Sept. 2, 2016
Good morning, and welcome to the 2016-17 academic year. It’s great to see all of the energy and enthusiasm on campus this week. This morning I’d like to share my thoughts about how the college is doing. I am very optimistic about our future.
SUNY Oneonta is a good institution and we are on the road to being a great institution. Here are some examples of how we are moving ahead.
Our academic reputation is on the rise. Forbes lists SUNY Oneonta as one of the top 500 institutions in the country and moved us up 22 places from last year. US News and World Report ranks us as #9 among master’s institutions in the North. Kiplinger’s lists us as one of the top 100 public institutions nationally. College Values Online ranks our online master’s program in Nutrition and Dietetics #1 in the nation. These external groups validate our quality education within a competitive environment.
Our diversity is increasing. Fully one quarter of our new first year students are in the AALANA group, identifying as African American, Latino, Asian or Native American. Sixteen percent of our full-time faculty are members of underrepresented groups. The college is not only becoming more diverse but we are assuming leadership in the SUNY system. We established one of the first chief diversity officer positions in SUNY, and for the past five years we have hosted the SUNY Pride conference, which draws LGBTQ students from across the Northeast.
Academic departments are creating attractive new programs, such as Environmental Sustainability, Research and Data Analytics, Sport Management, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Media Studies.
Our new Access to College Excellence program has opened the door to higher education for many first generation college students from low-income families.
More and more of our students are engaging in hands-on learning. Our Active Learning Network of faculty and staff helps students with internships, service learning, research projects, and study away. We established two Living and Learning Communities in the residence halls, one focused on environmental sustainability and the other on social justice.
Last year nine students participated in a program called Borderlinks. They traveled to the U.S./Mexican border to study immigration and its social, cultural and political impact on both countries.
Our alumni are succeeding. The First Destination Survey of 2015 graduates showed that 63 percent of graduates who sought jobs were hired within three months.
Our graduates who went on to further study reported being admitted to 71 different programs at 67 different universities. We have identified and recognized 350 Alumni of Distinction for outstanding career success in their fields.
Donors are investing in us, supporting scholarships, faculty development, and student enrichment. This year, private funds totaling nearly $2 million supported 1,000 students with scholarships. That is one in six Oneonta students receiving a scholarship. Eighty-one thousand dollars went to support faculty development activities such as research, travel, equipment, and teaching workshops; $120,000 went to student enrichment including undergraduate research, internship stipends, and travel to conferences.
The indicators of success are moving in the right direction. We are good, aspiring to be great.
So for the future: what kind of institution do we want to be?
The vision for our future is a simple one. SUNY Oneonta is educating the next generation of leaders for New York state and beyond. The college exists to foster student growth: intellectual, emotional, social, and civic.
Our goal cannot be simply to attract students who are already successful and to nurture them in our rich environment. We will also welcome students who have encountered challenges, whether those challenges are educational, economic, or cultural. Our students will increasingly come from different socioeconomic strata, different age groups, and different cultural backgrounds.
How can we welcome an increasingly complex student body and help all students grow? We can begin by adopting the goal of having every student find their academic home as early as possible. We can facilitate students’ progress through intentional advising. We can help each student identify his or her strengths and passions, appropriate career goals, and the right academic program.
Our new orientation format was a step toward connecting students with their faculty and program of study even before the beginning of classes. The new format also ensured that all of our incoming students could participate in a similar orientation experience. This was a massive change that necessitated an institutional can-do approach, and you stepped up to the task.
We can help students succeed by eliminating complicated bureaucratic processes, overly rigid rules, and excessive degree requirements. We can make sure that every student who needs a certain course to graduate on time can enroll in that course.
We can pledge that every student who enrolls as a first year student can finish in four years. We can help students minimize the cost of their education, given that more than 60% of them are borrowing money to pay for college.
SUNY Oneonta exists to help students learn and grow, so helping students progress smoothly through college is good for us all.
I have four wishes for our students:
- That they study something they love and become good at it;
- That they grow as people to be confident, thoughtful, creative, and ethical;
- That they graduate in four years with the least possible debt; and
- That after graduation they launch fulfilling careers or go on to further study.
Each of us is engaged in helping students succeed. It doesn’t matter what your job title is. If you interact with a student over the course of a day; if you work behind the scenes to help the college run smoothly; if you collaborate with someone else to solve a problem, you are educating the next generation of leaders for New York state and beyond. Thank you for your contributions to our students.
Finally, I want to alert you to a new iniative. In an effort to increase communication and transparency on campus, we will be publishing a monthly newsletter, “Notes from Netzer.” It will share news and also offer the opportunity for you to write in with questions and suggestions. The first issue will be arriving in your e-mail next week. I hope it will be a useful channel for two-way communication on campus.
Thank you for your work, and have a great year!
Dr. Nancy Kleniewski