The World ... Right Here
As part of the Pennsylvania State University, the Beaver campus began its 2016-2017 Strategic Visioning Process with the organizing principle of Penn State’s new campaign areas: Open Doors, Impact the World, and Transformative Academic Experiences. In doing so, we broadened the scope of Open Doors beyond student scholarships, focusing on welcoming academic spaces, hiring qualified staff, and better promoting our opportunities in order to invite the community more purposefully onto our campus. Each of the subcommittees also took into account the Penn State strategic foundations and priorities as grouped into the three campaign areas. Over the course of the year, and as a result of campus-wide conversations, subcommittee members ultimately identified a group of initiatives that were then ranked through a campus-wide survey. The results of that survey, and the grouping of the original nine goals under the new strategic structure, informed the Penn State Beaver revised strategic plan goals.
Certainly, the most pressing goal of Penn State Beaver is to meet the challenge of maintaining enrollments in a region of declining college-going-aged students, with higher tuition than that of our traditional competitors. We believe that, in addition to contributing to the community and benefiting our students, each of the strategic initiatives in the revised strategic plan will both attract students to our campus who might not formerly have considered Penn State Beaver, and engage all of our students towards completion and later success. We are particularly poised for global learning, given the new chancellor’s background is in German and international education administration, and the fact that almost a third (10 of 32) of our full-time faculty originally hail from outside of the United States. With our focus on industry relations in the context of the global nature of today’s economy, we can guide our students towards fulfilling and successful careers through understanding their place in the world.
As a Commonwealth Campus of a land grant institution, Penn State Beaver has an obligation to contribute to the cultural and economic development of our region, primarily by educating our students for success in the twenty-first century. Thus, the overarching strategic priority for the next few years will be to cultivate relationships with local industry (Impact the World) that will 1) inform our academic offerings to meet industry’s needs and provide our students with corporate mentoring and internships (Transformative Academic Experiences), and 2) result in enhanced corporate giving opportunities towards scholarships (Open Doors) and other initiatives. One academic offering local industry and our advisory board members have emphasized is a four-year engineering major.
In addition to the focus on industry relations, a number of other initiatives are identified as priorities. From Open Doors, the need for a comprehensive Campus Master Plan that would begin with a library renovation and include an events pavilion and a park-like amphitheater rose to the top. The Master Plan would also consider such projects as a walking path, social spaces for students, and perhaps soccer fields. Open Doors also reaffirmed the absolute necessity acknowledged in the original strategic plan to build visibility and support in the community, and communicate our presence and opportunities to the region better, through an integrated recruitment and marketing plan. With the understanding that our regional demographics are shifting, this plan would also advance the recruitment of international students, as well as better signage, enhanced transportation, and increased support of opportunities for student-to-student interaction.
The creation of a Beaver County Innovation Hub was recognized as imperative in the Impact the World subcommittee, as a county-wide effort under the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. Subcommittee members also acknowledged the need for a partnership database that would help us leverage existing relationships and identify gaps. Collaborations with other educational institutions are vital in the twenty-first century environment, therefore the subcommittee prioritized the need both to work better with local schools and to establish and cultivate a Beaver Area Higher Education Consortium, also a priority of the Quality Education Council. Our interactions with the school-aged population should involve guidance towards our degree programs, so that our summer camps should interact better with our academic offerings. Finally, even as we embrace what the anticipated economic development means for our county and our campus, we have the responsibility of working toward sustainability.
The Transformative Academic Experiences subcommittee, which took the AAC&U High Impact Practices as a basis, identified Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) linked to short-term study abroad programs as an effort that would set the Beaver campus apart as a leader in internationalization in the region. EDGE also complements Penn State’s Digital Innovation efforts, and also supports both the Open Doors priority of recruiting international students and the goal of cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment, as it prepares our domestic students to interact with people who have different backgrounds from themselves. In approaching EDGE as a regional effort across the Penn State Pittsburgh campuses, we are supporting the goal of collaboration with Shenango and the other western campuses, especially towards Penn State Pittsburgh. Most importantly, EDGE can help our students understand their own place in the world. The sense of belonging to the stream of history and having agency within it is often reserved for more privileged populations, but is a foundation for the optimism our students need to strive for success in the twenty-first century. Indeed, within the context of our overarching goal of industry relations and the global reach of industry, we are fulfilling our local Commonwealth Campus mission by connecting our students to global opportunities. At Penn State Beaver, WE ARE ... part of the world, and WE ARE ... right here.