I hope you all had a relaxing and happy Thanksgiving break, and that everyone is ready to finish the remainder of the semester in stride.
You may recall that one topic I addressed in my State of the College speech in September was the need for improved signage to help visitors find their way to campus. We will not be much of a cultural and intellectual hub if guests cannot find their way here! I am pleased to report that, as promised, through the cooperation of the State Department of Transportation-and with thanks also due to Megan Smailer, John McEnrue and other members of our Facilities team-a number of new green "cap and gown" directional signs have been installed throughout New Paltz. For instance, when you leave the Thruway there is now a sign at the "T" intersection with Route 299 telling you to turn left to reach SUNY. Other new signs clearly designate South Putt Corners Road as an Alternate Route to campus and mark the west campus entrance off Route 208. Old signs have also been moved to more visible locations. Taken together, these signs make it much easier to find the campus from all directions. The next step in improving signage will be clearer on-campus signs to assist visitors who reach our doorstep. These signs are scheduled for installation in early spring.
Speaking of campus visitors, let me thank everyone who participated in our successful Admissions Open House earlier this month. We hosted more than 5,500 prospective students and their parents. Their conversations with faculty, staff and current students are a key step in our efforts to recruit a talented class for next fall. So far, freshman applications are up by a massive 41%(!) over last year-evidence that New Paltz continues to be a "hot" school. Lest we get cocky, however, Vice President Eaton cautions that applications are sharply up all across SUNY because (a) more students are graduating from high school (a demographic trend that will last until 2012) and (b) students are applying to more colleges. And as we all know, the acid test of our recruitment efforts is not the number of applications but whether we ultimately enroll the smart and diverse students we have chosen to admit. I'll keep you posted as the annual cycle unfolds.
The Admissions Office has largely completed its conversion to Banner and counselors are reviewing applications using the new system. It's great that we have this first successful office conversion under our belt, because now we head into "crunch time" for a number of other administrative units, in particular Records and Registration, Financial Aid, and Student Accounts. The go-live date for the new my.newpaltz.edu also looms for Web Services. I'm impressed with the care and attention the campus "Banner Team" has brought to this complicated set of conversions. I know these dedicated professionals will appreciate everyone's patience and understanding as they juggle training with the new system, writing procedures and rules for that system, and practicing transactions in the new system-all while taking care of student and faculty needs in the old legacy system.
At our last meeting, some of you requested a Banner presentation specifically tailored for faculty. This could help us all understand the mechanics of the conversion and ideally familiarize ourselves with changes we'll encounter under the new computing system. Jon Lewit of Computer Services and John VanderLippe are working together to set up such a session, and we'll advise everyone of the date and content as soon as they are determined.
We held our fourth annual "Celebrating New Paltz" Gala fund-raiser on Sunday, November 19, at Mohonk Mountain house. We had a packed room with 330 attendees-and while we're waiting for a final tally, this year's proceeds will certainly push our endowment well over the $100,000 mark. At this level, the fund covers a full-tuition, four-year scholarship for a New Paltz High graduate who attends the college. Now I hope we can begin to endow a second scholarship for another Hudson Valley student.
On the capital side of the ledger, the Chancellor has asked for $751.6 million of additional funds, covering critical maintenance needs, strategic projects identified by the campuses (we of course designated completion of funding for Old Main as our top priority), and science and technology equipment.
Finally, the Chancellor is again making a budgetary and legislative push for a rational tuition policy. I believe this makes good sense, if well-designed.
As I noted above, all of this is good news. But it must also be tinged with a measure of uncertainty, for the FY08 budget will not be constructed by current staff in the Budget Office but rather by Governor-Elect Spitzer and his budget team, who face a substantial deficit, other pressing commitments, and who have promised not to raise taxes. As those of you who have lived through past gubernatorial transitions can attest, the year immediately after the election is often the most painful. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed even as I gear up to lobby on behalf of New Paltz and SUNY.
Finally, I want to note that our men's team hosted the first intercollegiate basketball game in the Athletic and Wellness Center on November 18. Coach Doug Pasquerella's Hawks opened their new home by crushing (or should I say undermining?) the Brooklyn College Bridges, 94-63. At long last we have a great venue for our teams. The bleachers were packed, and I got to throw up a ceremonial jump ball-which I blatantly tossed to our team's center! I'd encourage everyone to show their support for both our men's and women's teams this winter.Steve Poskanzer