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.
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.
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.
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.
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!