Convocation Address 2018
Good afternoon everyone; and welcome to the official opening of Academic Year 2018-2019!!
I am delighted to see all of you, our faculty, resplendent in your academic regalia, student government members and our new students -- the exciting members of the Class of 2022. I extend a special welcome to our new faculty colleagues (already introduced by Provost Meleties), as well as new administrators and support staff, who have joined us at this exciting time in our history. We look forward to your contributions to the academic enterprise as you join in teaching, scholarship, and service on behalf of our students, thus assisting them in achieving their very highest potential. And on the subject of “highest potential,” congratulations to Ms. Danielle James on having been elected president of the Student Government Association! We look forward to working with you.
Students, it is indeed good to have you as our students and I look forward to interacting with you as the semester progresses. I encourage you all to keep apprised of what’s going on the campus not only by checking your York emails regularly and by the online calendar and via the Cardinal App. I also hope that you have started to read the book, This I Believe and participating in the Collaborative Learning Communities (CLICS) with your peer leaders. I invite all of the new students and any member of the college community to take advantage of my, “Chat with the President” sessions. Make an appointment to speak with me on any subject related to the college (see the college’s homepage for details). All of these efforts are meant to get you connected and to keep you connected until you cross the finish line.
At York, we believe in the power of connecting first in the classroom and then in the many co-curricular activities on campus. Join any of our nearly 50 clubs; run for a spot on Student Government later down the road; take a journalism class and write for the student newspaper, Pandora’s Box; choose an academic mentor and find a mentor amongst your peers. I look forward to seeing you thrive in college and most of all I look forward to shaking your hand as you cross the graduation stage in the spring of 2022.
The State of the College
Let me now turn to my traditional update that highlights our achievements and points to our challenges. In preparing my annual letter to the chancellor, I had the opportunity to reflect on the academic year and to report on the achievements and challenges. That exercise reminded me that while there are challenges, there are also points of pride. Let’s start with these:
CUNY’s Academic Momentum Initiative is evident on York’s campus in a variety of ways.
- Undergraduates with undeclared majors receive their academic advisement in the Advisement Center;
- Streamlining student advisement has incorporated several of the Academic Momentum findings: advising and guiding students to take 15 credit hours per semester and 30 credit hours per year;
- Consistently create and use degree maps for each undeclared major, and guiding each student to declare a major by their 60th credit as per new CUNY policy;
- To support the Academic Momentum Initiative, undergraduate programs have been assessing and streamlining course offerings;
- a new scheduling system is in place to ensure that courses are offered in the appropriate sequence and in a timely manner to support student movement toward graduation within 4 years.
This effort, led by the provost, and supported by the advisement center, builds on earlier retention strategies collaborative learning center. The advertising component utilized some of our outstanding recent graduates like Ariel Rosario ’17, Marie Jean ’18, and our ubiquitous “thumbs-up guy,” Aaron Samaroo of the Class of 2019.
On the new program development side, the School of Health Sciences and Professional Programs has maintained growth and momentum of York’s programs in the healthcare field during the academic year 2017-2018 -- even as we searched for our new Dean. Welcome, Dean Becker!!
- A new BS in Movement Science program received 10-year accreditation and was ready to accept students in fall 2018
- The Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) accepted its first cohort in the fall 2018 semester. The MSW program will help to fill a great need across the greater Jamaica community and throughout the city in keeping with First Lady Chirlane McCray’s Mental Health Care Initiative.
York faculty members continue to be active in their academic communities both in the United States and abroad presenting papers and invited lectures at prestigious conferences. Several of these presentations included students as co-authors. This past year, for example, faculty presented work at conferences in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Moldova, and the United Kingdom, France: China, Denmark, Japan:
Dr. Rishi Nath, who presented his work at the University of Paris; and
Drs. Kevin Lynch and James Popp, who through their Mu2e grants have multiple international collaborators including colleagues with whom they have co-authored published research papers
Dr. Linda Grasso’s, book, Equal Under the Sky: Georgia O’Keeffe and Twentieth-Century Feminism, was published to critical acclaim and
Dr. Tania Levey’s very timely and also well-received book, Sexual Harassment Online: Shaming and Silencing Women in the Digital Age. I am also glad to congratulate
Professor Tom Moore on his continuing research and reporting of the (historical) Battle of Brooklyn and the Maryland 400 Revolutionary War army unit
Dr. Vadim Moldovan who received his 2nd Fulbright Award
Prof. Ruel Desamero on his recent success as the mentor to a Ph.D. student who successfully defended and graduated this past spring and has received a teaching position at an upstate college; and everyone who created the successful Class of 2018!
Congratulations as well to two new “doctors in the house”: Prof. Margaret Alexandre completed her doctorate in Nursing Research and Prof. Juana Ramos, for her doctorate in World Languages, Literatures, and Humanities. Several other faculty members also published book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals; and according to the York College Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, faculty research grants this past year included:
- A Dept. of Defense grant – Prof. Louis Levinger - $508,473.50
- JSHS- Junior Science Humanities Symposium – Provost Meleties/Dawn Hewitt –funded by the Academy of Applied Sciences - $12,000 for the NY Metro JSHS and $12,000 for the Long Island JSHS
- NY Space Grant- Sub-award from Cornell University - Daniel Phelps - $12,000 and
- 13 PSC-CUNY grants, ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 to the following faculty: Margarita Drago, Francois Fay (no longer at York), Daniele Musumeci, Rishi Nath, Stephen Fearnley, Robin Harper, Nicholas Grosskopf, Dawn Roberts-Semple, Meredith Powers, Heather Robinson, Emmanuel Chang, Tom Marion, and Vadim Moldovan.
And we anticipate even greater achievements next year in scholarship and research as my colleagues on the Personnel and Budget Committee were generous in awarding the record number of 10 sabbaticals to faculty in the 2018-2019 academic year. I look forward to the scholarships they will share upon their return.
Student/Faculty Collaboration for Research & Study Abroad
The collaboration among various campus offices such as Student Development, Career Services, Office of Student Activities, Office of Academic Affairs and faculty, with the focus on providing enriching opportunities outside of the classroom, is yielding abundant fruit.
York College students are increasingly taking advantage of domestic travel and foreign study abroad opportunities with a total of 76 students participating outside and within the United States in places such as Bali, Indonesia and in Italy, China, France, Japan, England, Republic of Moldova, where Professor Vadim Moldovan took a dozen Social Work students; and Haiti, where Professor Margaret Alexandre took 7 students. On the domestic front, Professors Daniel Phelps, Ian Hansen, Selena Rodgers, Robert Clovey, as well as Occupational Therapy faculty, took students to Florida; Washington, DC; California; Albany; and San Francisco to participate in robotic mining competitions, an accounting conference, an OT conference, a social worker’s conference, a psychological conference, and the Circle of Change Leadership Conference. And of course, we are extremely proud of our students who participated in Governor Cuomo’s, “New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative.”
Strengthening the Foundation Board/Baseline Goals for Fundraising
The Division of Institutional Advancement continues its work of developing new revenue streams. First and foremost, Vice President Stokes is leading a campaign to educate the York community on the importance of giving. To that end, all our fundraising efforts will be guided by the priorities set forth in The Case for York College: A Half Century of Excellence, A Full Measure of Determination. Targets were established and the percent of giving per constituent categories are as follows: baseline achievements are:
- Board of Trustees 100 % Participation 83.0% participation
- Faculty/Staff 20% Participation 8.3% Participation
- Students 5% Participation 1.9% Participation
- Alumni 15% Participation 0.7% Participation
The goal is to increase these percentages across all categories. Other sources are being pursued, especially in the area of larger gifts; one is with Fred Wilpon and the New York Mets organization. York will be participating in future events run by the organization’s community outreach division to support veterans by encouraging them to attend College. York was contacted because of our ROTC program.
The Challenges & Our Plans to Face Them
Two major challenges that we confronted in 2017-2018 will continue to be challenged in 2018-2019. They are Middle States Accreditation and the budget. But let me start with the latter.
You have heard me from this very stage, and elsewhere over the last few years, discuss the College’s structural budget imbalance. As it relates to our funding, during the summer, a few of us including VP Thomas, AVP Perez and I, conducted a full review of data points of all eleven senior Colleges using the fiscal year 2017 year-end results. We concluded that York receives a lower budget allocation per FTE than peer institutions while reflecting a lower than average expenditure per FTE than senior College peers. As a result of these findings, we started conversations with CUNY’s University Budget Office and have asked them to review York’s funding allocation: the UBO has agreed to consider our request. Should there be a favorable action on this request, our budget condition would improve.
Actions Steps Previously Taken to Align Revenue with Expenditures:
- During the fiscal year 2018, (that is, academic year 2017-2018), York reduced OTPS expenditures by $1.5M;
- Reduced overtime expenses by 15% over expenses in fiscal year 2017;
- Achieved energy savings of more than 23% in each of the past three consecutive years;
- Infused more than $5M of savings accumulated over a decade into the College’s operating budget during the past five years in order to fuel the growth of the new programs, sustain others and assure we have the right staff to perform mission-critical functions.
This Fiscal Year:
Based upon current assumptions regarding resources and expenses, the 2018-2019 fiscal year will be more challenging than the fiscal year just ended. Our financial plan, currently in preparation, reflects a modest increase of 1.5% in enrollment as of last week and that is good.
Additional Steps Being Taken This Year:
- There will be an across the board reduction in expenditures totaling over $1 million, inclusive of OTPS and Temporary Services;
- Overtime expenses will be reduced by 5% over expenses in the fiscal year 2018;
- As required by the University, an expenditure reserve of $1.4M will be established in anticipation of a new collective bargaining agreement;
- The adjunct budget will be increased by an additional $250K to support increased faculty released time;
- A hard hiring freeze will be implemented on full-time positions in all categories except as required for compliance and health and safety reasons;
- We will redouble our efforts to generate new revenue through the capitalization of assets, philanthropy, sponsored research and the Related Entities; and
- We must increase the collection rate on all tuition revenues. On this latter point, the University Budget Office has agreed to reconsider reinstating the use of credit cards to make tuition payments.
Middle States Accreditation
Despite years of sustained college-wide effort in preparing our Middle States Self-Study, in June 2018, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) placed York on warning, with continued accreditation. The Commission’s response cited four (4) issues that must be addressed:
- organized and systematic assessments that evaluate the extent of student achievement of institutional and program-level goals;
- assessment of student achievement and communication of results to stakeholders; further development and implementation of assessment of general education is being implemented to achieve the deadline of March 2019:
- The Monitoring Report Committee, (Chaired by Provost Meleties with Dr. Debra Swoboda as the Faculty Lead), is charged with working with all Assessment Committees and writing the Monitoring Report to meet the March 1, 2019 deadline. Upon completion of the Report, this Committee will retain oversight of assessment at all levels as the Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment Committee;
- The General Education Committee, (Chaired by Dr. Timothy Paglione), is charged with data collection and analysis of the General Education student learning goals by December 2018 and to demonstrate how the results will inform improvement in the General Education program;
- The Academic Assessment Committee, (Chaired by Dr. Linda Barley), is to complete the work started by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness with each of the 15 academic departments. The Committee is charged with complete data collection and analysis of academic program goals by December 2018 and to show how the results are used to drive curriculum changes;
- Administrative, Educational and Student Support Committee (Chaired by Dr. Charmaine Cruise), is charged with completing a plan and to immediately enact an assessment cycle for each of the 70 operational units with initial results to be reported by December 2018.
This is intense, high stakes work. I am grateful to all the faculty and staff who have made the commitment to it.
Facilities with an Emphasis on Compliance
You have heard me talk about the proposed Academic Village and Conference Center (AVCC), still a dream to be achieved; and we will go to Albany in February and beyond to advocate for the $300 million needed to build this state-of-the-art facility. In the meantime, with millions of dollars granted to us by various city and state entities over the past few years, we will launch a series of multi-year renovation projects including a complete overhaul of the theatre, the pool, Faculty Dining Room and the elevators and escalators. There will be disruptions; stay tuned! Let me take this opportunity to once again acknowledge the support of York’s Student Government in providing funding for additional seating across the campus.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this speech, I received a communication from the Interim Chancellor of CUNY Vita Rabinowitz highlighting the fact that 8 Senior colleges of The City University of New York were among the top 50 public colleges in the Northern United States in this year’s, US News and World Report Best Colleges Rankings, released on Monday, September 10, 2018. This list places York at number 15 after Baruch at 5th, Hunter at 6th, City College and Queens at 14. Chancellor Rabinowitz, in her press release, notes the following “this year’s US News and World Report List of Best Colleges and Universities shows that CUNY is among the nation’s leaders in offering high quality, affordable education to students of diverse backgrounds”. She continues, “The high ranking of many of our colleges is evidence of our progress in increasing academic momentum and graduation rate and success in developing cutting edge strategies to help students achieve their goals”. I concur with her statement.
So, York community, let us continue with the “can do” spirit initiated by our founders; let us remain committed and true to our mission as we face the challenges outlined. Let’s continue with tenacity and engagement. And so students and colleagues, shoulder to shoulder, we will work to overcome the immediate obstacles we face. Let’s continue to do the best work we can and let us have a successful year.