Address to Faculty and Staff - September 1, 2016

President Waldron Opening Day Speech – September 1, 2016

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first day of the fall semester at William Paterson University. As always, it is so nice to see so many faculty and staff gathered together over lunch to welcome each other at the start of a new term.  For those who are returning to campus after some time away, I hope your summer was productive and restorative, and that the new academic year will begin on a high note.

You will notice that there are lots of students on campus…we are optimistic about our enrollment this fall. As of today, there are over 10,375 students enrolled for the fall semester, which includes 1,431 new freshmen and 1,170 new transfer students.  We welcome eight people to our doctoral nursing program and seven to our clinical psychology doctoral program.

I was hoping that we could announce that collective bargaining contracts have been realized, but unfortunately that is not the case.  Only one of our unions, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents our skilled craftsmen, has settled their contract with the state’s Office of Employee Relations. So we enter a second year with many people without contracts. I am sorry about that. As you know, these contracts are negotiated centrally throughout the State and not at the individual university level. Let’s hope for some more progress soon.

We begin the semester with a recognition of our newest faculty and staff. I want to start by welcoming the new associate dean in the Cotsakos College of Business, Dr. Kathleen Barnes, who joined us on July 18 after a national search. I know Dean Shojai and the business faculty are delighted she has joined.  And a special thank you to Professor Sue Godar who served so ably as interim associate dean, as she returns to teaching.

We welcome 30 new tenure and non-tenure track faculty. They are:

College of the Arts and Communication

Nicholas Hirshon, Communication

Lauren Fowler-Calisto, Music

Cotsakos College of Business

Richard Lahijani, Accounting and Law

John Ibex, Accounting and Law

Kathleen Barnes, Marketing and Management

Angela Titi Amayah, Marketing and Management

College of Education

Sharon Leathers, Secondary and Middle School Education

Alex Chambers, Special Education and Counseling

 

College of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Camille Alexander, English

Cristen Beam, English

Emma Heaney, English

Sean Molloy, English

Navyug Gill, History

Janet Ahn, Psychology

O’Shan Gadsden, Psychology

Megan Geerdts, Psychology

Sumithra Raghavan, Psychology

Andrew Gladfelter, Sociology

Lee Michael Johnson, Sociology

 

College of Science and Health

Beth Breakstone, Communication Disorders and Sciences

Weihua Liu, Computer Science

Ali Moghani, Computer Science

David Hack, Kinesiology

Cihan Karabulut, Mathematics

Patricia Baxter, Nursing

Angela Lentini-Rivera, Nursing

Debbie Mohammed, Nursing

Bernadette Walsh, Nursing

Zoe Erwin, Public Health

 

Cheng Library

Hao Zeng

 

We also welcome 13 new staff members:

 

Jaclyn Antonacci, Marketing

Natalia Avendano, Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Myranda Barreau, Campus Activities

Christine Bravo, Sponsored Programs

Maria Daniels, Marketing

Michael DiBartolomeo, Director of Undergraduate Admissions

Eileen Fasanella, Speech and Hearing Clinic

Christie Jaime, Public Health

Jennifer Kenney, Information Technology

Leslie Kropa, Residence Life

Stephanie Kuran, Science and Health

Jenny Nesenjuk, Career Development Center

John Runfeldt, Institutional Research and Assessment

 

We also recognize our 19 colleagues who have recently retired. We thank them for their service to the University and wish them a long and productive retirement:

 

Sherle Boone, Psychology

Reyes Christian, Custodial Services

Donita D’Amico, Nursing

Janet Davis-Dukes, Academic Success Center

Irene Dattilo, Plant Operations

Linda DeFeo, Languages and Cultures

Claire Donaghy, Nursing

Carole Gelfer, Communication Disorders and Sciences

Eric Hoyer, Information Services

Mahendra Jani, Mathematics

Charles Landy, Cheng Library

Alberto Montare, Psychology

Caresse Morse, User Services

Behnaz Pakizegi, Psychology

Donna Perry, English

Mary Pospisil, Institutional Advancement

Deborah Robibero, College of the Arts and Communication

Donna Santaniello, President’s Office

Robert Williamson, Paint Shop

 

The Board of Trustees has granted emeritus status to nine faculty members who retired from the University:

 

Richard Blonna, Public Health                                             

Stephen Bryant, Music

Edward Burns, English

Aria Cheo, Computer Science

Anthony Coletta, Elementary and Early Childhood Education

Linda Hamalian, English

James Hauser, English                              

Joanna Hayden, Public Health                                 

Tina Lesher, Communication

 

I ask for a moment of silence as we remember those we have lost, especially my administrative assistant, Sherin Favocci, who died very unexpectedly on August 23.

On your way here, I hope you noticed the extraordinary work that has been done over the summer on Hunziker Wing. The gut renovation of that building is scheduled for completion in fall 2017, and we were particularly delighted to receive an additional $7 million this summer from the second round of the State’s general obligation bond to help fund the project. We lobbied hard for the additional funding and are delighted the State awarded us this additional amount on top of the $32 million we received two years ago.

Once that building is completed, we will start the renovation of Hunziker Hall. By the way, to lessen the confusion about having two buildings with the name “Hunziker,” we are proposing to the Board that Hunziker Wing be renamed Preakness Hall and await Board action on that recommendation later this fall. Preakness Hall will be a major classroom building and house the departments of English and philosophy and some kinesiology labs.

I hope you will stop and look at the mural painted by our art students this summer, in front of the Student Center.  Students in Professor Kyle Coniglio’s mural painting class conceived and executed the design, which brightens up a bare concrete retaining wall in the Student Center Courtyard. Thank you to Professor Coniglio and students!

The summer was an eventful one on campus, and I hope you will take a minute to read my letter to the community on August 15 that outlined some of our activities.  We were very pleased that Senator Cory Booker chose William Paterson University to host one of his “seven-day, twenty-one county tour” sessions in August.  I was asked to be part of a panel of 12 community leaders in a discussion of issues affecting the Hispanic community. Although this was a closed meeting, his staff and ours used social media to tweet and snapchat throughout the discussion and we received a lot of favorable press.

I want to thank our colleagues in Valley Road who relocated to University Hall for a few days when the air conditioning ceased working during some very hot and humid days in August. Your patience was appreciated as was the fast work by our information technology and physical plant teams to get everyone relocated and up and running. This winter, the entire heating and cooling system of Valley Road is scheduled to be replaced over the winter break to avoid problems in the future. We also had cooling problems in Science Hall East as we brought in chillers on a flatbed truck that will be onsite this fall. Again, thank you for your patience as we seek a permanent solution and I am very glad all the science labs and research were not affected.

The list of student events, conferences, continuing education programs, and special summer projects are too numerous to mention today. Again, I invite you to read my newsletter of August 15 to see how active everyone was this summer. And you may notice that we have put copies of this year’s new “Points of Pride” document on each table.  This is not an exhaustive list of all we do and are proud of at William Paterson University, but rather a list that captures some of the “talking points” that we use when describing the University. We update this list yearly to add new items of interest.

With a positive outlook for fall enrollments, stable state appropriations this year and an infusion of an additional $7 million in State capital support, William Paterson University is in a solid financial position.  This summer, we once again refinanced some existing bonds to a lower interest rate, which will decrease our annual debt repayment by almost $500,000 each year. We took advantage of the favorable bond market, and our bonds were quickly bought, owing to our strong financial management and outlook. We will maintain operating budgets for all departments, including funds for faculty research travel and support. We also will institute a new large equipment replacement program of $500,000 annually particularly focused on music, art, communication, and the sciences.

First and foremost of our strategic investments, we continue to fund the Student Success Scholarships and are adding an additional $234,000 to this very successful program.  We started this program three years ago to provide $1,000 scholarships beginning with the fall 2013 entering cohort of students who maintain a 3.0 GPA and who completed 30, 60, and now 90 credits each year, to stay on track to graduate in four years.  And the payoff on the investment is clear…we are seeing encouraging results.  For instance, 31.6 percent of the first cohort achieved the benchmark (compared to the average of 22.9 percent), and in year two 23.8 percent achieved the benchmark compared to the average of 19.9 percent.  We see encouraging results for students who entered in 2014 as well, and will be able to complete a full report after census.

We have completed the multi-year installation of DegreeWorks for all students, to make degree audits much more user-friendly for students and advisors. We have purchased over $275,000 in new software platforms, including Starfish, to manage and promote our student retention initiatives, and Digarc for course management and the development of a University catalog.  We also purchased the American Chemical Association Legacy Archives and provided equipment upgrades for the weather station.

We continue to focus our fundraising efforts on scholarship support.  In five years, we have increased scholarships from private philanthropy from $300,000 to over $1.1 million, which, added to institutional support, brings our total scholarship support for students to over $12 million annually. In 2016, the University raised over $8 million in gifts and bequests, a banner fund-raising effort by the advancement team and the deans.

We are proceeding with the plans to build a new residence hall to replace an existing hall, and we are investing in upgrades to existing residences. We have made major upgrades to the soccer field for use by the soccer team, student intramurals, and kinesiology classes that use the field as part of their coursework.

I hope you notice the improvements throughout the campus and thank you for your patience as we renovate two key buildings in the center of the main campus.

We have an exciting semester ahead of us.

Two very interesting events on campus will speak directly to some of the issues that have arisen on the American political and cultural landscape. 

On Thursday, October 27, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences will be hosting a multidisciplinary conference on “The Public Spectacle: Exploring Anger and Political Transformations,” exploring the use of anger as a political tool. Panelists will discuss topics ranging from the policing of communities of color, firearms regulation, frustration over the gridlock in Congress and the Senate, and corporate exploitation of tax loopholes, and how the anger of citizens is reflected in the tone and rhetoric of the presidential campaign.

Then former editor-in-chief of Newsweek and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham comes to campus as part of the 38th William Paterson University Distinguished Lecturer Series, on Friday, November 4. He is one of the country’s most prominent public intellectuals, writing about American presidents.   Meacham’s lecture will come days before the national election, and we look forward to his thoughts about this year’s political process. We are pleased that Mr. Meacham will meet with students prior to the lecture.

WP Presents has a full line up of music, jazz, plays, and performances at Shea Center throughout the semester. We hope you will take advantage of all that the University offers to create a rich artistic and intellectual environment.

Many of these events will help us continue to give careful thought to issues facing our country. This past late spring and summer were marred by unspeakable tragedies in Orlando, Nice, Paris, Brussels, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Istanbul, Kabul, Baghdad, and others that left many people with a sense of dread and foreboding. We watched on the media as people tried to deal with their hatred or fear of others with guns and death. We as a nation and then around the world saw people struggle to understand why a tragedy happened or what could cause an individual to behave the way he or she did or why so many innocent people are made to suffer.

In the classrooms last spring and again in the summer, our faculty led students in discussions about these events, the historical framework of an action, a deeper conversation about rhetoric, the effect of social media, and racial, religious, gender, and sexual orientation intolerance. Some of this discussion was online; other discussion was in a traditional classroom. This fall, these conversations will continue. Our faculty will lead discussions about understanding and accepting different points of view; about how to deal with controversy and disagreement and disputes; about how to understand or react to anger and fear without becoming paralyzed or violent. Universities are the only places in our society with the specific mission of engaging in dialogue around controversial subjects and ideas.

We embrace the activities of our students directed against racism, sexism, intolerance, and religious discrimination and thank the faculty and staff for these ongoing dialogues.

Next week, on Tuesday, September 6, Provost Warren Sandmann will host a luncheon speech for all faculty to review our academic progress and other matters of academic concern to our community. Please join him next week.

I wish all of you a successful semester and look forward to participating with you at many events this semester.