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Updates

Interim President's Report Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting May 12, 2011

This will be my last monthly report of the 2010-11 academic year.  As we give finals, grade exams and papers, and close out the semester in anticipation of commencement ceremonies and summer activities, I write to share some good news about our enrollment picture, Chancellor’s Awards, and other accolades for our well-deserving colleagues, as well as update you on summer construction plans on campus.

Middle States Reaccreditation.  We received the final draft of the Middle States site visitors’ report last week.  The steering committee and Wonk members reviewed this document for “factual errors,” which we reported back to President Ruud to inform his submission to the Commission.  This report affirms the basic findings that the team reported to us and wrote about in their draft report, AND it included another “commendation” that we had not seen before:  “The Evaluation Team commends the institution for the culture of assessment that it has cultivated to date among faculty and staff who, in large part, value the role of assessment to support evidence-based decision-making and improve programs and services.”  The other four commendations in the draft report remain, although the wording of one has been changed to more broadly commend our “outstanding commitment to student success by faculty and staff…”  We will be releasing this report for your review very soon.

Enrollment Update.  We are extremely pleased with the profile of incoming students for next year.  Deposits by new first-year students are healthy, and making an allowance for the summer “melt” (students who pay deposits but decide not to attend), we should be right on or slightly above our target for the start of fall semester.  Transfer deposits are consistent with or perhaps slightly above target.  The academic profile of incoming first-year students is very strong, and this class will be among our most racially and ethnically diverse in a number of years, and represents the largest numerical cohort of new freshmen from traditionally underrepresented groups in the history of New Paltz.  The Admissions Office staff have again done a spectacular job in leading this effort, and – as I have written in previous reports – faculty, staff, other administrators, and current students have contributed to these successes in essential ways.  This is, as always, a team effort and it is good to once again be on a winning team.  Thanks, everyone!

Chancellor’s Awards. I am extremely pleased to announce that the following five very deserving members of our community will receive Chancellor’s Excellence Awards at the May Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony.  Denise Sirrine, Staff Nurse in Student Health Services, will receive the Excellence in Classified Service Award; Peter Kaufman, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Reva Wolf, Professor of Art History, are each being recognized with the Excellence Award in Teaching; Hamid Azari-Rad, Associate Professor of Economics, will receive the Excellence in Faculty Service Award; and Lynn Spangler, Professor of Communication and Media and Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will receive the Excellence in Professional Service Award.  Please join me in congratulating these wonderful colleagues for the recognition of their work and contributions!

Dean Michael Recognition.  You are aware that School of Education Dean Robert Michael retired in December after 37 years of commendable service to the institution and the region as a faculty member and administrator.  At his request, we deferred any honoring ceremonies until now, and this is a reminder that Dean Michael will be recognized at a reception immediately following this week’s Faculty meeting.  I hope that you will be there to help us celebrate the Dean’s accomplishments and contributions and wish him well for a long and happy retirement.  We also will be presenting Dean Michael with the President’s Medal at the undergraduate commencement on Sunday, May 22.

Commencement.  Noah Dorsky, Chair of the Foundation Board and a strong supporter of the College, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony, on the topic of “Art, Influence, Inspiration, Impact.”  The visibility of faculty at commencement is a palpable demonstration for graduates, parents, and others of our commitment to students and our educational mission.  A Regent once pointed out to me that the number of faculty present at commencement creates an impression, positive or negative, for others about the scale of our institution that warrants support.  I encourage as many of you as possible to participate in this spring’s graduate and undergraduate commencement ceremonies. 

Faculty-Staff Appreciation Picnic.  Please join us at the annual faculty-staff appreciation picnic on Tuesday, May 24, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Old Main Quad.  This is a tradition started by former President Steve Poskanzer as a way to build community and say thank you to everyone for your commitment and excellent work this year. Please come and relax and enjoy the fun for a while.  Keeping with tradition, Cabinet members will be flippin’ burgers and rollin’ dogs on the grill, and there will be lots of great food and beverage.  I hope to see you there.

Technological Support for our Work.  Degree Audit Report System (DARS).  As many of you know, the College has been developing a sophisticated and reliable progress report (DARS) for use by students and faculty in the advising and registration process.  This is a joint effort among Admissions, Records and Registration, Computer Services, Academic Advising, and academic departments.  The report has been in use for several semesters through its stages of development and reliability checking.  Consistent with our commitment to assessment, we conducted a survey of students and faculty to hear about its effectiveness and use.

We are pleased to learn that 92% of students answered the question “please rate your progress report, overall” with either a very helpful (34%) or helpful (58%) response.  In a separate survey, faculty answered a similar question “From your point of view as an advisor, please rate the progress report, overall.”  Many (92%) faculty also ranked the progress report as either very helpful (59%) or helpful (33%).  For those who have used the progress report, 90% of students and 96% of faculty ranked it as very helpful or helpful.  The user feedback provides valuable assessment data that we are using to improve the report, addressing issues such as its complexity, layout and organization, and reliability.  While we are very encouraged about the feedback on the usefulness of the report, we want to continue to improve it. 

Course Planning Tool. We have refined the analytic and data retrieval tools for academic units to help plan semester course offerings, thanks to the fine work of Computer Services, particularly Senior Programmer Joel Mumper.  The latest and most sophisticated tool is a data cube that allows chairs or others to compare course offerings over multiple years, numbers of sections offered, and fill rates, by department, course level, GE category, course title, section, and instructor.  This information has been provided to department chairs and is available in Argos.

Summer Construction Activity.  The campus will be extremely busy this summer with construction and renovation projects, and I ask your patience and understanding with the noise, activity and inconvenience.  I remind everyone that the only thing worse than a campus that is disrupted by such projects is one that is not and I hope that we can all “keep our eyes on the horizon” about what these improvements will mean for the working and learning environment. These projects continue the most significant capital investment in the campus in about 40 years.  I believe that the biggest impacts will be felt in the following areas:

  • move into Old Main, except 2nd and 3rd floors of south wing;
  • concourse renovation;
  • food-service renovations in the lobby of JFT (a CAS project);
  • floor abatement and replacement in JFT (selected floors);
  • replacement of the Library roof in preparation for the interior remodeling that will begin next winter;
  • upgrades to the electrical distribution system that will result in excavation and related work near Bouton Hall, Old Library, and along Route 32;
  • intensive renovation of Crispell Hall, scheduled to conclude in time for students to move in for the start of fall semester, along with landscaping in the Hasbrouck complex; both of these are off the beaten path for most faculty and staff and will be less noticeable than others.

The Concourse and Hasbrouck projects result directly from the landscape master plan initiative, and both projects will continue in the fall.  For all projects, affected employees and units will be notified in advance.

As the academic year draws to a close, I thank everyone for your tremendous work this year and your obvious dedication to our students and their education, and all the other work we take on to thrive as an institution of higher learning.  I continue to be in awe of the collective accomplishments of the College.  I am grateful to all for sharing your ideas and suggestions (and your concerns) and for your patience as we worked to address a very difficult budgetary challenge.  I am keenly aware of the morale and other impacts of working through this difficulty, and am impressed but not surprised that we have sustained a clear focus on our most important work throughout—educating our students.  I am sure that we all look forward to moving in more positive directions next year.  At a personal level, I greatly appreciate the patient support and guidance that so many of you have given me as Interim President this year.

I wish everyone a productive and enjoyable summer.  Thank you for your great work and your commitment to this institution and our students.

Donald P. Christian
Interim President