Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 10/23/09
This month's report will be relatively brief because you already heard from me at length with my State of the College Address last month and I don't want to tax your patience!
Enrollment: First, let me thank all faculty and staff who participated in Open House on October 10-and express my gratitude in advance to all of you who will be meeting with prospective students and their families at our second such event this Saturday (October 24). We've learned how critically important one-on-one conversations with faculty are in convincing our future students why they should choose New Paltz. Our data show that current students and our graduates value the close relationships they forge with faculty. By showcasing how approachable and knowledgeable our faculty are even before students arrive, we are laying the foundation for such bonds.
On a related enrollment topic, I am more than pleased to report that our preliminary first-year retention rate (i.e., the number of freshmen who entered in fall 2008 and who returned for their sophomore year) is an outstanding 88 percent. Previously, our highest total ever was 86 percent. These numbers are even more impressive when we recall that this was a larger-than-desired cohort. It would have been very easy for such large numbers to translate into student dissatisfaction and departures. But because we all made an extra effort to welcome and acclimate these students and help them succeed in the classroom, they appeared to have stayed in record numbers. This augurs well for these students' continued success, leading to rising graduation rates. (You really didn't expect me to let go of that topic after my speech last month, did you?!)
SUNY Finances: While this is a topic I would be happy to let go of, I want to make sure you all have current information. If you have not already done so, please read Vice President DiStefano's recent e-mail sharing the latest news from Albany about the Governor's announced $90 million cut to SUNY and detailing how New Paltz is implementing the $6 million budget reduction plan for fiscal year 2009-10. As I said last month, we wisely anticipated further cuts in crafting our plan last spring; this latest slash was exactly what we saw coming. Because we have already made provision for such an eventuality, there is no cause for immediate alarm. However, the possibility of another mandatory across-the-board salary increase that does not ultimately come with the state funding to pay for such obligation should be cause for concern in SUNY Central, all campuses, UUP and the legislative and executive branches of the State government. The Vice Presidents and I will continue to monitor SUNY's financial situation, and of course, we shall continue to share information with you as it becomes available.
Fundraising: These uncertain fiscal times reinforce my past observations on the importance of private fundraising to our long-term strength. Last spring, the College Foundation engaged the nationally known firm of Barnes & Roche to review our entire fundraising operation and give us counsel on how to take it to the next level. They believe that the College has considerable potential in this area, but there are key measures we should take right now. These include:
- Doubling the number of major donors ($1,000 or more per year) as a base from which to build an even stronger philanthropic network.
- Reorganizing and reorienting the work of our fundraising staff, who will be spending more time on the road soliciting gifts.
- Identifying and articulating-in the most compelling terms-New Paltz's needs and the best opportunities for major private gifts to the College.
Along with the Foundation Board and the Development Office, the Deans and the Vice Presidents have been very active participants in discussing how fundraising can significantly enhance (even transform) the New Paltz academic experience. The Deans are eager to solicit ideas on this topic from faculty. After all, you're closest to what goes on in the classroom and have valuable insights into what would make our students' education richer and better.
With consistent focus and effort, the returns on fundraising are real and will be genuinely beneficial to our academic programs. For example, a bequest from the Smolen family has paid for the construction and maintenance of an observatory that will enhance instruction in astrophysics. There will be an official opening of this observatory in the near future.
Chancellor's Awards: As you'll recall, last year, I asked the campus to generate more nominations for Chancellor's Awards and other SUNY accolades. You responded, and we had six New Paltz honorees. Let's do the same this year as we seek to honor our colleagues for outstanding teaching, research and creative activity, librarianship and service. They deserve such recognition.
I hope that midterm exams have gone well, and that you have a Happy Halloween.