New year kicks off on IUP campus
In comments that were upbeat and frequently humorous, Indiana University of Pennsylvania leaders Friday welcomed faculty, staff, students and community members to what Provost Dr. Timothy Moerland called “our version of New Year’s Day” — the beginning of a new academic year.
Classes for 14,368 IUP students start Monday.
University President Dr. Michael Driscoll told the audience in Fisher Auditorium he hoped everyone was as anxious and ready as he was to get the 2014-15 academic year started.
He first highlighted some of IUP’s accomplishments of the past year, including the setting in motion of the university’s strategic plan.
“And I am enormously proud of the Military Resource Center” that opened in January, he said, adding it symbolizes all the things the university does to reach out and help students.
Another accomplishment was that ground was broken for two new buildings on campus.
“Remember: Mud is good,” he said slowly for emphasis.
He thanked the audience and the public in general for its philanthropic gifts that he said benefited more than 200 university departments, programs and scholarship funds.
“We had a super year — but it wasn’t perfect,” Driscoll said, referring to the “unwanted media attention” the university received for the raucous IUPatty’s Day celebrations in March by students and other young people in Indiana Borough.
Driscoll said IUP leaders have pulled together representatives from many agencies and disciplines to analyze how to better handle and prevent such rowdy disruptions, which are not sanctioned by the university.
“We all must work together to deal with a nationwide issue on our own local campus,” he said, adding that efforts to prevent similar disturbances are evidence of the university’s deep commitment to the health and well-being of the students and of the community.
Driscoll said flat state funding and declining enrollments created budgetary challenges for IUP, but “we aren’t facing a crisis as some of our sister institutions are,” he said. A bright spot in budgetary matters, he said, is that IUP has paid off its debt on the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
Driscoll told the audience it takes more than a strategic plan to move a university forward. He said IUP administrators last fall reaffirmed they want to produce graduates who are thinkers, problem-solvers and strong communicators. And he reminded the audience that alumni have often told IUP’s administrators and faculty that the relationships the students established at IUP and the care they received while there were meaningful parts of their college experiences.
In his comments, Moerland welcomed new faculty members and 310 incoming international students, a record, he said.
He also gave a “well done” to faculty members who taught or conducted research over the summer and to faculty and staff who worked on curriculum changes and the development of new academic programs.
“IUP is committed to student success,” and not just in classrooms, he said. “This year is incredibly important to us,” in part because of a new approach to budgeting and because it will be the second year of the reaccreditation effort through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. A survey coming in October will be an important component of that process, he said.
Aaron Douthit, a senior nursing major from Stump Creek, speaking for the student body, encouraged the faculty, administration and staff to “invest themselves in the IUP of tomorrow,” and recognize the impact they have on students.
Douthit also encouraged everyone “not to just show up every morning for their job, but to engage it.”
Also offering comments at Friday’s academic year kickoff were faculty union president Dr. Mark Staszkiewicz, University Senate Chairman Dr. David LaPorte and Jessica Halchak of the State College and University Professional Association.
PHOTO: IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll addressed an audience Friday at Fisher Auditorium on campus. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette)