Published DatePLYMOUTH—While discussing with an audience of Plymouth State University faculty, staff, students, and guests the successes of the previous year, President Sara Jayne Steen yesterday also explored the challenges facing public higher education and Plymouth State as the university "builds for the next generation."
"Who will our students be, and how do we provide the education that will transform their lives?" asked Steen.
In her sixth annual State of the University address delivered to the campus community, Steen says the university's commitment to educational innovation and student success has been nationally recognized, but no institution can be static.
"Responding to challenges means being nimble and engaging in constant planning and adjustment and readjustment, bringing good minds together in ongoing conversations about Plymouth State and serving students," Steen said. "Higher education must be accessible and offer high quality if our nation is not to leave behind those who are the first in their families to attend college or have fewer financial resources on which to draw — and many of us here today would have been in those categories."
Through technology, Steen noted, PSU faculty started offering four undergraduate degrees fully online as well as on-site — Business, Communications and Media Studies, Criminal Justice, and Nursing (the completion program for registered nurses). The university's online MBA, offered for more than a decade, has been ranked among the top 20 online programs in the nation.
"Through the College of Graduate Studies and the Division of Online and Continuing Studies, PSU this year had 5000 online enrollments, for 15,000 credit hours, one-half of all online programming offered by the University System. . . Those courses and programs provide wonderful flexible opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students who are working or overseas or place-bound," Steen said. At the same time, the university is making the classes on the residential campus even more value-added, with exciting undergraduate research and creativity, international opportunities, and engaged learning.
Steen noted PSU is looking to the evolving needs of the state and region as part of its mission as New Hampshire's public comprehensive university.
"New Hampshire has an aging population and a need for health care professionals, as does the nation," Steen said. "The recently established nursing program, geared toward the advanced 'nurse of the future,' had two external reviews this year and was highly praised."
Steen added that the university's achievements in sustainability are being recognized nationally, with PSU being recognized in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America. Students also played key roles in the past year in updating a sustainability handbook, developing a green office program and participating in a popular community trash cleanup program.
"Initiatives like this demonstrate creativity and care for our region," Steen said.
In praising faculty, staff and students for their good work, Steen acknowledged the challenges the University faces in the reduction of state support.
"Even before the legislative reductions of the last biennium, we were cost-effective and prudent, spending approximately 20 percent less per student than many comparable institutions, and with a higher proportion of that spending applied to direct instruction." The University hopes the legislature will provide support to allow the University to freeze tuition for New Hampshire students.
Other highlights of the past year include:
— The Museum of the White Mountains, designed to preserve and promote the history, culture, and environmental legacy of the White Mountains opened in February, establishing PSU as a place for learning about the White Mountains region.
— Groundbreaking on the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, a business incubator and accelerator developed in partnership with the Grafton County Economic Development Council, is due to open in August with the goal of helping small businesses and creating jobs.
— International Education The Center for Global Engagement in Mary Lyon Hall opened last fall, offering a place for all students to gather for international events and global programming. The University's Global Education Office was also recognized for "innovative work in education abroad" by the Center for International Studies.
— PSU was again named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, with PSU students contributing hundreds of thousands of hours to community engagement in our host communities and region.
— The University awarded its first Doctorates in Education in Learning, Leadership and Community; PSU initiated the program in 2009, and it was met with an enthusiastic response from education professionals.
— PSU is partnering with our host community of Plymouth in celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Town of Plymouth, and community members from town and campus participated in an original historical musical, Marking the Moment.
— PSU received a Suicide Prevention Grant of $278,000 from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to assemble a Suicide Prevention Advisory Board of campus and community partners to increase mental health awareness and implement training on how to help those in need.
"In sum, Plymouth State is a community where people collaborate so that current students and the next generation of students will thrive," Steen concluded. "We can be proud of Plymouth's people, of what PSU is, and what PSU is building."