Address to Faculty and Staff - September 6, 2011

Good afternoon and welcome to the 2011-1012 academic year!  I am pleased to see such a large gathering of people after a long summer and for those of you who were away, I welcome you back.

We welcome 39 new faculty members to our ranks - 17 new tenure-track faculty and 22 one-year faculty. We hope this year will be successful for you and we look forward to getting to know you better this year. I am not going to read the names of each person but have their names behind me on the screen.

We continue to experience a fairly large number of retirements while our enrollments are growing.  Last year I made a commitment that we would increase the number of full-time faculty and continue to do so over the next couple of years.  We have done so and in a few days, as promised, the Provost will announce the authorization to search for another 30 faculty positions for the fall 2012 semester.

I also am pleased to welcome new staff to the University. Their names are listed on the screen. While the total staff count remains relatively constant, we did make some strategic hires. I would like to welcome Pamela Ferguson as the new Vice President for Institutional Advancement. She started 3 weeks ago and already is making a difference. Kara Rabbitt is now dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Steve Hahn is serving as interim dean of the College of the Arts and Communication, and Wartyna Davis was appointed interim associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. As many of you know, Dean Sandra DeYoung announced her retirement at the end of the academic year and Dean Raymond Torres Santos resigned to accept a position in California. We will begin these two important dean searches immediately and will be forming search committees as soon as possible. In addition, we have named Anne Ciliberti the Dean of the Cheng Library and we have named Len Bogdon Chief Information Officer of the University.  

Finally, I am pleased to announce the confirmation of a new member of the Board of Trustees in May. Maureen Conway, a proud graduate of William Paterson, is a retired executive from Hewlett-Packard where she served as VP and Chief Information Officer. She already is actively engaged in alumni development and has served on our Foundation Board for the past five years.

We started the summer with great news. We received official notification from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that they have reaffirmed our accreditation for another ten years. We will need to submit two progress reports, in 2012 and 2013, in addition to the Periodic Review Report in 2016, but we are very pleased with the outcome. The two progress reports – one on the assessment of our new Core Curriculum, another on the progress of our strategic plan and allocation of resources – were expected, given the emphasis Middle States is giving to assessment and institutional effectiveness. We also received reaffirmation of our credit rating from Moodys. And while the credit rating of the United States may have been downgraded, that of William Paterson University maintained its high grade of A1.  Congratulations to the University Community for this successful endeavor. It is a powerful tribute to all who have worked so hard and so effectively through the years.

We were very busy hosts on campus throughout the summer with a wide range of visitors. The  Summer Youth Programs, coordinated by the Division of Continuing and Professional Education, brought approximately 1,000 high school and middle school youth to campus to participate in academic enrichment programs. The goal of the Summer Youth Programs is to enhance the visibility of the University to potential students and their parents while providing needed academic enrichment to students.

On July 20, the University hosted the New Jersey-Zhejiang Investment and Trade Symposium in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the sister relationship between the State of New Jersey and Zhejiang Province in China. The event attracted more than 500 leading business and government people to our campus and was widely covered by the media. Led by the Cotsakos College of Business, this business forum highlighted the importance of our University to the overall goals of the State of New Jersey to promote exports and trade.

In August, a wonderful program took place that is indicative of the dedication of our faculty and students. Funded by a grant from the Roche Foundation, Paterson high school students conducted research with University science faculty members and University student mentors majoring in math or science. The program was designed to encourage urban high school students to consider careers in the sciences while supporting undergraduate students as they gain experience in lab research.

The campus has also been busy this summer with a significant number of facilities expansion and renovation projects.

The renovation work to the old Science Building is on track and we anticipate reoccupying it by November.  The work on Morrison Hall is progressing, and we hope to have that building renovated and expanded by Spring 2012. Once completed, Morrison Hall will contain Undergraduate Admissions, Graduate Admissions, the Center for Student Services, Financial Aid, the Registrar’s Office and the VP for Enrollment Management. This creates a one-stop center for students to obtain their administrative services, which will improve the efficiency of services provided to students.

The second biggest project this year is the consolidation of all the Academic Support services into one location in a renovated Raubinger Hall. The Office of Sponsored Programs, the Honors College, the Office of Scholarships and the Office of International Student Services are now there. EOF, the Educational Enrichment Center, the Academic Support Center, Basic Skills, and First Year Experience will be moved to Raubinger by next fall.

The front plaza of Shea is being completely renovated and the roof is being replaced. Additionally, the recital and large rehearsal spaces in the lower level of Shea are being completely renovated with acoustical and audio-visual equipment over the next year. Wightman Gym and Hobart Hall will be getting new roofs and other interior improvements during the coming year. 

As part of an overall plan, we are improving security on campus. Improved central security hardware and operating platforms have been installed at Police Headquarters. Security improvements are also underway in Hobart Hall, Shea and the Science complex. The campus phone system is in the process of being upgraded.

Road and parking improvements are also underway, with paving in lots 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, along with improvements to pedestrian walkways and lighting.

In one of the more visible projects, the water tower has been repaired and painted, and now displays our WP logo for people to see across a wide area.

As many of you know, the University has followed its Master Facilities Plan for the past 10 years. Much of the vision of that plan was accomplished, including a new campus student center, a new science complex, new residence halls, but now that plan is almost complete and it is time soon to begin another master plan. Without one, the University will not be able to undertake major projects and plan significant renovations. But before we undertake a master facilities plan, we want to be sure we have a strategy in place that provides a vision for the number of students we can expect to serve over the next ten years and the types of programs we will continue to offer and new ones we will add. So we will begin work on a facilities master plan either late this academic year or in fall 2012. In the meantime, however, you are going to start to hear a statewide discussion about a proposed capital funding bond or other financing mechanism for higher education in New Jersey. What does this mean? Since 1988 in New Jersey, unlike most states, repairing and constructing buildings at universities is not paid for by the general public through issuing of a bond. Instead, the students through fees and tuition pay for the cost of buildings, really an unusual situation at a public institution. Now we are going to propose that the State resume responsibility for maintaining and building facilities at our institutions and that this concept be placed on the election ballot in 2012. I am giving you advanced notice because we will have to prepare our wish list of funding needs and you will begin to hear about this topic.

I have one more note regarding our physical campus. On September 9, from 2:30 to 3:15 we will formally dedicate Speert Hall, formerly Wayne Hall, and the Speert Garden, formerly Wightman Plaza. Faculty, staff and students are invited. It will be nice to see Arnie back on campus.

I am pleased to report that our enrollment numbers for the fall are good and in line with our expectations.* We expect that our total number of students will be just under 12,000 students at 11,947. New undergraduate students will number 3,100 for the fall, a 3 percent increase over last year. While we purposefully reduced the number of freshmen to 1,445 students by reducing the number of sponsored students, we increased the number of transfer students to 1,350 students. At the same time, we have a diverse and better prepared freshman class. Our freshman class is 52 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African American and 9 percent Asian. 51 percent of our freshmen are women. The students this fall arrive with higher GPAs and CSAT scores than previously. The average SAT scores for all incoming freshmen are 1007, a six-point increase compared to last year - and for regular admit freshmen the average SAT score is 1051, also a six-point increase over prior year. In addition, the students have an average high school grade point average of  3.08 and a higher average class rank than last year. This continues our efforts to improve the freshman class as measured by high school GPA and SAT scores. 

New transfer students are about 1,600, an increase from last year as expected.

We are satisfied that our graduate enrollment is up 15% from last year, showing a recovery after a significant decrease last year due to the downturn in finances at local school districts. And we are delighted that our first doctoral program – the Doctor of Nursing Practice – has an inaugural class of 14 students. I attended the opening ceremony and it was a historic event for William Paterson University.

As we begin the semester, we should all be proud to see that the University Core Curriculum is now officially implemented. Many of you have been involved including most faculty, numerous departmental committees, the Faculty Senate, the UCC Council and review panels, various academic and student support offices, and our public relations and IT staff. As of today, 129 courses have been approved in areas 1 through 6, and 35 others as writing intensive courses, and 24 as technology intensive. I know that further UCC development will take place during the current academic year as each department continues to focus its offerings and the specific expectations of their majors, but we should pause to recognize that the UCC is now in place as the unique cornerstone of the undergraduate experience at William Paterson.

While the U.S. economy continues to struggle, we continue to move forward at William Paterson University with careful financial stewardship that is focused on providing our students with an excellent education that is as affordable as we possibly can provide.  With the financial challenges of our students and their families in mind, our Board of Trustees agreed last month to raise undergraduate and graduate tuition and fees by 2 percent – the smallest percentage increase on this campus in 30 years. Rates for residence halls will remain at the same level as the 2010-2011 academic year, while meal plan rates will increase an average of 2.9 percent.

At the same time, we remain committed to fine tuning our operational efficiencies.  Our solar panel installation, which continues to gain attention as the largest at a university in the nation, will save the University $4 million in energy costs over 15 years.  It now supplies approximately 20 percent of our annual energy needs. We are also conserving costs through initiatives such as other energy saving measures, joint purchasing with other universities and programmatic collaborations with other institutions and organizations.

The strategic planning process has gained momentum with much work to do before the plan is finalized and adopted in February or March. We began the process in April, working with strategic planning consultants Anthony Knerr and Associates. Early meetings included four dinner discussions with a cross section of faculty, staff and students on institutional visibility, resource planning, academic focus, and enrollment management.

The Board of Trustees, which will ultimately endorse and approve the Strategic Plan, conducted a retreat on the strategic plan last May and will do so again at the end of September. We are fortunate to have a Board that is both engaged and supportive while offering its steadfast commitment to the process.

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee, consisting of faculty, including the chair of the faculty senate and representatives from each college, staff and students and a member of the University’s board and foundation, has now met five times. It has worked diligently and collaboratively with our consultants to develop a Framework of the Plan which will be distributed to the campus community on September 7th for review and discussion.

Now, we move to a crucial step in the process when you, the larger University community, have a growing opportunity to react and recommend. We want to hear from you. We need to hear from you.

You will have multiple opportunities to communicate your comments throughout the process. John Parras, chair of the Faculty Senate and a member of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, has notified us that he will devote part of the September 13 and 27 Senate meetings to a discussion of the framework.  Provost Weil will devote the fall faculty meeting to discussion of the framework on September 22. Town hall meetings will be devoted to discussion of the Framework on September 28 from 12 to 2 p.m. and October 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. Meetings of academic departments, the Dean’s Council, the Director’s Council and the Student Government Association will certainly address the framework throughout October. 

Our plan is to bring the Strategic Plan to the Board of Trustees for approval in February or March 2012.  The timetable and a wide range of planning documents, including summaries of each meeting on campus, are available via a link from the University home page.

We are also setting up several electronic mechanisms for you to provide comments and feedback.  An email account -- “strategic-plan” – is up and running. Responses go directly to my office, and are then  forwarded to the steering committee. An interactive blog will be available September 7th from the home page Strategic Planning link.

I look forward to a Strategic Plan that will coalesce the campus and guide us for the coming decade.  It will provide a foundation for building an even stronger University and it will help to determine how William Paterson University will distinguish itself in the coming years. Our decisions over the next few months will have a direct impact on the lives of our current and future students. Their success is at stake. We are at a crucial and exciting point in the long history of William Paterson. Let’s continue to work together to take this great institution to the next level of success.

I wish you an academic year that is filled with creativity, achievements, and pride.

Before you go, one more item. Last year, I handed out bumper stickers; this year I have another promotional give-away. I have these very cool brand new car magnets that display the WP logo and will help us build visibility. I have a stack here for anyone who is interested and they are available at each door of the Ballroom.

*Please note: The speech includes preliminary enrollment numbers. Final numbers will be available in early October.