Riley provides updates for SRU’s strategic plan in second Spring Town Hall

Discussion on six-year strategic plan, finances and Shapiro’s plan for higher education

Published by Hayden Schultz, Date: April 22, 2024
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(HAYDEN SCHULTZ/THE ROCKET)

SRU President Karen Riley delivered a presentation alongside her cabinet members to discuss updates for SRU’s six-year strategic plan on Tuesday during common hour in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

The updated strategic plan was announced on April 9 and based on four commitment pillars: Robust, Supportive and Inclusive Culture; Academic Discovery and Human Growth; Community Impact and Collaboration; Financial Sustainability and Resource Stewardship.

The second Spring Town Hall follows up on strategic and comprehensive plan announcements in Feb. which The Rocket previously reported on.

Strategic plan updates

The plan’s slogan is “The First Choice” and its primary mission is “providing the highest quality education at the lowest possible price.”

Riley said words like “dynamic, flexible, fluid, iterative” describe the six-year plan. She said the constructs are meant to be “foundational” but allow for pivoting in the future.

“We can’t make a plan, even probably for three years out, of knowing what’s going to happen,” she said. “For many of the initiative it’s going to take a year, maybe even two, to develop some of the foundational aspects of it.”

To help realize the strategic plan, Riley announced the beginning of campus wide work groups to carry out and evaluate progress, something she announced in the previous town hall.

Riley said the administrative council will put together ideas of “ideal work groups.”

“This is where the action items will actually start to take place,” she said. “You’ve seen in the matrix and you’ve seen the narrative but what you haven’t seen are how we are going to make these things happen.”

The work groups will put together activities Riley said would “allow [the university] to reach our goals.”

Describing how work groups operate, she said spreadsheets will document evidence of progress, costs and leadership efforts.

Riley said recruitment and volunteering is starting soon and “should all be in place” by the fall, potentially beginning over the summer.

She also said the “more we get different voices and involvement in this the better” and plans to not “go to the usual suspects” in terms of who is participating the workgroups.

Provost Michael Zieg also called for faculty, staff and students from all colleges to be involved.

Riley presented Elementary/Early Childhood Education Professor Michelle Amodei, Assistant Vice President of Career Education and Development John Rindy and English Professor Danette DiMarco with a recognition award for their work on the strategic plan.

Finance report

Vice President for Finance and Administration Carrie Birckbichler presented updates for SRU’s finances.

Birckbichler said the budget established at beginning of year assumed a 2.0% consumer price index (CPI) increase for all bargaining units but believes the actual number landed closer to 6% for personnel costs. The increase equated to $2.5 million versus the original estimate according to her presentation.

She also said key vacancies not yet filled resulted in savings of $1.7 million to counter the rise in personnel costs.

Due to higher-than-expected interest rates, Birckbichler said she expects to be $2 million over budget this fiscal year and said the last of the coronavirus funding, which can only be used on one-time purchases, is drying up.

Birckbichler said increasing the standard transfer to plant from $2.5 million to $3.5 million to will combat the deficit seen from inflation and CPI increases.

“That would allow us to do some additional project on campus but that is still under review,” she added, referring to the potential transfer to plant.

Launching as part of pillar four, Financial Sustainability and Resource Stewardship, Riley explained donations need to be a top priority for SRU.

“We are going to really shift our thoughts about how we think about philanthropy,” the president said.

Riley explained SRU is currently last in fundraising amongst PASSHE schools.

“I think people think that because we are a public institution that we don’t need private funds,” she said. “We are heavily, heavily tuition dependent.”

Riley stated last year SRU raised around $3 million. This year SRU has raised $7.8 million of actual cash, including $3.8 million for engineering in the form of software and a $2 million bequest.

Interim Vice President for University Advancement Erin Bryer detailed the Rock Giving Day and the $870,000 it delivered.

SRU Athletics’ giving equated to $289,000 and the Samanth Swift Memorial Scholarship surpassed $100,000. She also said SRU Faculty and Staff voluntary payroll deduction accounted for $143,000, or 27% of the total.

Shapiro’s plan for higher education

Riley said she was part of a working group with PASSHE and community colleges presidents to talk about governance issues relating to Governor Shapiro’s plan for higher education.

“Our time as presidents, it sounds like is done at this particular point,” she said. “They asked us to respond to some talking point that they’re going to push out.”

She said the next step involves a group of “industry leaders,” union representatives and chancellor Greenstein representing PASSHE, to talk about next steps with Shapiro.

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Hayden Schultz is a junior Strategic Communication and Media Major with a concentration in multimedia journalism and minor in political science. He serves as the assistant news editor and this is his first semester on The Rocket staff. When he is not writing or investigating, Hayden enjoys athletics and MMA in his free time, along with spending time with family and friends.

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