January 22, 2015

Posted in Campus Updates, Letters on January 22nd, 2015

Welcome to the spring semester! I hope that all of you enjoyed a relaxing and happy Holiday period in the company of your friends and family.  While this will be a busy spring, I am confident that it will be a productive one, as there are many talented people on this campus doing remarkable things. It certainly began in vibrant fashion, with a wonderful array of Welcome Back activities prepared for our new and returning students by Student Affairs staff and their campus partners. I look forward to working with all of you to advance our mission and ensure student success in the weeks and months ahead.

TRANSFORM CSCU 2020

Last week, in the latest online Transform CSCU 2020 Update newsletter -  http://www.ct.edu/files/update/transform-Jan-9-2015.html – the Board of Regents detailed how this initiative has now moved from the initial planning stages into the review phase. President Gray has asked leaders from various key groups representing faculty and staff from all 17 institutions in our system to review and prioritize the original 36 initiatives and determine whether changes or additions need to be made to ensure that all outcomes are value-added at the end of the day.

As you know, this multi-year year effort is geared to increase the accessibility and affordability of higher education in Connecticut and to position the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system as a major economic engine for the state.  The definition of success in this endeavor is not that each institution will ultimately look and act alike, but that we leverage our unique strengths across the system to further our individual and collective missions.

I look forward to your input as this important process moves forward.

WINTER SESSION

I am very pleased to report that our enrollment numbers for the recently completed Winter Session were up in all categories. The total headcount of 636 students represented an increase of 39.8 percent over 2013-14. This turnaround was achieved through a systematic examination of our Winter Session course offerings; targeted marketing; and a concerted effort to meet our students’ time constraints and avoid winter-weather disruption through an emphasis on online courses.

Ian Canning, Director of Special Academic Programs & Sessions, points out an interesting aside that 46 non-matriculated students took Winter Session courses – double that of the previous year – showing that we have clear opportunities to bring outside students in and engage them with Southern.

Congratulations to Ian and everyone involved in helping to make this program a success!

ENROLLMENT OVERVIEW

We are taking a similar systematic approach to recruitment and retention in our overall enrollment. With our spring enrollment currently down by 1.1 percent – the lowest among our peer CSU universities – we clearly need to take corrective measures internally to enhance our retention rate.

The numbers speak for themselves – we have lost more than 2,000 students since our enrollment peaked at around 12,500 six years ago. Given the state’s projected budget challenges in the next fiscal year, a new enrollment-based funding distribution formula being developed for implementation by the BOR, and the prospect that tuition increases may be capped at 2 percent, we will face significant financial challenges in the next 12 months if our downward trend is not reversed by next fall.

Recent surveys of students who did not re-register for the spring semester revealed varied reasons for their departure, but the length of time to graduation and the resultant financial burden of staying in school were consistent themes. As part of our Student Success Initiative, we will examine a number of areas that have the potential to be roadblocks to timely graduation, such as the alignment of our general education with our major requirements and the quality and effectiveness of our advisement.  As I have mentioned previously, now is the time to take a serious look internally, to make the university “less difficult to be successful in” for our current students. And we can do that by identifying, and then modifying or removing, the policies and practices that are tripping them up.

On a positive note, our enrollment numbers for fall 2015 are showing early signs of promise. The 5,865 freshmen applications as of the start of this week – boosted in large part by our adoption of the Common App – are already double the number of total applications for fall 2014. The final yield rate will be critical, however. And the potential inherent in these early numbers re-emphasizes the need for us to complete our internal repair work this spring, so that new students who arrive this fall are quickly engaged with the campus and have an unobstructed path to their chosen degree.

 A 12-MONTH CAMPUS

Another means of enhancing enrollment is ensuring that our campus remains active year-round with academic and student life activities for current and prospective students. We have excellent facilities, outstanding faculty and talented staff to showcase what Southern has to offer.

In coming weeks, for example, we will play host to the Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind – a creative problem-solving program for high school students – and the New Haven School System’s High School Fair, each of which will draw upwards of 1,200 students to campus. It is particularly opportune for us to engage prospective students from New Haven schools, as only a small number of our host city’s annual graduating class currently attend Southern.

During the summer months, new STEM workshops, a summer recreational program for children, and several athletics camps are planned – and it is still early days. With our renovated library and our new science building soon to open, more opportunities for community engagement will be at hand.

THINKING GLOBALLY

We are also creating new partnerships beyond our shores.  As you know, a key part of our mission is “preparing our local students for global lives.” And we can achieve this by increasing opportunities for study abroad programs and by attracting more international and out-of-state students to attend Southern and further enrich the diverse tapestry of our campus.

Last semester, Erin Heidkamp, director of international education, and Provost Bette Bergeron visited five institutions in China, with a view to establishing new collaborations there. Representatives from our social work department made a follow-up visit recently and a delegation of Chinese higher education leaders will visit us this summer.

This semester, from Feb. 4 through 7, Southern will welcome a 13-member delegation from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in Liverpool, England.

 In 2014, our respective institutions made a commitment to identify synergies in academic programming and faculty research, and to work towards the implementation of a wide range of cooperative and complimentary academic programs.

 The scale of this international collaboration is unprecedented for Southern, and our eventual goal is to develop a seamless connection between our campuses in a number of academic departments. 

This is a University-wide initiative which has received tremendous support from our faculty and Deans, and we look forward to expanding the scope of our international programming in the months and years to come.

FACULTY AWARDS

Congratulations to several faculty members who have received well-deserved recognition recently:

Professor of Anthropology Michael Rogers received $20,000 from the Leakey Foundation to further his field work in Ethiopia at an archaeological dig site where some of the earliest hominid remains have been found. One of the most noteworthy parts of this program is that Michael has taken small groups of students with him for the last few years – three have traveled to Ethiopia this month – giving them the rare opportunity to work with and learn from some of the top researchers in this discipline.

Ilene Crawford, Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, has been awarded a 4- month Fulbright Flex research grant. The Flex grant allows awardees to travel to their host country in three segments over three years, and Ilene is spending her first segment in Vietnam from Jan. 3 through March 16.  Her host will be the Institute for Educational Research (IER) in Ho Chi Minh City, which is affiliated with the University of Pedagogy-HCMC, the site of her spring, 2010 teaching Fulbright and with whom Southern has an academic partnership.

Ilene’s research at the IER will examine higher education reform in Vietnam in the context of globalization, with particular attention to how globalization is reshaping women’s literacy practices, and their lives, more broadly.

And last but not least, Troy Paddock, Chair of the History Department, has been selected for this year’s Faculty Scholar Award. Troy – an expert on German history – was chosen for his book, “Creating the Russian Peril: Education, the Public Sphere and National Identity in Imperial Germany, 1890-1914.”

The book – published in March 2010 by Camden House of Rochester, N.Y. – explores the German perception of Russia before World War I, and Troy explores how Russia was presented in various books, newspapers, and academic writings.

His work has received many accolades. Andrew Donson, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst scholar, writes in The American Historical Review: “The book’s main argument – that the image of Russia created by German historians and journalists was largely a foil for their own concerns about German, their reflection in a panoptic mirror – is sharp and illuminating. It is commendable that, rather than writing a purely intellectual history, Paddock traces the transmission of this image from experts to school textbooks and the press.”

As a result of the book, Troy has been invited to participate in a multi-volume project, Russia in the Great War and Revolution.

STUDENTS COMPETE IN GERMANY-BASED ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPETITION

Our Tourism, Hospitality & Event Management program has received a generous donation from the Kamran Farid Foundation to send a team of 10 students (two graduate, eight undergraduate) to participate in the 2015 Emerald Forest Global Competition at Karlshochschule International University in Karlsruhe, Germany.

They will be the first Americans to participate in this prestigious competition, which is designed for students to develop entrepreneurial collaboration and communication skills by engaging each other in a virtual, internet-based simulation game that models the management of a hotel business.

Jan Jones, Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies and the department’s Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management Advisor, will serve as a global team coach for our students, who will gain firsthand experience as they build a hotel, develop a business/operational strategy, prepare a trade fair, analyze their competition, and respond to crises. We are very thankful to the Kamran Farid Foundation for enabling our students to receive this excellent opportunity.

Mr. Farid is the co-founder of Wallingford-based Edible Arrangements, which crafts, sells, and delivers edible bouquets of fresh fruit from more than 1,300 stores in 14 countries. And he is a current Southern student in computer science, returning to complete his degree last fall after suspending his studies 15 years ago to grow his then-fledgling business.

In the true spirit of giving back, he has also donated $20,000 to launch the Kamran Farid Helping Hands Fund at Southern, aimed at aiding students struggling with unexpected, short-term hardships that make it difficult to finish their degrees.  A wonderful example of philanthropy in action.

BULEY LIBRARY

Bob Sheeley, Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, reports that – barring any delays with final safety and accessibility inspections – the renovated Buley Library should be released for to us for occupancy by the end of January.

Staff will move into the new building over the following two months. Information technology employees currently located on the fourth floor of the addition will be relocated to the fourth floor of the library. And several departments now based in the Wintergreen Building will be temporarily moved to Buley while Wintergreen is renovated to provide a new home for our Enrollment Management Services.

The new Buley will feature the latest in information technology, with its computer labs, cyber cafe, tutorial centers and classrooms providing the best possible environment for teaching, learning and research. It will house an art gallery, where we will be able to showcase the work of our students and bring visiting exhibitions to campus.  And it will also provide a proper home for the Tiffany windows that link Buley to its past, as it is remade into a library for the 21st century.

I know that all of you are excited to see this project finally come to fruition, after many years of delay and frustration. Please mark your calendars for Monday, April 20 at 10 a.m., and join me for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the library as we celebrate the opening of a building that will provide our campus with exciting new opportunities for learning and engagement.

MASTER PLAN UPDATE

Just across the parking lot from the library, our new Academic and Laboratory Science Building is now an imposing presence. Construction has been moving forward smoothly on this project, which is expected to be available for occupancy by the end of May. Move-in will take place during the summer months, and our development staff is working with area technology companies to provide the additional equipment that will be needed to utilize fully the new space.

This truly promises to be a landmark building for our university, providing greatly enhanced research and career-based educational opportunities for our students in the STEM disciplines. We plan to hold an opening ceremony for the new science building in early fall.  

Of course, the transformation of our campus is far from over.  There are projects currently in the planning stages, such as the Recreation, Wellness, and Fitness Center.  And we are also looking to the future. During the past few months, the Master Plan Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Provost Bette Bergeron and Executive Vice President Jim Blake, has been developing a blue print that will carry us forward into the next decade. This evolving plan reflects new opportunities for growth and academic focus.

YANKEES GREATS AT LYMAN

Save the date for the 17th installation of the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture on Friday, April 10 at 7 p.m., featuring New York Yankees baseball legends Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre. While Rivera is known as the most dominating closer in the history of baseball, and Torre entered the Hall of Fame after leading the Yankees to four World Series titles, both are impressive individuals in their own right.

Torre is chairman of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which he and his wife, Ali, launched in 2002 to help end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives through education. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Torre to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women and since October 2011, he has served as co-chair of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. 

Outside of baseball, Rivera has been involved in philanthropic causes and the Christian community through the Mariano Rivera Foundation. With its emphasis on youth-oriented programs, the foundation makes a difference in the lives of thousands of underserved children in the United States and abroad.

A portion of the proceeds from this longstanding lecture series supports Southern’s Endowed Awards of Excellence, a merit-based scholarship program. A limited number of remaining tickets are available at: https://www.southernct.edu/dls/

 REMEMBERING DR. KING’S LEGACY

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Looking back at Selma raises the question: Where are we today?

On Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 1 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom, we will celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy through song and spoken word in “Going Beyond the Dream: Creating Solutions for Today,” a program organized by the Multicultural Center.

 Pastor James A. Lane of the Northend Church of Christ in Hartford will deliver the keynote address, discussing Dr. King’s nonviolence philosophy and sharing solutions to address the troubling issues of racial violence and discrimination that still confront us in contemporary America.

DRIVE OUT EBOLA

Last week, I and the members of my Cabinet collected donations for the Drive Out Ebola Fund, during a Week of Welcome lunchtime event at the student center. Thanks to all those who supported this effort, which helped raise funds for cargo transit vans to be retrofitted as ambulances, stocked with medical supplies and delivered to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone, in West Africa, has been one of the countries most acutely affected by the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged the region. With entire families wiped out and inadequate and limited facilities to isolate and treat the sick, Sierra Leone is completely dependent upon foreign assistance for its beleaguered healthcare system.

New Haven has been a Sister City to Freetown, since 1997 and this special relationship places our city in a unique position to provide much-needed medical aid. At the request of Mayor Toni Harp, I am serving as an honorary chair of Citizens to Drive Out Ebola, which is seeking to raise $100,000 by Jan. 31, 2015. If you would like to lend your support to this critical relief effort, donations may be made at: https://fundly.com/citizens-to-drive-out-ebola.

ENHANCING WELLNESS ON CAMPUS

Southern, which is a lead sponsor of this spring’s Greater New Haven Heart Walk, was recently recognized with Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite Status by the American Heart Association for promoting employee health and fitness. The university was one of 1,896 worksites awarded nationally. A key focus of our mission is providing a safe and healthy environment for all members of the university community, and this is a welcome recognition for the initiatives that we have put in place thus far.

Our wellness efforts on behalf of our students will be further enhanced following the arrival last week of our new Coordinator of the Wellness Center, Emily Rosenthal, MPH, MSW. Reporting to Student Health and Wellness Center Director Diane Morgenthaler, Emily has been tasked with developing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to health and wellness education for students, reports Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree.  

“While we have a lot of great people and offices who focus on the health and wellness of our students,” Tracy says, “Emily will help us provide a more integrated and intentional approach.  It is my hope that she will lead a wellness team consisting of representatives from Student Health, Counseling, Fitness Center, Campus Recreation, Drug and Alcohol Center, Women’s Center, Multicultural/SAGE Center and relevant academic departments who use their collective expertise to shape a longer-term strategy for measurably impacting the well-being of our students. “ 

HELLO AND FAREWELL

Finally, you have just a few more days to extend your best wishes to Executive Vice President James Blake, who leaves us February 1 after stewarding our institution with care, efficiency and integrity during the last 18 years.

Jim’s successor, Mark Rozewski arrives Feb. 17 from the University of Southern Indiana, an institution that mirrors Southern in scale and has a similar emphasis on access and affordability. Please take the opportunity to welcome Mark personally to campus.

December 17, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on December 17th, 2014

As we reach the end of the fall semester, we look forward to celebrating our students’ accomplishments at Thursday’s commencement ceremonies for undergraduates (2 p.m.) and graduates (7 p.m.) in the Lyman Center.

As we congratulate our students, we can also be proud of our own efforts in helping them achieve their goals, particularly in light of the fiscal and other challenges that we have faced in recent times. Your commitment to student success is admirable, and I thank you all for your many contributions.

As we did last year, we will hold a university holiday celebration in January, when the pace of campus life is a little less hectic! In the meantime, I wish you a happy, peaceful and relaxing holiday season with your family and friends.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE

The recipients of the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll have been announced, and I am very pleased to report that Southern has received recognition in two categories: General Community Service and Education Community Service. 

Launched in 2006, this national honor highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement. Each year, the President of the United States recognizes higher education institutions that reflect the values of exemplary community service and achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.

This is the third time that Southern has been named to the Honor Roll; the previous occasions were in 2008 and 2009. This year’s application highlighted the following exemplary projects: 

For the Education Community Service award:

•          Gear Up-Reach Up

•          Southern Academy

•          Jumpstart

For the General Community Service award:

•          Southern Athletics Community Service Cup

•          Adopt-A-Family Food and toiletry drive

•          Ronald D. Herron Day of Service

As a public university, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to impact positively the civic and economic health of our state and our nation. Southern has stepped up to the challenge of supporting our community in any way that we can, and I am very proud of the efforts of our students, faculty and staff in helping to solve local problems. 

A long-standing example of our community commitment was held on Sunday, when more than 100 students and a team of staff volunteers joined the New Haven Police Activities League to collect and distribute toys to 1,200 city children at the Lyman Center. The annual Friends of Rudolph event has been held since the early 1990s and is a wonderful way for our students to perform community service, interact with local children and deliver a slice of joy during this holiday season. Congratulations to student affairs, residence life, university police and other campus groups for coordinating this fun-filled event.

NEW FISCAL LEADER

As I announced last week, we have found a worthy successor to our long-time Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, James Blake. Mr. Mark Rozewski is currently the Vice President for Finance and Administration at the University of Southern Indiana (USI), a state university of about 10,000 students. The Evansville, Ind.-based institution mirrors Southern in scale and has a similar emphasis on access and affordability.

During the last decade at USI, Mark has held a broad and deep portfolio, including oversight of accounting and finance; facilities planning; campus security; human resources; student housing and financial aid. His record as a strong, experienced and innovative fiscal planner will serve us well during a period of continued financial uncertainty for our university.

I thank Dr. Frank Tavares and his search committee for their excellent efforts in selecting a high-quality group of finalists for this important position. And I again extend our gratitude to Jim Blake, who has stewarded our institution with care, efficiency and integrity through 18 years of challenge, turbulence and transformation. Jim will be leaving us on Feb. 1 and we have all benefited immensely from his able guidance and deep experience.

Like Jim, Mark is not a newcomer to higher education, having begun his career in the Office of Physical and Capital Planning at Rutgers University nearly 30 years ago. Mark spent two decades at Rutgers, starting at the central Brunswick campus, where he rose to the position of Director of the Office of Physical and Capital Planning. Later, he served as Associate Provost for Finance and Administration at the Camden campus for nearly 10 years. During his time at Rutgers, Mark gained a great deal of experience in campus facilities development and, latterly, managing in collective bargaining environments.

In 2005, Mark moved west to Evansville, where he led the development of a campus master plan to support an eventual doubling in enrollment. This effort included the completion of a new library, a business and engineering building, a fitness center addition and a theater. He worked to realign employee benefits, in consultation with the campus community, and introduced a new retirement plan for support staff. And he developed initiatives aimed at preserving the institution’s affordability while providing needed resources to offset declining state support.

Mark holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Rutgers and a B.A. in urban studies/planning from the same institution. He is looking forward to returning to Connecticut, where he began his career as a research assistant at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority in Hartford.

We are indeed fortunate to have identified and attracted a professional of Mark’s experience, knowledge, integrity, and strategic planning and fiscal management skills. I have no doubt that he will transition seamlessly to Southern, while bringing his own special flavor to the next stage of our university’s development. Please take the opportunity to welcome him personally to campus when he joins us on Feb. 16.

FACULTY RECOGNITION

 A well-deserved recognition for long-serving Exercise Science Professor Bob Axtell came when the New England Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (NEACSM) executive committee voted to name the organization’s undergraduate scholarship in his name.

Bob has been teaching at Southern since 1984 and has been involved with NEACSM Leadership for nearly 25 years, including the presidency from 1994-97 and regional chapter representative from 1998-2001.  Now the coordinator of our graduate program in human performance, he has been an exemplary teacher and mentor to scores of undergraduates, many of whom have gone on to earn advanced degrees.

Congratulations to Bob on this notable honor.

ENROLLMENT

In my previous blog post, I mentioned the encouraging upward trends in our early enrollment numbers for fall 2015, at both graduate and undergraduate levels. While these trends are continuing, the outlook for spring 2015 is not as positive, as we face a potential 1.3 percent decline in overall enrollment, mainly due to students transferring or dropping out. 

Certainly, there is still time for the spring scenario to improve. However, it does beg the larger question: Why are students leaving – or not coming to – Southern, in significant numbers?

I have already mentioned our enhanced efforts in recruitment and marketing, which appear to be bearing fruit as we look toward next fall. However, now is the time to take a serious look internally, to make the university “less difficult to be successful in” for our current students. In short, we need to start identifying, and then modifying or removing, the policies and practices that are tripping them up.

Our Student Success initiatives, including enhanced advisement, more co-curricular opportunities for sophomores and transfer students, and increased emphasis on academic skills building will certainly help retention. However, these are new initiatives, and we must collectively examine our existing practices and decide if they are a help, or a hindrance, to student progress.

With a 2 percent decline in the available pool of Connecticut high school graduates, recruitment is going to remain a competitive process for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, the emphasis must not only be on bringing students in, but also on assuming responsibility for helping them make the smoothest possible progress all the way to graduation.

FIFTEEN TO FINISH

Finding new ways to improve graduation and retention rates nationally was the central theme at the Complete College America conference in Miami, Fla., that I attended recently with a delegation of Connecticut state legislators and higher education officials.

Against the specter of spiraling student loan debt, more colleges are adopting the 15 to Finish program – a campaign that provides incentives for students to take 15 credits per semester to graduate in four years. Studies have shown that students who earn 15 credits a semester – or a combination that equals 15 including summer classes – are more likely to finish college on time, earn better grades and have higher completion rates. As part of this process, students taking English and Math courses in their first year of college are also more likely to graduate on time.

Graduating in four years alleviates the need for additional tuition and housing costs – and therefore, more loan debt. And it gives students the option to enter the workforce and begin their career, move on to graduate school or take time off to travel or perform volunteer service.

Of course, non-traditional students may find that 15 credit hours are more than they can handle both financially and academically. So the key again, as I stated earlier, is to make the path to a degree clearer and achievable.

As we know, the accessibility of evening, weekend and online courses is important to working students. Planning and high-quality advisement are also crucial:  for example, in states such as Florida and Tennessee, colleges are developing “meta pathways,” using information such as past performance in high school to recommend programs of study to students that match their skills and interests and help refine their academic and career goals.

With this information, students work with their advisors to choose from an initial set of broad academic pathways that lead to specific academic programs. First-year students select a “meta major” in a broad area — such as STEM, arts and humanities, social sciences, health care, business, or education — and then narrow into a more specific major — such as chemistry, nursing or early childhood education.

Clearly, innovative thinking is the key to helping more students enter college and stay the course to complete their degree in a timely, goal-oriented and cost-effective manner. And with the CSCU Board of Regents recent policy requiring a 120-credit maximum on bachelor’s degree programs, it is time to seek more effective ways to help our students achieve their academic goals without conceding the rigor of a quality education.

 COMMITTING TO GROW STEM NUMBERS

On Dec. 4, I had the pleasure to join hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders at the White House, where President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden announced new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the president’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to assist students across the country in helping the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.  

Participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion; creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness; investing in high school counselors as part of the first lady’s Reach Higher initiative; and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Our commitment at Southern is to increase the number and quality of students graduating in the STEM disciplines, and in particular, to ensuring the preparation of effective K-12 STEM teachers. To this end, we aim to increase our graduation rate in STEM degrees by 35 percent and STEM teachers with initial certification by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

To achieve these student gains, we will focus primarily on three areas:

  •  K-12 student success in STEM disciplines through a teacher preparation program and associated initiatives. This will include enhancing STEM education for low-income, female and underrepresented minority students at the university level. Our efforts will focus on transforming the preparation of 21st century teachers by integrating STEM into various programs, including elementary education and school leadership programs.
  •  Our newly formed Office for STEM Innovation and Leadership, led by Director Christine Broadbridge, will generate opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to experience innovative research projects in STEM education, with the aim of translating this research into effective practices, particularly in urban contexts.
  • We will also expand our urban initiatives, including the mentoring of undergraduates to enhance their awareness of how to address the challenges of teaching in high-need schools. In addition, we will work to prepare students for success in business and industry, as well as graduate education and leadership in research and teaching at the university level.    

Enhanced success in STEM degree completion at the university level is a significant component of our broader student success initiatives, which strive to enhance retention and graduation rates across the university. Therefore, we are committed to graduating a diverse population of students with the skills and knowledge needed to compete and lead in the high-tech, STEM-oriented 21st century economy both locally and globally.     

President Obama will soon announce new steps on how his administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion, and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college. Today, just 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile, according to the White House.

NEW TEACHER-TRAINING PARTNERSHIP

Our School of Education has joined Yale University’s Comer School Development Program and the New Haven Public Schools in a new partnership designed to improve teacher training. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., recently awarded a $600,000 grant for the creation of the Collaborative for Developmentally Centered Education at Yale, and as part of this initiative, our students will take part in professional development workshops in Elm City classrooms.

Michael Ben-Avie, our director of assessment, says that previously these opportunities were limited to New Haven teachers. The benefit of this new collaboration is that our students will now be participants in the workshops, which will focus on coordination of child development. Michael says these activities will help our teachers-in-training “assess why students are not learning, and whether the problems are social, physical, cognitive, language-based, psychological or ethical.”

 Parallel to this effort, our School of Education will also be teaching a new course in the spring to apply this newly gained developmental knowledge. Combined with the new workshop program, this will help us better prepare our students to understand the needs of child and adolescent development.

 GRANT AWARDS

In more good news from the School of Education, we learned last week that a group of our students received approximately $100,000 from the Connecticut Board of Higher Education in Minority Teacher Incentive grants.  Nineteen Southern students received grants of $5,000 per year for up to two years.

The award also includes a loan stipend component, which they can use to help pay down any outstanding student loan debt they may have after graduation. The stipends are worth up to $2,500 a year for up to four years with certain stipulations. 

 Congratulations to the student recipients and to the faculty who nominated them for this competitive and valuable incentive program.

RESPONDING TO EBOLA

At the request of New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, I have been named an honorary chair of an emergency committee – Citizens to Drive Out Ebola – to help oversee a campaign to raise funds to supply Sierra Leone with vans and medical supplies.

As you may know, Freetown, Sierra Leone, has been a Sister City to New Haven since 1997. This special relationship places our city in a unique position to help drive Ebola out of West Africa.

The city received a request for aid from the Government of Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation. With entire families wiped out and inadequate and limited facilities to isolate and treat the sick, the country is completely dependent upon foreign assistance for its beleaguered healthcare system.

 The committee’s goal is to raise a minimum of $100,000 by Jan. 31, 2015, to purchase and send cargo transit vans to be used and up-fitted as ambulances and stocked with medical supplies. Donations to the fund may be made at: https://fundly.com/citizens-to-drive-out-ebola

On a side note, last week the first event in a new conversation series featuring Southern faculty discussing current cultural and social topics was held at our downtown location, Southern on the Green. In “Ebola: Facts, Fears and The Front Line,” John Nwangwu, professor of epidemiology, and Kathleen Skoczen, chair of anthropology, detailed what it is like to work on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic and explored the social and cultural impacts at home. John shared his first-hand experience working as a consultant for the World Health Organization in West Africa, where he and his team investigated the Ebola virus disease outbreak and provided control strategies to the government. Kathleen discussed the social, economic and political dimensions of Ebola.

A good attendance of almost 30 people attended the event on a rainy night – an excellent way to showcase the talents of our faculty to the broader community. Future conversations on global ideas in a local context are planned for 2015, including “Cyber Security Trends: The Anatomy of a Hack,” and “Limits to Labels: Are Eco-Labels like ‘Organic’ and ‘Fair Trade’ Working?” You’ll find more information at: http://www.southernct.edu/southern-on-the-green/social-series.html, or if you have ideas for future events, contact Southern on the Green Coordinator Alice Selverian at selveriana1@southernct.edu or (203) 641-8437.

November 14, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on November 14th, 2014

I begin this blog with excellent news regarding the School of Education.  We have received notice that the School earned a full, five-year reaccreditation from The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)’s Continuous Improvement Commission at its October 29 meeting in Bethesda, MD.  CAEP’s Continuous Improvement Commission reviewed 64 institutions nationwide under the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which is now part of CAEP. 

We are very pleased that our professional education unit was among those institutions receiving full accreditation without conditions, and we look forward to further enhancing our program in the spirit of the continuous improvement model that is at the heart of successful teacher preparation programs.

As part of this commitment, we continue to make progress in addressing the areas of improvement identified by the state Board of Education when it granted our education programs probationary approval earlier this fall. While collecting and analyzing data is a time-consuming process, we firmly believe that everything will be complete, and the matter fully resolved, within the next 12 months.

I thank Dean Stephen Hegedus for his leadership, and the School of Education’s faculty and staff for their dedication to maintaining our School’s time-honored standards of excellence. Southern has been the frontrunner in teacher education in our state for the last 120 years, and our graduates will continue to teach and lead in Connecticut’s schools.

ENROLLMENT

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the University’s biggest challenge this year is building our enrollment.  University-wide, focused efforts, including new initiatives to expand our recruitment sphere, are well under way.

For example, we have launched a new, targeted recruitment communication campaign to 35,000 prospective students from Connecticut and neighboring states whose academic profiles identify them as ideal applicants for Southern.  Our efforts to attract a more geographically diverse student body also extend overseas – Provost Bette Bergeron and Director of International Education Erin Heidkamp have recently returned from a successful trip to China, where they visited five institutions with a view to establishing student and faculty exchange programs.

Closer to home, the October Open Houses for both prospective undergraduates and graduate students were well-attended events that allowed our faculty, staff and current students to demonstrate first-hand the quality and value of a Southern education.

And while we are still early in the admission cycle, indications point to progress toward increases in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment for 2015. This prospect is supported in part by the new streamlined application process available through our adoption of the Common App.

Revised scheduling and targeted marketing for Winter Session is also paying dividends, with more than 625 registrations in the first week alone. Students are responding to the excellent array of choices offered by our faculty – 67 sections of coursework, 41 of which are online.

I thank all of those involved in our targeted enrollment efforts for their innovative thinking and teamwork in furthering this critical cross-campus initiative.

STRATEGIC PLAN

Following the Town Hall gathering on Oct. 24, members of the Steering Committee are now meeting with various groups on campus to receive feedback about the draft plan. I have also been meeting with stakeholders in the off-campus community to get their input on our current draft. Marianne Kennedy, associate vice president for academic affairs, reports that so far, reactions to the plan have been positive overall and some very useful suggestions have been received.

In December, the committee will be considering all the feedback and making some changes to the plan as a result. In January 2015, we will start fleshing out the plan in terms of action steps, metrics, persons responsible, timelines and resources needed. The campus community will again be invited to review and provide input.

LEARNING OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT

Southern is one of 68 institutions in nine states to participate in a new project by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) documenting how well students are achieving key learning outcomes in areas such as quantitative reasoning, written communication and critical thinking. Faculty members across the 68 institutions are sampling and assessing students work using a set of common rubrics and in doing so establishing the reliability and validity of cross-institutional assessment.

The Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Learning Outcomes Assessment is supported in its initial year by funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is part of AAC&U’s ongoing Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) initiative, which has already seen 16 assessment rubrics developed and tested by teams of faculty and other education professionals.

More than 2,000 colleges, universities and community colleges nationwide, including Southern, are using VALUE rubrics to assess student work.

BRINGING THE OUTSIDE IN

The School of Business recently hosted 350 high school students from around the state who are interested in majoring in accounting. Partnering with the School for this on-campus event were the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants (CSCPA), our admissions staff and accounting faculty.

In addition to being informative for the students in attendance, the event also gave the School of Business an opportunity to showcase its accounting curriculum. The accounting concentration is designed to prepare students for careers as professional accountants, and non-business majors can minor in accounting. In addition, we now offer a new Certificate in Accounting program for individuals interested in pursuing a career in accounting who currently hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college in a discipline other than accounting. This program has been developed in response to the tremendous demand for CPAs in the state of Connecticut.

This conference was a wonderful example of community impact and engagement, allied with workforce responsiveness.

In a similar vein, the 31st annual SCSU High School Journalism Day was held Oct. 24 at the Michael J. Adanti Student Center. About 300 high school students from across the state attended, hearing about the industry from several working journalists and professors of journalism.

Darren Sweeney, NBC meteorologist and journalist, was the keynote speaker. The program examined censorship of high school newspapers. It also included workshops with topics including: finding story ideas, public relations, source selection, digital media tools, high school press freedom, sports journalism, reporting on racially sensitive topics and social media reporting

And looking forward, on Nov. 21 and 22 the university will host the Fall meeting of the Northeastern section of the Mathematical Association of America, bringing more than 200 people to campus from community colleges and four-year institutions from throughout New England.

Mathematics Professor Joe Fields reports that activities during the meeting will include a student math competition in which almost 100 undergraduates will work – voluntarily! – on difficult math problems for two hours straight. There will also be workshops and presentations from well-known experts in the field as well as undergraduate students. Southern’s Math Club members are currently engaged in building an icosahedron – a gargantuan, three-dimensional geometric sculpture, to mark the event.

NOTABLE SPEAKERS

Another means of engaging with the wider community is through the continuous array of intellectual and cultural activities that we provide on campus. Earlier this week we had two excellent examples. At noon on Monday, during a forum marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, former U.S. Diplomat Nicholas Burns and a faculty panel spoke about this seminal event and its repercussions, which are still being felt today as we linger on the precipice of another Cold War. Burns played a key role in discussions about Berlin and Germany as a member of the U.S. State Department in 1989. The forum, coordinated by the Office of Public Affairs, drew more than 300 attendees, half of them high school students and teachers from Seymour, Shelton, Cheshire and New Haven.

Later Monday, our Research Center on Computing and Society presented an address by James H. Moor, the Daniel P. Stone Professor in Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Dartmouth College and a leading expert on ethics and artificial intelligence. Dr. Moore’s book, “The Turing Test: The Elusive Standard of Artificial Intelligence,” is recognized as a standard in this cutting-edge field.

And coming up, Wally Lamb, one of America’s most notable authors, will visit Lyman Center at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 for a special screening of the film version of his best-selling novel “Wishin’ and Hopin’.”  Lamb will speak prior to the screening with Andrew Gernhard, a 1999 Southern alumnus, who produced the film along with his Synthetic Cinema International co-owners and fellow alums Richard Lucas ’71 and Bonnie Farley-Lucas ’87, our director of faculty development and professor of communication. The screenplay is by another alum, John Doolan, ’09, giving this event a true Southern flavor!  All proceeds will benefit the SCSU Scholarship Fund: http://tickets.southernct.edu/eventperformances.asp?evt=771

SOUTHERN READS

Professor of English Tim Parrish’s reading/Q&A this week about his memoir, “Fear and What Follows,” served as the capstone event in a semester-long series of conversations, films, workshops, and other discussions around the book, which was this year’s Southern Reads selection.

As most of you know, the Southern Reads book is chosen by a volunteer group of students, faculty and staff to be given to all incoming freshmen and any other interested parties at Southern. Many First-Year Inquiry (INQ) courses were built around this text, along with campus presentations on topics ranging from PTSD, masculinity and social justice.

Tim has also been visiting several first-year classes and reports that his conversations with this diverse group have been “truly astonishing.” “Fear and What Follows” is the first book by a Southern faculty member to be chosen for the Southern Reads program; previous books have included Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, last year’s selection.

CAREER ENRICHMENT FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

Southern is now the presenting sponsor for the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s young professionals’ organization, PULSE. PULSE is a networking group of more than 500 young people representing a variety of industries and occupations. Administered by the Chamber, it is guided by a steering committee of young professionals.

Throughout the year, this organization hosts a range of social events and networking events, CEO roundtable discussions, educational seminars and community service projects: (http://www.gnhcc.com/pages/EventsOverview/).

As a benefit of our sponsorship, any Southern employee between the ages of 21 and 40 may join PULSE for free.  As a member, you will be able to attend a happy hour and concert that will be held today (Friday, Nov. 14) at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre.  If you are interested in joining, please contact Steve Marcelynas at marcelynass1@southernct.edu

Attracting and retaining young, energetic professionals is vital to the growth and success of New Haven – and Southern. I encourage qualifying members of our faculty and staff to take advantage of this exciting opportunity for career and personal enrichment.

CONNECT WITH SOUTHERN ANYWHERE

Now you can stay connected with Southern, even on the go, with the new SCSU Mobile, which is currently available for the iPhone (iOS7 or later). 

The new SCSU Mobile app was developed by the Office of Public Affairs for students, faculty, staff and visitors to provide access to important information from their mobile devices.  It provides instant access to a suite of helpful features including the university calendar, faculty/staff/office directory, a shuttle bus tracker, campus news, emergency contacts, dining hall menus and other general information about Southern. 

The app will continue to be enhanced based on future needs, and a version for Android users is now under development. For more information and a link to download the app, visit SouthernCT.edu/mobile.

OFFICE OF DIVERSITY AND EQUITY

Chief of Staff Jaye Bailey is overseeing the Office of Diversity and Equity while a search is conducted for a new director to replace Pamela Lassiter, now serving as the New York City Fire Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Brenda Harris, a recently-retired, long-time affirmative action officer with the state Department of Social Services will handle daily operations for the office, which will be fully staffed throughout the week.  Brenda will be assisting with searches, responding to complaints and answering general questions.  She may be reached at ext. 25899 or at harrisb7@southernct.edu

Dean of Students Jules Tetreault will serve as interim Title IX Coordinator. He may be reached at ext. 25556 or at tetreaultj4@southernct.edu

Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree will assume responsibility for the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion, which will continue its work this year. Members will receive notice of the next meeting date shortly from Dr. Tyree. Meanwhile, Diversity and Equity programming will continue through the Multicultural Center.

 ATHLETICS

 Our men’s basketball team, ranked second in the nation in a number of leading polls, earned a great deal of admiration for its play during a narrow loss last week to the national Division I champion University of Connecticut. Perhaps the most telling comment came from UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie, who stated that, based on their performance in the friendly encounter, the Owls would beat many Division I opponents. It promises to be an exciting season for Head Coach Mike Donnelly and his team as they seek to build on their record-breaking achievements of 2013-14, when the team reached the Elite Eight in the NCAA Division II Championships for just the second time in program history. They also won their first-ever Northeast-10 Conference regular season and tournament titles on the back of a school-record 19-game winning streak.

While basketball season is just beginning, our men’s soccer team has earned an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since the 2010 season. The Owls have a proud history, winning a record six Division II national championships, with 32 NCAA Tournament appearances. The current team, which reached the NE-10 tournament final this past weekend, was ranked as high as fifth nationally this season after opening the season with five straight victories.

Congratulations to Coach Tom Lang and his players for their achievements thus far. Come out and cheer them on this Sunday when they play the winner of Merrimack vs. Philadelphia at Jess Dow Field at 1 p.m.

We will conclude the semester in five weeks with our December Commencement ceremonies on Dec. 18 – at 2 p.m. for undergraduates and 7 p.m. for graduate students. Before then, we celebrate Thanksgiving, and I wish you a happy and relaxing holiday in the company of your family and friends.

October 16, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on October 16th, 2014

Last week, I was honored to be the recipient of the 2014 Athena Leadership Award, presented annually by the Greater New Haven and Quinnipiac chambers of commerce. The Athena award recognizes women who “strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and forge paths of leadership for other women to follow.”  

While such individual recognition is welcome, I view this award as a public acknowledgement of the collective efforts we are making to enhance our students’ educational experience here at Southern and expand our image in the wider community. Clearly, our work is not going unnoticed, and so once again, I thank you all for your dedication, creativity and innovative thinking as we work to raise our profile and ensure student success.

 LEADING OUR STEM INITIATIVES

 As I announced during my State of the University address, Christine Broadbridge has been named as the university’s new Director of STEM Initiatives.

Christine will be responsible for developing and leading new STEM collaborations both on campus and externally. She also will build strategic partnerships with statewide academic, legislative and corporate stakeholders to identify potential areas for program development and growth in the sciences and technology.

As you know, Christine has an exemplary background as Education Director for the National Science Foundation-funded CRISP Center, director of the CSCU Center for Nanotechnology and Chair of our Department of Physics. Her work has justifiably received widespread recognition.

Christine’s new role will help elevate our STEM disciplines both on and off-campus. And these are exciting times for the sciences at Southern, with our new Academic and Laboratory Science Building on track for completion next spring and new academic programs being developed. Meanwhile, our state continues to show growth as a center for research, promising future job prospects for our science graduates and new possibilities for partnerships. For example, last week I attended the opening of the new Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington  – the latest symbol of an industry that is growing internationally at more than 11 percent a year.

 STRATEGIC PLAN UPDATE

 Marianne Kennedy, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, notes that the initial draft of our new Strategic Plan is now available for viewing at:  http://www.southernct.edu/files/emailblast/20141014/goals-objectives-oct-13.pdf

A Town Hall meeting will be held on Friday, October 24, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Engleman C 112 for initial discussion and feedback.

During November, members of the steering committee will meet with various groups, committees, and constituencies to solicit feedback. This information will be incorporated into the final goals and objectives, which should be ready by January.

The spring semester will be spent developing the action/work steps for each objective, including metrics, timelines and resources needed. Then another round of vetting and feedback will take place before the plan is finalized by semester’s end.

 SOUTHERN ON THE GREEN

 In the early months of my presidency, I mentioned how important it is for Southern to become a more visible, active and integral part of the wider community beyond our campus boundaries. Already, as you know, we have established Southern on the Green, a suite of offices and seminar rooms at 900 Chapel Street in downtown New Haven that will enable us to maximize networking, development and partnership opportunities with the city’s key players in politics, commerce, education and the non-profit sector.

Southern on the Green is now available to faculty and staff for the following usage opportunities.

  • Meetings/Guest Lectures/Public Lecture Series
  • Seminars/Workshops/Academic Classes
  • Retreats/Open Houses
  • New Haven Green Event Collaboration
  • Networking/Business Development/Community Engagement
  • Advising Admissions/Recruitment

For questions on how to reserve a room or host an event please contact Southern on the Green Coordinator Alice Selverian at selveriana1@southernct.edu or (203) 641-8437.

 PARK CITY COLLABORATIONS

 As I mentioned in my State of the University address, I and members of my senior leadership team have recently been engaged in discussion with city officials in Bridgeport about avenues for collaboration with the Park City.

City leaders are eager to establish partnerships with a public university in areas such as education, business and environmental science. We have the expertise, and such partnerships will also help us establish a profile in Fairfield County as we seek to expand our presence there and enhance the recruitment of students from outside Greater New Haven.

In early September, Provost Bette Bergeron and Marianne Kennedy met with the interim President of Housatonic Community College, Elizabeth Roop, and the Department Chair of Humanities, Rebecca Adams. They examined existing articulation agreements and began to devise smoother pathways between Housatonic and Southern. Five programs were identified as areas of focus: business; interdisciplinary studies; psychology; pathways to teaching and early childhood education.

Drawing upon the experiences of recent senior leadership tours of Bridgeport, and following meetings with Mayor Bill Finch, we have formed three internal subcommittees on campus to focus on three key areas of potential collaboration:

  •  A “Business and Professional Connections” subcommittee, under the leadership of Dean Ellen Durnin, will be working on strengthening business relationships with the Bridgeport Regional Business Council; formalizing internship models with area businesses and identifying sources of funding.
  •  The “Connections with Educational Institutions” subcommittee will work with Bette, Marianne, and all the Deans to strengthen educational pathways with Housatonic Community College and build stronger connections with Fairchild-Wheeler Magnet High School and the Aquaculture Science & Technology Education Center, providing students with avenues to Southern in various STEM disciplines. 
  •  A third subcommittee will focus on partnerships centered on sustainability, which is a key area of interest for Bridgeport. We are working with Mayor Finch and his staff to identify space for the university within a city building that could be used as a Center for Applied Sustainability, and he has asked that Southern serve as the lead educational institution on various sustainability projects across the city.  With primary areas of focus being coastal resilience and carbon reduction, this could be a natural extension of the work of our Center for Sustainability and the Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies. 

 Ian Canning, Director of Special Academic Programs & Sessions, is developing a visual depiction of the various Bridgeport projects and a list of short-term priorities that the university will focus on this academic year.  This will be shared with the campus community, and additional participants from our faculty and staff will be invited to join the existing subcommittees.

 We anticipate that our work in Bridgeport will help shape future research projects, special topics, and directed work experiences in the classrooms here at Southern. And while not all students and faculty may travel to Bridgeport, they will still be able to participate by supporting individual projects through their efforts here on campus.

 THINKING GLOBALLY

 A key part of our mission is “preparing our local students for global lives.” We can achieve this by increasing opportunities for study abroad programs and by attracting more international  and out-of-state students to attend Southern and further enrich the diverse tapestry of our campus.

Each year, a significant number of Southern students study abroad – in places like Guatemala, Iceland, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Australia, and Ghana – and we have a growing contingent of international students.

With Erin Heidkamp installed as our director of international education, we are exploring new opportunities for engagement. In fact, this week, Erin and Provost Bergeron will be leaving for China to visit five institutions, with a view to establishing new collaborations there, and several visiting scholars from China will be on campus during the semester.

Southern has also joined 240 institutions nationwide in the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic careers.

And with 2.6 million students graduating with associate’s or baccalaureate degrees each year, it is clear that major segments of America’s young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and to participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues.

Here at Southern, we intend to do our part to ensure that students from all backgrounds and in all fields of study have the opportunity to gain this important experience.

 STUDENTS EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

 Michael Ben-Avie, director of assessment, reports that, once again, Southern students have exceeded expectations on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) in terms of educational gains on competencies that are in high demand among employers.

CLA is a performance-based assessment measuring skills such as critical thinking; problem solving; scientific and quantitative reasoning; and writing effectiveness. In fall 2013, 145 freshmen were tested on this rigorous national assessment and 115 seniors completed it in the spring. The seniors exceeded expectations in how well they performed on the test compared with projections, which were based on the CLA test scores of the freshmen and their SAT scores.

 By exceeding expectations, our seniors have demonstrated the value-added impact of a Southern education on their career preparedness – a testament to the quality of our faculty and the strong work ethic of our students. Michael notes that by this time next year, we will be able to compare the results of the seniors who studied in the previous general education program (AUR) to those of the students who studied in the new Liberal Education Program (LEP).

 EDUCATION INITIATIVES

 Good news from the School of Education, which will partner with the state Department of Education in the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) grant announced at the University of Florida’s CEEDAR Center Oct. 6. Southern joins our sister school, Central Connecticut State University, and the University of St. Joseph in Hartford, with technical support from the lead team at the University of Florida.

Dean Stephen Hegedus reports that the core goal of the grant is to design and implement pre-service curricula for all teacher candidates that will improve core and specialized instruction of students with learning disabilities and other special needs. The ultimate aim is to ensure that these students reach college- and career-ready standards in reading, writing and comprehension skills.

The School has also been invited to share a report with the New Haven Board of Education regarding the success of the second Gear Up Summer Academy, which was held on campus last July. Gear Up New Haven is a cooperative initiative between Southern and the New Haven Public Schools designed to support the academic and social/emotional success of students drawn from nine New Haven schools who this year are all freshmen in high school.

 Our goal at Southern is to continue to support and mentor this group of students for achievement through high school and prepare them for college admission and success. We will be following them consistently until they graduate from high school. When they reach the stage where they are ready to apply for college, there are federal funds available for Gear Up participants to attend a post-secondary experience of their choosing.

Our yearly Summer Academy strengthens academics for the students with a theme-based curriculum designed by Southern faculty coordinators in partnership with corresponding New Haven schools faculty. The program emphasizes cultural arts, language arts, mathematics, science, college preparation, and the strengthening of social skills and team building. Each week a different professional resident artist exposes all the students to a unique art medium such as digital photography and African drumming, and there are weekly cultural field trips.

This is a successful effort promoting achievement and real-world success. Stephen writes: “Our strength is in our team, in our belief in our goal of education for all, and in the contract to partner with the NHPS cohort as they move toward attaining their dream to succeed in college and beyond.”

 GUIDING STUDENT SUCCESS INITIATIVES

 In my previous blog, I mentioned the range of Student Success initiatives that we are now introducing to help enhance our retention rate and smooth our students’ path to graduation.  Two key leaders in this effort will be our new Assistant Vice Presidents in the Division of Student Affairs: Christopher Catching and Jules Tetreault, who both joined us last month.

Chris will focus on leading broad-based retention programs and services that will provide academic and transitional support to enhance student learning and promote student success. He will work with key stakeholders to collaboratively develop and evaluate strategic efforts designed to enhance our students’ intellectual and vocational development. Chris will also work with his team to provide a blend of support programs, opportunities and services designed to maximize students’ personal development and long-term success. The Disability Resource Center, University Access Programs, Academic Success Center and New Student and Sophomore Programs all report to him. Chris comes to us from Hofstra University where he served as Assistant Provost and Executive Director of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program. Prior to this role, he worked at Rutgers University as Director of Multicultural Education, Assistant Dean of Students and Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Programs.

Jules replaces Peter Troiano as Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, with a portfolio of providing strategic leadership and oversight for the engagement and wellness of our students. Working with teams in Student Life, Multicultural Affairs and Judicial Programs, Jules will  develop programs, services and initiatives that also foster diversity and inclusion; accountability, civility and respect; and service learning, civic engagement and volunteerism. Working with teams in Student Health Services, Counseling Services, Drug and Alcohol Resource Center, Wellness Center and the Women’s Center, he will provide oversight for a comprehensive and integrated approach to the health and wellness of Southern students.

Jules comes to Southern from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, where he served as Dean of Student Affairs. At that institution, he also served as Associate Dean, Assistant Dean and Director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs

Please make Chris and Jules welcome and lend them your support as they develop and implement these important student success initiatives.

 TOBACCO-FREE CAMPUS PROPOSAL

As you know, the Health and Safety Committee, chaired by University Police Chief Joseph Dooley has been working on a Tobacco-Free Campus proposal since February 2014. A subcommittee, chaired by Dr. Diane Morgenthaler, Director of Health Services, was formed to ensure that this initiative had representation from all groups of students, faculty and staff.

Part of our mission to foster a safe, healthy and respectful environment on campus, this effort was the result of a letter from U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy last February encouraging Southern to join campuses nationwide in maintaining smoke- or tobacco-free campuses.

As of July 3, at least 1372 institutions had adopted policies that eliminate smoking in indoor and outdoor areas across the entire campus, including residences.  Of those, 938 were completely tobacco-free, and 176 prohibited the use of e-cigarettes anywhere on campus.   

Along with cigarettes, Southern’s proposed policy would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes and tobacco products on university property, including smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah and any other device using smoke or vapor, Chief Dooley reports.

The policy would be designed to help reduce health risks and related employee healthcare costs; increase productivity; reduce campus litter and prepare our students for careers in increasingly tobacco-free work environments. The proposal will continue to be refined this semester and presented to Cabinet for final review after community input and discussion.

 DIRECTOR OF DIVERSITY AND EQUITY

Pamela Lassiter, Director of Diversity and Equity, will be leaving the university Oct. 31 to take up a new position as the New York City Fire Department’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Pamela will serve as a member of Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro’s executive leadership team and will hold the in-house title of Deputy Commissioner. Her responsibilities will include creating, implementing, assessing and gaining support for diversity and inclusion efforts agency-wide. She will also oversee the agency’s recruitment efforts and equal employment opportunity compliance.

At Southern, Pamela has played a key leadership role in several campus initiatives, including the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion and our inaugural Social Justice Week (see item below). I thank her for her efforts to ensure that our campus remains an inclusive, welcoming environment for all members of our community.

While we prepare to undertake a search for Pamela’s permanent replacement, Dean of Students Jules Tetreault, will serve as interim Title IX coordinator and Chief of Staff Jaye Bailey will oversee the Office of Diversity and Equity, effective Oct. 31.

In the meantime, please congratulate Pamela on her new appointment.

 SOCIAL JUSTICE WEEK

Our inaugural Social Justice Week will be held during the week of October 22 to 29. The full schedule is available at:  https://southernct.edu/files/emailblast/20141013/social-justice-week-2014.pdf

This weeklong series of films, workshops and forums will be bookended by two keynote speakers: Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a public intellectual and best-selling author on civil rights and popular culture; and Jane Elliott, internationally known teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer famed for her controversial “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise exploring the roots of prejudice.

Please take the opportunity to support this event and play an active role in enhancing inclusivity and civility at Southern.

MIDNIGHT MADNESS KICKS OFF HOMECOMING WEEK

Tuesday night saw an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,500 people light up Moore Field House for our first Midnight Madness event. Fans had the opportunity to catch their first glimpse of the Owls’ men’s and women’s basketball programs, which are coming off excellent seasons in 2013-14.  An array of contests and giveaways took place during the evening, including a slam dunk contest by the men’s basketball team, a “Hotshot” contest for spectators and a combined skills challenge involving student-athletes from both the men’s and women’s programs, along with lucky fans. Both teams will also held a brief intra-squad scrimmage.

Our women’s team returns nine players and four starters from last year’s squad that won 12 games and qualified for the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament.

The men’s team is coming off its finest season in school history (30-3) and reached the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for just the second time, while winning their first-ever NE-10 Conference regular season and tournament titles. The Owls are ranked No. 2 nationally in two preseason polls – and return 12 student-athletes from last year. In an exciting match-up to open the season, they will play the reigning NCAA Division I Champions, the University of Connecticut, in an exhibition game on Nov. 4.

Midnight Madness kicked off a full week of Homecoming activities under the theme #OwlNation!: http://www.southernct.edu/student-life/activities/officeofstudentlife/activities/homecoming.html

Homecoming has been a campus tradition for more than 30 years and is a wonderful way to celebrate our Southern community. I hope you will join me in welcoming our alums back to campus for our parade, pep rally, football game and more!

The weekend concludes with our Undergraduate Open House on Sunday. Our enrollment management team has done a wonderful job preparing for and spreading the word about this event, where we will showcase all that is best about a Southern education to almost 3,000 prospective students and parents. Our Graduate Open House will be held the following Saturday.

Sept. 11, 2014

Posted in Letters on September 11th, 2014

As we begin the new academic year, the return of our students inspires us to renew our commitment to their well-being and education.  They are the reason for our existence as an institution, and how successful we are in dealing with them is a measure of our dedication and effectiveness. 

 Our colleagues in Student Life have done a wonderful job instilling the Southern spirit into our new freshman class — the class of 2018!  Their energy and optimism was on full display at the New Student Convocation and throughout the wonderful array of Welcome Week activities. I thank all of the many individuals involved in preparing and implementing this program, which gave our campus a true vibrancy that we hope will extend throughout the semester.

 We will need that energy and enthusiasm as we work together to tackle the biggest issue facing us this year: enrollment. As you are well aware, there were unwelcome fiscal challenges during this past year, caused in part by a continuing decline in our student population. Tuition income goes a long way towards meeting our budgetary needs, and it is the students who pay the tuition.

 When tuition falls as a consequence of declining enrollment, our budget plans can go awry. So it is clear that all of us must do what we can to reverse declining enrollments and ensure student success. This will be one of our major challenges in the coming year. Enrollment is the responsibility of the entire university, not just the enrollment management team. We will be calling on many of you to join with us in developing new strategies for attracting students to Southern and for ensuring the success of those who enroll. Creativity and innovation will be our themes for this year!

 STUDENT SUCCESS

 Aligned with our enrollment drive is our effort to ensure that students receive the best possible educational experience when they arrive on campus. Following the recommendations of our Student Success Taskforce, several initiatives designed to improve the university’s graduation and retention rates are being implemented this fall.

 An Academic Success Center will be established, and located in Buley Library after the renovation project is completed. It will provide support for students seeking help in meeting the university’s academic standards, as well as for those who are already good students but want to excel. New Center Director Katie De Oliveira will start Oct. 17 and will develop initiatives such as increased support for success in math and writing, academic skills building and other learning enhancements.

 Sal Rizza is now the director of new student and sophomore programs, creating co-curricular activities for freshmen, sophomores and transfer students. Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree reports that research shows that students who have social and co-curricular connections to the university are more likely to succeed and are less likely to drop out of college before attaining their degree. Sal will be working closely with Nicole Henderson, director of our excellent First-Year Experience program, as we seek to improve the campus experience for second-year and transfer students, as well.

 A Commuter Student Lounge has also been established in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center, giving them a place to go between classes (our student affairs staff have observed that many commuters have been spending the downtime in their cars).

 Enhanced student engagement is also the impetus behind a change in late-night dining options this year. The food court in the student center will remain open longer at night, while Connecticut Hall will close earlier, exposing more students to the full range of student center programming.  Similarly, a section of Buley Library will remain open 24 hours a day when renovations are complete, again building the sense of community for our students.

 ENHANCED ADVISEMENT

 Another student success initiative has been the creation of several new advisement positions to support specific populations, including transfer students, commuters, second-year returnees and business and nursing students. An additional position – and one that we believe is unique in Connecticut – is devoted specifically to provide financial literacy and planning information for current and prospective students, as well as their families.

 As you know, managing finances has always been a challenge for college students, who are often on a tight budget and on their own for the first time. But these days, students are borrowing more than ever to pay their way through college. This has resulted in an explosion in student loan debt, which exceeded $1 trillion nationwide in 2014.

 Lew DeLuca, who served in our Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for 10 years, has been named coordinator of student financial literacy and advising. Lew will work closely with students and parents to raise awareness about financial literacy, student aid programs and scholarships, as well as the advantages of the timely completion of a degree. More information about this new initiative can be found at: https://www.southernct.edu/financial-advising/index.html

 NEW FACULTY

 I am very happy to report that 33, tenure-track faculty have joined our ranks this year. They are an eclectic group – drawn from countries as diverse as South Africa, Argentina, China and South Korea – and from states all over the United States.

 They are drawn from a range of disciplines, with a wide variety of scholarly expertise, including research in gender identities, reducing violence towards children, treasury management, urban sustainability, cyber-security, environmental ethics, stroke rehabilitation and social enterprise.

 Their talents will add to the rich palette of teaching, research and scholarship expertise in our academic community. We look forward to their contributions in our classrooms and programs across the university.

 GRADUATE PROGRAM PRIORITIZATION

 During the past year, we have been focusing on our graduate programs, devising ways to calibrate them more acutely to meet larger workforce needs. As part of this process, we have examined our curricular offerings, our instruction methods and our delivery and also reviewed whether the support for each program is what it needs to be successful.

 The public draft of the Graduate Program Prioritization Report is now available at: http://southernct.edu/academics/graduate/gradprioritizationreport_82714.pdf

 A Town Hall Meeting to discuss the report will be held on Friday, Sept. 19, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. If you have comments on the report or questions that you would like addressed at the meeting, please email committee Co-Chair Greg Paveza at:  paveza@southernct.edu

 Thanks to Dean Paveza, his Co-Chair Dr. Christine Petto, and the committee members for conducting an informed and thorough review of our graduate programs.

 SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

 We are already working hard on making improvements to the areas highlighted by the state Board of Education when our School of Education received probationary approval last week.

 While on the surface the news appeared worrisome, the board’s action concentrated on a limited number of issues, primarily involving  assessment of students’ knowledge, skills and disposition to teaching in our advanced, graduate-level programs and the collection of data that tracks our graduates’ progress in the teaching profession.

 Collecting and analyzing data is a time-consuming process. But fortunately, much of this work is already underway. Though we have three years to finish it, we firmly believe that everything will be completed, and the matter resolved, within the next 12 months.

 As I stated in my letter to the community last week – http://www.southernct.edu/about/administration/president/school-of-education.html – the reality is that our national accreditation remains in place and our ability to grant degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels is unaffected. The quality of our faculty in the School of Education remains excellent, and the quality of our curriculum remains outstanding. Our students’ programs of study and their path to certification will not be affected, and Southern graduates will continue to teach and lead in Connecticut’s schools.

 Working with our faculty, Dean Stephen Hegedus has implemented a comprehensive plan to address the highlighted areas of improvement in a timely and efficient manner. He is also spearheading an effort to improve the school’s systems and processes and reach out to its many constituencies through varied forms of communication. I firmly believe that this commitment to continuous improvement will only serve to enhance our historical position as Connecticut’s leading source of qualified teachers and school administrators.

 STRATEGIC PLAN

This fall, we will continue the development of our 10-year Strategic Plan, a process that will give us the opportunity collectively — faculty, administration, staff, students and community partners — to chart the future of our university.  Our planning draws upon four themes:

 - Delivering exemplary, accessible, transformative education in a student-centered environment.

- Creating and sustaining an environment that results in exemplary scholarship and innovative entrepreneurship.

- Providing exemplary, ethical stewardship of human, financial, technological and physical capital.

- Engaging with local and global communities through exemplary leadership and service to promote economic vitality and social justice for the public good.

 A Town Hall meeting to discuss draft goals and objectives for the strategic plan will be held in mid-October and we expect to receive all feedback by the end of the fall semester. As we move forward, the innovative ideas, vision, and energy of the campus community will be critical in our successful adoption of a strategic plan that is aspirational and visionary.

 TRANSFORM CSCU 2020

While we map the future of our own institution, Transform CSCU 2020 continues apace at the system level. As many of you know, this is a multi-year year effort to increase the accessibility and affordability of higher education in Connecticut and to position the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system as a major economic engine for the state.  Transform is currently in the planning stage, and it is vital that the System administration receives your input during this process.  

 As such, you are invited to attend a Transform CSCU 2020 Town Hall meeting, to be held Monday, Sept. 29 from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom.  You will be able to meet with members of the Board of Regents, BOR executive staff and Executive Sponsors for Transform initiatives. The will listen to your ideas and perspectives on the project; and answer whatever questions you may have about Transform.  At the close of the meeting, you will also be asked to join the Transform Team moving forward, and help this important program reach its goals.  

 In preparation for the meeting, here is some information you may find useful:  http://www.southernct.edu/transform2020/. The first document introduces the Transform 2020 process while the second is an update list of the 36 Transform initiatives and their executive sponsors.  Southern is already well represented as work commences on the various initiatives and I hope that you will take the opportunity to become involved in this important process for our System and our University.

 PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION ON CAMPUS CLIMATE

 Led by Pamela Lassiter, our director of diversity and equity, the President’s Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion has compiled a 378-page report that is now available online at: http://southernct.edu/go/climate-report With subcommittee reports on gender identity, race and ethnicity, religion and spirituality, veterans and non-traditional students, sexual harassment and disability rights, the report covers a broad spectrum of issues that are critical to maintaining a welcoming campus environment for all.

 Please take the opportunity to review the report and commit to playing an active role in enhancing inclusivity at Southern.

 Pamela has also been instrumental in the planning of our inaugural Social Justice Week, which will be held Oct. 22-29. The weeklong series of films, workshops and forums will be bookended by two keynote speakers: Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and a public intellectual and best-selling author on civil rights and popular culture; and Jane Elliott, internationally known teacher, lecturer and diversity trainer famed for her controversial “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise exploring the roots of prejudice.

 ATHLETICS DIRECTOR

 As you know, we have had several additions to our senior leadership team in the past few months. The most recent was Jay Moran, our new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. Jay brings with him a proven record of success from more than 23 years of administrative experience and leadership in the athletic programs of the University of Bridgeport, Albertus Magnus College, Saint Joseph College and the University of Connecticut.

 During the last decade, Jay has developed, managed and promoted competitive NCAA athletics at the Division II level as Director of Athletics at the University of Bridgeport. Before that, he led the athletics program at Albertus Magnus for two years. Under his direction, athletic and recreational facilities were updated and new sports established at both institutions. He was also a key player on several strategic planning committees at Saint Joseph, Albertus Magnus and Bridgeport.

 Jay’s experience is enhanced by a background in fundraising and working with community based boards as both a volunteer and an employee. For the town of Manchester, he has served as a member of the Board of Education and Board of Directors, Deputy Mayor and now Mayor. He is also President-Elect of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and former president of the East Coast Conference Athletic Directors’ Council.

 Jay has demonstrated a commitment to the success of student-athletes in the classroom, on the playing fields and in the community. I believe that this experience, coupled with his organizational capabilities and background in fiscal management and development, will serve our nationally recognized athletics program – and our university – well.

 STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY

 As you can see, we have a busy agenda for the coming year and it will take all of us working together to ensure that we achieve our ambitious vision for our dynamic university and become a leader in the Connecticut State College and University System.

 I will discuss these and other goals for the new academic year during my State of the University address, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 1 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. I hope to see you there!

 As we showed in 2013-14, we can accomplish a great deal, guided by strategic planning and driven by the dedication, energy, and talents of our faculty, administrators, staff and students. I hope you all enjoyed a refreshing summer, and I look forward to working with you in this new academic year to meet the challenges and embrace the plentiful opportunities that lie ahead.