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President’s Report to Academic and Professional Faculty

Read New Paltz President Donald P. Christian’s November Report to Academic and Professional Faculty

SUNYAC Championships.  Congratulations to our student-athletes, coaches, and athletics staff for last weekend’s SUNYAC championships in Women’s Volleyball (by defeating Fredonia 3-0) and field hockey (by defeating Geneseo 4-0).  This is the third straight field hockey championship, our second-ever women’s volleyball championship, and probably the first time in our history that we’ve won two SUNYAC championships on the same weekend.  Both teams advance to the NCAA tournaments; New Paltz field hockey defeated Keene State 3-0 in yesterday’s first round.  Well done!

Even more rewarding than seeing our students excel in these competitions is the unsolicited, positive feedback my colleagues and I receive from parents we meet at games.  We hear about the positive influence of athletic participation, coaches, and teammates on the overall educational experience of their sons and daughters.  A “volleyball mom” told me last weekend that her daughter is a much better student because of her involvement, a common assessment of parents.

Prospective Student Open House. We hosted approximately 1,550 prospective students and more than 4,400 total visitors during the Fall Open House event on Saturday, October 25.  Our prospective students and their family members commented often about their positive interactions with faculty and students, the stunning beauty of our location, and the wide range of majors and activities for students to discover.  Here is some additional feedback from them:

“…all of the department speakers were enthusiastic and very informative. Great tour. We love the program.”
“All the xxx professors were knowledgeable and enthusiastic”
“Loved the facilities and the department head gave an informative as well as entertaining talk…”
“Lots of good information, very informative, persuaded me to consider attending New Paltz.”
“Great tour… we loved the interactive classroom demonstration.”
“…My mom and I love New Paltz and I am submitting my application this week. I will keep my fingers crossed!”

This event continues to play a key role in attracting high-caliber first-year and transfer students to SUNY New Paltz. I am thankful to everyone who made the event such an informative and invaluable experience for our visitors.

James Langley Visit. Fundraising consultant James Langley (http://langleyinnovations.com/) returned to campus for an October 30-31 session with faculty, staff, and Foundation Board Directors.  He shared his research findings and experience about why people give, and how to engage alumni most effectively as we transform the culture of philanthropy at New Paltz.

Among his points were that volunteers give ten times more than non-volunteers, but volunteer experiences need to be meaningful.  He encouraged faculty, chairs and directors to actively engage with alumni as volunteers by asking them to return as speakers, student mentors, or program advisors in areas where they have expertise.

Jim was delighted to hear that since his last visit, innovations he inspired have been implemented at New Paltz: a more participatory Fall Convocation (with alumni involvement); numerous uncompensated guest speaker programs where alumni returned to speak (and were honored to have been asked); collaboration between Career Resource Center and Alumni Relations; and increased outreach from faculty and Foundation Board Directors to alumni and donors, in some cases simply to say thank you.

Business Leaders Forum and Presidential Roundtables.  I reported last month about the then-upcoming Business Leaders Forum, where a panel of three alumni (majors in business, anthropology, education) and a Foundation Board Director spoke with students about their career and life paths and successes. The Board Director, who is not college-educated, spoke wistfully about what he knows he missed.  More than 300 students participated, nearly filling the MPR. We will continue to encourage students in all schools and majors to participate in future events such as these.

We held our second “Presidential Roundtable” in the boardroom of the New York Times last week, where alumnus James Follo ’81 (Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President) spoke with a group of journalism, digital media, general business, finance, and accounting students and responded to their questions about his life and career path, the current state of journalism and future challenges, and the guiding principles that have kept the New York Times as a leading media outlet for 150 years. I was so impressed with our students, the thoughtful depth and range of their questions, and their professionalism.  One student told me: “this is the very best day of my entire college career.”

This week, a group of students met with alumnus Kevin Zraly ‘74, wine educator, author, founder of “Windows on the World” Wine School, 2011 recipient of the James Beard Award for Lifetime Achievement and many other awards.  Kevin spoke about the importance of finding a motivating passion, about how the knowledge and skills he developed as an elementary education major are so relevant to his current work, and about work ethic and work-life balance.  Again, I was very proud of our students and their presence.

Campus Climate Initiatives.  I am pleased to report several activities and initiatives that advance our strategic plan priority of creating an engaged living and learning community and our value of continuing to build an open, inclusive, and equitable campus climate.

Mecca Santana, Chief Diversity Officer for the State of New York, will speak with students, faculty, and staff about “Lead to Succeed” on Tuesday, November 18, 2:00 PM in LC 100.  Ms. Santana is responsible for the creation and implementation of recruitment and retention initiatives to promote workforce diversity and inclusion.  She has served as the Executive Director of Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Management in the New York City Department of Education, and the Senior Assistant Counsel for the New York State Commission of Investigation.  This presentation will constitute the agenda for next week’s Administrative Council meeting, and I encourage others to participate.  Student Activities and Union Services and Director Michael Patterson are hosting Ms. Santana’s visit.

Tanhena Pacheco-Dunn, Executive Director of Compliance and Campus Climate and Title IX Coordinator, is on the SUNY-wide task force to draft uniform policies that will guide how SUNY and potentially all New York State colleges respond to sexual assault on college campuses.   This task force was charged following last month’s announcement by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the Board of Trustees. The policies under review include uniform definitions of consent, amnesty policies to encourage reporting, comprehensive training, victim’s rights, reporting protocols, and campus climate assessments. Work by this task force will help position New York State as a model in response to the White House Task force, formed last January by Vice President Biden, which called for national attention to sexual assault.

Our campus is participating in the national “It’s On Us” awareness campaign against sexual violence on college campuses http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/09/19/president-obama-launches-its-us-campaign-end-sexual-assault-campus).  “It’s On Us” asks men and women to make a personal commitment to step off the sidelines and be part of the solution to end campus sexual assault.  Staff in Communication and Marketing, Student Affairs, Campus Media, and Compliance and Campus Climate are collaborating with our students to produce a public service video that highlights our community’s commitment to this cause.  This exciting project will be completed soon for posting on the website and broader dissemination.
Academic Affairs personnel have been working the past several months with several faculty to plan family and medical leaves; these discussions have underscored that each leave presents special circumstances and needs to be planned individually.  They also highlighted the special circumstances that leaves by teaching faculty create for individuals and departments. This growing interest was reflected in last week’s UUP-sponsored teach-in about this topic. With Academic Affairs as the “point” office for this effort and other offices (Benefits, Human Resources, Payroll) as collaborators, we are exploring a new and more comprehensive model that will balance individual needs, department staffing and service needs as well as the parameters outlined by Board of Trustees, SUNY, and NYS policies.  Stay tuned for further information later this semester.

The Office of Veteran and Military Services and the Office of Student Accounts hosted our first-ever “Veterans Day Formal Dinner” this past Monday.  More than 60 SUNY New Paltz students, faculty and staff veterans, service members and dependents attended this wonderful event.  I was moved to be able to speak in a single evening with current New Paltz students enrolled in the Marist ROTC program, active-duty students and family members, recent veterans, and an emeritus professor who served in the South Pacific during WWII.  Since Coordinator Jason Gilliland joined the College last spring, his office has coordinated and developed a wide range of educational outreach, support, and referral services for SUNY New Paltz student veterans, service members, and their dependents.

SUNY Higher Education Conference.  Deb Gould (Assistant Provost), Ray Schwarz (Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning), and Lucy Walker (AVP for Institutional Research) were New Paltz administrative representatives at the 4th annual SUNY “Critical Issues in Higher Education Conference”; Jen Waldo (Biology and F&PA Dean’s Office), Richard Kelder (Teaching and Learning Center), and KT Tobin (Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach) also participated.  This year’s conference was entitled “Higher Education Reconsidered:  Executing Change to Drive Collective Impact.”  The conference focused on 1) the notable decline in higher education attainment in the U.S. compared with other countries, including the reality that our fastest-growing populations are our least educated; 2) the imperative of meaningful change in higher education; and 3) strategies to build collaborative alliances with K-12, business, and philanthropic and social service partners to drive change.  Several presenters stressed that public institutions like ours, and public systems like SUNY, must lead this change because we enroll about 75% of students nationwide.

Deb, Ray, and Lucy (members of the Strategic Planning Council) were struck by how much the ideas presented at the conference resonated with priorities of our strategic plan: continued emphasis on high-quality teaching and learning and improved completion/graduation; the importance of improving advising, including strategies to identify students at risk and intervene strategically; increasing online offerings; and strengthening regional and community engagement.  They will be sharing lessons from the conference more fully with the Council to guide our continued work on strategic plan implementation.

Chamber of Commerce Presentation.  On Tuesday, November 18, I will speak at the breakfast meeting of the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce about recent initiatives and developments at the College.  Consistent with our strategic plan priority of supporting and engaging the region, I seize every such opportunity to highlight our work, in this instance focusing on topics of interest to civic, business, and community leaders, including:

  • The national higher-education context for our planning and decisions;
  • New Paltz priorities and educational values;
  • What we mean by liberal education;
  • Rankings, graduation and retention rates, enrollment patterns;
  • Mechanical engineering, 3D, and our Engineering Innovation Hub;
  • Campus climate: tavern owners agreement, sexual assault issues, veteran services;
  • Regional contributions:  literacy programs, Master Teacher Program, Saturday Arts Lab, CRREO research and outreach, environmental initiatives;
  • Campus construction, student housing needs, Park Point status;
  • Economic impact analysis.

Holiday Party.  Please save the date for the annual Holiday Reception for academic and professional faculty at the President’s residence from 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 6.  Invitations will be coming soon.  Sandy and I hope that you will take time out of this busy season to join us and your colleagues for fellowship and conversation.

All the best to each of you as you approach the end of another busy academic semester. I will look forward to seeing you at Friday’s faculty meeting, where I will respond briefly to questions.

Donald P. Christian