President's Convocation Message, Fall 2015

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the official opening of the York College 2015-2016 Academic Year! Let me extend a special welcome to our new faculty colleagues as well as new administrators and support staff. I look forward to your contributions to the academic enterprise as you join in helping to teach, nurture and mentor our students to their highest potential.

Welcome Students

          I am delighted to see all of you; and I extend a special welcome to our first year students – the Class of 2019! Thank you students, for choosing York for your higher education and please know that all of us are here to help you succeed. Please connect with your professors, our administrators, your fellow students and please feel free to make an appointment to see me on one of my Open Fridays so you can share with me your concerns and suggestions. Let me offer a special welcome to all of our merit scholars, who as a result of your outstanding academic achievements and the kindness of our York College Foundation, will have support by way of tuition assistance throughout your four years at York College with the only requirement being that you maintain your high GPA. Let me also welcome York College Dreamers, eightin number. I also want to welcome our new Chinese exchange students, a small cohort of two, who joined us this semester through the efforts of Dr. Chin Pin-Hsu and American Association State Colleges and Universities and our partnership with WenzhouUniversity and Longdong University. Students, you may be interested in knowing that in response to the survey conducted at orientation, 97% of you responded that you are excited about joining the York College community. That excitement is demonstrated as well by the 151 of you who participated last week in the pizza party that launched the freshmen year reader program-the book Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele.

Welcome

At this time, I want to endorse the congratulations offered by the provost to all the faculty who have received tenure and promotions as well as welcome back all of those who are returning from leaves. Let me acknowledge Dr. Ashton, our new caucus leader and Dr. Rooney, the outgoing caucus leader, Mr. Fahad Azad, the new president of the SGA, and Mr. Scott Shiedlower, the new PSC Chapter Chair. Heartfelt thanks to those faculty and staff that have retired during the course of the last academic year and to wish them health and happiness in retirement—Whaley, Rich, Hall, Cline, Divale, Beckles, Freeman, Givens, Lau-Quan, Watson, Walker Johnson, Murphy, Williams, Dempsey Patton, Stern and Tyson who are on Travia leave.

          College Community, I ask that we pause for a minute for our colleague who passed away after a brief illness. Professor Tim Corkery graduated from York College in 1983 as a Speech Communication major.  He also held a Master’s in Social Work, earned at Fordham University.  At the time of his death, he was the Coordinator of the Speech Program within the Department of Performing & Fine Arts.  For the past several years he served as the Senate Parliamentarian, a position for which he was well suited.  He had considerable experience as a debate coach, taught a course in argumentation, and possessed a well-worn copy of Robert’s Rules of Order (moment of silence).

The State of the College

          Let me now provide, as I usually do, the state of the college. In these remarks I will be relying on my letter to Chancellor Milliken dated June 25, 2015 in which I detailed the assessment of the College at the close of the academic year focusing on four categories: leadership achievements, student outcomes, fiscal stability including enrollment and fundraising, and other milestones.

 Leadership Achievements

  1.     Two new masters programs approved—Physician Assistant and Pharmaceutical Sciences;
  2.     National Accreditation for the Clinical Laboratory Science Program through 2020;
  3.     Faculty scholarship and research efforts continue apace as exemplified by Professors Dana Fusco and George White  received a $25,000 planning grant from the Teagle Foundation;

Professor Ratan Dhar also mentored his students to a $50,000  DEP funded research to explore the vexing problem of flooding in Southeast Queens; and

Professor Timothy Amhrein was awarded a Distinguished CUNY  Fellowship at the Advanced Research Collaborative at the Graduate School beginning January 2016; and

Professors Michael Sharpe and Elizabeth Alter were awarded the Feliks Gross Award for Outstanding Scholarship (highest CUNY wide award for Assistant Professors in recognition of their scholarship.

Professor Nazrul Khandaker, was awarded NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project for what used to be known as the SEMAA program here at York. This is just a sampling.

Student Outcomes

Among our proudest moments are:

  1.     In May 2015, graduating our largest class of 1,178;
  2.     Our valedictorian was 19 year old Muhaned Mohamed, the fourth in his family of five to graduate from York, a double major in Chemistry and Psychology, a York College Merit Scholar, an active researcher and tutor, a senator, an athlete and President of the York College Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science Club, a breathtaking set of accomplishments! He was joined by two top scholars representing the School of Business, Amina Sutherland and the School of Health Sciences, Kristina Nickoless;
  3.     Bianca Brown, Class of 2015, has been accepted into Brown University where she will pursue a Ph.D. in environmental biology;
  4.     In March 2015, a delegation of about 30 York College students and faculty administrators led by Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Ron Daniels journeyed to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. They returned transformed by the experience and many are now turning that experience into active engagement on our campus.  

Fiscal Stability/Enrollment/Fundraising

  1.     At the close of our budget year, the college continued to maintain a sound fiscal environment with a balanced budget and a continuing reserve of 3%. The upcoming year will present some challenges that I will address in the goals for next year;
  2.     In the fundraising arena, the Office of Advancement reports having secured a total of $1.23 million dollars during the last reporting year with a benchmark achievement of the naming of the Leslie Lewis-Jack Schlein Professorship in Natural Sciences having secured $750,000 of pledges and gifts to date;
  3.     Our enrollment was and is strong. In 2014-2015 we had a headcount 8,542 and for the upcoming year we are expecting that number to reach our target at 8590.

Other Milestones

Four important other milestones were achieved this year:

  1.     The first new York College Charter since 1986 was approved and went into effect on June 29, 2015;
  2.     For the year ending September 30, 2014, the York College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) helped clients to secure over $21M in financing, earning us the top rank in New York City;
  3.     We successfully launched an Employee Recognition and Rewards program where we celebrated 177 employees for 5 to 43 years of service on July 16. A second, small event is scheduled for October 1st for those who were unable to attend on July 16th.
  4.     A personal point of pride is York’s model of good citizenship through our participation in the CUNY Campaign. This year, York once again exceeded its goal, raising $38,951, more than any other of the CUNY campuses.

Looking to the Future

          And what will the year 2015-2016 portend for York College? In order to answer that question, let me invite you to read closely and carefully the recent news item sent out from the CUNY Chancellor Milliken in which he chronicles the achievements of the completed academic year and adumbrates the goals for the upcoming year and beyond. Among the highest priorities he includes—degree completion; acceleration and expansion of online programs; global perspective and practice in research and teaching; the expansion of internships and other experiential and learning protocols.

          And so at York, our goals this year will include the following:

  1.     Improve retention and graduation rates
  2.      We will work on a menu of activities including intrusive advisement to encourage more 15 credits per semester;  
  3.     Scheduling, greater participation of freshmen in first year activities;
  4.      Broader participation in experiential opportunities like honors program, undergraduate research, etc.;  
  5.     And quite importantly focusing across the board on improved customer service delivery to students.
  6.     Expand Undergraduate offerings
  7.      Explore new program across disciplines;
  8.     Several groups are already generating ideas;
  9.      Develop and offering on-line courses and programs.
  10.     Expand Master’s degree programs relying on technology for program delivery
  11.      Nursing;
  12.     Social Work;
  13.      Accounting and Business.
  14.     Improving Facilities
  15.      Academic Village and Conference Center will continue to be our main focus with our legislators and CUNY Central. In the meantime, we will continue the obvious critical maintenance needed as you will see from the scaffolding around the Academic Core Building and the displacement that is occurring in the Performing Arts parking lot. These extensive repairs will continue over the academic year and we will continue to keep you updated and ask for your cooperation and patience on these critical facilities upgrades and repairs.
  16.     Start-Up New York  Initiatives
  17.      York Laboratories
  18.     Boyce Company
  19.     Middle States
  20.      Early start for Spring 2018 visit
  21.     Kick-off for the work groups in October
  22.      Meetings

          So these are our goals for the upcoming year and conversations are continuing in various circles: with the chairs; with the Office of Academic Affairs; with Student Development administrators; with the Caucus and PSC leaders; with students and others. I will be posting this draft of our goals and ask that you send me your comments no later than close of business October 1st.

Closure

          I recently met with a lovely group of student journalists, who as the incoming editors and reporters for Pandora’s Box came to introduce themselves to me, a welcome first in my experience here at York. Equally welcome, during the conversation which ranged broadly around academics, the value of the York College experience, the phenomenal mentors and their own family support of their academic efforts, one student provided an unsolicited compliment regarding an experience in the Financial Aid office. This was a welcome change from what I sometimes hear about, not only from this office but from many of our other administrative offices across the campus. That is why this academic year, we will continue our efforts to improve customer service especially in these high priority administrative areas which are our first, second and continuing contact points with our students. A small task group, which started this work last year, will be expanded and charged to continue and advance ideas that can be quickly and effectively executed. Stay tuned!!

          So ladies and gentlemen, members of the York College Community, you will hear from this detailed report that York is moving actively on a number of fronts to assure that we continue to be competitive. While there are challenges aplenty, we believe that we have the human capital to make some of these aspirations become a reality and to close the gaps on our weaknesses or challenges.

          Thank you!