Key Messages

2018 Opening Breakfast Remarks

Presented Aug. 31, 2018 to faculty and staff

Good morning and welcome to the 2018-19 academic year. As I’m sure most all of you know, I am a newcomer. In fact, this is my first opportunity to really address faculty and staff as president of SUNY Oneonta. Let me begin by saying thanks to everyone—and there are a lot of you—who has helped me start settling in: to the college, the president’s residence, and the Oneonta community. I deeply appreciate the warm welcome and I’m thrilled to join you and serve such a proud institution.

I’ve spent my first couple months here getting to know people, figuring out how to navigate campus, and just getting the lay of the land. Oneonta was relatively quiet when I arrived in July, but that’s changed with move-in and the start of the fall semester.

Earlier this week, I passed through the pillars with the incoming class, and I can tell you that I am as excited as our new students are for my freshman year at SUNY Oneonta. But I’m not the only recent addition to the college. Let’s take a moment now to recognize the rest of SUNY Oneonta’s newest employees.

If you’ve been a faculty or staff member here for less than a year, please stand so your colleagues can acknowledge you. Let’s also acknowledge those who have passed significant career milestones. If you were promoted during the past year or if you received continuing or permanent appointment, please stand. Congratulations!

One of the things that attracted me here is that SUNY Oneonta is in good shape, overall. Our reputation is strong. We are attracting high-caliber students. Our tradition of philanthropy supports not only scholarships, but also scholarship, in the form of student and faculty research and travel. And diversity and sustainability efforts, so important to SUNY, our chancellor, and to me personally, have been moving our community forward to develop and grow for years. By nearly every measure, we are in an enviable position compared to most peer institutions.

We just wrapped up a Summer Session in which undergraduates took 41 hundred credit hours. By comparison, last year’s total was under 35 hundred. This fall, our Living Learning Communities have exploded. LLCs got off to a humble start two years ago with under a dozen freshmen. This fall, there are more than 230.

Speaking of freshmen, the Class of 2022 has an impressive academic profile. From an applicant pool of over 13,000, we’ve drawn a group that has an average overall high school grade of 90.6 and average SAT score of 1130. Nearly 30% of this year’s freshmen are students of color and almost 34% are first-generation students.

Another brag point for SUNY Oneonta is that we are always looking for new ways to help students. For example, this past year we sought and received a highly competitive grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children and the Gerstner Family Foundation to develop a Student Emergency Fund that helps students overcome unforeseen financial hardships.

Alumni and friends of the college also are investing in SUNY Oneonta at an unprecedented level. Last year, we raised a record $4.2 million in gifts and grants, and charitable giving funded scholarship awards totaling over $2 million for the first time. The college foundation’s endowment surpassed $60 million, the largest among SUNY comprehensives.

We are doing well, and yet this is a time of change for our campus and also for SUNY. Those of you who met Chancellor Johnson when she visited in July heard her speak about her four themes:

  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship;
  • Individualized Education;
  • Sustainability; and
  • Partnerships.

The chancellor is passionate about this work and has charged each SUNY campus to drive it forward. Fortunately for us, SUNY Oneonta is in many ways already on the right track with regard to pursuit of the chancellor’s vision. In fact, just days ago, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities honored SUNY Oneonta with its 2018 Excellence & Innovation Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development. It is a national award recognizes a college for developing and implementing a high-quality, overall sustainability program.
This accomplishment is one of several that are detailed in a report that I submitted to Chancellor Johnson this week and which I’ll share with you later today. In it, you’ll find highlights of 2017-18, plus an outline of our goals for this year. These are based on a review of our current strategic plan, which I recently conducted with Cabinet. In a nutshell, we’re going to concentrate on a handful of current initiatives in the coming months as we think about the college’s next strategic plan. I will also continue my listening tour as I reach out to students, faculty and staff.

Finally, I’d like to update you on a few personnel transitions this morning. First, unfortunately, our search for a vice president of finance and administration was unsuccessful. As I shared last week in Notes from Netzer, Budget Director Julie Piscitello has accepted the position on an interim basis. My thanks to Julie for her willingness to serve, and to Sue Clemons, who has been interim since the spring, and also to the members of the search committee who worked diligently over the summer. Julie will move into her new role September 26th and we will re-launch the search for a VP later this year.
Also on the horizon is the search for a provost to succeed Jim Mackin, whose contract through The Registry with the college will end after the spring semester. To get the best pool of applicants, the ad has been posted and the search committee is nearly formed, which I will announce will fully in place. On a related note, we will hold off the search for a dean of the School of Sciences until a new provost has been hired. Interim Dean Tracy Allen has graciously agreed to stay on through the end of next academic year.

We will certainly be busy in 2018-19. However, one thing I recognized immediately upon arriving here is that SUNY Oneonta is poised to move ahead because of all of you. Your commitment, day in and day out, ensures that this is a student-centered institution. You propel SUNY Oneonta forward. Thank you for all of your contributions. This is going to be a great year.