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Thirteen years of privilege: Reinhard remembers

by Diane L. Reinhard

Reinhard wave

 

Thirteen years is a relatively brief span in the life of a university that has provided 135 years of proud service to students and the region. And yet, the 13 years in which I have been privileged to serve as president of Clarion University have witnessed perhaps more significant changes than any other time in the history of the institution. Changes related to shifting demographics, new technologies, the increased focus on student learning, and shrinking state support for public higher education have all impacted Clarion University and the ways in which we organize and deliver programs and services.

At the same time, much of what we know and cherish as the "Clarion University experience" has remained constant. The fundamental and deeply held values that have guided this university since its founding have endured. Core values such as the belief in the learning potential of students, the commitment of faculty, staff, and administrators to creating opportunities for students to succeed, and a dedication to serving the region and the Commonwealth.

Honoring tradition, nurturing innovation

In reflecting on the ways in which we honor tradition while nurturing innovation, I think first of Clarion's outstanding faculty and their crucial work of teaching. Through the creative and innovative efforts of its faculty, Clarion University develops curriculum that is rigorous while being responsive to the changing needs of students and the region. Clarion's commitment to excellence and to seeking external validation of that excellence has made it a leader within the State System with 26 accreditations or approvals for programs and services.

Technology that has broken down space and time constraints in what we teach, how we teach, and when we teach has enabled both the creation of "smart classrooms" in traditional settings and the provision of anytime, anywhere education through web-based and interactive video courses. Technology has also dramatically transformed the ways in which we conduct business and provide services. Innovations such as Web for Students and Web for Faculty and our state-of-the-art Library with its wireless network support and enhance Clarion's tradition of quality service.

Tradition and innovation have also been closely linked in our development and delivery of collaborative programs, making Clarion University an acknowledged leader within the State System in this regard. Alongside our high-quality traditional undergraduate and graduate programs, we are launching entrepreneurial ventures that respond to economic development and workforce needs of our communities and state. Our new Health Science Education Center and public/private partnership to develop a high technology industrial park are just two examples.

Our Venango Campus stands as a tribute to providing educational opportunities in new and different ways. An evolving resource for the Venango County area for more than 40 years, today's revitalized Venango Campus looks forward to a bright future. Important to that future will be new partnering efforts, such as the campus's recent introduction of non-credit certificate programs aimed at workforce development.

Planning, renovation, and construction

Reinhard Complex Groundbreaking
Groundbreaking for Gemmell Student Complex

 

A respect for both tradition and innovation has also been evident in our planning, renovation and construction of facilities. Guided by our Facilities Master Plan and supported, in part, by the successful completion of our first major capital campaign, we accomplished an unprecedented number of facilities renovations and improvements over the last thirteen years. Key projects included major renovations of Founders, Harvey, and Montgomery Halls, the construction of a new student recreation center, and the revitalization of Carlson Library to become the education and cultural center of our Clarion campus. An outstanding and forward-thinking Council of Trustees has provided leadership and support for these efforts, while an exceptional and entrepreneurial Foundation Board of Directors has spearheaded still more exciting growth with its acquisition last year of 69 acres of property that will be developed into a student residential community.

From its founding in 1867, one of Clarion University's greatest traditions and strengths has been the support of its alumni and friends. However, the degree to which Clarion and other public colleges and universities have had to rely on private support has been a major change in their operations. Decreases in state appropriation have required the shifting of funding responsibility to student tuition and other sources. Through their support for initiatives such as our Investing in Futures Capital Campaign, Spring for Scholars auctions, and affinity programs, Clarion's alumni and friends have responded generously, helping to ensure that Clarion University is able to provide a critical margin of excellence.

Our work together shapes future

Our work together over the last thirteen years to honor tradition while nurturing innovation has been shaping the future of Clarion University, preparing it for its next level of excellence. The needs of students and the region will continue to change, technology will continue to transform learning environments as well as administrative processes, and the pressures of competition and financial constraints will require even more aggressive and creative efforts. I am confident, though, that with the wonderful dedication and hard work of its faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends, Clarion University will not only survive but thrive in what is certain to be a dramatically different world.