Donation launches Clarion University center to lead learning innovation

July 23, 2020
 france and allison

Jane France and Chris Allison

Clarion University has established the Center for Engaged Learning and Student Success to provide Clarion faculty, as well as staff and faculty from across Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, with the tools they need to teach and deliver all modalities of academic programs.

The center was launched through a $250,000 donation by Jane France ’71 and her husband Christian Allison, president and member, respectively, of Clarion University Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors. The goal is to propel Clarion University onto the national stage as a model for best teaching practices, no matter the type of classroom (traditional to virtual), to positively impact student success.

"As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded this past spring, we marveled at how expeditiously and professionally Clarion University's faculty team rolled out its remote learning initiative," France and Allison said. "When we asked (President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson) how we could help during the crisis with this gift, she presented this idea."

In spring 2020, higher education institutions were forced to move swiftly to remote education. With an existing strength in delivering remote academic programs, Clarion University was able to accomplish this over the course of a few days, as opposed to a few weeks at many institutions. This was a clear demonstration of Clarion faculty's commitment to students and their grasp of utilizing technology to deliver high-quality programs.

Recognizing this strength, Dan Greenstein, chancellor of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education, has asked Clarion University to partner with California University of Pennsylvania to develop and implement cutting-edge strategies to move faculty State System-wide to the next level of expertise in the new hybrid world. This aggressive move forward will leverage our strengths and provide new opportunities for enrollment growth.

"The generosity that Jane and Chris have demonstrated in support of Clarion University has been exemplary," Pehrsson said. "It is only fitting that their latest gift will help us launch the Clarion University Center for Engaged Learning and Student Success."

The Center for Engaged Learning and Student Success will:

  • Build pedagogical skills for all faculty and staff to promote teaching effectiveness and enhancement of student learning;
  • Explore teaching and learning technologies to make effective, forward-looking investments in software and hardware;
  • Strengthen Clarion University's culture of assessment to guide academic program offerings and focus upon student retention; and
  • Provide strategies, create metrics and assess best practices for engaged student learning, especially as these relate to student retention, degree/career alignment and timely degree completion.

The center will fall under the direction of Dr. Pamela Gent and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, with leadership by Dr. Tim Stevenson, director of field services, and Darla Ausel, manager of instructional technology.

Stevenson is an expert on pedagogy and has taught in both the K-12 setting and in higher education. Ausel has over 20 years' experience as an instructional designer in higher education, specializing in online learning and course development. She co-developed the Teaching Online Certification Course, which is used to certify all online instructors for Clarion University, as well as several other State System schools.

Gent said expected outcomes will be increased student success; renewed connections with our alumni (especially educators); creation of an intellectually diverse, active learning community; increased retention and graduation rates; and positioning of Clarion University as the leader in innovative pedagogy and engaged learning practices that maximize technology to promote student success, retention and advancement to graduation.

The start-up funds provided by France and Allison will be used to:

  • Conduct a comprehensive study focused on new and emerging technologies to identify gaps in our ability to lead on a national level;
  • Identify space and equipment needs for permanent location of the center in the heart of campus;
  • Provide grant support and workshops for faculty and staff to explore and implement best practices and technological developments in teaching and learning; and
  • Provide nationally renowned experts and consultants who will help develop certifications and trainings.

"We expect to compete with for-profit and national institutions," Gent said. "We also expect that we retain Clarion's special brand. Our faculty are known for being excellent teachers who engage and connect with our students. At Clarion we teach, we connect, and because of this, we retain our at-risk students at a higher rate than similar access institutions."


Last Updated 7/23/20