Pennsylvania, the state with the sixth-largest population in the country with more than 12 million people, reportedly has more than 450 public and private colleges, universities and career and technical training schools. Diverse caught up with some of these institutions’ leaders of color to find out the unique space each is carving out in this diverse higher education landscape.
Dr. Livingston Alexander, president,University of Pittsburgh-Bradford
Took office: August 2003
Previous position: Provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of psychology at Kean University in Union, N.J.
Student population: 1,660
Since Alexander took the helm of the campus, located just south of the New York border, the Black student population has doubled to 100 students.
“We are getting more students from Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia and Buffalo (N.Y.),” Alexander, the Bradford campus’ first Black president, says of its recruiting success. “I wasn’t sure how students from the city would do coming to a rural area, but it is working just fine here.” Alexander proudly talks about the various programs his campus offers such as business management, criminal justice, biology, nursing and broadcast communication. Criminal justice may be the school’s most prominent major.
The school transformed a three-bedroom, single-family home into a “Crime Scene Investigation” unit, which allows students to analyze and study burglaries, robberies and homicides. Alexander says the $200,000 renovation incorporates panoramic cameras in every room. “This is just one of the many great programs here at the campus,” Alexander says. “The word is getting out that this is a good place, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Carmen Twillie Ambar, president, Cedar Crest College, Allentown
Took office: August 2008
Previous position: Dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University
Student population: 1,887
Over the past 16 months, Ambar, Cedar Crest’s first Black president, has launched a strategic planning process involving the entire campus. More than 80 proposals were submitted that included a women’s institute, new undergraduate majors and professional certificate programs. She also wants to expand the study-abroad programs.
This year Forbes magazine ranked Cedar Crest No. 262 among
“America’s Best Colleges.” The magazine also ranked it among the country’s top 10 women’s colleges.
“One of the things we do here is we have collaborative majors.Students in nursing and biology combine those majors with art and philosophy. That’s something not done at most colleges,” Ambar says. “We are really proud of our women’s college and the affirmation of our leadership. We are an important landscape in this country.”
Dr. F. Javier Cevallos, president, Kutztown University, Kutztown
Took office: July 2002
Previous position: Vice chancellor of student affairs at University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Student population: 10,700
Cevallos has no problem talking about diversity. He’s quick to explain how the university’s minority student enrollment increased in the last eight years from 4 to 15 percent in a town that is less than 3 percent minority.
The only public university in the state to offer a Spanish-language version of its Web site, Kutztown promotes and hosts a variety of diversity programs such as Latino Heritage events and West African dancing. Cevallos, the school’s first Latino leader, says the school’s location â€” 20 miles from Reading and Allentown, 90 miles from Philadelphia and 100 miles from New York â€” puts it in striking distance for recruiting minorities.
“That is one of the many reasons why I chose to come to Kutztown,” Cevallos says. “The campus is in a beautiful location. We are close to urban centers. We have wonderful students ready to learn and faculty ready to teach them a solid education that will last a lifetime.”
Kutztown also boasts a strong communication design program, which focuses on drawing, computer graphics and publication layout. Alumnus Tom Warburton was the creator of the Cartoon Network’s “Codename: Kids Next Door” series.
Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, president, Gannon University, Erie
Took office: July 2001
Previous position: Senior fellow, Office of the Vice President for Collaborations and Corporate Secretary at Educational Testing Service
Student population: 4,238
Although Gannon is located in Erie, Pa., which is at least two hours away from a major metropolitan city, students are coming, say university officials.
The school’s fall enrollment of 4,238 is its highest in 17 years. That number includes 649 freshmen.
One of the school’s most popular academic programs is health sciences, which offers seven undergraduate and graduate majors including nursing, sport and exercise science and respiratory care. Health sciences students can get experience handling child-birth and infant-trauma procedures at the university’s Patient Simulation Center, which opened this year.
“Students can get a quality education and have fun,” says Garibaldi, Gannon’s first Black president, referring to the school’s 18 Division II sports opportunities. “For an institution of our size, we offer a lot.”
Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital, president, Cheyney University, Cheyney
Took office: July 2007
Previous position: Interim chancellor of Winston-Salem State University
Student population: 1,400-1,500
Howard-Vital makes sure first-year students know some of the suburban Philadelphia university’s esteemed alumni: the late “60 Minutes” journalist Ed Bradley; Washington, D.C., news anchorman Jim Vance; and Robert W. Bogle, publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest Black-owned newspaper.
Earlier this year, the school announced comedian Bill Cosby will serve as the honorary chairperson of the “Call Me Mister” program that trains more Black men to become teachers.
Howard-Vital says there’s still more work to do, however.
“One of the challenges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is keeping our talent home,” she says.”We want to keep more students in the state. It adds more intellectual stability in the state.”
She requires every junior to have a mentor and an internship.
“We have students who may have been overlooked in high school and may not have stood out,” she says. “Cheyney University looks at the whole student.”
Dr. Alex Johnson, president, Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh
Took office: March 2008
Previous position: Chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans
Student population: 70,000 annually
The Community College of Allegheny County ranked second in the nation among community colleges for conferring nursing degrees, according to figures released this summer by Community College Week. In addition, the college ranked third in health professions and related clinical sciences.
The college introduced a program in February called the Career Transition Center for laid-off workers. Those who lost their jobs in the past 12 months can enroll for free in information technology and certified nursing assistant programs as well as others. Johnson says the welding program was so popular that a course was offered between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.
The school also touts success stories like Abram Balestra, one of 10 community college students chosen among 100 others nationwide to receive a scholarship to study German for a month at the Goethe Institute.
“We have a different mission from a four-year institution.We provide individuals with a quality education to go to a fouryear institution or go right into the work force,” says Johnson, the school’s first Black president. “People are really investing in the community in terms of development economically and educationally.”
Dr. Anita McDonald, chancellor, Penn State DuBois
Took office: February 2003
Previous position: Dean of the Extended University for continuing and adult education and summer sessions at the University of Arizona in Tucson
Student population: 1,000
The landscape of rolling hills, an interstate highway to the north and the Moshannon State Forest to the east allows students to study the unique environment at the commuter campus.
It is fitting that the school has the only two-year wildlife technology program in the state. Graduates from the program go on to become park rangers, game refuge managers and animal laboratory technicians.
“The earth science program is a very meaningful program. We had one student move off to Alaska and do an internship with a company up there to do salmon farming,” says McDonald, the first African-American to head the campus. “He had such a great time and learned so much he came back to convince five students to go there this summer.This is the type of learning students can have on a small campus and expand their horizons.”
Dr. Keith T. Miller, president, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven
Took office: July 2004
Previous position: Provost and vice chancellor at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Student population: 5,300
Freshmen or transfer students coming to Lock Haven better have one thing: a laptop computer.
Miller says students can use their financial aid package to purchase one.
“We have an emphasis on technology.We may be one of the few schools in the country to require laptops for all students,” says Miller, the university’s first Black president. “They are not used in every class but they are used inside and outside the class.”
Known for its biology, secondary education and health science programs, Lock Haven also has a robust program in international studies, resulting in it having the second-largest number of international students among public institutions in the state.
The university’s Office of Human and Cultural Diversity provides students with scholarships and financial aid assistance. One program is the Frederick Douglass Lending Library to help those in need of textbooks.
“Lock Haven has a very student-centered environment,” Miller says. “Our faculty and staff engage students in the process through field trips [and] volunteer work to help students reach their goals.”
Dr. Ivory V. Nelson, president, Lincoln University, Oxford Township
Took office: August 1999
Previous position: President of Central Washington University
Student population: 2,500
Nelson says one of the great traditions of the historically Black university is that it has occupied the same location for 155 years.
“We want to continue the legacy,” says Nelson. “We want to stay in the position to produce that top talent.” Lincoln’s science programs in biology, chemistry and physics remain a key component of the curriculum, which was exhibited at the school’s 14th Annual Science Fair in October.
And after 40 years, football has returned to the HBCU. The team finished 3-7 for the season. In addition, the university is in the second year of a three-year process to move up to Division II status and join the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Dr. Emmanuel I. Osagie, chancellor,Penn State Fayette, Uniontown
Took office: February 2007
Previous position: Vice provost and dean of The College of New Jersey Business School
Student population: 1,100
Penn State University has a strong focus on international studies.
And this year Penn State Fayette has been designated an “international campus.” The school has eight international students from China, Dubai, India, Morocco and South Korea.
Osagie says the students are blending right in. In fact, Yizhao “Frankie” Li from China made the basketball team.
“It is so interesting how they get integrated into this community,” says Osagie, the first Black chancellor of the institution.
“I am originally from Nigeria. All I wanted to do was just stay in my dormitory and read my books. Students who come here [to America]…fit right in. It is amazing.”
Li and other students also contribute in fundraising efforts for charities such as children’s cancer research. Among the 19 Penn State campuses, Fayette has ranked No. 1 in 10 out of the last 12 years, raising nearly $493,000
“It doesn’t matter what you are coming here with. We make sure we give you all the tools that you need to graduate and to be successful when you leave us,” Osagie says.
Dr. Curtiss E. Porter, chancellor,Penn State Greater Allegheny, McKeesport
Took office: June 1999
Previous position: Campus director of University of Connecticut at Stamford
Student population: 800
One of the 19 campuses that make up the Penn State system, the Greater Allegheny campus was designated as an “international campus” in 2005, which means it became one of the official destinations for international students enrolling in Penn State.
Enrollment Management Officer Sarah Ma, who speaks fluent Chinese, is recruiting students in China. Dr. Veronica Montecinos, a sociology professor and a native of Chile, leads Penn State Greater Allegheny students to work with the University of Concepcion to incorporate an Englishspeaking curriculum.
More than 22,000 Penn State alumni call Allegheny County home, the largest concentration of alumni residing in any one county in the U.S.
“We are in the middle of the Penn State tradition,” says Porter.
“We are probably one of the friendliest campuses in the state. We get feedback from students and parents that ‘we are so nice.’ That’s important because we are about the success of our students.”
Tony Atwater, president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Tim Howard, president of Art Institute of York; Dr. Francine G. Mc- Nairy, president of Millersville University; Dr. Yoon Suk Koh, president of Won Institute of Graduate Studies in Glenside; and Wallace Charles Smith, president of Palmer Theological Seminary, did not respond to interview requests.