Address to Faculty and Staff - September 1, 2016

Address to Faculty and Staff - September 6, 2017

Good afternoon, and welcome to the first day of the fall semester of the academic year at William Paterson University. This year marks the 162nd birthday of this great institution, and I am always delighted to welcome back familiar faces, but also to see so many new faces on campus.

The first day of the fall semester is always an exciting time for a university campus, with so many new students and returning students. I hope you have the same sense of renewal and rejuvenation that I feel at this time each year.

I begin the new academic year by welcoming our newest colleagues to the William Paterson University community. Starting with our new faculty members, we welcome 37 people to our campus this year. By college and department, they are:

College of the Arts and Communication
Matthew Finn, Art
Julie Nagle, Art
Anna Barretta, Communication
Kathryn Lancioni, Communications
Christopher Herbert, Music

Cotsakos College of Business
Yoel Beniluz, Accounting and Law
Saeed Shekari, Professional Sales

College of Education
Samuel Fancera, Educational Leadership and Professional Studies

College of the Humanities and Social Sciences:
Jack Tocco, Anthropology
Robert Greco, English
Brent Lucia, English
Eva Boodman, Philosophy
Laura Di Summa-Knoop, Philosophy
David Freestone, Psychology
William Indick, Psychology
Aileen Torres, Psychology
Jennifer Bryan, Sociology
Sean Wilson, Sociology

College of Science and Health
Abdelrahman Elleithy, Computer Science,.
Jordan Cola, Kinesiology.
Cihan Karabulut, Mathematics
Corazon Dumalagan, Nursing
Debbie Mohammed, Nursing

Cheng Library
Sarah Hughes.

We welcome all of the new faculty to the campus and wish them well as they begin their careers with us.

We also welcome 13 new members of the administration who have joined us recently:

Barbara Andrew, Executive Director of the Honors College

Susan Astarita, University Registrar

Gamin Bartle, Director of Instruction and Research Technology

Alice Blount-Fenney, Director of Internal Audit

Allison Boucher-Jarvis, Vice President of Human Resources

Ugonma Chukwunyere, Assistant Director of Employment Equity and Diversity and Deputy Title IX Coordinator

Mariel Read Essner, Director of Donor Relations

Kristen Foley, Associate Director of Athletics.

Sandra Hill, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs

Salwa Muhammad, Director of the First Year Foundations Program

Scott Scardena, Assistant Director of the First Year Foundations Program

Casey Schermick, Sports Information

Venkat Sharma, Dean of the College of Science and Health

Thirty-four of our colleagues retired last year, and we thank them for their good work on behalf of this University. These retirements represent many years of dedication and hard work. Thank you. I hope to see them all at our employee retirement luncheon in a few weeks.

Jane Bambrick, Cheng Library

Rosemary Barone, Office of the President

Robert Benno, Professor of Biology

Dawn Cirasuolo, Purchasing

Cindy Cohen, Athletics

Guinera Curry, Student Development

Edga Diaz, Custodial Services

Vilma Elliott, Educational Opportunity Fund

Linda Farrell, Undergraduate Admissions

Charley Flint, Professor of Sociology

Jeffrey Floyd, Internal Auditor

Joan Floyd, Marketing and Public Relations

Nan Guptill Crain, Professor of Music

Joan Hartman, Professor of English

Alexander Iaconio, Physical Plant Operations

Lirse Jones, Purchasing

Barbara Kurek, Foundation and Capital Accounting

Alan Lazarus, Professor of Art

Mariandre Louis-Ferdinand, Political Science

Richard Macri, Student Accounts

Jerzy Madej, Physical Plant Operations

Sandra Mayberry, Continuing and Professional Education

Sheri Newberger, Communication Disorders and Sciences

Julie O’Neill, Office of Human Resources

John Peterman, Professor of Philosophy

Frank Petrozzino, Events and Conference Services

John Scarlata, Professor of Languages and Cultures

Gordon Schmidt, Professor of Kinesiology

David Shapiro, Professor of Art

Pamela Theus, Librarian at the Cheng Library

Nina Trelisky, Registrar

Kathleen Unger, Recreation Center

Hilary Wilder, Educational Leadership and Professional Studies

Kenneth Wolf, Dean of the College of Science and Health.



Dean Candace Burns has announced her intention to step down as dean of the College of Education at the end of the fall semester, and return to the faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership and Professional Studies.

In her seven years as dean, the College of Education has earned national recognition for preparing future teaching professionals for urban schools, for supporting the growth and development of educators from under-represented populations, and for obtaining grants and external funding from the Dodge Foundation, the Taub Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellowship Program, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation, as just a few examples.

Candace just recently was asked to serve on the search committee for the next superintendent of the City of Paterson School District, a public tribute to the esteem in which she is held by educators in this state.

We are indebted to Candace for her excellent leadership of the College, for her wisdom and good counsel, and for her dedication as an educator and colleague…and we wish her well as she takes a sabbatical in the spring and returns to the classroom next fall. Associate Dean Dorothy Feola will serve as interim dean until a new dean is seated, and a national search is underway. Candace, please stand and be recognized by this body.

And we pause to remember our colleague Jonathan Shanoian, senior audiovisual technician in Instruction and Research Technology, who passed away last spring.

We cannot start this year without noting that world events are spinning around us. Last week, we watched as unprecedented flooding occurred in coastal Texas. As most of us are survivors of Super Storm Sandy, we have some sense of what a storm of this magnitude can do. We extend our deepest sympathies to the millions of affected people and hope that all your families and friends in the area are safe.

We also noted the ugly events at and near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of a young woman and tangentially, two police officers. The brazen resurgences of neo-fascist groups, white supremacists and other extreme ideologies are an affront to our nation and to our core values. I call upon everyone here today to reaffirm William Paterson’s core values of diversity, inclusion, respect for one another and an embrace of civil discourse.

The struggle to maintain these requires a prolonged and persistent effort by all of us. The faculty are addressing our concerns in organized symposia and conferences this year and I urge you and our students to participate.

Much on everyone’s mind is the state of student enrollment at William Paterson University. At the latest count, the University has enrolled 10,084 students compared to 10,293 students last year to date. This is a two percent overall decrease, a disappointment, and we will have to make up some numbers in the spring.

Freshmen enrollment, however, equaled last year at about 1,366 students although the overall number of transfer students went from 1,189 to 1,005, a 15 percent decrease. The freshmen class by size and high school GPA is similar to last year. However, the average SAT score climbed to 1,028 compared to the last few year’s average of 997.


About 200 freshmen were admitted later than normal in the summer after having received rejection letters in error in the spring. This error was corrected and staff in admissions, student development, and academic support worked hard together so that all students could be tested for placement, spend time with advisors, and attend orientation sessions.

I am pleased to report that the four-year, six-year, and first-year retention numbers improved again. I am particularly pleased that our four-year graduation rate is now 32 percent, up from 14 percent only a few years ago.

We will give a full report on enrollments and the overall finances of the University at a town hall meeting scheduled for October 24. For now, however, the enrollment numbers are fairly stable over the last two years despite an improved economy that traditionally prompts more young people to choose employment over education.

One of our challenges remains enrollment growth in a more competitive educational landscape with a declining high school graduate population in New Jersey, a decline in enrollment at two-year institutions, increased competition, and a greater percentage of New Jersey students leaving the state for their education.

And while William Paterson continues to attract many new students, retaining students is an area where much more work is needed by all of us.

As most of you know, an agreement was reached between the State and the New Jersey AFT this summer after three years of negotiations. Our Office of Human Resources has provided managers with a summary of the changes from the previous state contract.

As discussed last year, William Paterson University is, and always was, prepared to meet new financial obligations to staff and faculty. Again, the Office of Human Resources has communicated the timing of cost of living increases and for some employees, step increases.

The University does not, and never did intend to make changes to faculty compensation for lab courses and we will proceed with our present structure. We are disappointed that an agreement with the CWA has not been achieved.

This year, we have several big events among the many wonderful symposia, conferences, exhibits, and performances taking place. I just want to highlight a few:

William Paterson was selected by the State Election Law Enforcement Commission to host one of two New Jersey gubernatorial debate between Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and former Ambassador Phil Murphy on October 18, in the Shea Center for Performing Arts. The debate will be broadcast live by CBS-TV and we are again partnering with WCBS affiliates in New York and Philadelphia and The Record as part of the USA Today Network. Information about obtaining tickets will be forthcoming.

Thanks to Pat DeDeo and Stuart Goldstein for putting together the winning proposal for the debate, to the staff in the Shea Center for working closely on the logistics to stage this event, and a special shout-out to the Music Department and chair Diane Falk-Romaine for their cooperation.

I also invite you to the 39th year of the University’s Distinguished Lecturer Series this fall on November 3. Our speaker is American designer and artist Maya Lin, most noted for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. She is  the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, and she has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Women's Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.  We look forward to meeting her and hearing her thoughts about art and design.

Throughout this year, we will be focusing on food…a year-long presentation of special events around the topic of food. Entitled Food for Thought, A Year-Long Exploration of the Culture, Politics & Science of Food, we will sponsor a series of talks, theatre and musical performances, panel discussions, workshops, art exhibits, and my favorite… a hike led by naturalist “Wildman” Steve Brill to forage for edibles on our campus. Our Distinguished Lecturer series speaker in the spring is Alice Waters, founder of the farm-to-table movement. I want to thank Jane Stein and faculty and deans from all the colleges who are putting a year-long program together.

And finally, on October 18, the College of the Humanities and Social Sciences will present its annual interdisciplinary symposium Contexts 2017 called BYO Truth: Language Matters and (Mis)Information in the Public Sphere.

For those of you who worked in the old Hunziker Wing building, you may have a hard time recognizing the newly renovated Preakness Hall, which opened in August after two years of renovation. The 58,000-square-foot building has 14 smart classrooms, a 100-seat lecture hall, faculty offices for the English and Philosophy Departments, lab space for the Kinesiology Department, and the Writing Center, as well as meeting places for students. We thank Steve Bolyai, Rick Stomber, and the Facilities staff and the deans and faculty for getting the building open and occupied on time and on budget. We will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, September 29 at 1:30 p.m. with invited guests.

We are proceeding with plans to build a new 288-bed residence hall on the hill by High Mountain East. When completed, we will tear down Overlook North, thus reducing overall bed availability as the old building is larger than what we are building.

We made presentations to Moody’s and Fitch, our two bond ratings agencies, and based on the strong financial health and stability of the University, Moody’s maintained our current bond rating although Fitch downgraded us slightly. Nevertheless, the bonds were purchased quickly at an excellent interest rate of 3.85 percent. I want to thank Steve Bolyai, Samantha Green, the team in Administration and Finance, and Cabinet members for a solid presentation to the ratings agencies and for sound fiscal management of the University’s finances. The Moody’s and Fitch reports are public and you are welcome to read them. For those of you who continue to be concerned about the finances of the University, I strongly suggest you read the bond rating agency reports.

I would like to draw your attention to another very visible element of the University. We now have redesigned the University homepage, provided an updated undergraduate admissions section, a new academic program search page, and revamped academic department pages. Overall, these new sections have brightened the web spotlight on academic quality and improved the ability of users to access and learn more about academic offerings.


Last year at a session of the University Council, many people joined in a fruitful discussion about alternative revenue opportunities at William Paterson given that tuition and fee increases and significant enrollment growth are no longer viable models for public universities in the United States.

I am happy to report that we made significant progress in this area. You may have noticed new telephone poles around the campus perimeter installed by PSEG which paid us $250,000 to do so. We also rented space on our towers to telecom companies to improve their transmissions for an additional $100,000 per year and we reinvested cash surpluses in better investments which should generate an additional $1 million in revenues for the University each year.

I want to thank the University Council for its thoughtful suggestions and invite them to keep on thinking. I also want to thank all of the staff who implemented the ideas.

And we did one other project that should be of long-serving value to the campus. This summer, we hosted our first group of 400 international high school students and staff as part of our new partnership with Interstudio Viaggi based in Milan, Italy.

This partnership is part of a three-year agreement to bring European high school students to campus, live in our residence halls, and enroll in School of Continuing and Professional Education Pre-College Summer Youth courses. So successful was the project that Interstudio Viaggi has asked for a contract expansion with the hopes of tripling student attendance next summer. I want to congratulate Bernadette Tiernan, executive director of the School of Continuing and Professional Education, who brought this partnership to the University, and Iris DiMaio for all the fantastic work she did to make our new guests feel at home.

And finally, I want to speak about my decision to retire at the end of this academic year. Today is my birthday. I am 69 years old. And next year, I will turn 70, a very good time to retire from a very demanding position.

I want to thank the many faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and elected officials throughout the state who have sent me congratulatory emails, phone calls and letters. Your best wishes and compliments about how the University has advanced under my leadership for the past seven years is gratifying. Most amusing to me, though, is how many of you were surprised at my age and thus surprised that I am retiring. But as many of you know, looks can be deceiving.

Chairman of the Board Fred Gruel put out a statement a couple of weeks ago and he has announced that a national search for a new president will begin. Long-serving trustee and alumna Linda Niro will chair the search committee and will provide periodic updates throughout the search process to our community. A search consultant will be hired from proposals already submitted and all members of the University community will have a chance to participate and attend open forums when candidates are brought to campus. As many of you know, three presidents of public institutions in New Jersey have now announced their retirement this year as well as the presidents of two private institutions in the state.

There is much work to do before my retirement next summer and I look forward to continuing our close collaborations that are crucial to the future of our great university. Our mission remains the same—we work to ensure the education and success of our students. I wish you a wonderful new year filled with innovations, activity and intellectual achievements.