Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson Plans to Make Sure the Educational Mission Can Continue, Keep Everybody Safe
CLARION, PA. (EYT) – As Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson prepares to take over the position of interim president at Edinboro University at the end of this year, in addition to her duties as Clarion University president, she laughs and acknowledges that the position has changed since arriving in 2018.
“This is not the presidency I applied for, but is it is the presidency I have,” said Dr. Dale. “I’ll do a good job for the people of Pennsylvania. There is a lot to organize, but I have a little bit of time to think about it over the next few weeks to organize things because I’ll be spending time on both campuses.”
She admits that she still has to think about riding around Edinboro with her Golden Eagle decorated car, but she is ready for challenges with the new post. When asked which team she would root for in a Clarion versus Edinboro competition, she is quick to reply: “The thing is, whoever wins, I’m a winner!”
While Clarion and Edinboro face the same challenges, such as declining enrollment and changes because of COVID-19, Dr. Dale outlines some of Edinboro’s priorities.
“I think probably the most important thing is to take care of the students and the staff during this pandemic and make sure that their educational mission can continue and keep everybody safe. We also have that as a priority.
“Getting to know the campus is the second priority and having them get to know me. The third is to continue the ongoing work with the integration. Those are the three biggest priorities right now. It’s a lot to do, but we’ve got it.”
Dr. Dale is part of a team overseeing a bold reform effort involving Edinboro, Clarion, and California Universities of Pennsylvania. This effort involves integrating the three universities to expand and enhance student opportunities while also preserving their affordability.
“There is a good working relationship between all three universities. We meet once a week and give updates on the different working (plans), and they are making very good progress in their plans.“
One difference is that Clarion didn’t send out any letters of retrenchment.
“We actually pulled our letter about a week ago. We were able to figure out how to trim down things without letting go of any permanent tenured faculty.“
Edinboro did send retrenchment letters to some faculty members.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s challenging,” Dr. Dale added.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education plan indicated it could see one leader guide all three universities.
“It’s premature to talk about that, but I think that will be the plan pending approval by the Board of Governors next July. We’ll see what happens when the plan emerges, and we’ve got a lot of work to do before then. I’ll be there for as long as they need me.”
Edinboro has an enormous strength that most people don’t realize, according to Dr. Dale.
“They’ve been doing a heavy graduate-level online and professional program for a long time, and it’s an area of major strength for them. That’s one thing in the integration planning we’d like to really build on.
“We went through their accreditations, and we have a joint program. Clarion shares the graduate level to a doctorate in nursing practice, the DMP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). Accreditation reviewers were so positive about how successful the collaboration is and how good it is for the students and gives them opportunities to really become excellent practitioners.”
Dr. Dale’s background before her graduate degree was in nursing, and she supports creative ways to educate nurses to be good practitioners, and that matters now more than ever.
Just as she did when joining Clarion University, she plans to meet as many employees and students as possible at Edinboro.
“As I get to know the students, a lot of it will happen through Zoom or other kinds of strategies, but I intend to get to know them, and I hope they get to know me well.”
Dr. Dale admits times are challenging and not for the faint of heart.
“I think these are significant times for people to stay positive and to stay connected with one another because even if we can’t see one another, at least we can reach out and connect in many ways.
“It’s just so important people don’t need to be feeling alone. People in western Pennsylvania have a strong sense of pride when people say they’re from a certain school. We see that over and over, and we want to make sure that that pride continues.
The PASSHE redesign is developing ways to help the students graduate with less debt.
“With PASSHE redesign, we’ve been looking at how we can combine things like bargaining for different services. We’re trying to get that affordability piece to really make sure that students are not paying more than they need to for education, and they’re able to graduate with less debt.
“So that’s a big priority, and that’ll be a big priority of the system integration project.”
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