Good afternoon and I hope you are as excited as I am to have so many students back on campus! It is always wonderful to see such a crowded ballroom on the first day of a new academic year. This is our opportunity to gather as a campus community, to reconnect with colleagues and friends, introduce new faculty and staff, and talk about what is on the horizon for this year.
We are on track to meet our enrollment target for this fall, welcoming 1,400 first-year students and 1,200 transfers to campus. This is a very positive signal that the freshmen enrollment dip last year was a one-time blip, and that we have recovered nicely this year. I want to thank VP Reg Ross and his teams in undergraduate and graduate admissions for their hard work, and thank all of the faculty and staff who were part of the recruitment and enrollment process.
In particular, I want to thank VP Miki Cammarata and AVP Francisco Diaz for running very well-attended orientation and registration sessions in June, July, and August that brought over 1,800 students to campus with many family members. A full enrollment report will be provided to our community in early October once the University officially reports the numbers to the federal and state governments.
I am delighted to announce that our new academic building, University Hall, will open for classes in spring 2016, one full semester ahead of schedule. There will be continuous communication about the move from Hunziker Wing to University Hall this semester and we expect tours of the new building to be available some time in November.
The move is expected to occur over winter break with spring 2016 classes scheduled in the new building. Classes will not be scheduled in Hunziker Wing for spring 2016 as we will begin renovation of that building immediately with an expected completion date of August 2017.
University Hall, an 80,000-square-foot general classroom and office building, is one of the first buildings completed on college campuses in New Jersey which was funded through the Building Our Future general obligation bond, passed by New Jersey voters in 2012. We were fortunate to have just completed a mini master plan for the academic zone on campus when the funding was made available.
We are planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a big celebration to officially open University Hall in January 2016 before the start of classes. We owe a big round of applause to VP Steve Bolyai, AVP Rick Stomber, and the entire Capital Planning staff for helping to move this project along so quickly.
It is our tradition to open the academic year by introducing our newest faculty and staff. We welcome two administrators, nine staff and 39 new faculty members. I am about to introduce about 50 people so I am just going to say their name and title and will not ask people to stand.
Dr. Jonathan Lincoln joined us on June 1 as the Associate Provost for Curriculum and International Education. He comes to us from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania where he was most recently the Acting Dean of the College of Science and Technology, among other administrative assignments.
Dr. Edward Owusu-Ansah began August 3 as the Dean of the Cheng Library. He joins us with nine years of library leadership experience, most recently serving as Dean of Library and University Collections at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
We welcome 39 new faculty colleagues:
College of the Arts and Communication,
In the Department of Communication: Mark Effron and Randi London
In the Department of Music: Bill Charlap, our new Director of the Jazz Studies Program, and Deborah Sipkin King
Cotsakos College of Business:
In the Department of Economics, Finance, and Global Business: Tao Guo and Chuanqian Zhang
In the Department of Marketing and Management Sciences: Andrey Kecojevic, Jet Mboga, and Soloman Nyaanga
College of Education:
In the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education: Soyoun Bae-Suh
In the Department of Secondary and Middle School Education: Sharon Leathers
In the Department of Special Education and Counseling: Meredith Drew and Michelle Gonzalez
College of Humanities and Social Sciences:
In the Departments of Africana World Studies and Philosophy: Sharin Elkholy
In the Department of Anthropology: Anna West
In the Department of English: Andrew Kalaidjian, Barbara Krasner, West Moss, Donovan Ramon, and Marquita Smith
In the Department of History: Nicola Singh
In the Department of Psychology: Michelle Cascardi, Megan Chesin, and Gilbert Honigfeld
In the Department of Sociology: Beth Adubato, Joel Cappellan, and Amber Ruf
College of Science and Health:
In the Department of Biology: James Arnone and Sonya Bierbower
In the Department of Chemistry: Jonathan Foley
In the Department of Computer Science: Pavel Naumov and Zakia Elsammani
In the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences: Louise Eitelberg
In the Department of Kinesiology: Michael Laughlin
In the Department of Nursing: Ginette Castro, Lisa Foley, and Persephone Vargas
In the Department of Public Health: Eli Green and Aleksandar Kecojevic
Again, welcome to this community of scholars, and we wish you a productive and rewarding first year at the University.
We welcome nine new staff members to the University:
- Glenda Almeida, Assistant Controller
- Lauren Busko, Project Coordinator, College of Education
- William “Jay” Davis, Operations Coordinator, Global Business Financial Institute
- Annette Feliciano, Assistant Registrar
- Rebecca Kalejaye, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
- Karl Pettit, Project Manager, Capital Planning, Design and Construction
- Melissa Silva, Resident Director
- Claudia Tormino, Assistant to the Associate Provost
- Joelle Tutela, Director of Accreditation and Educational Innovation, College of Education
We will miss our 11 colleagues who retired from the University over the last year, and wish them a long and healthy retirement.
- Kathleen Bakarich, Nursing, 17 years
- Stephen Bryant, Music, 26 years
- Edward Burns, English, 26 years
- Li-Hsiang (Aria) Cheo, Computer Science, 43 years
- Tony Coletta, Elementary and Early Childhood Education, 42 years
- Cherinoh Davies, Plant Operations, 17 years
- Linda Hamalian, English, 31 years
- Jim Hauser, English, 45 years
- Jane Hutchison, IRT, 33 years
- Bob Manuel, Institutional Advancement, 20 years
- Isabel Tirado, History, 30 years
Congratulations on a job well done.
Over the last year, the Board granted emeritus status to 12 retired faculty:
- Robert Chesney, Biology
- Anne Ciliberti, Cheng Library
- Alice Deakins, English
- Daphne Joslin, Public Health
- Rochelle Kaplan, Educational Leadership and Professional Studies
- Kathleen Malanga, Cheng Library
- James Manning, Kinesiology
- Robert McCallum, Chemistry
- Barry Morganstern, Communication
- Sara Nalle, History
- Michael Sebetich, Biology
- Janet Tracy, Nursing
Congratulations to our newest emeritus faculty.
And finally, I ask for a moment of silence to remember Steven Veal who passed away on August 12 after serving for 32 years in our Buildings and Grounds Department.
The upcoming academic year will pose some challenges and opportunities for all of us. First, the State of New Jersey continues to experience a slow economic recovery from the 2008 recession and problems remain with appropriate funding of the state pension and benefits systems. In addition, the collective bargaining unit contracts have expired as of June 30 and most of the people in this room are without a contract and without any clear indication of when negotiations might conclude.
Funding for higher education in New Jersey was reduced last year for the first time in a few years while in neighboring states such as New York and Connecticut funding was being restored after several years of cuts. We need to support our faculty and staff and students by continuing to invest in higher education in this state.
We need to make a cohesive argument that investing in education is a worthwhile and a necessary goal of government as well as the individual. The University is doing its part by becoming more efficient and by keeping tuition increases to historically low levels. This year, we increased tuition by only 1 percent, the lowest in the state, although we are still the seventh most expensive public institution in New Jersey. A more complete picture of our overall financial state will be provided later this term by VP Steve Bolyai at various venues on campus. Let me just state that we are in a sound fiscal position but have achieved that position by prudent management and stable enrollments over many years.
What does the new academic year promise?
We are in our fifth year since the Middle States team visit in 2011, and we are preparing a mid-term comprehensive report on the progress of our institution. There is much to be proud of and much work to be done. All members of this community will have an opportunity to review the Periodic Review Report draft and provide comment. Provost Warren Sandmann will be speaking about that, the state of the faculty and other upcoming accreditations in his address to our community on September 29.
We completed successful reaccreditations in the Nursing Department for the MS in Nursing, the Post-Graduate Advanced Practice Nursing Certificate, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice. We also successfully completed reaccreditation for the MA in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. The Cotsakos College of Business completed a reaccreditation site visit by AACSB and will be submitting a follow-up report this fall, as will the Music Department following a visit by the National Association of Schools of Music. And this year, Public Health is preparing for initial accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health with a site visit during the spring 2016 semester.
We look forward to a discussion about the University’s Honors program and its future direction. As many of you know, Barbara Andrew, professor of philosophy, has agreed to serve as interim director of the Honors College after the departure of long-serving Professor Susan Dinan. She will lead a discussion on campus this year about how the Honors College serves its students and participating faculty.
We also expect to have continued discussion about our Student Success activities, focused on improving student performance in the classroom and continuing to improve our retention and graduation rates. I am pleased to report that for the third consecutive year, we have seen an increase in both four- and six-year graduation rates, one of our strategic goals and one that better serves students struggling to afford an education.
While we still have more improvement to achieve, I want to thank many of you for your active participation in Student Success meetings. Increased tutoring, expanded free summer freshmen courses, more scholarships, expanded advising, and more intrusive interventions are working. The Taub Foundation recognized our efforts and, as many of you know, this past spring pledged $1 million in scholarship support to William Paterson, the largest gift of its kind made by the foundation.
At the same time, 316 students qualified for the junior year of the Student Success Scholarship and an additional 386 freshmen completed 30 credits with a GPA of 3.0 or better to qualify for the sophomore phase of the Student Success Scholarship. We believe this unique program is motivating many students to stay on track and excel in the classroom.
We know that engaged students are more successful students and engagement can take many forms. Following our strategic plan, we have launched a civic engagement initiative for our students. Building on the excellent work of the American Democracy Project led by Professor Christine Kelly and area five of the UCC, we are preparing the next wave of programming led by Donna Minnich-Spuhler, director of campus activities and student leadership, and Jonathan Lincoln, the new associate provost.
Specific goals and outcomes have been developed and their teams will expand opportunities for our students in a wide range of academic and other programs. We are committed to ensuring that civic engagement will be a hallmark of a William Paterson University education.
Please stay tuned for a website that will be developed as the project proceeds. We wish everyone involved a successful year and thank in advance all who will be participating in this initiative to better engage our students.
And we are off to a good start. On Monday, more than 125 of our first-year students showed their civic engagement by participating in the new Pioneer Service Ventures initiative, volunteering at seven local sites including the Father English Center, the Great Falls, and four schools in Paterson, and the Montclair Historical Society. This is a great start for this program and we look forward to its further development in future years.
Another initiative this year will be a new program for school improvement in the City of Paterson to develop teachers and future leaders in the public schools. Funded by a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the College of Education will work with four schools in the area and place faculty on site for teacher development. The reputation of the College of Education in this field continues to grow, following the receipt of a Woodrow Wilson Foundation grant two years ago and now this grant. Congratulations to Dean Burns, Associate Dean Feola, and the faculty.
And, congratulations to Professor Kem Louie and the Nursing Department for the recent award of a federal grant for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.
One of our longest-serving sociologists, Vince Parrillo, has just released a new video on the immigration patterns within the City of Paterson. The documentary will air on NJTV on September 22 and 26, and we will be hosting a special screening of Paterson and Its People on September 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Shea Center for the Performing Arts.
We are inviting all faculty, students, and staff, as well as current and former Patersonians. As many of you know, our University was founded in the city of Paterson in 1855 and only moved to Wayne in 1951. Our relationship with the city is deep and we are very involved in the development of the new national historical park around the Great Falls.
Next spring, we will be surveying our students’ level of engagement at the University through the National Survey of Student Engagement. You will recall that we are a NSSE institution, and we survey our first-year and senior students in the spring semester every other year. The data are used to gauge students’ perceptions of the University and to learn about their work and study habits. Student participation is good and for the past four years we have utilized NSSE to make informed decisions about areas of improvement.
Finally, despite the cuts to state appropriations, we continue to make strategic investments in our institution. The University remains committed to developing faculty and staff through sabbaticals, promotions, academic release time, research support, and new training programs from our Human Resources Department. I hope you have noticed the WP PRIDE program that recognizes staff members for exemplary work.
We also continue to explore new student audiences and new revenue opportunities and I expect to hold an open forum on those topics this year.
So as we begin another academic year at William Paterson University, we have many new and exciting opportunities to enrich the lives of our students—in the classroom and laboratories and in co-curricular activities—as we educate our future leaders. I hope we will all, as a campus community, continue to grow and evolve to make the greatest impact on our students. They deserve nothing less. And everyone gathered here is part of that positive impact.
I hope that this year will be a banner one for William Paterson University.