Holiday Hall PassAs we approach the holiday break, celebrating the end of the semester, the coming New Year, and for Christians, the Christmas holiday, it has become a tradition for many families to send out a holiday letter or special card to their friends and family. These letters and cards often contain current family pictures and an update of the activities during the year. This tradition may be fading with the onset of constant updates via Facebook and other social media, but nevertheless is still used by many families to communicate with distant relatives and acquaintances from years gone by. The content of these holiday letters can run the gamut from structured chronological articulation of a family’s accomplishments and travels, to philosophical musings and well wishes for the New Year, to attempts at humor.

My family has participated in this practice for more than 40 years. During one period, I received a sequence of chronological tomes from one family that included every accomplishment of their self-proclaimed precocious children, including listing of their grades and college prep test scores! In a fit of sarcasm, I wrote and distributed a family newsletter that was a caricature of these letters. My holiday letter that year included fictitious negative accomplishments and near disasters that befell our family. I modeled the letter after the book, You Were Born on a Rotten Day, by Jim Critchfield and Jerry Hopkins which spoofs daily horoscopes by providing horoscopes that are uniformly bad, regardless of birth date. The next year, I returned to my traditional letter format. To my surprise, many of the recipients of the traditional letter commented that they wanted me to return to my comedic format, leading to about 10 years of such letters that eschewed the traditional salutation of “Dear friends” for a salutation of “Dear sentient occupant”!

I won’t make my Blog readers suffer from a feeble attempt at a humorous holiday IST letter (although it could be argued that I’ve been making my readers suffer such feeble attempts at humor for the past 29 previous blog entries). However, I have included a picture of my 22-month-old grand-twins, Jonah and Sabrina, above, which I sent out in my family holiday letter. In that letter, I captioned it, “the Dean counsels some future IST students – Sabrina is pointing out errors in the mathematical formulae on the Dean’s white board.”

Our year in IST and at Penn State has been a very good one due to the dedication of our faculty, staff, and students. During this year, our college has:

  • Increased the size of the online undergraduate students to 500 students
  • Continued the development of our three online Masters of Professional Studies (MPS) degree programs,
  • Increased the number of online graduate students to 250
  • Implemented a new research center – the Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL)
  • Raised funds for the Penn State For the Future Campaign, achieving a level of $ 23M which is over 130% of the IST campaign goal
  • Welcomed Dr. Vasant Honavar as our new chaired professor
  • Increased our corporate associates program to 18 members
  • Implemented new initiatives related to entrepreneurship including a new minor in entrepreneurship
  • Initiated a new leadership program for IST undergraduate students.
  • Our faculty continued to excel in research and publications in topics ranging from citizen science to addressing technology needs of refugees, to methods to defeat cyber attackers, to research about online student collaboration and community engagement.

I continue to be pleased by the success of our undergraduate students and alumni. We again enjoyed great success in placement of our students for both internships and full time jobs at excellent starting salaries. I routinely receive compliments from our corporate associates and other employers about how well prepared our students are.  Our recruiting events are “standing room only” events.

In short, the IST family has had an excellent year and is looking forward to the New Year. The coming year will involve completion of a College Strategic Plan, completion of the Campaign for the Future, search for four new tenure track faculty members, and also the search for a new Dean.

I hope this Holiday Blog finds my readers in good health, ready for a happy holiday season, and safe in their travels.

Best regards and happy holidays!







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