Pratima Gatehouse, Ballot Position No. 2

GatehousePratima Gatehouse ’96, ’10 MS Eng

Vice president, product design
Park 7
Short Hills, N.J.

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

Website | LinkedIn

1. What should Penn State be looking for in its next president?

I would look for two key attributes in Penn State’s next President. First, we need someone that has a vision for Penn State to stay ahead of trends in the rapidly changing arena of higher education. This includes building on our leadership position in global education, but also coming up with innovative ways to educate students at an affordable cost while maintaining Penn State standards of excellence.  The new President should have a breadth and depth of knowledge of higher education including funding and our three part mission of teaching, research and service. The vision needs to focus on quality and value of research and academics.  Penn State’s president will probably have to develop a new financial model that will enhance the revenue generating areas of the university and maintain support to all the other areas.  This means ensuring revenue generating faculty/departments are rewarded but not by just cutting departments that are not profitable.

Second, the new President should have demonstrated collaborative skill and proven ability to work with multiple/ diverse constituencies. To implement a proactive plan to such a diverse set of people and interest groups, the president will need to be able to work with people well. A collaborative management style will allow the President to carry best practices between and throughout all levels and divisions of Penn State, which will result in Penn State’s ability to provide affordable tuition while continuing to improve academic standards and rankings.

2. What changes or reforms should the Board of Trustees consider to help the university progress after the events of 2011 and 2012? Please explain why—or, if you don’t think reform is needed, please explain why not.

Reforms to the Board of Trustees (BoT) are needed in general, not just in response to the November 2011 and 2012 events. It has been over 100 years since the last membership changes, which have only been additions throughout the BoT history.  Most of the proposed reforms address board size, composition (voting and non-voting), and attendance. In addition, for the Alumni trustees, I think voters should consider reforming the composition of the board to be more reflective of the University’s changing demographics and different graduation decades.  Penn State is a large and dynamic institution that needs a leadership group as diverse and dynamic as the institution.  Right now, the board is not reflective of the current student body or the institution.

I also feel more transparency, communication and collaboration is needed. Over the last year, I believe the Board has improved its communication with the public, restructured internally and taken steps toward greater inclusion of the faculty, staff, students and alumni.  But I have ideas for more that can be done.  For instance, the BoT could coordinate with the Alumni Association’s Grassroots network to better urge state legislators for state appropriations. Also, I would like to see the reform concepts carried through the Boards in all the Colleges, Campuses and other university affiliated organizations. Governance culture may be determined by the Trustees, but such reform will become a reality if it is incorporated at all college and campus at all levels of the University.

3. How do you define the role of an alumni trustee, and how would that inform the way you would approach your term on the board?

An important component an Alumni Trustee’s leadership involves engaging current alumni and students to ensure that their interests are reflected and represented by the board.  A Board that fosters ongoing dialogue among faculty, staff, students and alumni leads to a collaborative environment and ultimately to university-wide programs that benefit all these groups. For example, the University could leverage its enormous alumni pool and high academic standards to expand the paid-internship portion of the Paterno Fellow Program to the entire University. This will help ameliorate student debt, help recruit high achieving students and provide an intriguing engagement opportunity our alumni.

At its core, Penn State is a research and academic institution, with a land grant mission. But the manner in which the University engages its alumni has not reflected that. My experiences as a dual degree graduate, seven year University volunteer, committed donor, Beaver stadium suite owner, and Asian female make me uniquely qualified to resolve the disconnect I have seen. The perspective that I would bring is a broad, forward-thinking view with ideas and solutions. My connections with alumni and students at multiple campuses, colleges, interest groups and chapters will allow me to continue to develop new and innovative ideas in the future.

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