Lisa W. Witzig, Ballot Position No. 47

Lisa W. Witzig ’79 Lib
CEO, Ideen, LLC
Denver, Colo.

Read Witzig’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download). 

Answers to Questions

1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?

First, Penn State needs to re-think its position as a state university and adopt a hybrid model.  Penn State should be a public university with a profit-and-loss mentality.  Senior managers should be held accountable for achieving financial goals and rewarded for cost-saving actions; merit pay should be considered.    Second, Penn State must focus on both cost-cutting and revenue-generating actions.  As such, it should:

  • Conduct a zero-based review of costs and Commonwealth Campuses.  It must cut duplicative services, while improving the performance of Commonwealth Campuses that are struggling to increase attendance and maintain high standards.
  • Cut departments and majors. Penn State needs to create cross-university criteria to evaluate departments and majors – e.g., low rankings, small enrollments, costly programs – and cut the good to save the great. Penn State should prioritize and fund programs that will be recognized among the top 50 and strive to be in the top 25.
  • Expand online programs and degrees. The University should look toward meeting the needs of local communities with online programs, attracting students from non-traditional backgrounds such as adult learners, and lowering operating costs associated with brick-and-mortar classrooms.
  • Strengthen and enlarge the ROTC program.  This will provide more scholarships and enhance Penn State’s service to our nation.
  • Emphasize private-sector sponsored research.  Penn State should reward departments that provide relevant research and attract outside funding.

2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.

Penn State has many options it can pursue to hold down costs for students—both undergraduate and graduate—that combine creativity, common sense, and business savvy.  For example, students should be required to meet with advisors every semester to eliminate surprises and extra semesters.  The University could reduce tuition charges and fees for students pursuing internships, because the University is only covering administrative costs.  Moreover, the University should engage more alumni to sponsor paid internships for students and think creatively about using technology to help students with “virtual” internships.  Indeed, students should be counseled early in their Penn State experience that they will leave with two documents – a degree and a resume – that will help them pursue success after graduation.    Penn State should establish formal, three-year baccalaureate degrees for students who are mature enough to stay focused and finish ahead of others.  While students should be encouraged to save money by living at home and attending Commonwealth Campuses, standards for quality teaching at these campuses should be strengthened to ensure that students are prepared for the coursework at University Park and can be successful.  Penn State should expand its online courses and degrees as well, eliminating the need for room-and-board for some students. Online programs also can be used to meet the needs of local communities where a Commonwealth Campus is not economically feasible.  Additionally, Penn State should expand its ROTC program, to include increasing the number of scholarships.

3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?

This question should be first, not third, of all the questions, as it sets out the vision that will drive Penn State’s goals.  It’s time to keep it simple — Penn State should get back to the basics of teaching, research, and service.

  • Excellence in Teaching – Penn State must attract the best and brightest professors who have demonstrated excellence and creativity in teaching and reward them appropriately.  Penn State should bring athletics into the fold and emphasize the teaching aspects of sports for student athletes.  Penn State programs should be ranked among the top 50 of their field and strive to be in the top 25.
  • Excellence in Research – Penn State should emphasize commercial- and government-focused research that contributes to society, while generating revenue for the University.  The University should hold senior leaders accountable for attracting grants and research funds.  Penn State should not rest on its laurels, but should look toward the future and create majors that are relevant for tomorrow’s employers.
  • Excellence in Service – The University must create a culture of servant leadership across its faculty and staff, students and alumni.  Penn State’s servant leadership culture should:   o Evaluate professors using high standards for teaching excellence and reward those who provide outstanding service to all students – undergraduate and graduate
  • Ensure its departments and programs deliver excellent research and service to society
  • Pursue creative administrative initiatives to serve its alumni, faculty, and staff  and support service-based organizations

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