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Higher Education & The Impact On Future Workforce, Community

Impact & Advocacy , Local Stories , Chamber Updates
August 09 2019
This article first appeared in Thriving! magazine and was written by Adam Aurand, Director of Strategic Communications at the School District of Lancaster. Cover photo taken by Amy Spangler Photography. 

Thriving! magazine is a quarterly magazine by the Lancaster Chamber published by Hoffman Publishing Group

Explore the new July 2019 issue in its entirety online here

Lancaster County is home to a diverse group of postsecondary institutions, including some of the top-rated higher education institutions in the country. What may be unique about the higher education landscape here is the level of collaboration. The leaders of these institutions convene three times a year for a forum to discuss the issues confronting higher education, their impact on our local institutions, and how they can collaborate to ensure the next generation workforce meets the current needs of Lancaster County.

We chatted with some of these leaders to get their perspectives on a variety of subjects affecting education, workforce, diversity, technology and the importance of being connected to community.

Above: College Presidents from L to R:
Dr. William Griscom (Thaddeus Stevens), Dr. Peter Teague (Lancaster Bible College), Dr. Lewis Thayne (Lebanon Valley College), Dr. John “Ski” Sygielsk (HACC), Dr. Mary Grace Simcox (PA College of Health Sciences), Dr. Linda Fedrizzi-Williams (Central Penn Collage), Dr. Stuart Savin (Lancaster County Career & Technology Center), Dr. Daniel Wubah (Millersville University), Dr. Carl Strikwerda (Elizabethtown College), Dr. Barbara Altmann (Franklin & Marshall), Dr. Mary Jensen (Eastern Mennonite University Lancaster), and Michael Molla (PA College of Art & Design).  

The Importance Of Higher Education & Business Connection

Dr. Daniel Wubah, President of Millersville University

“Millersville University is proud to work with local businesses in meeting their growing and changing needs for an educated workforce. A significant number of our alumni continue to live and work in the Lancaster area, and studies show that college graduates earn significantly more over their lifetime than those with a high school diploma. Our graduates are important players in the local community as taxpayers, homeowners, innovators, creators and our civic and industry leaders.”

Dr. Stuart Savin, Administrative Director of Lancaster County Career & Technology Center

“The Lancaster County Career & Technology Center is at the forefront in providing career pathways for students which include the opportunity to earn college credits at regional colleges before ever graduating high school. Depending on the program, our students have the opportunity to earn up to 10 credits with participating colleges. Our career and college pathways give our students a head start toward their chosen career and a commensurate increase in the overall quality of the developing workforce.”

Dr. Linda Fedrizzi-Williams, President of Central Penn College

“Career education is in our DNA. Central Penn College was established in 1881 as a small business school in downtown Harrisburg. Since that time, the college has continually worked with the local and regional business community to ensure that our students are workforce-ready when they graduate, and that we are also responsive to the community’s needs. We offer career-relevant degrees that position our students for success and advancement in their chosen fields. The link between higher education and local business is critical.”

The Value of Arts & Humanities In Next Generation Leaders

Michael Molla, President of PA College of Art & Design

“At PCA&D, we cultivate creative thinking in our students, encouraging the kind of nimbleness and flexibility which enables them to connect disparate ideas. This is how we create innovative problem-solvers and entrepreneurial leaders. Our goal here at PCA&D is to equip students with the art and design tools they need to flourish and thrive and meet any challenge. We teach our students to be resilient and resourceful, remarkable and reflective so that they can create lives of meaning and purpose.”

Dr. Lewis Thayne, President of Lebanon Valley College

“The arts and humanities play a significant role in preparing students for forward-thinking, ethical leadership in the age of digital transformation. Employers tell us that they are looking for people who run to a challenge and know how to work with others to develop creative solutions to complex problems. Through study of the arts and humanities in our curriculum, every student at LVC becomes an active learner. They develop critical and creative thinking skills, communications abilities, and the cultural competencies needed for collaborative problem-solving.”

The Approach To Diversity And The Positive Impact On Campus/Community

Dr. John “Ski” Sygielsk, President of HACC

“In addition to supporting a diverse campus, we need to ensure they are also inclusive and welcoming. By doing so, the campus and community learn to discuss issues from a wide variety of perspectives, increase personal knowledge and prepare learners for career success by expanding their sense of ‘worldliness.’”

Dr. Barbara Altmann, President of Franklin & Marshall College

“Diversity of every kind is a precursor to excellence. The same is true of equity and inclusion. Every individual matters to the community because the broader our perspectives, the greater our collective wisdom and the stronger our humanity. These values run deep at F&M. We are fortunate to enjoy greater diversity among our student body—and in the population of our home city of Lancaster—than is typical at many liberal arts colleges in the nation. But we always need to monitor our shortcomings and strive to improve. We are very much aware, for example, that the diversity of our faculty and staff is low. As we work to deepen our diversity, the positive impact on our campus and on our city will grow demonstrably.”

Dr. Carol Lytch, President of the Lancaster Theological Seminary

“We see diversity as a sign of excellence. The classroom conversation is more dynamic and exciting when the voices come from diverse perspectives.”

The Transformation Of Technology & Impact On Education

Dr. William Griscom, President of Thaddeus Stevens College

“Technology has become increasingly complex and digital. The impact is an increase in knowledge requirements of workers. For example, if you cannot read at grade level 14 and be competent in algebra and trigonometry you cannot be an automotive tech today because the manuals are written at this level and even wheel balancers have computers controlling them.”

Dr. Mary Grace Simcox, President of PA College of Health Sciences

“The digital transformation that is occurring has significantly altered the manner in which colleges and universities engage students in their learning experiences. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence now play key roles in classroom instruction, student advising and learner success. At the same time, the education of our students needs to include comprehension of the technologic advances that are taking place in the work environment. Thus, simulated and actual practical experiences expose students to the latest technology advances that exist in work settings. Educating students in this new reality, however, presents colleges with challenges associated with financial resources and cyber security.”

Dr. Mary Jensen, Director and Associate Provost of Eastern Mennonite University Lancaster

“At EMU at Lancaster, providing a supportive learning community is central to our value proposition. For us, embracing technology-mediated education presented the opportunity to transform our pedagogy and translate our values, building virtual communities that support engaged learning and social connection. The utilization of technology also gives students the opportunity to learn and practice critical job skills such as working in virtual teams, project sharing, and facility with a range of digital tools.”

Reflection On Their Impact

Dr. Carl Strikwerda, President of Elizabethtown College

“The 20,000 college and university students in Lancaster County are a huge economic resource. Higher education is working to respond to the changing needs of our area. Elizabethtown College has responded to the community’s needs by expanding our Engineering program, launching a new Physician Assistant master’s degree, and creating new majors in data science, graphic design, criminal justice, and finance and marketing, as well as in a program in entrepreneurship and family business. The partnership that our colleges and universities have with the business community is one of the most valuable assets that Lancaster has for the future.”

Dr. Peter Teague, President of Lancaster Bible College

“As I reflect on the last two decades of my time as president, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. The embrace of the Lancaster community makes it so easy to understand why this area stands apart in our nation for its warmth and generosity. The ready availability of visionary business and community leaders so willing to share perspective, expertise and resources was consistently humbling and encouraging. To these many individuals I could never offer enough thanks. I have been and remain a blessed man for this remarkable experience.”

To find out more about what local colleges and universities are doing to focus on workforce development, diversity in community, and technological advancement, feel free to reach out to Heather Valudes, Community Impact Director
at the Lancaster Chamber, at

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