With his inauguration set for Friday, Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Michael Driscoll took time to address some of his students’ queries during a question-and-answer session during Monday’s Six O’clock Series in IUP’s Hadley Union Building.
Introduced by Rick Kutz of the Center for Student Life, Driscoll is the 26th president at IUP. Kutz explained that many students profess ignorance to exactly what the president does and how it affects students on a day-to-day basis.
During the event, Driscoll responded to questions about topics ranging from his personal past to the future of certain buildings on campus.
The first question inquired about Driscoll’s style of leadership as the head of the university. Driscoll said he approaches most tasks with a collaborative style. He said he prefers to confer with other heads of the university and discuss the best option for moving forward. However, one single style of leadership doesn’t work in every instance, he said. Sometimes, a take-charge approach is needed.
Driscoll delved into his background as the former provost of the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he served as the chief academic officer for almost 20,000 students. While working at UAA, Driscoll saw the school become a doctorate-granting university, helped build health-related programs where nursing and medical students worked as teams, and doubled the number of engineering graduates.
He had nothing but the best things to say about Alaska itself, with the scenic views and constant interactions with wildlife. Driscoll’s daughter and son, both students at Alaska Anchorage, still live there.
He was asked to touch on IUP’s investment issues and how the school can grow financially. While IUP always faces financial challenges, he views many of them as opportunities, he said. The current state of the budget may limit those opportunities, but gives him a chance to focus on what’s important.
At this point, IUP is expecting a flat appropriation in terms of state funding. According to Driscoll, this means the amount of funding will remain the same as previous years despite increased costs to the school. Some cuts to programs have to be made, as well as a possible increases in tuition and student service fees.
Driscoll proposed that IUP meet these financial challenges by continuing to contribute to the local economy through innovation and entrepreneurship and fundamental research, which will bring revenue to the school.
He said he hopes to enhance student life and the community by building a close relationship with the community. He encouraged students to be engaged with the borough, and said he has been meeting with borough manager William Sutton on how to be proactive in the community.
We have to work together with the borough and police to be proactive before something happens, he said. He cited the recent “IUPatty’s Day” celebrations as something the school and borough could have worked on together before things got out of control.
Driscoll confirmed there is no truth in the rumor that IUP will make the move to become a Division I school. As a Division II school, he said, there is a good balance between athletics and education, and he wants to keep it that way. IUP must stay competitive across the board, and changing to a Division I school would raise costs with little benefit afterward.
A student asked for the best piece of advice he could give them. He encouraged students to experience what they can now and take advantage of the opportunities they have because they may not come around again. That included paying attention in class. He encouraged students to explore, take chances, make friends and participate in community.
The Six O’clock Series “provides IUP students, employees, and community members an opportunity to learn about current issues and approach familiar topics from a new perspective,” according to the IUP website. Past discussions have been on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the feminist movement in Pittsburgh and co-existence of science and theology.