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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Thoughts on the Penn State Alumni Trustee Election


This week, I cast my vote for the three members of the Penn State Board of Trustees who are elected by the alumni.

There are more than 30 candidates this year.  Several of them have been promoted by two well-funded advocacy groups whose primary concern is the treatment of the late football coach, Joe Paterno, who was fired by the Trustees as a result of the child-abuse scandal surrounding former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.   I believe that it is time to move on and focus our attention on the long-term issues facing Penn State and Pennsylvania.

Most important is the real, urgent need for Penn State to focus on re-envisioning its Land Grant mission to meet the needs of Pennsylvania and beyond as the global information society matures.   That must include the re-invigoration of Penn State’s engagement with Pennsylvania communities.  At the top of the list in this category is the need to strategically position the Commonwealth Campus system as Penn State helps the Commonwealth prosper in the new economy.  Given the cost of education today, it is increasingly important that students—especially first-generation college-goers—be able to study while living at home and working in their home communities.  Local campuses can help prepare professionals without taking them out of their communities.  They can also build relationships with school districts—through dual enrollment programs—and local employers—through internships and practical experiences—to build competitive community-based workforces throughout the state.  We need to strengthen this system.

We also need to build new academic, research, and technology transfer collaborations with other world-class universities so that Pennsylvanians have access to the very best resources.  These collaborations will also allow us to increase the impact of the teaching, research, and technology development expertise of our own faculty, helping to ensure that we can sustain our leadership role in key areas in the coming decades.

At the core of our mission is the curriculum.  Penn State has been a leader in curriculum innovation and pedagogy, incorporating digital technology into the teaching/learning process in ways that not only increase student access to education, but that create educational environments at all of our campuses that foster deeper learning, helping students develop their skills in inquiry, research, and how to apply knowledge to solve new problems.

These are some of the issues that I hope the alumni representatives on the Board of Trustees will focus on in the coming years.  It is time for the University to refocus on core issues.