Welcome to the spring semester! I hope that all of you enjoyed a relaxing and happy Holiday period in the company of your friends and family. While this will be a busy spring, I am confident that it will be a productive one, as there are many talented people on this campus doing remarkable things. It certainly began in vibrant fashion, with a wonderful array of Welcome Back activities prepared for our new and returning students by Student Affairs staff and their campus partners. I look forward to working with all of you to advance our mission and ensure student success in the weeks and months ahead.
TRANSFORM CSCU 2020
Last week, in the latest online Transform CSCU 2020 Update newsletter - http://www.ct.edu/files/update/transform-Jan-9-2015.html – the Board of Regents detailed how this initiative has now moved from the initial planning stages into the review phase. President Gray has asked leaders from various key groups representing faculty and staff from all 17 institutions in our system to review and prioritize the original 36 initiatives and determine whether changes or additions need to be made to ensure that all outcomes are value-added at the end of the day.
As you know, this multi-year year effort is geared to increase the accessibility and affordability of higher education in Connecticut and to position the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system as a major economic engine for the state. The definition of success in this endeavor is not that each institution will ultimately look and act alike, but that we leverage our unique strengths across the system to further our individual and collective missions.
I look forward to your input as this important process moves forward.
I am very pleased to report that our enrollment numbers for the recently completed Winter Session were up in all categories. The total headcount of 636 students represented an increase of 39.8 percent over 2013-14. This turnaround was achieved through a systematic examination of our Winter Session course offerings; targeted marketing; and a concerted effort to meet our students’ time constraints and avoid winter-weather disruption through an emphasis on online courses.
Ian Canning, Director of Special Academic Programs & Sessions, points out an interesting aside that 46 non-matriculated students took Winter Session courses – double that of the previous year – showing that we have clear opportunities to bring outside students in and engage them with Southern.
Congratulations to Ian and everyone involved in helping to make this program a success!
We are taking a similar systematic approach to recruitment and retention in our overall enrollment. With our spring enrollment currently down by 1.1 percent – the lowest among our peer CSU universities – we clearly need to take corrective measures internally to enhance our retention rate.
The numbers speak for themselves – we have lost more than 2,000 students since our enrollment peaked at around 12,500 six years ago. Given the state’s projected budget challenges in the next fiscal year, a new enrollment-based funding distribution formula being developed for implementation by the BOR, and the prospect that tuition increases may be capped at 2 percent, we will face significant financial challenges in the next 12 months if our downward trend is not reversed by next fall.
Recent surveys of students who did not re-register for the spring semester revealed varied reasons for their departure, but the length of time to graduation and the resultant financial burden of staying in school were consistent themes. As part of our Student Success Initiative, we will examine a number of areas that have the potential to be roadblocks to timely graduation, such as the alignment of our general education with our major requirements and the quality and effectiveness of our advisement. As I have mentioned previously, now is the time to take a serious look internally, to make the university “less difficult to be successful in” for our current students. And we can do that by identifying, and then modifying or removing, the policies and practices that are tripping them up.
On a positive note, our enrollment numbers for fall 2015 are showing early signs of promise. The 5,865 freshmen applications as of the start of this week – boosted in large part by our adoption of the Common App – are already double the number of total applications for fall 2014. The final yield rate will be critical, however. And the potential inherent in these early numbers re-emphasizes the need for us to complete our internal repair work this spring, so that new students who arrive this fall are quickly engaged with the campus and have an unobstructed path to their chosen degree.
A 12-MONTH CAMPUS
Another means of enhancing enrollment is ensuring that our campus remains active year-round with academic and student life activities for current and prospective students. We have excellent facilities, outstanding faculty and talented staff to showcase what Southern has to offer.
In coming weeks, for example, we will play host to the Connecticut Odyssey of the Mind – a creative problem-solving program for high school students – and the New Haven School System’s High School Fair, each of which will draw upwards of 1,200 students to campus. It is particularly opportune for us to engage prospective students from New Haven schools, as only a small number of our host city’s annual graduating class currently attend Southern.
During the summer months, new STEM workshops, a summer recreational program for children, and several athletics camps are planned – and it is still early days. With our renovated library and our new science building soon to open, more opportunities for community engagement will be at hand.
We are also creating new partnerships beyond our shores. As you know, a key part of our mission is “preparing our local students for global lives.” And we can achieve this by increasing opportunities for study abroad programs and by attracting more international and out-of-state students to attend Southern and further enrich the diverse tapestry of our campus.
Last semester, Erin Heidkamp, director of international education, and Provost Bette Bergeron visited five institutions in China, with a view to establishing new collaborations there. Representatives from our social work department made a follow-up visit recently and a delegation of Chinese higher education leaders will visit us this summer.
This semester, from Feb. 4 through 7, Southern will welcome a 13-member delegation from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) in Liverpool, England.
In 2014, our respective institutions made a commitment to identify synergies in academic programming and faculty research, and to work towards the implementation of a wide range of cooperative and complimentary academic programs.
The scale of this international collaboration is unprecedented for Southern, and our eventual goal is to develop a seamless connection between our campuses in a number of academic departments.
This is a University-wide initiative which has received tremendous support from our faculty and Deans, and we look forward to expanding the scope of our international programming in the months and years to come.
Congratulations to several faculty members who have received well-deserved recognition recently:
Professor of Anthropology Michael Rogers received $20,000 from the Leakey Foundation to further his field work in Ethiopia at an archaeological dig site where some of the earliest hominid remains have been found. One of the most noteworthy parts of this program is that Michael has taken small groups of students with him for the last few years – three have traveled to Ethiopia this month – giving them the rare opportunity to work with and learn from some of the top researchers in this discipline.
Ilene Crawford, Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies, has been awarded a 4- month Fulbright Flex research grant. The Flex grant allows awardees to travel to their host country in three segments over three years, and Ilene is spending her first segment in Vietnam from Jan. 3 through March 16. Her host will be the Institute for Educational Research (IER) in Ho Chi Minh City, which is affiliated with the University of Pedagogy-HCMC, the site of her spring, 2010 teaching Fulbright and with whom Southern has an academic partnership.
Ilene’s research at the IER will examine higher education reform in Vietnam in the context of globalization, with particular attention to how globalization is reshaping women’s literacy practices, and their lives, more broadly.
And last but not least, Troy Paddock, Chair of the History Department, has been selected for this year’s Faculty Scholar Award. Troy – an expert on German history – was chosen for his book, “Creating the Russian Peril: Education, the Public Sphere and National Identity in Imperial Germany, 1890-1914.”
The book – published in March 2010 by Camden House of Rochester, N.Y. – explores the German perception of Russia before World War I, and Troy explores how Russia was presented in various books, newspapers, and academic writings.
His work has received many accolades. Andrew Donson, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst scholar, writes in The American Historical Review: “The book’s main argument – that the image of Russia created by German historians and journalists was largely a foil for their own concerns about German, their reflection in a panoptic mirror – is sharp and illuminating. It is commendable that, rather than writing a purely intellectual history, Paddock traces the transmission of this image from experts to school textbooks and the press.”
As a result of the book, Troy has been invited to participate in a multi-volume project, Russia in the Great War and Revolution.
STUDENTS COMPETE IN GERMANY-BASED ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPETITION
Our Tourism, Hospitality & Event Management program has received a generous donation from the Kamran Farid Foundation to send a team of 10 students (two graduate, eight undergraduate) to participate in the 2015 Emerald Forest Global Competition at Karlshochschule International University in Karlsruhe, Germany.
They will be the first Americans to participate in this prestigious competition, which is designed for students to develop entrepreneurial collaboration and communication skills by engaging each other in a virtual, internet-based simulation game that models the management of a hotel business.
Jan Jones, Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies and the department’s Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management Advisor, will serve as a global team coach for our students, who will gain firsthand experience as they build a hotel, develop a business/operational strategy, prepare a trade fair, analyze their competition, and respond to crises. We are very thankful to the Kamran Farid Foundation for enabling our students to receive this excellent opportunity.
Mr. Farid is the co-founder of Wallingford-based Edible Arrangements, which crafts, sells, and delivers edible bouquets of fresh fruit from more than 1,300 stores in 14 countries. And he is a current Southern student in computer science, returning to complete his degree last fall after suspending his studies 15 years ago to grow his then-fledgling business.
In the true spirit of giving back, he has also donated $20,000 to launch the Kamran Farid Helping Hands Fund at Southern, aimed at aiding students struggling with unexpected, short-term hardships that make it difficult to finish their degrees. A wonderful example of philanthropy in action.
Bob Sheeley, Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting and Facilities Operations, reports that – barring any delays with final safety and accessibility inspections – the renovated Buley Library should be released for to us for occupancy by the end of January.
Staff will move into the new building over the following two months. Information technology employees currently located on the fourth floor of the addition will be relocated to the fourth floor of the library. And several departments now based in the Wintergreen Building will be temporarily moved to Buley while Wintergreen is renovated to provide a new home for our Enrollment Management Services.
The new Buley will feature the latest in information technology, with its computer labs, cyber cafe, tutorial centers and classrooms providing the best possible environment for teaching, learning and research. It will house an art gallery, where we will be able to showcase the work of our students and bring visiting exhibitions to campus. And it will also provide a proper home for the Tiffany windows that link Buley to its past, as it is remade into a library for the 21st century.
I know that all of you are excited to see this project finally come to fruition, after many years of delay and frustration. Please mark your calendars for Monday, April 20 at 10 a.m., and join me for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the library as we celebrate the opening of a building that will provide our campus with exciting new opportunities for learning and engagement.
MASTER PLAN UPDATE
Just across the parking lot from the library, our new Academic and Laboratory Science Building is now an imposing presence. Construction has been moving forward smoothly on this project, which is expected to be available for occupancy by the end of May. Move-in will take place during the summer months, and our development staff is working with area technology companies to provide the additional equipment that will be needed to utilize fully the new space.
This truly promises to be a landmark building for our university, providing greatly enhanced research and career-based educational opportunities for our students in the STEM disciplines. We plan to hold an opening ceremony for the new science building in early fall.
Of course, the transformation of our campus is far from over. There are projects currently in the planning stages, such as the Recreation, Wellness, and Fitness Center. And we are also looking to the future. During the past few months, the Master Plan Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Provost Bette Bergeron and Executive Vice President Jim Blake, has been developing a blue print that will carry us forward into the next decade. This evolving plan reflects new opportunities for growth and academic focus.
YANKEES GREATS AT LYMAN
Save the date for the 17th installation of the Mary and Louis Fusco Distinguished Lecture on Friday, April 10 at 7 p.m., featuring New York Yankees baseball legends Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre. While Rivera is known as the most dominating closer in the history of baseball, and Torre entered the Hall of Fame after leading the Yankees to four World Series titles, both are impressive individuals in their own right.
Torre is chairman of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which he and his wife, Ali, launched in 2002 to help end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives through education. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Torre to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women and since October 2011, he has served as co-chair of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.
Outside of baseball, Rivera has been involved in philanthropic causes and the Christian community through the Mariano Rivera Foundation. With its emphasis on youth-oriented programs, the foundation makes a difference in the lives of thousands of underserved children in the United States and abroad.
A portion of the proceeds from this longstanding lecture series supports Southern’s Endowed Awards of Excellence, a merit-based scholarship program. A limited number of remaining tickets are available at: https://www.southernct.edu/dls/
REMEMBERING DR. KING’S LEGACY
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Looking back at Selma raises the question: Where are we today?
On Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 1 p.m. in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom, we will celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy through song and spoken word in “Going Beyond the Dream: Creating Solutions for Today,” a program organized by the Multicultural Center.
Pastor James A. Lane of the Northend Church of Christ in Hartford will deliver the keynote address, discussing Dr. King’s nonviolence philosophy and sharing solutions to address the troubling issues of racial violence and discrimination that still confront us in contemporary America.
DRIVE OUT EBOLA
Last week, I and the members of my Cabinet collected donations for the Drive Out Ebola Fund, during a Week of Welcome lunchtime event at the student center. Thanks to all those who supported this effort, which helped raise funds for cargo transit vans to be retrofitted as ambulances, stocked with medical supplies and delivered to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone, in West Africa, has been one of the countries most acutely affected by the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged the region. With entire families wiped out and inadequate and limited facilities to isolate and treat the sick, Sierra Leone is completely dependent upon foreign assistance for its beleaguered healthcare system.
New Haven has been a Sister City to Freetown, since 1997 and this special relationship places our city in a unique position to provide much-needed medical aid. At the request of Mayor Toni Harp, I am serving as an honorary chair of Citizens to Drive Out Ebola, which is seeking to raise $100,000 by Jan. 31, 2015. If you would like to lend your support to this critical relief effort, donations may be made at: https://fundly.com/citizens-to-drive-out-ebola.
ENHANCING WELLNESS ON CAMPUS
Southern, which is a lead sponsor of this spring’s Greater New Haven Heart Walk, was recently recognized with Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite Status by the American Heart Association for promoting employee health and fitness. The university was one of 1,896 worksites awarded nationally. A key focus of our mission is providing a safe and healthy environment for all members of the university community, and this is a welcome recognition for the initiatives that we have put in place thus far.
Our wellness efforts on behalf of our students will be further enhanced following the arrival last week of our new Coordinator of the Wellness Center, Emily Rosenthal, MPH, MSW. Reporting to Student Health and Wellness Center Director Diane Morgenthaler, Emily has been tasked with developing a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to health and wellness education for students, reports Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree.
“While we have a lot of great people and offices who focus on the health and wellness of our students,” Tracy says, “Emily will help us provide a more integrated and intentional approach. It is my hope that she will lead a wellness team consisting of representatives from Student Health, Counseling, Fitness Center, Campus Recreation, Drug and Alcohol Center, Women’s Center, Multicultural/SAGE Center and relevant academic departments who use their collective expertise to shape a longer-term strategy for measurably impacting the well-being of our students. “
HELLO AND FAREWELL
Finally, you have just a few more days to extend your best wishes to Executive Vice President James Blake, who leaves us February 1 after stewarding our institution with care, efficiency and integrity during the last 18 years.
Jim’s successor, Mark Rozewski arrives Feb. 17 from the University of Southern Indiana, an institution that mirrors Southern in scale and has a similar emphasis on access and affordability. Please take the opportunity to welcome Mark personally to campus.