March 22, 2018

 

Springtime at Alvernia always includes a mixture of rain and unseasonable snow and the resulting messy spots on our otherwise beautiful campus. But this year, there is far more mud than usual. Fifteen acres of it, to be exact. 

As you’ve no doubt noticed, site preparation for East Campus is making rapid progress. Recognizing the PLEX’s positive community and economic benefit for the region, the state has awarded a $500,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to help fund the project. Depending on the continued success of our fundraising efforts, we hope to begin construction on the PLEX in the late spring or early summer. And there is perhaps even better news, especially for commuting students:  by Fall 2018, we will have added about 200 new parking spaces!!

Commencement is always a special occasion, but this spring features two special milestones: our first cohort of Physical Therapy doctoral students will cross the stage, as will our first graduating class of Reading Collegiate Scholars. Both will benefit from remarks by John Hope Bryant, a self-made financial literacy expert, entrepreneur, author and founder of Operation HOPE — the largest U.S. not-for-profit provider of tools to help youth and seniors gain financial literacy and economic empowerment. An advisor to the last three sitting presidents, on both sides of the aisle, Bryant was appointed by President Obama to serve on a council for the Financial Capability for Young Americans, and to chair a subcommittee for the Underserved and Community Empowerment.

Both our DPT graduates and Reading Scholars know well what it means to serve the underserved. Last semester, our senior-level DPT students gained practical experience by working voluntarily with neurological patients who exhausted their healthcare benefits. One Marine who suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident showed significant improvement after being fit with a balance vest, and a Parkinson’s/Dementia patient took his first steps after being wheelchair-bound for many years. You can imagine the impact on our students! Be sure to read more on this experience in the upcoming issue of Alvernia Magazine.

Our Reading Scholars, many of whom work with the next generation of college-bound Reading High students, are some of our most-highly involved students on campus. And I’m very proud to report that 100 percent of the original pilot group that joined our campus community four years ago is on-track to graduate! This cohort boasts a collective GPA of 3.36, with high hopes for the future. In early March, Reading Scholars Datnilza Metz and Emily Zayas took part in a forum organized by Reading High Principal Eric Turman, a three-time Alvernia alumnus, designed to help colleges and universities better serve first-generation students. 

Peace and All Good,

Tom Flynn

 

Board of Trustees

 

Following another inspirational mission moment--by Alumni Council Chair, Meggan Kerber ’96, M’01-- our trustees covered a number of important topics at their spring meeting. Among key action items, the Board approved new degree programs in Athletic Training (master’s) and Sonography (associates). They also approved an honorary degree for our own Bishop Schlert and trusteeship for Guido Pichini, along with term renewals for eight dedicated trustees: Steve Banco, M.D., Charles Barbera, M.D., Cynthia Boscov, Elsayed Elmarzouky, Charles Flynn, Ph.D., Jeff Rush, Peter Rye, and Benjamin Zintak, III.

New Board officers were also elected: Mike Fromm (chair) and Gregg Shemanski (vice chair). Gregg is son of the legendary former football coach from Reading Central Catholic and a prominent lay leader in the Allentown diocese. Faculty and staff will remember Mike’s inspirational message two years ago at the State of the University event. Active in Jewish community work in Reading, New York, and Israel, Mike is the son of Bernie Fromm, an emeritus chairman of the Alvernia board. 

A distinguished national expert delivered an in-depth briefing on national enrollment management trends, and trustees also received a number of important reports, covering action steps to address the serious deficiencies in technology and progress on “Proactive Market Development” (new programs and new locations), a redesigned website and improved “Brand,” enhanced investment performance, and the updated enterprise risk management system. 

A major item, of course, was review of the progress on fundraising for the PLEX campaign. Trustees were delighted to hear that $6.4M has been raised, with much of that donated in the last several months.

The two major discussion items concerned “Presidential Insomnia” topics and the tensions surrounding “Free Speech” and “Difficult Dialogues” on the nation’s campuses. The former included lists of the most serious challenges facing universities, including Alvernia, and some of the special opportunities for progress at Alvernia. The latter topic elicited lively comments from over a dozen trustees, with overwhelming consensus that diverse, even controversial, perspectives should be welcome, providing speakers do not promote what one trustee described as “hate, intolerance, or intimidation.”

 

Budget & Enrollment

 

Enrollment news is largely positive for our full-time undergraduate population. Our Enrollment team successfully brought in 51 (Goal of 35) new freshmen and transfers in January. Upper-class student retention also exceeded goal, offsetting a decline in first-year retention, and contributing to an overall enrollment of 1375, 30 ahead of goal. Even with additional financial aid expenditures due to increased enrollment, we ran ahead of our net revenue goal.  

Interestingly, student financial aid is no longer the top reason for students exiting the university. In fact, there is not any one item or area of concern. As often, our focus should be not on problems but on maximizing the positive benefits of high student engagement in and beyond the classroom!!

Looking ahead, freshmen applications for fall 2018 are running ahead of all previous years. As of early February, applications were up 22% from last year, and accepted student numbers were up 16%. The first full year of football recruiting has been a major factor in these increases, accounting for nearly 60% of the application growth and 70% of accepted student growth. 

As reported in January’s divisional meetings, the School of Graduate and Adult Education (SGAE) experienced a small shortfall through the first half of the year and at present projects a more significant one for winter and spring, with unfavorable projections for 2018-19. A large series of interrelated action steps are in motion to reverse the significant enrollment and revenue shortfalls.

In addition to launching summer session early to increase enrollment, a continuous geo-fencing digital advertising campaign has begun. Already, unique web traffic has increased more than 45%. For the first time, the main SGAE webpage is the top-visited page by external visitors.

Our Master in Clinical Counseling program has been relaunched at the Philadelphia Center. Judy Warchal (psychology) and Dana Baker (SGAE) led a successful campaign to recruit a cohort of students to begin in January. The Schuylkill Center is piloting new recruitment events, aimed at introducing prospective students to their programs.

The online and Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences partnership programs continue to surpass budget goals each semester. The team is also continuing to work closely with Tower Health and other regional health agencies to launch the Executive MBA for Healthcare. Non-credit partnerships are being pursued with a long list of local employers and school districts and also offer opportunities to engage with potential degree-seeking adult and graduate students. 

 

Faculty Excellence

 

As announced earlier, the Board of Trustees approved tenure for Thomas Franek (AT) and Elena Lawrick (EDU & multilingual services), both of whom are already associate professors. Trustees also approved tenure and promotion to associate professor for Kevin Donnelly (HIS) and Ondra Kielbasa (BIO) and tenure and promotion to full professor for Christopher Wise (DPT).

Two long-time professors, Ana Ruiz (PSYCH) and Mary Schreiner (EDU), were approved for sabbaticals, and John Rochowicz (math) was honored with Professor Emeritus status.

Travis Berger (BUS) has been tapped by the Reading Eagle to pen a series of articles on leadership. Recent headlines include “How to add value as a high-performing follower” and “How servant leaders are powerful.”

Greg Chown (OT), traveled to Haiti in January to teach OT and PT students at the Faculte des Sciences Rehabilitation de Leogane. Alvernia’s OT students donated supplies for teaching support.

In January, nursing welcomed a new faculty member. Heather Keperling is a Purdue and Penn graduate with academic and clinical expertise in adult, older adult and mental health nursing.

Mark Kaufman (ENG) gave a presentation on “From Ashes to Ashenden: Maugham, Modernism, and Spyography” at the 133rd Modern Language Association Annual Convention in New York City in January.

In addition, his essay "Spyography: Compton Mackenzie, Modernism, and the Intelligence Memoir" was featured in a special espionage-themed issue of "The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945" (Volume 13).

Adrean Turner (BUS) penned “F.I.T. For Success,” published by Sound Wisdom in January. Turner’s FIT (Fearless, Inspired, Transformed) formula is designed to help readers reach their full career potential.

Ann Kriebel-Gasparro (NUR) was invited to serve on the Commonwealth of Pa Rare Disease Advisory Council. The council consists of patients, healthcare providers and government officials tasked with the long-term goal of creating greater awareness, support and funding for state individuals with rare diseases.

Eric Recktenwald (BIO) is the first author on a paper — “Connections of Anterior Thalamic Visual Centers in the Leopard Frog, Rana pipiens” — published in the neuroscience journal Brain, Behavior, and Evolution.

Bongrae Seok (PHIL) presented a paper "Cognitive Science and Neuroaesthetics of Musical Chills" at the Fifth International Workshop on Cognitive Aspects of Aesthetic Experience (Trnava University, Trnava Slovakia).

Caroline Fitzpatrick (CM) presented “Feminist Strains and Subversive Communication in The Handmaid’s Tale: What We Can Learn About the Struggle for Human Rights from Literature and TV,” at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association Conference. She also served as a judge for the Intellectual Freedom Challenge Essay Contest of the National English Honor Society for High Schools, which inducts over 20,000 student members annually.

Janene Holter (CJ) defended her dissertation “A Quantitative Analysis of Elected Officials’ Beliefs Regarding Addiction and Their Self-Reported Leadership Behaviors” in February.

 

People

 

Jenna Trento, a sophomore theology and psychology major has been selected to participate in the Women’s Visionary Program at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. This six-month program is comprised of an intergenerational group of 65 women who explore different faiths together as well as exploring issues of social justice.

Communication major Gillian Bodnar is studying abroad in Greece during the Spring 2018 semester.

All-American Kristen Sipling is the 2018 MAC Women's Volleyball Senior Scholar. The MAC selects one senior per sport who has combined academic and athletic success over the course of their career. Sipling is the 10th Alvernia student-athlete to receive the honor since Alvernia joined the MAC in 2008.

Senior theology and psychology major Alyssa Keifer put her Fromm Interfaith Scholarship to good use by organizing two campus events aimed at helping raise awareness about the global refugee crisis. A creative simulation event offered participants a first-hand look at the frustration and hardships that refugees face in order to secure water, food and housing. In January, she brought the plight of refugees even closer through a moving program featuring a Turkish refugee family.

Holleran VISTA Daisy Porrazzo ’17 assisted the Berks County Department of Agriculture and the Berks County Resource Network (BARN) with the Bountiful Berks Banquet, which attracted more than 350 business and agricultural representatives from across Berks County.

Cynthia Mensch (Schuylkill Center) earned the Schuylkill County Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year award for 2017-18.

The Office of Career Development welcomed Patrice Williams as assistant director of career development, a redefined position designed to strengthen our services to students. 

 

News Flashes

 

College of Arts & Sciences faculty are engaged in program development for new interdisciplinary offerings in Computer Science, Analytics, Leadership, Advertising and an interdisciplinary pre-law minor. In addition, online course design is nearly complete for new launches in Psychology and Communication.

OT faculty are implementing a new experiential learning model for Fieldwork I requirements. Student experiences are being expanded into non-traditional settings across the life span and community and faculty are working towards integrating service-learning opportunities into the new model.

The SGAE team continues to implement a new customer relationship management software. The team also began adding a centralized application system for nursing graduate programs.

The IT Service Desk handled 9,866 requests by mid-year, up from 9,042 requests last year. Usage is approximately 50/50 between students and faculty or staff. Survey scores remain 4.5 out of 5.0, and the service desk follows up with users that enter scores below 3. Current IT priorities include the phone system upgrade and network infrastructure changes.

A new library subscription to the International Clinical Educators (ICE) Learning Center video database is available to support PT and OT programs. The ICE database provides a video library of actual patients and therapists in real treatment settings as well as faculty toolkit materials.

During the fall semester, librarians conducted 73 information literacy group presentations for 1,223 students, answered 1,096 reference questions and provided 59 one-on-one reference consultations. A new Savvy Scholar workshop series collectively introduced more than 80 discrete skills, strategies and resources to 89 attendees who were 11% undergraduate students, 63% graduate students, 19% faculty and 7% staff members.

The Academic Success Center had approximately 1,719 tutor appointments in the fall semester. One-on-one academic skills coaching is available to all Alvernia students though ASC.

Campus Ministry and Athletics have teamed up to help form a student-athlete group called One Team, which will provide opportunities for athletes (and sports-fans) to embrace and enact the core values of the university. One Team is currently building a constitution and seeking SGA approval. 

Having noticed an increase in mental health appointments, Health and Wellness is launching a new program. Café Pick Me Up is support group supervised by counseling support staff. Topics include winter blues, self-compassion, healthy lifestyles and sexual abuse awareness.

Residence Life professional staff completed Naloxone (heroin overdose medication) training in January. Public Safety and Residence Life now have overdose kits on hand.

The Collegiate Recovery House (CRH) had a successful first semester and expanded to include a second townhouse. Currently, the two CRH communities house seven students and a house manager.

More than 70 students attended a recent Healthcare Networking and Career Fair learning about employment opportunities with over 20 employers. In addition, 52 students in Karen Cameron’s OT Leadership and Management class participated in mock interviews; healthcare employers put students through a simulated half-hour interview asking tough questions and providing constructive feedback. 

A large university taskforce representing many areas across campus is knuckling-down on a major overhaul of the Alvernia.edu website this spring. The project is deep in both structural and design aspects, with the goal of improving user experience on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers.

 

Community Engagement

 

 

During the fall semester, the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program served an average of thirty high school students each day, with 160 students (71 seniors, 43 juniors and 46 sophomores) participating in the program so far this year. Programming at Reading High School is supported by six Alvernia student employees who assist with tutoring, studying for SAT/ACT, applying to colleges, and ensuring that students are prepared to be successful in their high school studies. And 32 of the 71 seniors have applied to Alvernia with 23 receiving acceptance letters.

In December, 46 Reading High students toured campus and met with current students and admissions counselors. Campus visits are scheduled each month during the spring semester.

Programming for the South Reading Youth Initiative at Millmont and Tyson-Schoener Elementary Schools concluded in early December with a holiday party run by Alvernia’s SGA. Each school served about 65 students throughout the semester, with around 50 attending on a daily basis. The programs were supported by 68 Alvernia student employees, 17 OT students who were completing their Level I Fieldwork and two service-learning classes run by Ana Ruiz (PSYCH) and Mary Schreiner (EDU). Members of the men’s soccer team and the Science Association also volunteered throughout the semester. In addition, Coach Larry Zerbe has been providing weekly tennis programming to Millmont Elementary through the Reading Recreation Commissions CORE Tennis program.

More than 250 students, faculty, staff and alumni participated in the 2018 MLK Day of Service at 21 different sites throughout the greater Reading area. Groups visited Sisters at St. Joseph’s Villa, painted bedrooms at Bethany Children’s Home, assembled kits to for cancer patients with club members from the Olivet Boys & Girls Clubs (featured on the Reading Eagle), helped Mary’s Shelter pack for their upcoming move, served lunch to clients at Hope Rescue Mission (featured on WFMZ) and cleared invasive species at Hopewell Furnace. Earth Day of Service will take place on Saturday, April 7. RSVP with your t-shirt size to holleran.center@alvernia.edu.

Currently, 60 Foster Grandparents are serving at 28 sites throughout Berks County. Sites include 12 schools in the Reading School District, 3 schools in Berks County, 7 Head Start classrooms and 6 after-school programs. The program expanded volunteer-site partnerships to include the Olivet Boys & Girls Club at Pendora Park, the Oakbrook Club and the Salvation Army’s after-school program — Mañana. 

 

Kudos

 

Alvernia is one of only a dozen Pennsylvania colleges participating in a national community bank competition this spring. Finance students are working with Tompkins VIST Bank to develop an original case study evaluating how VIST is using technology with day-to-day operations. The project provides students access to senior management of the bank and offers an up-close look at real-world banking practices. Finalists will be announced on May 10.

Students in Ted Hershberger’s BUS Marketing Management class are developing a marketing plan for the Bog Turtle Creek Farm project, with new community partners that include the Food Trust and the Oakbrook Housing Community.

Fifty students have earned competitive Real-World Experience Awards of up to $2,000 to explore unique learning experiences this year. Many of them will use the awards to study abroad or take part in alternative breaks, while others will complete fieldwork or intern at the Washington Center.

Three athletic training students accompanied faculty to the Eastern AT Association Annual Conference in Boston, this January. AT students will also participate in a PA State Legislator Day in Harrisburg.

Seventy-six student-athletes were named to the MAC Fall Academic Honor Roll, up from 53 a year ago. 

The Schuylkill Center hosted a community Blood Drive for the American Red Cross on Feb. 14 and reached 110% of their planned donation goal.

 

Coming Events

 

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

March 28: Celebration of the Holleran Center’s 10th Anniversary, 2 p.m., McGlinn.

April 4: Diversity Dialogue on mental health stigma, 10:15 a.m., SC private dining.

April 4: Dr. King, 50 Years of Commemoration readings, 4 p.m., Francis Hall Atrium

April 6: 5th Annual Social Work Undergraduate Seminar at the Philadelphia Center, “From Victim to Victor: Rebuilding Life After Domestic Violence.” 

April 11: Spoke Word Writers Series Readings, 3:45 p.m., Commons Living Room 

April 12: Dr. Peter Casarella will present “Pope Francis: Herald of a Global Church” for the 2018 Hesburgh Lecture, 7 p.m., McGlinn. 

April 15: Honors Convocation, 2 p.m., PEC

April 18: Celebration of Faith, various campus locations, all day.

April 23: Young alumni panel discussion about first steps into careers, 6:30 p.m., Wolves Den.

May 1: Memorial for Ed Hartung, emeritus professor of criminal justice, 2:30 p.m., FH Theater.

May 12: Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremonies


 

Visit the online calendar for information on all university events.

 

 

President's Newsletter