SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian delivered a presentation about the state of the College before the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce, as the featured guest speaker at the Chamber’s Dec. 18 holiday breakfast meeting.
The occasion offered a valuable opportunity for College leadership to meet and speak with more than 100 key figures in local business, government and non-profit organizations, about all the ways in which SUNY New Paltz serves as an educational, economic, cultural and intellectual resource for the region.
“We have worked to create a model public university, both to enhance the learning experience of our students and to improve the quality of life in the Hudson Valley,” President Christian said. “We want to continue building and reinforcing this engagement as our defining ethos.”
President Christian’s presentation touched on a wide range of topics including academic programs, campus infrastructure, student and alumni successes and community events and activities. Selected passages excerpted below.
On the College’s core educational mission: “Our educational programs are unapologetically rooted in the values of a broad liberal education that develops writing, communication and problem solving capacities, along with abilities to work effectively with other people. Those capacities are important for all of our graduates, including those in majors like business and engineering. […] As we prepare students for a knowledge-driven society and economy, we try to help them – and their parents, elected officials, and members of the public – understand that we are trying to educate them not just for that first job, but for that inevitable sixth or seventh job, which may not yet exist.”
On recent enrollment growth: “The three largest incoming classes in our institution’s history have been the past three years, and that’s with no relaxation of our admissions standards. That’s a clear indication that we are offering programs that students want, in an attractive environment. And we are serving increasing numbers of students from the Hudson Valley as people become more and more aware of the high-quality educational opportunities available so close to home.”
On the rising diversity of the student population: “The percentage of students from historically underrepresented groups in our incoming first-year class is now about 45%. We’ve seen particular growth in the number of Hispanic students studying at New Paltz. As our nation becomes more and more diverse, these are the students of the future that higher education must serve well, and New Paltz is well ahead of the curve.”
On SUNY New Paltz as a means of social mobility: “A big issue in US higher education is how well colleges and universities foster upward socioeconomic mobility and provide affordable education to disadvantaged families – that is, what is our impact on reversing the ballooning economic disparity in America and helping people realize the American Dream. In a recent analysis that produced an index of such social mobility, New Paltz was ranked in the top 5% of nearly 1,400 colleges, reflecting our success in fulfilling our mission as a public university.”
On recent campus infrastructure additions and upgrades: “These improvements reflect the largest investment in our infrastructure since the 1960s and early 1970s, and we’re excited about these changes. Despite all this activity, we have a lot less space per student than other SUNY campuses in our sector — both academic space and residence hall capacity. By SUNY standards, we should have at least six more buildings the size of our new Science Hall to support current programs. We keep advocating for more state capital funding to address the needs.”
On the College’s economic impact: “An important benefit of our success is that SUNY New Paltz is a major economic engine in the region. We are the largest employer in Ulster County, and we generate about $359 million in economic activity in the Hudson Valley and about $415 million in New York State.”