Family Weekend Parent
Q and A
This weekend was Family Weekend at Susquehanna. Activities
included the delightful fall musical, She
Loves Me, a fascinating lecture by Ed Slavishak on the surprisingly
dangerous early history of automobiles in the region, an exciting football win,
and numerous receptions and social activities including an open house and a
legacy reception at Pine Lawn.
I also hosted a question and answer session for families.
Here are a few points from the conversation.
Q. Why do you think
there is such a good “town-gown” relationship between the University and
A. The University was sponsored by members of the community
in 1858. They provided support for the new Missionary institute as long as the
Female College and Classical Department were also established to provide a
liberal-arts education to their sons and daughters. The Female College was on Market
Street and both men’s programs were just blocks away. There has been a
sustained and mutually beneficial relationship between the town and the University
for 160 years. The presence of Susquehanna banners along Market Street in
between those for Selinsgrove gives me great pride.
Q. How will
Susquehanna be different five years from now?
A. We are expanding our service activities, especially in
Action Research. This will provide a point of contact on campus to which
community organizations and businesses can bring research questions and
projects to the University. We will identify appropriate faculty members and
groups of students to undertake the problem and develop a response for the
community partner. These could be business feasibility studies for local
start-ups, or a budget plan for a non-profit organization. We will also expand
the number and geographic footprint of student service projects as we develop
programs like SUSL (Susquehanna University Service Leaders).
I am confident that we will also be expanding our efforts in
sustainability and environmental studies. The research our faculty and students
are already undertaking in support of the Susquehanna River and its tributaries
is already having a regional and national impact. The University is
establishing strong partnerships with a variety of environmental organizations
and other Universities as we take action in addressing the health of our
We will also be breaking ground soon on the largest solar
farm at any college or university in Pennsylvania. This will not only benefit
the University financially while reducing our carbon foot print, but it will be
a visible affirmation of our commitment to environmental stewardship.
Q. What do you see as
the University’s biggest threats?
A. The first is reputation. A recent survey showed that
within one party, a majority of respondents stated that colleges and
universities had a negative impact on the United States. The current lifetime earnings
of a college graduate are approximately $1 million greater that those who have
not attended college. Contemporary media denigrate liberal arts colleges
despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. The survey I frequently cite that
identified Susquehanna as having the highest employment rate of its graduates
among all Pennsylvania colleges and universities listed the leader in each
state. Not only were we 9th in the nation, but 9 of the top 10
institutions were private, residential, liberal arts institutions. We prepare
students to enter an ever more dynamic world of work with the flexibility to
take on new opportunities and to navigate a fluid professional environment.
From its founding, Susquehanna has had a commitment to providing
a transformative education to students without regard to their financial
capacity. As a result, we have matriculated and graduated a large percentage of
economically disadvantaged students. I can think of no better way to improve
the prospects of young people, but our limited resources make this remarkably
challenging. Our ability to support, retain, and graduate those students
remains my greatest concern.
Q. Do you see the
University getting much larger?
Our current plans have us growing incrementally throughout
the coming years. The upcoming graduation of a particularly small class this
May will create a noticeable bump in our campus population next fall. There are
benefits to controlled growth. Some expenses grow with the population (general
staffing and course offerings per capita), some remain singular (president,
chaplain, etc.), and some have trip wires (a residence hall). We need to plan
carefully so that we position the University to ideally distribute expenses and
provide the most benefit for all. I am also committed not to place the burden
of any future buildings on the operating budget, so planning will be important
to secure necessary philanthropic support to accommodate future growth.
Q. Could students
from other institutions participate in GO experiences with Susquehanna
Yes, some students participate in GO Long programs now that are
overseen by third-party providers. These programs place our students with peers
from other universities across the U.S. and sometimes from around the world. GO
Your Own Way proposals could also include students from other institutions if
compelling proposals are developed by the students. We may also look at how we can
systematically offer certain GO programs to students from other institutions as
a revenue source that could underwrite some of the costs of programs for our