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July 20, 2006

UPT president wraps up 1 year

Pitt’s Greensburg and Johnstown campuses are preparing for a transition following announcements that their presidents plan to retire June 30, 2007. But Pitt’s smallest regional campus is ahead of the curve, having undergone a change in leadership following the retirement last August of Pitt-Titusville President Michael A. Worman.

His successor, William A. Shields, is wrapping up his first year as UPT president on what he and other campus leaders agree is a positive note.

“Dr. Shields’s first year here has gone very well,” said UPT Faculty Senate President Richard P. Mulcahy.

Kathleen Plyler, president of Titusville’s staff association, agreed. “It’s really been good,” she said, commenting on Shields’s positive attitude toward the UPT staff.

“He’s very supportive of the things we do,” she said, adding that the new president’s backing isn’t limited to job-related issues, but also is demonstrated by his participation in the staff’s charitable projects.

He maintains communication with the staff, stopping by offices to say hello as well as by addressing the campus staff at least once a semester at their regular weekly meeting, she said.

“We have the feeling that he recognizes the value of our work,” Plyler said. “We’re glad to have him here.”

Plyler also commented that Shields’s efforts to increase the number of bachelor’s degree programs offered at UPT are supported by the staff. “We think it’s a positive thing for the campus,” she said. “It brings more students to us.”

Mulcahy noted that Worman had been head of the campus since 1988. “When you have a president that was in place that long, a certain rhythm sets in,” he said. “You wonder what sort of an individual you will be getting. There’s always an element of concern.”

Mulcahy said those concerns were allayed quickly when Shields arrived: Shields takes an active interest in the academic aspects of UPT’s mission; he strives for transparency in his leadership and is personable and approachable.

In addition, Shields’s administrative experience, particularly as interim president of Pitt-Bradford from 2002 to 2003, has served him well at UPT. “He knew the system,” Mulcahy said. “There was next to no learning curve. He was able to settle into the president’s chair and hit the ground running.”

Shields, in a separate interview, acknowledged that his first year at UPT has been one of “getting to know you.”

“Every institution has its own personality, its own character,” he said. “[UPT] is a very friendly, welcoming place. The faculty and staff are very, very capable and dedicated, but just as importantly, they’re nice people,” he said.

“I hope what I’ve been able to do is reveal what kind of person, what kind of administrator I am,” he said, describing himself as open and collegial, yet a “stickler for doing things the right way.”

Shortly after his arrival at UPT last fall, Shields outlined issues he viewed as focal points. A year later, he revisited each with a progress report on what’s underway. “It’s been a very enjoyable year,” he said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

• Conducting stronger recruitment in northwest Pennsylvania

Shields said UPT’s fall enrollment is ahead of last year’s figure by 40-50 full-time students. Recruitment efforts are concentrating on direct applicants from the region and on “single-option” applicants who have selected UPT as their only choice.

Increased enrollment in UPT’s fledgling nursing program also is boosting the numbers.

• Developing additional cooperative baccalaureate programs with other four-year colleges in the region

Continuing cooperation with Pitt-Bradford has yielded two recently announced four-year degrees that will be available on the Titusville campus.

In addition to a four-year business management degree, human services and criminal justice programs have been added. “Three baccalaureate programs will be in place by the end of this academic year,” Shields said. Degrees are granted by UPB, but students are able to do the work at the Titusville campus through a combination of distance learning and UPB professors traveling to UPT.

• Developing additional health-related programs

The UPT nursing program, which will graduate its first students in 2007, is the current focus. “It has great potential for us,” Shields said. The incoming class size has been increased from 30 students to 35 and recruitment efforts, which got off to a late start last year due to state program approvals that did not come until July, have benefited not only from having a full recruiting season but also from having a year’s experience behind the program.

Looking ahead, Shields said, the program will be able to seek accreditation once its first class graduates. The accreditation, which could be in place in approximately two years, is likely to make the program more attractive, he said.

Right now, attention is focused on the nursing program, but UPT is assessing the community’s needs for other health care professionals with a long-term eye toward offering additional programs.

• Developing additional continuing education classes and certificate programs

Shields said the campus’s eight certificate programs are being evaluated to determine which should continue, which should be modified and which should be dropped. The issue will be revisited in a year, he said.

• Expanding the UPT Alumni Association

“In the past year we’ve laid the groundwork for a real alumni association,” he said. The group has grown to 85 dues-paying members who will be recognized as charter members at a social gathering this October. A planning committee will be formed, with a goal of electing officers next spring. Shields said a strong alumni group will raise the campus’s identity and aid in recruitment.

• Nurturing the relationship between the campus and the community

The campus, Titusville’s third-largest employer (behind the local school district and hospital), plays a strong role in the community, Shields said. “We’re a very important part of the economic environment,” he said.

“It’s important that the president be visible in the community,” Shields said, noting the symbiotic relationship between an academic institution and its community. Shields believes the president plays a strong role in setting the tone for the town-gown relationship, adding that he and his wife, Judy, have made it a priority to become active in community events and organizations.

Shields has joined the local Rotary club, addressed community groups including local participants at the National Day of Prayer and represented UPT in projects with the Titusville Chamber of Commerce and Titusville Redevelopment Authority. His wife has become active in community theatre and the Titusville Garden Club.

• Demonstrating to Oakland that UPT is and will continue to be a significant player in the overall mission of the University

Noting the campus’s economic impact in its community as well as its role in educating students who will earn degrees or certificates at UPT, or be prepared to transfer to the Pittsburgh campus or other schools, Shields said he is outspoken in raising the image of UPT as an integral part of the Pitt community whenever he has the ear of administrators in Pittsburgh.

Melanie Anderson, UPT’s interim vice president for Academic Affairs, agreed that with the addition of new four-year degree programs and the prospect of revamping certificate courses, “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

The lone snag this year, she said, was the result of “growing pains.” The retirement of four of the campus’s 24 full-time faculty members, the creation of new business and nursing faculty positions and the addition of 10 adjunct professors has brought a lot of change. “For a small place like this, that is a lot of new people to mentor along,” she said.

Anderson said Shields has been well received on campus. “He is very open to faculty and their ideas and concerns,” she said.

“He is a good fit for the campus and a good fit for the campus now,” Mulcahy said, characterizing Worman as a builder of the UPT campus and Shields as one who will “grow” it. “[Worman] brought it to a certain level. Dr. Shields now has the vision to take the campus beyond that,” Mulcahy said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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