Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education


Chincoteague Bay (Virginia) Field Station Advisory Services

In the summer of 2016, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) engaged Brailsford & Dunlavey to assess the overall operations of its Chincoteague Bay Field Station at Wallops Island, Virginia. Ten years earlier, PASSHE had developed a plan to infuse capital into the campus, which borders the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Center, and establish a formal organizational structure for the field station―a facility that supports marine science research and educational programs for PASSHE students and faculty despite actually being located outside of the state. Despite past efforts to improve programming and rebrand itself, the CBFS had not met its goals of being a self-sustaining auxiliary campus actively serving students and faculty from all of PASSHE’s 14 member universities.

B&D’s analysis involved stakeholder interviews and user focus groups, a market analysis, and a comparison review of nine proximate field stations. At the completion of its analysis, B&D outlined several recurring issues restraining the CBFS’ financial and operational strengths and identified six strategic repositioning alternatives for repositioning the facility, to include:

• Operational changes to the CBFS / PASSHE management model
• Steps to improved student enrollment and participation, should the CBFS choose to remain status quo operationally
• A 14-university parity model
• The addition of corporate and / or government partners
• The sale of all physical assets to CBFS from PASSHE
• The sale of the field station to an outside party

All stakeholders expressed a shared desire for continued access to the facility―albeit with a mitigated financial burden―and PASSHE leaders recognized, as a result of B&D’s strategic counsel, that it must determine whether an investment in this out-of-state asset will further its goals of serving Pennsylvania citizens. As a next step, B&D recommended presenting the six alternatives to key stakeholders and the CBFS Board to eliminate scenarios and move forward with developing a recommended option and business plan.