Don Birx, chancellor of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, will leave the top post at the college effective July 31 to become president of Plymouth State University, a campus of the University System of New Hampshire.
An interim chancellor for the college will be named by July 1. A national search to fill the position is expected to begin with the start of the academic school year in late summer.
“As a research administrator, Don has brought valuable experience to Penn State Behrend to advance the college as an economic force in northwestern Pennsylvania,” said Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses of Penn State. “During his tenure as chancellor, the college recorded progress on academic, research and outreach fronts, and we wish him well in his new endeavor.”
Birx has served as Penn State Behrend’s chief academic and administrative officer since 2010. In this role, he has oversight of the college’s multiple missions of teaching, research and service, as well as campus operations, including strategic planning, budgeting, enrollment management, fundraising and outreach.
He has overseen expansion of the college’s academic offerings, with the addition of bachelor’s degrees in arts administration, childhood and early adolescent education, environmental science, industrial engineering and nursing and graduate degrees in manufacturing management and professional accounting.
The campus is also set to expand later this year with the opening of a $16.5 million, 60,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center. The facility will be a high-tech hub where academic, industry and community partners can collaborate as teams on research, design and product development.
That project fully realizes the open-laboratory model of learning that Birx developed during his time at Penn State Behrend. The open lab creates an environment in which students, faculty members and private-sector partners work together to produce applied-research solutions to existing market problems. The approach benefits students, who gain hands-on experience, while providing business, industry, and community partners with access to student talent and the University’s world-class intellectual and laboratory resources.
An endorsement of the open-lab model echoes across Penn State Behrend’s Knowledge Park, a research complex with 20 tenant companies that employ more than 500 people. Occupancy at the park, which is adjacent to campus, is now at 98 percent.
“Penn State Behrend’s record of successful partnerships with local industry and start-ups has positioned the college as a key driver of the Erie region’s emerging economy,” Birx said. “That role, both on and off campus, builds on the college’s success in academics and its commitment to innovative teaching, close student-faculty interaction and community engagement. It reinforces what I felt when I came here in 2010: This is a special place within a world-class University, with tremendous potential to do even more in the years ahead.”