2013 CONVOCATION ADDRESS
JOHN J. “SKI” SYGIELSKI, Ed.D, president
AUGUST 23, 2013
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thank you Stephen! We appreciate your service to our country, and we applaud your achievements especially in choosing HACC!
To the students who are here, to the faculty, staff, trustees and members of the community: welcome! Thank you for joining us today.
Tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the community college system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. With his signature on that August day, our late governor William Scranton opened the door to those who wanted to pursue their dreams of a higher education, and he helped usher in a new era of making those dreams accessible and affordable to Pennsylvanians.
As the first community college in Pennsylvania, HACC is an important part of that history.
From our humble beginnings in a few rented buildings, HACC has grown to become the largest community college in Pennsylvania and is among the highest degree granting institutions of its kind in the nation. Our first class had 182 graduates.. Last year, we graduated more than 2,000 students. In all, HACC claims more than 50,000 proud alumni.
In February 2014, we will celebrate our founding with a birthday party and throughout the coming year there will be events and occasions to remember our past and celebrate our achievements. In doing so, we will recall those first students who passed through our doors and those faculty and administrators who dealt with the numerous challenges facing a young, fledgling college.
In reflecting on these past 50 years, we are mindful of the efforts of so many who built this fine institution. We are honored to have on our faculty several professors who joined HACC in those early years and we thank them for their service to our College.
This past April, the HACC Board of Trustees adopted a three-year strategic plan that was developed with your help and input. The mission statement was refined to reflect a renewed emphasis on the importance of every member of the HACC family.
It is simple, yet profound: Creating opportunities and transforming lives to shape the future—TOGETHER!
More than words on paper, the mission underscores the fact that our goals can only be accomplished when we all work together, in common purpose, with mutual respect and understanding.
In carrying out that mission, the HACC 2015 strategic plan provides the roadmap that will guide our work. It is organized into three sections and contains 19 objectives. In implementing this plan, we will clearly communicate to the College what we are trying to accomplish; we will measure our progress; and we will conduct regular assessments of our work.
Let’s take a moment as we start the new academic year to not only reflect on where we are—but more importantly discuss where we want to go. Using the three parts of the strategic plan as our guide, let’s get started:
Number one of the strategic planning goals: Teaching and Learning Excellence
HACC will be the first choice for a quality higher education experience. We will implement a strategic enrollment plan that recruits and retains a student body larger in size and more diverse than the year before. We will provide academic and workforce programs that meet the needs of our students and our regional economy. We will deliver these programs in new and innovative ways, and we will make certain that assessment is integrated throughout the College.
Ever since the first classroom doors opened 50 years ago, HACC has strived to put the needs of its students first.
Student advising services have certainly changed over the years.. The courses and programs might have different names and use tools and technology not available a half-century ago, but the commitment to excellence is still evident across the College at every campus—without exception.
We know that enrollment is a challenge faced by schools across the state and around the country. Nationally, two-year public colleges have seen a four percent decrease in the last year, and in Pennsylvania—enrollment in community colleges decreased by six percent over the last two academic years. As you know, our numbers were better than the national average!
To ensure we are facing these challenges head-on, we are implementing a new strategic enrollment plan, hiring recruitment staff, and increasing our outreach across the region.
In just a few months, we also will launch a new marketing campaign to increase the visibility of HACC in Central Pennsylvania.
Make no mistake—we want everyone in our region to know about the incredible courses and programs we offer. Whether it be our innovative architectural or engineering technology programs, our far reaching work taking place in Geographic information system (GIS) or our highly recognized digital photography courses, HACC has an incredible story to tell. When even one potential student doesn’t have the information they need to make HACC their choice for an affordable and world-class education, then we know that there is more each and every one of us can do.
While we work across our 10-county service region to promote our College and recruit students, we are also improving our internal operations and the services we provide.
We have realigned the Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and created new one-stop events to streamline the registration and financial aid process for our students. The positive results are already evident as staff work more closely together and students spend less time waiting in line on all of our campuses. We are more efficiently delivering important student services and improving customer service and satisfaction along the way.
Through a restructured Office of Academic Affairs, some positions are now shared across campuses and an integrated team approach is striving to improve communications and help break down silos.
We have put a renewed focus on institutional effectiveness, restructuring the office to ensure responsibility for the oversight and integration of assessment, and we have acquired an online-based assessment management system.
When Middle States Commission on Higher Education visited in 2007 and made recommendations, a team of faculty worked to address their concerns, but all parts of the College were not coordinated in that effort. The warning issued last November is a reminder that we have to (1) clearly demonstrate the importance we place on assessment, (2) make improvements where necessary and (3) communicate the positive results of our work.
Thanks to the efforts of many, we are addressing the issues raised in the warning. I would like to specifically thank Jeb Baxter and Kathy Brickner for their work on the Middle States review and helping draft the response. I also want to thank Cindy Doherty, interim vice president of HACC’s Harrisburg Campus, and Lynold McGhee, director of institutional effectiveness, who are putting the response in final form.
Through their work, and with the input of numerous faculty and staff, we are demonstrating the progress we have made and we look forward to sharing our story with Middle States in our response due Sept. 1, 2013.
The teamwork that we see when colleagues roll up their sleeves and pitch in to help with a project, or to launch a new initiative is not uncommon at HACC. In fact, it’s happening all across the College.
At HACC’s Gettysburg Campus, Valerie Bugosh and Marge Gingrich, nursing faculty, developed an international service learning opportunity for a group of 13 HACC nursing students. The students traveled to Haiti where they participated in health screenings and provided immunizations, conducted eye examinations, and provided basic first-aid skill training. This was an incredible educational and cultural opportunity for these students and we applaud Valerie and Marge for making this happen.
At the Lancaster Campus, a new student orientation model was piloted in spring and summer 2013, and it is now being assessed and improved for college-wide implementation. As part of the pilot, campus staff developed an orientation resource site that is available to students through MyHACC. It provides access to the materials reviewed during orientation as well as supplemental information and resources. We recognize Jackie Bareuther and her colleagues for their leadership with this pilot.
The Harrisburg area is home to three magnet hospitals, PinnacleHealth, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Holy Spirit Hospital. One of the requirements of a magnet hospital is that at least 85 percent of their nursing staff is Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) prepared. As you might imagine, this could be a cause for concern that potential students would look elsewhere for education due to the demands of the area hospitals. However, because of the work of Ron Rebuck, director of nursing at the Harrisburg Campus, and Betsy Musser, director of nursing at the Lancaster Campus, we now have an articulation agreement in place with Millersville University.
Our RN students are now enrolled dually with Millersville University when they are accepted into the clinical portion of our nursing program. They will be awarded 30 credits toward their BSN degree from their HACC education and have another 31 credits to complete at Millersville University in the nursing curriculum.
This is exactly the kind of pathway to four-year colleges that we want to create, and we thank Ron and Betsy for making this happen!
At our Lebanon Campus, a new nurse aid course started in spring 2013 and it is the collaborative effort of non-credit and academic staff working together. Launched with the help of the HACC Foundation and the Francis J. Dixon Foundation, it has already demonstrated success by identifying employment opportunities and providing certification for our students. We thank Susan Biggs, Marie Johnson and Cheryl Batdorf for their work in making this program a reality.
At our Gettysburg Campus, the Early College Academy program provides high school seniors with an opportunity to take two college courses per semester during their senior year at our Gettysburg Campus. Students earn dual credit while gaining college readiness skills through supplemental instruction.
Right here in York, a similar program, the Early College Institute, was piloted last year with the York school district and is being expanded. Piloted at William Penn High School, the Early College Institute will college in the high school classes and continue to partner with their teachers to reduce the developmental education needs of their junior and senior students.
Great things are happening all across HACC. These innovative partnerships are making a difference on our campuses, helping to change lives and creating new opportunities that will shape a positive future for us as employees and, most importantly, our students.
Number two of the strategic plan goals: Organizational Excellence
HACC will be the employer of choice in Central Pennsylvania with a workforce that reflects the communities we serve. We will attract and retain highly qualified individuals, promote an atmosphere of civility, trust and mutual respect, and provide opportunities for the personal and professional development of our faculty and staff.
For 50 years, HACC has attracted some of the best and brightest minds in higher education. Whether you have been working here for 30 years or 30 days, something about our history and story enticed you to join this college community. In striving to be the employer of choice over the next several years in this region, I want you, my colleagues, to know what an honor it is to serve you as we begin to demonstrate how you and your efforts are valued.
Regardless of what position you hold on an organizational chart, you are critical to the mission of this college and you have an important role to play in HACC’s success. As a member of the HACC team, we will celebrate your achievements and ensure that our programs and support services enhance your personal and professional development.
As a college, we want to ensure that our workforce reflects the diversity of the communities we serve. It is part of our very name—a community college—and we are called to be an inclusive and respectful community of educators and students who opens the doors of opportunity to all.
An inclusive and respectful community… an inclusive and respectful community… gives an opportunity for all to be heard. Every member of our HACC community: faculty, staff and students has a voice in shaping the future.
Just this month, a newly constituted shared governance committee met for the very first time. As their first order of business, they have been charged with revising all college administrative procedures—some outdated—and some long ago adopted without the input of all those concerned.
Shared governance includes representatives from each college constituency group, all serving together to advance the mission of HACC and to improve the way we serve each other and, most importantly, our students. No shared governance model is ever perfect, but this one, I believe, provides accountability for the way we operate and it provides another opportunity for our entire college community to weigh in on issues through those serving on the committee.
For more than a year, members of the Shared Governance Task Force worked to develop a plan for renewing shared governance at HACC, and I would like to take a moment to thank the members of the task force for their efforts—and Pam Watkins, in particular, who served as chair.
When each of us asks ourselves what we can do to contribute to HACC’s success, there is no limit to the good things we can do together.
Number three of the strategic plan goals: Operational Excellence
HACC will be a responsible steward of our financial and natural resources, operate in an open and transparent manner, and promote and encourage innovation throughout the College.
Just as our founders faced challenges when launching a new community college 50 years ago, we have faced our share of challenges in recent years.
When I arrived two years ago, I spent the first six months meeting with you, listening to you and implementing many of the recommendations you expressed to me during those first few months on the job. Through an in-depth review of our organization and programs, we uncovered some things that were unpleasant, but that required our immediate attention and action.
We also faced a nine million dollar deficit and the challenges of a constrained fiscal environment. In what is sometimes described as the “new normal” ”----less funding from the state, less funding from our sponsors, and enrollment levels that reflect the changing economy and the increased number of educational choices, HACC was at a financial crossroads.
Through some painstaking restructuring and realigning of our departments, we have begun to turn the corner.
We know that change is difficult and that facing challenges head on has not been easy for us. However, it is necessary to make certain we are addressing the issues that face many institutions of higher education, as well as the ones unique to HACC, which have built up over time and demanded our attention.
We know that we are not alone in facing these issues. We read the same newspapers and higher education periodicals, and have learned that across the country, colleges have faced shortfalls and eliminated entire departments and programs as a result.
Because of our collective efforts and the proactive steps we have taken, especially over the past year, HACC has been more fortunate. We are addressing these challenges and positioning our College to adapt to this new paradigm.
With your help and the hard work of our finance team, we have begun to stem the financial losses faced in the last few years. I am proud that we will present a balanced budget for the second year in a row and that we will take steps to limit increases in operating costs while continuing to seek new sources of revenue to fill the gaps left by funding cuts.
At HACC, we know that our budget should reflect our priorities and be aligned to meet the needs of an ever-changing higher education environment. We will encourage innovation and seek new answers to ongoing concerns.
We will soon launch the HACC Innovation Team — or iTeam — a college-wide task force that will identify opportunities for cost-savings and efficient means of delivering services. We will identify new sources of revenue, new ways of providing services and use the latest technology to aid our work. Therefore, we invite every member of the HACC community to continue offering ideas on how we can enhance our programs, courses and operations. A special thanks to Kim Bleacher who has contributed several thoughtful ideas for consideration.
And, because sometimes innovation requires that we make small investments to save money or work smarter, the President’s Fund for Excellence at the HACC Foundation will consider those requests. Don’t let any obstacle stand in the way of sharing a good idea. Please understand, innovation is not another way of saying we will make cuts. In fact, innovation can lead to growth.
Just take a look at our Virtual Learning programs for within the next five years. Geography is going to play a lesser role in where a student chooses to take his or her online classes.
In fact, with the start of this semester, and for the first time in the history of our college, nine degrees are now offered completely online. We recognized the virtual learning team for their achievements just a few minutes ago, and we truly do appreciate their efforts.
The Virtual Learning team has redesigned HACC's online training to reflect two key areas: (1) a four-week online class known as the eVolution Academy and(2) a competency-based class where faculty develop online course materials. This redesigned format will result in a 100 percent increase in faculty online training capacity in comparison to previous years.
Another innovation that will lead to increased growth is the mobile learning project that will be rolled out across all campuses for this academic year. This project will provide hardware, software, and training support for 20 faculty who wish to develop iTunesU or iBooks content. Selection and training will occur during this term and content development will occur during the spring and summer 2014 terms.
With more than 200 HACC faculty trained in this manner and with the support of our skilled instructional designers in teaching and technology services, our College is at a distinct advantage to meet the evolving educational opportunities rapidly approaching.
There is no question that these are certainly exciting times for HACC!
The path of progress is not always even or smooth. But there is much to be thankful for and to celebrate as we begin a new academic year and embark on our 50th anniversary.
When our founders submitted their application for a charter to the commonwealth in 1963, they detailed how the College would be operated and the types of courses that would be offered. Incidentally, we don’t offer shorthand any more—and unfortunately for our students—the student contribution rate is no longer $300!
But, they said in that document that the philosophy of HACC is to “provide the essential elements for an individual to develop his moral, intellectual, spiritual, and physical capacities to the maximum of his [or her] ability.” In doing so, they said, “the student will be able to contribute both culturally and vocationally to the community that has provided to his [or her] total needs.”
If they could see where we are now, they would be in awe of the programs offered and the incredible contributions being made on each of our five campuses.
I think they would agree with our plan to create opportunities and transform lives, and I know they would applaud each and every one of you for dedicating yourselves to that purpose.
In the coming weeks, I will be hosting forums on every campus to continue this conversation.
I look forward to these forums where we can share ideas and discuss the ways we can work together to advance the mission of our College and ensure that we are the first choice for an affordable and accessible higher education opportunity!
Our future is waiting. Let us shape it—TOGETHER!