President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

President’s Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

Sept. 30, 2019 (in advance of Oct. 2 Faculty Senate Meeting)

I hope that the sixth week of the semester finds you well into the rhythm of the year. I appreciate the comments from numerous faculty and staff that you are finding our students even more engaged than usual and positive about their work in the classroom and beyond. In this report, I will update you on recent happenings, work in progress, and several upcoming events.

Table of Contents:

Welcome to Interim Provost Barbara Lyman – who begins today!

Vice Presidential Searches – Search committees for the two VP searches have been named, both will have been charged as of Oct. 2, and contract for search consultant finalized.

Excellence in Academic Advising (EAA) – This initiative continued with a day-long retreat on Sept. 18 led by our EAA consultant, a next step in completing a study that will inform an action plan for improving our academic advising.

Fundraising Campaign Launch – I hope you will attend the October 3 launch of our fund-raising campaign, Soaring Higher: The Campaign for SUNY New Paltz. This is a party and celebration and a chance to mix and mingle.

Alumni Reunion – Is Oct. 18-20, highlights noted below.

Fall Open House, Saturday, Oct. 26 – For prospective undergraduate students and parents. Thanks in advance to all who participate in helping showcase our strengths, high-quality offerings, and welcoming community.

Other Upcoming Events – See below for schedule and details.

Worthwhile Reading – I share links to two essays I read recently:  “In Defense of Nuance” and “Free Speech Wars Miss the Point of College”.


Interim Provost Barbara Lyman. Dr. Lyman begins her work as Interim Provost today and you will have the opportunity to meet her at the Senate meeting and a reception afterward. I understand that she and Provost Office staff have already scheduled meetings with many departments as part of her effort to meet you and get to know the campus. I am excited about all that Dr. Lyman brings to this position and look forward to her leadership and to working with her this year. I refer you to our announcement for further information about her educational background and extensive administrative experience.

Vice Presidential Searches – I have now formed the search committees for both the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Enrollment Management searches. I have met with and charged the VP for Enrollment Management search and will be meeting on Oct. 2 with the Provost Search Committee. Academic Search was the successful search firm for both searches and will begin working with the committees in early October.

The following individuals have agreed to serve on the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Search Committee:

  • Davina Vora, Associate Professor, School of Business (Co-chair)
  • David Eaton, Vice President for Enrollment Management (Co-chair)
  • Ligia Aldana, Associate Professor, Languages, Literatures & Cultures/Latin American & Caribbean Studies, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Nancy Campos, Director, AMP/CSTEP, School of Science and Engineering
  • Haley Hershenson, Student Association Academic Vice President
  • Maureen Lohan-Bremer, Director, Financial Aid
  • Tom Meyer, Associate Professor, Teaching & Learning, School of Education
  • Jeni Mokren, Dean, School of Fine & Performing Arts
  • Jared Nelson, Assistant Professor, Division of Engineering Programs, School of Science & Engineering
  • Itty Neuhaus, Associate Professor, Art, School of Fine & Performing Arts
  • Amy Nitza, Director, Institute for Disaster Mental Health
  • Michael Vargas, Professor, History, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Julia Verdile, Secretary, School of Business

The following individuals have agreed to serve on the Vice President for Enrollment Management Search Committee:

  • Cy Mulready, Associate Professor, English, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (Co-chair)
  • Shelly A. Wright, Chief of Staff and Vice President for Communication, President’s Office (Co-chair)
  • Kris Backhaus, Dean, School of Business
  • Jeannie Barreto, Office Assistant, Financial Aid (CSEA)
  • Rita Celariste, Assistant Director, Educational Opportunity Program
  • Mary Christensen, Associate Professor, Languages, Literatures & Cultures, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Ryan Jones, Associate Director, Financial Aid
  • Doug Maynard, Professor, Psychology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Laura (Lo) Morcone, Director of Admission Technology & Customer Relationship Management
  • Sarah Roberson, Associate Registrar, Records & Registration
  • Patricia Sullivan, Director of the Honors Program, and Professor, Digital Media & Journalism
  • Quentin Owusu-Adjei Thomson (Student) (former Admission Ambassador)
  • Brian Williams, Associate Director, Athletics, Wellness & Recreation

Thank you to those who have agreed to serve the campus as a member of these search committees. I appreciate the academic and professional faculty who put their names forward for consideration through our governance process, and to others who responded positively to my request to serve. These are critical positions in the continued leadership of the College, and I know that your insights, knowledge, experience, and commitment to SUNY New Paltz will contribute in significant ways.

Excellence in Academic Advising (EAA). Most of you know we are among a small number of two-and four-year institutions nationwide participating in the EAA initiative offered by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Many of you have contributed to the nine working groups advancing this process.

I was pleased to welcome nearly 40 academic and professional faculty, administrators, and students who participated in the EAA campus retreat on September 18. The goal was to bring campus stakeholders together to engage in reflective discussions based on the evidence gathered through the self-study of the College’s academic advising program during the first year of this initiative. The EAA’s comprehensive, standards- and evidence-based process provides a framework, tools, and expert guidance to complete a study that will inform an action plan for improving our academic advising.

We consider this initiative to be central to continually improving our student success metrics, along with enhancing institution-wide effectiveness in all aspects of academic advising. Although we have retention and graduation rates that are significantly above national averages, we must seek to do better, and the EAA will accelerate our ability to do so.

Vice President David Eaton and I had the opportunity to meet with EAA Fellow Dr. Kimberly Smith of Virginia Tech during her visit. She was impressed with the energy and commitment of participants, what we have accomplished so far, and the strong foundation we have to further increase retention and graduation rates. Dr. Smith reminded us that even though our achievement gap between white students and those from traditionally underrepresented groups is much smaller than national peers, a gap remains, and closing it should be a central focus of our student success initiatives moving forward. In the context of our priority to become a more inclusive community, it caught my attention when she said that the relationship between advisor and advisee is often identified by students as a missing element in their academic advising experience.

Fundraising Campaign Launch. I have been looking forward with anticipation to the Oct. 3 launch of our fund-raising campaign, Soaring Higher: The Campaign for SUNY New Paltz. This is a party – with food, beverages, music, and fun surprises! It’s a chance for faculty, staff, donors, alumni, and students (invite your students!) to celebrate, mix and mingle, and enjoy each other.

During a recent meeting in my HAB 9th floor office, I observed an adult bald eagle – distinctive from the turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks that we see more commonly – soaring from the northeast toward campus, circling twice over part of the campus before continuing south and west toward the Wallkill River. I’m not particularly superstitious but we might take this as a positive omen for our campaign! This effort will build on the approximately $18.5 million we have raised the past five years, the continuing growth in our reputation and profile, and the evident respect and appreciation for the College we experience from alumni, emeritus employees, community members, and others who are interested and willing to invest in our further success. I hope that you will join us at the launch (October 3, 4 to 6 p.m. in the SUB MPR; remarks at 4:45 p.m.) to learn more about this effort and celebrate our community.

Alumni Reunion. The 2019 Alumni Reunion is Oct. 18-20 (schedule of events). Faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in events throughout the weekend; advanced registration is required for most events, which are largely free. I know that alumni welcome the chance to connect with those who have had a great influence on their lives. A Welcome Reception will be held Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the MPR Pre-Function space; all are welcome.

Asian Studies will celebrate its 50th reunion. To kick off the weekend, Professor Emeritus Ron Knapp will deliver a talk titled “A Half Century of Asian and Asian Studies” (Friday 3 to 5 p.m., Science Hall 181) followed by student and Alumni Poster presentations. An alumni, student, and faculty panel will be held on Saturday (2 to 4 p.m. in Lecture Center 104), followed by a sake tasting donated and hosted by alumnus Peter Hottum ’15.

The commemoration event for the late English Professor Pauline Uchmanowicz’s life and achievements will be on Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. Pauline’s faculty colleagues thought that holding this event as part of Reunion weekend would allow alumni with a special connection to join and celebrate a beloved professor’s memory.

At the All-Class Heritage Dinner and Lantern Ceremony on Saturday (6 to 8 p.m., MPR) we will honor the 50th anniversary class with the medallion ceremony and recognize award recipients. Heritage Awards recognize an alumnus or alumni couple and a faculty/staff couple or individual whose devotion to the ideals of the College serve as extraordinary examples to the entire New Paltz community. This year’s recipients are David and Linda Eaton and Harry Bonsu ’90. The Alumni Professional Achievement Award will be presented to Kevin Zraly ’74 and the Distinguished Alumni Service Award to Mary Elizabeth Bannon ’81.

Fall Open House. Our fall Open House for prospective undergraduate students and parents will be Saturday, Oct. 26. This is a day for us to create a positive first impression for some, or to reinforce the already positive experiences these students and parents have already had. I am grateful to the many faculty and staff who participate in this event as well as to all who prepare the campus, our programs, and our facilities for the day – a tremendous collaborative effort! I know that the conversations prospective students and parents have with faculty, staff, and current students are so meaningful in helping them learn about the diverse and high-quality offerings at New Paltz and meet the caring and engaged faculty who are likely to become their mentors as well as discovering first-hand the warm and welcoming community we are. I often hear – from students who have decided to attend New Paltz or from their parents – how your outreach and engagement when they are considering multiple colleges or universities make a difference in leading so many students to choose New Paltz over others. Thank you!

As I shared in my State of the College address, growing our undergraduate and graduate enrollments is arguably the most assured way that we can grow revenue to correct our structural budget deficit and generate resources to invest in faculty, staff, and programs (even as we continue our strong advocacy for expanded direct taxpayer support). The impression we create at Open House is consequential.

Other Upcoming Events.

  • In Conversation with Congressman Antonio Delgado, Oct. 10, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., SUB MPR. Congressman Delgado will be interviewed by kt Tobin, associate director of the Benjamin Center, focusing on his early experience in Congress and his priorities going forward. Sponsored by the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives.
  • Budget Forum, Oct. 17, 1 to 2:30 p.m., LC 100, Vice President Michele Halstead and I will provide an update on the status of our budget and plans moving forward.
  • Distinguished Speaker Series: “To Be or Not to Be,” an intergenerational “fireside chat” between two New Paltz alumnae on purpose, personal and social responsibility and the question “What does it mean to be oneself in times of challenge and change?” Featuring Janus Adams ’67, ’18 HON, Emmy Award-winning journalist, historian, author/publisher, talk show host, and NPR’s first National Arts Correspondent; and Ilyasah Shabazz ’85, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, award-winning author, activist, and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.

Worthwhile Reading. I am sharing links to two essays I read recently and found especially thoughtful about addressing key issues that our broader society and/or college and university campuses face. “In Defense of Nuance” by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, discusses the dangers of extreme positions and the loss of nuance and complexity as we approach critical issues such as climate change, incarceration, or racial and economic inequities. His arguments may provide useful insight for classroom discussions about contentious issues, and how we as a university community approach some of our challenges.

Free Speech Wars Miss the Point of College” by Michael Roth, President of Wesleyan University echoes some of Walker’s views. He wrote, “The task of colleges and universities is neither to produce a pure, unregulated market of ideas nor to champion the civility of the drawing room. Our task is to promote inquiry, not outrage — to promote critical engagement, not condescension.” This essay is a synopsis of Roth’s recent book “Safe Enough Spaces: A pragmatist’s approach to inclusion, free speech, and political correctness on college campuses,” which I highly recommend.

I look forward to seeing you at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting, where I will be available to respond to your questions and comments. Please join us after the meeting (10:30 to 11:30 a.m.) in the LC Lobby to welcome our new Interim Provost Barbara Lyman.


Donald P. Christian