Thanks to all of you who attended our recent Town Hall meeting and other forums to discuss Board of Regents President Gregory Gray’s strategic objectives for the four Connecticut State universities. The discussion was informed and insightful, and I have used many of the general themes to help shape Southern’s response to this document. It is important to emphasize that this proposed plan is a starting point for discussion, and this period of review offers us an excellent opportunity to have our collective voice heard and align our own planning with a broader ConnSCU vision.
No one should lose sight of the fact that we are and will remain a comprehensive university, with numerous areas of academic strength, built upon the bedrock of a liberal arts education. As I have outlined several times in previous blogs, effective workforce development cannot take place without the liberal education that provides the critical thinking, the analytical reasoning and the communication skills that are all so vital in our continually evolving economic climate. But as we seek to win legislative and gubernatorial support for a plan that would potentially see an injection of major public funding into Southern and our sister campuses, it is also important to identify areas of strength that resonate with the state’s current and future demands for a knowledge-based workforce. In the long run, this public support would enhance our university as a whole, advancing our mission as a comprehensive, public university providing affordable access to higher education.
Dr. Gray is expected to release a more fully-developed plan for the system around the start of the new year, and I will keep you informed as developments unfold.
A BOOST FOR BULEY
In exciting news regarding the Buley Library renovation, the Board of Regents last week unanimously approved our request to use reserves and other monies to cover the $8 million cost of finishing the second, third and fourth floors. Pending legislative approval, this would mean that the complete project would now be finished by October 2014, with move-in likely during the following winter break.
When complete, the new-look Buley will offer our students the latest in media technology in a modern and attractive facility. The project includes the creation of an art gallery, as well as space for media collections, special collections and a reading area on the ground floor. The first floor will be highlighted by a cyber café and an “information commons” offering a variety of resources for students.
The remaining floors had been scheduled to be mothballed until extra funding became available. Plans call for the second floor to include classrooms, computer teaching labs and a Faculty Development Center. The third floor would be home to the Library Science Department and staff, and also house a tutorial center, offering support in writing, math and science. The fourth floor would be occupied by library administration and OIT offices.
I will update you when the legislative review is complete, but we are optimistic that Buley will be able to be completed in its entirety next fall.
The sciences also received welcome news from the BOR meeting, with the designation of the ConnSCU Center for Nanotechnology at Southern by the Board of Regents. This move opens the door for students and faculty members from the 16 other institutions in our System to pursue collaborative research and partner with representatives from business and industry.
The center has been operating for several years as a Southern-based facility, offering hands-on training in a field that draws upon several scientific disciplines – including chemistry, biology, physics and engineering. Our students use specialized equipment, including a state-of-the-art microscope that uses electrons to image materials on the atomic scale.
The newly designated center arrives at an opportune time, as our new science building and related equipment will offer myriad possibilities for our program to grow in new directions.
For example, the new center will soon include research in the nano-medicine field. Physics Department Chair and Center Director Christine Broadbridge says that Southern faculty from the departments of Chemistry, Biology and Physics will be working together to develop topics such as examining how drugs are delivered in the human body, and research and development for new medical devices and implants.
The center will also feature environmental applications of nanotechnology – such as testing products that can sense microscopic pollutant particles – and manufacturing applications of nanotech. These include creating more durable products and examining devices that can enhance the speed of computers.
Christine notes that a fellowship program affiliated with the new center is also being developed. Several students who participate in nanotech research at the center will be awarded a stipend annually, allowing them to engage in their projects without having to worry about gaining outside employment during that time. And they will also learn the business side of science, such as marketing products.
The fellowship program will be funded through a gift from the Werth Family Foundation, which recently contributed a record $3 million to our science programs.
As you have seen in recent campus wide postings, we are nearing the conclusion of our two senior leadership searches. Candidates for the Dean of Education have met with our various campus constituencies, and the search committee for the Provost position will soon be identifying finalists after interviewing potential candidates off-site last week. There are also 28 faculty searches under way, including nine positions that had been put on hold last year but were resurrected thanks to legislative approval. Of these, four will enable us to enhance our science offerings in areas such as bioethics, information security, biochemistry and physics.
Congratulations to Business School Dean Ellen Durnin, who received the Hamden Chamber of Commerce’s 18th annual Chamber Choice Award for Business Advocate of the Year during a reception last week. This is a very well-deserved recognition for Dean Durnin, who has championed our Business school’s cause on campus and in the community. Whether establishing new partnerships with the corporate sector, soliciting private support for the school and its programs, or seeking funding to provide business students, faculty and staff with the best possible facilities and support, Ellen has indeed been a tireless advocate – and raised the Business School’s external profile as a result.
CIO Pablo Molina was recognized as one of the “HITEC 100, Class of 2014” at the recent Hispanic IT Executive Awards Gala in Palo Alto, Calif. Pablo joined a list of notables representing the top 100 most influential and notable Hispanic Professionals in the IT Industry, including Timothy Campus, CIO of Facebook; Taddeus Arroyo, CIO of AT&T and Ramon Baez, CIO of HP. Congratulations to Pablo, who is already making his mark for his innovative, forward-thinking approach to technology management on our campus.
HAIL AND FAREWELL
Last week, head football coach Rich Cavanaugh announced his retirement, effective Jan. 1, 2014. I certainly concur with Athletic Director Pat Nicol, who said that Rich has “left an indelible mark on both our football program and our institution as a whole over more than three decades of service to Southern Connecticut State University.”
During his tenure, he did indeed guide our football program to newfound heights on the playing field, in the classroom and in the community, influencing and mentoring thousands of student-athletes along the way. Rich ends his career as the winningest and longest tenured head coach in program history with 170 victories. He recorded 19 winning seasons on the Owls’ sidelines, highlighted by four consecutive NCAA Championship appearances from 2005-08. Scores of his players earned regional and national recognition, and several went on to play professionally in the NFL.
Congratulations to Rich for a wonderful career, and for establishing a tradition of excellence on and off the gridiron.
The Holiday season is almost upon us, but we have two significant events to celebrate before the semester break. Our inaugural winter commencement ceremonies for undergraduates and graduate students will be held on Wednesday, December 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, in the Lyman Center. This is a fitting way to celebrate our fall-graduating students and also to reflect on what we have accomplished during the first half of this academic year. Information for students, their families and participating faculty is available at www.southernct.edu/commencement.
I hope that all of you enjoy a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving with your friends and family!