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September 26, 2013

Turning 50:

Three Pitt regionals celebrate the past & contemplate the future

bradford SignThree of Pitt’s four regional campuses, Bradford,  Greensburg and Titusville, are celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year — an appropriate year, it seems, for both festivities and for reassessment.

In 1963, demographics spurred the regionals’ creation as feeder schools for the Pittsburgh campus. Baby boomers had just begun turning 18, swelling the ranks of colleges nationwide.titusville sign

Fifty years later, demographics again are impacting higher education as the number of 18-year-olds begins to decline. In May 2012, the University realigned Bradford and Titusville administratively, placing Titusville under Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander and moving UPT President William Shields to Pittsburgh as associate vice provost. This realignment not only was a cost-cutting move, but signaled a reassessment of Titusville’s future as the smallest campus, and the only one still offering two-year degrees exclusively, that has yet to be settled.

In the meantime, while Greensburg’s anniversary activities already have been completed, UPT and UPB have a full calendar of celebratory activities planned. Titusville’s 16-event celebration began in August ( with a float in the annual Oil Festival Parade. It continued this month with an event marking 50 years since the campus’s first class and will include a tree planting, brunches and other events, concluding at this year’s commencement.

At Bradford (, the anniversary kicked off with a banquet Sept. 3 and stretches at least through Jan. 25, 2014, with the campus’s annual Backpack to Briefcase career-preparation event for students. Receptions and the campus’s 14th annual Penn-York Undergraduate Research Association Conference are planned as part of the anniversary, along with the Alumni and Family Weekend Oct. 4 and 5.

Top administrators on each campus and here in Oakland spoke to University Times reporter Marty Levine about recent developments and the future of their institutions.

greensburg sign

BRADFORD — K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at Bradford, was hired for the latter post in 1976. By 1979, when Bradford began offering bachelor’s degrees, the future of the regionals was clear, he recalls.

K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at Pitt-Bradford

K. James Evans, vice president and dean of student affairs at Pitt-Bradford

“We knew at the time that if we were to remain a feeder college it would be difficult to sustain the institution,” Evans says. “Plus there was a tremendous need for baccalaureate education in the area.”

Today, Bradford offers 40 four-year degrees with more than 50 minors, as well as two graduate degrees on campus and two online. Business and business management are the two biggest majors on campus.

A visit to Bradford last month showed that campus redevelopment, begun in the early 1990s, is continuing. Just this summer, upgraded outdoor athletic fields and courts were dedicated for men’s and women’s soccer, women’s softball, men’s baseball and men’s and women’s tennis.

Prior to the recession, Swarts Hall, an original campus building that houses nursing and other academic programs, was revamped in 2005, along with facilities for the broadcast communications and other arts programs in Blaisdell Hall. The Sport and Fitness Center has grown by two-thirds in the last decade, gaining a new gym, workout room and other facilities. UPB even acquired a house on the edge of campus in 2006 for its criminal justice program, as a place to simulate crime scenes.

Blaisdell Hall was renovated to accommodate UPB’s broadcast communications and other arts programs.

Blaisdell Hall was renovated to accommodate UPB’s broadcast communications and other arts programs.

In all, about $70 million has been spent since 2001 on campus improvements, from fresh paint to new labs and buildings.

That includes three apartment-style residence halls, adding more than 350 beds to campus by 2008, which has proven to be insufficient. For the fourth time in a decade, students this fall have overflowed these facilities and are being housed in a wing of the local Best Western hotel. UPB is seeking the go-ahead to begin construction this fall on a 109-bed residence hall.

“Students are coming to Pitt-Bradford from farther and farther away, which is putting pressure on housing,” Evans says. In its Commons Café, Bradford now hangs the flags of 50 nations representing current international students and students born elsewhere; today,  40 percent of those students come from China. And nearly 20 percent of UPB’s total student body is comprised of minorities in a county, McKean, with fewer than 10 percent minorities.

Yet the overall student population had been dipping since reaching 1,510 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in fall 2010. This year, Bradford expects to match last year’s 1,426 FTE.

Livingston Alexander, president the Bradford and Titusville campuses

Livingston Alexander, president the Bradford and Titusville campuses

Livingston Alexander, Bradford’s president for a decade, sees this year’s freshman class as a hopeful sign.

“We have this year our second-largest freshman class and we have exceeded our target for freshmen” by about 20 students, he notes. The campus also has the second-largest class of transfer students in its history.

“We’re doing well,” he says, including balancing the budget. “We have no aspirations to be a mirror image of the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. So while we are part, and are pleased to be a part, of the University of Pittsburgh, we are charged to serve the rural population of northwestern Pennsylvania.

“We have found that those attributes that most effectively define our image involve seeing ourselves as a safe and friendly institution that allows the students who come to us to receive the full resources of the University of Pittsburgh in a very personalized environment.”

If applicants aren’t looking for a large student body or a more urban environment, then “Pitt-Bradford is ideal for them,” Alexander concludes. “And I could say the same for Pitt-Titusville as well.”

In UPB’s Commons hang the flags of 50 nations representing the campus’s international students.

In UPB’s Commons hang the flags of 50 nations representing the campus’s international students.


Dean Nelson, UPG’s assistant vice president for academic affairs, 2006-11

Dean Nelson, UPG’s assistant vice president for academic affairs, 2006-11

GREENSBURG — According to Dean Nelson, a Pitt-Greensburg statistics faculty member who served as assistant vice president for academic affairs from 2006 until 2011, the relationship between his regional campus and the main campus “is better than it’s ever been. The provost’s office has an openness to ideas that we hadn’t experienced before. There’s a whole new group of people to work with. It seems like they listen to what we say and they’re concerned about our problems.”

Pitt-Greensburg, which has not faced the uncertainties of Titusville, still has been forced to confront the demographic shift, as have colleges nationwide.

“We had a disappointment last year,” says President Sharon P. Smith, when about 100 fewer freshmen came to campus than the previous year.

In 2009-10, Greensburg had an FTE enrollment of 1,728.8; the estimate for this year is 1,606.4. That decline is changing the campus’s operations, and its ways of thinking, Nelson says. “Since our campus is tuition-driven — 95 percent of our revenue comes from tuition — changes in enrollment make big differences in the resources we have to deliver our programs.

“There’s a commitment among the majority of the faculty,” he adds, “to remain as a liberal arts institution, planning an emphasis on a general education in the liberal arts as well as in the career- or skills-oriented courses. In higher education in general, there’s fairly strong sentiment in a fairly large segment of the industry that feels the same way, but we haven’t quite figured out what that’s going to look like in 20 years.

“There are three primary drivers of change in higher education. The first is the economic model that is starting to unravel … The second is, there is now a culture of accountability that didn’t always exist. We have to not only do our job but prove that we are doing our job.

“And the third one is that technology is changing at an exponential rate. Because of these premises … we have to become more efficient and effective.”

UPG President Sharon P. Smith

UPG President Sharon P. Smith

Technology may be the primary solution for many of education’s woes, Nelson speculates. This includes changes in course delivery already being tried, from the interactive TV model used by Titusville and Bradford to the MOOCs — Massively Open Online Courses — offered this year for the first time by faculty members on the Pittsburgh campus. But the latter are free to students, and it is uncertain how they will generate revenue.

“When we think about solutions, every single one of them would require some investment based on faith that they’re going to work,” he says — an investment by the administration. “Which solutions are we willing to fund? We’re hopeful, if we make a strong case for any particular solution, the provost’s office will listen.”

An investment in new programs, for instance, “would require either a rollback of existing resources or new resources,” he acknowledges.

As with the other campuses, investments in UPG’s physical plant have been made over the last five years. The newest addition to campus is Frank A. Cassell Hall, completed last year as UPG’s first sustainable building, which is awaiting LEED certification.

The back of Lynch Hall, UPG’s original building and now its administrative center, was relandscaped over the last two years by the campus beautification community circle, one of several such groups created by President Sharon P. Smith to bring faculty, staff and students together for campus projects funded by the campus budget and outside donations. The group also added an outdoor patio to the Westmoreland Hall residence facility. The Millstein Library gained a new outdoor seating area in 2010, while Chambers Hall opened a new fitness center that year.

While overall enrollment has declined over the last few years, Smith says this year’s freshman class is “just about” at last year’s level. Thirty-nine percent of UPG students are first-generation college enrollees, and about 70 percent are from Allegheny County or Westmoreland County, where Greensburg is located. Although the proximity to Pittsburgh and its growing number of agreements with main-campus grad programs means Greensburg can function as more of a feeder campus than the other regionals, Smith’s plans run in the other direction.

“I want students we will get to keep for four years and they will be our alumni,” she says.

Since 2008, Pitt-Greensburg has added four new majors (chemistry, early childhood education, secondary education and Spanish). The campus will propose Spanish education and public policy majors to the provost’s advisory committee on undergraduate programs this fall.

It also has established the Center for Applied Research, created last fall by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to sponsor interdisciplinary research involving professors and students.

In addition, UPG has designed behavior analysis assistant coursework that will make students eligible to take the board-certified assistant behavior analyst examination.

The changes, Smith says, were instituted either to use existing resources more extensively or to offer education leading to more in-demand careers for students.

The Green Scholars program, created in 2010, also provides opportunities for undergraduate research.

And in January, a new manufacturing management program was begun for nontraditional students. The area is a global leader in precision tooling and manufacturing, Smith notes — an industry that is especially needed by energy companies. But management positions in that industry are hard to fill. Greensburg’s new program (the core of a management major, without the general education requirements) will give companies a chance to send employees for management training.

“We all want the University of Pittsburgh to prosper,” she concludes. “I think of [the regionals] as a family with many children. Obviously, brothers and sisters compete …” but she calls it healthy competition.

“I look at Oakland to try to see opportunities for collaboration that are good for this geographic area,” she adds. But by itself, however, she compares Pitt-Greensburg to Allegheny, Muhlenberg and Washington and Jefferson colleges locally. “This campus has all of the aspects of an elite liberal arts college, where students have personal attention, an opportunity to thrive and really discover who they are. I want to be recognized that way.

“We’ve only been graduating four-year programs a little over 25 years, so all of our alumni are relatively young. But we’re really graduating some successful people who say all of what they are comes from here.”

UPG’s Cassell Hall, the campus’s first sustainable building, is awaiting LEED certification

UPG’s Cassell Hall, the campus’s first sustainable building, is awaiting LEED certification


TITUSVILLE — Audrey Renn remembers being hired in 1979 to assist Joe M. Ball, founding president of Pitt-Titusville, which was then just 16 years old:

“He said, ‘I can guarantee a job for a year, but after that I don’t know what happens,’” she recalls.

Thirty-four years later, having served all the UPT presidents from her desk in one of Pitt-Titusville’s two original buildings, Bennett Davis Hall, Renn has seen many ups and downs. “The physical campus has changed a lot with the addition of the new buildings and plaza,” she says.

And, Renn observes, “It’s much more diversified, a larger student body.”

But some things haven’t changed here. In 1979, when all the regionals were asked to cut expenses, the University first considered the possibility of closing Titusville, then merging it with Pitt-Bradford, just 70 miles away. In 1982, both plans were shelved.

Thirty years later, Pitt opted to merge the two campuses administratively, naming Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander president of the Titusville campus as well. Since the administrative merger last year, Pitt-Titusville has eliminated 12 full-time and four part-time staff positions (almost half through the voluntary early retirement program and by not filling vacancies) but also has added five associate degree programs: criminal justice, biological sciences, computer technology, psychology and history.

State funding cuts were partly to blame for the most recent moves, administrators said, but falling campus enrollment also was cited — from a high of 501.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) students in 2007 to 343 in 2012.

David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management

David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management

When the realignment was announced in May 2012, Pitt officials estimated that the future of UPT would be decided in about a year. Today, David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, says there is “no timetable and no drop-dead date” for a decision on Titusville. “The timing isn’t as important as getting our decision right,” DeJong says.

The bursting demographic bubble of 18-year-olds, DeJong says, means all the regionals “need to expand their recruiting radius and that is a real challenge. It also means they’ve got more challenges from local competitors, including the Penn State system.” Coordinating student recruitment and referral efforts among the Pittsburgh campus and the regionals — including the oldest Pitt regional in Johnstown — is underway and will help, he says, as will strengthening arrangements for regional students to gain entry to Pittsburgh campus graduate programs.

For instance, UPT students who complete 24 credits and maintain a 2.0 GPA are permitted to transfer to another regional. Those who complete 60 credits and have a 3.0 GPA may move to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences in Oakland. Titusville students who complete a year of engineering classes are permitted to continue at the Swanson School of Engineering.

DeJong says Provost Patricia Beeson is pushing to make certain the regional campuses each have separate regional identities: “We want to make the opportunities across the campuses distinct.”

But Titusville and Bradford are “an exception” to the idea of making regionals distinct, he adds. Titusville “is already unique in the sense that it’s a two-year campus” — the only one remaining. Further aligning Titusville and Bradford programs will “help students move to Bradford, for those who are interested,” he says.

“We’re working very hard to do everything we can to make the future of Titusville as bright as we can. But we face real challenges there and the hurdles are high. President Alexander has developed interesting programs and modified programs at Titusville to better serve the needs of the region and those are receiving serious attention here.”

Alexander, interviewed in his office at Bradford, would not detail these programs, saying only that “the chancellor and provost are considering options for moving forward.

“We have made substantial progress in managing the finances of the [Titusville] campus,” Alexander said. “We are working hard to move the campus toward viability, which was what we were asked to do. For the campus to be more competitive, we need to forge a new direction that involves newer, high-demand academic programs.”


The concern for UPT’s future extends beyond the campus. Titusville city manager Larry Manross, part of an unnamed committee of local leaders organized to press for UPT’s continued existence, says: “I’m concerned that there is so much talk about whether they’re going to stay.” Group members met a year ago with the chancellor and provost, and have spoken with Alexander since, but Manross fears the lack of further discussion, or any announced planning progress, does not bode well for the campus.

While committee members aren’t able to quantify the value of UPT to the region, they are certain that its absence would be a blow.

Committee member Karen Jez, superintendent of Titusville Area School District, notes that anywhere from 10 to 30 students of her 140-student high-school senior classes are accepted to UPT each year. The Titusville Promise program, created by Pitt’s Titusville Alumni Association and funded by alumni and friends of Titusville High School, was created five years ago to encourage local UPT enrollment, paying thus far for 43 scholarships each equaling at least 50 percent of tuition. Jez says she discussed with Pitt administrators changing part of her high-school course curricula to duplicate Titusville requirements, creating a more direct pipeline for her students to attend UPT.

“We’ve not had any real feedback from our meeting,” she says. “Nor have we seen a concerted effort to come out and say they are not closing the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. I guess that’s what our committee is looking for. The unknown is what continues to spark our committee to meet.”

Adds committee member Steve Coleman, manager with Northwest Savings Bank in Titusville and a member of Pitt’s UPT advisory board: “I don’t think the uncertainty has been helpful. It couldn’t help the recruiting efforts for the local campus. If we have the student numbers going in the right way, that’s going to be driving the situation.”

Jim Becker, executive director of Titusville Community Development Agencies and another committee participant, estimates UPT’s value to the region “is in the millions, when you start adding in the [staff] salaries, the students who attend and their spending.” The community also benefits from the availability of campus facilities, including its cultural amenities, and of course from the education it provides.

“Titusville is a pretty educated area,” Becker says. “The three most educated workforces in the community are at the hospital … in the school district and at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. Those are the people who sit on our boards and work on community organizations. Having those people involved in the community adds another layer of competence to the leadership in town.”

Rather than seeing UPT retreat or disappear, he says, the committee would like to see the campus make investments in facilities to continue to appeal to prospective students, and to create new degree programs geared to the local shale industry — perhaps in environmental testing, petroleum engineering and occupational health-related careers.

He concludes: “That can really focus what the future workforce can be in western Pennsylvania.”

UPT Dean David E. Fitz

UPT Dean David E. Fitz

David E. Fitz, campus dean at UPT, says he hopes he sees “a bright and prosperous future” for the campus, and that there may indeed be workforce-related programs put in place.

Although he estimates that fall enrollment will be only 325-330 FTE (down slightly from 2012’s 343 FTE, but far below 2007’s 501.6 FTE), Fitz says that the new criminal justice program has been attracting fresh faces to the student body.

“I hope to see us in the next four years continuing to add some allied health-care programs,” such as health information management, he says, and “not only provide general academic programs for kids to move on to the campus in Oakland but add career-related associate programs for the benefit of the region.”

In 2014-15, Fitz says, the campus may begin an associate’s degree program in petroleum technology, which students would complete through an interactive television linkup with Bradford classrooms and faculty, since the program already exists at UPB. He meets periodically with the Titusville Redevelopment Authority, one of Jim Becker’s agencies, to see how UPT and the authority can take advantage of the energy boom here.

In the meantime, thanks to declining enrollments, UPT is phasing out its bachelor’s in business management and human relations, which students had completed with two years of classroom work here and two years via interactive TV with Bradford; the last program participants entered this fall. However, a similarly designed BS in nursing will be undertaken with Bradford in fall 2014, since that program already is in place at UPB and Titusville’s largest program is an associate’s in nursing degree.

In the midst of the current uncertainty about UPT’s future, campus improvements long underway are continuing to be made. In early August, campus workers were revamping the learning center in the Haskell Memorial Library to accommodate additional students.

In January, the J. Curtis McKinney II student union and gymnasium opened at a cost of $6 million as an addition to the older dining facility, McKinney Commons. And a year ago, the tiniest facility on the McKinney estate (which became the UPT campus) was renovated into Serenity House, a one-room study area with an Oriental rug, chairs, a couch and Wi-Fi.

UPT’s J. Curtis McKinney II student union and gymnasium opened in January as an addition to the older dining facility, McKinney Commons.

UPT’s J. Curtis McKinney II student union and gymnasium opened in January as an addition to the older dining facility, McKinney Commons. At right is the tiniest building on the Titusville campus. Serenity House, which opened last year, is a one-room study area.


Back in 1984, when the regionals again were being asked to trim their expenses, full-time faculty complained that reducing the number of faculty in some majors was impossible — several were being taught by one-person departments supplemented by part-time adjunct instructors.

That’s still the case in some departments today, Fitz allows; “We’re a small campus offering small programs,” with only 26 full-time faculty. “We believe we serve a unique need in the area.”

—Marty Levine

Filed under: Feature,Volume 46 Issue 3

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