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October 9, 2003

Jim Evans has seen some ups and downs in Pitt-Bradford’s 40-year history.

web UPB:jim evans:FWCWith 27 years on staff at Pitt-Bradford, Jim Evans has seen some ups and downs in the campus’s 40-year history. The baby boom generation and Pitt’s desire to strengthen its upper division classes on the Pittsburgh campus initially gave feeder campus Pitt-Bradford a steady increase in students.

But the declining population and industry closings in the late 1970s and into the ’80s threatened the college’s existence.

Today, the college is on firm ground, he said. “I think the drive of [former Bradford president] Dick McDowell had a direct effect on not only having our campus survive, but thrive,” Evans said. “His work with the commonwealth and with Pittsburgh [administrators] and the College of General Studies and [Bradford] community leaders and businesses really saved the college,” Evans said.

Pitt-Bradford’s watershed year was 1979, Evans said, when  Pitt-Bradford began to confer baccalaureate degrees.

“But even though that was critical to our institutional history, allowing us to develop the physical campus and especially to recruit and establish an excellent faculty to deliver the programs, I think it really took 12-15 more years until we could say, ‘We have arrived,’” Evans said.

As vice president and dean of Student Affairs, Evans oversees residential life and housing, career services, student activities, health services, admissions, financial aid, counseling services and athletics and recreational sports.

Comparing Pitt-Bradford’s early years with today, Evans said, “Our primary recruiting area is still the six-county area, where we’re the only four-year college, and many of our regional students are still the first in their families to go to college. We still have students in our engineering and pharmacy programs who go here two years and then make application to Pittsburgh,” Evans said. “On the other hand, we have a huge increase in students who come here not to transfer but because we’re their first choice.”

An underrated factor in Bradford’s growth, Evans said, was increasing its athletic competitiveness. “In the early years, we competed with junior colleges, but in 1979 — there’s that year again — we entered NAIA (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) in a few sports. But we got stronger and stronger through the ’80s.”

In 1993, Pitt-Bradford went up to NCAA Division III competition, which further sparked more involvement by students and a corresponding athletics facilities upgrade and more recognition for Pitt-Bradford. “Recognition and success in athletics helps recruitment,” said Evans.

Despite enrollment growth and campus facilities expansion, Pitt-Bradford retains its small-campus feel, Evans said. “We’re a perfect place for students who want a quality liberal arts education from a committed faculty without a big-city environment.” Recruits are usually im-pressed with the campus, Evans said, especially with new facilities such as the Frame-Westerberg Commons student center, which Evans described as “one of the finest student centers to be found anywhere.”

In addition, a symbiotic relationship with the Bradford region is a strength in recruiting. “Town-and-gown relationships are very important here. Many of our facilities were funded in part or all by private funding,” he said.

“And on our part the community in the summer months uses our outdoor athletic fields extensively; we have camps and conferences. Our Bridges Program has scholarships for 30 students from Bradford High School,” Evans said.

Asked why he has stayed at Bradford through thick and thin, Evans said a personal turning point came in his first year. “Don Swarts, who had retired by then (as Bradford’s president), told me: ‘You have the most important job in the college, to serve the students,’” Evans recalled. “I took him at his word and have loved working here ever since.”




Filed under: Feature,Volume 36 Issue 4

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