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September 26, 2013

UPJ search forum stresses regional concerns

JOHNSTOWN — The ability of the regional campuses to affect the selection of a new chancellor — and the new chancellor’s involvement with the regionals — was foremost on the minds of the 30 people in attendance at the first regional-campus forum offered by the chancellor search committee, held here Sept. 23.

The discussion was overseen by three people involved in the search committee: secretary B. Jean Ferketish, who is also secretary of the Board of Trustees and assistant chancellor; member Jerry Samples, mechanical engineering faculty member and former vice president for academic affairs at UPJ, and member Suzanne W. Broadhurst, a trustee. Broadhurst moderated the event, which gathered suggestions for replacing Mark A. Nordenberg upon his retirement next Aug. 1.

Robert W. Knipple, of UPJ alumni and community relations, hoped the new chancellor would be “someone who has proven experience and success managing an operation in multiple locations.”

He also expressed optimism that there might be “opportunities to engage the regional campuses a little more, to have the chancellor come here to meet the staff, to meet the students … We’d welcome the opportunity to show some of the great things we’re doing and brag a bit and become a little more a part of the University of Pittsburgh system.”

Could UPJ representatives meet the candidates via videoconference before one is selected? Knipple wondered.

“I’ll put it on the idea list,” said Ferketish, “but we’re not anywhere near this.”

“What input do the regional campuses have in the selection?” came another question from the crowd. “Does the candidate come here in any way?”

Broadhurst and Samples said that faculty, staff, students and alumni could make additional suggestions, following the forum, by filling out the online survey at the search committee website.

“As soon as the candidates become involved in the process, the process becomes very confidential,” Ferketish cautioned.

Candidates whose names are revealed during the search process often react by withdrawing their names from consideration, added Broadhurst. The search firm hired by the committee has stressed the importance of confidentiality.

“We really feel that we don’t want to compromise the search,” Broadhurst said.

Samples explained that the process of replacing the chancellor would not be identical to the 2007 effort to hire UPJ President Jem Spectar. “He was hired for this campus,” Samples said. “He came and talked to everyone.”

Samples also assured the audience that, given his membership on the committee and that of Livingston Alexander, president of Pitt-Bradford and Pitt-Titusville, “we’ll have quite a high percentage of say, because not all the Pittsburgh units are represented.”

Broadhurst also reiterated her affection for the regionals.

“I’m very attached to the Titusville campus,” she volunteered. “There is a Broadhurst Science Center there.”

Jacob Easley II, chair of UPJ’s education division, hoped that more could be done by the new chancellor to retain regional students, even beyond their baccalaureate degrees. “We lose a lot of our students when they graduate because they all want to move to Pittsburgh to continue as graduate students,” he said. “If we can think of ways to continue to shore up relations with Oakland to keep people close to home. …”

Knipple noted that UPJ offers one graduate degree — the Master’s of Social Work — and has commitments from five graduate schools on Pitt’s main campus to take Johnstown students who fulfill specific requirements.

“But it isn’t in our interest financially …” he added. “If we could look into sharing some of those programs, I think it would be beneficial.”

After the forum concluded, Paul Douglas Newman, UPJ assistant vice president for academic affairs, said: “The University and its four regional campuses together ought to do more concerted planning together … It’s something I hope the new chancellor leads us toward.

“I appreciate being asked what I want in a chancellor, what the opportunities are for our great system and what problems might arise. I think this ought to go on more often than every 17 years when we need a new chancellor. I’m hoping the chancellor comes out here more often than when we inaugurate a new (campus)president.”

Those in attendance had other, broader suggestions for the selection of the next chancellor, including hopes that the selected candidate be from academia and enjoy working with undergraduate students.

Jake Wolff, one of only two students who spoke, said, “I would really like to see our next chancellor have a greater strength in arts and sciences … That’s the core of the academic mission.”

Added Judy Freedman, program specialist for study abroad in international services: “And I’ll go out and say it: a female. I think that would be wonderful.”

Penny Suwak, director of the real world career services office, hoped the next Pitt leader would keep in mind “how technology is taking away many of the jobs our students are working toward” and be able to adjust academic programs accordingly.

“There is still an untapped market of first-generation students here,” added Newman. As coordinator of the Mountain Cat veterans program at UPJ, he also hopes the new chancellor will work toward attracting more veterans as students by offering degree programs that tap into veterans’ skills.

“It’s a big opportunity to do the right thing but also court a good group of students … who really enhance a campus by their presence,” he said.

Knipple projected that the biggest challenges facing Nordenberg’s replacement would be sustaining or growing enrollment and state funding, while alum and current student Chris Stumpf opined that by not offering enough technologically enhanced courses, “this is one area where Pitt may be losing ground.”

Samples assured forum participants that the search committee already had begun to meet, and “without a doubt this (committee)is looking out for the best interests of the University and looking out for somebody like the descriptions we’ve gotten here.”

“We’re going to find the best person we can possibly find,” concluded Broadhurst. “We hope it doesn’t take a long time. But if it does, we’re going to take the time …

“It’s going to be done and done well and we’re going to come back and celebrate this selection.”

At press time, regional forums were being held at Pitt-Titusville and Pitt-Greensburg. The Pitt-Bradford forum will be Oct. 2 in the campus’s Frame-Westerberg Commons Mukaiyama University Room, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

—Marty Levine

Filed under: Feature,Volume 46 Issue 3

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