At the university's August 26 opening meeting, Interim President Barbara B. Dixon welcomed LHU faculty and staff to the start of the academic year.
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. - Lock Haven University’s opening meeting on August 27 provided Interim President Barbara B. Dixon with her first opportunity to address university faculty and staff as a whole. After a brief introductory summary of her background and education, Dr. Dixon described her role as interim president and outlined the goals and challenges of the year ahead. Lock Haven University is a member of the Pennsylvania State
System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the largest provider of higher education in
the commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 250 degree and certificate
programs in more than 120 areas of study. Nearly 405,000 system alumni live and
work in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Dixon stressed that she is not a candidate for the permanent presidency. Her role is “getting the place ready for a new president.” “That means,” she said, focusing on “the big issues that will set some momentum going.”
The first area of focus is completing the university’s strategic plan and linking the annual budget process to it. In addition, the university will work on a comprehensive assessment plans. These plans will include data collection and analysis, and using the results to make improvements across the institution. The strategic plan and assessment plans will comprise a report to Middle States Commission on Higher Education due March 1.
Dr. Dixon explained the ongoing relationship between the university and the LHU Foundation. The foundation exists to support the university, though the two institutions are now legally separated and no longer co-mingle their employees and operations. Dr. Dixon stated that she will work closely with the foundation, led by Executive Director Keith Barrows, to continue to raise funds for the university. She placed particular importance on the Science Center planned for East Campus and on planning for a major capital campaign.
The budget is another of the “big issues” identified by Dr. Dixon. “I wish I could give you some great news about the budget,” she said, “but I think you all know that our resources reflect the state of the economy in the Commonwealth.” “This is our biggest challenge.”
She added that the budget situation is “not our doing.” “We can’t control the economy,” she said.” Instead, the university must focus on how it can adapt and meet the challenges ahead. “It’s not what happens to us that will make the difference – it is what actions we take that will make the difference.”
Another area of focus for the university is revision of its mission statement. Dr. Dixon recognized that “there is considerable tension that centers on the question of liberal arts and professional programs.” “It is not a unique question,” she noted, “but one that is prevalent in many schools our size whose roots are in teacher education.” She expressed her hope “that we can use that tension creatively—it doesn’t have to be on or the other.”
She explained her belief that a liberal education (not to be confused with the use of the word liberal in politics) is “one that liberates one from ignorance, dogma, and subjugation; that is more about developing the habits of mind than it is about being tied to specific disciplines; so that our students graduate with the ability to think critically, analytically, to separate fact from opinion, to write a persuasive argument, and to be creative and flexible." She urged her listeners to “use that tension in creative ways to benefit all our students in these desired learning outcomes” and to “find a way to have the mission statement truly reflect what we are, who we serve.”
Service to the region is another component of the draft mission statement. Dr. Dixon cited many of the ways in which LHU serves the region. She added that "the Clearfield branch campus and the recent PA expansion into Coudersport are a reflection of our ongoing commitment to the region we serve."
Finally, Dr. Dixon described a recent discussion with students. When she asked the students why they chose to attend Lock Haven University, they all cited the same things: personal attention from their professors, academic challenge, beautiful campus, and being part of a community. “Without knowing it,” said Dr. Dixon, “They were describing The Haven – small college lifestyle, big university education.” “As we start the new semester,” she said, “let’s remember that in spite of the financial difficulties and challenges the university faces, there are 5000 students about to enter campus and they are why we’re here.”
Dr. Dixon ended her remarks with a personal observation that echoed the sentiments of all those present: “After 40 years in higher education, I still get an incredible rush when I see the campus come alive with students – so in two days it will be ‘ready or not, we are into another year.’”