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Presidential Reports and Communications

President’s Report
Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting
November 22, 2013

This week’s meeting.  The SUNY Research Foundation and the Governor’s Empire State Development Corporation – the state’s economic development arm – have scheduled a regional training session for campus leaders on the “Start-Up NY” initiative on Friday, November 22, 1-5PM.  Provost Mauceri and I will attend, and unfortunately, will be unable to participate in the Academic and Professional Faculty Meeting this week.

Former Dean John Harrington.  I have asked Paul Zuckerman to hold a moment of silence at the start of the meeting to honor the memory of Dr. John Harrington, retired Professor of Chemistry and founding Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, who passed away on November 6.

Symposium Openly Discussing Matters of Race, Gender, and Identity.  The Let’s Talk About Race, Gender, and Identity symposium organized by the Student Association provided a critical opportunity to bring our community together to learn and talk about how we move toward our goals of equity, inclusiveness, and tolerance.  A number of faculty, staff, and administrators participated in the event, including many who facilitated small group discussions.  The student turnout was strong, and underscored how much these issues matter to our students and warrant ongoing, rather than episodic, discussion among members of the campus community.  If you have not seen them, you may wish to note my welcome comments at the event, my message to the campus community after the event, and campus coverage of the event (here).

As outlined in his monthly report, Provost Mauceri along with Tanhena Pacheco-Dunn (Executive Director of Compliance and Campus Climate) and a group of faculty are organizing a faculty-led program to inform and guide other faculty in discussing sensitive issues related to race, gender, bias, and privilege in the classroom. I encourage your participation. I also hope you will join the effort I wrote about earlier this week to “reclaim” the message that hateful speech is not the New Paltz story by posting an uplifting, positive or hopeful message about the New Paltz campus on your door.  We are planning a workshop for student and faculty leaders for spring semester, new programming for orientation, and systematic efforts to discuss issues of living, learning, and studying in a diverse community. 

I will again emphasize a theme from my comments at the symposium:  the actions we take to become a better community must be owned by the entire community. No one individual or group can be responsible, and our sense of community must guide this work.

Open House and Student Recruitment.  I echo the recent thank you from Lisa Jones, Dean of Undergraduate Admission, for the tremendous faculty and staff support for the October 26 Open House.  About 1,500 prospective students and more than 4,000 people altogether visited the campus that day. The campus “showed” well. Prospective students praised the encouraging and knowledgeable professors they met, our well-kept campus, helpful student guides, and the excitement of viewing student work.  It is early in the application season and comparisons with last year are not useful because of the disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy in fall 2012, but our numbers are encouraging – currently well ahead of all other SUNY comprehensives. 

Spring registration of current students is well underway and enrollments are robust.  The spring transfer class is shaping up well, with numbers of accepted students identical to last year at this time and deposits up by more than 10% -- an encouraging sign because our efforts to attract well-prepared transfer students are constrained by lack of on-campus housing.

We are expanding our January online offerings to help students progress academically.  In our pilot program last year, 135 students enrolled. To date, 520 individual students have registered, indicating high demand and interest in these courses.

Park Point Housing Development.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for this project was accepted recently by the New Paltz Town Planning Board, an important step in moving this project to realization.  The Planning Board has scheduled public hearings on Park Point for November 25 and December 9.  Those hearings will not modify or further challenge the FEIS, but perhaps identify other issues that regulatory agencies may consider in final design and approval of the project.

My letter to faculty and staff about “Why We Need Park Point” posted on the College homepage provides detail about what this project means to SUNY New Paltz, our future, and our students.  Many of you are aware that one of the major points of contention over Park Point is whether it should receive consideration for a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) through the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency.  Student housing is eligible for a PILOT through this program because a shortage of affordable housing has been identified as a significant issue holding back economic development in the Hudson Valley.  By providing student housing, Park Point would relieve the strain that our students place on housing stock in New Paltz and surrounding areas, freeing up housing to meet other demands.  That is the public and economic value that the Park Point project provides, beyond student housing per se, and why it warrants consideration for a PILOT.

Budget Process.  Attached to this report is communication from Vice President Michele Halstead about the budget process we will use this year and early projections of the resources we may have available to allocate.  She and I will host a budget forum on Monday, December 2, from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Student Union Building Multipurpose Room.

Athletics Achievements.  The New Paltz field hockey team (14-9) captured its second consecutive SUNYAC title, beating top-seeded Cortland in the final after two overtimes and a shootout. In the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, the Hawks beat William Smith College 5-2 in the first round – advancing past the first round for the first time in the program’s history. The Hawks fell 5-2 to Montclair State University in the next round.  Fifth-year head coach Shanna Vitale was named SUNYAC Coach of the Year for the third straight season.

The New Paltz women’s volleyball team enjoyed its fourth appearance in the NCAA Division III Women’s Championship Tournament this year, capturing one of 19 Pool “C” at-large bids into the national tournament.  The Hawks tied their program record for single-season wins with a 34-7 record, including a 20-match win streak.  The Hawks lost 3-1 to Buffalo State in the SUNYAC Tournament final. In the 64-team NCAA Tournament, the Hawks edged Colby-Sawyer College 3-0 in the first round and Richard Stockton College 3-0 in the second round. For the second straight season, New Paltz fell to Clarkson University 3-1 in the regional final.   Twelfth-year head coach Matt Giufre earned his fourth SUNYAC Coach of the Year accolade. Please join me in congratulating our student athletes and coaches on a fine season.

Distinguished Speaker Series.  At our fall semester Distinguished Speaker presentation, Dr. Robert Thurman engaged a nearly full-house audience in LC 100 with his views and analysis of Tibetan culture.  Before the lecture, 48 of the College’s top donors and supporters and their guests had a chance to meet Professor Thurman and have a private tour of the current Dorsky Museum exhibition on Tibetan art.  A brief report on his presentation may be found here.

Our next Distinguished Speaker will be a SUNY New Paltz alumnus – especially exciting as we advance our strategic plan agenda to engage alumni more fully in the life of the College.  Ed Carroll is Chief Operating Officer of AMC Networks, a position he has held since 2011, following other major leadership and management positions in the cable industry.  AMC has had a run of blockbuster successes in recent years, including the series “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”  Mr. Carroll, a 1985 graduate with majors in Communication and Political Science, has been closely engaged with the College, speaking to classes periodically and helping to arrange opportunities for students.  Stay tuned for more detail about his topic.

Interdisciplinary Initiatives.  I attended a recent poetry reading organized by the Department of English and the Department of Biology/BS-DO/Pre-Med program in the School of Science and Engineering.  Dr. Marc Straus, a retired oncologist and award-winning poet, explained and read his poems, some written from the perspective of an oncologist, some in the voice of a cancer patient.  LC 104 was packed with creative writing/poetry and pre-med/biology students and faculty. On at least three occasions during the Q&A, Dr. Straus, noting that he has given hundreds if not thousands of readings, responded to a student question by stating something like, “That’s a really good question.  I don’t think I’ve ever been asked it before.”  I was very proud of our students, and impressed with the caliber of their questions and the way they asked them.

The Business/Liberal Education panel described in Provost Mauceri’s report is another fine example of the kinds of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary conversations and initiatives that we hope to expand.  I am grateful to the faculty who organized and participated in these efforts.

Fund-raising and Alumni Relations.  Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Erica Marks joined us November 1 and is already busy at work.  She and I attended a conference earlier this week focused on strengthening the working relationships of college presidents and their chief development officers in fund-raising efforts.  Several weeks ago, we joined some of our major donors at a SUNY event in New York City honoring top supporters who joined the “Chancellor’s Society” to recognize and celebrate significant philanthropy.  We are planning a major donor-cultivation and VIP event in conjunction with the Foundation Board meeting in December in New York City, and will organize an on-campus donor reception as part of the spring semester Distinguished Speaker Series.    

The Office of Alumni Relations is finalizing a list of candidates for the new Alumni Relations Advisory Board.  This is an action item in the alumni plan to support the College’s strategic plan initiative of engaging alumni more effectively in the life of the College.  This group will initially have 15 to 25 alumni, and will first meet in early 2014.  As I have written before, the College is not maintaining a relationship with the previous alumni association, because the structure and incorporation of that group is inconsistent with SUNY guidelines for alumni organizations, and its focus has been narrowly developed to serve its members in the immediate area.  This has resulted in limited meaningful interaction with the College, little support of institutional goals, and little connection with alumni in other parts of the United States and the world.

External activities.  A small group of faculty and administrators traveled recently to the Center for Discovery in Harris, NY (Sullivan County) to explore possible collaborations that involve faculty research opportunities, new or expanded internships and other partnerships in fields as diverse as communication disorders, music therapy, theatre, and mechanical engineering, and possible academic program initiatives.  The Center is a residential facility for youth and adults with severe physical and developmental disabilities, and is one of the largest employers in Sullivan County.

I’d like to call out and thank Dean Michael Rosenberg and Elementary Education/Literacy faculty for their efforts to build a new literacy program that will serve youth in the Newburgh community. This program is being developed in collaboration with Mount St. Mary’s College, the Newburgh Armory, philanthropist Bill Kaplan and State Sen. William Larkin.

I am interested in supporting initiatives like these that expand academic opportunities for our students and faculty consistent with our mission, and that strengthen our strategic plan goal of increasing our connections and contributions to the region.

We await word (due in early December) on our funding request through the Regional Economic Development Council to support our 3D printing/Digital Design and Fabrication initiative.  We continue to meet with possible partners in 3D, including manufacturers of 3D printing equipment, as well as businesses (3D printing and others) interested in joining the tax-free Start-Up New York initiative as SUNY New Paltz partners. I recently met with administrators at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at Albany along with economic development officials to discuss our 3D printing initiative and possible areas of collaboration.

To manage the burgeoning workload associated with our 3D project, Start-Up New York, and other government and community relations work, and in support of the strategic plan, Rich Winters, formerly in Undergraduate Admissions, has joined the Office of the President as Community and Government Relations Associate. In this capacity, he will assist me and Shelly Wright, Chief of Staff, in an array of projects and initiatives.  Rich, a 2009 New Paltz graduate in political science, spent three years as Staff Assistant then District Representative to then-local Congressman John Hall. You may learn more about Rich and his background here. He has been engaging county and state elected officials and their staff to share college priorities and enlist support for the campus.

New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, a strong education supporter, recently visited the campus to speak at a conference and to meet with me to discuss program offerings at New Paltz, faculty expertise available at New Paltz to help inform her understanding of key issues, our willingness to convene important regional events, our 3D Initiative, Start-Up New York, and other initiatives.

Holiday Party.  Please “save the date” for the annual Holiday Reception for academic and professional faculty at the President’s residence from 2 to 4 p.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 7.  Invitations will be coming out soon.  Sandy and I hope that you will be able to take a few hours out of this busy season to join us for some fellowship and conversation.

All the best to each of you as you approach the end of another busy academic semester.

Donald P. Christian
President