Friday, June 15, 2018

Helping our global understanding

Recently I had a chance to travel to Atlanta to address the Global Awareness Society’s annual international conference. What a wonderful gathering of individuals led by Chang Sub Roh and Jim Pomfret who work so hard to make this world a better place for everyone.

Our world today is more interconnected than ever before in human history. Travel around the globe can be done in 24 hours. My uncle who was the first in our family to arrive in the United States traveled by boat from Syria.

It took 105 day for him to reach the U.S. Imagine what you can do now in 105 days. It is longer than a college semester and 25 percent of a master’s degree.

Communication across continents once took months. For that same uncle, it took a month for a letter to make it back to Syria and another month for his family to respond. Think about that, 60 days to communicate with one another. That’s unimaginable to us today where we can pick up our phone and send photos and videos to anyone anywhere on the globe.

But despite all these incredible advances, as a society, we still struggle with understanding and acceptance of our neighbors, not just in our own country, but from around the world.

A program that will help our global understanding of each other is the study abroad program here at BU. We have five faculty-led trips this June to parts of Europe and the Middle East. There, our students meet and learn from their fellow citizens of the world because it is only through a mutual understanding of each that we can reestablish a society with no hate or fear. Where we can all enjoy the fruits of the world, no matter, who might have produced them.

It is my hope that more and more of students will look into and take advantage of our study abroad program and not be isolated from their fellow man. If you’re a parent of a BU student, please encourage your child to think about this worthwhile program.

I hope, if you are fortunate enough, to enjoy some quiet time this month as the weather finally warms. It has been my honor to serve as president of Bloomsburg University for just shy of one year now. In that time I have come to truly understand why this “college on the hill” is such an important part of so many lives.

The next 12 months will be an exciting time in the life of this university and everyone here will need your support. All the best.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Celebrating Black History Month

During the month of February we celebrate Black History Month. The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. It was in the fall of that year that Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, a group committed to studying and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.

Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Here at Bloomsburg University, I am proud of the programming we currently offer and hope that we'll be able to offer more in the years ahead.

We started BU's Black History Month with a lecture by Mr. Wil Haygood, a distinguished writer, author, Pulitzer Prize finalist and reporter. Mr. Haygood is best known for his book which was later turned into the critically acclaimed film, The Butler. Mr. Haygood gave an inspired talk to a large crowd on where we are as a society and how 'only light can drive out the darkness."

There will be several more lectures and presentations throughout the month in celebration of Black History Month.

But I want to highlight one very important discussion to be held on Friday, Feb. 16. Organized by CGA president Joar Dahn, "Beyond the Fountain", a discussion of racism in our community. It will be held in the Kehr Union Building, multi-purpose rooms A-B from 5 to 7 p.m. As Joar has said it is his goal is to bring people of all colors together to discuss diversity and how we can all learn from each other. This is a young man who cares deeply about this community and wants to make it a better place for all of us. I am so proud of him for what he is doing with this discussion and it is my hope that we come out and share our experiences. I'll be there and I hope you will be, too.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Greatness is determined by service

Happy New Year! I hope you had an enjoyable holiday break and preparing for a great spring semester.

January is the month that we celebrate and honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His lasting legacy of peace and equality is something we continue to strive for to this day. While progress has been made in many quarters, much work is still needed.

One of Dr. King’s many powerful statements that moves me is "Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service."

This call to service should be an everyday goal for each of us. It doesn’t take moving a mountain to be considered great. Right here on our campus, a student’s call to greatness can be helping tutor a classmate or volunteering with one of BU’s many service organizations.

Your call to greatness could also be working at The Big Event or just donating blood. For faculty and staff, there are many organizations inside the communities where we live that are starving for a helping hand. We should all consider lending a helping hand in the coming 12 months. Not only will you be assisting someone else, you’ll feel better about yourself.

Enjoy your final few days of break and be sure to look for future meet and greet opportunities this semester. And as always, Go HUSKIES!


Monday, December 18, 2017

Power of the student body

One of the many joys I receive from working in higher education is the opportunity to see young people grow into adults during their time as college students. Arriving on campus with narrow views of the world, these teenagers get to see beyond their small circle and become citizens focused on doing good.

I was reminded of the power and growth of the student body in a hand-written note (yes people still take time to send notes through the mail) sent to me by the McDaniel family of Shickshinny. The writer talked about the Bocce Bash held at the Nelson Field House in October. The McDaniel’s praised all the student volunteers, but singled out junior Nora Yakscoe, a special education major, who despite some medical issues of her own, put in many hours of work in advance of the event to help ensure its success for the hundreds of participants. The McDaniel’s said the work done that day shows the true nature of BU’s student body which is “loving, caring and exemplary.”

Well said! It’s a spirit that I have seen on display throughout my short tenure as president of BU with events like the breast cancer walk, the BU Dance Ensemble dance marathon for the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, the Suitcase Project for foster children in the area which provides them with a nylon duffel bag filled age-appropriate toys and personal items or most recently the BU softball team pooling their own money to buy a plane ticket so a teammate studying in England could get home to see her mom injured in an auto accident to name just a few.

I know this ‘power of the student body’ will only continue to grow and develop over the coming months and years and look forward to seeing how it impacts both the students and our community.

From me, my wife Deanna and our children Christian and Lauren, it is our hope in this time of peace and joy, that you and your family have a wonderful and safe holiday season and a Happy New Year!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Out of the darkness cooperation shines bright

Helen Keller once wrote, “Alone we do so little; together we can do so much.”

That idea was never more evident than on the day after Thanksgiving when the residents of the Town of Bloomsburg, led by Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., along with Bloomsburg University faculty, staff and students came together to save the annual parade of lights that had been abruptly canceled just a few weeks earlier.

When the plug, so-to-speak, was pulled on this annual community event that featured lighted floats along with the arrival of Santa, it looked as if the holiday season would not be as festive this year.
But, showing what the power of cooperation can accomplish, everyone pitched in and pulled off the biggest parade in the history of the event for the several thousand people which lined the route on a perfect night for a parade.

Renamed “Bloomsburg Lights up the Night,” more than 85 floats were registered for the event and more than 25 local businesses made financial contributions ensuring a parade in 2018 and 2019.

Thank you to all those from the university who gave of their time with helping organize the parade and a special thank you to the athletic department which put together a float featuring Roongo and some of our student-athletes, as well as AFSCME which had an entry.

This spirit of cooperation will hopefully be the start of many more collaborative efforts between the people of the town and our university, because if we can come together to organize a parade in less than a month, imagine what great things we could accomplish with the benefit of time and effort. As we near the end of the fall semester, I hope everyone can stop and take a few minutes to enjoy some time with family and friends.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership. According to Robert Greenleaf, who coined the term servant leadership, this exercise of power “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” During my almost three decades of higher education experience, the most effective leadership is servant leadership in action.

Far too frequently our students provide us with amazing lessons in this type of leadership.

As I walk the campus and observe, often from afar, I am amazed what our students do for each other, the university, and our neighbors.

During move-in week our OWL’S and CA’s provided servant leadership with poise, dignity, and most importantly a genuine SMILE. There was no task that was too small or no frustrated first-year students and their family, that would keep this dedicated group from making the day a memorable one for everybody.

Also, Joar Dahn, our CGA president and an immigrant like me, along with his executive board, have shown leadership in action. Joar has met with town leaders to facilitate conversations so that our students and our neighbors in town can exist symbolically along-side each other.

Our faculty also show us servant leadership. I am utterly amazed at the level of service the BU faculty provides on and off campus. For example, two faculty members, Kurt Smith and Scott Lowe, both from the department of philosophy, serve on the town Planning Commission. Retired faculty members Jim Pomfret and Chang Shub Roh also work together delivering meals on wheels. And I am sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of others who volunteer in many ways across campus and our town and region.

Our staff is also very active serving others. For example, Donna Gillaspy, administrative assistant in the sports information office, is a volunteer at the Bloomsburg Elks Lodge as well as with the Bloomsburg Women’s Civic Club and serves as mission team leader at the Wesley United Methodist Church.

BU is a special place because of the servant leaders that prefer to lead with action rather than words. Valuable lessons for all, especially newcomers to the Huskies family like me.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My first month as a Husky

A rush of emotions filled me on July 10, my first official work day at BU. As I walked towards Carver Hall, I felt a sense of excitement and pride, but was also humbled and had anxious butterflies in my stomach.

Climbing the staircase reminded me of my first day of fifth grade in Fall 1977 when I was a stranger in a new country and not able to speak any English. What would people think of me? Will I be able to survive? Those same thoughts hit me as I entered the building to a host of smiling faces.

On that first day, my new staff welcomed me with a breakfast helping to remediate the butterflies. Soon, though, it was time to work as I attended a video conference at the Greenly Center with the Board of Governors, the System Chancellor and his team, presenting BU’s 2017-18 Action Plan. Just an hour into my presidency and I was already speaking about our Action Plan.

The butterflies were back! While the first day was filled with excitement and those pesky butterflies, I took solace and comfort in the many welcome letters, emails, texts, Facebook posts congratulating me and wishing me well. Four such notes stand out in my mind.

The first was a letter from my elementary school principal – who excitedly expressed father-like pride in my journey from speaking no English to becoming BU’s 19th president. Also, my physics teacher congratulated me using my high school’s (Allentown Central Catholic) Facebook page, who expressed how proud he and my alma mater are of what I have achieved!

The third was from Dr. Richard Englert, the president of Temple University (my alma mater x3 – You see I earned my bachelors, master, and doctorate from Temple U. I am a three-time OWL!) He told me he was TEMPLE PROUD of me. Finally, the fourth was a letter from a colleague at Kutztown University – who expressed her pride in my accomplishments!

However, the most remarkable words of welcome have come from my campus colleagues – welcoming me to the BU FAMILY. In the weeks ahead, I look forward to getting to know the faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. Thank you for welcoming me and as I said during my presidential announcement – I will wake up every morning with ONE goal, and that is to make Bloomsburg University better! So, from time to time, the butterflies will re-visit me – and that’s a good thing. They remind me of the tremendous opportunities we have ahead of us!

    With heartfelt gratitude,