September 4, 2015
Good morning. It’s always exciting to start a new academic year, and this year is especially exciting.
Last spring we worked together to adopt a new strategic plan for the college, entitled Scholarship, Success, Strength. The plan has four goals: enhancing student engagement throughout their college career; promoting inquiry, service, and scholarship; increasing student access and success; and ensuring the financial sustainability of the institution.
The plan aligns well with my four wishes for our students, that they:
- Study something they love and become competent at it;
- Grow as people to be thoughtful, confident, creative, and ethical;
- Graduate in four years with the least possible debt; and
- Launch rewarding careers or go on to further study.
This year we are selecting targeted action items to make the plan’s goals a reality, and our most important priority will be a focus on first year students. According to the campus results on the National Survey of Student Engagement, our seniors are exceptionally engaged, well above the national average for seniors at public comprehensive universities such as SUNY Oneonta. However, our freshmen lag behind first-year students at comparable campuses. So what can we do to enhance the first year of college?
- Enroll all first-year students in the appropriate general education and major courses
- Help them plan their academic pathway through enhanced advising
- Ensure that their foundational courses are engaging and rigorous
- Coordinate academic and co-curricular experiences for greater impact
My Cabinet and other administrative staff have been working this summer to identify some initial steps that we think will be helpful. These include:
- New software for advising and student academic planning
- Better course scheduling to provide the needed seats for first year students
- Holding Orientation just before classes to improve students’ transition into the first semester
- Establishing two living/learning communities that integrate in- and out- of class learning.
I would appreciate your ideas about other ways to improve student engagement in the first year. There will be a call for projects that can help us meet the goals of the new Strategic Plan and funding will be available through the Strategic Allocation of Resources program.
SUNY Oneonta is stronger and better than ever before. Here are a few examples of our strength. We have just completed the 125th Anniversary Campaign that raised nearly $14 million to support scholarships and strategic initiatives. One gift, a bequest from our former art professor Jean Parish, will support the installation of 13 large scale sculptures that will be on loan to the college during this academic year. Our undergraduate and graduate admissions offices have met and even exceeded the targets we set for them. Our 6-year graduation rate is the best ever. The recent SUNY System’s Presidential and Campus Review was highly favorable. And we have recently been selected as a College of Distinction for our close ties between faculty and students and our hands-on learning experiences.
As I travel to meet alumni and welcome them to campus as we will at this afternoon’s Alumni of Distinction Award Ceremony, I am struck by the fierce loyalty that they have to SUNY Oneonta. Our graduates are proud of our school and of the continued accomplishments of our students. They go on to do amazing things, as a scientist, judge, astronaut, broadcaster, corporate executive, Broadway producer, international child advocate. Our predecessors helped generations of our students find their foundation, and today we continue to inspire and launch young people’s lives. What a legacy we are privileged to be part of. What a rewarding field of work for us to be in!
We continue to invest in our future through faculty and staff development. Thus, I would like to recognize three groups of people and ask them to stand. First, please help me welcome our two new Vice Presidents, Dr. James Mackin, Interim Provost, and Dr. Franklin Chambers, Vice President for Student Development. Second, I would ask the new faculty and staff members who have joined the college since last September to stand and be greeted by your colleagues. Finally, I ask any faculty or staff member who was promoted during the past year or granted continuing or permanent appointment to stand so we can congratulate you on this achievement.
We have a definite sense of momentum right now, and I am optimistic about our future. Working together we will be recognized as a leader in challenging and empowering students to identify and achieve ambitious goals. Thank you for everything you do for this institution, and I wish you a successful year.
Dr. Nancy Kleniewski