CLARION - The Clarion University Council of Trustees heard Nov. 21 from two directors on the university's alumni association board regarding efforts to increase alumni engagement.

Alumni association president-elect David Reed, a 2009 graduate, spoke first.

Reed told the trustees the alumni association board of directors has undertaken strategic planning in order to better connect with former university students.

"The mission is to empower the Clarion family to champion the transformative impact of our university," Reed said.

Reed said the board of directors has set four goals, including the advocating of affordable and accessible public education, providing meaningful, life-long engagements for alumni and students, engaging in informative and inspiring communication, and active alignment with university president Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson's "True North Initiative."

Reed said the board has received recommendations from a consulting company on how to proceed in alumni engagement based on the goals it has set.

Those goals and recommendations were presented and discussed Nov. 16 with the board of directors.

According to Reed, the recommendations will be taken to the board's executive committee, which will determine three to four core initiatives moving forward.

"We're hoping to be able to take them on over the next year to start moving the alumni engagement and fundraising forward with Clarion University," Reed said.

Reed added engagement with the board of directors is at an all-time high and a significant rise in the number of alumni based donations has been seen.

"We're looking to be able to look at digital ways and to kind of step away from traditional events to figure out how we can best engage our alumni," Reed said.

Reed noted Pehrsson's active posting of Instagram photos around campus as a positive when it comes to engagement with alumni.

Michael Chapaloney, a 1999 graduate, said he and other alumni had attempted to keep a regional alumni chapter in Harrisburg going, but to no avail.

"Our best event was a Harrisburg Senators baseball game where we had roughly 10 alumni attend," Chapaloney said. "Engagement fizzled from there and the group eventually stopped meeting."

Chapaloney surmised the reason for low levels of engagement had to do with the group largely being led by younger alumni who did not possess an expansive network of contacts or experience in planning events and establishing group goals.

"Fast forward 20 years later, Clarion University has just named a dynamic new president at a time when the institution was facing new challenges," said Chapaloney. "I was really impressed by one of President Pehrsson's first efforts. She made it a point to travel and visit alumni and community leaders throughout the commonwealth and beyond as sort of a post naming tour."

Chapaloney recommended several ways the university could increase engagement.

He mentioned setting individual goals for differing alumni, advertising online via social media, and communicating success as much as possible.

"This is one area where I feel Clarion does an outstanding job," Chapaloney said. "Tout enrollment increases, cut the ribbon on Tippin Gymnasium ten times if you have to and create more good vibes with the greater Clarion University."

Council of Trustees chair J.D. Dunbar told the speaking alumni the council appreciated the group's fervency and respected their efforts as part of the alumni association.

President's report

Pehrsson told the council of two committees launched during the fall.

Pehrsson said the president's commission on sustainability deals with increasing environmental and climate issue awareness on campus.

"We are not a green campus but we endeavor to be very conscious as we go forward about not being wasteful and not promoting harm for the community in terms of the resources that we use," Pehrsson said. "The students, faculty and staff are very passionate about this."

The president's diversity advisory council will include Dr. Brenda Sanders-Dede and Dr. Jane Walsh as co-chairs.

"They are coming up with some very strong policy changes and ideas that they are putting forth," said Pehrsson.

Audit report

CliftonLarsonAllen LLP Principal Partners Nancy Gunza and Jared Clark gave presentations on the university's audited financial statements for the year ending 2019.

According to CLA, the audit committee, university management and the auditors themselves fulfilled their respective responsibilities within the auditing process.

CLA also issued their report on internal control over financial reporting compliance and other matters. Gunza noted CLA found no issues there.

"We didn't find any material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in that report," said Gunza. "So basically what that determines is that the control system here is good."

Gunza did add a final footnote within the report deals with details regarding challenges the university faces financially.

"This is a discussion that we asked management to put in the financial statements because of the university's history of some past deficits, cash flow struggles and declining enrollment that has happened over the last several years," Gunza said.

The footnote within the statement includes plans university management has to address the issues mentioned by Gunza.

The next Council of Trustees meeting will be Feb. 20, 2020 in Room 108 Eagle Commons. Council of Trustees meetings are open to the public.

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