Winter has hit us with its full force this month, disrupting schedules, making for difficult commutes and providing a challenge for those engaged in keeping our campus accessible and safe. With this last thought in mind, I thank our facilities staff, our university police and our residence life team for their herculean efforts during and after the recent succession of winter storms. Though the days lost – particularly Mondays! – have been frustrating for us all, we have been able to return to full operation quickly thanks to this core of dedicated staff members.
Last week we welcomed Mark Rozewski to lead our Division of Finance and Administration. Mark comes to us from the University of Southern Indiana, an institution that mirrors Southern in scale and has a similar emphasis on access and affordability. This familiarity will be an asset to Mark as he begins his career at Southern with a difficult budgetary outlook looming ahead.
Many of you, I am sure, read the news last week about Governor Malloy’s proposals to close a projected deficit of $1 billion in each of the next two fiscal years. Higher education has not been spared, and the CSCU system faces a $20.6 million cut, or $38 million short of what it is projected that the system would need to support existing programs.
If this projection holds, it will present significant challenges system-wide and here at Southern, where our reserves have been significantly depleted in recent years to offset a series of enrollment shortfalls and resulting loss of tuition income. As soon as I know more specifics about the impact on our campus I will share with them you.
On a positive note, our enrollment numbers for fall 2015 continue to show signs of promise. The 7,001 freshman applications as of early last week – boosted in large part by our adoption of the Common App – are almost 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 curricular and process 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.
ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT AVP SEARCH
A search committee led by Elena Schmitt, chair of the Department of World Languages and Literatures, is commencing a national search for a new Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management. A candidate pool will be assembled by late March, with finalist interviews on campus anticipated for April. Richard Riccardi, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness, is overseeing our enrollment initiatives on an interim basis.
Given our enrollment challenges, and the changing landscape of student recruitment, this is clearly a critical position. National projections show that, while the traditional population of 18 to 22-year-olds will remain a staple at most institutions, demographic and economic changes will see future enrollment growth come from other student segments.
In its report, “Future Students, Future Revenues: Thriving in a Decade of Demographic Decline,” the Education Advisory Board (EAB) reports that populations such as community college transfers, international undergraduates, professional master’s students, and adult degree completers offer the best opportunities to grow enrollment and tuition. These are all areas of opportunity that we are seeking to enhance. To that note, Southern has recently completed a seamless transfer pathway with Gateway’s Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences, a unique partnership that has been facilitated by Deborah Weiss, the chair of the department of Communication Disorders and interim chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum, with support from members of our LEPC and UCF.
In a recent blog, I mentioned that we have had success in target marketing new master’s-level programs to meet workforce demands and the time constraints of adult professional workers. During this legislative session, I and the other Connecticut State University presidents will be lobbying for a statute change that would allow us to offer professional doctoral programs, further enhancing our institutions’ ability to meet the developing needs of the 21st Century workforce.
Under a current statute the CSUs are permitted to offer programs that provide for “the preparation of personnel for the public schools of the state including master’s degree programs, education doctoral degree programs, including an education doctoral degree program in nursing education and other graduate study in education, and the authority for providing liberal arts and career programs at the bachelors, masters and sixth year programs.”
As you know, we now offer doctoral programs in educational leadership and nursing education, but due to changes in the educational requirements for employment in numerous other professions and scientific fields, the current authorization should be expanded.
A number of professions, including social work (DSW), marriage and family therapy (DMFT), speech and language pathology (SLPD), and public health (DPH) have developed advanced doctoral clinical degrees for those wishing to assume senior practitioner and clinical administrator roles within organizations. Other fields have also recognized the need for professionally trained scientists, or scientist administrators, with advanced skills in both a scientific specialization and business skills, creating a demand for the Doctor of Science (ScD) degree in many disciplines. Schools of Business have for many years offered the Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) for those interested in the advanced study of management, practical finance, and accounting. More business organizations are now requiring their senior managers, at the vice president level and above, to hold this academic credential.
All of these degrees reflect the understanding within these professions that the level of knowledge required to be effective at senior clinician, senior scientist, administrator and management levels is advancing rapidly and requires a degree of specialization that only a doctoral-level education can provide.
Recognizing the increased educational and clinical preparation required, several disciplines have already made the move to the professional doctorate as the entry level credential to the field. For example, the field of audiology has moved in the past decade from the master’s degree as the acceptable entry-level practice degree to the Doctor of Audiology (AuD). Other professions, such as physical therapy (DPT), have adopted similar strategies for changing the entry-level practice credential to the doctorate. Similarly, the field of nursing is moving steadily from the MSN in advanced nursing practice to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) as the entry-level credential.
Southern and our sister institutions will need to address this demand for increased education if we are to continue to promote Connecticut’s economic vitality and remain viable providers to organizations and businesses in the state that employ our graduates.
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR STEM
Christine Broadbridge, our new director of STEM Initiatives, reports that a key initiative of the Office for STEM Innovation and Leadership involves promoting multidisciplinary projects that engage faculty and students in cutting-edge research. The timing is perfect, Christine says, as our new academic and laboratory science building was built specifically to promote these types of interactions.
One recent successful example of this initiative was the first offering of the Werth Family Foundation- sponsored Industry Academic Fellowship (IAF) program by the CSCU Center for Nanotechnology (CNT), which is based on our campus. The program provided four undergraduates and one graduate student with the opportunity to conduct team-based interdisciplinary research in nanotechnology. The disciplines represented included biology, chemistry and physics and during the eight-week summer program, the IAF students partnered with educators and industry professionals, while exploring the business-related aspects of technology. The students also worked part-time on their projects during the spring and fall semesters and have already presented their work at professional meetings. For this first year the project topics included nano-medicine and nano-environmental studies.
The deadline for applications for the second year of the program is March 1 (see www.southernct.edu/nanotechnology for more information). The CNT is also actively engaging faculty in interdisciplinary working groups to support additional projects for future IAF interdisciplinary teams.
On the STEM outreach front, Professor of Mathematics Maria Diamantis (representing the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science – CEMS) continues to host weekly group meetings for the local National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Jr. Chapter. Last November, five of these students traveled to Hauppage, N.Y., where they attended the Region I, NSBE Jr. Regional Conference and earned third place in a Try-Math-A-Lon. The students are meeting at Southern twice a week in preparation for the NSBE National Convention in San Diego, California, led by Southern alumna Gwen Brantley.
Additional STEM outreach events are scheduled for March, including an Education Connection Center for 21st Century Skills Academy for Digital Arts and Sciences class visit by 100 high school students. A teacher professional development workshop on STEM careers will also be jointly hosted by the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP) and the New Haven Manufacturers Association (NHMA). More information on these events is at: http://www.skills21.org/ and http://crisp.southernct.edu/images/f/ff/2015_March_21_Draft_Flyer.pdf
During the early part of this week, I will be in Florida with Robert Stamp, vice president for institutional advancement, and members of our advancement team for two alumni gatherings in Naples and Boca Raton. As I write this, the advance numbers for both events were very encouraging, with more than 40 alumni registered for each event.
Carrying our message to alumni in various parts of the country is a crucial step as we seek to strengthen and broaden our support base in advance of our first comprehensive campaign. Following an event last fall in New York City, alumni gatherings in coming months are planned in Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles.
We have a solid core of loyal, dedicated alums who are fully engaged and supportive of the university. But we are also seeking to connect with those who have had sporadic contact with the university since graduation and would likely be interested in learning about the many new developments at their alma mater.
STUDENT SUCCESS INITIATIVES
Last Friday we marked the first-year anniversary of the Student Success Taskforce with the Playbook for Student Success workshop led by Education Advisory Board Consultant Holly Chatham. Holly presented EAB’s best practice research on student success and progress to graduation. She placed emphasis on students in the “murky middle” – generally those earning between a 2.0 and 3.0 GPA – who present compelling opportunities for intervention and degree completion.
As you know, the Student Success Taskforce was established last year to find ways to strengthen our retention and graduation rates, to provide more strategic and proactive student advising, and to remove any obstacles students may face as they move toward completing their degrees.
We have already enacted a number of recommendations, including creating an Academic Student Success Center to support academic achievement; adding new, specialized academic advising positions; adopting a predictive analytics academic advising platform; and introducing more co-curricular activities for freshmen, sophomores and transfer students to build stronger connections with the university.
These are just the first steps in our institution-wide commitment to student success as we strive to ensure that students who come to Southern have the best possible educational experience, and stay on to complete their degrees in a timely manner.
HUMAN RIGHTS LECTURE
Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in a conversation on campus with Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and human rights advocate in Turkey and founder of Anadolu Kültür, a civil initiative, committed to fostering mutual understanding through arts and culture.
The organizations Mr. Kavala founded and supports have been on the forefront of human rights issues including Armenian genocide recognition and the denial of Kurdish cultural and political rights. During this event, which was also supported by our Department of Philosophy, Mr. Kavala spoke on the current status of these issues in Turkey.
As you may know, 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In 1915, the Ottoman rulers of Turkey seized the opportunity of a world preoccupied by global conflict to attempt to erase the Armenians’ presence within Ottoman territory through executions and forced marches into the desert.
During the spring, we will have several activities on campus to commemorate this anniversary, examine its context in contemporary international relations and promote human rights and understanding. Planned events include an art exhibit, music concert and a literature reading – details will be forthcoming shortly.
Our athletics teams are coming to the end of the spring season. Our men’s indoor track and field team was No. 1 in last week’s United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division II East Regional team rankings. Earlier this month, the men’s swimming and diving team captured its fifth straight Northeast-10 Conference Championship, and 11th in the past 12 seasons.
And our men’s basketball team re-entered the national rankings at number 25 last week on the back of a seven-game winning streak. The Owls have now reached the 20-win plateau for the second successive season and are poised to earn another place in the NCAA tournament, after reaching the Elite 8 last year.
The continued academic success of our student-athletes was highlighted by the women’s cross country team, which earned All-Academic Team honors from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for the third successive year. The award recognizes those institutions that achieved a minimum GPA of 3.0 and compiled a team score at their respective NCAA regional championships.