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

I wish to thank the many academic and professional faculty, administrators and retirees who joined Donovan and me at the Holiday Open House at our home this weekend I’m looking forward to the Classified Staff Appreciation Holiday Luncheon next week and sharing holiday greetings and gratitude with our Classified staff and retirees.

My December report includes highlights from across the campus as well as my thoughts on an important issue affecting higher education.

Enrollment – Recruitment for our Fall 2023 undergraduate class continues, and we’ve seen tremendous application growth earlier in our admissions cycle, likely propelled by the free application week that SUNY System Administration hosted in late October/early November. This early surge in applicants provides us with a unique opportunity to review a larger and more diverse population of students for merit awards than we’ve reviewed in years past. In addition to our Fall 2023 applicant growth, enrollment for winter session is up 13%, with Spring 2023 registration remaining just shy of 1% above our enrollment this time last year.

International Enrollment and Study Abroad Enrollments – Once again, SUNY New Paltz led the SUNY comprehensive universities with more inbound international students than any other for fall 2021 at 310 students.  Since few new international students were admitted this academic year, this number reflects the retention of current students through the pandemic. These students brought $7.5 million to the local region during the 21-22 academic year, according to an economic analysis by the U.S. Departments of State and Education and the Institute of International Education (IIE). Nationally, international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $33.8 billion to the nation’s economy and for every three international students, a U.S. job is created.

Clearly, international students’ contributions are more than financial. The opportunities to learn alongside someone from a different country and culture can be a transformative experience, building cultural competence and a greater appreciation for diversity, sustainability, and internationalization. Global learning imparts skills needed to work across differences to forge mutual understanding and find solutions to global challenges together.

While the United States experienced a dramatic 91% decline in study abroad enrollment, New Paltz is bouncing back. Our students resumed study abroad in the spring and summer 2022 and are participating in 17 different programs this fall. The winter session will feature a Doing Business in Thailand trip led by Business Professor Davina Vora, and the spring 2023 semester study abroad enrollments are approaching 60.

Growth in Online Programs – In 2016, New Paltz had four programs registered as Distance Education offerings.  Six years later, we have 14 programs registered as Distance Education, 8 of which are available fully online (see Table 1). 555 students are registered in these programs this Fall 2022—77% of them are enrolled fully online or in mixed modalities, while 23% chose fully seated schedules.  The growth of online offerings in our Graduate professional programs aligns with national data trends and predictions regarding student modality demands.

Although our online programs at the undergraduate level remain limited, their impact has been great.  One of our recent BGS students, a mother of two with a 45-minute one-way commute to campus, shared what she referred to as “the mountain between myself and graduation due to… ‘fresh out of high school’ schedule options.”  She described feeling “overwhelmed with despair” until she discovered the BA: General Studies and the option to complete her degree with a mix of seated and online courses that allowed her to commute only two days a week.

While recognizing and appreciating this considerable progress, questions for strategic campus conversations include 1) what existing programs might move online to reach audiences otherwise unable to access our programs? 2) how can we go about strategically reallocating resources toward developing new in-demand programming that would reach untapped markets?


Program  % Available Online 
MBA: Business Administration 100%
MBA: Public Accountancy 100%
MSEd: Literacy Education (B-6) 100%
MSEd: Literacy Education (5-12) 100%
MSEd: Visual Arts Education 100%
MST: Early Childhood (B-2) & Childhood Education (1-6) 50%
MST: Childhood Education (1-6) 50%
Adv Cert: School Leadership 100%
Adv Cert: School Business Leadership 100%
Adv Cert: Trauma & Disaster Mental Health 90%
BA: General Studies 100%
BS: Management 50%
BS: Marketing 50%
BS: International Business 50%

TABLE 1. –  Current Online programs and percent available online

Interim Provost Lyman’s report this month expounds on this topic.

University Designation – We have moved one step closer to changing our designation status from college to university. The SUNY Office of the Provost, acting on behalf of SUNY Interim Chancellor Deborah Stanley as the designee for the SUNY Board of Trustees, notified us on Nov. 15 that our request to change our designation from college to university, has been approved. We requested that this designation be made effective on January 1, 2023. We chose this date because it is the charter date for the founding in 1948 of the State University of New York System and the same date that New Paltz joined SUNY as a founding member campus.

SUNY has since notified the NYS Education Department of SUNY’s approval and we now await NYSED’s confirmation of this change. Once we receive that, we will notify all accrediting bodies, update our campus style guides and trademarks, and notify the campus community.

Transition Ambassadors – On Dec. 14, I will hold my second meeting of the Transition Ambassadors, a group of faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and community members who are providing valuable insights for my listening tour to ensure I hear from the widest array of community voices as I come to know the campus culture and the institution’s strengths, opportunities and challenges.

Diversity and Inclusivity in the Sciences Grant – SUNY New Paltz has received an almost $500,000 grant over six years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence (IE3) Learning Community project. New Paltz is one of 104 institutions across the country to receive such a grant. The project supports U.S. colleges and universities to build their capacity substantially and sustainably for student belonging, especially for those who have been historically excluded from the sciences. In particular, New Paltz will work to create genuine partnerships between 2- and 4-year colleges and universities so that transfer students have a more inclusive experience.

New Paltz has chosen Dutchess Community College for its inaugural partnership. The team, which includes New Paltz faculty Jen Waldo (biology), project lead, Catherine Hearne (physics and astronomy) and Megan Ferguson (chemistry), plan to use the Transfer Playbook assessment tool to better understand the relationship between Dutchess and New Paltz, 2) support and promote undergraduate research for students across the two schools; and 3) think about how peer mentors can be utilized to make the transfer process more inclusive and successful for more students.

The grants help the schools focus on designing strategies to prevent the massive loss of talent from STEM that occurs during the college years. Of the nearly one million students who enter college annually intending to study STEM, more than half will not complete a STEM bachelor’s degree. Those who leave STEM are disproportionately students who are first in their family to attend college, students who begin at community colleges, and students from historically excluded ethnic and racial groups. Congratulations to this group of faculty for taking on this important work for our students and securing external funding to do so.

Professional Development Days – The Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion (HRDI) is planning its fourth annual, campus-wide Professional Development Days on January 19-20, 2023. All SUNY New Paltz faculty and staff are invited to participate. The catalog of sessions will be available soon. These Professional Development Days are both an opportunity to broaden our collective capacity to fulfill our mission, and a celebration of the wealth of expertise within our campus community. In prior years, sessions have been offered by all divisions on campus, with more than 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. I hope many of you take advantage of this opportunity for personal growth.

New AVP for Facilities Management hired – The campus has hired Gail Beltrone to serve as the new Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management after a national search. She will join the campus community on Jan. 5, 2023.

Beltrone’s extensive experience in facilities operations and management makes her well suited to lead the talented team that includes Design & Construction, Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Operations and Sustainability. She will oversee a budget of more than $13 million, 179 full-time staff, 2.2M square feet of campus buildings and 226 acres.

Beltrone previously served as Chief Operating Officer at Friends of the High Line, the former elevated rail line-turned-linear park on Manhattan’s West Side; Vice President for Campus Services, Barnard College of Columbia University, and Vice President for Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others.

Accounting Services and Purchasing have significantly reduced the need for records storage by digitizing processes.  This means square footage currently occupied by old paper files can be converted to more program space in the upcoming College/Shango Hall renovation project.

Educational Opportunity Program funding grows – The state and SUNY made additional funding available for all Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students.  All students have been repackaged by Student Financial Services with these additional funds. This expanded funding is expected to carry forward allowing for more robust financial aid packages for EOP students next year.

Re-envisioning Student Onboarding and Early Weeks on Campus – Student engagement was greatly impacted by the pandemic.  Attention to the diverse needs and expectations of our students is a priority for our work in revitalizing this empowering experience.

Enrollment Management, led by Stella Turk and Jess Binns-Dickinson, in partnership with Ashley Walker and Mike Patterson from Student Affairs, are developing a comprehensive approach to new students to retain them, essentially shifting from an event-focused orientation to a multi-pronged new student onboarding.

Such an approach must be a coordinated effort that extends to all interactions the student has with all campus contacts. The New Student Onboarding Program is a coordinated effort that starts with Admissions, and extends to Student Affairs (Orientation), Academic Advising, faculty partners, special programming recruiters (OVMS, SMP, Honors, Athletics, EOP, AC>2, living learning communities, Residence Life) and support services (Student Accounts, Student Financial Services, Records & Registration, Student Health Services, Disability Resource Center, Service Desk, Card Services, Meal Plan, Residence Life, CIP), and our current New Paltz students.

A cross-institutional group of students, staff, faculty, and deans from all divisions as well as Sodexo began conversations early in the semester to implement changes that will be effective in summer 2023.  Working groups are focused on orientation, convocation, presenting a vibrant campus, providing holistic support, establishing student connections, and establishing connections between students and faculty and staff.  Input is being collected from all audiences, and those interested in joining a working group are invited to contact Vice President for Student Affairs, Stephanie Blaisdell.

Alumni Cultivation – The Office of Alumni Relations continues to ramp up its outreach with our alumni; alumni engagement, while growing, is still relatively low compared with some of our peers and is an area that needs our continual attention and growth.

Alumni Relations hosted 50 alumni and friends at the UBS Arena in Belmont, NY, on Nov. 10 to see the NY Islanders Hockey Team play the Arizona Coyotes. Most alumni in attendance graduated between 2007-2022. Alumni indicated that they would like to see more gatherings connected with sporting activities.

Regional Alumni Gatherings are currently scheduled for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Feb. 16, Washington, D.C., on March 13 and Atlanta, Georgia on March 16. The Florida gathering will be hosted by Hernan Rincon ’76 and Elvira Garcia at their home in Fort Lauderdale. I am scheduled to attend each of these gatherings as part of my listening tour and alumni cultivation.

In addition to events, staff are strengthening their ability to track alumni and donors through a new software implementation.

Development News – In the last month, $725,000 worth of proposals have been submitted to various foundations seeking scholarship support for EOP and Scholar’s Mentorship Program students, and fellowship support for the Dr. Betty Shabazz Program for the Development of BIPOC School Leaders, to name a few.

Our Development Operations staff is a quiet behind-the-scenes force. In the 2nd quarter alone, they processed and receipted over 1,130 gifts with the anticipation that this number will climb steeply as we enter a traditionally busy season around the holidays. Over 4,200 constituent records were updated, and during this period the team replied to and completed 26 data requests from partners across campus with another three requests in progress. I encourage you to reach out to them to discuss mailings, email messaging to alumni, and sending appeals.

SUNY New Paltz Foundation – New Paltz has received a realized bequest of $525,238 from alumnus Dr. Arthur A. Delaney ’53. It will provide endowed support primarily for the Sojourner Truth Library. This gift is a testament to the importance of the Tower Society and of planned giving for SUNY New Paltz. Delaney was an early Tower Society member, and he was delighted when that recognition translated into stewardship visits from both Development and Library staff. A middle school librarian with a flair for investing, he had anticipated that the gift would be about $145,000. The stock market and his affection for New Paltz helped grow his gift to the remarkable value noted above.

During the Covid 2020-21 academic year, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation saw a significant uptick in emergency financial awards granted. The need in 2021-22 did not decrease, but an influx of funds from the federal and state governments offset support from the SUNY New Paltz Foundation. Increased living, energy, and material costs along with the lasting effects of a still-fluctuating economy have created an increase in need this year, and the Foundation has been able to help. As of this fall, we have awarded $61,800 in emergency funds for the year, as shown in the following graph.

U.S. Supreme Court and Affirmative Action in Higher Education Admission – Like other colleges and universities across the country, we are carefully watching and waiting to hear the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision on two cases, one involving Harvard and the other involving University of South Carolina, regarding the legality of race consciousness or affirmative action in admissions decisions. There is speculation that a SCOTUS decision overturning the principles of affirmative action in admission (established in 1978 and affirmed in many cases since) will open the door to scrutiny about race conscious policies in other areas of education or employment.

SCOTUS is due to announce a decision in June. Even as we await a decision, it is important that we place this legal debate in the context of our mission and our values.  New Paltz, and more broadly, SUNY, reviews students individually and through a holistic lens; considering many criteria when deciding to admit any student. Our students come from diverse backgrounds, experiences, challenges, and successes.  We remain committed to the value that diversity, along all traits, attributes and identities enrich the learning, critical thinking, and human development of our students. Our commitment to the value of diversity is unwavering and will remain at the core of our promise to serve New York State residents.

Holistic Hawks Stress Busters – As the pressure of the semester builds to its climax, Holistic Hawks, a group made up of students, staff and faculty focused on cultivating a sense of well-being for community members, will once again offer a series of “Stress Buster” programs.  Nearly 40 programs will be offered from Dec. 9 to 20, including baking, music, coloring, yoga, dog petting and our traditional Late Night Breakfast.  Late Night Breakfast is an opportunity for us to partner with Sodexo to serve our students their favorite breakfast foods from 10 pm – midnight in Peregrine Dining Hall, on Tuesday, Dec 13.   Staff and faculty wishing to join in the late-night fun can volunteer at A full calendar of Stress Buster events is available at

Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season with your loved ones and a restful winter break. See you in the new year ready to re-engage in the important work of our educational mission. And I’m happy to answer any questions about my report or other questions you may have at Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

Darrell P. Wheeler