Address to Faculty and Staff - January 2016

To the William Paterson University Community,

I want to extend a warm welcome back to everyone for the new semester.
We survived the Blizzard of 2016, although the storm did its best by dumping almost two feet of snow on our campus. We are grateful that the storm hit on a weekend, which gave us some extra time to plow and salt and sand the roadways and sidewalks before classes resumed on Monday. Nevertheless, I realize many of you struggled to get here Monday and I thank you for the efforts you made. We also thank our police and our facilities staff who remained on campus throughout the storm working and keeping us safe.
As is our tradition, we begin each semester welcoming our newest employees. They are:
  • Kyle Coniglio, Art,
  • David Cupo, Librarian, David and Lorraine Cheng Library,
  • Ali Moghani, Computer Science,
  • Yan Song, Economics, Finance, and Global Business,
  • John Sullivan, Manager of Administrative Services, Physical Plant Operations, and
  • Lauren Tibbetts, Assistant Director, Facilities Services.
We also have one new visiting researcher (non-Fulbright), one continuing researcher on a Fulbright grant, and one continuing student funded by Fulbright:
  • Zhang Hongbin is a post-graduate researcher working this semester with Dr. Michael Griffiths in Environmental Science;
  • Roman Bardun is in the second semester of his Fulbright Visiting Researcher grant studying music under the supervision of Professor Stephen Marcone; and
  • German Sanchez Uriarte is enrolled as a second-year Fulbright graduate student in the music program under the supervision of Dr. Carol Frierson-Campbell.
Welcome to William Paterson University, and we hope you will find your time here enjoyable and productive.
We thank our recent retirees for the many years of service they gave to this institution and wish them a long and productive retirement:
  • Joyce Heavey, Financial Aid,
  • Brian Kohn, HVAC,
  • Judy Norton, User Services,
  • Deborah Lago, Payroll and Employee Benefits,
  • Kalliroy Protopsaltis, Student Government Association,
  • Alan Buffalino, Garage, and
  • Lawrence Roache, Custodial Services.
Congratulations and good luck.
We also announce the departure of Kurt Wagner, Assistant Director for Information Systems, Cheng Library, and Rohan Howell, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, who resigned to take other appointments.
Although we have talked about it for a couple of years and we have watched the Coach House come down and the new building go up, I think you will agree with me that our new University Hall is a fantastic addition to this campus! If you haven’t yet taken a tour, I strongly encourage you to do so.  The classrooms and laboratories reflect some of the latest teaching and research technologies, and the learning spaces are designed with the flexibility to create dynamic, interactive dialogue between students and faculty. I am pleased that many professors in the humanities and social sciences have classes scheduled in the building and can take advantage of open spaces for students to work and study together, and more relaxed spaces around Einstein Bagels for people to meet socially over a cup of coffee and a snack.
I want to thank the faculty and staff in the departments of Communication Disorders, Public Health, and Nursing for packing up your offices and moving over the break.
We held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on January 13, with about 300 people in attendance including Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, Senator Thomas Kean Jr., and various other state and local officials and student and faculty leaders. I thank all of you who participated and showed off this wonderful new facility.
Our IRT Department put together a brief video, with the help of a low-flying drone, which I think you will enjoy:
We were the third institution to complete a building project supported by the Building Our Future General Obligation Bond, and we believe this building will show the taxpayers of this state that the money has been well spent. We finished this building ahead of schedule and on budget.
And without pause, we have moved on to the gut renovation of Hunziker Wing, first, and Hunziker Hall next year. We believe our timing is right, because the state announced a second round of funding opportunities for early this spring, and we have submitted several projects for consideration totaling $33.7 million. The projects we submitted are “shovel-ready” and meet the criteria for the funding, so we are cautiously optimistic that we will receive some additional support.
I want to thank Steve Bolyai, Rick Stomber, their staffs, the deans, and department faculty and staff who, hopefully in 18 months, will move into the renovated Wing for their help with the design of that building.  These buildings in the core of the campus will signal a significant modernization of our physical resources and present a new face to prospective students and their families.
As University Hall becomes part of our everyday academic lives, and we become accustomed to the modern facilities and technological advances it provides, we need to step back for a moment to think about what happens every day inside all of our facilities…to reflect on the level and quality of research and creative activity that is being generated on our campus each semester.  Our Mission Statement and Strategic Plan have as their cornerstone the challenge for us to enhance student academic and intellectual engagement, and this engagement happens every day in the classrooms and labs across campus. And we are seeing growth opportunities increase every year, to name but a few:
  • The Collage! Concert in December featured many of our outstanding music students working together with faculty and staff mentors to showcase the breadth of artistic expression being perfected in the Music Department.
  • The new robot in the Art Department gives students the unique opportunity to create sculptures of granite and marble using 3-D imaging software.
  • The National Sales Challenge held in November in the Cotsakos College of Business shows how well our students perform against national peers, and students in financial planning are winning national awards in major competitions, all under the guidance of their faculty mentors.
  • The College of Education has been diligent in seeking federal grant funding to increase its ability to provide in-service professional training to high-need school districts, and by educating future teachers in STEM fields for deployment in these same high-need districts.
  • The College of Humanities and Social Sciences continues to provide thought-provoking programs on a wide variety of important intellectual topics. Its fourth annual College-Wide Multidisciplinary Conference last November, on the theme “Us and Them: The Paradox of Difference and Inequality in a Global Age,” featured Dr. Phillip Goff, a social psychologist at UCLA and research president of the Center for Policing Equity, as the keynote speaker. Dr. Goff’s speech was attended by local police chiefs as well as by a standing-room-only audience of students, alumni, faculty, and community members. 
  • Research and Scholarship Day has seen a dramatic increase in the number of faculty and student research activities that has caused a one-day event to expand across an entire week this spring. Plan on joining your colleagues during the week of April 19 to 22.
  • Student Development has increased its weekend and overall programming so that more students participate in more activities every semester.
The University will continue to support these initiatives by maintaining its financial support.  We know that faculty, staff, and students working together on research projects and creative activities is a high-impact practice that enhances students’ engagement with the University, and is a powerful recruitment tool for prospective students and their parents.
And now we are seeing a renewed interest in civic engagement, one of the pillars of our Core Curriculum.  Another high-impact practice and a goal of our Strategic Plan, we have collectively committed to fostering civic engagement activities among our students, to develop their civic-mindedness and interest in public service and working for the public good.  We are one of the founding members of the New Jersey Campus Compact, and together with state director Saul Peterson, we are developing new ways to attain our goals.  Associate Provost Jonathan Lincoln and Director of Campus Activities, Service and Leadership Donna Minnich-Spuhler are co-directing our campus program to build on current efforts to engage greater numbers of students in civic engagement activities. Thanks to Jonathan and Donna for leading this effort.
We have just collected the data from our recently graduated seniors, and just about half of our students have engaged in a for-credit internship, practicum, or clinical experience while at William Paterson, and this does not take into account non-credit internships.  I think that is a very impressive statistic, and one that gives our students a value-added benefit while pursuing their degree.  I think we can improve on that number as well.
The opportunities we create for our students, both inside the classroom and out, will be the foundation on which they build successful careers, businesses, and personal lives. The more they participate in activities and discussions that broaden their perspectives on their world, the more they will be able to make judgments based on fact, not conjecture or hyperbole. We need future leaders who will make decisions based on the common good, and we can foster that development at William Paterson University. We need good alumni who will stay connected with the University, see the value of their time here, and give back to help future students who are struggling financially with scholarship support.
So as we celebrate this wonderful new building, we must also celebrate the knowledge, the interest, and the enthusiasm that we generate every day, and I encourage all of us to renew within ourselves that core value. For our current students and for generations of students to come, William Paterson University will be a place for intellectual exploration in modern facilities, centered around a supportive but academically rigorous environment, with a stellar faculty.
And in a larger context, the University will continue to give careful thought to issues facing our country that also affect our University. Student activism was quite prevalent on many campuses last semester including William Paterson University. The Million Student March raised important issues about college affordability, college debt and an insufficient minimum wage. We struggle to keep college affordable and although tuition increases were quite modest over the past three years here and scholarship dollars have increased, we know students struggle.  While I am pleased to see that the average debt upon graduation of William Paterson students dropped last year by $2,000 to $25,000, below the national norm, we also recognize that the debt level still is too high.
We again encourage all individuals advising and counseling students to encourage them to apply for scholarships and to complete their degree in four years rather than incurring additional costs. Too many of our students still graduate with more credits than they need and take longer to complete their degree than is warranted. In some disciplines, we have seen a rise in credits completed by some students rather than a decline as most students have done. Programs need to evaluate that and work on their curriculum and with students to determine if an improvement is possible. 
At the same time, we embrace the activities of our students directed against racism, sexism, intolerance, and religious discrimination. The faculty and the students last semester conducted many open sessions on these issues to educate and challenge each other. I look forward to continued sessions this spring as the University invites noted speaker Angelique Kidjo to campus on February 19, among other speakers. Give some thought to attending these talks, inviting your classes to participate, and above all having conversations about these topics with one another and with your colleagues and friends. 
Finally, let me conclude that the administration and the Board of Trustees are aware that our bargaining units remain without contracts. As you know, these are negotiated by the State and the two sides have yet to sit down for meaningful discussions. Nevertheless, at the local level, I and the administration will continue to meet with the leaders of the collective bargaining units as we do every semester and seek ways to collaborate and engage in helpful dialogue. 
I hope this is a successful semester for all of us, and best wishes as we go forward.
Kathleen Waldron
William Paterson University
P.S.  At the end of last semester, the University issued a progress report at the end of year three of the Strategic Plan. The review committee submitted its report in December and it was distributed to the University community and posted on the Strategic Plan webpage. If you have not done so, I encourage you to read the report, which shows the progress we have collectively made and also the areas where additional focus is needed. Follow this link: