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Richard King Mellon Foundation Awards Seton Hill $500,000 to Create Office of Academic Innovation and Planning

The Richard King Mellon Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to Seton Hill University to create an Office of Academic Innovation and Planning, which will explore new academic programs and partnerships to provide the southwestern Pennsylvania region with the skilled workers ready to take on the jobs of the future.


“This tremendous commitment by the Richard King Mellon Foundation will enable Seton Hill to strategically develop new academic programs that meet our region’s workforce needs,” said Seton Hill President Mary C. Finger, Ed.D. “The Office of Academic Innovation and Planning will centralize Seton Hill’s processes in developing new academic programs and help the University assess the jobs and skills needed in our region to ensure students are well-prepared for a workplace that is evolving constantly.”


She continued: “While academic innovation offices are often found at large, research universities, such centers at small, liberal arts institutions like Seton Hill are not commonplace. However, small institutions can be much more agile when it comes to developing new academic programs, and Seton Hill’s new Office of Academic Innovation and Planning can serve as a model for other small, private universities. The Office will allow Seton Hill to more readily address rapid changes in the technology, healthcare and business sectors in Southwestern Pennsylvania.”


Seton Hill Provost Sister Susan Yochum, SC, Ph.D. said: “The Office of Academic Innovation and Planning will enable Seton Hill to conduct the necessary research to ensure that the University has the right academic programs in place for our students. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development‘s recent report, ‘Inflection Point’ speaks to the need for talented young professionals. In the next 10 years, more than 1.2 million new workers will be needed throughout the region as older workers reach retirement age. The Richard King Mellon Foundation funding will help Seton Hill work closely with employers to ensure that our students are prepared for these opportunities.”


She continued: “As a result of the grant award, Seton Hill faculty and staff will have the necessary resources to engage in researching marketplace needs and design new academic programs that will enable Seton Hill to educate students to graduate with the skills employers need.”


The Office will be led by Seton Hill Professor of Biology and Chair of the Division of Natural and Health Sciences Bernadette Fondy, Ph.D., who has been appointed Director of Academic Innovation and Planning.


“I am honored to lead the Office of Academic Innovation and Planning and work with Seton Hill faculty and staff to create and expand academic programs that benefit the University’s students,” Fondy said.


Fondy, who joined the Seton Hill faculty in 1972, has served for the past year as Acting Chair of the Division of Natural and Health Sciences. A professor of biology, Fondy earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Seton Hill and her master’s in biology and doctorate in plant physiology from the University of Dayton.


Fondy served for seven years as Vice President for Academic Affairs and initiated the development of several Seton Hill academic programs, including the Physician Assistant program and Master’s of Arts programs in Elementary Education and Art Therapy.


She has overseen numerous student research projects and has led research under grants from the National Science Foundation and Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society. Fondy also conducted research as a fellow through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at the University of Bayreuth, Germany.


The Seton Hill University Office of Academic Innovation and Planning will open in the Fall 2016 semester.


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