What has changed, what won't, now that Edinboro University has become PennWest

·10 min read

EDINBORO ― Pennsylvania Western University banners are going up at Edinboro University.

The campus otherwise looked much the same on Friday when it officially becomes Pennsylvania Western University. The new university combines Edinboro, Clarion and California universities of Pennsylvania.

But there will be less-visible changes, from course offerings and staffing to student and staff email addresses, when classes start this fall.

One university with one staff and 3 campuses

Pennsylvania Western, or PennWest, will have three campuses, in Edinboro, Clarion and California.

The whys and when: Consolidation approved for Edinboro, Clarion and California universities

It will have a single administration, faculty and staff with individual employees based at one of the three campuses. The goal is to offer a larger, combined array of courses while cutting operating costs, largely by eliminating positions and redundancies.

More than 300 positions at the three schools have been eliminated, but without layoffs, PennWest President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson said. More than 400 faculty and staff members took advantage of incentives to retire, she said.

"We've since hired back about 70 of those positions," Pehrsson said. "There have been no layoffs. That's something we're continuing to work toward. People will have opportunities to apply for positions either laterally or for increased-skills positions, which will mean an increase in pay for many."

Most student-serving positions remain, Pehrsson said.

"What we have consolidated are the back-office kinds of things like where you get your payroll check and how procurement works," Pehrsson said.

Pehrsson, previously Clarion University president, led university consolidation planning as interim president of all three schools. She will have no single base as PennWest's chief administrator.

"If I call one campus home, it would make it seem as if that campus is somehow better than the others, when all of the sister campuses are of equal footing and all have something to offer," Pehrsson said.

Instead, Pehrsson has space at Edinboro, California and Clarion where she can work and stay overnight as needed.

Other administrators are based at one of the three campuses and interact both in-person and virtually.

Erinn Lake, PennWest vice president for global and virtual education, is based at Edinboro. Yugo Ikach, associate vice president for global and virtual education, works from the California campus.

Coming July 1: Edinboro University to be known as Pennsylvania Western University at Edinboro

"We talked today by cell phone, on a Zoom call, in a Teams meeting and now by (land line)," Lake said Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, another Edinboro-based administrator, Scott Miller, PennWest provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, was on the road for an in-person meeting at California.

Individual faculty members will be based at one campus but will be able to interact virtually with colleagues and students on any campus.

"Students will have new opportunities to interact with faculty and advisers, maybe by Zoom or other technology rather than traditional office hours," Miller said. "There also may be a faculty member on another campus who's particularly versed in a student's field. Students will be able to develop those mentorship relations no matter which campus they're on."

Academics will include more distance learning

Students at the three campuses also will be able to interact.

"Imagine having a philosophy class with seven students at California, seven at Clarion and seven at Edinboro. In the past, those would have been three separate classes on three campuses," Ikach said. "It can be one class now with 21 students, maybe with students in person on one campus and others taking the course asynchronously," or on their own time, "or synchronously," as the class is offered.

"That's where savings come in," Ikach said. "As stewards of Pennsylvania tax dollars, we're finding ways to deliver content more efficiently."

That said, course offerings at each campus this coming fall will be much the same as this past year. But low-enrollment academic programs at each school will be phased out as students currently enrolled graduate. At Edinboro, 21 programs, including data analytics and geographic information science, will be eliminated over the next few years.

At the same time, students will have access to courses offered at sister campuses.

"Business students at Edinboro can take advantage of a human resources concentration available at other campuses, for example, if they feel that will be important for their career," Miller said.

Other programs not offered or being phased out at Edinboro but available at other PennWest schools include Arabic, professional golf management, library science and data analytics.

The three PennWest campuses together offer more than 200 academic programs.

Students taking some classes virtually won't lose anything in class quality, Pehrsson said. All three PennWest campuses have been offering online courses for two decades, and new technology and a continuing emphasis on course design, instruction and delivery serve virtual learners as well as students taking classes in person, she said.

"It's about figuring out how to be a good teacher no matter what delivery method we use," Pehrsson said. "Face-to-face doesn't make learning better. Figuring out what meets your learners' needs makes it better."

PennWest graduate degree programs have been "synthesized," or combined into single programs that incorporate the best of programs previously offered independently at Edinboro, California and Clarion. Similar work is in progress on undergraduate programs.

"Most of our graduate programs are refined and ready to go," Pehrsson said. "Combining our undergraduate curriculum will be in process over the next two years so we don't disrupt student learning."

The end result will be common programs tailored to student and community needs, Miller said.

"Flexibility, the access to programs at other campuses and the resources we're bringing to the table will provide the programs that students are looking for and that employers are looking for and are going to be a great benefit to western Pennsylvania," Miller said.

Fighting Scots will fight on

Each campus will retain its own traditions, culture and sports teams. At Edinboro, tartan plaid, bagpipers and Angus ― the bronze Fighting Scot statue ― will remain.

PASSHE: After consolidation, Edinboro University will still be Edinboro, in name, sports teams and more

"The Scottish theme will continue to be a very strong element at Edinboro, not just in athletics but in campus culture and who we are," Miller said.

Convocation ceremonies welcoming new students this fall will include a simultaneous PennWest flag-raising on each of the three university campuses.

The similarity will end there.

"On our campus, the pipe band will be involved," Miller said. "Clarion has an apple sculpture that students can paint. California has a candlelight ceremony welcoming students. What we don't want to do in this integration is interfere with each campus' traditions and culture."

Edinboro sports teams will remain separate from the Clarion and California teams and will continue to compete as the Fighting Scots. A decision by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee this spring allows the consolidating schools to maintain their own sports teams.

On Campus: Edinboro athletic programs look forward

University consolidation planners never planned to merge athletic programs, Pehrsson said.

"When we first suggested university (consolidation) some years ago, the experts we talked to across the state and nation said, of course you'll have just one athletic program," she said. "We said no, we need to carve a path for about 1,300 athletes across the three campuses to continue to compete for California, Clarion and Edinboro. It's important not only to the communities but to the athletes who come here to learn and to hone their athletic skills. And they're an important part of each school's spirit."

Edinboro, California and Clarion teams even will continue to play each other. In football this fall, the Fighting Scots will play the Vulcans at the California campus of PennWest on Sept. 24 and the Golden Eagles at the Clarion campus on Oct. 22.

Opposing fans may even face each other in PennWest T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts that will go on sale in campus stores beginning July 1. Edinboro University, California University and Clarion University legacy wear will still be available, along with merchandise lettered simply with Edinboro, California and Clarion.

On the market: Edinboro University plans to sell 2 Highlands complex residence halls

Three more state-owned universities consolidating as Commonwealth University in northeastern Pennsylvania on July 1 also will maintain their own sports programs and mascots, as the Bloomsburg Huskies, Lock Haven Bald Eagles and Mansfield Mounties.

A new virtual university

A virtual university will be part of the Pennsylvania Western University. PennWest Global Online will offer a number of wholly online undergraduate and graduate degree programs beginning this fall.

And that can help the consolidated university compete with other online programs. According to the university consolidation plan, about 51,000 Pennsylvania students now are enrolled in online programs based out of state.

Global Online will offer 64 degree programs fully online this fall and also will offer online certificate and job credential programs.

Studios, equipment and content design specialists will be located at each of the PennWest campuses.

"We have nationally recognized faculty who are true leaders in their fields but are not necessarily experts in delivering content online," Ikach said. "We'll have experts on site to help them put their content online in a very meaningful and interactive way."

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Faculty at many online colleges teach as many as eight or 10 courses each semester, Ikach said. PennWest faculty will teach no more than four.

"There are only so many hours to go around," he said. "Our students will have a lot more personal attention from people who are experts."

Success coaches will help online students complete their programs, Lake said.

"Success coaches typically have been on campus to serve new freshmen. We'll have additional success coaches now who will just serve online students," she said, including students whose work and family responsibilities make on-campus learning impossible or impractical.

About one-third of PennWest students this fall will study wholly online, Pehrsson said.

PennWest Global Online is expected in time to offer programs from other universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Lake said.

"We are now piloting the program and enhancing instructional design and marketing," Lake said. "It's the front line of what we'd eventually like to be the hub for all PASSHE online programs."

Diplomas, email and other details

Students completing their degrees by the end of the summer academic session on Aug. 17 will be the last to earn Edinboro University, Clarion University or California University diplomas. Diplomas issued after that date will be from Pennsylvania Western University.

Campus email addresses are also changing, from @edinboro.edu, @calu.edu and @clarion.edu to @pennwest.edu. The new electronic addresses are expected to be active when the fall term begins Aug. 22.

A consolidated Pennsylvania Western University web site is farther down the road. The current PennWest web site, at pennwest.edu, is a kind of road sign to the Edinboro, California, Clarion and Global Online websites. Work on a single, integrated web site will begin in spring 2023.

What's in a name?

Edinboro University has had a number of incarnations and names since its founding as a private teachers' school 165 years ago:

  • 1857: Edinboro Academy

  • 1861: Northwest State Normal School

  • 1914: Edinboro State Normal School

  • 1927: Edinboro State Teachers College

  • 1960: Edinboro State College

  • 1983: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

  • 2022 (starting July 1): Pennsylvania Western University

Contact Valerie Myers at vmyers@timesnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Edinboro University becomes Pennsylvania Western on July 1