From left, are Bill Hanelly, chief operating officer and senior vice president; Keith Roush, director of facilities; and Robert Pignatello, Lock Haven University president. Roush and his entire staff were honored with certificates for their work at the Sieg Conference Center during the recent flooding.
Lock Haven University’s 15th President, Robert Pignatello, welcomed faculty and staff to the beginning of another academic year during his opening address held Thursday in Price Auditorium. “The excitement is palpable,” the president said, noting that LHU’s campus is abuzz with the arrival of a new class of students and, in his words, “a renewed sense of purpose.”
Pignatello arrived on campus July 1 and has since spent his time working to understand and learn LHU’s issues, concerns, traditions and culture. He highlighted the, “incredible symbiotic relationship between the university and the people in this community and region.” He has named building relationships with city and county leaders a top priority and urged those in attendance to, “look for evidence of how we will be bringing the university into the external community and the bringing the external community to the university.”
The president emphasized LHU’s mission as a student-focused institution, noting that, “The Haven is an engine for upward mobility. LHU ranks fourth in the State System for our ability to help our bald eagles soar even higher, moving students from the lower 60 percent of family income to the top 40 percent.”
Meeting the needs of the region’s workforce is one way Pignatello believes the university can overcome the national trend of declining enrollments. His aim is to provide students a value-added education by offering an array of courses and programs designed to address the region’s specific workforce needs.
“The high-skilled and high-wage jobs in the new economy are going to be even more reliant on postsecondary credentials,” he said. “Our mission is the right mix of professional and theoretical study, interdisciplinary and experiential programs, and the liberal arts, which are optimal to face these challenges.”
Skills in critical and creative thinking and problem solving are essential in the rapidly evolving workplace. Which is why Pignatello sees the study of liberal arts as essential to the Haven college experience. “The humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences are more relevant today than ever. These are skills students and alumni need to thrive in this new economy where the biggest learning outcome we need to impart upon our students is the love of learning,” he said.
The president acknowledged the increasingly competitive nature of higher education. He said, “We operate in a competitive marketplace with many institutions vying for the same smaller number of students. We must be more assertive in capturing our share of the market.” Pignatello plans to capture that market by improving LHU’s visibility to prospective students and expanding the university’s external marketing efforts, along with broadening the university’s degree offerings.
Included in that plan is the addition of LHU’s full array of associate degree programs at the main Lock Haven campus. Previously, several of those programs, including nursing, were only available at LHU’s Clearfield campus.
Pignatello also emphasized the importance of lifelong learning. He named adult learning as a particular priority, stating, “We want to be the place adult learners can turn when they’re looking to complete a degree or upskill,” he said.
He noted the particular challenges adult learners often face and discussed ways The Haven will work to diminish those challenges and help the adult population enter or re-enter the classroom. “Let us look at what programs, learning modalities, and the timing of courses offered that will appeal to this group of potential students. Some programs need to be finely tuned for these life-long learners who need very specific up-skilling and can’t wait for full degrees,” he said.
Keith Roush, director of facilities at LHU, was presented a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the university in recognition of the facilities department’s work in protecting the Sieg Conference Center from a series of storms that threatened the Lamar facility. The president also recognized Roush for his years of service as he prepares for retirement.
Pignatello stressed the importance of the involvement of LHU’s faculty and staff to fulfill the university’s mission. He said, “I believe that employee engagement and success leads to student engagement and success. We all care about our students. We all care about our mission. No matter what obstacles are before us, we can control our own destiny and make it one that better serves our students and our community – when we do it together.”
Looking to the future, Pignatello cited LHU’s upcoming 150 year anniversary as a celebration in the making. “This anniversary will usher in the next chapter in our history,” he said. “Let me assure you our future will be a bright one. We will be looking for new and impactful ways to expand upon our services, execute our mission, and address important community interests and needs.”
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Lock Haven University is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
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