On tour of the State System of Higher Education’s 14 universities, Frank T. Brogan, the newly minted chancellor, visited IUP on Friday and affirmed his support for local decision-making and undergraduate education, but said the system’s universities need to evaluate their curriculums as a whole.
Friday’s visit was the second stop on his tour, and he set aside about an hour to speak to faculty, staff and students during a forum at Wallwork Hall.
Brogan told the standing-room-only audience that the system’s course for the future should be set collaboratively.
“I’m not Yoda. I didn’t come up here to the commonwealth with all the wisdom in the world in my head. I came here with some experience and some ideas, but the lion’s share of all of that will be us deciding the future of the PASSHE system, it’s place in the commonwealth, it’s place in the country, its place in the world.”
Brogan said that if the system is to maintain its place in a world that is changing, it will have to adapt, especially in its online offerings.
Whereas online education was once simply an “opportunity” to display the talents and knowledge of any given professor, it’s now an “urgency,” he said. “There is a dire need now for access to online education.”
Brogan said the time has come for the system as a whole to assess its online offerings.
And not only does it need to look at what courses the universities are presenting and how, it needs to take into consideration the online services to support those courses, what he called the “back-of-the-house services,” such as financial aid information, advising and counseling and out-of-classroom time with professors.
He said it is important for the system to offer those services.
“If you have a great actor, but put them on a lousy stage with a lousy sound system, there’s something lost in translation,” he said.
On another front, Brogan said that the system needs to do a better job of reviewing existing academic programs and considering the potential for new programs from a systemwide perspective.
But he said that doesn’t mean the universities have to become clones of one another.
“You’re doing things here at IUP that aren’t being done everywhere else in the system. That’s good. But it is a matter of making sure that what you’re doing fits within the rest of the system and then is elevated to a position where people not only know what you’re doing that makes you different but also where the net importance of what you’re doing (can be seen.)”
Brogan said he’d like to have the system organized such that when people talk about PASSHE, they understand how its institutions are different from one another, but that they also understand the sum total of the individual contributions of the institutions.
Brogan also affirmed his support for local decision-making.
“I am a strong believer in local control. I don’t live in Indiana. You do. And therefore you know the needs of this region better than anybody in Harrisburg,” he said.
Still, though, he said that because IUP and its sister institutions are part of a system, decisions cannot be made in a vacuum.
Aside from local control, Brogan said he supports undergraduate education, added that the system’s focus on teaching undergraduates helped draw him here.
“Undergraduate education is why we exist,” he said.