To the William Paterson University Community
Since assuming the office of the President of William Paterson University four months ago, I have learned a great deal about this wonderful institution and have met many of you. In the months ahead, I will meet many more of you, but in the interim I want to share some of my thoughts and goals for the University and recount some recent highlights.
Planning for the Future
As you know, the Middle States Accreditation Visiting Team will visit the University on March 20-23, 2011. Many people worked on the self study document, a revised draft of which will be discussed by the University community at a town hall meeting on December 15, prior to preparation of the final version to be sent to the Visiting Team the last week of January 2011. The self study, undertaken every ten years, allows our University to analyze what we do, how well we do it, and what we would like to do better. It is a thorough and detailed study of most parts of the University with a heavy focus on student learning, faculty development and achievement, and overall institutional success. I would like to thank Provost Ed Weil as well as the Steering Committee chairs, Steve Hahn and Jane Zeff, and the committee members for their hard work. The preliminary visit by the chair of the Visiting Team took place on October 25 and 26 and proved successful. Many people had an opportunity to meet with Dr. David Soltz and we appreciate the thorough overview provided him.
As we prepare for the visit in March, I encourage all members of the University to read the self study and become familiar with its excellent recommendations for the future. A self study, however, is not a strategic plan and William Paterson University will need to develop one. Our existing excellent Academic Plan, Student Success Plan, Facilities Plan, individual College strategic plans and other plans for various units and departments on campus will be valuable as we begin this important process. Once we complete the Middle States visit and receive recommendations, we will begin the formal process of developing a 10-year strategic plan for this University. I ask for your support and assistance as we look to the future and dream what might become possible. We already have created a Plan to the Strategic Plan (see attached) which outlines our core goals and was developed in conjunction with the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate. I would like to specifically provide you with the six major goals we hope to achieve in the years ahead.
Of course, these are very broad goals but they will serve to guide us as we develop more specificity to our strategy and, ultimately, to decide our future. In the Middle States process, and again in developing the Plan to the Strategic Plan, we noted the need to revise the overall budgeting process at the University to allow more information to become available and to allow more participation by the campus community in decision-making. As a result, we will introduce a new budgeting process this spring that will include more town hall meetings, more consultation with various groups on campus, and more information.
This plan to a new open budget process (see attached) was developed by the Cabinet of the University in conjunction with the Faculty Senate, the Department Chairs, and the Directors’ Council. Steve Bolyai held a town hall meeting on October 22 about the present state of the University’s finances, attended by more than 100 people from our community. We hope that the budget plan will assist many of you in understanding the finances of William Paterson University, which remain in very stable condition despite a substantial reduction of state appropriations for higher education this year.
As we move ahead with these activities, I have walked around the campus, noting its beauty, its buildings, especially the new Science Building which opened this summer, and the University Commons, as well as the recently installed solar panels situated throughout the campus. But so many buildings are still in much need of repair. Our facilities teams do an excellent job of maintaining 39 buildings spread out over 370 acres, but many of the buildings are heavily used, are old, and have not had a facelift in years. It will be a challenge to update all our buildings with so many pressing needs to be met, but we will revisit our Facilities Plan shortly after we complete the Strategic Plan. In the meantime, however, we continue to work on several projects, including renovations at Raubinger and Morrison halls and the Shea Center. A project not originally scheduled but which many of you have asked me to initiate is the construction of a multiple-level parking garage on campus. We clearly have a parking challenge at William Paterson University, so we are not going to wait to start investigating what is possible. I have asked Steve Bolyai to explore potential sites for a garage and to look at the feasibility of beginning this project soon. He has done so and later this spring we will discuss the plans and alternatives with the campus community. Of course, we already believe that such a garage will have to be a public/private partnership and be a self-funding project as other universities around the country have done. In the meantime, Steve Bolyai has reconstituted both the Facilities Committee and the Safety Committee of faculty, staff, and students. These two groups will work with him to advise senior management on various facility and public safety enhancements. While we have a safe campus, we always strive to improve.
Over the past four months, I have enjoyed attending a host of exciting events on campus, many of which received excellent media coverage to enhance the reputation of William Paterson University. Stuart Goldstein and his team have been very busy indeed and we thank them for their success. On September 22, the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, gave a keynote address to students. On October 1, Al Pacino performed to a sold out crowd, and then Bernie Williams did the same on November 12 as part of our 31st Distinguished Lecturer Series. On October 8, more than 100 high school guidance counselors visited the University to learn about our excellent academic programs and to see our beautiful campus. Many of these counselors from all over the state and from New York made their first visit to William Paterson and we hope they will recommend us to high school seniors applying to college. John Martone and the Admissions team are very busy this fall traveling around the state, hosting well-attended open houses, and visiting many high schools to speak to graduating seniors.
We proudly hosted a business incentive seminar for the Passaic County Department of Economic Development, as well as the School Superintendents of Passaic County meeting. On November 4, a group of us traveled to the annual New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Convention, where we interacted with more than 325 alumni and friends and had more than 500 New Jersey teachers visit our booth to learn about William Paterson. On September 8, we celebrated the anniversary of the Center for Chinese Art, and on September 24, we had a delegation from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China visit to sign a new strategic agreement of cooperation, which will continue faculty and student exchanges and which established the first Chinese Students Overseas Training Center in the United States on our campus. On October 21, we cut the ribbon on our solar panel project with a crowd of 150 people, including Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Bill Pascrell, as well as John Lushetsky, solar project manager, U.S. Department of Energy. I also made a quick trip to visit our California alumni and was greeted by a strong group of supporters who welcomed me with donations of more than $50,000. I thank Sandra Deller and her team for arranging so many introductions to alumni and friends of the University. We hosted our first Veteran’s Day lunch for students, staff, and faculty with more than 60 people attending and listening to Board Chair Vince Mazzola ’73 and Jeff Jones ’84, M.A. ‘97, mayor of Paterson, speak about their experiences. We have about 125 veterans among our undergraduate student body today, many of whom just returned from overseas. A great number of these events appeared in the newspapers and on radio and television shows.
Most exciting for me was, of course, the wonderful Investiture Ceremony held on November 12. On a glorious fall day, more than 600 people joined together to celebrate my formal installation as the seventh president of William Paterson University. For the William Paterson community, it was a day of solidarity and celebration, honoring President Arnie Speert, present on the platform, for his twenty-five years of leadership and welcoming a new president. The Department of Music outdid itself with two original fanfares and student and faculty performances; the five colleges and their faculty members marched in procession. We were honored by the attendance of Congressman Pascrell; our Trustees held positions of honor; and SGA President Naima Ricks, Faculty Senate Chair Ron Verdicchio '65, and Alumni Association President Douglas Hamilton, Sr. ’75, among others, gave words of greeting. For me, it was a day to always remember. Thrilled yet humbled by the responsibility, I accepted the mace, medal, and robes signifying the leadership of this wonderful University.
In the months ahead we have many things to accomplish. We must conclude several important searches, including a vice president for enrollment management, a dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, a director of University Performing Arts, and 22 faculty positions for fall 2011. This past fall, 22 professors joined the faculty so that within two years, we can expect more than 12 percent of our full-time teaching faculty to be new to the University.
We must conclude work on the new University Core Curriculum, which goes into effect in fall 2011 and represents a significant revision to the undergraduate curriculum. Almost the entire faculty is engaged in this activity in some way and we appreciate the leadership provided by Provost Weil and the University Core Curriculum Council, who have worked so diligently to improve undergraduate education at William Paterson. But we remain challenged by retention and graduation rates that are not where we want them to be. This spring, we will review some of our current practices regarding advisement and the delivery of basic skills courses in order to better serve our students. We will study the recent results of our participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement and learn from that survey. We will continue to seek financial resources to help our students, since we know that many of them do not complete their degrees because of financial stress.
I am invigorated by our potential and our promise. We are in the process of developing an important agenda for the future – an agenda that will provide us with the opportunity to shape the next decade for William Paterson University. As always, we will move forward as a community, proud of all that we have already accomplished and focused on all that we can achieve.
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