On July 1, Dr. Marwan Wafa takes the helm as chancellor of Penn State Worthington Scranton, following the retirement of Dr. Mary-Beth Krogh-Jespersen.
Dr. Wafa comes to the campus from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), where he served as vice chancellor and dean, and has over 20 years of academic leadership experience and accomplishments.
During his time at IUPUC, he developed a long-range strategic plan; successfully promoted international enrollment; oversaw growing enrollment and graduating classes; expanded the number of degree programs; established a student research development fund; and launched the Center for Business and Economic Development, which encouraged initiatives between the private sector and faculty and students.
Recently, he took the time to answer some questions about himself and his goals for Penn State Worthington Scranton.
Can you tell us a little about yourself outside of your career?
I am married to Sahar Al Masri, and we are blessed with three wonderful children: Ala'a (31, a lawyer), Abdullah (28, a doctor), and Danyah (26, a sociologist). We adopted our niece, Rawan Abu Zaineh, two years ago (she is 16, aspires to become an engineer and will attend Penn State).
I am a handy person who enjoys working on cars, home repairs, volunteering and lately, learning how to fly RC airplanes. I do not like to see things that are broken--cracks, chips, or eyesores. I like to make the work environment welcoming to all faculty, staff, students and guests, and establish a culture that is caring, supportive, uplifting and open to diverse opinions.
How did you find your way to a job at Penn State Worthington Scranton?
It was time for a new opportunity and change, so I did apply to a select number of presidential and chancellorship searches. I was fortunate enough to interview with a number of fine institutions, including PSWS. I chose to join PSWS for a number of reasons.
I was impressed with the people that I had the opportunity to meet during the interview process, which included faculty, staff, students and even chancellors from sister institutions, and the other important aspect has been the recently developed strategic plan, which happens to be aligned with my experiences and aspirations. I also looked into the overall University culture and leadership of Penn State, which was key to my final decision to accept the offer from PSWS over other options.
What do you think of the Scranton area so far?
This region is blessed with great nature, which can be a strong reason for people to want to be part of the Scranton area. Since I only have been here for two weeks, and based on this limited time frame, I found people to be helpful, positive and welcoming. These are very important characteristics that make me optimistic about engaging in the community as an individual and as a representative of a fine university.
What are your first impressions of Penn State Worthington Scranton?
I sensed the welcoming nature of all those I was fortunate enough to speak with during my interview process and interact with during the past two weeks. I feel very positive about joining PSWS and look forward to working with faculty, staff, students and the community in advancing the goals and aspirations of the University and the community.
What are some of your short-term goals for the campus?
I would like to get to know as many of the people as possible who make up this campus and in the shortest amount of time. I will be focusing on ensuring that we have the right culture and a supportive environment for all to succeed in achieving their individual goals and those of this institution. I also wish to work on making resources available and aligned with the needs of the campus in order to bring the established goals in the strategic plan to fruition.
I will be working with various teams on campus so that we are able to achieve the enrollment growth goal of 2,000 students within a very reasonable time horizon. Growing enrollment is key to our campus' well-being and success. However, without significantly improving retention, such efforts of growth will be quite challenging.
As we work to move our campus forward by offering more degree programs and working to increase enrollment, how do you see Penn State Worthington Scranton's role within the local community and economy evolving?
It is very important to have PSWS engaged in the community's advancement. This can be realized through various means including project-based learning where students and faculty can make a positive impact on our regional economy while enriching classroom learning. Also, by promoting community engagement through volunteering, we should be able to earn the support of our region and achieve the visibility and distinction that is necessary for our ability to grow and to be responsive to our region.
Penn State has one of the largest alumni organizations in the world, and locally, we have four very active campus alumni groups that sponsor scholarships, raise money for campus projects and hold events that bring alumni together and back to the campus. Do you plan on being actively engaged with these groups?
Absolutely, yes! This is an important part of my role in getting the message of PSWS out and building trust in the significant role that this fine institution plays in advancing the well-being of this region. Alumni, and even community members who did not attend Penn State, could be key supporters of our University.
I am eager to be of service to our students, faculty, staff and our region. I have an open door policy and I look forward to the opportunity of working together in making a positive difference internally, as well as externally, to PSWS.
Before becoming vice chancellor at IUPUC, Dr. Wafa served as dean of the College of Business and Management at Saginaw Valley State University, and dean of the School of Business and Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
He spent 14 years at the University of Southern Indiana, including two as associate dean and director of the Master's of Business Administration (MBA) program in the School of Business.
In addition to having served in a number of academic leadership positions, Dr. Wafa has extensive teaching experience, including courses in financial leadership management, operations management, statistical quality control and business statistics. He has also served as a civil engineer, a consultant to the private sector and has been published extensively in academic journals.
In his new position, he will also hold the rank of professor of management.
Dr. Wafa earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Kuwait University and a master's in management and doctorate in industrial management from Clemson University.