Clarion Conversations: University President Discusses Changes at Clarion

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion University President Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson says Clarion is moving forward to make changes for a better future in our region.

In a recent interview with exploreClarion.com, Dr. Pehrsson, who took over the helm at Clarion University just last year, noted that the university administration is looking forward to a future where Clarion is a leader in education.

“One of the things that we did last year was we took the School of Education and we moved it to a freestanding entity out of the College of Arts and Sciences so that it could focus on PK-12 preparation of teachers in the tradition of Clarion,” Pehrsson said.

“Gwyn Price moved form being the assistant dean and director of education in Arts and Science to the dean in the new School of Education. That left the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences open, so we now have Laura Delbrugge in that position.”

Delbrugge joined Clarion from Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she served as a tenured professor of Spanish and as the chair of the Department of Foreign Languages. She worked there since 1998 but also worked as an assistant professor at Clarion from 1997-1998.

According to Pehrsson, Delbrugge developed an abiding fondness for Clarion when she worked at the university previously and was glad for the opportunity to return and take on a new role.

“She’s been with us just a few months and we’re very excited. She’s got all kinds of plans.”

Pehrsson noted that separating the School of Education from the College of Arts and Sciences is a move that will allow for both programs to grow in the future.

“I think, for me, with having two dean leaders who are going to focus on the academic excellence and the development of those programs, I think we’re going to see some real movement.”

Pehrsson noted that the arts programs are already expanding and flourishing.

“We’ve got our chamber singers. They’re outstanding. We’re bringing an international group here, the Real Group, in October and we’re doing a little bit of a fundraiser to send our students who are the Chamber Singers to compete internationally. They’re on the docket to compete in Wales, and we’re raising money so they can go and do that.”

Pehrsson said the marching band and orchestra continue are also doing well under the leadership of Dr. Casey Teske, and members of the administration have also been meeting with WRC Services to discuss a partnership for bringing arts to the elderly population in the area.

“Conversations are cooking and things are beginning to happen,” Pehrsson said.

Having a dean for the School of Education is also helping the university move forward, according to Pehrsson, who noted that one of the jobs of the dean is to go out and advocate for education in the state and the region, particularly working with school districts.

“We’re not just freshmen through graduate school, we are also the school who prepares the K through 12 piece, so that line is very important, and the better those relationships are, the more students that come to Clarion, too.”

“That is our legacy, and to this day, whether it is teacher preparation, or preparing someone to go do medical school, we teach at the core. Teaching is our focus.”

According to Pehrsson, another aspect of that is investing in the university faculty and cutting edge teaching techniques.

“We’re developing what’s called ‘The Center.’ It’s a new center for teaching excellence, and we’re reimagining it so we can really reinvest in our faculty and all the different ways, some of which are amazing, that they teach.”

While teaching is the obvious focus for a university like Clarion, there are other present and future concerns that are also being addressed, and a major one of those is sustainability.

“There were many conversations last year about the issue of sustainability. Our Vice President for Facilities and Administration has been working in conjunction with PSSHE and the state on sustainable energy initiatives for our campus, so I think we’re well placed to move some of those things forward,” Pehrsson said.

This fall Clarion University is launching the Presidential Commission on Sustainability is to advocate issues of sustainability both on and off campus.

“The reason why that has been launched is because of a multitude questions from the community, from the students, from the faculty, and from the staff with regards to things that we could start to do right away.”

The Presidential Commission on Sustainability will be coordinating and promoting educational opportunities and programming through collaboration with the various stakeholders toward the goal of reducing the university and larger community’s consumption of natural resources to a sustainable level.

“I think what’s really exciting about the Presidential Commission on Sustainability is it brings everyone together and we can look at what are the things that we can do today that will make a difference tomorrow, and then we can build from there.”

“There’s lots that we can do already that we’re well placed to do. We already put in a sustainable water garden for water run off. We turned something very ugly that was hurting the soil and the area into something beautiful, and that was all done in conjunction with our facilities folks and also with our students and faculty. So that’s exciting.”

“We’re looking at the use of plastics on campus and several other things that have to do with how we can impact the environment and keep it healthy.”

As for what is coming next, Dr. Pehrsson noted that she’s particularly looking forward to the upcoming reopening of Tippin Gymnasium, which is traditionally a place where the university and the community often come together for sporting and other events.

“It really makes those connections with the students in grade school and high school to know that Clarion is their university. Opening up the doors to Tippin says all are welcome, and I think that’s a pretty important message.”


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