Education

Working-Together

Working Together for the Greater Good

The educational needs of a community are always evolving. Whether it’s making adult education more easily accessible or expanding course offerings, colleges and universities must come up with ways to best serve their local communities. In the words of Father Bernard O’Connor, OSFS, president of DeSales University, “A university must be distinctive. It must stand […]

The educational needs of a community are always evolving. Whether it’s making adult education more easily accessible or expanding course offerings, colleges and universities must come up with ways to best serve their local communities.

In the words of Father Bernard O’Connor, OSFS, president of DeSales University, “A university must be distinctive. It must stand within the society in such a way that it provides service to that society.”

DeSales was founded in 1965 on that notion of service. At the time, there was no liberal arts college for Catholics in the Lehigh Valley. At the request of Bishop Joseph McShea, Allentown College of Saint Francis de Sales filled that void.

Several years later, through the college’s association with the various parishes of the Diocese of Allentown, the need for adults to gain more educational experience became evident. By 1977, Allentown College introduced ACCESS, the first accelerated adult evening undergraduate program of its kind in the region.

“You had to change the culture of the institution, which was geared to serve the traditional student,” says Rev. Alexander Pocetto, OSFS, who helped create ACCESS and served as academic dean. The program was tailored to the students and allowed them to complete a three-credit evening course by attending class twice a week. Courses were readjusted to suit the adult population better, and campus services, such as library and bookstore hours, were extended.

Those changes helped to make education more flexible, accessible, and affordable. And they didn’t just benefit students. “The employers saw the importance of their employees getting further education,” says Pocetto. “The better educated your workforce is, the more competitive it is. The more effective they are in their jobs.”

Another request from the community prompted Allentown College to explore the possibility of graduate studies. At the time, nurses at Sacred Heart Hospital had to travel to Philadelphia to take master’s level courses. By 1984, they had another option — enroll in Allentown College’s first graduate degree program, the Master of Science in Nursing. The program became so successful that others soon followed, including the Master in Business Administration (MBA), which is now the second largest MBA program in Pennsylvania.
Today, DeSales continues to gauge the community’s needs in different ways. O’Connor and Father Peter Leonard, OSFS, dean of graduate education, recently visited the CEOs of 16 major healthcare providers in the area, from hospitals and health networks to rehabilitation facilities and those that care for seniors. It’s something the University has been doing every few years and will continue to do. “For us, it works in two directions,” says Leonard. “One is people come to us for healthcare education, but we go out to these institutions looking for clinical sites for the healthcare education we have.”

The visits also help the University shape the future of its healthcare program. Leonard expects a rise in healthcare delivery as the local population ages. “The area continues to grow despite a population shrinkage, and it continues to grey,” he says. “It’s pretty well demonstrated that the older you get; the more medical attention you need. It’s an area that’s going to be there and it’s going to be bigger.”

Leonard also anticipates that business and computer science will play a significant role in healthcare education as well. Healthcare providers are already looking for employees with computer skills, and that need will only continue to grow. “It’s very clear that healthcare is in a state of transition and consolidation,” he says.

Leonard is currently compiling a report that will determine several feasibility studies in areas such as pharmacy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. It remains to be seen whether these become the next academic programs at DeSales. But one thing is for certain. The University will continue to follow its mission and work together with the local community for the greater good.

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The Power of the Liberal Arts

As the new president of Muhlenberg College, I am asked frequently whether a liberal arts education is still relevant in this technological age.  After all, doesn’t the future belong solely to those who pursue the “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines? First, many forget that the natural sciences and math – literally, the alpha […]

As the new president of Muhlenberg College, I am asked frequently whether a liberal arts education is still relevant in this technological age.  After all, doesn’t the future belong solely to those who pursue the “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines?

First, many forget that the natural sciences and math – literally, the alpha and omega of STEM – are core elements of a liberal arts education.  Indeed, Muhlenberg’s outstanding programs in biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, math and computer science provide excellent preparation for students interested in careers in biotechnology and other high-tech fields.

Even more importantly, our students are preparing for leadership roles within the new, Creative Economy, where ideas are the coin of the realm.  They realize the future will value those who can bring new and innovative ideas – including disruptive new business models – to the table most effectively, and see them through to effective implementation.
For this sort of value-creation, the most important skills are integrative and creative thinking spanning multiple domains of knowledge, coupled with the ability to formulate cogent arguments and communicate clearly and compellingly.  Don’t look now, but these are the skills our students at Muhlenberg are learning today.  In fact, by blending art and science, today’s Muhlenberg students are forging new alloys that will shape and form the future.  The large majority of our students double major, and in new and innovative combinations; say, in theatre and neuroscience, or dance and biochemistry.  In fact, one of our professors recently remarked, “Some of our best pre-med students are dance majors!”

To quote Wayne Gretzky, today’s students must skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is today.  When our current first-year students were born, Google didn’t exist, and Siri wasn’t even a gleam in Apple’s eye.  By the time they are 30 years old, they will very likely be working on products, processes, and technologies that are unknown today.

Speaking of Apple, its co-founder and legendary CEO, the late Steve Jobs, went to a liberal arts college – Reed College in Oregon. In fact, if Jobs had not taken a course in calligraphy and, thereby, developed a deep aesthetic sensibility, the world might be a very different place today, filled with far fewer beautifully-designed products, and we might still be listening to vinyl record albums purchased in retail stores and played on turntables.
I left a successful career in business and strategy consulting in Boston to come to Muhlenberg because I saw an unparalleled opportunity to play a key, leadership role in an institution with a history of over 166 years of helping students prepare to make their marks on the world.

Muhlenberg College was founded back in the mid-Nineteenth Century on the idea that education is more than a foundation for learning. Rather, we have always believed that expanding one’s goals and exceeding one’s potential is a basic and necessary prerequisite for life-readiness.  At Muhlenberg, this philosophy extends to mid-career learners in our Wescoe School, one of the oldest and finest schools of continuing education in the U.S.

Together, our community is committed to an ethos of reaching higher; guiding and driving students of extraordinary promise to reach above and beyond their given talents, skills, and objectives to achieve prominence and effect change in whatever professions, interests, and causes they choose to pursue.  Are the liberal arts relevant for the careers of the future?  You bet!

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Lehigh University & Bethlehem

Partners in the Community Since Lehigh University first opened its doors in 1865, it has been inextricably tied to the City of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. The vision of Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer, an industrial pioneer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, set the foundation for generations of students to learn, live and […]

Partners in the Community

Since Lehigh University first opened its doors in 1865, it has been inextricably tied to the City of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. The vision of Lehigh’s founder Asa Packer, an industrial pioneer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, set the foundation for generations of students to learn, live and lead as productive members of their communities.

Bethlehem has undergone and continues to undergo a tremendous transformation as local leadership seeks to revitalize its neighborhoods, encourage growth and economic prosperity, and address a full range of critical social issues in order to strengthen the community. Lehigh University strives to be a good partner in that mission.

Lehigh University believes that a university brings intellectual vibrancy and collaborative opportunity to its home town. By working closely with the surrounding community, students benefit from experiences that will alter their life trajectories. The university can serve as a tremendous resource for the community. With that in mind, Lehigh has committed to working collaboratively with the City to improve quality of life for all in the area.

Although Lehigh University has a long history of collaboration with members of the Bethlehem community, in recent years it has developed a more formal framework for engagement that is a major component of the institutional strategic plan approved in 2009. The framework for the Lehigh-Bethlehem partnership includes four strategic priorities:

  • Clean and safe environment
  • Support of public education
  • Commercial vitality
  • Neighborhood revitalization

Among the initiatives focused on public education are Lehigh’s partnerships in Community School initiatives in South Bethlehem, including Donegan Elementary School and Broughal Middle School. The Community School model embraces the holistic approach to educating a child and parent together—a model that has proven successful across the country.

Lehigh’s commitment to fostering a clean and safe environment, commercial vitality and neighborhood revitalization is exemplified by the Community Ambassadors Program. Launched last September, the Ambassadors program is a partnership between Lehigh and the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, the non-profit economic development organization of the City of Bethlehem. The initiative is supported by the university’s three-year commitment to fund cleaning and safety Ambassadors in a core area of the South Bethlehem commercial district, centered on New St. and covering the blocks along 3rd and 4th streets from Broadway to Taylor Street.

Ambassadors walk in the designated areas seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. About 20,000 cars a day travel along Third Street, commuting through or visiting South Bethlehem.  The Ambassadors program is a great step toward revitalizing the South Bethlehem area as a litter-free, bustling commercial district that draws more people out of their cars.

Services provided by the ambassadors include:

  • Daily litter removal of sidewalks and other public areas
  • Daily removal of trash from receptacles throughout the commercial district
  • Daily graffiti removal to deter copycat graffiti
  • Tree and flower maintenance; weed removal
  • Increased pedestrian security and hospitality assistance
  • Parking assistance
  • Snow cleared from crosswalks and handicap ramps

Lehigh will continue to build on these successes, working with the City to make a positive impact on the quality of life for all those who live, work and visit Bethlehem.

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