President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

April 29, 2019 (in advance of May 1 Faculty Senate Meeting)

As the year comes to a close and we look ahead to 2019-2020, I share my admiration and appreciation for your work to serve our students and our educational mission, helping us continue to excel in an increasingly challenging time for higher education. Thank you all for your individual and collective successes and achievements. I share here several news updates and key information.

Table of Contents:

Men’s Volleyball Wins National Championship – Congratulations to players and coaches for winning the College’s second-ever national championship (in any sport). This was a repeat of the team’s national championship in 2016.

Commencement – additional information, Sunday Faculty Grand Marshal, student speakers

Mandatory Training – Further explanation of rationale for mandatory training sessions during January break.

Chancellor’s Awards – Congratulations to recipients of awards for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, Faculty Service, and Professional Service (names and details below).

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence – Congratulations to the four recipients, who were honored at a SUNY-wide ceremony on April 24 (names and details below).

Contemplative Space – I have received recommendations from the working group about ideas for structures and approaches to telling our local history more fully and linking that history to contemporary issues.

Scholarship Reception on April 26 – Thank you to the many faculty and staff who helped make this celebration so successful (details below).

2018 Tree Campus USA – Our campus has again received this recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Events – End-of-year student recognition and showcase of scholarly and creative work (details below), campus appreciation picnic (May 21).


Men’s Volleyball Wins National Championship. Congratulations to the Men’s Volleyball Team – players, head coach Radu Petrus, assistant coach Tony Bonilla, and Athletics Program staff and leadership – for winning this year’s NCAA Division III Championship, a repeat of 2016. The team beat the University of California –Santa Cruz (“The Banana Slugs!”) on April 27, following wins in previous tournament rounds over Baruch, Endicott, and Springfield. Springfield was the defending national champions and the #1 ranked team in the nation coming into the tournament.

I continue to hear unequivocal praise from parents of these and other student-athletes about the tremendous experiences these young people are having at New Paltz – as students, and as athletes. Such assessments reflect the great work of an entire community. Thank you! It was rewarding to hear one of the NCAA commentators in a livestream of one of the games comment about the great academic reputation of SUNY New Paltz that serves as an asset to Coach Petrus in his recruitment of top volleyball talent. It takes a village!

Commencement. In addition to the commencement information I shared in my last report, I am pleased to announce that the student speaker at the Saturday (May 18) Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will be Salutatorian Reuben E. Slater, a history and anthropology major. Our student speaker at the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 19, will be Valedictorian Nicholas E. Piaquadio, an electrical engineering and physics major. Nicholas is also one of this year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. The Faculty Grand Marshal and Macebearer at Sunday’s ceremony will be Dr. Joan Hollister, associate professor, School of Business.

Mandatory Training. I share here further perspectives on employee training and our rationale for expanding this opportunity for all of us at SUNY New Paltz. It gratifies me to have learned through your feedback to my initial announcement about such training that to a person, faculty fully support the need and desire for such training.

I have heard, and understand, the concerns expressed about required training sessions during the January break. We will explore other options for employees with legitimate, documented circumstances that prevent their participation in the January sessions. I want to be sure we all understand that there are serious space, time, and resource constraints and management challenges that make it impractical to offer extensive training and multiple repeat sessions of the same material while classes are in session.

Our goal is to develop a more complete and rigorous training program that goes beyond optional and voluntary. Beyond compliance, training helps us be transparent about institutional values, policies, and procedures, how we practice them, and how we support each other in living them. Our January training sessions will provide an opportunity to build community, responsive to feedback in the recent governance and internal marketing surveys that faculty and staff desire more community-building experiences.

Training sessions will address needs for more fulsome training on campus policies like our consensual relations policy. I appreciate that many academic and professional faculty have identified and shared key needs for further training on matters like handling difficult conversations in and out of the classroom. Similarly, I hear frequently from students in my “hot chocolate with the president” sessions and other venues about their strong desire for more employee training in cross-cultural awareness and interaction and other aspects of diversity and inclusion. Our training will consider such topics. Not every employee requires the same sets of training. During the next eight months, we will work to develop key elements of this training program.

Chancellor’s Awards for Academic and Professional Faculty. It is always rewarding to announce each year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence. Please join me in congratulating each of these colleagues for their selection as this year’s awardees. We will present these awards at the first meeting of the academic and professional faculty in the fall:


  • Nancy Kassop, Professor, Political Science, Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
  • Simin Mozayeni, Assistant Professor, Economics, Excellence in Faculty Service
  • Ruthanne Schempf, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Music, Excellence in Adjunct Teaching
  • Joanna Schroer, Academic Advisor, Education Programs, Academic Advising, Excellence in Professional Service
  • Matthew Skillman, Director of Digital Media, Office of Communication and Marketing. Excellence in Professional Service

Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Four New Paltz students, each a member of the class of 2019, have been selected for this SUNY-wide recognition, based on distinctive academic, athletic, leadership, service, and other achievements and contributions. The awards were conferred in a ceremony in Albany on April 24. Vice President for Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell, several faculty and staff, and I attended. Some may note that we have four awardees this year, down from five in previous years, reflecting a system-wide change in allocation of these awards. The names of the award recipients, their major, and selected accomplishments are:


  • Mirza (Alvina) Ahmed(English, contract major in Comparative Literature), received Goethe Prize for her research on exile literature of World War II, taught English and assisted student refugees and asylum seekers in Germany, Honors Program Peer Mentor, Emerging Leaders Program.
  • Isabelle Hayes (Political Science and Communication Studies majors), teaching assistant in political theory course, internships with NYC Department of Education, the Benjamin Center, and NYPIRG, Honors Program Ambassador, Student Senator, founding member of New Paltz Climate Action Club.
  • Michelle Javier(Black Studies and Spanish majors), Emerging Leaders Program, Resident Assistant, multiple student governance and leadership positions, study abroad in Guatemala and South Korea, member of two national honor societies, extensive volunteer and community service activities.
  • Nicholas Piaquadio(Electrical Engineering and Physics majors), 2019 Valedictorian, multiple research projects in engineering and physics, teaching assistant for Circuits Laboratory course, leadership roles in IEEE-HKN (Electrical and Computer Engineering Honor Society), peer tutor at Center for Student Success, Honors Program.

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

Contemplative Space. I am grateful to the working group of faculty, staff, and students who last week provided me with their report on the “contemplative space” and related educational programming, one of the outgrowths of our review of the Hasbrouck Complex building names.  A special thanks to Dr. Rennie Scott-Childress, assistant professor of history, who convened this group. I believe this was an exemplary cooperative group effort, in which members built on each other’s ideas to develop an array of exciting options. Individual members I have spoken with have told me how rewarding they found this process. We will officially begin using the new names on August 5, 2019.

I have not been able to fully digest the report and recommendations but I am impressed with the thoughtful and creative ideas the group has put forward. The Cabinet and I have begun discussing these ideas and are eager to develop and execute a plan, recognizing that programmatic elements will require longer development and provide opportunity for considerable faculty and student input and possible curricular integration.  General recommendations of the group are reflected in these largely verbatim excerpts:


  • The ideal solution encompasses more than a single contemplative space, with “satellite” locations throughout campus;
  • Recognition that the space must reach multiple audiences, with materials that commemorate tensions without inflaming them, and that stimulate contemplation of conflicting social values;
  • A need to ensure that the site retains its purpose as a place for reflection, and does not invite non-contemplative uses;
  • Buildings in the complex should contain reference to their former names.
  • We should not ignore contemporary lived experiences related to North American indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent, so that the site and programming must be more than just memorializing the past.

Scholarship Reception. Thank you to the many faculty, staff, and administrators who helped make our Scholarship Reception on April 26 so successful and festive. Our purpose was to celebrate the generosity and support of scholarship donors, thank those who have joined our “Tower Society” – people who have named SUNY New Paltz in their wills and estate plans, and recognize student scholarship recipients. Our speakers included two alumni who spoke of what their New Paltz education has meant in their lives, and how that gratitude has spurred their philanthropic support for their alma mater. Elana Kellerhouse, a senior music major, shared what her scholarship has meant to her, and the opportunity it has created for her educational journey. She and a fellow student treated us to an amazing violin and viola performance.

My wife Sandy and I spoke afterwards about the deep commitment to SUNY New Paltz and our educational mission that was so strongly evident among the donors and others we met. In my comments, I shared that this year we have awarded $610,000 in Foundation-provided scholarships, an increase of about $107,000 above last year, and about $470,000 more than the figure I cited in my spring 2015 comments. We are on a great trajectory, even as we have much more ground to gain!  Congratulations to Vice President Erica Marks (who is also Executive Director of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation) and her staff for these successes.

2018 Tree Campus USA.  SUNY New Paltz was again recognized for inclusion in this national program of the Arbor Day Foundation to advance sustained commitment to environmental stewardship.  We met the five core standards for an effective campus forest management:  establishment of a tree advisory committee; having a campus tree-care plan; dedicated expenditures for a campus tree program; an Arbor Day observance; and sponsorship of student service-learning projects.  Thank you to all who made this recognition possible!

Student Recognition and Showcasing of Their Work. I call your attention to the following end-of-year events at which we recognize outstanding student achievement and showcase the outstanding work of our students:


  • Engineering Senior Design Expo, May 3,1 p.m., Wooster Hall
  • Celebration of Writing, May 3, 3:30 p.m., STL Lobby
  • Minds at Work Student Research Symposium, May 3, 4 p.m., STL All-Night Study Room
  • BFA Art Exhibition Reception and Opening, May 3, 5 p.m., The Dorsky
  • MFA Art Exhibition Receptions and Openings, May 10, 5 p.m. and May 17, 7 p.m., The Dorsky
  • Outstanding Graduates Reception, May 17, 2 p.m., SUB MPR

Faculty and Staff Appreciation Picnic. Our all-campus appreciation barbeque and picnic will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, on the Old Main Quad (rain location is the Athletic and Wellness Center), sponsored by the Office of the President and organized and hosted by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. I hope that you will join us to spend time with colleagues to celebrate the successful completion of another academic year and to help honor this year’s Classified Staff Presidential Recognition Award recipients.

I look forward to this community gathering in which we celebrate the completion of another academic cycle and acknowledge the many individual and community accomplishments of the year.

I wish everyone a successful finale to the semester and a productive and rejuvenating summer. I will be happy to respond to your questions about this report or other matters at the Faculty Senate meeting on Wednesday, May 1, and at the Faculty meeting on May 8.

Donald P. Christian