for prospective students.
Publicity for the campus has increased in direct correlation with the improvement of the entire university. West Chester has seen a 15% increase in ad publicity in collegiate magazines, and made the Kiplinger Top 100. Marketing research projects for the university have found that WCU is rated 13th “Best” overall, and second overall for “Best Value.”
Another key subject Weisenstein discussed was expanding communication among the university and to the town proper.
One way to help connect the campus and community will be through town meetings, the first of which will be held on October 6 from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
There will also be monthly informational discussions in Traditions for faculty and staff in the Traditions section of Lawrence Dining Hall.
Finally, the WCU Ideas project, which received over 200 submissions online last year, will have a physical counterpart. Idea boxes will be placed around campus to create a paper version of the WCU Ideas Online.
President Weisenstein also announced that the results of the 2009-2010 Campus Climate survey will be announced later this semester at an open forum setting.
“[The Campus Climate Survey] reflects a commitment of shared values to ensure the bright future that is in our vision,” he said.
After the president’s updates, the 2010-2011 WCU Civility Award was given to Darla Spence Coffey. One of the nomination letters claimed that “she believes in new ideas, and will do what she can to help them come to fruition.”
Refreshments and light fare were served in the academic quad after the speech.
Tara Tanzos is a fourth-year student with a major in English and a minor in creative writing. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.