TNI Task Force developed six priorities, the basis for an action plan the university will follow over the next three years:
• Student success
• Academic programming
• Student engagement/citizenship
• Clarion brand and promise
• Venango campus
The first item with action taken was the relaunch of the School of Education. Pehrsson made the announcement in April, appointing Dr. Gwyneth Price as dean to oversee the school’s budget and curriculum, and make scheduling and personnel decisions.
“I see us broadening our horizons in terms of keeping the kernels of solid, evidence based teacher preparation, then expanding that to embrace innovation,” Price said. “We have confidence that what we’ve been teaching historically has been the right thing, but we also have confidence that our faculty engage in research and continually update what they’re doing. We have been on the forefront of developing programming preparing graduates to be better teachers of all students.”
Clarion University is one of 17 universities in Pennsylvania with national accreditation, with 15 nationally recognized programs, and has one of six special education reading programs in the state with International Dyslexia accreditation.
Venango is NWPA’s primary location for delivery of career and workforce education in healthcare, education, business, technology, and science. The personalized environment gives it potential to serve as an incubator for new programs, to partner and/or provide a collaborative training location for virtually all sectors of the economy, to provide training and professional development needs, and to facilitate and be part of regional economic growth.
The TNI directive for Venango Campus is to be a bustling academic and economic venture for the region, and Venango will establish a director whose sole purpose is to focus on the success of the campus.
The director will work with university deans to create unique academic opportunities that reflect a new model of two year or less programming: certificates, badging, licensure, and training programs which are stackable and flexible. Programming will be based on regional workforce needs and will continue to serve untapped and non traditional populations.
The School of Education has one of the first early childhood education programs in the state to implement a full year teacher residency, which begins this fall. Student teaching will be done the last year of the program, with coursework integrated into the experience. It is the only university in Pennsylvania authorized to offer Competent Learner Model courses for college credit, and Clarion led the development of and was the first school to offer the Skills for Teacher Leadership endorsement. Additionally, the innovative intervention specialist program boasts a 100% employment rate.
Venango Campus has a strong history of campus-community partnerships, with many focused on workforce development. New programming and partnerships are already underway:
• Individuals who have completed a registered apprenticeship program can receive credit toward Clarion’s Associate of Science in Applied Technology or Bachelor of Science in Technology Leadership.
• Non-credit courses on blueprint reading and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing are in development, part of continuing work with area employers to create needed training programs.
When Dr. Dale Elizabeth Pehrsson began her presidency at Clarion University in July 2018, one of her first actions was to assess the university. She convened the “True North Initiative (TNI) Task Force,” pulling together constituents across various divisions and departments to produce actionable goals.
• An Emergency Medical Technician program is offered in partnership with Venango Technology Center and Clarion Hospital.
• In partnership with Venango County Economic Development Authority and funded through a $300,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant, an entrepreneurship academy for high school seniors will begin this fall.
• The university is administrator of a $1,100,000 grant from Appalachian Regional Commission to support apprenticeship programs with Venango Campus, Venango Technology Center, Community College of Allegheny County and Keystone Community Education Council.
• A partnership with Intermediate Unit V will help individuals prepare for the GED exam, improve basic entry-level skills, soft skills, etc., paving a pathway to education. The curriculum is being driven by business and industry needs.
A $900,000 investment in facility improvements, funded through grants and donations, is in progress at Venango Campus, including renovation of the respiratory care lab, Charles L. Suhr Library, and facility and technology upgrades. Venango Campus is focused on defining its own True North and will continue to be a vital part of Clarion University. Its increasingly important role as a community resource is evidenced through high quality programs, strength in serving returning adult and traditional/ non-traditional students, unique programs built on partnerships, and commitment to serving regional needs.
Learn more about Clarion University’s True North Initiative by visiting clarion.edu.
This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s August 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.