Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the inaugural ball for New Haven’s new Mayor, Toni Harp. Ms. Harp has a long association with Southern from her many highly productive years as a State Senator and co-chair of the legislative Appropriations Committee. I believe that her knowledge of, and appreciation for, our mission will make for an even more fruitful partnership in the months and years ahead.
As you know, I have emphasized enhancing our involvement with the Elm City, and many of New Haven’s key players are excited about the fact that we have now established a presence downtown through Southern on the Green, at 900 Chapel Street. The suite of offices and seminar rooms look professional and polished, with new furniture and photography highlighting all that is good about the university. You will be able to see for yourself during an internal open house to be held in May, along with a second event for corporate and community leaders. Southern on the Green will officially open April 7, with an open house for selected graduate programs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
You can read more about Southern on the Green and its role in our mission in a recent New Haven Register article: http://tinyurl.com/omyc4ys
I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Robert J. Rennie has been confirmed as our new Chief Information Officer, succeeding Dr. Pablo Molina. Pablo returns to Washington, D.C., on April 30 to become CIO of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS).
Since 1997, Rob has been the CIO and Vice President of Technology for Florida State College at Jacksonville, Fla., a multi-campus institution serving more than 60,000 students.
Rob’s CIO experience spans more than 20 years, and he is known for building the reputations of organizations on a foundation of innovation, value creation, excellence and technology leadership. Honored as one of Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT leaders in 2004, Rob serves on Software AG’s International Executive Committee, is a member of Apple’s University Executive Forum and was an advisory board member of Curriki, an online, nonprofit organization that provides free curricula and instructional resources primarily in support of K-12 education.
Under Rob’s leadership, Florida State College has won numerous awards for its highly innovative and successful technology environment. It was ranked first in the nation three out of four years by the Center for Digital Education, rated “Most Wired” by Yahoo; has been featured by several major technology firms for best practices and successful innovations and was named a Computerworld Gold Laureate in 2008.
Prior to his tenure at Florida State College, Rob was the CIO for Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles; was a principal of the technology strategy practice of Xentrek Systems, Inc. and held a visiting scholar appointment in Information Systems at the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA.
Rob’s first day at Southern will be July 15. Pablo will provide consultancy services during the interim period between his April 30 departure and Rob’s arrival. I am confident that the transition between these two talented CIOs will be smooth and that our OIT will continue to provide excellent and innovative service to our campus community.
We have had much to cheer about in athletics with the heroics of our men’s basketball team, and the dual national titles earned by swimmer Raymond Czwerko and heptathlete Nick Lebron (his career second).
Raymond completed the nationals as a three-time All-American, with a title in the 200 fly and a runner-up spot in the 400 individual medley. Nick captured the heptathlon title two years after his first triumph, earning All-America honors and setting a new NCAA Division II record score of 5,765 points.
On their path to the Elite 8 for just the second time in Southern history, the men’s basketball Owls captured the Northeast-10 regular season and conference tournament titles, and won a program-best 30 games, including a school-record 19 straight.
Not surprisingly, Coach Mike Donnelly has been named a finalist for the 2014 Clarence “Big House” Gaines award. The 2013-14 Northeast-10 Conference and Daktronics East Region Coach of the Year is one of 12 finalists for the award, which is presented annually to the top Division II men’s basketball coach.
In his four seasons on the bench for the Owls, Mike has turned around a struggling program in compiling a 73-41 overall record, which represents the most-ever wins by a Southern coach in his first four seasons. The winner of the 2014 Gaines award will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com Awards Banquet today (Friday, April 4) in Dallas, site of this weekend’s Division I Men’s Final Four.
As noted above, our national profile in athletics continues to grow. And in recent years that has owed much to the leadership of our Athletic Director, Patricia Nicol, who will be leaving Southern May 29 to take up the Director of Athletics position at Emerson College in Boston.
Pat has been a member of the Owls’ athletics administration for the last 15 years, and since her appointment as director in 2005, our student-athletes have excelled on the playing fields, in the classroom and in the community.
Pat emphasized that success for our student-athletes extends beyond the competitive arena. During her tenure, our athletes have engaged in thousands of hours of community service, creating a spirit of volunteerism that will endure after their playing days. Additionally, our teams’ collective academic performance is a justifiable point of pride, with their overall GPA recently reaching the highest level in our program’s history.
On behalf of our campus community, I thank her for her tireless commitment to student success, for her exceptional leadership of our athletics program and for her dedication to advancing the university in general. Please take the opportunity to congratulate Pat on her new appointment.
This week, I informed the campus community that James Blake, our Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, will be retiring in early January 2015.
On the one hand, I am very pleased for Jim. He has been an integral part of the growth and sound financial health of Southern Connecticut State University since 1996. And, with almost 30 years of dedicated state service behind him, his pending retirement has been well earned.
On the other hand, I am sure you will concur with me that we will be losing one of the true stalwarts of our university community. As you know, Jim has worked with and counseled five presidents of Southern. Certainly, one of the first items on my agenda when I assumed the presidency in early 2012 was requesting that Jim would be able to stay on for as long as possible. He committed to three years – and I am sure we are all glad that he did!
During Jim’s tenure as our chief financial officer, the state’s economy – and therefore Southern’s operating budget – has been subject to severe fiscal challenges. But thanks to Jim’s prudent spending and sound long-term planning, we have been able to maintain modest surpluses that have negated the need for the deep cuts that would have severely impacted student learning.
Jim has also been a key player in the ongoing transformation of our campus, guiding the university through the completion of two Master Facility Plans and ensuring that sufficient resources were in place to advance our construction program – often a challenging task! Signature projects during Jim’s tenure included the Engleman Hall expansion; the Adanti Student Center; the School of Business building and now, the Buley Library renovation, and the Academic and Laboratory Science Building. Before his departure, Jim will again be a key part of the planning process for our 2014–2024 facilities plan update.
Despite all of these responsibilities, and in the midst of every challenging circumstance, Jim has been a constant: unflappable, good-humored, wise and honest. He is an individual of integrity, and a reassuring presence on our campus.
A national search for a new vice president for finance and administration will commence this summer, and we hope that a hire will be made by Thanksgiving. In this way, Jim will be on hand to assist with the transition, and also to provide his invaluable counsel for the new strategic planning process, the design for our planned Student Recreation Center and other key institutional initiatives.
Please take the opportunity to congratulate Jim on his retirement and thank him for his stellar service to Southern.
WOMEN AND HIGHER EDUCATION
Southern was well represented at a March 25 roundtable discussion on “Higher Education and its impact on Connecticut Women and their Families,” hosted at New Haven City Hall by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Mayor Harp and Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. This was the fourth in a series of similar roundtables statewide addressing pay equity, workforce policies, and education issues facing women in Connecticut.
Southern’s attendees were: School of Business Dean Ellen Durnin, Interim School of Education Dean Deb Newton, Assistant Dean of Health and Human Services Esther Howe, Professor of English and Women’s Studies and Liberal Studies Program Director Ilene Crawford, and Professor of Sociology Shirley Jackson. They joined about 30 other women working in government, education and non-profit organizations in New Haven and Fairfield counties to improve Connecticut women’s and girls’ access to education.
Teresa Younger noted that while women now earn the majority of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, they remain clustered in traditional fields of employment and have yet to achieve pay equity, earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This gender gap has a direct impact on the quality of life for the many Connecticut families where women are the primary wage earners.
Ilene reports that roundtable participants shared success stories from specific programs they operated and identified issues in need of further action, such as mentoring programs for girls that happen in the context of girls’ families and communities and support services for women allowing them to stay in school and follow more diverse career paths.
The roundtable concluded with a reminder from Mayor Harp that women need to make full use of their political strength to effect change for women and girls.
As usual, the academic year will begin winding down with a flurry of events that showcase the breadth of interests and activities on our campus. Here are just some of the notable ones:
This Monday, a forum on “Crisis in Ukraine: What Happened and What’s Next?” coordinated by the Office of Public Affairs will be held from noon to 1:45 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. Six faculty panelists will address key questions regarding a standoff between Russia, the United States and our NATO allies that has analysts harking back to the Cold War era: www.southernct.edu/ukraineforum
Also next week, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, whom the New York Times has called “the most popular poet in America,” will give a campus reading on Wednesday, (April 9), at 7:15 p.m. The reading in the Charles Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112) will be followed by an audience Q&A and a book signing of his most recent collection, “Aimless Love.” The event is co-sponsored by the university’s MFA Program in Creative Writing: www.southernct.edu/news/billy-collins.html
The Big Event is an annual campus-wide service initiative in which Southern comes together to support the New Haven and surrounding communities. This year, on April 12 hundreds of Southern students will volunteer for local organizations, agencies and other locations in need of assistance. To register, students – and employees who would like to help out – should go to https://southernct.collegiatelink.net/ and click on the Big Event icon.
On April 12 and 13, Southern will host our 21st annual Womens’ Studies conference: “Ecology, Spirituality, Sustainability,”offering 24 sessions and almost 80 presenters from across the country and abroad. The impressive list of speakers is headed by keynotes Majora Carter (a visionary, urban revitalization strategist, and public radio host) and Dr. Hyun Kyung Chung (a Korean eco-feminist and theologian and Associate Professor of Ecumenical Studies at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York): www.southernct.edu/academics/schools/arts/departments/womensstudies/annualconference
On April 23, “Take Back the Night,” an annual event to stop violence against women, will take place in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom from 7-9 p.m. Since its inception in 1976, Take Back the Night has become internationally known as a way to take a stand against sexual violence and speak out against these crimes. Sponsored by our Women’s Center, it is one of a series of campus events being held to promote awareness during national “Sexual Assault Month”: www.tinyurl.com/mlcz5th
From 3 p.m. April 26 through 9 a.m. April 27, Southern’s annual Relay for Life will be held at Jess Dow Field. Relay For Life is a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society (ACS) hosted at Southern by Colleges Against Cancer, a student organization affiliated with ACS. Teams camp out overnight, and team members take turns walking or running around the track. Each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times, and team members have sponsors who have pledged to donate money to Relay for Life on their behalf. This year’s theme is “Superheroes”: www.relayforlife.org/scsu.
Southern will be participating in the Greater New Haven Heart Walk 3-mile Heart Walk, a fun, family event where participants join more than a million people in 300 cities nationwide to raise funds supporting the research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association. The event will be held on Saturday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Savin Rock Beach in West Haven. Fitness Center Coordinator Jess Scibek and Associate Athletics Director Mike Kobylanski are leading Southern’s effort, recruiting team captains and members. If you are interested in starting a team or joining team SCSUfit you can also CLICK HERE to visit Southern’s company page. I am a member of the Executive Leadership Team for the Heart Walk, and I encourage as many of you as possible to join this enjoyable and rewarding community event!
At the end of a long academic year, we can all do with a laugh, and good humor is guaranteed at the 16th installment of the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring one of America’s best-loved comedians, Jay Leno. On May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Lyman Center, the two-time Emmy Award winner will deliver a classic “Tonight Show” monologue in his inimitable “everyman” style, which has earned him millions of fans worldwide: www.southernct.edu/jay-leno.html
Last weekend, our Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders hosted a highly successfully conference – “Bridging Communities: Strategies for Success.” The 24th Annual Northeast Regional Conference on Autism offered presentations and panel discussions on topics such as assessment, parenting teens with autism, life after high school for young people with autism, living with Asperger’s, and strategies for success.
Keynote addresses were delivered by Jesse A. Saperstein, best-selling author of “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1⁄3 Chapters,” and Temple Grandin, the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. In 2010, Time Magazine named Dr. Grandin one of its Most Important People of the Year and her life story was made into an HBO movie titled “Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes,” which won seven Emmy awards and a Golden Globe.
The annual conference brings cutting-edge thinking from top professionals in the field of autism, so that families and professionals may gain as much knowledge and understanding as possible to have maximum impact in working with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) individuals. It is a tribute to the standing of our Center that we were able to host such a significant event on our campus and Director Ruth Eren tells me she and her staff have received many positive congratulations and comments via e-mail in the days since.
“GREAT COLLEGES” SURVEY
As you know, Southern is taking part in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” program, a study designed to gather benchmarking data within higher education and to recognize institutions that have built great workplaces.
Part of the program involves an employee survey distributed to each institution’s full-time Faculty, Administrators, Exempt and Non-exempt Staff. An invitation to take this survey was distributed to all of our full-time employees on or about March 17.
The email was from “Great Colleges” with the subject line: The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For 2014 Faculty/Staff Survey. To ensure the confidentiality of your responses, your survey will be processed by ModernThink LLC, a research and consulting firm focusing on workplace excellence. Southern will not receive any information that would enable us to trace survey data back to any one individual. The deadline to complete the survey is Monday, April 14, 2014.
I thank those of you who have already completed the survey and I appreciate you taking the time to share your views and opinions.
If you have not yet completed the survey, please take a moment to do so. Your feedback is valued! The results will be factored into the overall scoring process that will ultimately determine the institutions recognized. The Chronicle will publish the findings this summer in a special Academic Workplace supplement, due to be released at the end of July.
I encourage everyone’s participation! A high response rate helps ensure accurate results and demonstrates the commitment of our workforce. Whether or not our institution is recognized, we will learn from the feedback and make improvements for our future. In fact, this information will be very useful to my Commission on Campus Climate and Inclusion and also will inform the development of our new Strategic Plan.
Thank you for your participation. Please contact Rick Riccardi, who is serving as our survey coordinator, or visit www.ChronicleGreatColleges.com, if you have any questions.