2021 Faculty-Staff Convocation and Celebration
Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, President, Kutztown University
Welcome to the 2021 Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration. It is with great joy that I speak to the you, the faculty, staff, and administrators today. I am truly thankful that we are able to celebrate, together and in-person at this convocation.
I would like to acknowledge our council of trustee members for all they do for our university! My thanks to Tom Heck, past chair; Robert Grim; vice chair; and Evan Santos, student trustee, for being here today.
We also have the president of our student government, Kayla Sherry, with us today.
Let me also acknowledge my office staff; Toyia Heyward, Pam Rex, and Amy Ridenour.
And let me also acknowledge my wife Ann Marie Hayes-Hawkinson who works quietly behind the scenes to promote KU with many audiences – she is tireless in her support of the university and support of me…
I believe that the purpose of this gathering is to celebrate the accomplishments of our faculty and staff, and to update you on significant happenings at the university and on our progress in moving the university forward.
But let me begin by saying a few words about the struggles we have been through the last year and a half.
It has been 18 months since my message went out to our university community announcing the many changes we had undertaken to move nearly all our functions online or through some form of virtual communication in the spring of 2020. I had often said leading up to 2020 that it would be a year of “perfect vision.” It turned out to be a year of unknowns, continual adjustments to our protocols, and trying to find our way through the deep fog of a worldwide pandemic.
I witnessed the acts of numerous individuals – faculty, staff, students, others in our community – who performed their duties with professionalism and competence. Our wonderful faculty transitioned 1,767 face-to-face classes to some form of online technology in the spring of 2020. This was truly an amazing accomplishment. This past academic year, we returned to campus by offering a combination of classes on campus and through hybrid and online modalities. Our students made many sacrifices in their on-campus experience - all for the common goal of the health and wellness of our campus community under the new normal.
Our faculty have displayed a calm fortitude in working to continue to maintain standards while allowing flexibility and compassion for those students who may have been struggling.
It was the contribution of so many people, from all units on campus and the support of all of you here today, that led to our successful reopening in the fall --- our ability to offer a modified in-person experience for learning and living throughout this past year.
I was in continual contact with the leaders of the university, to include faculty leaders, student leaders, supervisors, health experts, State System officials, and many others. . . Many of these leaders served on our Emergency Management Committee. I want to thank all members of this committee for their tireless efforts in putting our reopening plans together, and the many others who have contributed their time and ideas to this endeavor. I was delighted last year when our council of trustees recognized our Health Center professionals with a resolution thanking them for their selfless actions to serve the health needs of our community during this terrible pandemic.
As we open next week, Kutztown University strongly encourages members of its campus community to get vaccinated. While we do not have the authority to require the vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to help us end the pandemic. We join the CDC in strongly recommending that all members of our university community choose to be vaccinated, unless there are religious or health reasons that would prevent them from doing so.
Kutztown University's mask protocols reflect CDC guidance, based on recommendations from Pennsylvania's departments of Health and Education. We will follow the science and the guidance of the CDC and other health officials. Latest guidance is that while Berks County remains at a high covid level, masks will be required indoors. As with all information regarding the pandemic, the guidance is fluid and we will change as the guidance changes.
Please note that the governor’s emergency order, derived from the CDC and other entities, ended on June 1. This removed the mandate for social distancing in the classroom and other locations, removed the mask requirement, and suspended various special COVID related leave opportunities for employees.
We are committed to keeping our promise to our students and will not convert any in-person classes to on-line.
Should the governor reinstate his emergency order we will certainly comply with all guidelines.
We continue to have in place many safety measures to help prevent the spread of all infectious deceases – please see our full safety plan on our pandemic website.
Let me also inject a few words about the unrest in our country this past year after the killing of George Floyd.
We are well aware of the challenges we have faced collectively as a campus, commonwealth, nation and world in the past year. It is important that we take care of ourselves, and that we take care of each other. We must continue to come together as a university community; to talk, to listen, to comfort without judgment; to have difficult conversations; and to help each other so as to make us stronger as a people and as a nation.
We have done much to address systematic injustices. Last summer, we asked our community for help in addressing these injustices, and over 100 initiatives were developed each with action items attached.
Our Commission on the Status of Minorities, under the leadership of Dr. Arthur Garrison, has been working all year on a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) strategic plan that has since been imbedded into our university’s Strategic Plan.
I also understand that while we have made these efforts to fight against social injustice, there is still a lot of work to do. Words are not enough. We need to proactively seek out the concerns of our students, faculty and staff and continue to develop actions to make Kutztown University even better.
Our vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Dr. Warren Hilton, will speak more on this in a few minutes.
As many of you are aware, Kutztown University, the State System, and higher education institutions across the country are at a crossroads. Here in Pennsylvania especially, enrollments are down, public investment has continued to lag behind the needs of our state universities, and as a result, student debt has risen as our students are forced to carry more of the financial burden. This is not unique to Pennsylvania. These are trends sweeping the nation. It is not a sustainable situation, and that is why there has been a massive System Redesign effort to fundamentally change the operating model of all of the System universities, including Kutztown.
Through the Comprehensive Planning Process, greater accountability has been placed on universities to ensure that their income matches their expenses. While we have done better than most in our enrollment this year, we have been in a downward trend for 10 years, and it is required of us to align our expenditures and workforce to our current complement of students. We have done well. We have balanced our budget for four years and have adjusted our workforce through attrition and greater efficiency – we have not resorted to retrenchment or furlough. All this has been done during a tuition freeze for three years – which we support – inadequate state funding, and rising costs. We have made great progress in meeting the financial expectations of the State System and will continue to do so in the coming year.
Vice president Matt Delaney will go into greater detail on this in a few minutes.
The State System is also in the process of centralizing certain services and in integrating six of our sister schools into two new universities. While we are sharing in certain services, we are not under any consideration for integration with any other school.
Looking to the agenda for this morning, as I did last in last year’s convocation, I will ask each of my cabinet officers and my director of institutional research to update you on the accomplishments and updates from their areas. They will then share some examples of strategic initiatives they have for the coming year.
In addition, we will honor those who have been selected to receive university awards such as Employee of the Month and Year; and the recognition of other honorees and award recipients.
We will also recognize those faculty tenured or promoted effective this fall.
Finally, I will provide closing comments at the end.
Before we move on to these presentations, it is my pleasure to welcome all the new faculty and staff who have joined us over the past year and who are with us today. Ann Marie and I look forward to meeting you all in person at the various receptions we will have at our house this year.
Would those new employees who are with us today please stand and be recognized.
To our new employees…When I began my presidency at Kutztown University in July of 2015, I spoke of “place.” I used a formula: values plus space equals “place”. To simply occupy “space” leads to a very unfulfilling life. But when one adds values to that space - it converts to a “place” – a community wherein one lives and learns and transcends to a level greater than one can reach as an individual.
Kutztown University is such a place – where students can come to a safe and enriching environment, in a beautiful part of the world, and learn, and grow, and mature into enlightened and productive citizens.
This is a wonderful place to live and work, and we thank you for joining our community.
So, to get started with our presentations -- it is now my pleasure to introduce our director of Institutional Research, Natalie Cartwright. Among her many duties, she was instrumental in working with the Strategic Planning Committee in developing our new Kutztown University Strategic Plan. She will brief you all on the process we went through in developing this plan, how it is structured, and the reporting process used to measure success.
Congratulations to all those who were honored with awards, tenure, and promotion --- your dedication to our institution truly makes a positive contribution to our community.
We had many accomplishments last year and many challenges --- and I look forward to the accomplishments to come … as well as the challenges --- they are inevitable but working together we can meet them and come out stronger as an institution.
Transparency and Openness
I will continue to meet with numerous units, offices, and constituents through the course of the coming year. My schedule is provided to the Council of Trustees before each meeting and is public record for anyone to review in the trustee meeting book that is available in the library.
Ann Marie and I will continue to host numerous events at our home. The seventh faculty art exhibit is being hung in the residence now with around 25 works on display, and faculty continue to submit their books for display in the library. Numerous people view the art and books each year, and we are delighted to display the talent and scholarship of our faculty.
In the coming year, I will continue to host a monthly open “office hour” so that anyone can come and speak with me on any issue.
We have in place a number of roundtable/advisory groups and these groups will continue to meet and provide important advice:
- President’s Faculty Advisory Group
- President’s Roundtable on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
- President’s Town/Gown Council
- Provost Faculty Advisory Group
- Human Resources Advisory Group
- Marketing Faculty and Staff Advisory Group
- International Programs Faculty Advisory Group
- Alumni Board
- Foundation Board
- There are numerous other advisory groups such as those serving Instructional Technology, and in other areas.
Of course, I meet with leaders of the unions, senate, and other campus leaders to learn of their concerns and suggestions to improve our university community, as well as meetings with area leaders in business and other professions. I continue to serve on the board of directors for Hawk Mountain and Berks Encore. I am chair of the Board of Directors for the PSAC and chair the board that governs the CBFS. I meet regularly with the mayor of Kutztown and host town/gown meetings at my house for local elected officials, police chiefs, and leading members of the business community.
I pledge to continue to work with the faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, and all other constituencies to do all in my power to continue to move the university forward, to ensure our sustainability, and enhance the important role our university plays in our region and society.
One thing the pandemic taught us this past year is that we don’t know with any certainty what the future will bring…we have learned that there are some things that we can control and some things that we can’t control, but through careful planning, as we talked about today, and our shared experience, we can prepare ourselves for whatever the future brings. Yes, through hard work, perseverance, and grit, we have positioned our university well for the future.
Let us all strive to go forward with a humility and a gratefulness that will unite us as we work to create an enlightened community, and strong educational experience for our students.
And so, this concludes our Faculty and Staff Convocation and Celebration. My best wishes to you all! Have a great year!
IT IS GOOD TO BE GOLDEN!