President Eric J. Barron Visits Penn State Mont Alto
Penn State Mont Alto welcomed then President-elect Eric J. Barron and his wife, Molly, to the campus on April 18, 2014 as part of a familiarization tour of the Commonwealth campuses ahead of officially assuming the responsibilities of the office on May 12. [See more photos here.]
Dr. Barron had previously spent 20 years at Penn State University and used the tour to reacquaint himself with the Penn State community, share his thoughts about education, answer questions, listen to concerns, and take note of ideas.
Dr. Barron was named the 18th president of Penn State by the University's Board of Trustees on February 17. Most recently, he served as the president of Florida State University in Tallahassee since 2010, and has held several notable positions within government and higher education, including dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences from 2002 to 2006.
“It was an extremely important gesture for Dr. Barron to visit the Commonwealth campuses before taking office,” said Penn State Mont Alto’s Chancellor Francis K. Achampong. “His visit was a wonderful prelude to his presidency because it demonstrated his commitment to familiarizing himself with the people, priorities, aspirations, and challenges of the entire University,” he said.
Dr. and Mrs. Barron met with members of the Penn State Mont Alto Advisory Board, some local business leaders, students, faculty, and staff. Before taking questions, Barron shared six “higher education imperatives” of concern:
- Student engagement – “How do we get students to be more engaged instead of just going in and out of class?” asked Barron. “When students are engaged, we know they are happier and get better grades.” He suggests internships, service, and international experiences.
- Demographics and diversity – “Diverse campuses enrich everyone’s lives,” according to Barron, and since Penn State is a public institution, he considers it a moral imperative. The University must also recognize and respond to today’s rapidly changing demographics.
- Student career success and economic development – The University should provide strong career service programs while also capitalizing on the intellectual capital of its research and graduates to drive economic development, according to Barron. “We should be consciously thinking about that because we are a public institution using public dollars,” he said.
- Quality and excellence – “We have to be really good at a whole variety of disciplines,” he said. To do so, the University must “stay current, advance knowledge, and communicate it.”
- Accessibility – Because public support is declining for public universities and the need-based number of students is growing, it will be challenging to continue to provide access for all students and attract quality faculty. Therefore, the University “must be as efficient as we can be and be good stewards,” he said.
- Obligation to keep pace with technology and provide opportunities for on-line education – The University will need to continue to define its role in providing on-line education. Barron likes the opportunity on-line education offers to promote life-long learning and recognizes the many benefits for those who can adopt the technology.
“The Penn State Mont Alto community appreciates President Barron’s time and interest in visiting and engaging our campus community,” said Achampong. “The transition to new leadership is always an exciting time and his visit to our campus was a welcome opportunity to get to know him and his wife, Molly.”
The University's Board of Trustees appointed Barron on the unanimous recommendation of the 14-member Trustee Presidential Selection Council, chaired by Trustee Karen Peetz. Barron succeeds Rodney A. Erickson, who in 2012 announced his intention to retire before June 30, 2014.