Trustees Updated on Enrollment, Remote Learning, Integration

Sep 21, 2020

The Sept. 16 quarterly meeting was also the first for two new members.


Cal U President Geraldine Jones updated the Council of Trustees on the decision to continue with remote learning for the fall semester, the integration with Edinboro and Clarion, and the ongoing Middle States evaluation at the group’s quarterly meeting Sept. 16. 

It was the first quarterly meeting for two new trustees, Sandra Guthrie and alumnus Justin Nwokeji ’05, who joined the council this summer. 

“This may not have been the semester we had hoped for, but once we made the decision, our faculty and staff found new ways to connect with students and engage them in academics, support their Cal U experience and keep them involved in campus life,” President Jones said at the meeting, which was held via Zoom.  

“Whether we can resume on-campus learning in spring remains to be seen, but we have solid plans that will guide our return if conditions are favorable – and a faculty and staff who can manage well no matter what the future may bring.”

In July, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania and across the country, Cal U announced that all courses would be delivered remotely for the entire Fall 2020 semester.  

“I want to commend the leadership that you, your Cabinet and staff have displayed during this pandemic in keeping the university moving in the right direction,” Council of Trustees chair James T. Davis told the President. 

President Jones concluded her report by saying the third and final phase of the Middle States evaluation, the peer review originally scheduled for this past March on campus, will be done remotely. 

A variety of groups, including the trustees, are scheduled for Zoom meetings with the Middle States team. 

“The peer review is critically important. Ultimately, it will determine whether Cal U meets the requirements and standards required for accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education,” President Jones said. 

“A great deal of work has gone into our self-study, and I have seen that culture of assessment taking root. “ 

 In other business: 

Dr. Daniel Engstrom, interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, reported on a new advising program, Appreciative Advising, a student-centered approach that personalizes the academic advising and course scheduling experience to meet students’ individual needs. 

He also complimented the faculty for adjusting to teaching online for the semester. 

“Teaching online is very different than teaching face-to-face, and the learning curve to that is tremendous. I just want to say ‘thank you’ to our faculty for doing a fantastic job.” 

T. David Garcia, vice president for Enrollment Management, reported encouraging enrollment numbers — a 0.63% in fall headcount from a year ago. 

He also remains optimistic about enrollment projections moving forward, citing several resources, including the ReUp Network. Cal U was among the first universities to join the national initiative, which provides a path to graduation for students who have some college experience but no degree. After one year of this partnership, Cal U has enrolled 42 students for Fall 2020; Garcia said that figure could double in a year. 

Robert Thorn, vice president for Administration and Finance, updated the trustees on budget and finances, and the pandemic’s influence on those numbers. He also provided an update on the Campus Master Plan, which will reduce the campus footprint by about 174,000 square feet. 

Thorn, who now oversees athletics, reported that 184 student-athletes earned PSAC Scholar-Athlete status (3.25 grade-point average or higher) and 253 made the Athletic Director Honor Roll (3.0 or higher). Collectively, Cal U’s teams earned a 3.52 overall GPA. 

Dr. Nancy Pinardi, vice president for Student Affairs, reported on the ways her staff welcomed students with a wide variety of educational and entertainment programs and activities as part of this year’s Welcome Weekend.  

The core of the original Welcome Weekend program stayed intact after the shift from an in-person program to a virtual program, she said. To promote engagement and help new students adjust to college life, Student Affairs organized educational and entertainment programs that will continue through the first 30 days of the semester. 

Christine Kindl, vice president for Communications and Marketing, discussed how the Welcome Center — often the place where students and their families get their first impression of the University — was reimagined after its move from Eberly Hall to the Natali Student Center. 

The creative services team worked with the Admissions Office and Facilities Management staff to transform a portion of the bookstore into a space that both welcomes and informs families while reinforcing Cal U’s brand. Wayfinding signage installed throughout the student center will help future students and families find their way to the new Welcome Center. 

Anthony Mauro, vice president for University Development and Alumni Relations, reported that his office has raised more than $4.8 million in cash donations and pledges for fiscal year 2019-2020, which exceeds the division’s eight-year average. This total includes $2,651,370 in cash donations, an increase of $621,349, or 31%, over the division’s eight-year average. 

The Council of Trustees is scheduled to meet again Dec. 2.