A new project developed by SUNY Oneonta’s Psychology and Sociology departments will give six students an immersive applied-learning experience in the fields of health care and human service while simultaneously looking to alleviate some serious community problems.
During the year-long venture, student researchers Joshua Garufi, Kathryn Kilichowski, Taryn More, Judson Parisi, Stacy Pinto and Peter Richardson will work with several local health and social service agencies to examine the well-being of area residents and identify areas that need improvement.
To learn more about the area and its residents, students will conduct survey research at the Southside Mall in Oneonta. This research will focus on knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of residents of Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Otsego and Schoharie counties. Specifically, it will assess residents’ risk of alcohol/illegal drug abuse and mental illness and identify challenges to health wellness in rural areas.
Funding for the research is being provided by LEAF Inc. (the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation) and by a grant from the SUNY Oneonta Faculty Center for STEM-related applied learning.
In its annual Community Health Assessments, the Otsego County Department of Health routinely names promoting mental health and preventing substance abuse as two of its top priorities, with an emphasis on affordability, since many residents are living at or near poverty level.
“It is so important to include our students in this project and have them gather data from members of our community,” said Julie Dostal, executive director of LEAF, “so we can better define the problems and also refine the resources we are offering.”
The project will culminate with students developing a county-wide map of substance abuse treatment and mental health services and resources. Students will also assist local agencies with program evaluations and run an analysis to identify gaps within the county’s continuum of care.
I look forward to working with these six students, along with Gregory Fulkerson and Alex Thomas from the Sociology Department. We are particularly appreciative to the community agencies that will be assisting in our research.
SUNY Oneonta was represented at the recent SUNY advocacy event in Washington, D.C. College presidents and government relations staff convened for two days to advocate as a university system and learn about legislative changes that may impact higher education.
Acting Under Secretary of Education James Manning and Acting Assistant Secretary Kathleen Smith met with the group and heard from SUNY presidents on several topics, including funding for higher education and better ways of evaluating employment and graduation rate outcomes.
SUNY leaders also advocated for reinstatement of the Perkins Loan Program, urged Congress not to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and pledged to continue efforts to improve college completion rates by creating seamless transfer pathways between SUNY institutions.
U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer shared their legislative priorities and requested that SUNY leaders:
oppose tax reform measures which, as proposed, would impact New York state and local tax deductions;
oppose the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which will put 800,000 young people at immediate risk;
advocate for Pell funding;
advocate for Title IX to ensure the safety of women in higher education and in the military; and
advocate for the Federal Work Study Cooperative Education Act, which as proposed would be funded through a 50/50 split by colleges/universities and the Federal Work Study program and would allow students to be placed in jobs at off-campus businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Dr. Michael Lauer, deputy director for extramural research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), offered remarks on problems facing faculty researchers, including increased competition for a shrinking pool of funding and a declining number of post-doc positions. He also discussed current NIH priorities, including mental health and opioid abuse, childhood obesity, emergency preparedness and response to health crises, and workforce and clinical trials.
I am pleased to report that the college’s financial condition is stable. We are projecting that we will hit our tuition revenue target this year, correcting a two-year slide. The largest incoming class in recent memory drove an overall increase in undergraduate enrollment this fall, nudging up tuition and related revenue.
Despite these encouraging signs, we continue to operate with a modest campus reserve. Our strategic plan calls for increasing our reserve, yet we have made no net progress toward that objective. The college uses its reserve to address unanticipated expenses. It also allows us to invest in strategic initiatives.
The president has directed each Cabinet member to identify institutional savings so that we can increase the campus reserve and have some flexibility to invest in our highest priorities. The target set for this is $400,000 and it will be effective with the start of the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2018.
The college can consider a number of opportunities to achieve savings, such as reducing departmental budgets, including OTPS and temporary service, renegotiating vendor contracts, and possibly not filling positions as they become vacant. The college is not considering retrenchment or layoff of current employees.
This action is a prudent step to avoid a financial difficulties. Consistent with our strategic plan, it will help keep the college in a financially sustainable position for the future.
Provost Jim Mackin and I traveled to Atlanta in late October to participate in a pair of faculty recruitment events, each sponsored by leading education advocacy organizations.
The provost attended the 24th annual Institute for Teaching and Mentoring, hosted by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) from Oct. 26-29. SREB works to improve public education at every level, help policymakers make informed decisions, and strengthen student learning with professional development, proven practices and curricula. The Institute is the largest gathering of minority doctoral scholars in the country.
Provost Mackin, joined by Maurice Odago from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Sasha Ramlal from Elementary Education & Reading, tabled at the SREB event. Meanwhile, I worked at the fifth annual conference of the Black Doctoral Network Conference (BDN), held Oct 26-27. Though a smaller event, BDN brought together established and new scholars and professionals from the social sciences, STEM and humanities to create a space for intellectual exchange, connections and collaborations.
Both the provost and I met with several people interested in our efforts at SUNY Oneonta. Our post-doctoral teaching opportunities were seen as a draw. Candidates were interested in the opportunity to come to work here and learn more about our institution and region while connecting with scholars in their field. They were also excited about the possibilities that might exist for post-docs after their two-year commitments to the college. Upon our return, we forwarded resumes and contact information for more than 50 scholars of color to the deans.
Our reception in Atlanta added to the optimism we feel for our post-doc program. So, too, did recent news that the college will receive some funding through SUNY Performance Improvement Fund to enhance it. This investment demonstrates that the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recognizes our campus commitment to diversity.
Stay tuned! I look forward to sharing more details about our Performance Improvement Fund award, as well as introducing the new members of our community who accept the opportunity to join us for the fall 2018 semester.