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Updates

Faculty and Professional Staff Meeting President's Report 12/9/09

Because there isn't any significant news since my November update 19 days ago, I would like to do something a little different with my report this month. As you're busy administering exams and grading papers, I'd like to make a more focused set of observations about the College's relationship with our local community, and to highlight the tremendous impact we have in New Paltz and the Hudson Valley every day through our volunteerism. This seems fitting because during the holiday season, we contemplate the broader world in the spirit of giving.

We should all have tremendous pride in the multiple and important ways our College, our employees and our students give back. But alas, not everyone on campus or in the community knows or fully appreciates all the ways we are engaged with our New Paltz neighbors. Consider that:

  • The College is a major contributor to the success of the year-old bus shuttle loop in town, providing $50,000 annually in fuel.
  • We provide fuel to the New Paltz Rescue Squad.
  • We provide fuel to the New Paltz Fire Department. We're told that this is something that no other public college in New York State does. All of these various emergency service providers work tirelessly on behalf of the campus, and this is a way we can assist their efforts.
  • Our University Police regularly reinforce the town police on an infinite variety of calls. The relationship we have with the town police, embodied by a co-jurisdictional agreement, is a model for our state.
  • Our police officers and other staff also provide self-defense training for community members, including local schoolchildren.
  • The College has an agreement with the American Red Cross to serve as an emergency shelter for Ulster County during disasters.
  • We annually host several community events, including a youth triathlon and a charity walk to benefit epilepsy.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of our students donate time and talent to community causes. Student organizations host blood drives. Business students provide income tax help. Our campus participation in Make a Difference Day is an established and well-recognized tradition. Last month, the Hawk athletic teams helped more than 35 New Paltz families rake their lawns and assisted with the Haunted Houses for Children community service project. The heartfelt thank yous I've received from local residents left me beaming. Certainly, our faculty and staff demonstrate the giving spirit when individual offices orchestrate donation drives for food, winter coats and toys. Our employees walk in New York City to generate support for breast cancer research. Looking beyond New Paltz, many of our faculty and staff volunteer their time in communities throughout the Hudson Valley by serving on municipal, library, civic, religious and cultural boards. You coach Little League teams, lead Scouting troops and preside over PTA meetings, service clubs and art organizations. This week, our campus Web site features the staff and students who are taking up hammers and saws to build houses in nearby Newburgh and Ellenville for Habitat for Humanity. And, of course, many of you have committed a portion of your paycheck to the State Employee Federated Appeal, which benefits numerous local, state, national and international charities.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And we don't want to miss anyone! To that end, early next year, the College will be sending out a survey to learn how faculty and staff are engaged in their local communities. Just as the College calculates its economic impact on the region and the state, we want to do a better job of assessing and trumpeting the level of civic engagement by our employees and our students. This information will be used in our next Economic Impact Statement, scheduled for release in 2010.

As we all know from our own giving experiences, the "return" on our generosity far outweighs the investment. It is in our daily interactions in the community where we shatter myths about the College and our students, myths that can lead to misunderstandings and poor relations. For example, sometimes it is claimed that we're an economic drain on the community. But, in fact, we contribute $274 million annually to the Hudson Valley economy. Or, local activists insist that the College is growing, even when the data we share with them demonstrate clearly that we have basically stayed the same size for the last 20 years. But more important, it's the face-to-face interactions with community members when we give back that make the most lasting and positive impressions about our College and remind our neighbors why living next to a college enriches their lives. The more we involve ourselves, the more we build on this foundation of good will.

So, at the close of this semester, let me thank all of you who make time to give back to your communities and for serving as model citizens and ambassadors for the College. I look forward to learning more about all of the ways you contribute beyond the campus to these worthy causes.

May the remainder of the semester go smoothly for all of you. Best wishes during the holidays and for the New Year.

Steven Poskanzer