2005 â€“ 2015
DECADE Quest for Excellence
10 years. 120 months. 520 weeks. Countless hours.
A publication of Alvernia University. Copyright 2015.
ll filled with defining moments for this once small, little-known college now turned thriving university, this special issue of Alvernia magazine is like no other. It doesn’t look the same, act the same or even feel the same. But what it does do is salute all that our campus community has accomplished in the past decade. It celebrates individuals who have contributed to our progress. And touts the transformation that has occurred nearly everywhere you look on Alvernia’s campus. In the ensuing pages, you’ll read about a range of initiatives as well as a series of individuals selected to share their perspectives about the university’s evolution. They represent countless others who have been part of our growth and success. They are a diverse bunch: students, faculty members, alumni and community friends, graduates and board members. Yet they are all joined by a common thread: their passion to make Alvernia a place of transformational opportunity for everyone. I hope you enjoy this very special publication as much as our talented team did in creating it. Special thanks and kudos go to our Creative Director Steve Thomas, Editor Carey Manzolillo, Photographer Theo Anderson, Coordinator Anne Heck and student Editorial Assistant Monica Echeverri ’15. Happy reading … you can share your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Drexler Publisher & Editor in Chief
MY PERSPECTIVE Thomas F. Flynn, Ph.D. President
“Exceptional dedication.” “Extraordinary progress.” “Remarkable transformation.” While the English professor in me cringes at the possible hyperbole, as Alvernia’s president I rejoice in the praise for our university’s journey over the last 10 years. This past summer, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaffirmed the good work of the Alvernia community through an unqualified reaccreditation. Required every 10 years, higher education’s accreditation process is technically “voluntary,” but without it we would be out of business. Accreditation is a precondition for students to receive federal and state financial aid and to sit for professional licensure exams. It involves a protracted two-year process of self-assessment and rigorous peer evaluation that spurs useful continuous improvement but is oddly reminiscent of root canal surgery. It requires mountains of data and extensive quantitative analysis. But most valuable is the opportunity for genuine reflection, a process that is more art than science, rooted in our Franciscan core value of contemplation. So in this spirit, join me as we consider what has been accomplished and what remains to be done, recalling the road we have traveled and imagining where we might go in the years ahead.
IN THE BEGINNING It has been almost exactly 11 years since I first met an impressive group of trustees, faculty and staff who served as the presidential search committee representing Alvernia College. Shortly after my initial interview at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott, I had called my wife, Helen, before heading through security, and said, “I think this just might be the place.” And then a few minutes later, my phone rang. It was Kathy Herbein ’95, chair of the Search Committee, expressing the same excitement about my candidacy that I felt about the college and inviting me to campus. It was a magical moment and is a special memory. But I could never have imagined how much I would come to love this special place, nor that Alvernia would become for Helen and me a warm, wonderful home. Coincidentally, though Alvernia was new to me, I was familiar with Reading, having visited my uncle several times over the years at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville. Upon arrival, everyone forewarned us that it would be years before dyed-in-the-wool Berks County natives would embrace us. That was not our experience. Countless Alvernia alums and trustees reached out to make us welcome. Two of my
PRESIDENT THOMAS F. FLYNN J oined Alvernia in 2005 Active on community boards including Reading Health and Caron Treatment Centers Serves on the boards for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania
early memories are meeting business and civic leaders at a lively dinner at Mom Chaffe’s and at a festive reception hosted by prominent alumnae. It quickly became clear that Alvernia was held in high esteem in our community because many of our trustees and alums were themselves respected community leaders. Now, a decade later, an invitation to join Alvernia’s Board of Trustees is considered a great honor and privilege. It did not take long for the leadership team of the Bernardine Sisters to invite the Flynns to dinner. And it did not take long for Helen and me to realize that the Sisters, individually and collectively, were at the heart of what made Alvernia such a caring community, though we never imagined so many Sisters would become treasured friends as well as inspirational colleagues. Another early memory is the gift we received from the Sisters at the end of my inauguration mass, when Sr. Madonna, the congregational minister, announced
that the congregation was sending us on a pilgrimage to Assisi! We were touched by this thoughtfulness, but only later did we realize that this was not only an essential part of my orientation as president but also a life-changing experience for us, as it is for the faculty, staff and students we send each year. Now, a decade later, Alvernia’s partnership with our Franciscan sponsors has been essential to our growth as a university. The campus community was equally welcoming. I recall stimulating early conversations with faithful, longtime faculty and staff as well as talented, recently hired colleagues. Alvernia’s students made a powerful first impression. The student representatives chosen to interview the presidential finalists asked the best questions of any student group I had met. They were tough, insightful and probing. Over the last decade, Alvernia (and I) have benefited greatly from the high quality of student leaders, but I could never have imagined a decade ago that our 2015 commissioning
ceremony would celebrate 100 such individuals! The Board requested that I arrive a month early to benefit from an in-depth transition overseen by my predecessor, Larry Mazzeno. Witty as well as wise, he proved to be a helpful sounding board and a source of good advice. He had built a solid foundation for the future and so did not hesitate to suggest some potential further improvements. I recall saying to him on his last day in office, “Because you were the kind of president you were, I can be the kind of president Alvernia needs me to be.” But I never could have imagined how some of Larry’s key decisions, such as launching graduate programs and building the O’Pake Science Center, would prove to be so vital to Alvernia’s When people take part future. in the journey of change, There are other early impressions that they feel they have a now are fun to recall. stake in the outcome. When Helen and I arrived early for our first campus visit and found ourselves meandering through Angelica Park, we wondered if this bucolic setting could provide a grand entryway to campus. We noticed the main entrance to historic Francis Hall was not through the stately front doors but rather through the rear loading dock. And one look at the parking lot in the center of campus was all it took to know we needed grass, not pavement. Today, the campus quad is the “home field” for a residential campus of almost 1,000 students. And within the next year we will celebrate completion of a spectacular new approach road that winds through Angelica Park, through a new shared entrance with the Sisters and up the hill to historic Francis Hall. When I first was learning about Alvernia, one of my fellow presidents described it as “a hidden jewel,” with great potential. His observation proved to be prophetic. Trustees had significant untapped expertise. Faculty and staff members were talented as well as dedicated. Students and alumni appreciated their education and the loving spirit of the Sisters. Community goodwill seemed unlimited. Emboldened by recent growth, Alvernia was on the move! During those first few months, I initiated “listening and learning sessions” involving the entire faculty and staff as well as groups of students and alumni during which I asked one simple question: “How do we get better?” I chose that question deliberately. Most conversations during my campus interviews had been about enrollment growth, not about educational quality. I also wanted to learn about the community’s hopes and dreams for the future.
Later that spring I held a second set of conversations with faculty members to talk about our mission and identity. Two themes recurred. The passion for our Franciscan values was broad and deep. And key faculty leaders were convinced that Alvernia should seek to become a university, consistent with our breadth of programs and blend of liberal arts and professional education. Our 2007 Strategic Plan wove together major priorities to improve educational quality; strengthen the student experience; enhance our civic leadership locally, even nationally; and expand our fiscal resources in pursuit of a new vision to be a “Distinctive Franciscan University.” Just a year later, as we celebrated our 50th Anniversary, Alvernia University was born!
We are now a vibrant residential university and yet still a place of educational opportunity for working adults and those seeking graduate study on the master’s and doctoral levels. We have preserved our mission-centered commitment to the local community while drawing large numbers of students from the northeastern corridor — from New York City to Washington, D.C., with even a few (other!) New Englanders. Our campus has tripled in acreage, our faculty has expanded by over 35 percent and yet we retain the caring, personalized attention to students recalled by those first lay graduates in the late 1960s.
A SENATOR OF THE PEOPLE
Quite apart from his political impact, Senator Mike O’Pake left behind a legacy as a genuinely good, virtuous man, someone who never forgot his roots in Reading’s Glenside Projects and cared deeply about people regardless of their background. He was, ahead of his time, a “Pope Francis Catholic.” He was a tireless advocate for Alvernia, serving as a trustee for close to 20 years. The O’Pake Science Center, dedicated in 2006, was key to Alvernia’s transformation into a regional leader in healthcare and science education. I still recall his great joy and emotional tribute to his mother at the dedication. SPECIAL PEOPLE Along with then Reading Mayor Tom McMahon, Alvernia attracts (and retains) special people. Some are another devoted son of Alvernia, alumni, to be sure, but many adopt Mike inspired me to make inner-city Alvernia as a second alma mater, education programs and Alvernia’s becoming longtime faculty and staff, … (Sen. O'Pake) was civic leadership personal priorities. dedicated trustees and generous our most distinguished Today, his legacy lives on through donors. Three such individuals hold advocate for the Franciscan the South Reading Youth Initiative, special places in my heart. Each of charism at the heart of an the Reading Collegiate Scholars them left us much too soon and yet Alvernia education. Program and the work of the O’Pake played a special role in Alvernia’s evoInstitute for Ethics, Leadership and lution: Sister Pacelli, Sen. Michael Public Service. O’Pake and Coach Jack McCloskey. Mike and I shared longstanding admiration (and They are memorialized through campus landmarks — gratitude) for the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence Pacelli Hall, the O’Pake Center and McCloskey Court — and social justice. And so we especially appreciated how but we recall them most for their engaging personalities, the Franciscan charism of our Sisters and the core values commitment to excellence and love for Alvernia. of Alvernia added deep meaning to our lives. A former recipient of the university’s highest honor, the Franciscan REMEMBERING PACELLI Award, Mike O’Pake displayed the belief in and passion In the history of Alvernia, our beloved Sister Pacelli is a for Alvernia typified by other devoted supporters from towering presence, a giant of a woman. It is a description she the surrounding community. He was as loyal to Alvernia appreciated, knowing it was meant seriously and yet with as any proud alumnus. full humorous intent. To this day, perhaps my greatest honor as president was to be asked by the Bernardine Sisters to deliver the eulogy at her funeral. SIX-PACK ATTACK I remember a meeting during my first months as presiNo perspective on the past 10 years would be comdent when, during a lively faculty discussion on Alvernia’s plete without mention of the late Jack McCloskey. Coach mission, a colleague emphasized the primary importance of McCloskey made Alvernia basketball mean something to a educating Catholics. Sister bristled a bit and quipped, “If all lot of people. And at a time when our school was the little we Sisters wanted to do was educate Catholics, we certainly college somewhere in Reading that no one could find, he wouldn’t have settled a century ago in Berks County.” helped make Alvernia matter — locally, regionally and, It was, for those of us old enough to recall the television ad, during one memorable season, even nationally. one of Sister Pacelli’s many “E.F. Hutton moments.” For her, Those of us who love March Madness still marvel that ecumenism and interfaith work were integral to, not separate even his very first team, carrying just six players on the from, Alvernia’s Catholic heritage and Franciscan spirit. roster (known as the “Six-Pack Attack”), enjoyed a winning She so enjoyed hearing the equally legendary Al Boscov season and some big-time victories. And only a few years say that he admired her not simply for her generous service later, when our program was still new to Division III, Coach to others but also because she was the one prominent person led the team to the Final Four. who did not look down on him. She loved joking that they I recall when Jack invited me to join our men’s basketball always saw eye to eye! team for the small-college Maui tournament in Hawaii. Our Truly, Sister Pacelli was an exemplary servant-leader, team lost every game, but there were still lifelong memories. teacher-scholar and witty, fun-filled visionary. She was, foreHe arranged for both of us and our sons to attend the Divimost, a woman of faith, charity and courage — a “take no sion I tournament; my son, Daniel, enjoyed the opportunity prisoners” saint, as one former trustee recalls admiringly. to join Jack in coaching from the stands! And there were
happy endings too. That year, our basketball team won still another league championship and Jack’s son, John, became our vice president of enrollment management. Jack McCloskey remains the leader in career victories at Alvernia and respected among his coaching peers in Division III. He made the program at Alvernia as much about personal development as it was about basketball, with his teams performing community service together long before it became the norm on our campus. Alvernia athletics stands on his shoulders. Jack was a Hall of Famer, on and off the court. And McCloskey Court now stands as a proud reminder of his impact on all around him.
10 YEARS LATER — THE UNEXPECTED What is most surprising about the last 10 years? Certainly not the regular postseason appearances of our basketball, baseball and other athletic programs. Nor the increased prominence of faculty recognized as authors of books or experts cited in the media.
Most returning alumni would say the transformation of campus is the biggest surprise, yet Alvernia has always had a beautiful location where students feel (and are) at home. So for me, it is the expansion of our academic programs and our recognition as a national leader in community and civic engagement. Today, we sponsor wide-ranging undergraduate offerings. Well-recognized programs in healthcare and the human services, like occupational therapy and nursing, attract top students with multiple collegiate options, even as we continue to be inspired by our Franciscan sponsors to serve diverse students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds. I did not anticipate that we would sponsor three doctoral programs — in leadership, physical therapy and nursing. But it is not surprising that we have emerged as a leader in adult education at a time when providing educational opportunities for working adults to advance professionally has never been more important. Successful role models like Judge Linda Ludgate and so many others have turned to Alvernia. We have long been a
place of opportunity for talented and deserving adults as well as recent high school graduates. Alvernia’s passionate commitment to our city and county is also nothing new. Yet I never would have predicted that the two centers of excellence announced at my inauguration would be well established, generously endowed and prominently respected. The Holleran Center for Community Engagement and O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service make vital contributions locally and help explain why we are honored annually as a national leader in this work. Little did I imagine when we held one of the area’s largest-ever interfaith gatherings the morning of my inauguration that, a decade later, Alvernia would be among a select group of 43 schools nationally (out of 3,000) celebrated for our commitment to interfaith dialogue and understanding.
KEYS TO CONTINUED SUCCESS Most colleges and universities now place some importance on civic engagement, but at Alvernia it is (and will continue to be) central to our identity. We look forward to joining with other local “anchor institutions” to strengthen the health, education and well-being of our community. This work is integral to our Franciscan mission. Becoming a “Distinctive Franciscan University,” rooted in the traditions of liberal arts and Catholic higher education, has shaped our path and will continue to shape our future. Our revitalized liberal arts program, SEARCH, ensures that all students explore “enduring questions” about life while developing the critical thinking and communication capacities necessary for the workplace. Philosophy and theology courses are now important parts of our students’ first-year experience, as is a focus both in and beyond the classroom on our Franciscan core
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leaders on campus, but they are focused primarily on values and the rich tradition of Franciscan spirituality. the learning and growth of each student. Ensuring all our students benefit from both liberal With exceptional leadership from diverse faculty, we arts and professional education, guided by Franciscan are emerging as a leader in interprofessional healthcare values, are two of the key elements of what I started early education. Faculty in nursing, occupational and physical on to call the “Alvernia Advantage.” Put simply, we offer therapy, counseling and social work are pursuing groundall the best features of a small college with many of the breaking work to prepare students for dramatic new roles opportunities of a larger university, all within a caring, that require diverse professionals to work seamlessly in person-centered community. clinical teams. Such collaborative work among faculty We will continue to offer many programs not found at is rare at large universities, but is becoming the norm at a typical liberal arts college, including doctoral degrees, Alvernia and creates an essential competitive advantage but with all courses taught by faculty, never graduate for our graduates. students. Unlike small schools in remote locations or big Supporting this academic priority, and also upgrading universities where students get lost in the crowd, we will the recreational and wellness opportunities for our stuprovide our students with boundless opportunities. dents, will be the creation of an East Campus. A recre“Real world” experiential learning — on and beyond ation and health sciences complex (“The Plex”) will join the campus — will become even more of an Alvernia a multipurpose field house with an innovative academic hallmark. Already, our students work in more than 700 building, providing flexible, interdisciplinary teaching agencies and organizations each semester. It is one of and learning spaces and enabling the expansion of our the reasons why we are grateful as well as proud to be high-demand programs in nursing located in Reading. Being close and the health sciences. to a small city and proximate But among all our hopes and But among all our hopes and to a major metropolis is a big dreams, perhaps none brings advantage, and yet we have a dreams, perhaps none brings together as many elements of what beautiful, secure campus where together as many elements of makes Alvernia special as the Readstudents feel at home. what makes Alvernia special ing Collegiate Scholars Program. Building on our commitment as the Reading Collegiate It is preparing larger numbers of to educate working (and reinner-city students to attend and tired) adults, whether in degree Scholars Program. graduate from the college of their programs or in our innovative choice, and then to live and work Seniors College, we will provide in Reading as successful young professionals. In our first online options for those who prefer them and expand year, we worked with over 150 students at Reading High, non-degree learning options to serve employees of both enrolled a pilot group of Alvernia scholars (all now highly for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Our expertise successful sophomores), and recruited a second, much in leadership studies holds great potential to be both a larger cohort of scholars. “signature” of our undergraduate education and also an inLet’s make no mistake: this is not just another noble valuable resource for businesses and other organizations, program to provide funding so deserving students can both large and small. begin college. This is a high-intensity, multi-year mentorPerhaps most importantly, we will remain an affordable ing and financial aid program helping talented inner-city option for families of all backgrounds, and we will continue youth to graduate from college and achieve their dreams. to enhance faculty and student excellence. We have kept our Alvernia has advanced further and faster than I ever imagtuition more than 20 percent below the average for private ined possible, but our potential is even greater. Our ongoing schools in our region. Recognizing that our small endowquest to enhance “Access and Excellence” will require the full ment provides less financial aid than our well-endowed engagement of minds, hearts and souls as well as the highest peers, we will continue to offer need-based financial aid to standards of expectation, effort and achievement. 99 percent of our students and expand merit scholarships We will need confidence and boldness but also candid like those available to the “best and brightest” in Berks self-criticism, humility and a commitment to continuous County through our Boscov Scholars program. improvement. And more than ever, we must be attuned to the trends sweeping contemporary higher education. FACULTY AND STUDENT Looking back 10 years, we have much to celebrate. We EXCELLENCE are on a journey together at Alvernia to graduate “broadly During difficult economic times, we have added educated, lifelong learners; reflective professionals and faculty at a far faster rate than our enrollment. The engaged citizens; and ethical leaders with moral courage.” Neag Professorships and Faculty Excellence Grants We will continue to challenge ourselves, as we do our have supported the work of countless teacher-scholars. graduates, “to do well and to do good.” Many faculty members are respected in their fields and
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Ref lections Alvernia in 2016 is a strikingly different institution than it was a decade ago. Progress is far and wide, and has touched all areas of campus and every part of our community. To illustrate that progress, weâ€™ve asked 11 individuals to reflect on different aspects of the university â€” what it is like today, how it has changed and what their experience has been. They come from all walks of university life â€” students, alumni, faculty members, trustees and benevolent friends. Together, they provide a unique view of Alvernia seen through the lenses of many eyes. Their stories, told in their own words, grace the pages that follow.
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SEEING LIFE DIFFERENTLY
y grandparents were farmers in the Dominican Republic. My mother is a housewife and my father an electrician. Both were born and live in the Dominican Republic. I too am Dominican by nationality but came to America and Alvernia for the opportunity they both represent. Neither my parents nor my grandparents went to college, but my parents figured it was crucial for me to receive higher education. Today, I am the second person in my family to go to college. My parents stressed the value of higher education ever since I can remember. “We are poor, my son” or “I am not well off,” my father used to say, “but education is the key to being successful in life.” His words resonated with me. My mission throughout school has been to strive to be the best. While I was in high school, I came to fully understand the importance of higher education. I kept thinking of all the perks college had to offer. Earning a college degree would allow for me to get a good job, live a prosperous lifestyle and have an arsenal full of interpersonal skills. Along with these benefits, I quickly realized the dangers that lay ahead if I would move forward without my college degree. Either way, I never forgot the Higher education is important in greatest lesson I have ever learned from today’s society, but higher education my parents: always pursue my dream — even when I think I might not succeed. without personal values is meaningless. Alvernia University caught my attention at a young age. When I was living in the Dominican Republic, I remember Alvernia students coming every year to work with the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters in my community. Despite being young, I always thought that their mission and help were blessings from God, and I felt as though I needed to take part in it. So in 2012, I began my journey to become a student of Alvernia. And that was the most exciting moment of my life. It felt like a dream come true when I was given the opportunity to join the Alvernia family. It seemed like the beginning of a new world for me. With higher education on my mind all the time, I was finally making my dreams into reality. This university has taught me so much and shaped both my personal and professional lives in ways I never thought possible. From the very first day, I felt very comfortable, and honestly felt like I was with family. Staff and faculty members were so welcoming, and that feeling helped me throughout my studies. It has been three years since I came to Alvernia and, to this Continued on page 73
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CARLOS CANELA CUEVAS ’16 ccounting & business A management major Born in the Dominican Republic First-generation college student Active in campus ministry
CAROLYN AND JERRY HOLLERAN arolyn is a retired educator C and former board chair of Alvernia Jerry is co-founder and chairman of the board of Precision Medical Products as well as a former vice chair of the board at Alvernia
COMMUNITY THAT COUNTS
lvernia is a special place for both of us. As trustee emeriti, we know and care about the university deeply. It represents who we are in so many ways. The school’s community focus and Catholic Franciscan mission embody our ideals in so many ways. In fact, we think so highly of the university (and its leadership) that we literally gave it our home — Cedar Hill Farm — for use as its President’s House! Our involvement with the institution goes back almost 30 years, and so we have a broad perspective to draw upon regarding the university and its role within Reading and beyond. It was precisely that role that first attracted us to the school when it was a then small Catholic college, wrestling at times to realize its full potential. It has been very rewarding to witness the university’s coming of age. We are so very proud of the school and its students, its faculty and alumni. The impact they are having reaches far beyond Berks County’s borders and is felt around the world through service work being done by graduates and students in many different settings. We are also proud of Alvernia’s growing awareness and national reputation, and gratified to have helped nurture its commitment to community service into a strength It is fair to say that we never that is making a difference in the lives of so imagined Alvernia would evolve, as many. It is fair to say that we never imagit has, into an institution of such ined Alvernia would evolve, as it has, into an institution of such depth, character and depth, character and prominence. prominence. Two examples stand out for us that are emblematic of the university’s impact. First, Alvernia was the initial area college to really give access to women of all ages. By rolling out a welcome mat to nontraditional students and working mothers, Alvernia sent a loud message to women of Berks County that it was a campus that valued and respected them. To this day, Alvernia remains a welcoming campus for all students from all backgrounds. The second aspect we find so compelling is Alvernia’s commitment to service as a core value. The institution was by far one of the earliest to require community service as graduation requirement in our region, which was unusual at the time. And you see it not just in students, but equally in faculty and staff. Service to others, and to the community, is woven into the DNA of Alvernia. In fact, that is why we endowed the Holleran Center for Community Engagement. Continued on page 70
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A DREAM UNFOLDING
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s Congregational Minister and an Alvernia University trustee, I am deeply grateful to God for the abundant blessings that have been given this institution since its founding in 1958 by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. At that time in our history, when the congregation did not have abundant material and financial resources, our wealth was the commitment and zeal of our youngest and newest members. These members were in need of higher education as they prepared to engage in service to God’s people through the varied ministries, especially in the teaching profession. Today, I rejoice to see the flourishing academic community that has emerged from the vision and dream of our founders, and I credit the elements of sponsorship, leadership and relationship as the catalysts for this achievement. As sponsors of the university, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters play a unique role in the continuing success of the institution. Our support and encouragement is recognized in our presence on the Board of Trustees, our shared use of the campus and engagement with students. It is also evident in our authentic fidelity to the mission of Alvernia, characterized by the Gospel values of St. Francis of Assisi and expressed in an ongoing commitment to the Franciscan intellectual tradition. During this last decade, the congregation and the university dedicated quality time and effort to formalizing a Sponsorship Covenant, a new expression of our collegial and shared leadership that sets a tone for ongoing engagement with the most significant issues of Alvernia’s future: purpose, shared principles and mutual commitment. I am grateful to President Flynn and his administrative colleagues for this initiative. I am also indebted to the board members and Congregational Leadership Team who worked together on an enduring document that will shape the culture of Catholic Franciscan higher education at Alvernia for decades to come. I think many will agree that the last 10 years at Alvernia have seen unprecedented change, growth and advancement in many areas. Under the leadership of Tom Flynn, Alvernia crafted a dynamic strategic plan to prepare for a visionary future, launched an ambitious capital campaign that exceeded its original goal and developed a vibrant campus culture with new facilities and programs that support an exciting campus life experience for a growing population of students. Graduate and doctoral programs have raised the profile of the institution and made faculty recruitment more competitive. The emphasis on community service and volunteerism has opened students’ minds and hearts to the needs of the world, the beauty and value of diversity and the singular importance of moral leadership in choosing service over self-interest. The Bernardine Franciscan Sisters have taken note of this direction, particularly since many sisters are alumnae of Alvernia. They have served on the board, Continued on page 70
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SISTER MARILISA HELENA da SILVA, OSF ernardine Franciscan B Congregational Minister Member of the Alvernia Board of Trustees A Brazilian native who also holds U.S. citizenship
ONDRA M. KIELBASA, PH.D. ssistant professor A of biology A member of the American Society for Cell Biology Research focus includes cell growth and differentiation
hroughout my training and career, I have strived to answer two related questions: How do we learn information so that we do not just know it, but truly understand it? And how do we teach students not just to memorize, but to really internalize topics they are studying? Research has shown that active learning positively influences student comprehension and retention of subject matter, and as a result helps them better connect to the material. Such methods promote the understanding of concepts, rather than the memorizing of facts, and they provide opportunities for learning skills in addition to learning information. As a faculty member teaching in the sciences, I endeavor to promote student learning through inquiry and activity-based approaches as much as possible. This is applicable to all fields and subject areas, and we can see examples throughout different academic programs at Alvernia — from those that include service-learning components to those that emphasize experiential, course-based research experiences. When I came to Alvernia, I was enthusiastic to take on the cell biology course, as it’s my area of expertise and absolute favorite topic — both to teach and to research. From the beginning, my intention was to develop an inquiry-based curriculum that would engage students in a more research-like experience in the lab. I was awarded an Alvernia Innovation Grant to cover laboratory supply costs and As a faculty member teaching in embraced a hands-on, applied teaching apthe sciences, I endeavor to promote proach that emphasized student inquiry and the use of the scientific method to solve “real student learning through inquiry world” research problems. Student learning and activity-based approaches as is most positively impacted by the design much as possible. and execution of longer-term projects that mirror types of investigations carried out by actual research scientists. In effect, lab work provides a direct context for application to scientific research, helping students to better understand the techniques and what they could be used for outside of the course. Promotion of active learning in laboratory courses occurs somewhat naturally, since labs are designed around specific activities that students must perform. Lecture-based courses can present a greater challenge. So I’m also working to incorporate active learning components into my lectures. Through tools like an audience response system, instructors can present questions on current class material, and students can use clickers to anonymously enter responses. The results are immediately visible as a bar graph, showing what answers were chosen and by how many students. From here, I can ask for volunteers to explain their rationale for a particular answer choice, which can inspire thoughtful class discussion. Tools like this offer a real-time, unbiased understanding of how well classes comprehend material, as Continued on page 73
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GETTING ENGAGED in the art of learning
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FRANCISCO CONTRERAS ’13 P atrolman, Reading Police Department Majored in criminal justice at Alvernia Was the featured student speaker at Alvernia’s May 2013 commencement
ost people have jobs, but I don’t. Most people dislike their jobs, but I don’t. I have a career. I earned it. And now I love it. Each day I go into work is different. It is a career that has good days and one that mirrors the perils of life, but either way, I have been taught and trained well enough to endure it. It is never easy to deal with cases of abuse and violence, but for some reason, this was a career path that I wanted to follow. When I first came to the United States, it was a lonely existence. Getting home from school also meant having to spend evenings alone as my father went to work. Though it was lonely, it was prime time for all the FBI crime shows on television. These shows had a way of capturing my entire attention and I finally realized my desire to be just like those police officers or FBI agents on the shows. I wanted so badly just to be like those heroes in the shows, but knew it wouldn’t be easy. As I drew closer to the end of my high school career, it became more difficult to make decisions. My father was not exactly supportive of my wish to pursue higher education. He lived a life where the end of high school meant the beginning of a long and tedious job at a factory to secure finances. But no matter how much he detested the idea of college, my mind was made up. From a young age, I became well acquainted with The beauty of my Alvernia experience the harsh reality of an impoverished existence. To came in engaging with strict and prepared make ends meet, my uncle worked exhausting jobs professors who also knew what it meant just to put bread on the table. He gave up his own to be a human with responsibilities. dreams to provide for his family, and no matter how tired he was, he would find time to teach me math because he felt education was the only answer to a happy and comfortable life. He always wanted to be a math teacher and had the brains to make it, but life had different plans. I think his deepest regret was having given up his education. I remember he would always say, “Francisco, I am incredibly smart, but also incredibly dumb” for having given up so easily on his dream. His selflessness influenced me greatly and he remains my inspiration to this day. I wanted to make him proud of me just as I was proud of him, so off to college I went. Going to Alvernia was the beginning of a new life for me and I made sure to make the most of my time at the university. The beauty of my Alvernia experience came in engaging with strict and prepared professors who also knew what it meant to be a human with responsibilities. They made me feel as though I belonged somewhere and encouraged me to do my best, which in turn made me feel like I was in a real family after so much loneliness, and I was not going to let them down. Continued on page 71
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KATE ROESCH ’12 P eace Corps primary teacher trainer, Mbale, Uganda Author of “Stomp Out Malaria” Majored in elementary education at Alvernia
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INTO AFRICA and making a difference in the world
e often go into service with the idea that the people we are going to serve need to be saved. In my life, I have met very few people who actually need to be saved. They could, however, use a helping hand. At Alvernia, I learned how much of an impact service can have on an entire community or a single individual. I always felt that I should have done more. As a result, I am now a Peace Corps volunteer. When I left for Uganda, I thought that I was going to be magically reorganizing and changing a school. But when I got here, I realized how ridiculous and entitled that thought was. Even if I were here for much longer than three years, I would not be able to completely change and rework a school. And now, I have no desire to do so. I soon understood that the greatest impact I could make was helping people realize they can be changemakers in their community and sharing who I was with the children, villagers and others around me. I have learned through my service here in Uganda as well as in past service experiences that it is important to have the people who need a helping hand take part in the change. When people take part in the journey of change, they feel they have a stake in the outcome. When the journey ends, and if it is successful (because not all journeys end well), there is a look on someone’s face (whether is it somebody who was directly or indirectly helped) that makes the whole journey worth it. It is a face that is radiating pure joy. I have seen faces that have been transformed in this way, and it’s absolutely amazing! The journey does not have to be long and involved. A journey can be as simple as helping a woman hand-wash clothing on a Saturday morning. A journey, whether short or long, can make a lasting impact. By participating in service that lends a helping hand, anyone can help to create more joy in a sometimes unhappy world. I have also learned that the greatest service anyone can do for another is to just be in the moment with that person. Take the time to really listen instead of rushing to the next “important” thing. You never know what you may learn. I have heard some fantastic stories and told my When people take part in the journey of change, own; listened to and contributed ideas; and laughed so hard tears they feel they have a stake in the outcome. streamed down my face. When a life is lived with moments of living fully in the present moment, there are very few, if any, regrets. My favorite thing about the Peace Corps is the sharing, mixing and melding of cultures. I love spending time in the staff room at the college and talking with the other tutors about America and Uganda. It is interesting to hear and share points of view about topics that are interesting to all. I also love playing with and teaching my neighbor kids. They visit almost every time my front door is open — and knock on it sometimes when it’s not — ready to play football or zebra, zebra, lion (duck, duck, goose) or color with crayons. Everybody with whom I have come into contact has made me realize that it is not the things I have that make me happy, but rather the people who are around to share my life’s adventures. A lot of times, people think that in order to make a difference in the world they have to do some big project. But that’s not true. Helping a child who is struggling with homework can make a difference in that child’s world. Packing boxes for a friend or taking time to listen to a story someone is telling can seem small, but can be world-changing for that person. Be world-changing. Go out and make a difference in the world.
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ERIC TURMAN ’97, M’03 eading High R School principal Member, President’s Advisory Committee 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient
uccess — the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. One of the purposes of high school is to prepare students for success in adulthood. High schools must prepare students for college enrollment, technical training or the workforce. It is important for students to learn both critical thinking and problem solving skills. Students who utilize these skills and strategies are prepared to compete for jobs, as well as seek advancement in their chosen field. And a post-secondary education gives students the opportunity to compete for higher-paying jobs, just as my Alvernia education prepared me to succeed in my chosen profession. Preparing students for the future becomes even more critical in an urban setting. At Reading Senior High School, where I am the principal, we serve a population of students who are over 90 percent minority and receive free and reduced lunch. These are students who already have risk factors that can make it challenging to be successful after high school. As I walk down the hallway, peek into classrooms, break up a fight or hug a student in need, I can’t help but think about how critical it is to prepare my students for life after high school. Over the past few years, graduation rates have improved and the number of students going on to post-secondary schools or entering the workforce has risen to 90 percent. For students at Reading High School, post-secondary schooling becomes critical in order to break the cycle of poverty. As more students attend some type of post-secondary training, the next phase is retaining students in their particular school or area of focus. Retention and graduation rates at the post-secondary level are on the rise. Students who are prepared and successful during their freshman year typically have a great support network and are prepared for the rigors of life at the post-secondary level. In preparing students, high schools must ensure that they have a rigorous curriculum that: develops strategies As we prepare students for the future, to read and comprehend text, strengthens study skills it is important for them to know and and study habits, and has a focus on writing and critical thinking skills. There are many initiatives across the understand the role that education country focused on preparing students for their post-secplays in their future earnings. ondary pathways. As important as it is for them to get to postsecondary schooling, it is equally important that we prepare them to finish. As we prepare students for the future, it is important for them to know and understand the role that education plays in their future earnings. Finishing a post-secondary program will not guarantee them a job, but it will guarantee them the opportunity to compete for a job. Although we are doing a better job of retaining students at the post-secondary level from an academic standpoint, finances can be another cause for students to not finish their coursework. A troubling statistic is the amount of debt our young adults have to manage after completing school and the number of students who can’t finish. We live in a country that does not value education at a level needed for young adults to be successful. It costs $40,000–$50,000 per year to incarcerate a young man or woman, but we have students who are not able to get a few thousand dollars of grant funding to further their education. Which is why initiatives like Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program are so important. The program is preparing Reading students to succeed at the college of their choice and includes a “College Readiness” program as well as scholarships to attend Alvernia. As we prepare students for post-secondary, we work to develop our students’ financial literacy. Financial literacy is critical so our young people understand not only how to make college affordable but how to plan for the future. My message for my students is very clear: if you want the opportunity to be successful, no one will hand-deliver it to you. Prepare, listen, learn and be ready to persevere through any situation. If you can do that … the world is yours.
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MATTER OF DEGREES Challenging young adults to succeed
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Confessions of a
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eaching, service and scholarship are the three pillars on which academic careers are built. We typically prioritize the words — teaching, service and scholarship — by reciting them in a precise order. Teaching is foremost, but academic careers should not be built on teaching alone. We have a responsibility to serve and nurture the institutional structures that support our teaching, but service is not limited to academic governance at one’s institution. It must extend to our profession and our many communities. Scholarship may take many forms that vary across disciplines to validate our teaching and service. I believe that we should not prioritize these pillars. We should instead embrace the synergy that emerges as we integrate teaching, service and scholarship. And we can do it together. I first began to actively integrate scholarship into my teaching with Dr. Donna Yarri (professor of theology at Alvernia) when we were awarded a grant by Dartmouth College in 2004 (funded by the NIH) to study the ethical, legal and social implications of the human genome project. A book titled “God, Science and Designer Genes: An Exploration of Emerging Genetic Technologies” and several articles were the result, along with an interdisciplinary honors course where we used our scholarly work to inform our teaching. We now refer to ourselves as “biologians” in our effort to inform interdisciplinary dialogue within and beyond the classroom concerning I believe that scholarship must inform our bioethical issues. teaching, and we should make every effort to It’s clear that scholarly work engage students in scholarly work. can make an impact on important topics. So I have continually used mine to promote dialogue concerning global environmental issues, and I thank Alvernia and Carole and Ray Neag for supporting my efforts. This work began when Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick (associate professor of English and communication) and I co-authored a paper titled “Close Encounters of the Natural Kind: Eco-Composition, Citizen Science and Academe.” The paper was accepted for presentation at a conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, and then published in the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability (2006). Our future collaboration endorsed sustainability as a theme for the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Alvernia. But environmental sustainability isn’t just a message of local importance. So I frequently present my scholarly work at universities and organizations throughout the world, in places like Japan, Croatia, Malaysia, India, Ecuador, Mauritius, Denmark and New Zealand. This work has earned me a place on the International Advisory Board for the “On Sustainability Knowledge Community” sponsored by Common Ground Publishing. As part of this service, I co-edited (with Dr. David Humphreys, Open University, UK) a volume titled “Transitions to Sustainability: Theoretical Debates for a Changing Planet.” The volume was recognized at a reception and book launch in Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark (2015). Continued on page 71
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P rofessor of biology and educational leadership
lvernia’s most A prominent scholar Named a Neag Professor in 2012
GABRIELLA MESSINA ’16 hemistry major C Resident assistant Student Government Association chair Student Undergraduate Research Fellow
FOLLOW MY LEADERSHIP
efore entering college, students are constantly bombarded with advice on how to take on their first year. The No.1 tip most of us hear is that we need to stay focused and get involved in as much as we can. As an incoming freshman, I never would have guessed how important the relationships cultivated during the course of these four years could be to my new world. During my freshman year, I took advantage of some of the opportunities that were offered to me, but never really put myself out there. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I joined the Student Government Association and found a completely different type of leader in myself: the type of leader who spoke up for her class, giving them a voice. As a sophomore senator, I always strived to do more to help out in Student Government, to go above and beyond what was expected of me. And during my junior year, I joined SGA’s executive board as secretary. During that semester I learned … I joined Student Government even more about a different type of leadership. However, it wasn’t until now that I can Association and found a completelook back and say that everything that has ly different type of leader in myself: happened during these last three years has the type of leader who spoke up for prepared me to take on the opportunities that her class, giving them a voice. I have welcomed this year. Not only have I had experiences that made me a better person outside of academics, but I have also grown in my education thanks to my selection to the summer Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF) project with Dr. Ondra Kielbasa, a biology professor at Alvernia. The SURF program gives students an opportunity to work on a topic that interests them, with the help of a faculty member. I studied the effects of a neuro-protective drug intended to help reduce damage done to the brain cells after injury. The topic was new to both Dr. Kielbasa and myself, but because of my personal experiences with brain injuries, it was something that quickly became very near and dear to my heart. So for eight weeks of the summer — through a long process of trial Continued on page 72
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ave you ever noticed it can takes years after someone gives you advice to fully understand the reason it was given to you in the first place? Maybe it takes that long to experience, reflect and appreciate it. That is how I feel now, at this moment, as I reflect on my connection with Alvernia and the advice given by my father when I was choosing a college. I have so many Alvernia memories flooding into my head and a big smile on my face! I was introduced to Alvernia College 25 years ago. My father handed me a book of small Catholic colleges in Pennsylvania to look through as I tried to decide where I would attend after high school. He said, “Start small, end big. You’ll get out of a place what you put into it.” Jokingly, I used to tell people I chose Alvernia because it was first in the alphabetical listing. In reality, Alvernia had everything my parents and I were looking for. I majored in biology with the goal of attending professional school after graduation. I quickly developed a great appreciation for my professors, who had great energy for educating students and a deep passion for the subjects they taught. They made themselves accessible to students wherever needed. The liberal arts “core” included courses like philosophy, ethics, language … Alvernia helped contribute to arts, foreign languages and arts that helped widen my becoming confident, motivated, my view and expand my palate, especially important because I had a focused major. well-rounded, team oriented and My experiences inside and out of the classroom marketable after graduation. at Alvernia helped contribute to my becoming confident, motivated, well-rounded, team oriented and marketable after graduation. I attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and completed residency/specialty training at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Alvernia’s motto, “To live, To learn, To serve,” remained in my heart and mind even though I was no longer on campus. In fact, it rings in my ears every day when I treat difficult patients in my own pediatric practice that I opened 12 years ago. It is a short phrase with powerful meaning. Changes to the physical campus and the addition of student groups and activities on campus are incredible! I am in awe and appreciate the tremendous vision and dedication toward continuous growth and improvement for Alvernia. The determination and commitment to make Alvernia’s mission and core values front and center and visible to all who visit campus are impressive. Alvernia’s faculty, staff and students serve as shining examples in providing service Continued on page 72
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RACHEL A. MAHER ’94, DMD
wner, Dentistry O for Children
oard-certified diplomat of B the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Active member of the American Dental Association Alvernia board member
Insights What makes Alvernia tick? How well has it navigated change during the past 10 years? Who has played the biggest role in shaping our direction? What is key to our future? We asked a group of insightful individuals who come from well-informed backgrounds — former chairs of our board of trustees and previous faculty council presidents — to address these topics. What follows are a pair of articles that probe those questions and others. We’ve also included an infographic feature called Then and Now to provide a snapshot of key data points that tell the story of the university’s progress on various dimensions.
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CATALYST FOR CHANGE Alvernia’s evolution began more than 10 years ago, led by strategic insight and inspired by a bold vision.
JIM BOSCOV EO, Boscov's C Department Stores Trustee emeritus Board chair 2005–2008
KATHY HERBEIN ’95 ommunity leader C Trustee emeritus Board chair 2008–2011 (first alumna chair)
JOANNE JUDGE o-chair of the Health C Care Department at the law firm Stevens & Lee Board chair 2011–2015
KEVIN ST. CYR S enior vice president for CommScope Inc. Current board chair
t was 2005, and Alvernia — then Alvernia College — was a hidden gem. Known for providing students with an education steeped in the values and ethics practiced by its founders, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, the small school had a great regional reputation in Berks County but was nearly unheard of beyond its borders. A decade later, the “little school on the hill” has given rise to a fast-growing, nationally recognized university that has built a reputation as a true community partner to the City of Reading and the Berks County region. Its programs, both on campus and online, now attract strong interest at the graduate and undergraduate levels. They draw students from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond who leave campus as educated leaders prepared to “do well” and “do good,” and ideally positioned to take businesses and nonprofit organizations to the next level. Today, with nearly 3,000 students, 100-plus faculty and regional centers in Philadelphia and Schuylkill County to complement the 121-acre main campus in Reading, Alvernia is a success story and the envy of more than a few institutions that have not fared as well during the difficult economic times of the recent past. Its transformation has been shepherded by a group of highly involved and committed board members, comprised of business and community leaders who have guided the university’s leadership and strategy. Most recent board leaders point to one common denominator for Alvernia’s progress over the last decade: its visionary leadership, guided principally by President Thomas F. Flynn. Flynn, who came to Reading in 2005 fresh from a key role with the Council of Independent Colleges and prior to that, president of Milliken University in Decatur, Ill., was quick to organize a strategic plan and process that has guided Alvernia to become the institution it is today. Kathleen Herbein ’95, a visible community leader who was then an active trustee and later served as board chair from 2008 to 2011, led the presidential search that brought Flynn to Reading. “He epitomizes Alvernia’s commitment to providing affordable quality education and preparing learners for personal achievement, social responsibility and moral leadership,” she said. “We couldn’t have found a better match for our school at the time.”
THE RIGHT CHOICE
Pictured left to right: Jim Boscov, Kathy Herbein, Kevin St. Cyr and Joanne Judge.
Today several of Flynn’s attributes make it clear that he was the right choice for president, Herbein says, such as his commitment to building connections to the community, his belief in transparency, the importance of building an effective team to drive changes and the significance of the school’s Franciscan values. “The guiding principle has been adhering to the sacred trust placed in us by the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters,” Herbein says. At his inauguration in April 2006, Flynn announced formation of two “centers for excellence” that would become the Holleran Center for Community Engagement and the O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service. In hindsight, it was a critical early move that has paid enormous dividends and led to the university being recognized nationally by the Carnegie Foundation and President’s Commission on Education for interfaith initiatives and community service excellence. Herbein says Flynn’s prowess at envisioning the role Alvernia can play in the big picture of higher education on a national scale, as well as its essential role to form partnerships throughout the area
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Insights that contribute to the vitality of the region, has raised the university’s profile and earned the respect of many. Joanne Judge, co-chair of the Health Care Department at the law firm Stevens & Lee, and chair of the Alvernia board from 2011 to 2015, says Flynn’s arrival served as a catalyst for revitalization. “I think he brought a freshness and drive to Alvernia that we needed,” Judge says. “No one person changes an organization, but an organization’s character flows from the top. “Much of the progress Alvernia has seen in the last decade was driven by a comprehensive strategic plan first produced in 2007 and subsequently updated in 2011,” she says. According to Judge, the document resulted from a visioning process that involved all parts of the campus and included recommendations for updating buildings, improving student services, reducing the college’s impact on the environment and enhancing the academic experience. “It began with a good look at where we were and where we could be,” says Judge, “and then evolved to address market conditions and emerging institutional opportunities.” One change that stemmed from this process was creation of the campus quad, today a key green space on campus that emerged from what used to be a large macadam parking lot. James Boscov, vice chairman & CEO of Boscov’s Department Stores and Alvernia board chair from 2005 to 2008, sees important symbolism in this transformation. “A central parking lot makes sense for a college built around the needs of commuter students. But a sprawling green better fits a university where a growing number of students live and learn on campus and contributes to a better overall experience,” he says. “Attending college is one of those seminal experiences that has a profound impact on your life. Living on or near campus creates opportunities for an immersive experience in which students can more easily make friends from all backgrounds and find their roles in a distinct community,” Boscov says. “Today, Alvernia’s campus is one that we can all be proud of and that is attracting growing interest from top students.”
BECOMING A UNIVERSITY In 2008, the brand-new quad became a fitting backdrop for a major announcement: Alvernia College would be called Alvernia University from that point forward. The move to university status helped propel the
institution’s profile and sent a message to the world that Alvernia would expand its presence as a source of scholarly work and research. “There’s an implication that universities create knowledge through research,” explains Kevin St. Cyr, senior vice president for the enterprise segment of CommScope Inc., Richardson, Texas, who assumed his role of chair of the board of trustees last summer. “We wanted to be a university with a solid foundation for research, but at the same time maintain a size and scope that enable our students to have close relationships with top faculty who want to teach and do scholarly work.” Colleges need a critical mass of graduate programs to advance to university status. Alvernia’s first master’s degree programs began in 1999. Today, the university offers eight and counting, including very competitive programs in business, education and community counseling. The first doctoral program, a Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership, debuted in 2006. Today it has nearly 100 students working toward their doctoral degrees. Two additional doctoral programs were recently added, one in physical therapy and another in nursing practice. Both are attracting strong interest. Adapting a great college into a distinctive university requires nimble faculty and staff, bold plans, leaps of faith and the finances to pay for it, says St. Cyr. The effort to secure many of the needed financial resources began in 2007 with the launch of the Values & Vision capital campaign. This project was aimed at generating resources for new buildings such as the Campus Commons, expanding faculty research, increasing scholarships and bolstering Alvernia’s endowment. The campaign’s initial goal of $27 million seemed tremendous, especially with the coming of the Great Recession the following year. But the campaign succeeded in raising nearly $32 million before closing in 2013. “That has allowed us to do so many of these ambitious projects. That and the fact that we’ve had so much confidence in the institution,” St. Cyr says. He and his predecessors say this confidence, plus an institutional profile that continues to rise, and a resolute commitment to the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ core values, has been key to Alvernia’s success and will continue to be in the future. “The best thing about Alvernia is, it lives its mission,” Boscov says. “It’s easy to state your mission, but here’s an organization that lives its mission in everything that it does. That is what makes this a truly distinctive Franciscan university.” — by Rebecca VanderMeulen
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HAT TRICK With a tip of the hat to the institution’s past, three of Alvernia’s most accomplished professors, and former faculty council presidents, explore elements that are key to the university’s future.
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ow will Alvernia stay at the leading edge in the decade to come? Several of the university’s longest-tenured scholars and top instructors say the answer is to hang on to what makes the university distinct now: Alvernia’s commitment to student success, training them to be critical thinkers, problem solvers and effective communicators (the heart of the school’s liberal arts curriculum) — and its core Franciscan values. Those values — service, humility, peacemaking, contemplation and collegiality — create an ideal environment to foster student growth and development as well as providing a superior environment to attract top faculty and staff. “When I first came here, it was said to me that Alvernia is a way of life,” says Dr. Tim Blessing, professor of history and political science, who has taught at the university since 1993. “Twenty-plus years later, I can say it’s a statement that rings totally true and our values play a big role in that.” To Dr. Donna Yarri, professor of theology, these Franciscan values are evident in how the university infuses the study of ethics throughout its curriculum. Yarri teaches many classes that are part of Alvernia’s General Education curriculum — from which every student takes classes — including morality, theology and ethics. Discussions around topics like genetics and technology keep course material fresh, but Yarri says the ultimate questions remain the same: “What are our values? How do our values impact the choices we make?” “More important than where you “I think it’s critical that our stugo to school is what you do while dents graduate from Alvernia with a foundational value system that can you are there.” guide them throughout their careers, ED HARTUNG no matter what professions they seek,” says Yarri. “ That will be as relevant in the future, maybe more so, as it has been in the past. And it is why our values remain so important.” That said, most students have their eyes on a different prize when selecting a college to attend. The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found in its 2014 survey of American college freshmen that there was one major motivation for starting college: “To be able to get a better job.” That’s why Edgar Hartung, chair of Alvernia’s Criminal Justice Department, says it’s imperative for the university to demonstrate students’ success in the job market and stay connected to professionals in the “real world.” “I think we need to keep our traditional values, but teach the skills that employers want and need,” says Hartung, who started teaching at Alvernia in 2003 after a 27-year career in the FBI. “If not, we’re going to fall by the wayside.” Which makes the institution’s growing commitment to experiential learning and a liberal arts curriculum so right for the times. “They both provide what the market is looking for right now,” says Hartung. It’s a point made clear in a recent Association of American Colleges and Universities survey of nonprofit and business leaders that queried them about what they wanted to see in college graduates. What matters most — more than academic major or where someone attended college — are skills in interpersonal communications and critical thinking as well as problem-solving abilities and adeptness in collaborating with others who hold different viewpoints.
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Professor of history and political science
Associate professor of criminal justice
Professor of theology
Insights “These are precisely the skills that our students gain from our General Education curriculum that is built around the liberal arts,” says Blessing. “From it, students are shaped into skilled writers, speakers and critical thinkers who understand current events and can form their own opinions about what’s happening in the world.” It’s a direction that is evident in Alvernia’s approach to real-world education — infused with theory-based classroom learning and grounded in a values-based, liberal arts foundation. “This foundation ensures a well-rounded education that helps students acquire critical problem-solving and analytical skills — as well as the ability to apply skills in real-world settings,” says Blessing. Further studies bring to light the importance of real-world, engaged learning experiences in preparing students for success in the job market after they graduate. “More important than where you go to school is what you do while you are there,” says Hartung. “That includes things like internships, practicums, service work and research projects as well as involvement in student organizations and activities.” According to Hartung, Alvernia is a place where students are highly engaged, on and off campus, in leadership roles, course projects, community service, athletics and the arts. “That’s what makes the largest impact when it comes to contributing to how well they are prepared for a successful life after college, and it’s why it is so important that it remain a focus in our future.”
INSTINCTIVELY STUDENT-CENTERED One element of Alvernia’s future success centers on its ongoing commitment to students in maintaining an outstanding faculty, according to Yarri. For Alvernia’s part, it has nearly doubled the size of its faculty since 2002. Today, 110 full-time faculty members teach an undergraduate student body that is about the same size as it was 10 years ago. This allows a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and an average class size of less than 20.
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Those figures are important because they enable students to have easy access to faculty members who, for many, become caring mentors and provide an added layer of support. “It’s one of the things we hear the most from our students, that their strong relationships with professors make a world of difference in their satisfaction and academic success,” says Joseph Cicala, vice president of University Life and dean of students. And according to a 2015 Gallup poll, it is just as critical elsewhere, too. The research cites a strong correlation between students having faculty members who care about them and excite them about learning as a top factor that influences success and well-being after graduation. While many of Alvernia’s faculty members are prolific scholars who are engaged in research and in creating knowledge in their field of study, first and foremost they are dedicated to teaching — something that is equally key to the university’s ongoing success. Blessing says professors’ ability to keep up with emerging trends makes them nimble enough to adjust to changes in the areas they teach. For example, Blessing has taught a class called The History of Medicine and Disease that is heavily influenced by emerging data from the healthcare field. Hartung also notes that the Criminal Justice Department is developing new programs in cyber crime and homeland security to address the growing influence of these areas in the field. Blessing sees hope in the types of students who are coming to Alvernia. The university, like similar Catholic colleges in the region, is facing challenges such as a shrinking number of high school graduates and competition from the dozens of colleges in eastern Pennsylvania. But the 500 students who started at Alvernia this fall came with stronger academic backgrounds than ever before, and they came to Reading from a wider variety of geographic areas. To keep this up, Blessing says Alvernia needs to strengthen its student recruitment in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Maryland and beyond. The university’s lower-than-average tuition (about 20 percent lower) compared to other private universities in the Mid-Atlantic region is one obvious selling point, he says, but prospective students also need to see that the school is instinctively student-centered. “The culture of Alvernia is very welcoming,” he says. “We really are Franciscan in the sense of taking care of each other.” — by Rebecca VanderMeulen
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No one would dispute that Alvernia’s development through the years has touched every area of the university — from academics to the arts, and curriculum to community service. But perhaps most extraordinary are changes to our physical campus — the buildings and spaces that make up our 121acre community. Many consider it one of the most picturesque campuses around, and more than a few visitors have fallen hard for its beauty and distinctive features. Yet for Alvernians, it is simply home! A transformed university
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FACING PAGE Creation of the Campus Commons and adjoining plaza in 2013 provided an outstanding new location for students to gather and stay fit! ABOVE LEFT The Campus Green provides an ideal space to gather between classes. ABOVE RIGHT A stroll on campus. LEFT A long jumper poised for greatness at the Alvernia track. [ 45 ]
ABOVE A student hard at work in the Art Studio. ABOVE RIGHT Students relax at the green space in front of the Bernardine Motherhouse. RIGHT A walk on the campus green. OPPOSITE PAGE RIGHT With a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Alvernia students benefit from frequent faculty mentoring. FAR RIGHT A towering view of Francis Hall. [ 46 ]
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LEFT Athletic competitions like this menâ€™s soccer match are popular events on campus and are perfect occasions for students to mix and mingle. ABOVE A little snow doesnâ€™t stop the lacrosse team from practicing. [ 49 ]
ABOVE The Bonaventure Room in Franco Library is a popular spot for studying. RIGHT Spring is the perfect time for a stroll through Alvernia’s picturesque campus. ABOVE RIGHT The Student Lounge in Bernardine Hall offers a perfect respite from classes. FAR RIGHT Francis Hall’s rooftop. [ 50 ]
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OPPOSITE PAGE, UPPER LEFT Students gather on the campus quad to enjoy the sunshine. OPPOSITE PAGE, LOWER LEFT The lounge in Pacelli Hall is the perfect space to catch up with friends. OPPOSITE PAGE, LOWER RIGHT A surprise dusting of snow on campus. THIS PAGE, TOP Founder’s Village provides an ideal backdrop for women’s soccer action. THIS PAGE, LOWER LEFT Overlooking the main athletics field, the patio is a sweet spot to study. THIS PAGE, BELOW Stately McGlinn Conference and Spirituality Center is a popular attraction on the grounds of the Bernardine Sisters property.
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ABOVE To get an upclose look at cellular activity, Alverniaâ€™s highpowered microscopes are a must. RIGHT Francis Hallâ€™s amphitheater steps give students a workout! [ 54 ]
ABOVE Students overlook the campus quad. FAR LEFT Enjoying spring at the Student Center. LEFT Students head to class on a picture-perfect fall day. BELOW Itâ€™s group selfie time!
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CHANGE FROM ABOVE They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and so a pair of pictures offering a birdâ€™s-eye view of Alverniaâ€™s campus evolution during the past several years are a valued commodity indeed.
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NOW The two views show dramatic changes that have contributed to the university’s progress and bring into clear view just how many new buildings are a part of the Alvernia experience today. Notable additions include creation of an artificial turf playing field, the Campus Commons and four buildings that constitute the Founders Village student-housing complex. Look closely at the “then” picture and you’ll see the parking lot in front of the Student Center that is now the campus quad, and above the absence of the baseball and softball fields that were moved to Angelica Park in 2008 (see inset) to accommodate changes. What has not changed is the park-like, suburban setting that continues to make Alvernia’s campus a comfortable, welcoming place to live and learn! [ 57 ]
Alvernia NOW 110
Students living on campus [ 58 ]
Then & Now
A quick look at the transformation of a university: 2005 – 2015
(hours per year)
*Ph.D. program started in 2006
Endowment [ 59 ]
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Game-Changers Critical moves and high-impact directional shifts, when well executed, are often described as game changers within many organizations. For Alverniaâ€™s future, a pair of major game changers loom large in its future: creation of a new campus entryway complete with development of an East Campus; and the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program, an innovative college readiness program that is transforming the lives of area high school students. Together, they offer a compelling insight into the future of Alvernia and hold the great promise to take the university to even greater heights.
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BOLD VISIONS East Campus plans loom large for Alverniaâ€™s future [ 62 ]
PLANS TO reestablish Francis Hall as Alvernia’s main entryway will begin in 2016.
ith quiet anticipation, an exciting vision for a new East Campus and main entryway at Alvernia is taking shape. And what a vision it is: groundbreaking academic models, forward-thinking fitness and recreation concepts and a compelling campus entrance that re-establishes venerable Francis Hall as the university’s primary front door. It is a strategically motivated vision that will be fueled by major improvements and significant expansion to propel Alvernia into a future few could have forecast when the college first opened its doors 56 years ago. The still-evolving plans will extend the university’s campus from the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ property east to the Norfolk Southern line, adjacent to the existing baseball and softball fields that rest in the corner of Angelica Park. It will effectively connect Alvernia’s main campus with the university’s Upland Center, separated only by the rail line (with a vision one day to physically link the two locations via a bridge or tunnel). The impressive project has two main elements. First is creation of an inspiring new main campus entrance that originates at the foot of the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters’ Convent and McGlinn Conference and Spirituality Center at St. Bernardine Street. In addition to creating new signage, and enhancing the existing entry road that leads to the Sisters’ property, the project will add a walkway, improve landscaping and make a connecting road that will take visitors from the convent to campus. Also planned is the addition of an attractive arrival court and visitor parking in front of Francis Hall. Interior renovations to Francis Hall to accommodate guests when they enter the building using this new gateway are also part of the project, according to Douglas F. Smith, vice president of finance and one of the key project planners at the forefront of the East Campus plan. “It will give visitors to campus a striking experience when they arrive, introducing them to venerable Francis Hall in great style,” said Smith. “We expect to complete this phase in summer of 2016. We also envision repaving St. Bernardine Street from the Morgantown Road entrance through Angelica Park in that same time frame,” he said. “It’s a perfect setup for the great things to come.”
THE PLEX IS COMING! And what great things they are! The second phase of the project — located directly across the street from the new entryway — involves creation of an East Campus that simultaneously addresses a number of critical needs: more indoor student recreation space, more flexible general-use classrooms and additional specialized spaces to support the growth in high-demand health sciences programs. Central to the project is creation of a state-of-the-art recreation, wellness and health sciences complex (known
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as The Plex) accompanied by greatly expanded parking. A sizable academic wing is a primary feature of The Plex that would house the Doctor of Physical Therapy program and include dedicated space for healthcare science programs like athletic training, as well as space for interprofessional teaching and real-world simulation environments, faculty offices, conference and lab space and expanded general-purpose classrooms. Dr. Christopher Wise, program director for Alvernia’s Physical Therapy Program, said The Plex will help address several important academic needs. “A large portion of this building will be dedicated to the healthcare science programs, including physical therapy, that support our growing emphasis on interprofessional education,” Wise said. “It will provide real-world learning experiences,” Wise said of interprofessional training. “Our students are interacting with students in other disciplines, and they are learning the unique contributions that they can make to the team as well as their limitations. Identifying the value
of consulting with other professionals will serve to connect classroom instruction to clinical practice.”
RECREATION CENTRAL In addition to academics, the main floor of The Plex is designed as a full-sized field house complete with an indoor track and large spaces to accommodate a variety of sports, including tennis, volleyball and basketball. Space for weight and aerobic training is also part of the plan. It will become a second campus hub for recreational and athletic opportunities, complementing existing facilities on Main Campus that are now operating at near capacity, says Smith. “It will be the sort of place that will elicit a ‘Wow’ reaction from visiting students and their parents — the kind of facility in which everybody could imagine themselves taking a run or wanting to take Pilates or yoga,” said Smith.
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Because of its size and large open spaces, the location could also be used for activities like special events, track meets, athletics competitions and general meetings, Smith said. In phase two, The Plex will add a synthetic turf practice field to the front of the facility to accommodate student recreation needs as well as expand practice space for a number of varsity athletics teams that share the main turf field at the Physical Education Center. Phase three would include the addition of student housing along St. Bernardine Street, across from the convent and backing up to the park. By the time it is all completed, East Campus will add 15 acres to Alvernia’s 121-acre Reading campus…and provide a vital new source for recreation and academic excellence.
EAST CAMPUS will feature a recreation, wellness and health sciences complex known as “The Plex.”
— by Karen L. Miller
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EMPOWERING THE FUTURE Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program is a $10 million national model for helping first-generation and inner-city students get to the college of their choice … and graduate!
ABOVE Students enjoy a moment during a recent college readiness session at Reading High organized as part of the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program. RIGHT Alvernia’s Cassandra Noray, sophomore, right, with two students she’s helping through the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program.
Karina Polanco admittedly struggled during her freshman year at Alvernia. Majoring in nursing, she was daunted by difficult coursework and the task of adjusting to college life. She also was confronted with two labs during her first semester. Polanco never had a lab course as a student at a charter school in Reading, and found the work to be overwhelming. “I was freaking out,” Polanco said. “I was falling behind.” Fortunately, she didn’t struggle for very long. Supported by other members of her cohort and assisted by her faculty mentor and the university’s Educational Planning Center, Polanco quickly got back on track. By the end of her first semester she had a 3.95 grade point average. Now a sophomore, she is a member of Lambda Sigma Honor Society, and is confidently working toward graduation. Polanco is one of the very first Alvernia Reading Collegiate Scholars, a group of students hailing from the City of Reading who graduated from high school and received full scholarships to attend the university. Initiated in 2013, the innovative and ambitious Reading Collegiate Scholars Program (RCSP) works to give inner-city students an opportunity to rise above challenging circumstances by preparing them to attend and succeed at college. Emily Butz, program coordinator for the college readiness portion of RCSP, said the program is good for students — and for the City of Reading. “This will make Reading a better place and a place with greater opportunity,” Butz said. The first group, or cohort, of five scholars enrolled at Alvernia in 2014, and another cohort of 10 began in 2015. All but one of the first group is enrolled this semester (with the outstanding scholar attending military bootcamp), and all members of the second cohort are adjusting well to college life. Funded by donations from individuals, businesses and foundations, and also supported financially by Alvernia, the program is twofold. Long before these students are accepted for admission at any college or university, they work with Alvernia students and/or a college advisor to prepare for the SATs, learn how to fill out admission applications, identify appropriate colleges and work on financial issues. Teams of Alvernia students travel to Reading High School several days a week after school to provide guidance, direction and support. Reading High students also visit Alvernia in order to acclimate to campus life and be introduced to university academics. Cassandra Noray, who graduated from Reading High School in 2014 and received a RCSP
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Alvernia’s Jebediah Walston, freshman, left, works through a problem with one of the high school students in the college readiness program. scholarship to attend Alvernia, now mentors students at her former high school. Working with students enables her to give back to the Collegiate Scholars program, and to provide hope and encouragement for those who may not believe college is possible for them. “I went to school with these students and I understand what they’re going through,” said Noray, a healthcare science major and member of the Alvernia women’s tennis team. “It’s easy for me to relate to them, because I was right where they are now.” Reading High students who participate in the RCSP are free to apply to any college they wish. Many seek admission to Alvernia in hopes of getting an RCSP-funded scholarship. Juan Paula, a sophomore attending Alvernia as a Reading Collegiate Scholar, said the scholarship was huge for him. “I always planned on going to college and I was confident that I would be accepted somewhere, but I always worried about being able to afford it,” Paula said. “I was happy and grateful to get that scholarship.” Once students are accepted to Alvernia through the RCSP, the goal is to make sure they land on their feet, said David Myers, director of the O’Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service, who works closely with students in the program.
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For Alvernia student Cassandra Noray, right, the Collegiate Scholars Program has opened many new opportunities and helped her earn a 3.95 GPA. “It’s not enough just to get them in,” Myers said. “The idea is to have them be successful.” The RCSP replaces a former Alvernia initiative to enroll at-risk Reading High students in the university. The earlier program, Myers said, lacked the necessary supports for students and was not as successful as anticipated. “We learned that we need to try to build a bridge underneath these students and make sure they have all the support they need,” Myers said. To that end, all Reading Collegiate Scholars are assigned a faculty mentor, as well as a mentor from the community. They attend a program at Alvernia during the summer prior to their first semester, at which time they work on issues such as finances, conflict resolution, problem solving and self-advocacy. They also get an idea of what campus life is like, and learn their way around the university and how to use the library and media suite. “That summer is important for students,” Myers said. “It’s a great help with the transition from high school to college.” Syana Ortega, a sophomore at Alvernia who got involved with the Collegiate Scholars program through Reading High’s ROTC program, said the summer program gave her the confidence she needed to begin college. “That summer bridge program taught me so much,” said Ortega, a psychology major who has a 4.0 GPA. “It taught me what I needed to know in case I had to seek help financially or academically, or even if I just wanted to know what was fun to do around campus.” Dr. Adam Heinze, assistant professor of biology, has been involved as a faculty mentor since the RCSP began. The experience, he said, has been extremely rewarding. “I’m very excited to be a small part of what’s going on here,” Heinze said. “It makes me proud to be an educator, to tell you the truth.”
Heinze works with members of the first cohort, and has been a tremendous help to students, including Polanco. “You can tell that Adam really wants us to succeed,” Polanco said. “He asks us if there is anything holding us back from succeeding at the moment, and he’ll reach out to our professors if we’re having any issues he can help with.” Having the assurance of an on-campus mentor was especially important to Polanco in her first semester. “He really helped to ease my process into college last year,” she said. Sarah Verneret is in her first year at Alvernia, and pleasantly surprised at the level of support she is getting as part of the RCSP. She always wanted to go to college, she said, but had no idea how to navigate the complicated process of applying for admission and financial help, or even to imagine what college might be like. “I expected that if I was able to go, college would be something difficult that I’d have to go through alone,” said Verneret, a communication major. “But I’m getting help, and I feel welcomed and empowered. With this program, I will be able to get an amazing education and serve my community.” That, Myers said, is the ultimate goal of the Collegiate Scholars program. “We need to create partnerships like this one between Reading and Alvernia,” Myers said. “Hopefully, students will be successful here, and then stay in the community to use their skills and talents.” Staying and working in her community sounds like a plan to Verneret. “I’ve always been drawn to helping my community,” she said. “With the awesome support system I have here, I know I can achieve great things.”
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— by Susan Shelly
A DREAM UNFOLDING Continued from page 19
taught classes or held administrative positions during this decade. Our Sisters recognize that our partnership with Alvernia is deep, relevant and fruitful. We are delighted that Alvernia students attend many events at the Motherhouse, have toured the Bernardine Franciscan Heritage Center to learn about our history and join us for special celebrations and spiritual events, respecting the sacrifices that made their education at this institution possible. Most importantly, during this decade the Sisters have also recognized dramatic changes
that have occurred in the culture of religious life. In our own search for more authentic ways of engagement, we have looked to the partnership with Alvernia as an opportunity to see the world with new eyes, and discover possibilities for service in this radically different world. Our mutual mission is service, following the example of Jesus and St. Francis. The Gospel is an enduring mandate for Christian action played out in the ordinary but ever-evolving arena of human life. We must meet people where they are, in this time and century, with unconditional
love, kindness, dedication and a witness to the love of God lived through a commitment to Gospel values. In that sense, the past 10 years stand as a testimony to the Bernardine Franciscan founders’ original vision, a dream that must continue to shape Alvernia’s culture. It is an institution that holds so much promise! With gratitude, I acknowledge every effort made to preserve this legacy, to be diligent guardians of its future. Together, we will see Alvernia preserve its heritage and thrive.
COMMUNITY THAT COUNTS Continued from page 16
The center has helped institutionalize service at the school and given it a visible presence within Berks County and beyond. We feel so very fortunate that we have lived to see the gift we have given, give back! Truly, Alvernia’s impact in the community has become pervasive. It extends far beyond those individuals and organizations that are recipients of programs and service efforts. It is a spirit that inspires students long after they leave campus to make a difference in whatever community they live in, serving on nonprofit boards and working with organizations that help those who have unmet needs.
We can’t imagine the void that would exist in Reading, in Berks County, in our nation, without an integrated university that has the vision, motivation and soul of Alvernia. Where would nontraditional students earn their degrees? What would become of smart young people of the region who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds with the hearts and minds to succeed but not the checkbooks? In the end, communities like Reading need universities like Alvernia. And honestly, schools like Alvernia need communities like Berks County. It’s a symbiotic partnership that works for us all!
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BADGE OF COURAGE Continued from page 22
Graduating from college brought about a new beginning for both my family and me. My younger siblings all decided to walk paths that will bear them great fruit, from joining the military to pursuing careers in the medical field. As the one who set this process in motion, my happiness soars. But I am not satisfied just yet. I still want to become an FBI agent. Thanks to the Alvernia community, I was able to graduate and secure a spot with the Reading Police Department. It seemed as though everything was falling into place, and I could not have been more excited. Then the reality of the job hit me one day. One evening, my training officer and I were on patrol when we were called to the scene of a shooting. The victim was in terrible condition, and no matter how much it hurt, my training kicked in and I took his statement before he died. I learned that not all stories have feel-good endings, and it left a mark on me. But I made that statement count by using it to bring his transgressor to justice. The experience made me realize this is where I belong. Leaving the Dominican Republic 13 years ago was a difficult transition, but with my degree, I am finally doing what I love. I have been working as a patrolman with the Reading Police Department for almost a year and a half now. I’ve fought many battles, but they’ve earned me courage, respect and a way to help the world as it had helped me. I found a place I love with a career that brings meaning to my life. Thirteen years later, and I made it.
SERIAL SCHOLAR Continued from page 29
I believe that scholarship must inform our teaching, and we should make every effort to engage students in scholarly work. So I worked with two Alvernia Ph.D. students — Tracey L. Brown and Sean J. Cullen — to co-author a book titled “Nature-Centered Leadership: An Aspirational Narrative.” The book idea emerged as I advocated for the rights of nature while presenting a paper at the University of Cuenca, Ecuador. The 2010 paper highlighted factors leading up to Ecuador’s decision to recognize the rights of nature in its 2008 constitution (the first country to do so).
After Ecuador, I published a paper titled “Nature-Centered Leadership: Nature as a Stakeholder in Strategic Planning,” for presentation in Hiroshima, Japan. A book was a natural next step. And when I shared the idea, Tracey and Sean were quick to volunteer as co-authors on a project that ultimately earned us recognition at a book signing in Split, Croatia. Subsequently, the book was one of 10 finalists for an award at the International Leadership Association. Teaching, service and scholarship are inseparable pillars on which my career evolved. Teaching is my passion, and scholarly work continues to
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renew that passion. I am honored to have received the Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for excellence in teaching, and a Neag Professorship for excellent scholarly work and distinction as a teacher. Whenever I learn something new, I have an urge to share it with my students and those around me. I believe this to be a natural behavior for humans. We are in service with each other to make sense of the world around us. I have the good fortune of being able to experience this process every day.
FOLLOW MY LEADERSHIP Continued from page 30
and error — we worked toward finding some kind of protection for cells. The opportunity not only provided me with a unique experience, but also broadened my horizons in the field of cellular biology that I otherwise might not have gotten as a chemistry major. And the project has already made an even bigger impact on my future because it helped me decide to pursue my dream of going to medical school after college. As my SURF project came to an end, I once again found time to dive back into student government, this time as president. During this year, I hope to grow even more as a leader, along with my fellow Alvernians serving on the executive board: Vice-President Tati-
ana Dueño, Secretary Madison Kleintop, Treasurer Jenna Harper, CAB President Lauren Bull and our more-than-supportive advisor, Abby Swatchick. Student government is not only about making better leaders within the executive board, we’re also working to help class senators grow into better leaders and represent the entire university as a whole. A passion of mine is not only to be as involved as possible, but to encourage others to do the same, and give back to Alvernia — our home away from home. I know that serving as president will affect me not only during my time here, but also in my life after college. I will forever be grateful to Alvernia for these opportunities that have enhanced my leadership experiences.
ENDING BIG Continued from page 33
to the Berks County community and far beyond. It’s an example that is contagious and an amazing tribute to the Bernardine Sisters. Several years ago, I was invited to participate in the university’s President’s Advisory Committee and then to join the board of trustees. As a student I always viewed Alvernia from the inside out. Now, as a board member I view it from the outside in. After I attended my first board meeting, the current chairman, Kevin St. Cyr,
said to me, “We are so glad you joined us.” I whispered back, “Why?” He responded, “Because you are the link between the past and present!” I gave that a few minutes to sink in and then thought, “That’s a big job!” It is a sentiment I share with all alumni and students who read this. You are the links between the past, present and future of Alvernia. Remember, you will get out of it what you put into it. Start small. End big!
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SEEING LIFE DIFFERENTLY Continued from page 15
day, professors and staff members are still helpful. When I first came to Alvernia, I thought the most important thing was to do my homework while also studying all of the time. As time passed, I saw that being a member of different clubs and honor societies would help better form me for future professional success. These clubs are full of people from different backgrounds and majors, making the interaction incredible and one of a kind. It seems like each day I learn something new from the people around me. With graduation in the near future, I reflect a lot on my time here at Alvernia. Believe it or not, the core values the university is built upon have allowed me to see my life differently. I’ve learned that the college journey isn’t just about getting some piece of paper. It’s about constructing a foundation of values for my own future career. Service, humility, peacemaking, contemplation and collegiality are the concepts that have changed the way I see life. Higher education is important in today’s society, but higher education without personal values is meaningless. I am extremely proud of all I have achieved while attending Alvernia. Due to my first-generation status, I never thought that I would perform well in college, but I proved myself wrong. My parents taught me that anything I put my mind to is possible. The mere fact that they believed in me served as the motivation that kept me going on this journey. One of my favorite sayings is “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and I believe I am finding my way. My primary goal is to make my family and friends proud by graduating from college with honors. They deserve it, and they have been with me since day one. They serve as the reason behind my strong will to accomplish my dreams. And because of my will, I found a way.
GETTING ENGAGED in the art of learning Continued from page 20
well as an increased opportunity to correct misconceptions and confusion. Students not only connect better through the interactive nature of these classes, but also gain a better sense of where they are with course material at any particular point. Ultimately, Alvernia professors understand that the best inquiry- and activity-based learning happens outside of the classroom. All across campus, we see students going outside of the traditional classroom to participate in real-world learning experiences. The launch of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program in the summer of 2015 further bolstered research opportunities available to Alvernia students. Through the SURF program, students engage one-on-one with a professor to learn through independent investigation. I was fortunate to experience this directly through mentoring two SURF students during the launch —
each working on separate, individual projects. These students gained handson scholarly experience in their major areas of study, as well as vital skills in critical thinking and analysis, scholarly reading and writing and presenting to varying types of audiences. They were able to work closely with a faculty member to achieve a cohesive body of independent work presentable to an outside audience. These skills will serve our students in any endeavor they choose to pursue after college. Engaging students with activity-based learning might always be a moving target. But the benefits for both students and faculty are too immense to ignore. So we will continue to ask ourselves if there are better ways to connect, internalize and understand — and then implement new tools and techniques to further evolve our teaching and learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.
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Alvernia in the future will continue to be inspired by our Catholic tradition and Franciscan values. Our goal moving forward will be the same as it has been in the past: to produce ethical leaders with moral courage and graduates who do well and do good. There can be no cause more noble, no result more rewarding. â€” Thomas F. Flynn President [ 74 ]