July 17, 2017


Dear Fellow Golden Wolves,

Thanks to the hard work and thoughtful insight of countless members of the Alvernia community, Alvernia has a new nickname that reflects our Franciscan heritage and will energize our student athletes and fans. Special thanks to the 22 members of our nickname taskforce, led by Tony DeMarco (advancement) and Tom Porrazzo (athletic training).

The task force — representing students, faculty, athletic and other staff, alumni, parents, trustees and Bernardine Sisters — invited submissions from the entire university community. More than a third of the over 200 submissions suggested variations of “wolves,” and there was overwhelming consensus around our final choice from the feedback groups representing students, faculty, coaches and other staff, alumni, trustees, and Bernardine Sisters. Read more about the 13th century Wolf of Gubbio story here.

Work will continue on this project throughout the summer, with a new athletics visual identity to be unveiled in August and a new mascot unveiled in October — just in time for homecoming!

And of course much other good work continues during the summer months, especially by those working to bring the Class of 2021 onto campus this fall. Admissions team members are staying in touch with confirmed students, and many others from across campus are involved in our numerous Connection Days. A new mobile “Guide” app promoted during June Connection Day events has been designed to offer important information all in one place and maximize student engagement. Alvernia’s incoming freshmen class is piloting the app this year.

Summertime is always a time for physical improvements to campus. With the Angelica roadway and bridge complete, work crews are now focused on replacing the roof of Francis Hall (damaged in that infamous hailstorm). Renovations to the Physical Education Center’s first floor and creation of the stadium are proceeding well, and classrooms in the university’s Philadelphia Center are being updated.

My customary mid-summer newsletter will catch you up on other highlights.


Board of Trustees


The Board’s annual retreat and year-end meeting was packed with sessions on shared governance, institutional strategy, and “mission in action” as well as regular business. As always, trustees enjoyed discussions and social time with the faculty, staff and student panelists as well as several experienced faculty leaders and the three academic deans. The panel on “The Work of the Faculty” included: Cynthia Rothenberger (nursing), Mark Kaufman (English), Ondra Kielbasa (biology) and Tom Franek (AT). These faculty joined senior faculty members Nathan Thomas (theology), Spencer Stober (science) and Tim Blessing (history) and Deans Daria LaTorre (SGAE), Karen Thacker (professional programs), and Beth Roth (arts & sciences) for group discussions on “shared governance.” In addition, faculty members Jodi Radosh (communication) and Greg Chown (OT), Rose McFee (CJ), and Spencer Stober (science); students and recent alumnae Chloe Gletow (OT) and ReJeanna Goldsborough ’17 (communication); and staff members Tracy Hine (university life) and Wanda Copeland (multicultural engagement) made “mission in action” presentations. 

Trustees approved revised strategic directions and the construction bid for the East Campus/PLEX project as well as the preliminary operating and capital budgets. They also approved a resolution requesting the faculty and academic administration finalize a complete Faculty Handbook by January 2018. As customary, they reviewed progress on the Board’s and President’s goals for 2016-2017 and gave initial approval to goals for 2017-2018. They re-elected Kevin St. Cyr (chair) and John Wanner (vice chair) as board officers and approved new terms for Michael Mullen and Sr. Shaun Kathleen Wilson.

Trustees also honored recent board chair, Joanne Judge, by naming her a trustee emerita, and thanked Kathy Kleppinger ’83 and Jim Sweeney for their service.

Trustees also endorsed the decision to change Alvernia’s nickname to the Golden Wolves before joining a large crowd of campus community members at the press conference.


Budget & Enrollment


Unlike last year, there is good news overall to report as we begin the 2017-2018 year, though naturally there are challenges and areas of concern. While financial aid expenditures for incoming freshmen are higher than projected and graduate and adult enrollment is running behind goal, there are positive offsetting trends which have enabled us to begin the year with a tight but balanced budget.

Full-Time Undergraduates: Transfer and returning student numbers are tracking on goal, and freshman enrollment looks promising due both to a substantial increase in applications and a large influx of students recruited to play football.

Our adoption of the Common Application has been successful, with a record number of applications and acceptances. Dozens of potential football players have been recruited by Coaches Clark and Wood with over 30 already committed for this fall. Of greatest significance is that these are individuals not previously aware of Alvernia, with about a third coming from Maryland and Florida. Be sure to read more about prospective player interest in the Reading Eagle.

The admissions team continues to work closely with their accepted student pool and is granting extensions or revisiting financial aid packages as necessary to be competitive with other schools. Equally important, team members are working to minimize summer melt by maintaining regular contact with confirmed students and making sure they are following through with important summer tasks.

School of Graduate and Adult Education: Enrollment continues to be a challenge. The final 2016-2017 results were about 2% below goal (a revenue shortfall of approximately $362,000 on a budget of $16.2 million), so there is continuing concern about meeting this year’s even more modest goals, with the enrollment and revenue shortfalls predominantly in adult undergraduate students in campus-based programs. Conversely, and fortunately, online enrollment continues to increase, with over 200 registered in fully online graduate and undergraduate degree programs and an additional 200 expected in the coming months. As part of a comprehensive retention plan, mid-semester alert warnings used in undergraduate day courses have been implemented in the SGAE beginning with MOD 5/Summer.

Budget for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018: Budget cuts, spending controls, and effective management by many enabled us collectively to overcome the significant revenue shortfalls and meet our budget goals for 2016-2017. I am pleased to report that, as of July 15, the 2017-2018 budget reflects a stronger financial position, though it should be emphasized that there are a number of open positions that have been eliminated or kept unfilled, and almost all of last year’s budget reductions remain in place. We will have an update as usual in mid-August.


Faculty Excellence


Several faculty awards were bestowed at Alvernia’s annual Honors Convocation this spring: Ana Ruiz (psychology), Faculty Award for Exemplary Service Learning; Karen Thacker, Sr. Donatilla Faculty Award; and Suzanne Mader (nursing), Teaching Excellence Award. Three adjunct faculty shared the St. Bernardine Faculty Award: Deborah Motika (arts and sciences), Jonathan Kurland(professional programs), and Debra Stavarski (SGAE).

The Pennsylvania League for Nursing (Area II) has named a new annual scholarship for a student in a graduate-level nursing program in honor of Vera Brancato (nursing), titled the "Vera Brancato Nursing Education Award." Brancato's forward-thinking scholarly work has helped advance nursing education over the past 35 years.

Jodi Radosh (communication), co-author of "Shoot, Edit, Share," put her video education skills to use this spring by leading Alvernia communication students in creating a short film competition for Berks County’s high school and college students.

Alvernia music adjunct James Seidel celebrated 50 years with the Ringgold Band during an event at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, April 30.

Nathan Thomas (theatre) is performing as Prospero in outdoor showings of “The Tempest” by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company this summer. Read about the show’s unique location in the Baltimore Sun and see a review by the DC Metro Theater Arts.

Bongrae Seok (philosophy) gave a presentation “Early Confucian Philosophy and Embodied Moral Cognition” for a class at the Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland, May 30.

Mark Kaufman's (English) essay, "Woolf and Whistleblowing: From World War I to WikiLeaks," was published in the Spring 2017 Virginia Woolf Miscellany (issue #91).




Four staff members: Gwynne Kolodziejski (student billing), Vicki Lutz (college of professional programs), Sally Reading (seniors college), and Danielle Saad (student success) made the trek to Italy for a ten day Assisi Pilgrimage, May 21-31. All will now be involved in mission education as a result.

Wanda Copeland (multicultural engagement) was appointed to the Reading School District’s Equity Advisory Panel (EAP). The EAP consists of five members, who have demonstrated success in providing educational services to Latino and African American students, to recommend best practices to the District Equity Coordinator and assist in monitoring the District’s progress.

Newly elected 2017-18 Student Government Association representatives include President Chloe Gletow (OT), Vice President Kaitlin Didinger (nursing), Treasurer Kimberly Whelan (psychology), Secretary Alison Maddox (OT), and Campus Activities Board President Sarah Englert (OT).

Joining Alvernia’s staff in recent months are John Finneran (staff accountant) and a familiar face to many on campus: Ryan Shannon ’16 (alumni and parent coordinator).

Former student leader and author Kate (MacHugh) Ecke ’11 offered a leadership keynote though an Ignite Student Leadership session for more than 100 students this spring.




As mentioned above, here at home, in addition to Francis Hall roof progress, first-ever major renovations to the Physical Education Center are designed to address major, long-time deficiencies in facilities for our student athletes and to establish basic amenities (public restrooms on the main floor!!). Locker rooms and laundry services are being expanded and modernized. Facilities for the Athletic Training program and Sports Medicine are also being tripled in size and also upgraded significantly.

A little further away, Beth Roth (arts & sciences), Di You (psychology) and Tufan Tiglioglu (business) led a group of Alvernia students to China in May. The group took part in several educational activities with our North Minzu University partner (formerly Beifang University of the Nationalities). Two psychology students, Arielle Phillips and Brittany Millard, were interviewed by a Chinese television crew. Note that Alvernia student interviews begin at 4:42, and the voice-over was directed by Di You’s translation.

Tracy Scheirer (nursing) led several transcultural nursing students in Dingle, Ireland this May. In addition, Josh Hayes (philosophy) and Eric Recktenwald (biology) visited the Dingle peninsula to explore future faculty-led courses. Be sure to read more about Dingle, Ireland in Alvernia Magazine.

Joe Cicala (university life), Beth Roth (arts & sciences), Julianne Wallace (campus ministry) and Sr. Rosemary Stets visited four Bernardine missions in southern Brazil, identifying several academic and service opportunities for Alvernia students and graduates as well as the potential for Brazilian high school students to participate in summer programs at Alvernia.

Alicia Sprow (Holleran Center) led five students to Grand Manan Island in Canada to continue a community-based research project and provide service to two island organizations. The group helped conduct a cleanup in the Castalia Marsh Provincial Park, built a wooden deck for a community gathering space and identified projects for future partnerships.

Greg Chown (occupational therapy) will travel to Haiti in September to teach with an organization that subsequently will be the site for a future study abroad program for OT students.



News Flashes


John Carr, a leader at the intersection of faith and public life for more than two decades, offered inspirational remarks to the Alvernia University Class of 2017 after being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Spring Commencement. (He has subsequently connected Alvernia and our O’Pake Institute to some important national initiatives in peace and justice work.) An impressive 419 of 489 eligible students participated in the ceremony.

The first annual “All In for Alvernia” flash giving campaign, led by advancement team members Stacey Cole and Tom Minick, was a resounding success. In only 36 hours, the campaign raised $39,271. A total of 437 gifts from 412 different donors was well above the initial goal of 250 donors. The event coincided with MargaritaVERN, held on a Saturday for the first time, and attracted close to 500 attendees.

Major fundraising is going well. Fundraising for the PLEX campaign now exceeds $2 million in commitments, and the 10 scholarships needed for next year’s class of Reading Collegiate Scholars are already fully funded, well ahead of schedule. Beginning next spring, with support from Boscovs, Inc., the Albert Boscov Community Engagement Award will be presented annually to the top graduating senior of Alvernia's Reading Collegiate Scholars Program.

Nearly 2,400 tutoring appointments were conducted by the Academic Success Center during the 2016-17 academic year. Feedback shows that 97% of students who received tutoring say they will return; 98% say they will recommend tutoring to a friend; and 99% say they improved their understanding of course material as a result of the tutoring.

Right next door, Alvernia’s ADA office is handling medical, residential and academic accommodations for a growing number of students. Currently, a total of 211 students are registered with the ADA office, with additional students anticipated from the entering Class of 2021.

Several new academic programs have received approval to launch in fall 2017. The Business Department is offering a new Executive Healthcare MBA and an economics major. The Nursing Department, in partnership with Harrisburg University, is offering a third MSN track in healthcare informatics and a post-baccalaureate certificate in healthcare informatics (open to multiple majors). The Doctor of Nursing Practice program is also offering a new MSN to DNP track in health systems leadership.

Thanks to the Alvernia HRSA SDS Committee, Alvernia has met 100% of its first year’s goals for the HRSA SDS federal grant providing scholarship for disadvantaged nursing students. Twenty-nine nursing students took part in the program in 2016-17. The grant provided up to $30,000 maximum to each eligible student for tuition and other educational needs assistance. Alvernia was awarded $522,785 to continue this Federal program in 2017-18.

The numbers of students returning to housing rose slightly for fall 2017, with 640 students due back. Theme housing remains popular with 81 in the Sophomore Serve community and 95 in the Academic Village community. Another 85 will be housed in student-created affinity communities.

Alvernia and Caron Treatment Centers are two years into a partnership to increase higher education access for college-age students in active addictions recovery. Key elements include enhanced learning opportunities for participants in Caron's residential treatment program and the establishment of formal “Recovery Housing” at Alvernia. Since spring, 2016, 11 students have completed 15 courses, 12 students are currently enrolled in 15 courses in summer 2017's MOD 5 and MOD 6, and an Alvernia-Caron Collegiate Recovery House has been developed as one of Alvernia's residential affinity communities for a fall 2017 opening.

Co-chaired by Carol Bracken and Kathleen Gardocki (library), the 10th annual Edible Book Festival boasted 38 entries this year. Helen and I joined Anthony Ippolito and Jeannie Clinton (food service) as judges, with prizes going to several students. “The Rainbow Fish,” by Courtney Hermany (forensic science) and Melissa Troyan (biology) earned first place. Lucero Orozco(healthcare science) was awarded second place for “The Lorax,” and Genna Koser (AT), Justin Guevarez (CJ) and Jake Waltz (CJ) earned third place (and fan favorite) for “The Girl on the Train.”

The summer 2017 edition of the Alvernia Magazine is now available, featuring NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson as the cover story. Features include profiles of Ph.D. graduate Eric Saar '17, alumni Calvin Martin ’03 and Greg Header ’97, and a reflection on 40 years of nursing by Karen Thacker (professional programs).

Alvernia’s Criminal Justice Department and the Reading Police Academy hosted a Pennsylvania State Police “Get to Know Us Day” on June 3, aimed at community-police relations. State Police helicopters, SWAT teams, drug units, mounted horse units and additional groups from the Berks County Sheriff and local police offer interactive displays.


Community Engagement


By the end of June, 1,439 Alvernia students had logged more than 36,000 hours of community service for 2016-17. More than 250 students, staff, alumni and parents participated in Day of Service at the Angora Fruit Farm, accompanied by four students from Reading High School through their Key Club and the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program.

Under the direction of AmeriCorps*VISTA member Madison Kaley ’15, the Alvernia-Millmont afterschool program has had a positive impact. Teacher surveys show that 66% of elementary students showed improvement in academic performance.

This spring, 25 students and four faculty/staff advisors participated in Alternative Breaks in Philadelphia, Pulaski, Va., and Washington, D.C. Another 19 students and three faculty/staff advisors participated in year-end programs in Maryville, Tenn., and Camden, N.J.

Focusing on the theme of Forging Community out of Chaos and on the three evils articulated by Dr. King — extreme militarism, materialism and racism — Alvernia students Carlos Canela-Cuevas ’16 (MBA), Alyssa Keifer (psychology) and Chris Thomas (poly-sci) attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington D.C., along with Sr. Cara Lucille, Sr. Shaun Kathleen and Julianne Wallace (campus ministry). The group met on Capitol Hill with staff from the offices of Senators Toomey and Casey as well as local Congressional representatives.

Accompanied by Ann Kriebel-Gasparro (nursing), four Alvernia DNP students — Tina Colvin, Abby Eby, Shannon Martin and Jodi Weldele — traveled to Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners Lobby Day, April 18. The group advocated for full practice authority, Senate Bill 25 and House Bill 100.

Sixty-two OT students attended the national Occupational Therapy Convention in Philadelphia where they were able take part in workshops and network with OT colleagues from across the nation.

Alvernia’s Crusaders for Peer Education (CPE) includes more than 20 nationally-certified peer educators, with funding for training from our PA Liquor Control Board (PLCB) Grant. CPE helped Alvernia again support Safe Berks’ Walk for No More with the largest team and the most successful fundraising effort.

The Sophomore Serve affinity residence life community has completed more than 800 community service hours to date. Causes served include elderly care, hunger and poverty, animal care, youth initiatives, environmental sustainability, health initiatives and care for the homeless.




Major university awards bestowed on students at Alvernia’s annual Honors Convocation this spring included Emilia Miller(nursing), Holleran Center Outstanding Service Award; Ashley Tomlinson (OT), Newman Civic Fellow Award; Alissa Keifer(psychology), Fromm Interfaith Scholarship; Makenzie Bartlett (theology), Franciscan Peace and Justice Award; Erica Dunkelberger (OT) and Arnold Tyler (AT), Scholar Athlete Awards; and Aijah Hickey (psychology, CJ), Senior Scholar Award.

Six awards were bestowed during the annual Student Government Association Awards Ceremony. The Science Association was named Registered Student Organization of the Year, Alyssa Garcia (OT) was named President of the Year for her work with Crusaders for Peer Education, Junior Class Senator Erin McAleer (OT) was named Senator of the Year, Kevin Burns (science) was named Advisor of the Year, A Hooked on Helping event at the Highlands was named Community Service Project of the Year, and Alvernia’s Got Talent was named Event of the Year.

Business students Beth Stepien, Caroline De La Cruz and Justin Gibbs won first place in the 2017 Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce New Business Idea Competition, in April. Our business students seem to have made winning top awards in this competition a new tradition!

After Campus Activities Board’s annual Alvernia’s Got Talent competition, junior Kasey Miller (English) and senior Chiara Marone(theatre) went on to represent Alvernia in Berks’ Got Talent, which includes all five Berks colleges. Marone placed second overall.

The Italian Heritage Council recognized five Alvernia students — Katryn Durenleau (OT), Celena Heintzelman (healthcare science), Mikaela Mastromatto (OT), Anjelica Riccobono (nursing) and Andrea Zimmerman (accounting) — with awards this spring. The awards recognize scholars in the Italian language courses who achieved academic excellence.

The Holleran Center was awarded three AmeriCorps*VISTA members for 2017-18, two of whom are Alvernia graduates: Daisy Porrazzo ’17 and Briana Pearson ’16. Alvernia regularly wins the largest number of these awards, thanks to the Holleran Center’s record of accomplishment with them.

This spring Alvernia’s Seniors College bestowed the Saint Bonaventure Award for Teaching on Rev. Elton Richards, and former trustee Deanna Reuben ’79 was honored with the Rabbi Alan Weitzman Award. The Seniors College now boasts more than 1,000 members. Deanna also works closely with Beth Roth (arts & sciences) in planning the Arts at Alvernia series.

Alvernia University is one of only 83 campuses across the country designated as a “Voter-Friendly Campus” by national nonpartisan organizations: Campus Vote Project (CVP) and NASPA (Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education). The designation follows significant voter awareness work across campus and is valid through Dec. 2018.

Thirty-one student-athletes were named All-MAC in their respective sports this spring. Baseball led the way with 10 selections, including Player of the Year Nate Sides (accounting) and Pitcher of the Year John Catchmark (AT). Baseball won the MAC Commonwealth regular season title and was ranked as high at #11 in NCAA Division III during the season. The team also earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships.

Cameron Coons (baseball, sport management) and Margaret Wentzel (field hockey, healthcare science) were named the Outstanding Male and Female Athletes at the Athletics Awards Banquet, while Tyler Arnold (men’s soccer, AT) and Erica Dunkelberger (women’s soccer, OT) earned the Scholar-Athlete Awards.

Sophomore Emily Gilbert (healthcare science) won the MAC Women’s Golf Championship with a conference record two-day total of 161. Gilbert shot a tournament record 77 on the first day of competition and followed that up with an 84 to win the tournament by 16 strokes.

Alvernia philosophy graduate John Hutta ’11 was ordained by Bishop Cullen as a transitional deacon on his vocational journey to the priesthood in the Diocese of Allentown. A parishioner of Sacred Heart in Palmerton, he was accepted as a seminarian in 2011.

Speaking of the clergy, a beloved priest, respected leader, and good friend of Alvernia, Msgr. Al Schlert, has been named the new Bishop of Allentown. A native of the diocese, he has exceptional pastoral and administrative experience in addition to his expertise as a canon lawyer. He was among the guests at Cedar Hill this May for the annual Graduation Honorees’ dinner.


Coming Events


Be sure to mark your calendar for a number of important events coming to campus this fall:

September 19: An E Pluribus Unum series panel discussion on partnerships between police and communities.

August 21: Mission Day — Plans have begun for additional “Green Zone” training to pair with Mission Day to help faculty and staff further sharpen understanding and response to veterans’ needs.

August 22: Campus Breakfast and State of the University address

August 24-27: Orientation Weekend — Move-In Day and Freshman Convocation will be Aug. 24, followed by Orientation Day of Service on Aug. 25.

August 28: First day of classes, Mass of the Holy Spirit and an unveiling of the Golden Wolves logo

September 25: Founders Day Lecture with David Couturier

October 13-14: Homecoming and Family Weekend

November 1: FYS/Lit Fest Lecture with Regina Calcaterra


Visit the online calendar for information on all university events.


President Flynn's Newsletter