April 4, 2022 (in advance of April 6 Faculty Senate Meeting)
I wish everyone well at what I know is a hectic time of the semester, even as commencement and a summer change-of-pace are coming into view. It is a breath of fresh air not to have COVID-19 be a dominant topic in this report, after two years and two weeks of managing those dynamics that demanded so much of our attention.
We did not see a post-spring break bump in cases and our numbers remain very low as do those in the surrounding region. I see many students still masking and am not aware of any controversies and conflicts around that matter. A faculty member who is immunocompromised shared with me that their request to students to mask in class has been met with easy and full respect and acceptance, a mark of the good will of our students and our campus community. Reading about pandemic management at colleges and universities in certain other states leaves me feeling blessed to have been president during these times in New York, and at SUNY New Paltz.
Nonetheless, my optimism is tempered somewhat by the very recent New York State Health Department recommendation to return to indoor mask-wearing in five central New York counties that have seen upticks in COVID-19 cases out of 17 counties nationwide. We remain on cautious alert and ready to pivot if conditions demand.
Here I provide updates on recent news and developments.
Table of Contents:
Budget – Enacted budget was not completed by the April 1 deadline; legislators are scheduled to return to session today.
Enrollment Update – New-student deposits are ahead of the past two years by 20%, transfer deposits by 13%, reflecting in part increases in yield; graduate applications continue to increase. Accepted Student Open Houses brought mixed results, but decisions to attend New Paltz seem less tied to attending those events than previous years. Thank you to all who supported these events.
SUNY and Gov. Hochul’s Priorities – See below for insights into SUNY planning to create a path forward and a strategy to implement the Governor’s ambitious vision to transform the SUNY System and higher education in New York.
Clean Energy Master Plan Study – The State University Construction Fund is providing resources to develop a Clean Energy Master Plan (CEMP) for New Paltz (more detail below).
Awards for Student Excellence – Congratulations to this year’s four recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and to the 12 recipients of the President’s Awards for Student Excellence, the latter awarded for the first time this year (names and further information below).
Foundation Scholarship Updates and Application Deadline – Deadline for students to apply for 2022-23 Foundation Scholarships is Wednesday, April 6 (https://www.newpaltz.edu/scholarships). The Foundation awarded more than $1 million in scholarship support in both 2020-21 and 2021-22, and anticipates similar support next year. Faculty are welcome to join the first in-person Scholarship Reception since 2019, on Friday, April 22, 5-7 p.m. in the Student Union Multi-Purpose Room.
My continuing SUNY involvement – I remain involved in multiple SUNY System activities that may be of interest to faculty and staff, including:
- Serving on a SUNY presidential “think tank” to support reinvigorating the SPECTRUM conference and building support for a SUNY presence at the Gay PRIDE parade in New York City;
- Attending EOP Awards Ceremony (April 14) to recognize New Paltz student Elina Lopez as one of 46 students across the SUNY System receiving an award;
- Serving on a presidential panel on leadership (April 20) as part of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute;
- Attending the in-person presentation of Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence (April 26).
Budget. The Legislature adjourned for the week last Thursday, and an enacted budget was not completed by the April 1 deadline. There is alignment across many substantive areas, but not total agreement among the Executive, Senate, and Assembly. Legislators are scheduled to return to session today. SUNY will review finalized language/details for the budget bills and send a summary to campuses as soon as possible. We will keep the campus posted as information is available.
Enrollment Update. Paid deposits by new first-year students are ahead of the past two years by at least 20%, in part a function of an increase in yield (the fraction of accepted students who commit to coming here) resulting from new strategies put in place by undergraduate admissions. Transfer student deposits are ahead of last year by 13%. Attendance at the first (March 26) Accepted Students Open House was lower than past events, yet that did not translate into lower deposit rates – indicating that students and parents are making decisions to come here without attending the open house (a change in behavior and decision-making from previous years). The second open house (April 2), on a beautiful spring day, was more active and better attended, and we have seen a further uptick in deposits since then. Graduate student applications are increasing by encouraging margins.
I was impressed and rewarded by the keen interest in the wide range of our program offerings among the students and parents I spoke with both days, and by their positive comments about the appearance of our campus and how welcoming our community is. Thank you to the academic and professional faculty, staff, and students – including student ambassadors – who contributed to the success of these events.
SUNY and Gov. Hochul’s Priorities. At the recent SUNY Presidents’ meeting, we heard more from Interim Chancellor Deborah Stanley about creating a path forward and a strategy to implement the Governor’s ambitious vision to transform the SUNY System and higher education in New York. The Governor’s plans for SUNY will help build a more resilient middle class by fostering economic development and jobs and also growing the educated population base within the state. Without specifying particular actions, her aim is for SUNY to increase overall headcount enrollment from the current 370,000 to 500,000 or more by 2030. SUNY will develop a multi-year plan that will include in-migration and reaching more post-traditional adult learners, international students, workforce training and more. I was heartened to see that the role of higher education and notably SUNY in modeling access and equity for our broader society is also a primary goal. And I was relieved to hear that the aim is to lift all sectors of SUNY without diminishing any.
The Governor is proposing to work with SUNY to develop a plan for implementation, including timelines, deliverables, future funding requests, and suggested statutory and language changes. SUNY is being asked to submit this plan by the end of 2022, presumably for inclusion in 2023-24 budget discussions. Working groups that include campus leaders, SUNY System Administration staff, and representatives of government will develop initiatives to advance five primary goals and initiatives, in consultation with national experts and industry partners:
- Develop Global, National, and Regional Research Institutions
- Become a Leader in Equity
- Increase Broadest Possible Access
- Expand Workforce Development and Redesign the 21st-Century College System
- Advance Transformation and Build Partnerships
I will certainly share more information about timelines and opportunities to participate in this planning as it becomes available.
Clean Energy Master Plan Study. The State University Construction Fund is providing resources to develop a Clean Energy Master Plan (CEMP) for New Paltz, subsidized in part by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and based on a proposal developed and submitted by former Assistant Vice President for Facilities John Shupe. The overall purpose is to develop a plan to drive significant long-term, proven, cost-effective building upgrades and infrastructure changes that can help lead to carbon neutrality by 2050. That includes fulfilling the goals of major energy endeavors like the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, 85% by 2050 and reach 70% renewable energy by 2030. It is heartening to know that greenhouse gas emissions for the SUNY System were 24.5% lower in 2015 than in 1990.
The CEMP focuses on:
- Audits to identify and recommend building upgrades and improvements.
- Assessment of building and plant level efficiency improvements and load reduction strategies, including beneficial electrification.
- Assessment of opportunities to decarbonize electricity and heating fuel sources.
- A detailed analysis and recommendations to support the university’s contributions as they move toward New York State’s overarching greenhouse gas and renewable energy goals.
- Developing a multi-year and phased implementation plan.
Awards for Student Excellence. Four New Paltz students will receive SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence this spring, based on their distinctive academic, athletic, leadership, service, and other achievements and contributions. The awards will be conferred at a ceremony in Saratoga Springs on April 26. The four Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipients, their major(s), and selected accomplishments are:
- Sophia Acquisto ’22 (Early Childhood & Childhood Education) of Beacon, New York: An avid history buff, Sophia’s capstone Honors Program project was her development of a mobile app that details historical sites in the Hudson Valley to facilitate historical research and education and support local tourism, for which she was awarded three internal grants and a scholarship for her tuition. Sophia has also served as co-president of the campus United Nations Association and studied abroad at Limerick University in Ireland.
- Hanaa Ahmed ’22 (Biology) of Queens, New York: Hanaa is a leader in multiple student organizations on campus, a peer mentor within the AC2 community, and an organizer who has supported multiple American Red Cross blood drives on campus. She has distinguished herself as an Honors Program student and an undergraduate scholar, conducting research in each of her semesters at New Paltz and earning a publication with the American Society of Microbiology.
- Alyssa Dudinyak ’22 (Visual Arts) of Apalachin, New York: Alyssa, an Honors student, has shown a commitment to using her talents as an artist to build community both on and off campus. This approach may be best exemplified by her work on the SUNY Stands with Puerto Rico initiative, which included a commission for Alyssa to paint a mural on a large public wall on the island. Her impact has been substantial at SUNY New Paltz as well, with Alyssa serving as a Student Resilience Advocate, a student ambassador, Orientation leader and as student speaker at our 2021 Convocation ceremony.
- Mackenzy McMorris ’22 (Black Studies; Finance) of Clintondale, New York: A Scholars Mentorship Program member and aspiring lawyer, Mackenzy is a student leader who has worked with groups that include the Business Association for Students of Color, the Student Association, the School of Business Dean’s Student Advisory Board, and Multicultural United Students Empowered. He also represented the College as our sole delegate to the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee. Off campus, Mackenzy has devoted limited free time to serving as a math buddy with elementary school students and coaching youth sports in the Wallkill Central School district. His efforts have earned him induction to two international honor societies: Beta Gamma Sigma (Business) and Ankh Maat Wedjau (Black Studies).
Additionally, this spring the College will present the first-ever President’s Awards for Student Excellence. This new award is now the highest campus-level recognition bestowed upon students, designed to pay tribute to students who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in academics and in other areas of their collegiate careers. The inaugural class of 12 President’s Award recipients are:
- Dariana Almeyda ’20 (Theatre Arts; Adolescent Education) ’22g (English) of Queens, New York
- Emily Bassett ’22 (Theatre Arts; English) of Centereach, New York
- Bshara Dababneh ’22 (Electrical Engineering, M.S.) of Scarsdale, New York
- Eli Dreilinger ’22 (Adolescent Education) of Niskayuna, New York
- Haley Hershenson ’22 (Early Childhood & Childhood Education) of New York, New York
- Olivia Ingalsbe ’22 (French; International Relations) of West Hurley, New York
- Yan Lok Ko ’22 (Electrical Engineering; Mathematics) of Poughkeepsie, New York
- Roy Ludwig ’22 (Geology) of Poughkeepsie, New York
- Julia Mastrup ’22 (Early Childhood & Childhood Education) of Shirley, New York
- Darcy Montana ’22 (Psychology) of Brooklyn, New York
- Lisandra Pereyra ’22 (Communication Disorders; Spanish) of Bronx, New York
- Varsha Talanki ’22 (Biology) of Suffolk, New York
I shared with each of the awardees my congratulations and pride in their accomplishments. You may wish to take an opportunity to congratulate these students if you know them or if they are in one of your classes this spring. The President’s Awards will be presented at the Outstanding Graduates Awards Ceremony, 2 p.m., May 20, in the Student Union Multi-Purpose Room.
Foundation Scholarship Updates and Application Deadline. Please take a moment to let students know that the deadline to apply for 2022-23 Foundation Scholarships is this coming Wednesday, April 6. Students can apply online at: https://www.newpaltz.edu/scholarships.
In the 2021-2022 academic year, students have received $1,022,231 in scholarship support from the SUNY New Paltz Foundation—including $782,231 to 381 students and another $240,000 in encumbered funds for renewable scholarships. Notably, this is the second consecutive year we have awarded more than $1M in scholarship support from the Foundation. For comparison, in 2013-2014, we awarded about $276,000 to just under 100 students. The Foundation anticipates awarding $1.1M from 145 scholarship funds for the 2022-2023 academic year. This growth is due in large part to a culture of philanthropy cultivated during the College’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign and is possible thanks to the generous support of alumni, faculty and staff, and other donors.
Some donors contribute annually with funds that support students the following year. Others establish endowments that are invested, with the return on investment (guided by Foundation policies and influenced by ups and downs in the market) providing scholarships in perpetuity. Donors have supported many different elements of our educational mission and values, such as student research, experiential learning, study abroad, studies in particular fields or disciplines, and community engagement and outreach.
This year will be the first in-person Scholarship Reception that we’ve held since 2019, on Friday, April 22, 5-7 p.m. in the Student Union Multi-Purpose Room. Many scholarship donors and student recipients attend this event. Faculty and staff are welcome to join this fun and uplifting event (RSVP here). I know that faculty support would mean a lot to both donors and students.
My continuing SUNY involvement. As my presidency is winding down, I remain involved in multiple SUNY System activities that may be of interest to faculty and staff, including:
- SPECTRUM and Gay Pride: I am honored to be seen as an “ally” and asked by a SUNY presidential colleague to join a “think tank” to support reinvigorating the SPECTRUM conference and building support for a SUNY presence at the Gay PRIDE parade in NYC, efforts that SUNY Interim Chancellor Stanley supports. One of the emphases of our planning will be to build presidential involvement in this work. This is the 50th Anniversary of Title IX, and we will explore SUNY efforts to commemorate the passage of this law.
- EOP Awards Ceremony April 14: This year’s presentation of the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Awards for Educational Opportunity Program student excellence will be held in person, after pandemic-era virtual events. I will attend to recognize New Paltz student Elina Lopez as one of 46 students across the SUNY system receiving this award, which recognizes “EOP students who have shown positive academic trajectories despite challenges they have faced during their academic careers” and who will graduate this year. Norman McConney, Jr. (1946-2016) was a former assistant dean for special programs at SUNY and one of the architects of the EOP program.Elina Lopez is a psychology major, deaf studies minor, with a focus on helping students and children with disabilities navigate the world. She has been an active leader and peer in the EOP ALLI program (Advocacy, Leadership, & Learning Initiative).
- Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI): I am also honored that Havidán Rodriguez, executive director of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI) and president of University at Albany, asked me to be part of a presidential panel on “leadership” as part of this year’s HLI initiative (April 20). I played a similar role several years ago and have mentored two HLI protégés in previous years. I am particularly rewarded to be part of this year’s program with two SUNY New Paltz employees participating as Fellows, Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, Esq., vice president for Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, and Dante Cantú, executive director of the Center for Student Success and Academic Advising.
- Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence: As noted above, SUNY is returning to a post-pandemic, in-person presentation of awards and recognition of student achievement. This has been a very compelling event throughout my presidency, and I look forward to helping recognize our four award recipients and their families.
I will see you at this week’s Faculty Senate meeting and will respond to questions and comments about this report or other topics. Happy Spring!
Donald P. Christian