Bashar Hanna named interim president of Mansfield University effective Aug. 1
MANSFIELD, Pa. – The Board of Governors for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education approved a measure Wednesday, July 14 to integrate six institutions into two new universities, the latest action in a multi-year system redesign effort to bolster student success and institutional sustainability.
The affirmative 18-0 vote means that Mansfield, Lock Haven, and Bloomsburg will come together to form a single university with three partner campuses in northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Today’s vote represents the most profound reimagining of public higher education in the Commonwealth since the State System began in 1983,” said Cindy Shapira, chair of the Board of Governors. “This effort has proven we can fulfill what we set out to do – ensuring student and institutional success, while providing the highest quality education at the lowest possible price.”
The three institutions involved in the integration will maintain their historical names and identities along with robust residential educational experiences while also expanding academic program opportunities, enhancing supports that improve outcomes for all students and reaching communities that are currently underserved.
“These universities have been part of the cultural and economic fabric of their communities for well over a century and they will continue to be so for years to come. Additionally, the degrees they offer to new graduates, as well as those held by alumni, will maintain the highest value,” said Chancellor Dan Greenstein. “We set out on this journey determined to do what’s right for students, their communities and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I am humbled and tremendously excited by the opportunity we have today to work together, building towards that objective. I want to thank the people who dedicated their time and ideas in crafting and commenting on the plan and look forward to working with you and all our stakeholders going forward.”
While the vote represents the culmination of a year’s worth of work by more than 1,000 students, staff, faculty, trustees and more, the efforts to complete the integrations will take years. Among the most important tasks are developing the curriculum that supports the new academic program array, fleshing out organizational charts and finalizing work with the NCAA to ensure athletics will continue at each campus.
“As we have said from the beginning, building an integrated university will take time,” Greenstein said. “You cannot flip a switch and expect it to be done. The work will engage all stakeholders, be conducted transparently through routine quarterly reporting to the Board and the General Assembly and be subjected to our constant review and refinement so that we accomplish the best possible result for our students and their communities, now and in the future.”
The Board also appointed Bashar Hanna as interim president of Mansfield effective August 1, 2021, which will help to ensure a smooth leadership transition while the first phase of integration implementation gets underway. He will serve in the role until a permanent president is selected for the integrated university, according to the Board’s policy for presidential appointments, which requires the involvement of students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and others in the process.
“The Board’s decision is a vote of confidence in the 1,000+ people who have worked tirelessly to develop the first phase of the plan and allows us to move forward with the implementation phase,” said Bashar Hanna. “We remain steadfastly focused on our students and their success and are committed to expanding affordable, high-quality educational opportunities for our students, while maintaining vibrant campuses within our respective communities.”
New organizational charts are expected to be released in the coming months as the institutions begin the transition process. Integration means with three partner campuses — each maintaining their unique brand identities and on-campus educational and student life experiences — there will be a single administration, budget, unified faculty and student information system, helping to put these institutions on more solid financial footing, while expanding access to an increased number of programs across the institutions.
“As we shift toward implementation, we will continue to remain focused on our students and their success” explained Dr. John Ulrich, Mansfield University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Acting President. “Our shared commitment, across all three campuses, is to expand access to affordable, high-quality educational opportunities for our students while at the same time maintaining vibrant campuses within our respective communities.”
Key to supporting this effort is the Commonwealth’s recent commitment of $200 million over three years that will be used to invest in student success initiatives, reduce current debt loads and support faculty and staff training and transition.
The first cohort of students will begin at the integrated university in August 2022, with the integrated curriculum being finalized by August 2024. Integrations are made possible by Act 50 of 2020, which received near-unanimous support in the state Legislature and Governor’s Office. It lays out a process, including ongoing, quarterly consultation with elected officials, by which the State System can restructure itself for the benefit of students, to improve financial sustainability and to continue to serve their regions with educational opportunities and as major employers.