Gannon University’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted its second Town Hall meeting Monday in the Yehl Ballroom of the Waldron Campus Center.
Such events are great opportunities for students to share their ideas, opinions and concerns directly with Gannon administrators in a respectful environment.
The town halls allow students to feel that their voices are being heard and, to some extent, feel a connection to school officials, rather than having a distant approach.
President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., was delighted to address all of the students’ questions and hear their opinions.
Topics ranged from questions about new programs, challenges that Gannon is facing, student services, such as the health center and Metz Culinary Services, to a new view and discussion about unity and diversity in the community.
Among the topics discussed, students brought questions regarding the new I-HACK program and its development.
The program will have a focus in cyber security and cyber engineering. Taylor shared their plans in utilizing the Knight Tower building to allow the program to thrive.
The building is composed of six floors in which the first will be the lobby and the second will hold the academic labs and administrative offices.
The third floor will expand for commercial business, the fourth and fifth floors will be rented to outside business to help gain income to support the new program and the sixth floor hopes to achieve the same purpose with a data and security center.
The hope is to have a friendly and united atmosphere in the building that promotes new ideas.
“Our goal is to integrate, not just co-exist,” Taylor said.
The projected plan by the fall of 2020 is to incorporate new minors and master’s degrees to promote current students to engage in them.
To promote the I-HACK program and gain more student interest, Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs, revealed that Gannon will be hosting a Hackathon, an online capture the flag competition and other hacking challenges with students from nearby high schools in April.
The winners will be invited to campus for a live competition where they will compete for a full tuition scholarship.
Students were also curious if Gannon was facing any challenges that they should be aware of, and if there was anything the students could help with.
Taylor pointed out that Gannon’s major challenges would be recruitment, enrollment and retainment, as it is for all other universities.
Taylor said that he wants to keep tuition as low as possible at Gannon while still providing quality services and education, but the only way to achieve this is through a high enrollment of students.
With this, other problems such as a need for an expansion of housing would arise, but Taylor assured that plans have been started for Gannon’s growing student classes in the future.
Revisiting topics that were brought up at the town hall last semester, they spoke about the administration’s plans for the Counseling and Health Center.
Students suggested an extension of hours that the center is open, including weekends and during the summer, and that there is a possibility of an expansion for the health center in the upcoming years.
Other subtopics included next year’s First Year Read and Metz Culinary Services.
For next year’s incoming class, Iwanenko announced that the first-year reading will be “Act of Faith” by Eboo Patel to stimulate dialogue about growing up Muslim in America.
Not all concerns that the administration receives are difficult to iron out.
This week, a petition was filed by an unidentified commuter student with regards to bringing more cornbread to the university’s cafeteria.
Iwanenko said that he made a call to Metz Culinary Services to see how the concern could be resolved.
Diego Camargo, a junior criminal justice major, said, “Bring back the cornbread.”
Mustafa Saracevic, a junior biomedical engineering major, said, “One commuter can make a difference.”
An interesting topic brought by Sydney Oyatta, a junior computer science major, was his concern about the idea of unity and how, as a junior, he has seen Gannon’s community become less diverse.
“I noticed a lack of unity and division between different groups of students, and I was wondering how we could once again unify these groups,” Oyatta said.
Kendra Walker, the current president of SGA and a senior accounting and finance major, commented on how this has been one of the association’s goals: to promote and develop a more diverse community on campus, which is why SGA hosted Unity Week last semester.
Walker said she was excited to answer Oyatta’s question.
“We have been active and developing new measures of communication [for events] with our student body because sometimes we do not share them enough,” Walker said.
“So much love and planning go into these events because our intentionality is to serve the students.
“Hearing the students concerns helps bring these aspects into focus,” she added.
Since it was the second town hall held this semester, Ryan Young, vice president for student engagement for SGA, has attended both events.
“The attendance has been pretty consistent being the first event of this semester,” Young said.
“I’m always impressed by the depth of the questions the students provide to Dr. Taylor.”