Summer internship full of learning, experience

When I first accepted my internship offer at APSCUF, I was overwhelmed with excitement, but I was a little anxious to move across the state entirely by myself for the summer.

Lindsey Newton, APSCUF intern, visits the Pennsylvania Capitol in June.

The APSCUF staff made my transition as easy as possible. Everyone was friendly and made me feel like a part of the staff from the very beginning.

This internship is special because you experience two internships in one. You work closely with the director of communications and the director of government relations, making it a great experience for any related major.

As a political-science student, going to the State Capitol and meeting with legislators and lobbyists was one of my favorite opportunities. It was exciting to get an inside perspective of what was happening, particularly during the budget season.

APSCUF has weekly staff meetings, which is a great way to catch up on what is happening within the union during the upcoming week. I also went to a few Board of Governors meetings. It was interesting to see the board vote on different issues, such as the tuition increase, firsthand.

I attended a few different rallies this summer. During the rallies, I ran APSCUF’s Instagram and Snapchat. I learned a lot about managing social-media accounts for APSCUF. I already began using these skills to enhance the social-media presence of Slippery Rock’s Young Progressives, of which I am co-founder and president.

I interviewed members of APSCUF, both professors and coaches. It was exciting to meet so many different people. This was my first time writing an interview, so I was interested in learning a more creative style of writing.

My internship was not limited to learning at APSCUF. I shadowed a lobbyist from Triad Strategies for a day. I sat in on a meeting about healthcare and learned about some of Triad’s clients and what their firm lobbies for, such as education and healthcare.

Newton, holding a poster she made for the PA Conference of Teamsters’ anti-“right-to-work” rally in June, posts photos to APSCUF’s Instagram account.

This year is APSCUF’s 80th anniversary. Interning during this time has been a memorable experience. To prepare for APSCUF’s celebration in September, I had the opportunity to look at various documents dating back to the ’40s. I even learned how to use a microfilm to read meeting minutes from the ’70s. I looked through and organized countless pictures of past events and members. Being able to see various parts of APSCUF’s history made me more grateful for this internship. I felt like I understood APSCUF and its members better.

Beyond the amazing experiences from interning, another benefit is APSCUF provides housing for interns who do not live nearby, making the internship accessible for all students in the State System, not just for students near the Harrisburg area.

My experience at APSCUF has been invaluable to me. I learned so much, lessons I likely would not have learned if it were not for this internship. I am grateful for the knowledge I gained, the experiences I had, and the connections I made during my time at APSCUF.

If you want firsthand experience on how our faculty union functions, while gaining experience in a field you enjoy, then apply for APSCUF’s internship. APSCUF is a great union for our universities’ amazing professors and coaches, and I am thankful to have been a part of it for the summer.

Lindsey Newton, APSCUF’s government-relations and communications intern for summer 2017, will be a senior this year at Slippery Rock University.

APSCUF life: Outside work translates back into classroom

Dr. Brian Okey, associate professor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania, tests water near Beaver Run Reservoir. Photo courtesy of Brian Okey.

Last summer, APSCUF went behind the scenes to show how faculty members and coaches continue to devote themselves to affordable, quality education even when class is not in session. This post is a continuation of that series.

As an associate professor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s department of geography and regional planning, Dr. Brian Okey spends much of his time outside the classroom.

“My emphasis has always been on environmental issues, more specifically, resource issues,” Okey said.

When concerns began to rise about the negative effects Marcellus Shale gas-well drilling might have on the water supply of Beaver Run Reservoir, Okey got involved.

Okey and colleague Nate McElroy began collaborating with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County on the Beaver Run Project in 2011. The project monitors the quality of water around Beaver Run Reservoir, a source of water for around 130,000 people.

The project employs roughly half a dozen students — undergraduate and graduate — each year.

“The project feeds into classroom teaching, while providing employment and practical experience for students,” Okey said.

The team of faculty and students goes out to the sites quarterly to sample the water. This is done usually throughout three days, typically on weekends to accommodate everyone’s schedule. A normal day of sampling takes between four to six hours, Okey said.

“There is a lot of rigorous hiking throughout the trails to get to the site,” he said. “It’s very physically demanding.”

Aside from the hours onsite, the project requires upkeep on the field data and equipment. Okey and his students work with geographic systems to maintain maps and other information.

Students also have an opportunity to gain experience abroad. Okey and colleague Sudeshna Ghosh developed courses with the department of architecture and regional planning at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, to bring students to India to collect field data. This past June, the team gathered information about the water quality in the wetlands east of Kolkata. This region is a vital source of fish and vegetables for the citizens, Okey said.

Okey is also part of a nonprofit group called the Altman Watershed Association for Restoring the Environment, of which he is the former president. The group works to protect streams from coal mining, is constructing a rail trail, and it participates in an annual trash cleanup.

This outside work can be translated back to the classroom learning experience for the students, Okey said.

—Lindsey Newton, APSCUF intern

Championship baseball coach works toward common goals

West Chester University baseball coach Jad Prachniak, right, said he is thankful for the opportunity to be a member of APSCUF.
Photo courtesy of West Chester University

How do you win NCAA Division II national championships twice in six seasons?

Coach Jad Prachniak would be someone to ask: He led West Chester University’s baseball team to this accomplishment in June.

Consistency was key, and the team focused on one day at a time, Prachniak said.

“We just have to play better than the other team on that day,” he said.

In 2012, Prachniak coached his team to win the national championship, a special first season for him with the West Chester Golden Rams. Previously, he was an assistant coach at the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

While both wins were great accomplishments, Prachniak said, they feel different.

“The years in between gave me a new appreciation for this championship,” he said, adding he is proud of both teams for dealing with the adverse situations that come up throughout the game.

The best feeling about the championship wasn’t just the win itself, Prachniak said.

“(It was) knowing every member of the team played a role in winning; it wasn’t just the starting lineup that got us there,” he said. “It was a great team to work with.”

Prachniak’s favorite part of his job is the day-to-day interaction with the athletes, he said. The talented players remain focused in a conference Prachniak described as competitive with very good teams.

Prachniak said he is thankful for the opportunity to be a member of APSCUF. Being in a union as a coach is a special setup — one that is helpful and important to him, he said.

“Working in college athletics often creates a unique support system naturally, with coaches and support staff working towards common goals together,” Prachniak said. “Being a member of APSCUF takes that support system to a higher level. The collaboration of APSCUF puts us in a better position to provide positive learning experiences for our student-athletes.”

—Lindsey Newton
APSCUF intern

Read the full NCHEMS report

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems this afternoon released its full report of its review of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Click here to download a PDF file of the report.

After Chancellor Brogan’s retirement annoucement, APSCUF looks forward to collaboration with State System

Chancellor Frank T. Brogan speaks at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s Advocacy Days media event in April at the Pennsylvania Capitol. APSCUF file photo

Chancellor Frank T. Brogan today announced his Sept. 1 retirement from Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. Click here to read the State System’s press release. Click here to read APSCUF’s response.

APSCUF-KU president calls for “equal seat at the table”

APSCUF-KU President Dr. Amanda Morris’ comments as prepared for the July 13, 2017, Board of Governors meeting:

Good morning. My name is Dr. Amanda Morris and I am an associate professor at Kutztown University and I serve as the KU APSCUF chapter president.

Over the past year, I’ve had meetings with some of you, with our own administrators at KU, with legislators and the one thing we have in common is that we all say that we need to collaborate and cooperate more. But we cannot collaborate and cooperate if you shut us out of the decision-making process. So I am here today to request equal representation for faculty on any task force or committee that is created to develop an action plan in response to these consultants’ recommendations.

We expect an equal seat at the table so that faculty can help fix our system. We want to participate in developing solutions with you. And there is precedent for this. I want to draw your attention to two things in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

First of all, in the beginning of current CBA there are several side letters, many of which establish what are called “joint labor-management committees.” This is all I’m asking for. A joint labor management committee that will figure out how to respond to and incorporate the recommendations the consultants have provided.

Secondly, the “purpose” section of our contract says, “APSCUF and the State System of Higher Education, desiring to cooperate each with the other in mutual respect and harmony” – and I think we can all agree, there hasn’t been a whole lot of harmony in the past year, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of mutual respect.

This is an opportunity, right now, this moment. Show us that you want to work with us. If you want faculty buy-in to whatever it is you think you’re planning to do, you’re going to need faculty to be part of the process. Work with us in mutual respect. Collaborate and cooperate with us in some semblance of harmony.

APSCUF represents the faculty. We are the ones who work most closely with students in the classroom, through advising, even one on one mentorships that extend far beyond their graduation. We want what is best for them.

I want to draw your attention to a line in Article 4 of the CBA. Article 4 is Duties and Responsibilities of Faculty Members and the last line in section B says “faculty members have the responsibility to perform other tasks characteristic of the academic profession, and to attempt honestly and in good conscience to preserve and defend the goals of the Universities including the right to advocate change.”

Members of the Board, chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor, we as faculty have a duty and a responsibility to be involved right now with this issue, with this report. And the Board of Governors and the State System have a duty and a responsibility to include us as equal partners at the decision-making table. Bring us in. Let us help you decide the best course of action in response to the NCHEMS report and maybe, just maybe, we might achieve some harmony and mutual respect.

Read Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s remarks to the Board of Governors – July 13, 2017

APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments as prepared:

Chairwoman Shapira, Governors, and Chancellor Brogan,

We, like many others in this room and in the Commonwealth, anxiously awaited the NCHEMS presentation that was delivered yesterday, and we are looking forward to greater detail in the upcoming report next Friday. We are still processing all that was in that presentation, but when it comes down to the suggestion that we all need to pull together, we are certainly willing to pick up an oar and do our part.

With that in mind, we would like to suggest that we meet at the negotiations table prior to the expiration of our existing contract to see what we may do with respect to one of NCHEMS’ specific recommendations. That is, I give my commitment to you right now to approach the APSCUF leadership to suggest that we immediately try to work on an early and phased retirement proposal that I hope can lead to a side letter. I believe there are things that can be done within the existing law. I hope that the System leadership will join us in this effort so that we can model the new cooperative spirit that Mr. Jones talked about yesterday. I hope, too, that cooperation will carry over to our general negotiations.

With that aside, I believe that the aspect of the report that most stood out yesterday was Mr. Jones’ comment that there was no “silver bullet.” I strongly disagree. One cannot look at the numbers, the 2012 Maguire report, and the recent reports by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and not be struck by the fact that Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the nation in per-student funding of public higher education.

With all due respect to the comments yesterday, a 3.5 percent increase in tuition and corresponding fees — plus whatever increases are passed on campus — does make a difference to the lives of working families. It is not an increase in isolation: It is an increase that builds on consecutive increases. It is an increase that must be understood in the context of increased room-and-board fees.

The simple fact is that when the president of a respected private university can get on the radio and say that it is cheaper to attend that university than it is to attend the nearby State System university, there is a real problem.

We have hit the point where every attempt to save money actually winds up hurting our universities and our students. I agree with Gov. Muller 100 percent. We cannot balance the books off the back of System employees. And we certainly cannot balance the books off the backs of our students and our families.

Our Commonwealth — not our universities — are at a crossroads. Too many still have an anachronistic perspective on what it means to pay for college. They imagine that it is still akin to 1995. It is not even close. As I have said here before, total college costs have skyrocketed.

It is not acceptable that students should have to make the awful choice to indebt themselves for a decade or two, or choose between food and books, or choose to abandon the American Dream completely because they cannot afford the cost.

I wish some of you could experience what my colleagues experience or what our SCUPA colleagues experience when they must look into the eyes of students who say that they just cannot afford to attend college any longer.

It is equally unacceptable to shut down academic opportunities for students and services for students and try to sell them on the idea that this will continue to provide a quality education.

There is, in fact, a “silver bullet.” That lies in adequately making the very real case to all of the Commonwealth’s policymakers that the situation is intolerable. We, like everyone else, do appreciate the increase in a difficult budget year.  But it will be a difficult budget year for tens of thousands of students and their families that will have to pay for college this fall.

Our policymakers must come up with solutions that provide relief for Pennsylvania’s working class. The future of every citizen of the Commonwealth is at risk until they do.

To our students and to families out there I will say this: Despite some of the rhetoric you may hear, the faculty and coaches at your universities have given of their time, money, and energy in pursuit of additional funding.

Our intent is to double down to fight for you to make college more affordable. I certainly hope that everyone involved in this System can make that commitment.

I was actually wrong. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s just the right thing to do.

Thank you for your time.

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