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The Forecast for Enrollment: Modest Growth

Dr. Nancy Kleniewski

The college’s current enrollment picture is strong. This fall we enrolled 1,402 freshmen, the largest first-year class since the college began keeping records. Our overall student body, including graduate students, now numbers 6,381, a five percent increase over last year. This growth was partly planned and partly unexpected, although welcome.

The college community’s response, from expanding orientation to meeting housing challenges and finding seats in classes for so many new students, has been fantastic. However, we don’t expect to enroll this many first-year students in future years, as the number of high school graduates in New York state continues to decline. Moreover, sustained freshmen growth on our campus would present severe space issues in classes and residence halls.

Beginning next fall, we expect the overall student population to increase only about one percent per year through 2022. This modest overall growth will not be based on larger first-year classes but on larger numbers of returning upper-level students and slight growth in the number of graduate students. This bears a bit of explanation.

Recently, it has been difficult to predict how many upper-level students will return each fall. For the past three years, we have seen an unprecedented decrease in the number of upper-level students returning, not because they are dropping out or transferring to other colleges but because they are graduating more quickly than their predecessors. Earlier graduation is a positive development, consistent with our strategic plan of decreasing time to completion and making a college education more affordable, but it does require some juggling of the proportions of other types of students to maintain our optimal enrollment of approximately 6,000.

An offsetting trend is recent growth in graduate studies. The number of continuing graduate students jumped from 145 last fall to 271 this fall and total graduate enrollment rose from 308 to 388. This is more than twice the enrollment we had in graduate programs just five years ago. We will continue to pursue opportunities to build up graduate programs, especially in areas of high need.

It is important to note that the increase in the size of this first-year class did not significantly change the academic profile of our new students. In addition, I am happy to report that our first-year class includes an increase from less than 20 percent to a new high of 28 percent of students from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. I am particularly proud of this trend. Not only is SUNY Oneonta a richer institution because of it, but diversity makes the college more attractive as prospective students increasingly value a broader and broader range of experiences.

I want to thank everyone who contributes to the admissions, enrollment and completion agenda of our campus. It takes great teamwork to attract new students and ensure that they receive a high-quality education and great opportunities for personal fulfillment during their college years.

Rebecca Harrington Helps Develop Popular Violence Prevention Course

Health Educator Rebecca Harrington’s reputation as an expert in responding to and preventing sexual assault continues to grow. This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that over 140 colleges have downloaded SPARC—Sexual and interpersonal violence Prevention and Response Course— a free, web-based resource offered by SUNY and created by a team including Rebecca.

SPARC: Sexual and Interpersonal Violence Prevention & Response Course Online Training

SUNY, the City University of New York and the New York State Department of Health collaborated on SPARC, which aims to instruct students in the prevention of sexual, interpersonal and related violence. It combines the training requirements of Title IX, the Clery Act and New York’s “Enough Is Enough” law into an online module.

According to the United States Department of Justice, one out of every four female undergraduates will be the victim of some form of sexual assault before graduation. This astonishing statistic is unacceptable.

SUNY has established itself as a leader in the fight against sexual violence. The university system embraced “Enough Is Enough,” enacted in 2015 to establish requirements that all colleges statewide adopt comprehensive procedures and guidelines for addressing sexual assault and related crimes. SPARC builds upon this by delivering an educational component that colleges and universities nationwide can customize and make the cornerstone of their own campaigns.

It is gratifying to share that SUNY Oneonta, through Rebecca’s leadership, is playing a role at the national level in combating sexual violence. Her work will make students’ learning environments safer on campuses across the country.

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Colleges of Distinction 2017-2018

Once again, SUNY Oneonta is among 372 colleges and universities profiled in the Colleges of Distinction 2017-2018 Guidebook, released Tuesday. This is the third year in a row that we have been recognized by the higher education guide for our academic excellence, focus on undergraduate teaching, innovative learning experiences, opportunities for personal development, and career and graduate school preparation. In addition, this year, we have been further recognized with "Field of Study" badges for our business and education programs.

Read more about this recognition


Highlight: Grad Student Wins Fellowship for Turtle Research

Grad Student, Alexandra Vlk, Turtle Research

This month, I’m pleased to share a story about one of our graduate students. Alexandra Vlk, an M.S. Biology student from Virginia, was the sole recipient of the competitive Hudson River Foundation Graduate Fellowship for her research on the wood turtle. Working with Assistant Professor of Biology Elizabeth Bastiaans, Alexandra has been studying mating and nesting habits of wood turtles in Oneonta, with the hope of gaining a better understanding of why the species is on the decline. 

Watch this video for a glimpse of this important work

- In this Edition -

Ensuring Website Accessibility

LED Upgrades: Another Bright Idea

Assistant Professor of Biology Daniel Stich Receives NOAA Grant

 


Ensuring Website Accessibility

Hal Legg
Executive Director of Communications

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Last month the college received formal notification from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that a complaint about SUNY Oneonta’s website had been filed on May 30. According to the OCR, the complaint alleges that the college’s website “is not accessible to individuals with disabilities; including, but not limited to, those with visual impairments and who are deaf or hard of hearing.” The letter came as no surprise.

Through conversations initiated in August by SUNY legal counsel, the Office of Communications became aware of a series of federal complaints concerning SUNY campus websites. The complaints, evidently filed by a single complainant, allege that the websites are not fully accessible to individuals with disabling conditions. Counsel shared that the OCR already had notified several state-operated campuses about the complaints against them.

OCR is a unit of the U.S. Department of Education. It enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and implements federal regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving financial assistance from the Department.

The institutional website—www.oneonta.edu—is substantially compliant with Section 504 and the ADA. The site upgrade completed in June enhanced accessibility, and the college has long attended to tasks such as alternate tagging of images, which allows screen readers to interpret them.

However, a list of items believed by the complainant to need remediation included uncaptioned video on the college’s Facebook account. This signals that college-related online content may be within the purview of the OCR investigation, which could have implications for the use of web-based, third-party software, for example, the Intercollegiate Athletics website.

Use of PDFs on the website is another area of interest. While the PDF, which stands for “portable document format,” delivers on its promise to be easy to make, share and print, untagged PDFs may not comply with accessibility requirements. Communications has taken a two-pronged approach to begin addressing this.

First, we have begun repackaging the content of simple, text-only PDFs as native web content. Unfortunately, this approach is too labor-intensive for PDFs that are more complex. As a pilot project, the college is working with an external vendor to tag routinely used PDFs. We are optimistic that it will provide a quick and efficient solution.

The complaint also may add to the case for a shift in web-related policy. Coincidentally, earlier this year, Communications began reviewing the college’s Web Policy and Privacy Policy. Accessibility concerns need to factor into decisions about, for example, whether to host third-party content that the college does not maintain.

Although Communications continues to work with counsel to develop the college’s response to the OCR based on specific items the complainant has noted, the scope and scale of the investigation aren’t clear yet. Nevertheless, we expect to have a plan to resolve the complaint by mid-November. This would be consistent with other campuses’ experiences.


LED Upgrades: Another Bright Idea

Terry Zimmer
Director of Facilities Operations

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Even in the dark, our campus is now a brighter, more energy-efficient place, thanks to a major MOC project that has upgraded outdoor lighting to use Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology.

Installation of the new fixtures started in May, and most of the roadway, sidewalk and parking lot fixtures have already been replaced, illuminating the campus in beautiful LED light. This white light generally allows people and security cameras to “see” better at night, making objects appear more natural, as they would during the day.  

Technology used in the old fixtures – a mix of high-pressure sodium, metal halide and fluorescent lighting – dated back to the 1990s. LED lighting, in contrast, is more energy-efficient and has a much longer life expectancy; lights in the new fixtures will last 50,000 to 100,000 hours, or about 22 years!

With the LED technology also comes greatly reduced maintenance expenses. When complete, the project will involve the conversion of approximately 700 fixtures with an estimated annual savings of 300,000 kilowatt hours and $20,000.

Kudos to Jim Pasternak and Patrick Ryan for all their efforts taking this project from concept to completion.


Assistant Professor of Biology Daniel Stich Receives NOAA Grant

Kathy Meeker
Director, Grants Development Office

Dan Stich

I am pleased to share that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded a $205,438 grant to the Research Foundation for SUNY to support the project titled “Understanding Climate Impacts on American Shad Recovery, Fisheries Management, and Influences of Dams.”

American shad is a fish species that has declined throughout its range due to changing ocean climate, commercial fisheries and hydropower dams. Under the direction of Principal Investigator Daniel Stich, assistant professor of biology, the project will evaluate the influences of multiple factors on the recovery and productivity potential of several American shad stocks in the Northeastern United States.

The work includes collaboration with three federal agencies, more than a half dozen state agencies along the East Coast, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and several other institutions of higher education. In addition to Daniel, the project includes co-PIs at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center.
 
Please join me in congratulating Daniel on securing this highly competitive award.


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