President’s November 2022 Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Welcome to the fading days of our Hudson Valley fall foliage. I write to update you about important events and news for our SUNY New Paltz community.

Presidential updates: 

  • Listening Tour: I continue to engage in listening and learning about this special community, its strengths and challenges as I meet more of its citizens informally and formally across schools and divisions through my listening sessions including:
    • faculty and divisional staff listening sessions,
    • presidential presentations for alumni and donors,
    • small group meetings with key community stakeholders, and
    • labor management meetings and a host of on and off campus meetings and community events.

I am on track to reach my goal of meeting at least 1,000 of the 1,100+ employees at New Paltz before my inauguration in April 2023! I intend to maintain high visibility among students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners throughout the fall and spring. Early observations and feedback tell me that increasing inter-divisional collaboration and communication are important goals for our work together.

Budget: Thank you to those who attended the Budget Forum on Oct. 19, where Vice President Michele Halstead, Interim Provost Barbara Lyman and I outlined elements of a budgeting cycle for the 2023/2024 academic year and scenarios for how we can bring our expenditures in line with our revenues. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here and see the slide presentation here. Here is a recap, outlining ways to reduce recurring budget deficits and create an inclusive and well-understood campus budgeting process. We must:

  • Control spending and capitalize on attrition and personnel costs through reorganization and efficiencies, not layoffs as a first-line defense. Our ability to function requires recruiting and retaining a strong workforce,
  • Invest in enrollment-related infrastructure, including staffing and technology, and set undergraduate and graduate recruitment goals to realistic and attainable targets and meet those targets,
  • Invest in filling 18 full-time faculty lines (including four from new SUNY funding, for which we are awaiting a decision) to continue providing high-quality educational experiences to students,
  • Increase retention efforts to keep pace with new recruitment and support students, post-pandemic.
  • Meet employment contract obligations, including recently authorized raises for PBA, CSEA and M/C employees, which helps us to attract and retain talent in an era of increased costs and an ever more expensive housing market. We expect the UUP contract to be finalized in the coming months with contractual raises, to be distributed retroactively.
  • Seek and secure non-tuition-based revenues, including federal, state, and local sources for research, programmatic, educational and innovation awards, as well as philanthropic support for scholarships, faculty development and incentive programs.
  • Establish an annual budget process on campus that is readily available and universally known to all SUNY New Paltz stakeholders. It must:
    1. Fit in the annual fiscal cycle (6/30-7/1) and anticipate the annual SUNY and NYS budget allocation timing.
    2. Include participation, input, and feedback from all units.
    3. Be followed to allow time for refinement and reinforce responsibility and accountability.
    4. Be presented to the community in a way that allows time to review and feedback before finalizing.
    5. Contain an assessment component with feedback at least twice a year.

Enrollment Management:  The College welcomed 545 prospective undergraduate students and 800 of their family members to our Open House on Saturday, Oct. 29, truly a beautiful fall day in the Hudson Valley. Despite a large number of visitors, our faculty, staff, and students worked diligently to provide our guests with great energy and an engaging and intimate New Paltz experience by taking the time to have one-on-one conversations with our prospective students and their families, and establishing the deeper, more meaningful connections that continue to differentiate us from other institutions in our region and beyond. Our ability to provide prospective learners with a more personalized experience from the moment they walk through our doors is a testament to who we are as a community and reflective of the values that make us a more student-centered institution.

I am grateful to the faculty, staff and current students whose wide participation and dedication to recruiting new first-year and transfer students and their efforts to initiate relationships with prospective students who, once they join us, faculty and staff will build on to ensure student engagement and degree completion.

SUNY System Administration has launched a handful of important recruitment and enrollment initiatives that New Paltz has both opted into and secured funding for in the Fall 2023 enrollment cycle, Including:

  • Free application week, which provides prospective first-year and transfer students with the opportunity to apply to five SUNY schools free of charge, will reduce the financial barriers that often prevent students from exploring multiple opportunities for higher education in the state.
  • SUNY’s in-state tuition match program, which only applies to first-years and transfers in the 8 states listed below, will provide out-of-state residents with a New Paltz education equal to the cost of their region’s public flagship (for residents in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Illinois, and California). This initiative is positioned to help yield more out-of-state residents who receive admission to New Paltz, but often stay in state because it’s more cost effective.
  • I am happy to share that we’ve successfully secured $35,780 from the 2022-23 Enacted SUNY Budget set-aside of $60M for one-time investments to address retention and persistence, with the goal of increasing our retention rate back up to 87%. Additionally, we’ve secured $125,000 to foster more diverse recruitment pipelines across the state – utilizing the funding to host a Multicultural Honors Institute for high-achieving high school juniors and seniors from across a diverse array of cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic identities for the next two summers. Both programs will be assessed for their effectiveness.

Our latest retention and graduation rates are as follows:

  • First- to second-year retention rate is 84%, up from 83% last year. Our 10-year average is 86%.
  • 4-year graduation rate is 58%, up from 56% last year. Our 10-year average is 58%.
  • 6-year graduation rate is 73%, down from 76% last year. Our 10-year average is 74%.

While these numbers are strong, they have been stronger, and we can do better and will need to do better to close our budget deficit and fulfill our primary mission of student success. While some students leave us for reasons beyond our control, many can be retained with a little attention, encouragement, guidance, and resources. Every employee is a retention officer.

Provost and VP for Enrollment Searches: We have a fully constituted provost search committee, co-chaired by Shala Mills, Associate Provost for Academic Planning & Learning Innovation and Dean of Graduate, Professional & Interdisciplinary Studies, and Professor Mary Christensen (Languages, Literatures & Cultures). Thank you to all who have agreed to serve on this important committee. I will be charging the committee soon and we will advertise the position shortly. I encourage the campus community, especially faculty and staff in the Academic Affairs Division, to actively participate in the coming months in the nomination of potential candidates, the open forums for finalists and in welcoming those finalists to campus. It will take a community to attract the best candidates and successfully recruit a strong academic leader for New Paltz. I thank you in advance for your valuable engagement.

I plan to launch the Vice President for Enrollment Management search in early 2023 with a target start date in August 2023.

Student Affairs: Student Affairs just concluded another busy Mental Health Week, with the Mental Health Fair highlighting prevention and resources on and off campus. Additionally, Oasis/Haven, the campus peer support hotline service/walk-in center, is now operating from its brand new, student-friendly space with a private and fully accessible entrance at the north side of Lenape Hall.  The campus will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony there later this month.

A top priority for utilizing the Mental Health and Wellness Enhancement Fund that SUNY New Paltz received last year was to renovate and equip the new Oasis/Haven location, an affiliate of the Psychological Counseling Center for the past 50 years.

Oasis offers confidential crisis intervention to help students deal with difficulties in life areas such as: suicide-related thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; depression; relationships; gender identity; roommate hassles; academic problems; loneliness; alcohol/substance use; sexual issues and related STIs. Haven volunteers are specifically trained to respond to issues around rape, sexual assault, other unwanted sexual experiences, and relationship violence. Oasis/Haven’s peer volunteers (who have completed a Crisis Intervention course and continue to receive training) staff the center between the hours of 8 p.m. to midnight daily. Oasis can be accessed by phone at (845) 257-4945; Haven’s number is (845)257-4930.

Early voting is currently open for qualified New York residents and Student Affairs is working to offer shuttles on Nov. 2 and 5 to the early voting site at the New Paltz Community Center.  Watch for more information. Certainly, I want to encourage all eligible voters to vote!

Shared Governance and Student Leaders: In my first two monthly meetings with the leadership of the Student Association and Residence Hall Student Association along with my President’s Cabinet (a longstanding tradition begun during the Alice Chandler presidency), we have had engaging discussions with student leaders about our shared roles and responsibilities in our shared governance ecosystem. These have led to robust conversations about ways both the Cabinet, faculty and staff and student leaders can contribute to improving the student experience on campus.

Development & Alumni Relations: We had a robust alumni reunion weekend, with alums traveling from as far as California to reunite with classmates and visit their alma mater after many years away. This was the first fully in-person Alumni Reunion since before COVID, attended by several hundred alumni. The schedule found here included many faculty contributions, including a Philosophy alumni panel, classes by Art History Professor Reva Wolf (Current Reflections on the Harlem Renaissance) and Political Science Professor Jeff Miller (Democracy in Crisis), several sold-out planetarium demonstrations, numerous affinity group gatherings, along with the traditional Lantern Society and Heritage & Alumni Awards ceremonies. We were delighted to honor our own Political Science Professor Nancy Kassop with a Heritage Award and Director of the Career Resource Center Mark McFadden with a Friends of the Alumni Association Award, among others. Special recognition went to the Class of 1972 on their 50th reunion.

Community engagement: I saw many of you in a full Lecture Center 102 for an excellent presentation by Liza Donnelly, cartoonist and writer for The New Yorker, during the annual fall Distinguished Speaker Series in October, where she gave an engaging talk on the power of humor. Donovan and I were happy to host our first private reception at the president’s residence preceding the talk. I’m very excited that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes (All in With Chris Hayes) will be our spring Distinguished Series Speaker. Stay tuned for details!

I encourage you to come out to hear education journalist Sarah Carr, our fall 2022 James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism, speak today at 7 p.m. in Coykendall Science Building Auditorium about “Why It Took So Long to Reopen Schools During COVID, and What It Means for the Future of Education.”

I’m looking forward to working with Tamah Wiegand, our first woman to serve as Foundation Board Chair in the Foundation’s 45-year history.

Congratulations to the staff in Development & Alumni Relations and the Office of Communication & Marketing on receiving industry recognition with a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Best-of District II Award for our “Soaring Higher” fundraising campaign print and online materials.

January Professional Development Days. Please save Jan. 19-20, 2023, for the fourth annual campus-wide professional development days. These days are an opportunity to broaden our collective capacity to fulfill our mission as well as a celebration of the wealth of expertise within our campus community. In prior years, sessions have been offered by all divisions on campus, with over 300 participants. Previous session topics have included diversity, equity, and inclusion; strategies for supporting our students; technology integration; and how to partner with different offices. The campus community will be invited to submit training session proposals or request training they would like to have offered in the Monday, Nov. 7 Daily Digest. This year we will return to offering in-person learning opportunities as well as select remote sessions. The training catalogue will be finalized and open for registration in early December.

I hope to see many of you at the President’s Holiday Reception for Academic and Professional Faculty and Management Confidential employees on Dec. 3 and at the Classified Staff Holiday Luncheon on Dec. 16. I will be happy to take your questions about this report and other matters at tomorrow’s Faculty Senate meeting.


Darrell P. Wheeler