President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty
April 4, 2018 (in advance of April 5 Faculty Senate Meeting)

As we pass the mid-point of the spring semester, the continuing dedication and hard, excellent work of faculty and staff in our mission of educating students are noteworthy, amidst a swirl of political, social, budgetary, and environmental uncertainty. The protests and educational forum about gun violence in America held on campus and across the nation in recent weeks are strong testimony to the powerful impact that young people – and educators – can have in bringing about important change in the U.S.

I write this report in the final days before the New York State budget agreement is expected to be reached. We have continued our advocacy and wait with anticipation to learn about funding for SUNY, and I may have news on this front to share with you at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting. We have made strides in addressing our budget shortfall, but still face significant challenges. New State funding and approval of a tuition increase would be very meaningful in helping us to move ahead.
Table of Contents:

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence – Congratulations to the five recipients, who will be honored at a SUNY-wide ceremony on April 10 (names and details below).

Accepted Students Open Houses April 7 and 21/Enrollment Update – Faculty and staff are again encouraged to engage with prospective students and their families, part of our effort to increase yield of accepted students; enrollment update below.

Retention and Graduation Rates – Our first-year retention and six-year graduation rates are well above levels predicted based on the average SAT scores of entering students, testimony to the achievement of our faculty, staff, and students.

New Business Analytics Major – The School of Business is launching a new undergraduate major in Business Analytics this fall, the first new major at SUNY New Paltz since Mechanical Engineering.

Commencement – See below for information about dates, commencement speakers, Faculty Grand Marshals, and special ceremonies.

Ottaway Visiting Journalism Professor – Ann Simmons, global development writer/editor of The Los Angeles Times, will be introduced to the campus on April 10 and present public lecture on April 19.

Women’s Leadership Summit – Please alert students to this opportunity on April 11.

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Five New Paltz students, each a member of the class of 2018, have been selected for this SUNY-wide recognition, based on distinctive academic, athletic, leadership, service, and other achievements and contributions. The awards will be conferred in a ceremony in Albany on April 10. Vice President for Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell, several faculty and staff, and I will attend. The names of the award recipients, their major, and selected accomplishments are:


  • Reem Ahmed (Accounting, minors in Sociology and Economics), Honors Program, Peer Mentoring Program, co-founded School of Business Peer Mentoring Program, President of Vivre Haiti that provides aid for children of Haiti, study abroad in Switzerland, speaker at New Student Convocation and “Forty Under 40” alumni event.
  • Trisha Chabria (Biology and Psychology), enrolled in 7-year BS/DO program, member of Absolut A Cappella and South Asian Cultural Association, led medical missions to Honduras and Nicaragua as President of Global Medical Brigades, research participation in psychology, biology, Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives, conference presentations.
  • Julian Chipkin (Mechanical Engineering and Physics), resident assistant, presented research at conferences, study group leader for AMP/CSTEP program, teaching assistant and peer tutor, co-founded chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Julia Friedman (Communication Disorders, minor in Deaf Studies), four-year member of women’s soccer team, recognized for academic and athletic achievement, worked with aphasia clients at Speech-Language Hearing Center, One Love Workshop facilitator, leadership roles in Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, study abroad in Italy.
  • Katrina Scarimbolo (Psychology, minors in Creative Writing and Disaster Studies), Honors Program, Peer Academic Success Coach and Peer Advisor/Mentor, conference presentations, publication in undergraduate research journal, and published poetry, Emerging Leaders Program graduate.

Please take the opportunity to congratulate these students when you see them on campus in the coming weeks.

Accepted Students Open Houses/Enrollment Update. As we discuss each spring, converting accepted applicants to enrolled students is key to our success in enrollment and generation of tuition revenue. As we become more tuition-driven each year, the imperative to yield accepted students becomes more critical, and our Accepted Student Open Houses (Saturday April 7, April 21) are key to our recruitment efforts. For some prospective students, their experience at Open House is an opportunity to create an excellent first impression; for others, these events represent a final chance to affirm that New Paltz is where they want be. Our broad array of majors, strong record of academic rigor and excellence, beautiful campus and surroundings, and geographic location are clear selling points. Open House is an opportunity for us to give prospective students and their parents direct experience with the warmth, friendliness, diversity and sense of community that are also such a well-deserved part of our reputation. Past collaborations with faculty and staff from across the campus have made these events extremely successful, and I thank you in advance for your contributions this year.

Here are some brief enrollment updates. This spring’s undergraduate enrollment is even with last year and graduate enrollments are down only slightly. The number of new graduate students entering this spring is ahead of last year, the second consecutive year-to-year increase, a welcome trend. Graduate applications are up for fall 2018 as well.

International undergraduate and graduate applications for fall 2018 are up, countering the national dialogue (and other trends) concerning international visitors and visas. Of course, the challenge will be yielding these applicants, but we take current numbers as a positive sign.

Undergraduate applications for first-year admission are up by double digits, as are acceptances and deposits. The applicant pool is arguably the most academically talented we’ve seen, amplifying a trend that has been evident since the turn of the century. Acceptances of students from historically underrepresented groups are up by more than 9% from last year, and paid deposits by these students are about 30% above last year. Transfer numbers are on par with last year at this early stage of the admission process.

Retention and Graduation Rates. In a recent report, I shared that our six-year graduation rates are well above state and national averages, and achievement gaps by race/ethnicity and economic status are small relative to national standards. Statistics like those reflect the excellent academic opportunities and support we provide for our students. They also reflect the academic preparation of incoming students. Many studies show strong relationships between the average SAT score of incoming students and a college’s graduation rates – selective institutions tend to have higher graduation rates, but there is considerable variation in whether colleges and universities under- or over-perform. Thus, it’s of interest to know how we perform on such measures of institutional effectiveness relative to the caliber of our incoming students. To evaluate that question, I asked Lucy Walker, AVP for Institutional Research, to develop regression models for retention rates and graduation rates relative to average SAT score of entering students, for a set of SUNY comprehensive and university center campuses; we excluded Old Westbury and Buffalo State from these comparisons because of their unique urban settings and missions.

The strong relationship between SAT and both retention and graduation is apparent in these graphs. The performance of SUNY New Paltz on both measures is well above that predicted by the regression models; the six-year graduation rate used in the lower graph is a three-year average. It’s worth noting that these are figures for all students, including EOP students, who work to overcome academically challenging backgrounds. New Paltz has one of the highest percentages of EOP students of any of the campuses in these comparisons, making the degree of our “over-performance” especially noteworthy. I will note that our four-year graduation rate (graph not shown) is almost exactly as predicted based on the SAT average for our incoming students – an improvement opportunity for us.

New Business Analytics Major. The School of Business is launching a new undergraduate major in Business Analytics this fall, the first new major at SUNY New Paltz since Mechanical Engineering. This program builds on a foundation of courses the School began offering in 2016, and provides students with a grounding in a rapidly growing field that combines knowledge of business, technology, critical thinking and strategic communication to harness the power of “Big Data” and inform decision making. More and more enterprises in diverse fields – finance, marketing, retail, government, education, healthcare, the non-profit world – are demanding talented analysts with these capabilities.

While most programs in Business Analytics are graduate level, our School of Business has developed a model for introducing analytical tools and concepts at the undergraduate level, allowing students to learn these valuable skills much earlier in their careers. Indeed, this is the first undergraduate program in this area in SUNY and only the second in New York. Congratulations to Dean Kris Backhaus and Associate Dean Shuguang Liu and their faculty colleagues for guiding this important development.

Commencement. I hope that we will have a substantial representation of faculty at this spring’s commencement events, the culminating ritual that means so much to our students and their families. The Graduate Ceremony will be on Friday, May 18, 6 p.m. in the Athletic and Wellness Center; Dr. Surinder Tikoo, Professor, School of Business, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer, recognizing his and his colleagues’ contribution to developing the Accelerated MBA Program.

The Undergraduate Ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be held on Saturday, May 19, at 10 a.m. Alumna Janus Adams ’67 will be the commencement speaker and awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters. She has dedicated her life to chronicling and promoting civil rights, human rights and social justice, and has enjoyed a long and decorated career as a news commentator and pioneer of issue-oriented African American and women’s programming. Salutatorian and Chancellor’s Award recipient Julia Friedman, who will earn a degree in Communication Disorders, with a minor in Deaf Studies, will be the student speaker. Dr. Salvatore Engel-Di-Mauro, Associate Professor of Geography and 2016 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer.

The Undergraduate Ceremony for the Schools of Business, Education, Fine and Performing Arts and Science and Engineering will be on Sunday, May 20, at 10 a.m. New Paltz resident James H. Ottaway, Jr., will address the graduates and will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He has had a distinguished life and career as a journalist, newspaper executive, philanthropist and longtime friend of the College. Valedictorian and Chancellor’s Award recipient Reem Ahmed, who will earn a degree in Accounting with minors in Sociology and Economics, will be the student speaker. Dr. John Rayburn, Associate Professor of Geology and 2015 recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, will be Faculty Grand Marshal and macebearer.

First World Graduation will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, and the Honors Program ceremony on Sunday, May 20, at 1:30 p.m., both in Studley Theatre.

Ottaway Visiting Journalism Professor. This year’s James H. Ottaway, Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism is veteran foreign correspondent Ann Simmons. She is currently global development writer/editor at The Los Angeles Times. As is tradition (and one of the most fun things I do each year!), I will interview Ms. Simmons as a way of introducing her to the campus community on Tuesday, April 10, at 6 p.m. in the Honors Center. She will give a public lecture titled “Media in the Age of Bombings, Beheadings, and Blaming for Fake News” on Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m. in LC 102. She will meet and interact with students in a variety of classes and gatherings during her time on campus.

During a more than 25-year journalism career, Ms. Simmons has produced extensive multimedia coverage of international issues, ranging from hunger and poverty to gender inequality and human rights. Some of her recent work has addressed the rise and fall of Robert Mugabethe state of Barbudan nationals displaced after Hurricane Irma; and the high mortality rate of African-American women in pregnancy and childbirth. Previously, she wrote about the fall of the Soviet Union, the War in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina, and was part of a breaking news Pulitzer-Prize winning team of Los Angeles Times reporters who covered the 2004 wildfires in Southern California. She has been based in Russia, Kenya and South Africa and has reported from Iraq and other countries across the globe.

Women’s Leadership Summit. Please encourage all students (not just women!) in all majors to attend the fourth Women’s Leadership Summit on April 11. More than 25 successful alumnae (graduation years spanning 6 decades!) and women thought leaders who have earned distinction in their professional lives will serve as panelists, speaking about their lives and careers, offering advice, responding to student questions, and joining in a networking event. Ann Simmons will be the keynote lunchtime speaker. This event is supported financially by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation and organized by Development and Alumni Relations. The summit is for SUNY New Paltz students and invited guests only, and registration is required.

I will respond to your questions and comments about this and my previous three reports (given cancellations of the February and March Faculty Senate meetings due to weather) at the inaugural meeting of the Faculty Senate on April 4. We can’t be snowed out yet again!!


Donald P. Christian