President’s April 2023 Report to the Academic and Professional Faculty

Dear Faculty and Staff:

I wish you all a successful and sane end to the semester. Be sure to take time for the small, but important things – a walk around our beautiful campus, time for contemplation, time for community and time for family. Here are my April updates.

Enrollment/Accepted Student Open House – We rose to Mother Nature’s weather challenges on March 25 and April 1 for our two Accepted Student Open Houses. We experienced impressive turn outs, hosting 3,200 students and families over the two days. Our campus shined despite the dreary weather.  In February and March, I made an appeal to the entire SUNY New Paltz staff and faculty community to join us for these critical yield events.  It is my absolute pleasure to write now with special thanks for your robust and engaged participation.  To Facilities who made our common spaces, classrooms, lobbies, and hallways look spectacular. To the more than 170 volunteers participated in each of these events, including students, academic departments, Student Services, Admissions, Residents Life, Student Engagement, our enrichment programs, and many others.  More than 60 faculty and 55 staff members held informational sessions, tours, tabled and directed families on campus.   There were 840 accepted students in attendance.  Students explored dining facilities, residence halls and made meaningful connections to our faculty and staff.  They learned about opportunities and services at New Paltz and what sets us apart from other universities. I thank all of the participants who made these a great two days.

This is a challenging time for new student recruitment. The competition is very high for fewer applicants in the Northeast.  Overall, we saw an increase in applications.  However, that does not necessarily translate to real enrollment. Schools are leaning into this challenge with marketing campaigns and scholarships.  At New Paltz, we have increased our scholarship offers and SUNY has offered out-of-state tuition matches for several surrounding states.  We have commitments from 35% of our target goal of 1,375 first-year students.  Our transfer commitments are down as compared to last spring at this time.  We have received deposits from 25% of our intended target goal of 650 transfer students. April is a big month for yielding students.  Our new onboarding program will help us keep the students we have yielded by preventing new student attrition.  Please look for an announcement about the launch of our New Student Onboarding program.

Successful Provost Search – As you may know, we have hired a new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. William McClure, who currently serves as Dean of Faculty in the School of Arts and Humanities at Queens College. He will begin his New Paltz leadership role on July 6.

McClure brings three decades of higher education experience as a teacher, scholar and administrator to this role. A widely recognized expert in Japanese language and linguistics, McClure is also the author of five books and numerous peer-reviewed chapters, papers and articles.

At Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center, he has worked collaboratively with partners across campus to advance institutional priorities on multiple fronts. Among his accomplishments, he has supported the creation of multiple new academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels; led concerted and sustained efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty; coordinated a revamp of the writing curriculum to serve an increasingly multilingual student population; and represented the institution externally with key stakeholders, including as part of efforts to secure major gifts to benefit academic programs and services.

I hope you will join me in welcoming William McClure to the SUNY New Paltz community later this year.

I wish to thank the entire Provost Search Committee, and especially Chairs Shala Mills and Mary Christensen for their excellent work in screening applicants and bringing strong finalists to campus. Thanks to all on campus who attended candidate meetings and filled out the feedback surveys. Every finalist commented on how impressed they were by our students and that those interactions with students made them want to work here.

McClure will succeed outgoing Interim Provost Barbara Lyman. Barbara deserves special thanks for serving in this interim role well beyond her initial one-year appointment in 2019-20, and for lending her wisdom, stability and leadership to the University’s navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic and many other institutional challenges and initiatives.

Inauguration Updates – Our University, Our Future – April 19, 20, 21 – In two weeks, we will begin our inauguration festivities (see schedule below and here online). My heartfelt thanks to the many faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members, friends and family who are planning to attend and/or participate as marchers, delegates, flag bearers, speakers, marshals, musicians and volunteers. Thanks, too, to the many campus faculty, staff and students who are helping to plan and stage these events.

More than 700 individuals have RSVP’d by the March 31 deadline to attend the investiture. This includes about 115 individuals who are planning to participate in the processional leading up to the investiture ceremony on April 20 at 11 a.m. While we are nearing capacity of the main floor seating area in the Athletic and Wellness Center (AWC), we have a limited number of seats open and will make those and the bleacher seats available on a first-come first-served basis on the day of the event for those who have not RSVP’d.

On April 20, doors will open at 10 a.m. We encourage all students, faculty and staff to attend and experience a celebration of a special milestone in the life of the University. If we reach capacity in AWC, we will direct any overflow to Lecture Center 100, where we will be livestreaming the investiture.

Our University, Our Future – We aim to make history together, to bring attention to the wealth of opportunities offered by public higher education, and in particular, at SUNY New Paltz. Our University has the unique privilege to provide students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to contribute as productive members of their communities and professions and active citizens in a democratic nation and a global society.

Our Future depends on our individual and collective ability to actively address problems, needs and solutions of importance to the local community, region, state, nation and world – not just through what we say, think and write, but what we do. To learn more visit the Inauguration Website and the FAQ page where we address common questions we’ve heard about the inaugural events and the investiture ceremony. To reiterate, no one is expected to cancel classes to attend, however, for those who are participating in their roles on campus or who wish to attend, we hope faculty and supervisors will be willing to accommodate those requests.

Day 1, Wednesday, April 19 includes a powerful student-faculty forum followed by a festival of big ideas. The extraordinary ways that students and faculty work together to make the world a better place will be celebrated and recognized. Later that day the Office of Development & Alumni Relations hosts their annual scholarship reception from 4-6 p.m.

Day 2, Thursday, April 20 all of campus is invited to don your academic regalia to march in the formal investiture ceremony followed by a community lunch.

Day 3, Friday, April 21 features our work with community groups both inside and outside of campus. Our long history of service to the area will be featured and celebrated.

Late Budget – Clearly, we will not have an on-time state budget this year as the Legislature and the Governor work out their disagreements on issues. While the Executive Budget included a moderate annual tuition hike for SUNY comprehensive universities like New Paltz that would not exceed 3% annually, the Legislature rejected a tuition hike and instead included more state operating aid for SUNY in their one-house bills. Where the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor will end up on this is unclear. Receiving neither a tuition increase nor more operating aid will further complicate the fiscal health of several SUNY campuses, not just New Paltz. We have been in contact with our state legislators and their staff to make our case for more support, both in operating and capital dollars. I also participated in a virtual meeting with Chancellor John King Jr. and the Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins earlier this month to make SUNY’s case for further investment. The state already invests significant dollars in SUNY and the System’s return on that investment is $8 to every $1 spent on SUNY. Further investment to make SUNY the premier system of public higher education in the nation would be money well spent for the citizens of New York.

Development & Alumni Relations – I’m pleased to announce that the SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board of Directors adopted a new mission statement on March 3, 2023. It states:

The mission of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation is to seek, secure and manage gifts and grants to fund scholarships and programs that enrich and support the academic, cultural and community life of SUNY New Paltz, and to build a lasting endowment for the University’s future.

If it has been some time since you looked at our board list, please enjoy reading about this engaged, generous group of 23 volunteers here.

One of my goals for my first year has been to launch the Presidential Fund for Innovation in Public Higher Education seeded by my own $25,000 pledge. We are seeking additional donations with plans to raise at least $250,000 for this expendable fund, which will provide grants to our campus faculty and staff partners. The goal of the Fund is to celebrate sustained creative commitment, and innovative thinking and activities at SUNY New Paltz. The Fund will provide financial awards recognizing individuals and/or teams who have demonstrated these qualities in academic offerings, institutional operations, programming and/or community engagement.

March was a busy month of engagement for Development & Alumni Relations. More than 500 people filled the Lecture Center for Emmy award-winning news anchor Chris Hayes of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, who was our Distinguished Speaker and spoke on the topic “Life in the Attention Age,” remaining afterwards for a book-signing. Chris came to us thanks to alumna Miriam Ward ’15 (Digital Media Production; History), his MSNBC associate and friend who invited him to SUNY New Paltz.

The Office of Alumni Relations hosted two well-attended alumni receptions (March 11 and 13), in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by Washington, D.C., where I spoke and shared information about New Paltz today, new programs and majors, enrollment, and current opportunities and challenges of the university.

Nearly 40 alumni, former faculty, and other guests joined the Atlanta event, which was preceded by a very special occasion – the opportunity to present an honorary doctoral degree to Lily McNair Ph.D., former Tuskegee University president and the first woman to hold that role, and a former SUNY New Paltz faculty member. Gweneth Lloyd Ph.D., director of the University’s Psychological Counseling Center, joined us for the occasion.

The D.C. event is held annually in conjunction with Political Science Professor Nancy Kassop’s student immersive political culture trip. While their days in D.C. contained many highlights, a standout was the meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with alumna Amber Greene ’03 (Journalism). Amber serves as Special Assistant to the President for Racial and Economic Justice at The White House Domestic Policy Council. Joining the reception in addition to Dr. Kassop and 19 students were Political Science Department Chair Kathleen Dowley, Honors Program Director Patricia Sullivan, and approximately 50 alumni, faculty, and guests.

Top 10 Sustainable New Paltz Achievements in 10 Years – As Earth Day approaches and the campus looks forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of Sustainability at New Paltz with the “Sustainapalooza” event on Monday, May 1, please take a look at our “top 10” achievements from our first decade:

  1. Sustainability Faculty Learning Community – now over 175+ courses with sustainability content.
  2. New sustainability-focused academic programs including the rapidly growing Environmental Studies major, the Environmental Science major, and the Sustainability Track of the Business Management Major.
  3. Sustainability Course Designation program viewable in the Schedule of Classes under “Degree and General Education Attribute.”
  4. Sustainability Ambassadors program, engaging 100+ student leaders focusing on moving beyond plastics, plant-based foods, carbon reduction, biodiversity, bike friendly university & more!
  5. Breaking free from plastics! We have switched from many plastic single use items in dining to paper containers and reusable containers across retail and residential dining and switched from mostly plastic bottles in vending to aluminum cans.
    Sustainability Ambassador Roy Ludwig (Geology ’22; Education ‘23g) and Professor & Sustainability Faculty Fellow Andrea Varga installed two microplastics filters into Costume Shop laundry machines to filter out microplastics from going into our local watershed.
  6. Bee Campus USA with four pollinator-friendly no-mow meadows and over 2,000 trees on campus!
  7. Sodexo has been rolling out new plant-based protein optionsacross dining services.
  8. 330 campus community members plugged their electric vehicles at least once into one of our 26 EV charging spots on campus.
  9. As a standard practice, Facilities Management has been reducing and modulating the temperature of the high-temperature hot water loop systemthat provides heating and hot water to campus buildings.  This led to a 10% reduction in natural gas usage by 10% in 2021-22 compared to five prior pre-pandemic years.
  10. We are wrapping up our Clean Energy Master Planning processfocusing on decarbonization and electrification of building systems to meet NYS Climate Act goals.

I look forward to seeing you at the Faculty Senate Meeting on April 5 and responding to your questions about my report or any other items.

Darrell P. Wheeler