Cal U President Geraldine Jones talks school’s impact at Chamber PowerBreakfast

PARTNERS—Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams, board Chair Samuel Stephenson and California University of Pennsylvania President—and Chamber member—Geraldine Jones pose after her presentation at the Sept. 20 Powerbreakfast meeting. (Photo by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

Just as students returned to classes this month after a summer break, so did the African American Chamber of Commerce’s Powerbreakfast meetings and fittingly, its first guest speaker of the new season was a university president: Geraldine Jones, president of California University of Pennsylvania.

She prefaced her Sept. 20 remarks about the university, its history and its beneficial impact on the region by noting that in addition to being president since 2016, she is an alumna, having received both her undergraduate and master’s degrees there.

“I am Cal U’s biggest fan,” she said. “People often underestimate the impact it has on student lives and the regional economy. People think we’re just a teacher’s university, but as the region’s economy has changed so has Cal U to meet those changes. We now offer three doctoral programs; in Criminal Justice, Health Science and Exercise Leadership, and Education and Administration Leadership. We have MBA programs in business alone—and all of them are offered 100 percent online.”

She said the ability to offer graduate-level courses online reduces costs for the students, but it also offers scholarships for those who want to attend the Washington County campus. Last year the university gave out $6.3 million in scholarships.

“We also have a special tuition reduction for those in the military, which matches their education reimbursement, and we are reaching out to those who have some college but were unable to finish,” she said. “With our robust series of online classes, we are adapting to the needs of our customer base.”

Jones said another misconception people often have is that—because it is a state university—the bulk of Cal U’s funding comes from the state. Not true.

“Now 70 percent of our budget comes from student tuition and fees,” she said. “So we are always looking for individual and corporate sponsors for our endowments.”

The return on such investments, she said, is substantial.

“There are 68,000 graduates working in Washington, Fayette and Westmoreland counties alone. Spending by the university, staff and students totals $234 million and yields $340 million in tax receipts. So for every dollar in state spending, we return $11.”

Jones also suggested Chamber members should visit the campus, which boast a new state-of-the-art convocation center that hosts sports, entertainment and convention and business events.

After thanking Jones for her presentation, Chamber President and CEO Doris Carson Williams thanked everyone who attended the Chamber’s “Meet the Primes” event with the contractors on the Pittsburgh International Airport expansion, and also those who attended the first in the Chamber’s educational series on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

She introduced new members, and noted that Cain Hays, president of Gateway Health, will be the next Powerbreakfast speaker ion Oct. 18. There will also be a special breakfast meeting Nov. 5 with U.S. Steel President David Burritt. The Chamber’s annual business luncheon will be Dec. 5 and the speaker will be Covestro CEO and Chairman Jerry MacCleary.


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