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College Meeting, August 2013: Barbara Korner, Dean

This summer has proven to be a difficult one, for me individually and for the Penn State community. It has been a summer of losses for me personally. The day after commencement I received a call from Mount Nittany Emergency Room and within hours was saying goodbye to my mother as she slipped from this life. Less than a month ago, a phone call came from my family saying that my aunt had suffered a stroke, and within hours she was gone. A week after that, as Jim and I were returning home to State College, we received word that his brother had suffered a massive heart attack; he passed away before we arrived back home. And soon, we were on our way to Ohio for yet another family gathering of grief.

Collectively, as a community, we find ourselves again in the midst of feeling bruised by the decisions and actions of others. Many in our community, while understanding the need for cutting costs in our healthcare benefits and looking forward to salary increases, have raised concerns about the impact recent changes in our healthcare benefits will have on our collective morale and individual privacy. I would be remiss not to acknowledge that concern at the outset and assure you that you should feel free to communicate your concern to the college’s human resources office. We will protect the anonymity of anyone who wishes to lodge a concern and ensure it is communicated to the central human resources office. Additionally, please understand that any of you should feel free to communicate directly with me, as some of you have, and I will pass on those concerns without attribution. I also do want to encourage each of you to attend information sessions that will be held on campus this fall. A schedule is posted at

Though it has been a difficult summer, I find myself encouraged and renewed by the start of a new academic year, knowing that the students who have trusted us with advancing their academic goals will be arriving back on campus. Last year, in our gathering, I mentioned that effective leadership is rooted in perseverance and optimism. When my own supply for those two traits is stressed, the collective energy to be found among friends and colleagues can replenish my own moments of angst. More than ever, I am grateful for the renewed energy of the start of a school year where bright faculty, talented students, and dedicated staff come back together for a fresh start.

We talked last year about “focusing like a laser on our mission—to lead our students to become creative artists and innovative problem-solvers in their careers and life pursuits, while also sharing our research in increasingly prestigious venues.”  To encourage us all as we focus on a new academic year, I want to spend a few minutes this morning addressing some of the ways that our common focus on our mission has helped us achieve many shared goals.

As we launch the 2013–14 academic year, we will put the button both on our 50th anniversary celebration and on the milestone of five years since we launched a strategic plan in the context of the University to cover 2008–2013. In the days ahead, we will be sharing with you a fuller report on collective accomplishments from the last five years. Today we will share some highlights of ways we have moved the college and academic units forward by keeping a laser-like focus. Much of what we have been able to accomplish and celebrate has been due to collaboration among ourselves and/or across the University.

In addition to faculty who have won some major awards this year, we also have several who have been serving as presidents of their professional associations. Most of the major theatre associations in the United States were headed by faculty or staff from the College of Arts and Architecture this past year. There have been new books and articles coming out from prestigious presses. And many of you have coached students to apply for and win external competitions in their field.

External Research

Another marker of progress in our reputation has to do with proposals and awards for external funding. We have made some very excellent progress in this area over the past five years. And I want to especially recognize the work that Bill Doan has done to encourage more of you to submit proposals. It’s also important to note that the awards here represent funds for research, outreach, and instruction. The Center for the Performing Arts has been a catalyst for obtaining funding from the Doris Duke Foundation and from the Mellon Foundation that has an impact on instruction and outreach in some important ways. Thanks to Amy Dupain Vashaw and Mar Tacconi as well as others who are engaged in the Classical Music Project for performance and classes.


One of the major sources in our college for collaborative research is the StudioLab, under the direction of Brian Orland from Landscape Architecture and Nilam Ram from Health and Human Development.

Graduate Programs

Among the strategies we have focused on, in spite of our declining permanent budget and questions raised by the Core Council, is selective growth in graduate enrollments and new programs.

The permanent GIA allocation has not increased, but the use of the permanent pool and utilization of temporary GIA’s has been managed in a more efficient manner. In fiscal year 07/08 and 08/09, the college had 24 and 19, respectively, that remained unused. Since that time, steps were put in place to redistribute available GIA’s to other units within the college to ensure no available GIA’s were unused.


Landscape Architecture and Geography—a new transdisciplinary field. We will offer one of the first online degrees in the geodesign field and Kelleann Foster is breaking new ground with the development of some of these online courses, offered through the World Campus.

We will always be about balance between face to face and online instruction; it’s exciting to be in a setting that understands learning can take place in both spaces and where the options for hybrid or blended use of face to face and online are available to us, as students come to our doors ready to learn in ways many of us never imagined before.


There has been a downward trend in enrollments. Percentages have held steady and are low in enrollment of diverse graduate students. We still have work to do.

In terms of faculty diversity, percentages have increased slightly over the last five years. The slides below show percentages of diverse faculty and undergraduate students since 2008.

Facilities and Technology

Music Building renovation—we have been progressing through the capital plan and we await the Board of Trustees’ announcement this fall regarding that final plan.

  • New recital hall addressing acoustical, HVAC, and lighting concerns
  • Add a large ensemble hall and smaller recital hall in current Esber space
  • Improve sound isolation between teaching studios in Music I
  • Improve visibility and functionality of main office suite

In the immediate future, several of us will be conferring with Faculty Council and others about the academic needs in computing. This is both a college and a campus-wide discussion.

Increased Alumni Engagement/50th Anniversary Celebration

The members of the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society board conducted meetings in fall 2009 with unit heads, faculty, and students to shape future initiatives. Based on the meeting outcomes, the Alumni Society met with the heads again in 2010 to present their findings, recommending that Affiliate Program Groups be established in each academic unit in order to engage more alumni in program support, mentoring, and events. We have also restructured the composition of the Alumni Society board to make a place for a representative from each of the seven academic APGs.

One of the images I often feel describes a dean’s job is a water carrier for the village. And a good chunk of my time is spent working to consider how to use our available resources most carefully and/or trying to work with others, including many in this room, to generate new resources. The days of simply asking the Provost’s office for more money to try out a new program are long behind us—and that’s not unique to Penn State. For those of us who have served in administrative roles in other institutions, that has been the case for a long time. Currently the most flexible funds we have come from World Campus and summer session revenues—both at the department and college level

World Campus

From fiscal year 08/09 to fiscal year 12/13, World Campus revenue has increased by $767,000, which is approximately a 500 percent increase. If you count the 2007–08 fiscal year, this increase was $1.4 million, or 930 percent.

(The dip in 2011-12 was when the World Campus restructured revenue share distribution; previous college share of 67 percent was reduced to 62 percent. The University also changed the summer session model at this time.)


Our $58 million goal in 2007 for the For the Future campaign was raised to $90 million and then to $100 million. We have surpassed that.

Last year I shared that our focus is on endowed professorships and scholarships. Some of our endowed positions are listed below.

The Alumni Society board has been engaged in raising funds to provide seven endowed scholarships; currently they award two each year. Proceeds from the auction held in conjunction with our 50th anniversary celebration and a portion of MASS ticket sales are going toward that effort.

  • Auction + ticket sales for MASS = $30,000
  • Thanks to the efforts of the Alumni Society board and the 50th anniversary weekend, we have now reached more than $129,000 of our goal of $150,000 for the A&A Alumni Society Scholarships.     
  • Some of you took up the challenge from last year to give through payroll deduction a minimum of $5.00 monthly and we are grateful to those who are helping the cause.

At the end of July, in between two family deaths, I was conducting the 13th annual Leadership Institute, for higher education faculty members who are considering (or have accepted or been drafted into) administrative leadership assignments in their universities. My colleague, who co-directs this workshop with me, is the president of Valparaiso University. As we wrapped up the three-day workshop, several attendees commented on how positive the experience made them feel and how they could see hope for their own future. They expressed feelings of optimism and of a desire to persevere. I found myself reinvigorated at the workshop this year, though I, too, had started with less than my usual buoyancy. One of the key points we emphasize in this workshop each year is that, though group process can be difficult and time-consuming, engaging faculty and staff in the shared governance traditions in higher education can be of benefit. While bright people hashing over a problem may be messy, the reality is “the answer is often to be found in the room” if we will listen to others’ opinions and ideas, demonstrate patience and respect, and treat each other as we ourselves would like to be treated.

Thank you for what you do, every day, to demonstrate your worthiness of the trust our students place in you as the faculty and staff of this college.