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Brockport / President's Office / Presidential Speeches and Public Statements / Convocation 2006

Faculty/Staff Opening of School Convocation

9 am, Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Tower Fine Arts Mainstage
President John R. Halstead
The College at Brockport, State University of New York



 Good morning! Last year, you warmly welcomed Kathy Halstead and me and just one week ago, we celebrated our one-year anniversary of coming to SUNY College at Brockport—a great year for us and I hope for you as well.

Last August, I focused on my "entry" to SUNY Brockport, my personal and institutional goals, and some select highlights. I even recall quoting philosopher-king Yogi Berra, but disclosing publicly that I'm a Red Sox fan much to the delight of some of you and the dismay of you "Yankee pinstripers." Yes, I'm following the current standings, and the latest "Boston Massacre" series at Fenway Park, yet I am much more interested in the "standings" of SUNY Brockport—our quality.

If last year was about warm welcomes and new goals, this year is about continuity, planning and transitions. In his latest edition (2003) of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges focuses on transition as a three-stage process which entails a paradox: "Transition starts with an ending." That is, letting go of old ways, proceeding through the in-between phase he calls the neutral zone, and only then making a new beginning as we're doing here.

Let me pause and give a very pragmatic example as well as my sincere thanks to all of you in the Departments of Academic Advisement, Accounting, Career Services, Educational Opportunity Program, Financial Aid, Registration & Records, and Student Accounting who have unselfishly moved in the heat of summer while the Rakov Center is renovated to better serve our students in the future. Also, assure you of our continued institutional commitment to international education with the passing of Dr. John Perry.

Getting back to my premise, I firmly believe that we've started a process of making a new beginning working together as evidenced by several landmark events. For example, our most recent Mission Review II/MOU collaborating with the College Senate; embarking on the process of a detailed Five-Year Campus Needs Analysis due September 15 to SUNY; the towering presence of our $19-million townhomes project; planning for the Special Events Recreation Center and Lake Ontario Natural Resource Center; and launching new academic programs and initiatives, which I announced at our April 7 inaugural celebration.

Let me also take a moment to thank Professors Janie Hinds and Rich Fenton for chairing the respective national search committees (and all members of these important committees) for a new Provost and a new Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. I would also be remiss if I did not thank Vice Provost Michael Fox and Director Claire VanDenBerghe for their interim roles.

Bridges also reminds us that we would do well to "treat the past with respect" as evidenced by our fond farewells to Tim Flanagan and Ray Di Pasquale this summer and our dedication last May of the Albert W. Brown Building—reflecting a million-dollar effort—as well as our continued respect for shared governance.

Planning Culture/Matrix

As we look to the future, you'll no doubt note a strong penchant for planning. As Bridges quotes an old proverb: "It doesn't work to leap into a 20-foot chasm in two 10-foot jumps!"

Thus, I spent all day last Friday with my Cabinet planning for the future with an ambitious agenda ranging from a planning matrix connecting my nine goals, six initiatives, Strategic Planning II recommendations, and Mission Review II/MOU to an integrated marketing plan related to Goal 8 announced last convocation and Initiative 6 underscored in my inaugural address to enhance our presence in greater Rochester.

Witness, if you will—and this is also related to my #1 Goal of academic quality—the renewal of our Dreams Start with a Professor Who Believes in You campaign displayed in the atrium featuring Professors Cynthia Boaz, Maggie Logan, Gary Metz and Paul Richards as well as the Rochester Business Journal campaign I launched August 4 to be followed by others—some of whom are on this stage such as Mary Worboys-Turner, Jeff Lashbrook and Frank Guidice as well as College Council Chair and Nixon-Peabody Managing Partner Scott Turner.

In fact, I was also intrigued by an opinion piece in the July 14 Rochester Business Journal featuring Jon Judge, the Paychex CEO who followed founder and friend Tom Golisano. Talk about transitions! I've met with Jon Judge and hundreds of other CEOs and civic leaders in my first year to markedly increase SUNY Brockport's presence—I appreciated several of you who have noted that and written to me in positive ways. I agree with Judge that: (1) "Rochesterians are kind of tough on themselves;" and (2) "It's a pretty terrific place!" That's why my Business Breakfast Series at the MetroCenter will continue to feature "movers and shakers" such as national Superintendent-of-the-Year Manny Riviera of the Rochester City School District, and we'll continue to press for an "Early College High School" Gates Grant guided by Dean Chris Murray, Dr. Betsy Balzano and EOP Director Gary Owens.


Now to a few select highlights across the College as I did last year. These are only illustrations of considerable accomplishments during my first year and the result of many dedicated faculty and staff working together with leadership.

First and foremost, we've progressed nicely on the six Major Initiatives just announced at the April 7 inauguration. For example, accreditations continue to be received from national bodies (the "Emblems of Quality" Initiative) and new program development continues with a very positive site visit in May from an external review of our formal proposal for a Master of Science in Forensic Accounting program.

Interim Provost Michael Fox, the Deans and I are giving serious consideration—utilizing the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching—to a career-span professional development program within the context of a recent SUNY Task Force and our own campus advisory committee ably chaired by Colleen Donaldson.

Vice President Lou Spiro and his team along with Cabinet are developing a process—as funds become available—to begin to restore some of the staff positions lost back in 2002-03.

We have schematic designs from Bergmann & Associates and the City of Rochester working with Sasaki Associates to try to concretize a partnership for the Lake Ontario Natural Resource Center at the Port of Rochester. I've also committed matching funds with federal earmarks to move along the design process for this major initiative related to research and economic development.

Speaking of economic development, as part of Initiative 6 to increase our presence in greater Rochester, the Division of Institutional Advancement has developed "fast facts" (not the "fast ferry") depicting our total economic impact of $412 million.

Let me now turn to our external relations and advancements made in that division under Vice President Roxanne Johnston, her team, Mary Worboys-Turner and the Foundation Board. Since she joined us just seven months ago, Roxanne and her team had a record-setting year of $1,257,607 in gifts plus grants of $614,096 for a total of $1,889,703—an increase of 35 percent! But who's counting, right?

And give yourselves a hand as well as faculty/staff contributions totaled almost $140,000—$38,000 more than the previous year and an increase in participation levels to 37 percent. My thanks to Dawn Jones, Mark Noll and Nick Mascari for all of their leadership and to you for your confidence in the College—our College!

Stay tuned for a series of new programs launched by our Advancement staff as we fill important positions and conduct a feasibility study preparing for a case statement and our first comprehensive campaign.

You'll note, too, in some of our ads that SUNY Brockport was rated one of the best colleges and one of the best values in the Northeast by the Princeton Review. And we've just learned that we've moved up to the second tier in the most recent US News & World Report rankings.

Much of that has to do with exciting happenings in Academic Affairs such as completion of our four-year cycle of Academic Program Review and action plans; the development of seven new programs and nine others—both undergraduate and graduate—in various stages of development—linked to Initiative 2.

Add landmark accomplishments in the American Democracy Project and the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year, the Freshman Council, a recently completed report on Academic Integrity chaired by Dr. Steve Ireland, our periodic review for Middle States co-chaired by Drs. Jenny Lloyd and Jill Campbell, and our commitment to increase the number of full-time, tenure-track faculty and address the S & E department budgets, and you get a very encouraging picture of academic life.

It's gratifying today—and later this week at our home—to welcome two-dozen new faculty members. Overall, our searches have been successful and demonstrate greater diversity—another one of my primary goals—resulting in 33 percent of our new faculty being from federally recognized minority groups and 52 percent women.

As a result of the faculty colloquium last year (and I look forward to tomorrow's with colleague John Schuh), we launched the Presidential Fellows program resulting in the hiring of:

  • Dr. Rynetta Davis in the Department of English
  • Dr. Carl Davila in the Departments of Anthropology and History
  • Dr. Kenneth Nixon in the Department of African & African-American Studies

The Diversity Committee under Adrienne Collier and Sheila Strong was re-constituted and re-invigorated and working with Dr. Joel Frater and others made our annual diversity conference, Rebuilding Communities, a success.

I'm pleased we're enhancing the campus climate and learning environment in other tangible ways as well. Witness the exponential increase in housing sign-ups driven by the dramatic progress with our townhomes.

Less dramatic—but very important—are major projects under Tom Dreyer and his Facilities team such as the re-design of Harrison Dining Hall that has been completed. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention land acquisition on Holley Street for 100-120 new parking spaces and the replacement of leaky roofs in Drake Library and Tuttle Complex underway to be completed fall 2007.

I'm gratified to get $15 million from the State to enable us to begin the design process for the Special Events Recreation Center and $14 million for a Rochester Educational Opportunity Center campus downtown for Dr. Melva Brown and colleagues.

Regarding the budget, this past year was one of the best ever for SUNY in terms of state support thanks to the strong leadership of Chancellor John Ryan. That puts us in a solid position to begin to fund campuswide initiatives and priorities. But we'll need to continue our advocacy in Albany with legislators and alumni for FY2007-2008.

 I met with the Budget and Resource Committee informally last week and I assure you they will be involved in the Five-Year Campus Needs Analysis just received from SUNY due September 15.

Last year, I pledged my unwavering commitment to continuing to enhance student quality and diversity. We can back that commitment with results projected for this year's class.

SUNY Brockport is a "hot college" – a record number of 11,114 applications (about a 4.5 percent increase) supports that claim!

The freshman high school average for confirmed regular admits increased to 90.6 percent, class rank to 76 percent, mean SAT to 1113, and the percentage of Tier 1 and 2 students to 79.3 percent (vs. 75.4 a year ago).

Our confirmed deposits for minority students—both freshmen and transfers—currently are projected at 9.5 percent and 11.8 percent respectively.

And I have no doubt that our new summer orientation program, under Andrea Chauncey and Marcie Esler, will bring rewards in terms of increased retention and graduation rates.


But summer is over. Yet I hope it afforded a time for you to recharge your batteries and renew your academic interests. As you know, I love to read and cite the literature. Even R&R time in our beloved Finger Lakes was devoted to a range of literature from books for our planning retreat to novels such as one entitled A Death on Crooked Lake (about a college professor who finds a body on his dock on you know what lake) and non-fiction such as Craig Brandon's revisiting of the Theodore Dreiser classic, An American Tragedy, with characters from Cortland and a killing on Big Moose Lake.

Cabinet also read Malcolm Gladwell's most recent book, blink, on decision-making. But I decided it wouldn't be wise to use a book with the subtitle of The Power of Thinking Without Thinking as the theme of my convocation remarks at an academic institution that values the intellect and contemplative thinking!

One other confession while I am at it: I recently read the American Council on Education's latest publication entitled The Presidency. In the spring 2006 edition, Cal-Riverside Chancellor France Cordova's feature cover story focuses on "Losing Sleep Over Student Success." Dr. Cordova enumerates the issues which might make college presidents "sleepless in Seattle"…or Riverside, CA…or Brockport, NY: a major donor; a business plan for a new school; ruminating about the College Senate; curricular reform; or making sure our students' experiences are successful.

Me—I don't worry about the latter, being at a place—our College—that values student success above all else. We "walk the talk" in all that we do from our ever-increasing academic profile and diversity of our students to our signature program, Scholars Day.

Although I concur with France Cordova that "In truth, however, the most important agent of change is the faculty, whose commitment to student success and innovation in teaching is essential if [students] are to succeed," I will not lose any sleep over our faculty and staff's commitment to our #1 priority: student success.

In closing, let me reaffirm my commitment—and Kathy's—to SUNY Brockport and our decision to come to this superb college. Our first year in Brockport only reinforced this positive decision and we look forward to many years ahead working with all of you to ensure the continued success of our students.

Last Updated 2/28/12