Like the IUP freshmen, Terry Appolonia is transitioning, too

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Students moving into IUP-Punxsutawney’s Living-Learning Center today and Friday aren’t the only new faces on campus.

Terry Appolonia began his tenure as the dean at IUP-Punxsy July 25, after serving in various positions at the main campus since 1986. More recently, he served as the dean of students and associate vice-president for student development at the university’s main campus.

As 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the West End campus, its mission continues: Helping freshmen at the Punxsy campus become acclimated to higher education and the community, becoming independent young adults.
During the spring, the focus shifts toward preparing students to transition to IUP’s main campus.

“This campus is here to stay,” Appolonia said. “We are trying to send a positive message out to all our students that we are all privileged to be at this campus.

“Certainly, transitioning from an urban environment to here is interesting to me,” Appolonia said, as in 1974, he enrolled at IUP in rural Indiana from the more urban Monongahela, outside Pittsburgh. He graduated from IUP with a degree in chemistry education and a master’s degree in student personnel services.

This year, IUP-Punxsy is welcoming a total of about 350 freshman, including many returning students who took summer classes.

Appolonia is doing some transitioning of his own — from the four-year IUP campus with many more students, to the one-year Punxsy campus with fewer students.

“It’s managing an environment that’s a little smaller and more distinct,” he said.

Among the goals of Appolonia — and the university — is improving the retention rate of the Punxsy campus.

Citing rough numbers, he said one in two students begin at the IUP’s main campus, following the freshman year in Punxsy. Also, numbers indicate that one in four students graduate in six years.

To that end, the staff is taking a different approach toward advising students.

“We want all the students’ advisors to really become a mentor to their students,” Appolonia said. “We hope the faculty will develop a meaningful relationship with their students — and that’s easier to do on this campus.”

Given the poor economy, global numbers are showing about a 10-percent reduction in student enrollment. That’s the case with IUP this year.
“The focus is students’ success, and if we can do that with fewer students, we will,” Appolonia said.

Appolonia — the father of Kate, 16, and John, 14, who attend school in the Indiana Area School District — also said the Punxsy campus is looking at creating more outdoor recreational opportunities for students, as well as expanding the experience of the IUP Academy of Culinary Arts.

“We hope to show that the university is invested in the community,” he said.

“We are looking forward to everyone arriving back on campus,” said Appolonia. “We want them to know we are here to help them adapt to all the changes, and are looking forward to the start of the new year.”
Dr. Raymond Beisel, who has served as the interim dean since 2009, will return to teaching and advising this fall.

Appolonia succeeds Dr. Valarie Trimarchi, who is now the campus academic dean at Westwood College’s Arlington Ballstion campus in Arlington, Va.