As I enter my 12th year as Alvernia’s president and begin another edition of Flynn Files, let me again welcome new and returning students alike--undergraduate and graduate, doctoral candidates and Seniors College “life-long learners.”
Each academic year brings out the best in our people. New students and faculty bring fresh energy. Cultural events stir reflection. Athletic events build spirit. Student clubs and organizations sponsor wide-ranging activities. First-Year seminars and other courses engage students in pondering “enduring questions.” From our Orientation Service Day to the Mass of the Holy Spirit to the commissioning of student leaders, our Franciscan mission is front and center!
This fall began with a spectacular announcement and the arrival of the impressive Class of 2020! Just consider:
PLEX IS COMING! On their first day on campus, the Class of 2020 helped celebrate the announcement of our largest-ever project: a Recreation, Wellness and Health Sciences Complex, called “The PLEX,” the centerpiece of a new East Campus. Highlights include:
• A multi-story academic wing housing leading-edge interprofessional teaching and learning spaces that will engage students from athletic training, counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing and social work programs to enhance total patient care.
• A massive field house, designed to provide indoor recreation space for all students and an indoor home for our track and field program. Included is a six-lane, NCAA competition-level indoor track and four, full-sized, multi-use sport courts.
NEW ARRIVAL! New and returning students were greeted with a new arrival court and Welcome Center at Francis Hall as well as a grand campus entrance on St. Bernardine Street. Rebuilding of St. Bernardine Street through Angelica Park is nearly complete, with replacement of an aging bridge and addition of new lighting planned for later this fall.
FRESH FACULTY! Sixteen new faculty members, with diverse backgrounds, have also arrived. They will offer courses in Biology, Business, Chinese, Criminal Justice, Education, Nursing, Occupational and Physical Therapy, and Spanish.
SERVANT LEADERS! More than 450 of us served at 17 of the 19 schools in the Reading School District during our Orientation Day of Service, one of four such days annually. Students reported 34,351 hours of community service during 2015-16, with 46 of them each providing 100 to over 500 hours. The St. Francis Day of Service took place on Oct. 1, with several hundred students “branching out” as volunteers at Angora Fruit. Service is indeed deep within the Alvernia DNA!
GET REAL! Ten students have received inaugural Real World Experience Awards. Students were invited to apply for awards of up to $2,000 to defray the costs of enrichment experiences such as study away, non-domestic service learning or Alternative Breaks, credit-bearing internships away from Alvernia or home, and undergraduate research. A second call for applications will be made later this semester.
HOME SWEET HOME! This fall, 52 percent of freshman residents are housed in living/learning communities: Pulse (health professions), Crusader Scholars (honors), #DoWellDoGood (service), and Athlead (student athletes). Forty-three percent of upper division students also live in themed communities.
MORE JUSTICE! The second year of Alvernia’s Justice Everywhere initiative is challenging students to engage in experiences that encourage growth and learning about social justice and diversity. Featured already was a discussion with Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown, Sr., and an interactive drama called Defamation. A Faculty Roundtable Series on human dignity and social justice is among the upcoming events.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK! In partnership with Caron Treatment Centers, Alvernia’s work with college-age students in active addictions recovery continues to grow. Several students in Caron’s residential or transitional programs have enrolled in Alvernia online courses. Caron-run 12 Step meetings for college students began last spring at Alvernia, and a recovery housing community at Alvernia is being developed for fall 2017.
ARTS & CULTURE ALIVE! This fall’s arts events and lecture series has an exceptional line-up. Rep. Charlie Dent (R - PA) will discuss the importance of compromise and civil discourse at the annual O’Pake Lecture (Oct. 31). Col. Cole Kingseed (Nov. 15) biographer of Major Dick Winters (Band of Brothers) will highlight our commemoration of National Military Appreciation Month. A Far Cry (Nov. 17 ) will feature an 18-piece ensemble group with world-famous clarinet soloist David Krakauer. Jason Vieaux, classical guitar soloist, will perform a mix of multi-cultural music and American classics (Dec.1).
TOP COPS! Students in our Criminal Justice program will soon benefit from the expertise of some impressive leaders. An advisory committee of top professionals will review curriculum and recommend changes based on best practice in the field. Included are John Adams, Berks County District Attorney; Tim Daley, executive director, Berks Habitat for Humanity; Andres Dominquez, Reading chief of police; Steve Kristovensky, director of security, Hershey Lodge; Tom McDaniel, director of campus safety, Friends’ Central School; Janine Quigley, Berks County jail; Capt. Kristal Turner-Childs, commanding officer, PSP Troop L – Reading; Eric Weaknecht, Berks County sheriff; Robert Williams, chief, Berks County probation department and Nancy Xavious, PA Commission on Sentencing.
Alumni All-Stars! Four projects focusing on K-12 education and nutritious food education and access are underway, with new PACC*VISTA leadership, including two Alvernia alums-- Madison Kaley '15 and Alex Roche '15 who are joined by Emily Butz and Lauren Lesser. The Pennsylvania Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service selected Alvernia as the only university in the state to host more than two VISTA members for the 16-17 academic year. One of our recent biology graduates, Briana Pearson ’16, as part of the Holleran Center’s Post-Graduate Year of Service, is working with education and science students to bring STEM education to local children from disadvantaged backgrounds. And Alvernia alum Anthony Recker, who played for the New York Mets last season and recently was signed by the Atlanta Braves, is on a roll: through 22 games, he is batting .293 with seven doubles, a homer, and eight RBIs.
Have a great year! Peace and All Good, President Flynn