Thanksgiving Thoughts from Chancellor Keon

November 18, 2021

Dear Faculty and Staff:

As we approach the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take a few moments to tell you how much I appreciate all your hard work and dedication to our students and to PNW.  As I reflect back to where we were a year ago, when most of us were teaching and working remotely, I am thrilled to see the engagement of our faculty and staff with our students on the campuses this fall.  During the last few months, I have been encouraged by a general sense of positivity and hope, throughout the university, for our future.

It is with this sense of hope that I also reflect on the state of higher education – and, importantly, the bold moves we must continue making together to assure our future as the premier metropolitan university serving our region.

As you know, higher education today is operating in a very volatile environment that has impacted college enrollments throughout Indiana and the Midwest.  Except for some isolated examples, colleges and universities have not been growing for years.  What worked in the past to attract and retain students no longer works.  This means that we all must be innovative and try new options and directions.

We know that in a declining industry those that stay the current course and look only inwardly are those who ultimately fail.  We must continue to look to the environment and monitor closely the needs and desires of our students and their families, while at the same time examining job opportunities for our graduates regionally and across the country.

At the beginning of the fall semester, Provost Holford and I outlined areas of strategic investment identified by the Deans and the Senior Leadership Team using internal data and external analysis of the market needs in Northwest Indiana.  These investments in academic programs, athletics, and digital marketing will attract students to PNW.

More recently, our Enrollment Management team has embarked on a number of initiatives to enrich our efforts in recruiting students to PNW.  These initiatives include: revamping recruiting practices; visiting with superintendents and high school principals; reviewing and changing the scholarship program for incoming students; re-establishing our recruiting of international students; and working toward hiring an individual to lead our efforts to attract and retain Hispanic students so we can attain status as a Hispanic Serving Institution.  These are just a few examples of the many ways Enrollment Management is taking on our challenging environment by being creative and innovative. Many other areas, including Marketing and Communications, are also engaging in promising new directions.

Academic Affairs reinvigorated efforts last year to increase student retention.  With your help, the Office of Student Success and Retention is more closely tracking our most vulnerable students and monitoring students enrolled in classes that may be difficult.  Keeping in touch with students and directing them in ways to help achieve success through multiple means of communication are helping increase our retention rates and assist students to graduation.

There are examples of innovation all around PNW, as our faculty and staff engage with our students.   We must look to the future and implement pioneering and dramatic change to ensure the future of PNW.  It is clear that students want an affordable, high-quality education.  Please continue your strong efforts to be positive, innovative, and student-centered.

I wish you and your family a very warm and happy Thanksgiving.

Sincerely,

Thomas L. Keon, Chancellor