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(Almost) 10 Questions With Dr. Madlyn Hanes

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Madlyn Hanes, Vice President for the Commonwealth Campuses. Regrettably, we were unable to do this interview face-to-face, but she kindly emailed me her responses.

Before starting the interview, I had a little bit of knowledge as to who she was. While I was a student at Penn State Harrisburg, she was the chancellor who oversaw the campus. I remember when she was promoted to her current position, as a search for the new chancellor came about shortly after I started my second semester as a freshman.

Onward State: What is your background?

Madlyn Hanes: I spent my childhood in New York (where I was born) and my teens and college years in Florida.  My family, who immigrated to the US from Russia, was close-knit.  Education was a valued commodity.  I was the youngest of all the grandchildren, and I suspect that by the time I became a student, education had become an imperative.  I was expected to be a good student and I did not disappoint.  I actually liked school and was active in student government, among other clubs and organizations.  I also worked in the family lumber and hardware business several days a week after school.  I went to the University of Florida, where I am proud to say that I was honored as the 2008 University of Florida distinguished alumnus.  Coming back to campus after nearly three decades with my immediate family (my husband, Dr. Michael Hanes, and our three children) was a thrill, and I vowed I wouldn’t let too much time pass between visits.  That’s one reason I encourage our Penn State alumni to stay connected.  I earned all my degrees from the University of Florida, a B.A. in English and the language arts, M.A. in speech-language pathology, and Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in language and literacy.  I have fond memories of my years there.

Fast forward, my Penn State career began in 1988 when I served as the director of academic affairs at Penn State Delaware County (now Penn State Brandywine).  In 1997, I assumed the role of campus executive officer of Penn State Great Valley, the graduate campus of Penn State serving southeastern PA, and in 1998, I headed its newly formed School of Graduate Professional Studies.  In 2000, I moved to central PA to become chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg, a post I happily served for 10 years before becoming the vice president for Commonwealth campuses.

OS: Which one of the satellite campuses do you think is the best-looking?

MH: Best-looking?  That’s not so simple.  There’s beauty on all our campuses.  All you have to do is ask the students at the campuses and they’ll tell you the particular aspects of their home campus that they find “good-looking.”  Students are not at a loss for examples—it could be a new contemporary state-of-the-art building, perhaps a grand, historic building that distinguishes a given campus, an outdoor commons or “green” gathering space, a tree-lined pathway with a stone sitting wall outlining the perimeter, or a pond in the center of campus.  Each campus has its own particular “look” and most students, faculty and staff have particular favorite “places” on their campuses that appeals to their sense of aesthetics.

(As a side note, I will admit that at the Harrisburg campus, the Library was one of my favorite places. It was very inviting, and the third floor was the one place you could find me if I was working on a project there, or even studying for a test. It even had a lovely view that overlooked most of the campus.)

OS: How does it feel to work with CCSG now instead of being the Chancellor at Harrisburg?

MH: I always enjoyed working with the student leadership at Penn State Harrisburg and I met with them on a regular basis.  But being on a campus had the added advantage of more informal, day-to-day encounters, often in the dining facility–our “Stacks Market”– on the plaza, or commons, and most certainly, at various campus events.  Student leaders would co-host our “Meet the Chancellor” evenings held each semester to reach out to our growing evening student population; they would typically work alongside me at these events, ushering students on break from evening classes to meet me.  These evenings were a big hit and most memorable to me, with about 300 hundred or so students participating over the course of an evening.  Meeting the chancellor may have been a draw to some, but the food – hot soup, sandwiches – which the student leadership helped distribute, was a definite attractor.  I can honestly say that I got to know the student leaders well, many of whom I’m still in touch with today.

(The ‘Meet the Chancellor’ events were something that I witnessed as a student, and I thought that it was great that the Chancellor wanted a chance to personally greet the students. This is still going on today at the campus, with Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni, Ph.D.)

Working with CCSG is also enjoyable.  I must say that I am and continue to be impressed with the leaders who represent our campuses.  I have addressed their assembly twice now and, I do believe, they represent their constituents well.  They are organized, professional, and most importantly, engaged.  They ask current and insightful questions, and have shown extraordinary leadership during these past nearly three months in the wake of these horrific allegations.  Our CCSG leaders were instrumental in assuring that our campuses were involved in the inaugural Town Hall Meeting and worked closely with the campus administration and other campus student leaders in organizing campus vigils, forums and fundraising initiatives to honor victims and raise awareness of child abuse.  Their efforts were valuable to advance the healing process for the university community.  I have noticed in my discussions with students leaders at the campuses and the officers of CCSG that there is a common bond among our campus leaders; one that I personally share and personally admire.  Most represent the first generation in their families to go to college and many have worked to help pay for college expenses.  The demands on these students are great; that they have chosen to assume leadership roles during their college experience distinguishes them all the more.  I too was among the first generation in my family to attend college and understand entirely the special feeling of pride that comes from being among the first in your family to earn a college degree.  I also understand the deep sense of responsibility to do well on behalf of your family.

OS: What’s one of the most memorable moments you had while working at Harrisburg?

MH: While there are many fond memories, by far the most memorable moments involve our commencements.  At every commencement ceremony I was renewed with a sense of purpose and took great pleasure in witnessing our students’ joy in achieving one of life’s major milestones.  I have always believed that there is no truer measure of our success as educators than the success of our students.  We celebrate that success at each commencement.

OS: Do you miss anything about working directly at a Commonwealth Campus?

MH: As a chancellor, I worked more closely with the campus and broader community on a day-to-day basis.  I miss that.  Certainly working from a central office gives me the opportunity to make a difference on a much broader scale, but it’s at a distance.  I do make regular campus visits which keep me connected in more personal ways.  But the direct and frequent contact with multiple stakeholders–our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and community leaders–is a bit less.  And that makes my participation in campus celebrations and events, where stakeholders attend, especially meaningful.

OS: How do the Commonwealth Campuses differ from University Park?

MH: Mostly the difference is size and scale.  Students tell me that navigating their Commonwealth campuses was a bit easier, i.e., learning what resources were available to them, and where and to whom to go for certain information and assistance.  They also tell me that opportunities to engage in co-curricular activities and in leadership roles are accessible at the campuses.  That said, I would hope that once our students successfully navigate their first two years at the campuses, they would have the confidence to navigate University Park with equal success.

OS: What’s the craziest thing you may have witnessed while working at a Commonwealth Campus?

MH: I’m not sure this qualifies as “the craziest thing,” but at commencements I was always amused at the range of footwear graduates chose to wear with their academic regalia.  Students walked across the stage in flip flops, sneakers decked out with colorful laces–not always the same color laces on each shoe, for example, to receive their diplomas.  The smiles, hearty handshakes and gracious “thanks” received from these students as I handed them their diplomas were nonetheless heartfelt.

OS: What (if anything), is being done to integrate the satellite campuses better into the Penn State system as a whole with UP?

MH: I’ve never referred to our campuses as satellites or branches.  They are Penn State campuses, some with college status.  The campuses offer the same general education curriculum, develop and revise courses using the same curriculum guidelines and review processes; our campus faculty represent their colleagues as senators on the university faculty senate, its council and committees.  The university’s human resources and academic administrative policies apply university-wide – across all campuses and colleges, including UP.  Our libraries are all connected and share materials across campuses.  Perhaps this is a best kept secret.  But all campuses of the university are naturally integrated by shared governance, curricular, academic administrative and human resource policies and procedures.  It’s complex, but it works.  We are a stronger institution for it, and the members of the university community, including our students, benefit from the standard of quality that is assured no matter where they work or study at Penn State.

OS: What has been done to help students transferring from one of the satellite campuses to UP get to know the campus better? (In other words, has anything been done to help ease the transition from a small campus to a larger one?)

MH: I am a fan of the Link UP program, a collaboration among the offices of the vice presidents of undergraduate education, student affairs and Commonwealth campuses.  Link UP is a relatively new program designed specifically to ease the transition of students coming from a Commonwealth campus to UP.  The program brings students in their first year to UP for a visit to familiarize themselves with the campus and surrounding community, explore housing and transportation options and meet with representatives from their academic colleges where they intend to pursue their selected major.  In their short stay, they also meet student leaders who began their college careers at a Commonwealth campus and various support professionals who explain the many services available to them.  The content is thoughtful, in large part, because it is based on feedback provided by students who have already made the transition to UP.  These students were asked what information would have facilitated their transition.  We received a well spring of ideas.  The program is still evolving as additional feedback comes back to us.  This year in March, I’ll have the opportunity to welcome the hundreds of Commonwealth campus students who will participate.  Also, be on the watch for an ambitious student-to-student mentorship program, an initiative of CCSG.  Ideally, the program will offer fifth-semester students who transition to UP from a Commonwealth campus the opportunity to be mentored by seniors who attended their home campus and are completing the major they are about to enter.  Stay tuned.  Plans to phase in the program over several years are underway.  This has excellent potential to ease student transitions.

About the Author

Meghin Moore

Meghin is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in English. She transferred from the Harrisburg campus as a junior to finish out her schooling at University Park. She has a passion for all things music, fashion, art, and food. She's a Pennsylvania native (born outside of Pittsburgh, and lived in Lebanon for 11 years), but resides in Virginia when she's not in school, and has moved a total of ten times in her life, mostly thanks to the military.

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