Paul J. Malaspina, Ballot Position No. 48

Paul J. Malaspina ’77 EMS, ’80g Med
Great Lakes Surgical Specialist, UPMC
Erie, Pa.

Read Malaspina’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?

Penn State needs to secure its financial future through tough decision making plus breakthrough thinking.    Anyone can choose the attractive option when one exists.  Leaders are defined when all of the choices before them have significant downsides.

Fastidious management attention to administrative and operating efficiencies, economies of scale, and longitudinal efforts to increase philanthropy must be paramount. Harsh financial realities may force austerity measures such as the consolidation of underutilized commonwealth campuses.  This should be a last resort and new sources of funding should be sought first.

Universities typically spend about 5% of their endowment per year, less than their investment income, to allow for the maintenance and some growth of their principal. While no organization wants to dip into their endowment principal to meet operating costs, many hospitals around the state have had to do so, just to stay open.  However, that may be the first step in going out of business.

For Penn State, teaming up with existing industry, and breaking ground in directly incubating new industry can lead to financial returns. Investing a portion of endowment capital as entrepreneurial seed funding, technology incubation and internal loans to “intrapreneurs” to spawn new programs can be developed to generate a financial return to the University. Faculty and students should be eligible to participate. The University has a huge bank of brain power available to constitute a think tank for rigorous due diligence on potential tech and business investments, thus minimizing risk.

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.

Our best response is to maximize the value proposition of investing in a Penn State education while keeping tuition as low as possible.  All courses of academic study, indeed all legitimate forms of philosophical inquiry, have intrinsic value. However, we need to amplify the magic that Penn State already knows how to perform– produce those graduates that business, industry and graduate schools want, which means our graduates get real jobs in great careers.

Maximize the Penn State graduate’s employability, and be known for doing so.  Make work-study, internships, modular competency certifications and capstone projects the norm, in essentially all majors — not just in isolated pockets. Innovate ways to meet industry’s needs and society’s needs directly. The Interdisciplinary Business with Engineering (IBE) program at Penn State Erie is a great example. The magic isn’t pulling the rabbit out of the hat — it is getting the affordable, worthwhile rabbit into the hat in the first place.

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

The concepts of being a land-grant university include the founding funding — the monetary value of the land granted — and being charged with the mission to develop courses of study in the development and stewardship of our natural resources.

Penn State’s land-grant mission in the 21st and 22nd centuries should have a key focus on the safe and effective development of Pennsylvania’s shale gas energy resources. Shale gas energy will be a fact of Pennsylvania life for the next two centuries. The state is poised to be a net exporter of energy within a decade, leading to an expectable turn-around in the economy, from rust belt to energy belt. This has important implications ranging from increasing land values to creating jobs for Pennsylvanians–including PSU graduates.

Penn State should be the go-to center of knowledge, policy and technology development for shale gas energy. This can be accomplished through leadership programs and enhancing our majors in petroleum/natural gas engineering, geosciences and shale gas environmental engineering to protect Pennsylvania’s health, land, air and water.  Done right, all of this can lead to direct and indirect economic return to the University.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

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