Fall Convocation/State of the College Message from President Keizs

Welcome, all members of the College Community to this Convocation that marks the symbolic opening of the academic year.

To all of the members who are returning from the summer, I trust you are rested and refreshed and have already started to face the challenges 2014-2015.

A special welcome back to those of you who have benefited from leaves of various sorts—family leaves, study leaves, sabbaticals and other extended times away from the college. I have already heard some of the good things that have happened in your lives professionally and with family, and I share your joys.

I want to especially welcome back Dr. Richard Boris from his role as the Executive Director of the National Institute for Collective Bargaining housed at Hunter College. After many years absence, he has returned to his first love, teaching, and we are delighted to have him back in the classroom.

To those who have had promotions or achieved tenure, CCE, or other kinds of permanence in your positions here at York, a heartfelt congratulations. To our new department chairs, Professors Adefemi Sunmonu, Valerie Taylor-Haslip, Dana Fusco and George White, thank you for the leadership you will provide in your departments and college-wide. Congrats as well to Dr. Rooney, who has been re-elected as Faculty Caucus Chair and Mr. Shaikh Amin, who has been re-elected Student Government President. Finally, I want to say a heartfelt “thank you” to those faculty and staff who have retired during the course of the last academic year and to wish them health and happiness in retirement—Coleman, Rosenthal, Lui, McPherson, Machalow, Dixon, Bercowitz and Green, Hux.

Welcome to the Class of 2018

Let's welcome our newest cohort of students, the Class of 2018. I am delighted that you have chosen York as the place where you will develop into young adult scholars as you fully immerse yourselves in our learning community. Every year at this time, I charge the incoming class to facilitate their success by, as E.M. Forster says in, Howard's End, "only connect." 

As in Convocation speeches past, I implore you, new students, to connect with your professors, connect with your advisors and indeed, with your fellow students. Connect as well by joining any of our nearly 50 student clubs or run for a spot on Student Government; sign up for a Journalism class and become a reporter on our award-winning student newspaper, "Pandora's Box". This will enhance your powers of inquiry and develop you as confident writers.

Connect with the Scholarship Office located inside of Institutional Advancement; and connect with the Office of Career Services, which will help you locate job internships possibly at JFK Airport, in a small accounting firm or in a not-for-profit managing data. You will also find tutoring support in the Academic Achievement Center; and plan now, that in your second or third year, you will participate in a Study Abroad or Study Away experience or work with one of your faculty members as an undergraduate researcher.

Finally, Class of 2018, take advantage of my "Open Fridays," where you can make an appointment to share some of your joys and maybe some of your sorrows with me. As a community, we are here to support your success. You have only to ask!

The State of the College

Let me now turn to the heart of my address which will provide you with the state of the College. As you will remember, it is customary for me at the end of the academic year in June to prepare a report to the Chancellor highlighting our achievements and challenges.

There will be three components of this address:

  1. Our Achievements;
  2. Our Challenges;
  3. Our Aspirations.

First, our achievements which fall into three categories:

  1. Assuring Academic Quality and Good Academic Outcomes;
  2. Fiscal Management; and
  3. Enrollment

Assuring Academic Quality and Good Academic Outcomes

In the area of accreditation, York enjoyed a number of successes. Our Middle States Periodic Review Report was accepted with no recommendations; the next report will be due in 2017-18. The Dual BS/MS Occupational Therapy Program met Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) standards for exam pass rate. Nursing and Social Work programs were likewise successfully reaccredited this year for eight years.

Degree Programs

As well this year, two new majors in the Baccalaureate in Business Administration were launched in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and International Business. The Masters in Pharmaceutical Science Program was approved by college governance and has been put forward to the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs for review.

Faculty Recruitment and Scholarship

  • Seventeen new full-time faculty members were hired in 2013-2014, bringing the total to 204. Most of the new hires were in General Education subject areas.
  • Professors K. Lynch and J. Popp from the Department of Earth and Physical Sciences were awarded a three year Department of Energy-Office of Science grant in partnership with the Fermi National Laboratory (June 2013-April 2016: $291,000) to study the conversion of muons to electrons (Mu2e). This program is housed at York College and engages physics faculty and students to prepare the state-of-the-art sensors that are needed to study the article conversion. The York College team is part of a very large research group headed by the Fermi Lab and funded by DOE studying this particle conversion.
  • Professor Timothy Paglione, Chair of the Department of Earth and Physical Sciences, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) award on behalf of York College. The $1.74 million NSF program entitled, “AstroCom NYC: A Partnership between Astronomers at CUNY and the American Museum of Natural History” supports faculty and student research and instruction in astronomy and astrophysics (York, Hunter, NYCCT, BMCC).
  • Distinguished Lecturer Margaret Vendryes put the arts front and center with an exhibit at York in fall 2013, which was then picked up by the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and ultimately became the basis for a first-time arts installation on the busy sidewalk on Parsons Boulevard in Jamaica and now she is at the Schomburg in Harlem.
  • Three York College professors received Fulbright Awards: Dr. Selena T. Rodgers and Dr. Vadim Moldavan of Social Work; and Dr. Linda Perry of Business & Economics. I’m sure you have seen the banners and the ads celebrating their success.

And all of this and other activities led by faculty have contributed to outstanding student achievements like:

Robert Fernandez, a 2013 graduate of York, one of 30 recipients of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans and the only one from CUNY;

  • Like this year’s valedictorian, Katsiaryna Hud, an immigrant from Belarus majoring in Chemistry with a GPA of 3.98 and a goal of medical school who started York as a SEEK student;
  • Like the two hundred forty eight students who participated in our fifth annual Undergraduate Research Day. Pulitzer Prize winning author Charles Duhigg addressed the gathering;
  • Like our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, established at York. 168 volunteer students honed their interpersonal and professional skills by assisting low income, elderly, and disabled members of the community in filing their tax returns;
  • Like our vibrant Performing Arts students who offered theatrical productions including a reimagined modern Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center on campus.
    Those, ladies and gentlemen, are some of the primary academic achievements.
    Item 2 in our achievements is our Fiscal Management
  • Fiscal year 2014 closed with a surplus of about $1 million, after investing COMPACT funding in faculty as well as in counseling, custodial services, IT, HR and student support services, areas that are all critical to student and faculty satisfaction. Some 60 or so new hires were completed. The surplus allowed us to meet the goal of growing the College’s reserve fund to 5% of our operating budget, the maximum allowed by CUNY; (ARE WE KEEPING THIS IN?)
  • New York State has allocated a $30 million “down payment” in the recent budget cycle toward York’s stunning state-of-the-art, 160,000 square foot, Academic Village and Conference Center (AVCC) which has been designed and is shovel-ready;
  • York College’s STARTUP NY Campus Plan has been approved by the Empire State Development and we are now able to accept business plans from STARTUP or expanding businesses who wish to take advantage of the Governor’s ten year tax-free incentive. The focus will be: Pharmaceutical Sciences; Neuroscience; Biotechnology and Bioinformatics; Computer Science; Information Technology; Communications Technology; Health Care; Community Health; Supply Chain Logistics and Aviation.

Item 3 in our achievements is Enrollment

York continued to show strong and steady enrollment, meeting our targets while maintaining access for our targeted students with a GPA of 78 and average SAT scores of 840. Enrollment in fall 2013 stood at a total headcount of 8,307, total FTE of 5,953, with 994 first year students and 760 transfer students admitted. And ladies and gentlemen, the enrollment for fall 2014 looks like this:

  • First Year Students 996 including 228 SEEK
  • Transfer Students 801
  • Overall Student Population 8,484

Challenges and Strategies for Meeting Them: Three Important Challenges

  1. Retention and Graduation Rates Although our six-year graduation rate of first-time, full time freshmen increased from 25.6% to 26.2%, our four-year and six-year graduation rates lag behind those of our sister senior campuses. We must continue to strive for better outcomes. We are doing so in a number of ways through the first-year program, and a renewed emphasis utilizing the model of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. We engaged in a comprehensive self-study and are utilizing the findings to implement activities and programs that will foster improved retention and graduation rates. A task force on tutoring is developing recommendations. We are also addressing retention and graduation rate issues through the introduction of additional majors, increasing the number of spots in our health sciences programs, and through the student satisfaction efforts described below.
  2. Charter Review Prompted by our 2008 Middle States review, which recommended review and revision of York’s charter which had been in place since 1986 without revision, the College Senate convened a Charter Review Committee (CRC) in 2010. After a four-year collaborative process, the CRC presented its results to the College Senate in spring 2014. The Faculty Caucus, with student support, put forth amendments to the Charter that in my opinion nullified the work of the charter review committee. We are in the process of finding a way forward.
  3. CUNYfirst and Pathways The introduction of CUNYfirst and Pathways presented additional challenges in 2013, lingering effects of which may persist beyond the first year of implementation. We are all highly aware of the breakdown that threatened our registration process. We take no relief that others in CUNY were equally impacted but we have been advised by our CUNY Central colleagues that this matter is getting the highest priority. 

Now To The Future

  1. So that's the past ladies and gentlemen. What might we expect and aspire to for the future? Relying on our Strategic Plan which projects to 2020, anticipating the leadership of a new Chancellor JB Milliken, and calling on J. Collins and J. Porras who believe in BHAGs, that is "Big Hairy Audicious Goals", let me share with you some of the aspirations imbedded in our Strategic Plan.
  2. Expand our undergraduate offerings to include emerging fields;
  3. Expand Masters offerings: Pharmaceutical Science, Physician Assistant, MSW, and Accounting/Business;
  4. Secure the remaining funding to build a stunning state-of-the-art, 160,000 square foot, Academic Village and Conference Center which has been designed and is shovel-ready;
  5. Identify the appropriate partnerships for our Start Up NY tax-free zone businesses as I alluded to earlier;
  6. Create the planned CUNY School of Pharmacy at York College, following through on former Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s vision for a public school of pharmacy that would offer students from our diverse student body access to an affordable education leading to a secure profession.


So ladies and gentlemen, members of the York College Community, you will see from this 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.

I ask you to continue to be actively engaged in this journey. Dreams can be realized. Seven years ago, York College committed as part of the University Collaborative to become engaged in doctoral training. Five students entered the program, one in Physics and four in Chemistry. Last week, Dr. Hsin-Pin Ho who studied with Dr. Emmanuel Chang and Dr. Maciej Domaradzki who studied with Dr. Steven Fearnley, both in Chemistry- defended their dissertations. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a significant achievement and this gives me hope that our Big Hairy Audacious Goals can be achieved. With that, I bid you a good year; let’s continue to do good things at York.

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