June 4, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on June 4th, 2014

Commencement season is behind us, and we look forward to a long summer of planning for the new academic year, welcoming our entering class to campus and hopefully finding the time for some well-earned rest and relaxation.

Our three graduation ceremonies were a joyous reminder of our commitment to student success. And the success stories of our students – who are drawn from a range of backgrounds and circumstances, and in many cases have overcome obstacles to earn their diplomas – are the best testimony we can provide for a continued investment in public higher education.

I thank all of you who contributed to our students’ achievements – our faculty for your mentorship and dedicated pedagogy, our staff for your support and guidance. Each of us has a crucial role to play in ensuring that a college degree is an attainable goal for all of our current and future students.

VALUE OF A FOUR-YEAR DEGREE

Indeed, despite the very real concerns about spiraling student debt, current studies show that a four-year degree has never been more valuable for personal and professional achievement. A recent analysis of federal Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., found that the pay disparity between those with college degrees and those without continues to grow.

Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree, the study found. This represents a continuing trend – up from 85 percent a decade earlier and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

And tellingly, the wage premium for individuals who have attended college without earning a bachelor’s degree, including community college graduates, has not been rising. This underscores the importance of our efforts to improve our retention rate and build closer relationships with our community college partners in CSCU.

As the economy becomes more technology-based, the amount of education that people will need will inevitably rise as a result. And despite the fact that the recent recession saw a rise in the number of college attendees…“We have too few college graduates,” David Autor, an M.I.T. economist, told The New York Times. “We also have too few people who are prepared for college.”

Clearly, our emphasis on access, affordability and student success is not misplaced.

GO BACK TO GET AHEAD

At Southern, at the System level and through Governor Malloy’s office, initiatives are underway to ease the debt burden for graduates and continuing students, smooth the path to registration and graduation, and encourage individuals who have earned college credit in the past to return and complete their degrees.

The statewide Go Back to Get Ahead initiative has been launched, offering a second chance for many people who, for one reason or another, started to get a college education but haven’t completed it.

The Go Back program lets returning students take one three-credit course per semester for free at Southern and any of our 16 partner institutions in the CSCU system. The program is open not only to Connecticut residents who started earning associate or bachelor’s degrees and did not finish, but also to those who completed associate degrees and now want to earn their bachelor’s.

 As long as the student enrolls in any college in the ConnSCU system and has not taken college courses in the past 18 months, he or she is eligible.

TRANSFORM CSCU 2020

All of you are aware of the Transform CSCU 2020 program, which will move through the planning stages this summer. This multi-year initiative will provide an initial investment of more than $134 million across our 17 institutions, with an emphasis on access, affordability and retention – all themes with which we are intimately familiar here at Southern. Following the recent online survey, there will be additional opportunities to participate in the development of this initiative through town halls, community forums, and interviews.

This important planning process presents Southern with the opportunity to strengthen our university’s mission and identity. And we will contribute to, and benefit from, a stronger system as we work toward our collective goals of access, affordability and excellence.

Interim Provost Marianne Kennedy has been appointed as our campus liaison for Transform CSCU 2020. She will keep us informed of progress and work with our university community during the coming months as we identify new opportunities for innovation and transformation, both within CSCU and here at Southern.

MARKETING INNOVATIVE PROGRAMS

This summer, we will continue our new marketing efforts in which we highlight several innovative programs that offer growth opportunities. These include our current master’s degrees in human performance and applied physics and a new, fully online graduate degree program in sport and entertainment management, offered by our Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

Last semester, we focused on our new accelerated MBA, a certificate in accounting, a master’s degree in computer science with tracks in software development and cybersecurity, and a B.S./B.A. in interdisciplinary offerings, geared for individuals who want to design a major that will fit with their individual career goals.

The common thread is that all have growth potential and all provide a path to in-demand career opportunities. And early indicators are that this new approach is helping to strengthen our graduate numbers for the coming year.

The graduate offerings reflect the time constraints of today’s working professionals. Our Accelerated MBA is a fast-track, hybrid-style option combining quality, convenience, and affordability. Through the AMBA, students will be able to complete their degree in just 17 months with combined Saturday and online courses.

As part of our efforts to tap more intentionally the Fairfield-Stamford student recruitment market, our targeted graduate programs will be highlighted at a Graduate Studies Open House in the Executive Lounge at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena on Monday, June 23, from 5-7:30 p.m.

Congratulations to the faculty who have devised and implemented these innovative programs. If this new marketing approach is successful, as we believe it will be, it will not only boost our enrollment, but provide a template for future academic programming by departments campus wide.

BUDGET OUTLOOK

Thanks to careful planning by Executive Vice President Jim Blake and the Budget and Planning Committee, we are looking at a 2015 fiscal year with a balanced budget that does not tap into our reserves. Much depends on our enrollment returns as we move forward, and this budget is predicated on a 2-percent decline in both full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollments, with part-time enrollment projected to be unchanged from this current year.

Our bottom line will also be impacted by a decline in the number of new students living on campus and signing up for the meal plan, as a significant number have chosen to save money by commuting rather than paying for room and board. We are seeking to mitigate this with several incentives, including allowing freshmen to park their vehicles on campus, as there is now ample space in parking garages near the residence halls.

We are also seeing some positive early indicators, with an uptick in transfer students and both full- and part-time graduate students – reversing a declining trend in recent years. Orientations for new students have begun, and our enrollment management team is optimistic that we will meet our goal of 1,250 to 1,300 new freshmen. I will update you when our numbers are more concrete, toward the end of summer.

ORIENTATION UNDERWAY

Last Wednesday, we hosted a vibrant Kick-Off Rally for the start of Orientation. Our blue-shirted team of Orientation Ambassadors (see their cover photo at: www.facebook.com/southernct) are an engaging and dedicated group, ready to welcome our new students to campus and make them feel at home. Thursday and Friday saw the first of five combined orientations for new and transfer students, as well as families.

Student Affairs Vice President Tracy Tyree reports that a new feature this year is the requirement for transfer students to participate in Orientation as their source of registration. Several transfer student-specific sessions have been added throughout the summer, along with a monthly session for non-traditional students. I echo Tracy’s thoughts that: “This new requirement demonstrates the value we place on the way that Orientation creates a foundation for students’ success at Southern!”

Whether or not you have a formal role in the program, please take the opportunity to give our new students and their families a warm Southern greeting when they come to campus.

Thanks also to all of our volunteers who have prepared the campus for Connecticut Special Olympics this weekend and will help out in a variety of capacities during the event. Our university has had a long and fruitful association with this worthy organization, being a regular host of the Summer Games since the late 1980s and raising thousands of dollars for Connecticut Special Olympics through our annual Jail ‘N’ Bail run by University Police and student groups.

OUT AND ABOUT

The members of my senior leadership team and I have been busy meeting with community leaders in recent weeks, spreading the word about the university and exploring possibilities for collaboration. Thursday, I and two members of Cabinet met with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch as part of a new effort to increase Southern’s profile in Fairfield County and on toward the New York line. Last week we conferred with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and Matthew Nemerson, the city’s new economic development administrator, discussing potential education-based partnerships, including establishing a pipeline for city high school graduates to study life sciences at Southern.

Last week, in Hartford, I joined other higher education leaders in a roundtable discussion on college affordability, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. We shared with the senator the difficulties we face in attempting to control costs while also providing the financial aid and support services that many students need to graduate.

I referred to a recent New York Times Magazine story, which detailed that while 90 percent of college freshmen in the top economic quartile earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24, only about a quarter of freshmen in the bottom half of the income distribution pool do so. If education is truly the pathway to the American dream, then it has to be the pathway for students from the lower quartile, as well as the upper.

Last month in New York City, I discussed technology and its intersections with higher education as a part of a group meeting with Dell Inc. CEO and founder Michael Dell and his senior leadership team. Dell, you may recall, has been a long-time supporter of our summer Southern Academy enrichment program for New Haven middle school students.

My husband, Dennis, and I also met with Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, along with the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern and other officials. The topic was Armenia’s efforts to grow the country as a tourist destination, drawing on the richness of its ancient history. The country is looking to build its tourism infrastructure, which opens potential training opportunities for our travel and tourism program at Southern.

Closer to home, I have been named vice chair of the Greater New Haven Heart Walk for 2015, and will serve as chair the following year. The 3-mile Heart Walk is an annual event in which 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. This year’s local event raised almost $300,000 and there were about 50 participants from Southern.

Yesterday, I was also named vice chair of the Connecticut Campus Compact, which is part of a coalition of almost 1,200 college and university presidents nationwide. Through this compact, Connecticut’s leaders in higher education are working together to promote partnerships and action that connect economic prosperity and engaged citizenship. At the same meeting Jim Barber, director of community engagement, received the President’s Choice Award for his commitment to promoting civic engagement in higher education and creating pathways for disadvantaged youth to earn a college degree.

 BIG APPLE ALUMNI

New York was also the venue for a wonderful gathering of more than 40 alumni at the world-famous Sardi’s on May 13. I presented an overview of the university, and Dr. Sheila Garvey gave an update on the Theatre Department.

This event was the kick-off for several new planned SCSU Alumni Networks nationwide, as we seek to reconnect with former students living beyond our home state.  Chris Adams, ’92 will lead the NYC Network, which will help alumni interact with each other socially and professionally.

Thanks to Vice President for Institutional Advancement Bob Stamp for leading this important initiative, and to Alumni Relations Director Michelle Johnston and her team for their excellent work in creating the NYC event.

NURSING GRANT

For the sixth consecutive year, Southern’s Nursing Department has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). This year’s award is for $50,000 – which will pay for five scholarships of $10,000 apiece among students commencing our Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) program.

ACE enables adults who already have a bachelor’s degree to pursue a career change into nursing. Individuals from underrepresented groups in nursing are given priority status for the scholarship allocation.

Southern was one of just three institutions in Connecticut to be awarded grant money this year, and we have received $480,000 from the foundation’s New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program since 2008. Congratulations to Nursing Chair Lisa Rebeschi and her faculty for their continued success in advancing  this exemplary program.

KUDOS

Finally, congratulations are in order for three individuals who have received significant community-based awards or appointments.

Chief of Police Joseph Dooley will be installed by state Attorney General George Jepson as the President of the Connecticut Police Chiefs’ Association on June 12. Joe is the first college head of campus security in the state to lead the 104-member association. He has 33 years’ experience in law enforcement, the last eight spent leading Southern’s efforts to ensure that our campus remains a safe and secure environment for all.

Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, was honored with an Outstanding Educator Award from his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, on April 27. Steven, Class of ’79, was recognized for his significant contributions to the field of education, both here at Southern and at his previous institutions, including Texas Christian University and Christopher Newport University, Va. In his most recent role as dean of CNU’s College of Arts and Humanities, he led major capital, faculty and curriculum development, accreditation and strategic planning efforts; and won CNU’s Oxford University Fellowship.

Bill Faraclas, Faculty Senate President and Professor of Public Health, received the C-EA Winslow Award from the Connecticut Public Health Association—the organization’s highest recognition. Bill founded Southern’s public health program and chaired the department for 33 years. As Director of our International Field Studies in Health Program, he has taken 26 groups of students to Guatemala and Mexico, and is director of the Environmental Health Training Program, a workforce development collaborative with the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

As I mentioned last month, these recognitions reveal a breadth of commitment and achievement that reflects well on the talents and volunteerism of our employees. Congratulations to all!

May 9, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on May 9th, 2014

We are almost at the end of another academic year, a celebratory period when our best efforts are rewarded by the success of our students, as evidenced at Honors Convocation and our forthcoming Commencement ceremonies. I thank all of you for your many contributions during this past year, which has not been an easy one, with continuing budgetary and enrollment challenges, and a lingering winter that would not let go!

Despite these obstacles, our Southern community is notably resilient and innovative, and during the last 12 months, we have built a strong foundation to move ahead. This is thanks in part to inclusive efforts such as the Student Success Taskforce and our Graduate Program Prioritization committee, which are identifying key areas for focus and enhancement in our academic programming and student services.

These recommendations will be incorporated into the planning process for our new Strategic Plan, which will continue into the next academic year. The Strategic Planning Committee, led by Interim Provost Marianne Kennedy, has done a wonderful job in recent months compiling information and analyzing existing data. By the fall, the committee will be ready to share this with the campus community and solicit your ideas as we chart our course through the next decade. As I noted earlier this week, our strategic planning will coincide with the development of the Transform CSCU 2020 initiative, helping us to align our own efforts within a broader ConnSCU vision as we work toward collective goals of access, affordability and excellence.

The new academic year also will bring the opening of our new science building and the renovated Buley Library – both in the spring of 2015. In addition, we will welcome new faces at the level of provost, vice president for finance and administration, chief information officer, dean of the School of Education and director of athletics, as our senior leadership team continues to evolve.

But that and more lies ahead. For now, let us all congratulate ourselves on a job well done, celebrate with our graduating students and wish them much success as they leave us to pursue their personal and career goals.

SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS FEATURED NATIONALLY

During recent years, we have been justifiably proud of our efforts to create a sustainable campus. Those efforts have now received national recognition with the naming of Southern as one of the 332 most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada, according to The Princeton Review (www.PrincetonReview.com). Known for its test prep programs and college rankings, ratings, and guidebooks profiles, the education services company includes Southern in the fifth annual edition of its free downloadable book, “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges.”

The Princeton Review chose the schools for this guide based on a survey it conducted in 2013 of administrators at hundreds of four-year colleges to measure those institutions’ commitment to the environment and to sustainability.  The institutional survey included questions on course offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. 

Published April 17, a few days before the April 22 celebration of Earth Day, the 216-page guide is the only free comprehensive resource of its kind: it can be downloaded at www.princetonreview.com/green-guide. The 332 school profiles in the guide feature essential information for applicants – facts and stats on school demographics, admission, financial aid – plus write-ups on the schools’ sustainability initiatives.  A “Green Facts” sidebar reports on a wide range of topics from the school’s use of renewable energy sources, recycling and conservation programs to the availability of environmental studies and career guidance for green jobs.

In the guide’s profile on Southern, The Princeton Review highlights the fact that at Southern “Sustainability is integrated into everyday life on campus. SCSU’s Dining Services has become more environmentally friendly through trayless dining, cage-free eggs, and a commitment to buying locally-grown produce. What’s more, the campus bookstore has championed recent initiatives such as selling a large line of recyclable products—including notebooks, biodegradable plastic folders, sketchbooks created with recycled vinyl albums, and t-shirts made from recycled bottles — promoting the use of e-textbooks to save paper, and even providing graduation gowns made of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles!”

Our inclusion in this high-profile publication is wonderful news for the university and is a testament to the dedication of the many individuals who have worked to make our campus green, including the members of our Sustainability Committee and Sustainability Office. With many prospective students showing interest in colleges that promote environmentally-responsible choices and practices, our efforts in this regard stand to benefit both our enrollment and our campus.

NEW LEADERSHIP APPOINTMENTS IN ACADEMIC AFFAIRS

 As you know, increasing enrollment and improving retention/graduation rates are key areas of focus for us. With this in mind, we have made two key appointments in the Division of Academic Affairs that I am confident will enhance our efforts to strengthen student success.

Ian M. Canning, currently the director of continuing education at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., has been named to the newly created position of Director of Special Academic Programs and Sessions. Reporting to the Provost, Ian will oversee the creation and development of special programs throughout the year, such as online and hybrid courses, certificates, seminars, workshops and institutes. These will include both credit and non-credit offerings. He also will be responsible for budgeting, growing, and implementing the university’s winter and summer session course offerings.

Ian brings a wealth of experience in the areas of continuing education, strategic planning and program development, as well as possessing impressive business and economic skills. At Johnson & Wales, he provided administrative oversight for 19 degree and three certificate programs, while managing a budget of $2.9 million.

At the same time, he has maintained a focus on improving student opportunities by working with academic counselors regarding student advising and spearheading the creation of a continuing education student advisory board.

I concur with interim Provost Marianne Kennedy in believing that Ian will be a tremendous asset to the university in providing us with both the administrative experience and innovation to expand our academic program offerings to students and the community. Please give him a warm, Southern welcome when he begins his duties here on Monday, May 19.

 In addition, Rick Riccardi, our longtime Director of the Office of Management Information and Research (OMIR), is being promoted to Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness. His promotion is part of a departmental restructuring to better take advantage of the synergies between OMIR and the Office of Assessment and Planning. Rick will oversee both areas.

Also reporting to the Provost, Rick will provide supervision and leadership in the development of procedures governing the planning, approval process and accreditation of academic programs. He will lead the university’s effort in the collection, analysis, interpretation and communication of data — both internal and external — which will be used to make key to improve student learning. He also will play a key role in linking planning, budget and assessment.

Rick has tremendous institutional knowledge of the university and has demonstrated the keen analytical skills that enable us to make important strategic decisions to move the university forward. Please congratulate him in his new role.

CELEBRATING FACULTY ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Last month, for the first time, we collectively recognized our faculty accomplishments in teaching, scholarship and service with a new event: the SCSU Celebration of Excellence. In past years, there have been multiple award ceremonies during the academic year. But we felt that one recognition event would give all the awardees the focus they richly deserve.

The following awards were presented to 11 faculty members:

Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship: Robert Gregory, Exercise Science; and J. Gregory McVerry, Elementary Education.

Technological Teacher of the Year Award: Robert McEachern, English.

Robert Jirsa Service Award: Elizabeth Keenan, Social Work.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award: C. Patrick Heidkamp, Geography.

Board of Regents Teaching Award for SCSU: Laura Bower-Phipps, Elementary Education; and Walter Stutzman, Music

Board of Regents Research Award for SCSU: Julia Irwin, Psychology

Faculty Scholar Award: Stephen Amerman, History

J. Philip Smith Award for Outstanding Teacher: Allison Bass, English; Melissa Talhelm, English

Most of these awardees were chosen by their peers, which, as I noted at the luncheon, is sometimes the most valuable recognition you can earn.  Congratulations to all the recipients!

COMMUNITY RECOGNITION

The end of the academic year has also seen a plethora of community-based awards for faculty and staff. As you will read below, these recognitions reveal a breadth of commitment and achievement that reflects well on the talents and volunteerism of our employees.

Deputy University Police Chief Philip Pessina, will receive the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s Michael L. Green Award for outstanding community service on June 4.

A former councilman and deputy police chief in Middletown, Phil is a frequent volunteer at community events and is currently the chairman of the Recreation and Community Services Commission and vice chairman of the Mattabassett Regionalization Committee.

“Phil Pessina has dedicated a lifetime to public and community service in Middletown and in Middlesex County… and is a worthy recipient of the 2014 Michael L. Green Award, said chamber President (and Southern alum) Larry McHugh.

On June 27, Gary Morin, professor of exercise science, will receive the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Athletic Trainer Service Award at the association’s national conference in Indianapolis. This award recognizes NATA members who have demonstrated a strong commitment to their local and state associations and have established a track record of professional accomplishment in the athletic training profession.

Gary, program director of our athletic training education program, is in his 24th season as a member of Southern’s athletic training staff and was the Owls’ head athletic trainer for 12 seasons.

Physics Department Chair Christine Broadbridge was honored as the 11th Connecticut Materials and Manufacturing Professional of the Year for 2014 at a combined meeting of the New Haven Manufacturers Association (NHMA) and the Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Society for Materials International on April 24.

Christine was recognized for her contributions to materials science, STEM education, her work with the NHMA workforce enhancement committee, and for partnering with the above organizations and Milford’s Platt Technical High School in implementing the successful Materials Manufacturing Summer Teachers’ Institute, which is held annually here at Southern.

Cathy Christy, director of our Women’s Center, is one of four women to receive the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) Outstanding Ally award. This award, presented April 17, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence.

“For sixteen years, Cathy has been a valuable partner and a strong and consistent voice for victim centered sexual assault campus policies and practices,” said Laura Cordes, CONNSACS Executive Director. “She has held the stories and hands of countless survivors of rape and sexual abuse, offering compassion, support and information.”

James Barber, director of community engagement, recently received the Rev. Dr. Edwin R. Edmonds Humanitarian Award for his longtime service to the Greater New Haven community at the 28th annual West Haven Black Coalition Scholarship Awards Dinner.

Dr. Edmonds, who passed away in 2007, was a member of our sociology faculty for decades and was instrumental in gaining approval for the university’s bachelor of science in social work program.

Jim’s tremendous commitment to promoting civic engagement in higher education and creating pathways for disadvantaged youth to earn a college degree also will be recognized June 4, when he receives the President’s Choice Award from the Connecticut Campus Compact (CTCC).

Anna Rivera-Alfaro, accounts payable coordinator, received the National Society of Hispanic MBAs Connecticut Chapter Destino Award for Outstanding Service on May 1. Anna was praised for her passionate leadership as advisor to the SCSU Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) and for working to help create a campus climate that is inclusive and supportive of Latino student needs.

Her public service efforts include being a board member of the New Haven Scholarship Fund, and volunteering with the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry offering free tax preparation to low-income families. 

Kudos to all these worthy recipients!

I also want to mention another award notification that I have just received: Southern has won a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Power of Change Award in the Top Building Category for state buildings. This award is based on the energy performance of the School of Business for the 2013 calendar year and its LEED gold certification.

The university will receive either a runners-up or honorable mention award at the ceremony in Hartford on June 17. This will mark the second time that Southern has earned a Power of Change Award. We also won in the Innovation category in 2012 for our successful efforts in the Campus Conservation Nationals, when Southern placed fourth out of 98 college entrants in the country for reducing electricity consumption in our residence halls.

Congratulations to Associate Vice President for Facilities Bob Sheeley, Sustainability Coordinator Suzanne Huminski and their teams, whose ongoing commitment to creating an environmentally friendly campus is reflected in this well-earned recognition.

ACCLAIMED WRITERS ON THE LYMAN STAGE

On Sunday, June 29 at 2 p.m., Southern will host a discussion among four distinguished authors as part of the Narrative 4 summit that will take place in New Haven that week.

Narrative 4 is a global organization headed up by some of the world’s most renowned and influential authors, artists and community leaders who have come together to promote empathy through the exchange of stories.

Authors Colum McCann, Terry Tempest Williams, Ishmael Beah and Reza Aslan will come together on the Lyman Center stage to discuss their involvement in Narrative 4 and its goal of encouraging people to “walk in each other’s shoes and prove that not only does every story matter, every life matters.”

The June 29 program was initiated by Southern M.F.A. graduate Lee Keylock, a high school English teacher in Newtown who became involved with Narrative 4 following the December 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy. In searching for a book that might help his students cope in the wake of Newtown’s devastating losses, Lee came upon McCann’s novel “Let the Great World Spin.” The New York Times has said of this book, “Through their anguish, McCann’s characters manage to find comfort, even a kind of redemption.”

Lee was looking for a book with just such a message, so he acquired copies for his students to read. Colum McCann learned of Lee and his students and offered to travel to Newtown to meet with them.

Through this meeting, Lee became involved with Narrative 4, and he and 12 of his students have been exchanging stories with 12 students at a school in a struggling suburb of Chicago. As Colum McCann has said, “Story exchanges — where you tell my story and I tell yours — are a form of narrative medicine. Stories enter the bloodstream. Stories can wound us, yes, but they are more likely to heal.” You can learn more about Narrative 4 at www.narrative4.com

SUCCESSFUL HEARTWALK

Finally, my special thanks to Jess Scibek and Mike Kobylanski for spearheading Southern’s team participation in the Greater New Haven Heart Walk on May 3. More than 50 faculty, staff, and students participated on an incredibly beautiful Saturday. The 3-mile event raised valuable funds to support the research, education and advocacy efforts of the American Heart Association.

April 4, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on April 4th, 2014

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

NEW CIO

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.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!

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.

MOVING ON

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.

 NOTABLE EVENTS

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

AUTISM CONFERENCE

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.

March 5, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on March 5th, 2014

Thanks to the many of you who attended Monday’s Town Hall meeting and shared your thoughts about the findings of our Student Success Task Force. Its recommendations were pointed – we still have a great deal to accomplish, despite all the good work that has taken place in recent times. Our 4-year and 6-year graduation rates of 17 percent and 49 percent, respectively, do not compare favorably with those of all public universities in Connecticut (40.6 and 61.5 percent), and public universities nationally (31.3 and 56 percent).  While our graduation rates have started to swing upward, as I mentioned in a recent blog, we clearly have some catching up to do.

The task force – whose findings to which many of you contributed  – recommends improvements in many key areas. For example, creating an ombudsman-type position to help students find assistance when they have questions or concerns; or introducing more flexible hours of operation in key student service offices. To help bolster our retention rate, the task force recommends examining the credit-load needed for graduation and reinforcing our advisement ranks – some students are accumulating as many as 149 credits, meaning extra months in the classroom and the added burden of extra tuition and related expenses. Other proposals included recommending more opportunities for student employment on campus; increased support for second-year and transfer students and enhanced academic intervention.

The full report will be available online shortly, along with an opportunity for members of our community to offer comments and suggestions during this month. Watch for an email with a link to the task force website in the next few days.

My thanks to Nicole Henderson, Academic Director of our First-Year Experience program and Peter Troiano, Dean of Student Affairs, who led the task force through its first phase; and then Tracy Tyree, Vice President for Student affairs and Steven Breese, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, for completing the fact-finding process. Soon, we will announce a new team to review the recommendations and carry them forward within the structure of our Strategic Plan – ensuring that this is a living document that will generate positive change on our campus.

TRANSFORM CSCU

I have met with Governor Malloy twice in recent weeks – once at the launching of his new Transform CSCU 2020 Initiative, and again yesterday at the Hamden Chamber of Commerce’s annual Lunch with the Governor, where I had the pleasure of offering remarks. As you know, this multi-year initiative will provide more than $134 million across our 17 institutions, with an emphasis on access, affordability and retention – all themes that we are intimately familiar with here at Southern.

The program also provides for more smart classrooms, in an effort to create technology-rich learning environments; seeks to streamline administrative processes to ease the path to registration and degree completion, and looks to create effective bridges between K-12 schools, community colleges and higher education institutions like Southern.

Coming as it does in the second year of a biennial budget cycle, this initiative can be viewed as an initial investment that will be repeated if we are successful in advancing its agenda. Certainly, it will help us to further our strategic goals and enhance synergies with our sister institutions. In my remarks yesterday at the Hamden Chamber luncheon, I emphasized the work that we are already undertaking to enhance both access and retention. And I also detailed how we are adapting both our facilities – such as the new science building – and our academic offerings, (e.g. the Accelerated MBA; M.S. in applied physics) to meet the future needs of our students and Connecticut’s workforce.

Reflecting the themes contained in Gov. Malloy’s initiative, ConnScu President Gregory Gray’s has proposed that tuition and fees be capped at 2 percent for the 2014–2015 academic year. He recommends that this becomes part of a long-term tuition plan extending through 2016–2017. The Board of Regents has a stated goal to keep college accessible and affordable for Connecticut residents – as President Gray pointed out: “Higher education must remain within reach if Connecticut is to develop a strong, thriving economy.”

With inflation expected annually to exceed 2 percent over the next several years, individual institutions will need to make up much of the budget differential through efficiencies and increased enrollment. At Southern, the lower tuition increase will certainly present less of a financial deterrent for many prospective and current students; and new developments such as the implementation of the Common App will help to expand our pool of applicants. But the onus will be on all of us to continue our work to enhance enrollment and improve retention, following the recommendations outlined by the Student Success Task Force and through the development and implementation of our new Strategic Plan.

DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION

In a move that will support key strategic initiatives, Dr. Erin Heidkamp has been named Director of International Education. Erin has served as Interim Director of International Education at Southern since January 2012 and has achieved a great deal during that short time.

She has coordinated the merger of our three branches of international education: Study Abroad and Reciprocal Exchange Programs (formerly the Office of International Programs), J-1 Visa and Risk Management (formerly housed in Sponsored Programs and Research) and Matriculated International Student Services (formerly International Student Services).

During Erin’s tenure, student study abroad participation has increased by 25 percent, faculty-led spring break and summer study abroad programs have increased by 40 percent, and the number of reciprocal exchange partner universities has increased by 40 percent. These are all excellent trends and reflect our strategic goals to prepare our local students for global lives by giving them more international exposure both at home and abroad. Please congratulate Erin on a well-deserved appointment.

SSC ADVISING PLATFORM

Southern’s partnership with the Education Advisory Board’s Student Success Collaborative (SSC) is reaping benefits, Kim Crone, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management reports.  A pilot program using the SSC advising platform – a predictive analytics system that uses grades and other data to help students measure their likelihood of success in a specific major -  was successfully used by exercise science, communication and inquiry faculty. Full implementation and use of the technology is being rolled out to all faculty advisors this spring.

Kim says the SCC Advising Platform has helped us move toward proactive advising, where advisors can easily identify and seek out at risk students who are in the “murky middle” of deciding whether to persist with or complete their degree program. It provides our advisors with accurate, consistent information about a student’s degree planning, progress toward completion, and the effect of switching or changing majors. And it allows us to migrate to a standardized system and technology so that our advisors can share information automatically.

As we know, student retention is a critical element of our efforts to rebuild our enrollment, and effective academic advising plays a central role in helping students stay on track toward degree completion. Our SSC partner, Griha Singla, will be on campus today and Thursday (March 5 and 6) to continue with training and implementation.  All interested faculty advisors are encouraged to check with their deans for more information.

TOBACCO-FREE COLLEGE INITIATIVE

Last month, I received a letter from U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy requesting that Southern consider joining the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the initiative in 2012, and there are currently more than 1,200 smoke-free or tobacco-free colleges and universities nationwide. Our neighbor Gateway Community College recently became a smoke-free campus, the first Connecticut public institution to do so.  HHS is targeting colleges and universities in its campaign because about one-third of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 smoke.

As a public university, the enhancement of healthy living for our students, faculty and staff is a key point of emphasis through our wellness programming. And so I have charged our university Health and Safety Committee, chaired by Police Chief Joseph Dooley, to explore the issue and outline the steps that would need to be taken to make our campus tobacco-free. The committee will soon be reaching out to the campus community for reaction and recommendations.

EXPANDING WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I will be a signatory on the university’s behalf to the 2013 Statement of Support for Expanding Workplace Flexibility. This initiative is part of a national challenge by the American Council on Education (ACE) to U.S. colleges and universities to pledge a commitment to creating a workplace flexible environment for faculty.

This challenge is based on evidence that shows a connection between workplace flexibility and improvements in faculty commitment, engagement, productivity, recruitment and retention, as well as reductions in stress and turnover. A workplace flexible environment can lead to increased faculty performance inside and outside of the classroom, translating into improved quality of instruction and increased grant revenues. And furthermore, flexibility can help faculty meet increasing demands at work, as well as in their personal and family roles.

I have asked Dr. Michele Vancour, professor of public health, to serve as Southern’s point person for the Challenge, due to her experience and leadership in university work-life areas. Michele is a past president of the College and University Work-Life-Family Association, and has fostered relationships with key members of ACE’s Institutional Leadership Group, which focuses on programs, research and resources that assist senior leaders in improving institutional effectiveness.

Michele has a longstanding commitment to helping Southern become a great place to work and learn for faculty, staff and students. I know that she will be a valuable asset in helping us ensure that Southern continues to be a healthy, inclusive and welcoming environment in which to work, study and teach.

GREAT COLLEGES SURVEY

Continuing with the work-life balance theme, Southern is participating in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For program, a study designed to recognize institutions that have built excellent workplaces.  

Part of the program involves an employee survey that will be distributed to all of our full-time faculty and staff. On March 17 you will receive an email with instructions on how to complete it. This confidential survey was designed specifically for higher education, and the aggregate results will be useful in not only assessing our workplace culture but also in establishing benchmark metrics for future initiatives from our continuing Strategic Plan work.

Your participation and honest feedback will be critical to the assessment process.  To ensure the confidentiality of your responses, the survey will be processed by ModernThink LLC, a research and consulting firm focusing on workplace excellence.  Our institution will not be given any information that would enable us to trace survey data back to any one individual.  Everyone’s participation is encouraged! A high response rate helps ensure accurate results and demonstrates the commitment of our faculty and staff.

HEART WALK

Did you know 1 in 3 Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease and that heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined? We can help to change these statistics by showing our Southern colors as part of the Greater New Haven Heart Walk on Saturday, May 3, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Savin Rock Beach in West Haven. The 3-mile Heart Walk is 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.

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!

STUDENT CIVIC ENGAGEMENT

As you know, Southern and its students have a long and proud tradition of community engagement and volunteerism – highlighted several years ago by our inclusion on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Reflecting this tradition, I have been elected as a board member of the Connecticut Campus Compact, which focuses on civic engagement and creating partnerships between public and private institutions statewide.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents—representing about 6 million students — who are committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education. As the only national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, Campus Compact promotes public and community service: develops students’ citizenship skills, helps campuses forge effective community partnerships, and provides resources and training for faculty seeking to integrate civic and community-based learning into the curriculum.

This is an excellent opportunity for us to enhance our students’ volunteerism and community contributions so that they will develop into the engaged citizens on which our democracy depends.

HERI FACULTY SURVEY

Our strategic planning process will be informed by data, including the results from the National Survey of Faculty developed by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI).

The last time that Southern administered HERI was during the 2005-2006 academic year, and there has been a great deal of change on campus since then.

The link to the HERI faculty survey has been sent to all faculty members’ email accounts. It is critical that the Strategic Planning Committee has complete and accurate information on such topics as pedagogical practices, faculty goals and expectations for students, research and service activities, sources of stress and satisfaction, and the connection between learning in the classroom and practices in the local and global community.

HERI is absolutely anonymous, and I hope that all faculty members will complete the survey.

ATHLETES EXCEL IN CLASSROOM

Excellent news from our Athletic Department, where our 392 student-athletes combined to record a semester grade point average of 3.04, the best mark in school history.

Eleven of our 19 programs achieved a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher during the fall semester. The women’s cross country team led all programs with a 3.6 team GPA. Individually, 46 percent of our student athletes achieved a GPA of at least 3.0, while 25 percent had GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Four student-athletes recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA during the semester.

I echo the words of Athletic Director Patricia Nicol: “The academic success achieved individually and collectively by our student-athletes this past semester continues to demonstrate their presence as outstanding ambassadors for Southern Connecticut State University.”

Congratulations to the coaching staff, administrative support team and our student-athletes for these praiseworthy accomplishments.

Concluding on the theme of athletic excellence, please take the opportunity to support our men’s basketball team in person as they continue their march through the post-season and their rise in the national rankings. Currently on a school-record 14-game winning streak, the 25-2 Owls host  Le Moyne in the Northeast-10 Conference Semifinals today at 7 p.m. in Moore Fieldhouse.

February 11, 2014

Posted in Campus Updates on February 11th, 2014

The persistence of winter has made for a trying start to the semester, with class schedules and the rhythm of campus life disrupted by a series of storms. On snow days, when most of us are comfortable and warm at home, please send your best thoughts to our facilities team and our University Police who are working long and hard into the small hours to keep our campus safe and accessible in the most difficult of conditions. Also to our residence hall and dining hall staffs, who ensure that our residential students’ “home away from home” experience remains a positive one.

900 CHAPEL is now “Southern on the Green”

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the University now has a point of contact in the heart of New Haven’s downtown business district via a lease of space at 900 Chapel Street, the headquarters of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. The SCSU Foundation has entered into an initial 12-month lease with the chamber, and we are now finalizing programming for the space. We will be focusing on several areas, including fundraising; admissions, financial aid and advisement; business development and community engagement and academic programming. Open houses for the campus and off-campus community will be scheduled during the next few weeks and a Graduate Admissions Open House for our master’s degree in computer science and Accelerated MBA programs (see next item below).

Having a strategic and highly visible presence downtown 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. The leased space will also provide us with the chance to expand our collaborations with nearby Gateway Community College, and enhance the recruitment of transfer students. It will give us a venue to offer off-campus classes for academic programs. And it will provide a convenient location to network for student internships and job opportunities. Look for an open house announcement soon so that you can view “Southern on the Green” for yourself.

TARGETED MARKETING

As you know, rebuilding our enrollment is a major goal, and this spring we are embarking on a new, targeted marketing approach by highlighting several programs that offer growth opportunities. These include an Accelerated MBA; a certificate in accounting; a B.S./B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies; and our current master’s degrees in human performance, applied physics and computer science (with a new focus in cybersecurity and software development). As noted, some of these programs already exist, others are new. The common thread is that all have growth potential and all provide a path to in-demand career opportunities.

Recent high-profile breaches in cybersecurity, for example, have revealed a huge demand for individuals who have expertise in identifying and minimizing these risks for companies and organizations. Connecticut is also expected to be fertile ground for new accountants and auditors, and our new certificate program is specifically aimed at individuals who wish to become a CPA as a second career. Our interdisciplinary offerings, which include a variety of concentrations such as criminal justice, allied health and international studies, are geared for individuals who want to design a major that will fit with their individual career goals.

The graduate offerings reflect the time constraints of today’s working professionals. Our Accelerated MBA is a fast-track, hybrid-style option combining quality, convenience, and affordability. Through the AMBA, students will be able to complete their degree in just 17 months with combined Saturday and online courses.

Congratulations to the faculty who have devised and implemented these innovative programs. If this new marketing approach is successful, as we believe it will be, it will not only boost our enrollment, but provide a template for future academic programming by departments campus wide.

TRANSFORM CSCU 2020

As anticipated, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy introduced a new program of investment in our state university and college system during his “State of the State” address at the Capitol last week. This “Transform CSCU 2020” initiative will provide an initial investment of more than $134 million which, according to the governor, will “help bring all 17 campuses into a single, student-centered, technology rich-system.”

This investment will help our state institutions “adapt to student needs and offer the kind of dynamic higher education experience that students want and employers expect,” Gov. Malloy told legislators. A multi-year, multi-phase initiative, Transform CSCU includes $60 million in new operating funds, $60 million in new capital, and $14.5 million in new funding from existing OPM capital. While specifics of the plan and what it will mean for Southern will unfold in coming weeks, the general goals include:

  • Improving student retention rates and increasing enrollment through new initiatives like Go Back to Get Ahead, which targets residents seeking to complete degrees, and outreach to returning military personnel to evaluate experiential learning for academic credit.
  • Building more high-tech smart classrooms to enhance learning.
  • Establishing a long-term tuition model to help plan for the cost of college.
  • Improving system-wide credit transfer and course articulation to reduce time to degree completion and keep tuition costs in check.
  • Streamlining core administrative processes; establishing a common academic calendar and a single application; creating opportunity for system-wide course registration and degree pathway management.
  • Aligning the workforce development mission with the strongest industry growth sectors as identified by the state Department of Economic and Community Development and the state Department of Labor.
  • Strengthening teacher-training programs and providing ongoing support for new teachers.
  • Building strong partnerships with business and industry to give students access to internships and a strong career network.
  • Developing a system-wide academic/facilities master plan to strategically map out program expansion.
  • Addressing deferred maintenance at all 17 institutions.

A number of these goals may sound similar to initiatives that we are currently pursuing on campus, or to objectives identified in the system-wide strategic planning discussions that were held last semester. Certainly, having Governor Malloy’s support, not to mention the injection of substantial state funding, will help us to further our strategic goals and enhance synergies with our sister institutions.  And the core themes of improving access, enhancing retention and better preparing students to successfully enter the workforce resonate with us all. Our thanks to Governor Malloy for promoting this ambitious agenda, to our ConnScu leadership for laying the strategic groundwork, and to the many of you who contributed your ideas during the on-campus meetings and helped to frame Southern’s contribution to this plan.

COMMON APP

Director of Admissions Alexis Haakonsen received welcome word last week that Southern has been approved as a member of the Common Application organization. While there is still work to be done to fully implement the process, the introduction of this standardized application form will certainly enhance our enrollment efforts.

Routinely referred to as the Common App, this single online application is used by more than 400 colleges to streamline the admissions process for students as well as colleges. Using the Common Application allows students to spend their time crafting their essays rather than filling in the same information (demographics, family data, high school courses and activities) on multiple applications. For Southern, it will mean a rise in applications, and as a result, a wider pool of prospective students to draw from. As you know, improving access for prospective students and building enrollment are two of our key strategic goals – the adoption of the Common App is a win-win on both fronts. Our goal is to have it up and running this fall for prospective students applying for fall, 2015.

NEW REGISTRAR

Siham Doughman will be joining Southern as our new registrar, bringing with her more than 15 years of experience managing registration services and student records at American and international institutions.  Currently, as associate registrar for Laureate Higher Education, Siham is responsible for directing registration services for eight institutions with a total enrollment of 75,000 students. Kimberly Crone, our associate vice president for enrollment management, says that Siham has successfully worked with faculty and staff across multi-functional areas to develop streamlined processes and quality control measures, with an emphasis on excellent student service.  She also is proficient in several student information systems, including Ellucian Banner. Please take the opportunity to welcome Siham when she arrives on campus April 4 – and warm thanks to Kim Laing, and then Chris Barrett, for their respective service as interim registrar during a time of transition for this key office.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

I believe that it is incumbent on a university president to engage with members of the on- and off-campus communities so that we can discuss topics of mutual interest regarding Southern and its mission. I have found that one productive way to do this is by hosting informal gatherings at my Woodbridge home. In recent weeks I have hosted student leaders; and then corporate and political figures, including former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. current city Mayor Toni Harp and state legislators Toni Walker and Joseph Crisco.  And on Feb. 27, I will host one of 26 LEAP Year dinners being held citywide to support programming for this important community-based organization. LEAP provides social and academic enrichment, along with mentorship and leadership opportunities for at-risk youth in New Haven’s impoverished neighborhoods.

During the next three months I will host three gatherings for our faculty. Each event will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. on the following dates; Thursday, Feb. 20; Wednesday, March 26 and Tuesday, April 8. To ensure a lively dialogue, each event will be limited to the first 35 people who respond. If you are able to attend one of these gatherings, please RSVP to president@southernct.edu

LEGISLATIVE ROUNDTABLE

Monday we held an important roundtable discussion about sexual assault on college campuses with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro and Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS).

This discussion with Southern students and administrators, as well as representatives from Yale and community service agencies,  followed the recent release of the White House Council on Women and Girls’ report that found that nearly one in five women (22 million) and one in 71 men (1.6 million) have been victims of sexual assault while in college. As Sen. Blumenthal pointed out: “Sexual violence is not a women’s issue; it is a societal issue. While law enforcement must be improved, society as a whole can lead by example.”

Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. DeLauro are seeking to learn more about campus sexual violence in Connecticut and what the federal government can do to further institutionalize best practices in primary prevention and response to victims/survivors, as well as increasing transparency and compliance with federal law.  After a series of roundtables on campuses across the state, the legislators plan to take back ideas to Washington to inform President Obama’s recently created Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

HARD COURT HEROES

Finally, a shout out to our basketball teams, who are enjoying successful seasons.  After a hard-fought victory over its closest rival the University of New Haven last week, our men’s team was ranked 16th nationally and was 13-2 in the Northeast-10 Conference. Head Coach Mike Donnelly has done a wonderful job transforming a formerly struggling program in just four years. Our women’s team, too, is enjoying a late-season surge into contention. Please take the opportunity to support our teams at our home games during their crucial run in to the conference tournament and beyond.

 A reminder of our women’s national title in 2007 came with the announcement last week that former All-American Kate Lynch – a key member of that championship team – has been selected as one of seven individuals to be inducted April 23 into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. Kate is Southern’s all-time leading scorer, was named Most Outstanding Performer during the NCAA National Championship tournament and has now forged a successful career in coaching – currently in her first year as head women’s basketball coach at Molloy College. Congratulations to Kate, an excellent role model for our current student-athletes.