Priorities for Excellence: The Penn State Strategic Plan 2009-10 through 2013-14 was approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2009. Much has been written recently about the ongoing work of Penn State’s Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council, an outcome of a Goal 2 strategy, but as Provost Erickson pointed out, “There are 37 other strategies.”
While work on many of the 38 strategies began in Year One of the plan, others were designated for start in Year Two or Year Three, as indicated in the Strategy Implementation Matrix. Primary leaders for each of the strategies are tasked with providing six-month and one-year progress reports on their strategies. This feature article provides highlights from the six-month reports on the strategies begun in Year Two.
Goal 1: Enhance student success
Strategy 1.5: Promote and Support High-Quality Graduate Education
In the recently released National Research Council Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs 65 of Penn State’s Ph.D. programs were ranked, with many in the upper range of rankings. Additionally, 42% of Penn State’s programs ranked in the top 10% of their respective fields for the percentage of interdisciplinary faculty. Support for graduate students improved as the amount awarded for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awards increased from the previous year, and two additional Distinguished Graduate Fellowship endowments were activated. Enhancements to the online graduate application, reducing processing time significantly, will allow staff to contact more prospective students and ultimately increase the total graduate enrollments at Penn State.
Strategy 1.6: Assist Students to Explore Ethical Issues in Their Professional and Personal Lives
Ethics education spans the educational experience of the students. Many colleges have adopted student honor codes. Many colleges and campuses offer workshops or discussions on ethics, during student orientation, First Year Seminars, or during guest speaker visits. Some colleges and campuses include peer mentors to serve as role models for incoming students. Many courses integrate ethics into instruction. The Graduate School offers the Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) program, and the Rock Ethics Institute offers workshops and presentations.
Goal 2: Advance academic excellence and research prominence
Strategy 2.2: Foster Research, Instruction, and Outreach in Emerging Interdisciplinary Fields of Great Societal Importance
Penn State’s Institute for Cyber Sciences (ICS) has co-funded 40 projects through which faculty from the colleges of Health and Human Development, Engineering, Earth and Mineral Sciences, Information Sciences and Technology, the Eberly College of Science, and the Applied Research Laboratory have developed over 160 proposals. These proposals have resulted in $52 million in funded grants; up to $104 million in proposals is still under review. ICS and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences co-funded a proposal to expand Galaxy, a project for computational research in gene sequencing. The Huck Institutes has been building two areas of excellence, in the fields of Infectious Disease and Genomics. Fourteen new employees in four different colleges have been hired in support of this, and most will work in the Millennium Science Complex. The Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Office (SIRO) has been formed through the merger of several unit-based grants and contract offices to facilitate large proposal submissions and develop best practices for the accounting needs of large center grants.
Goal 3: Realize Penn State’s potential as a global university
Strategy 3.2: Build International Partnerships at Home and Abroad
A key component of this strategy is establishing a Global Engagement Network (GEN) around the world to promote transformational engagements. The GEN for Africa has advanced to the point that a Deans’ Advisory Council has been established and five grants have been awarded to both colleges and campuses. A Faculty Implementation Team (FIT) has been established and is working on agreements with two universities in China. A FIT has also been formed for India. In Europe, a FIT has been formed to work on multidisciplinary collaborations with the University of Freiburg. For Latin America, four task forces are working to identify strategic partnerships in Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru.
Strategy 3.3: Expand Opportunities for Education Abroad and International Visiting Scholars
Resources for faculty-led study abroad programs have been compiled on the Web and workshops are offered. New study abroad scholarship funding is available for underrepresented students, first-generation college students, and students traveling to non-traditional locations. The Global Ambassadors program includes students returning from study abroad in outreach initiatives.
Strategy 3.4: Infuse International Topics and Experiences into Instruction
To share best practices and bring global topics and experiences to all of Penn State’s students, the Office of Global Programs offers both the Strengthening Partnerships College and Campus Conference and the workshop “Infusing Global Topics into the Classroom”.
Goal 4: Maintain access and affordability and enhance diversity
Strategy 4.2: Invest Selectively in Capital Improvements and Student Services at the Campuses
A team comprised of the Vice Presidents for Commonwealth Campuses, Finance and Business, Student Affairs, and Undergraduate Education has been charged by the President to review the expansion of student housing, including both additional housing at campuses where residence halls currently exist, and the creation of a residential housing component where no residence halls currently exist.
Strategy 4.5: Build on the “Framework to Foster Diversity”
Penn State entered its third cycle of diversity strategic planning with A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State: 2010-15. A concurrent review of progress identified best practices. Additionally, the Office of Educational Equity launched task forces to examine ways to maximize student success and identify student debt issues relevant to low-income, first-generation students.
Goal 5: Serve the people of the Commonwealth and beyond
Strategy 5.2: Consolidate Specialized Services at Regional and Campus Sites
Outreach and Extension are assessing their current office structure and service locations. One model being examined is a ‘mixed’ model that co-locates units such as Extension, Continuing Education, PennTAP (Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program), and a Small Business Development Center in one facility. Under the auspices of the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council, the Campus Academic Review Coordinating Committee is working with the campuses to identify services which could be provided more efficiently, and opportunities for collaborative partnerships, such as regional campus planning in the Philadelphia area and collaboration among the five campuses in the ‘Eastern Alliance’ (Schuylkill, Hazleton, Worthington-Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Lehigh Valley) and Outreach.
Strategy 5.5: Create a More Entrepreneurial Approach to Service Delivery
As noted in Strategy 5.2, Outreach is examining alternative models for locating services. With this initiative, Outreach is also examining alternative administrative structures. The intent in the new models is that every Penn State location should be a door to all Penn State programs and services.
Goal 6: Use technology to expand access and opportunities
Strategy 6.3: Re-balance Centralized/Dispersed Facilities/Services for Greater Efficiency and Effectiveness
Penn State is in the process of assessing its internal information technology (IT) environment. This has involved a detailed survey and scores of interviews. Final recommendations are expected by summer 2011. The goal is to be able to effectively manage the constant balancing act of moving IT services to where they are best provisioned.
Goal 7: Control costs and generate additional efficiencies
Strategy 7.2: Better Utilize Instructional and Research Facilities
In conjunction with the research initiatives discussed in Strategy 2.2, facilities at the Institute for Cyber Science include CyberSTAR, A Scalable Terascale Advanced Resource for Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Design. While much of the work logged on CyberSTAR is done by over 200 Penn State faculty across colleges, campuses, institutes, and other units, the system is also set up to host Web hubs referred to as Science Gateways and plans have been developed to grow the system into a national scale hub to provide scientists and educators worldwide with state-of-the-art data and analysis tools. Following in the shared usage model of CyberSTAR, to achieve efficiencies in labor and capital costs, new laboratories are being designed from the perspective of core facilities under common management.
Strategy 7.4: Develop Frameworks for Greater Budgeting and Staffing Flexibility
To fully allocate costs to all University operating units, beginning with the fiscal year starting July 1, 2011, benefit budgets will be allocated to the units, rather than being accounted for centrally. Benefits programs will continue to be administered centrally.
Strategy 7.6: Cap University Allocations to Outreach Beginning 2010-11
Several organizational and administrative changes have been made within Outreach. In 2010-11, PennTAP (Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program), Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Justice and Safety Institute (JASI), and Intensive English Communication Program (IECP) fully adopted auxiliary/restricted fund status and are no longer supported by general funds. Sports camps have been transferred to Intercollegiate Athletics and the Hospitality Leadership Institute to the College of Health and Human Development. The World Campus now has its own distinct administrative budget structure, and a task force was formed on World Campus Gross Revenue Sharing. All credit programs, including World Campus, have been consolidated within Academic Outreach. All non-credit programs have been consolidated within Penn State Business Solutions.
Implementation of the strategies in Penn State’s strategic plan reaches across all units of the University. Information on Year One strategies can be found at Progress and Performance. Future progress reports will be shared with the University community as they are received.