President’s Newsletter – Summer 2018

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

The timing of this newsletter always means summer is slipping away from us, so I do hope you have managed to enjoy some fun amidst the steamy weather. And here’s hoping that those of you busy with Connection Days and campus summer improvement projects have some relaxation planned before the arrival of dozens of RAs, OWLs, PMs, and other student leaders signals the onset of 2018-2019.

Naturally, I am well aware that this year’s summer newsletter coincides with the beginning of my last official year as your president. What a journey it has been! As I admire the rapid rise of the PLEX and reflect on the strategic and campus master plans that have guided our progress between 2008 and 2018, I continue to believe this is the right time for new leadership to help shape Alvernia's future in ways not envisioned a decade ago. And I look forward to my new work as a Senior Fellow for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards, even as I will always rejoice in the achievements of Alvernia students, faculty, and alumni and enjoy the relationships at Alvernia and in the local community that have made my service so rewarding.

Speaking of transitions, the Presidential Search Committee is making excellent progress, led by trustees Ellen Huyett and Steve Najarian. A search profile has been completed and advertising is beginning!

As usual, this newsletter will report on a range of topics and accomplishments. Let me spotlight a few in this introduction and encourage you to check out news, ranging from coverage of the June meeting of the board of trustees and updates on enrollment & budget to accomplishments of our faculty and many others, some additional items of interest, and a quick snapshot of upcoming events.

Of special note is the new mobile-responsive website that launched on schedule, June 25. Featuring a new look along with improved functions and navigation, the website is now ADA compliant. Additional updates are planned for the next few months to continue to improve the user experience. Helping to bring the project to fruition was a large university taskforce and newly trained content editors representing many areas across campus.

Accompanying this exciting new website will be the launch early this fall of Alvernia’s renewed brand. Led by our MarCom team and facilitated by FleishmanHillard, a nationally known agency, dozens of members from the university and local communities participated in interviews or a large campus workshop, with a representative task force contributing to a competitive analysis of other higher education institutions.

Fundraising for the PLEX Campaign has much momentum, following the groundbreaking event. With more than $7M in gifts and pledges, we are well ahead of our July 1 goal and poised for a successful final year of the mini-campaign. Look for the launch this fall of a faculty-staff effort as well as outreach to the entire alumni population.

One recent highlight was an award of $150,000 by The George I. Alden Trust for the construction and technology of our Interprofessional laboratory in the Flynn PLEX. This is an unusually large gift from this foundation and by far its largest-ever gift to Alvernia. A great team effort of faculty, administrators, and advancement staff made this happen.

Fundraising for the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program also has been quite successful. The fall 2018 cohort is fully funded, and considerable progress has already been made for the fall 2019 cohort.

The first class of Reading Scholars and the inaugural class of Doctor of Physical Therapy graduates made Spring 2018 Commencement ceremonies memorable, as did remarks by adult nursing graduate Cynthia Truscott. Bishop Alfred A. Schlert officiated Baccalaureate Mass before being named an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters recipient alongside fellow honorary Class of 2018 member and Commencement speaker, John Hope Bryant, who delivered a stirring address.

At graduation, I noted that Bishop Schlert admirably embodies the Franciscan core values which guide and animate Alvernia’s mission. Illustrating that point, he has since written what I believe to be an insightful, indeed inspiring, statement on the contentious state of immigration in our country.

Speaking of mission, we are embarking on a historic transition to lay leadership that will guide the path for other Franciscan universities. With strong support from our Congregational Minister, Sister Marilisa and from Sister Roberta herself, I am excited to announce that, effective August 1, Julianne Wallace will assume expanded responsibilities as Assistant to the President for Mission and Director of Campus Ministry. In addition to two years at Alvernia, and a soon-to-be completed doctorate in educational leadership, Julianne brings deep background in liturgy, music performance, and higher education leadership as well as diverse campus ministry experience, including at St. Bonaventure University (NY). Roberta will contribute her academic background in theology and Franciscan Studies as our part-time Franciscan Scholar in Residence and will be a valued resource for Julianne as we enhance mission education. Look for more information as we prepare to celebrate Mission Day on August 20.

Please continue reading — or click the links below to directly visit sections of this newsletter.

Peace and All Good,

Tom Flynn


Board of Trustees

As we welcome new board leadership with Mike Fromm as chair and Gregg Shemanski as vice chair, we recently celebrated outgoing officers, Kevin St. Cyr and John Wanner ‘82.  A highlight of the annual June retreat and meeting was Mike’s presentation to Kevin of the very first Golden Wolves jersey for his many years of dedicated service and support for the university during the June board meeting. 

During the June board retreat, trustees held their annual “think tank” session on strategy, provided feedback on the proposed new website and the final draft of Alvernia’s renewed brand, and received briefings on the many promising academic programs under development, the launch of football, and the highly successful Reading Collegiate Scholars Program.  As usual, there was a board education session on Mission, featuring a panel of impressive students and an overview of the emerging Campus Ministry Plan by Julianne Wallace. And they benefited greatly from the second of a two-part sequence on “Academic Culture,” a stimulating panel on faculty evaluation, especially the tenure and promotion system, that featured Professors Ondra Kielbasa, Cindy Rothenberger, Spence Stober, and Donna Yarri who provided invaluable insight into the criteria and processes involved in tenure and promotion. (Trustees rated this session as excellent.)    

Action items included full board participation in the annual evaluation of the president and approval of the board’s and president’s draft goals for 2018-2019, along with the preliminary operating and capital budgets.

Enrollment and Budget


The freshmen enrollment funnel (inquiries, applications, accepts, and deposits) have all hit record highs this year. We have benefitted from our partnership with the Common Application, as year two has seen the majority of applications submitted through the tool. This has led to a record number of freshmen applications (2600) for the second consecutive year. Football has played a significant role in the increase in class size this year. As of early July, we have 440 freshmen deposits of which 78 are football players.  To say the obvious, we have effectively addressed the severe imbalance of our male-female ratio from a few years ago and also attracted numerous students to majors other than those in the health sciences.

Graduate & Adult

As reported in January’s divisional meetings and the spring newsletter, the School of Graduate and Adult Education (SGAE) experienced a small shortfall through the first half of the year and a significant one ($1M) for winter and spring. There are several new actions steps now implemented to steer SGAE into a more positive direction for 2018-19.

The continuous SGAE advertising plan launched in November now runs year-round and has expanded Alvernia’s reach into Lancaster, Lebanon and Dauphin Counties. Efforts include billboards in Philadelphia, geo-fencing, radio, movie theater and video testimonials for the Schuylkill and Philadelphia Centers. The new website is designed to drive prospective students to easily find information they need, and to apply.

A new Community College Partnership with all 14 schools in Pennsylvania has launched, similar to a new strategic partnership with Montgomery County Community College.

An expanded partnership with the Learning House Inc. has resulted in three full-time (LH) employees being hired to focus on building partnerships and enrollments in the greater Philadelphia region. In addition, a new partnership with Learning House has been implemented to begin an International Recruitment Program. The Learning House has hired staff to represent and recruit for Alvernia in over a dozen countries. 

Faculty Excellence

Kevin Donnelly (HIS) and Mark Kaufman (ENG) have been awarded our prestigious Neag Professorships for demonstrated excellence in scholarly work and distinction in teaching. Named Senior Neag Professor for 2018-20, Donnelly is working on a primary source book on the history of Eugenics that will include the voices of those who developed, performed and suffered from the practice made infamous by Nazism. Named Junior Neag Professor, Kaufman is working on a book titled “Spyography: Modernism, Espionage, and the Militant Aesthetic State,” examining the problematic recruitment of writers into the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) through literary texts, memoirs and declassified government documents housed in the UK National Archives.

Caroline Fitzpatrick (COM) finished her term as President of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. From 2016-2018, the society supported student research by providing $150,000+ annually in competitive scholarships, grants, internships. Fitzpatrick now serves as Immediate Past President (2018-2020) during which she will develop a Board mentoring program. In addition, Fitzpatrick completed a seminar on Data Visualization and Presentation (May 2018) with Edward Tufte, Professor Emeritus at Yale University and the author of multiple academic texts on analytical design.

Josh Hayes (PHIL) presented his paper “From Oikeiosis to Ereignis: Heidegger and the Fate of Stoicism” at the 52nd annual meeting of the North American Heidegger Circle at Goucher College in Towson, Md. In addition, he presented his paper “A Politics to Come: Benevolence and the Nature of Friendship in Aristotle’s Ethics” at the 18th annual meeting of the Ancient Philosophy Society, hosted by Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Mark Kaufman (ENG) delivered an invited lecture titled “‘What a grand funferall’: Music in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake” at the Lancaster Irish American Cultural Society in Lancaster, Pa., in April 2018.

More than two dozen Faculty Excellence Grant projects are underway this summer covering a multitude of topics, including:

• Eric Recktenwald (BIO) “A Reentrant Circuit in the Visual Thalamus of the Frog”

• Stephen Campion (CHE) “Affinity Labeling of Proteins exhibiting Specific Interaction with the Systeine-associated Disulfide Folding Determinants Tyrosine & Tryptophan”

• Erin Way (PSY) “Berks County Parent Involvement & Student Engagement”

• Joshua Smith (CHE) “Collection of Rare Earth Metals Utilizing Silica Coated magnetic Manoparticles”

• Ryan Lange (COM) “COM 3xx Visual Data Literacy”

• Monir Morgan (PSY) “Competent Supervisors, Strong Counselors: A Supervision Training Program for Site Supervisors”

• Robin Zappin (DPT) “Development & Design of a Service Learning Committee for the DPT Program”

• Vera Brancato (NUR) and Mary Ann Durant (NUR) “Development of an Interdisciplinary Irish/Traveler cultural Immersion Experience with Creation of a Conference Presentation/Submission of a Scholarly Article”

• Cynthia Rothenberger (NUR) “Development of an Online Nursing Pharmacology Course”

• Donna Yarri (THE) “Development of New Honors Course”

• James O'Donohue (DPT) “Early Recognition of Spontaneous Pneumothorax in the High School Athlete: A Case Study”

• Tufan Tiglioglu (BUS) “Empirical Evidence: Exchange-traded Funds (ETF's) Returns on Emerging Markets after the U.S. Presidential Election”

• Alicia Sprow (HCCGE) and Spencer Stober (BIO) “Establishing a Community-Based Participatory Research Project with the Grand Manan Island Community”

• John Gieringer (MAT) “First Year Calculus for Students of Mathematics & Related Disciplines – Textbook”

• Josh Hayes (PHI) “Heidegger & the Islamicate Tradition”

• Ondra Kielbasa (BIO) “Independent Research Program in Cell Biology”

• Joseph Kremer (CHE) “Integration of Scientific & Franciscian Values into Science, Technology & Mathematics (STEM) courses”

• Thomas Franek (AT) “Mini-self Study / Substantive Change toward curricular revision (MSAT Degree)”

• Thomas Porrazzo (AT) “New Major in Public Safety Administration"

• Louise Fura (NUR) and Tracy Scheirer (NUR) “Nursing Department Course Evaluation Templates”

• Rosemarie Chinni (SCI) “Plasma Temperature and Electron Density Determination of Martian Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) Data”

• Janae Sholtz (PHI) “Stoicism & French Philosophy”

• David Shoup (MAT) “Supplement to SURF Student Projects in Preparation for Conference Talks and Publication”

• Bongrae Seok (PHI) “Traces of the Body in Space: Embodied Metaphor of Menus and Lists (A book chapter project)”

• Scott Ballantyne (BUS), Jodi Radosh (BUS) and Nathan Thomas (BUS) “YouTube Adventure Business Modeling/An Interdisciplinary Multi-Department Project”  


Junior and biochemistry major Melea Barahona was awarded $4,000 as part of the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Undergraduate Scholarship for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 academic year. The mission of the national space grant program is to increase awareness of and participation in STEM, particularly among underrepresented groups.

Two nursing students, junior Stella Brakebill and senior Cynthia Dalton, have been selected as VALOR interns at two different veterans’ hospitals this summer. And junior nursing student Morgan Petry was accepted into the Nurse Candidate Program of the US Navy. Upon graduation, she will attend Officer Development School. Morgan was a valued student leader as well as a fine student.

Engaged with faculty mentors, nine students in the CA&S and one from the CPP are conducting research projects during the summer. These students and other student research scholars will present their work during an event planned for the fall semester.

Four business students qualified for the Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference in June. Sophomore PBL President Michael Zappone competed in Statistical Analysis, and incoming MBA student Kiana Vega ’18 competed in Business Communications. Craig Grohoski ’18, entering Alverna’s MBA program, qualified for Accounting for Professionals, and two Class of 2021 students, Aaron Ayala and Marissa Cosgrove, competed on a Business Ethics team.

2018 graduate Mady Johnston was named a National Newspaper Association Foundation Fellow, traveling to Washington, DC during the spring to report on a theme of national importance. Her topic was “College students’ perspectives on politics, bipartisanship.”

Five senior nursing students: Blair Burris, Lauren Perry, Samantha Schenck, Sommer Wike and Ashlin Young traveled to Nashville, Tenn., in April for the National Association of Student Nurses annual convention, accompanied by nursing professors Vera Brancato and Deborah Greenawald. Schenck served as a delegate representing the Alvernia Student Nurse Association. A resolution written by our students and passed at the state level convention last November was presented at the national convention, where it was passed by the House of Delegates.

Junior Elizabeth Goida (CJ) presented research on the effectiveness of police K9 units on reducing crime at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences international conference in New Orleans in March.

Three of Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars were featured in the news shortly before Commencement:

• Named a Newman Civic Fellow, junior scholar Lucero Orozco (HCS) was featured for her work tutoring Reading High School students. > Read article

• Senior scholar Cassandra Noray (HCS) earned her third All-MAC Commonwealth Conference honor and became the first women’s tennis player in Alvernia history to win 50 career singles matches. > Read article

• Senior scholar Juan Paula (BUS) spoke to the Reading Eagle about the benefits of a Reading High JROTC program that set him on a path to college and life as a commissioned Marine Corps officer. > Read article 

People . . . And Places

Two elementary education students from Alvernia traveled to Beijing and Xi’an in May with Dean Beth Roth, Di You (PSY), Vice President John McCloskey, Woosoon Kim (BUS) and Tammy Gore (BUS), with the faculty involved in presentations and seminars to the North Minzu academic community and the administrators focused on deepening the partnership and recruiting students for Alvernia. The gathering was featured in one of China’s national newspapers.

A dozen students traveled with Tracy Scheirer (NUR) to Dingle, Ireland, in May for a two-week Transcultural Nursing course as a result of Alvernia’s partnership with Sacred Heart University. Josh Hayes (PHI) and Eric Reckenwald (BIO) also traveled to Dingle with two students, offering the course “Mind over Matter.” In March, 20 MSOT and MSN students spent spring break in Dingle exploring inter-professional approaches to medical care with Greg Chown (OT) and Vera Brancato (NUR). Helen and I enjoyed hosting the two groups of students in May, while I also toured proposed new facilities and met with administrators and faculty from Sacred Heart to discuss expanding the partnership. 

Senior Amanda Phillips (BUS) is taking part in a summer study abroad experience in Dublin, Ireland, and nursing major Reni Kandarapallil is studying German in Vienna, Austria.

Eight undergraduate students participated in a Canadian global engagement research trip where they took part in two service projects planning meetings with island community members in May, focusing on the research project of Alicia Sprow (HCCGE) and Spencer Stober (BIO).

And, finally, Alicia Sprow took a group of students to Dominican Republic in late May where they worked in schools to provide learning experiences for children from impoverished families.  

Real World Learning

Jodi Radosh convened meetings of the RWL Task Force to focus on more project-based learning and internship opportunities for students.  These and other related discussions have led to the development of the new Digital Media Marketing major and the YouTube adventure project, both interdisciplinary ventures.

A comprehensive database of all internship placements was developed in the Career Development Center, and a new Vista project will create more internship sites with local nonprofits.  Focused work with students has led to more students following up by doing internships after a service learning experience introduced them to a nonprofit organization.

The Work-Study Office and the Career Development Center have been integrated to create more opportunities for students to use their on-campus work experiences to create meaningful RWL with specified learning outcomes.

In addition to the dramatic increase in RWL through global engagement described above, new courses are being developed for 2018-19 that will take students to Brazil and Paris.

The Holleran Center received 141 applications for RWL experiences grants, with 110 receiving grants and 93 actually using their awards.  Many of the students who studied abroad were able to do so as a result of these grants. 

Community Engagement

Students from Reading High as well as Olivet Boys & Girls Club joined 225 Alvernia students, faculty and staff for Earth Day of Service at Angora Fruit Farm and Antietam Lake Park with the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department. Participants helped to build fencing for a parking lot, create new walking/biking trails, prepare the garden for growing season, work on the butterfly house and nature play area and complete many other tasks.

The Holleran Center was awarded four AmeriCorps*VISTA members for the 2018-19 academic year. Two VISTA workers will manage the South Reading Youth Initiative with Millmont and Tyson Schoener Elementary Schools. A third will work with the Berks Agricultural Resource Network on a food access policy, and a fourth will work with the Office of Career Development and the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce on connecting Alvernia students with careers in local nonprofit organizations.

The Reading Collegiate Scholars Program served a total of 211 students this academic year through monthly campus visits, in-school tutoring and after-school program at Reading High School (RHS). More than 160 students attended a total of six campus visits over the course of the spring semester. In addition to the summer bridge program, RHS juniors will be on campus this summer for a college success workshop to better prepare them for their post-secondary applications. In addition to the 10 members of the incoming Reading Scholars cohort, 14 additional Reading High School RCSP participants have committed to attend Alvernia in the fall.

South Reading Youth Initiative after-school programming at Millmont and Tyson-Schoener elementary schools averaged about 50 first and second grade students each day this year. About 65 work-study students supported these programs, as well as four service-learning classes in psychology, nursing and athletic training. Transcultural nursing students led health and wellness related activities at Millmont and the Science Association led science activities. Members of the football team volunteered on a regular basis at Tyson-Schoener, forming valuable bonds with students.

By the end of April, 67 Foster Grandparents had served over 40,000 hours in Berks County elementary schools, middle schools, Olivet Boys & Girls Clubs, Headstart Centers and other educational enrichment programs. New partnerships have been formed with the Mañana after-school program at the Salvation Army and Pathstones Youth Mentoring Program. Over the summer, the program will be partnering with more than 15 sites to help engage children in educational enrichment activities, mentor in healthy living and decision making — as well as assist in emotional, social and behavioral well-being.

A new “View from the Vern” digital newsletter aims to engage the community, targeting members of the Berks County Chamber, Berks County school districts, Pennsylvania state government and a number of community partners. 

News Flashes

DPT faculty have been busy responding to issues raised by their accreditation body (CAPTE). Working with a consultant, they are revising their approach to clinical education to ensure students experience a variety of clinical experiences and that the program has sufficient assessment procedures. Many other concerns already have been addressed, and the program will be ready to submit responses addressing concerns by August 15. We will know by November if the DPT program has satisfactorily met concerns.

Reading Eagle Business Weekly recently spotlighted the efforts of Leadership Berks through several articles, showing the organization’s unique focus in building the area's business community through service connections.

The Summer Success Program features 78 incoming students with SAT scores ranging from 790 to 1320, all signed up to participate July 29 through August 2. Many thanks to Sharon Blair who is leading the project along with faculty and staff to ensure an effective introduction to college for these new freshmen. Participants of last year’s program showed significantly better success in math and science courses during their first semester at the university.

In partnership with the Reading Housing Authority, the Bog Turtle Creek Farm is now running a produce stand in the Oakbrook community. This brings the farm’s total market stands to three, which include the Penn Street Market and the Alvernia Campus Market. With assistance from the Berks Agriculture Resource Network, the farm is able to accept SNAP benefits for purchases made at both the Oakbrook Community Market and the Penn Street Market. 

A new Women’s Council is being established at Alvernia comprised of alumni, faculty, staff, students and community leaders. The group is charged with educating and inspiring women to pursue leadership roles, strengthening the connection between women in the Alvernia community and fostering the personal and professional development of Alvernia women at all life stages. Contact Ashley Mikulsky (IA) for details.

A comprehensive project is underway to withdraw VHS tapes from Alvernia’s library collection. Films were evaluated using circulation statistics, faculty usage and librarian input. The library and faculty have worked collaboratively to identify and replace essential content in DVD format.

Women’s golf captured its first-ever MAC Championship at Hershey Country Club. Junior Emily Gilbert (HCS) won her third consecutive Low Medalist honor and senior Cayla McCarty (AT) finished as the runner-up. Head Coach Tom O’Connell was named the MAC Coach of the Year and the Golden Wolves earned a trip to the NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship where Alvernia finished 22nd in the nation. On the men’s side, senior Keith Noonan (COM) won the MAC Golf Championship in leading the Golden Wolves to a third-place finish at Hershey Country Club. Freshman Joe Polidoro (BUS) was named the MAC Men’s Golf Rookie of the Year.

Baseball, softball, and men’s volleyball earned berths in their respective MAC Championships. Baseball won the MAC Commonwealth Conference regular season title and was ranked in the Top 20 in the nation. Softball opened the season with 11 consecutive wins and finished 23-13-1. The team earned a bid to the ECAC Championship Tournament. 


The Office of Career Development provided students with practical advice at a Ready, Set, Intern! Lunch and Learn event at the beginning of the spring semester, followed by Suit-Up! sponsored by JC Penney at the Lehigh Valley Mall. Career professionals from more than 10 institutions across Lehigh Valley and Berks County provided professional dress advice to students who received discounts on professional attire.

Wanda Copeland (HCCGE) worked closely this semester with Sue Guay’s (COM) Intercultural Communication class, challenging students to talk with those with whom they don’t usually communicate and to display what they learned from each other. 

Faculty-led discussions to promote multicultural understanding were also held this spring. Tom Bierowski (ENG) discussed immigration topics such as chain immigration, merit-based immigration and sanctuary cities and John Lichtenwalner (SW) spoke about the mental health stigma.

The second annual All In for Alvernia fundraising campaign garnered 534 gifts and $43,000 culminating is a celebration at MargaritaVern. Thanks to all who helped us eclipse last year’s totals! 

Coming Events

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

Jul. 28: Alumni Night at the Iron Pigs

Aug 20: Mission Day

Aug 21: President’s Breakfast & State of the University Address

Aug. 23: Class of 2022 Move-In Day  > Sign up to volunteer

Aug. 27: First Day of Classes

Sept. 1: First Alvernia Golden Wolves Football Game

Sept. 12: Flynn PLEX Topping Off Ceremony

Nov. 5: FYS Lecture with author Jamie Ford

President Flynn's Newsletter