Submitted to the Office of the Chancellor, Aug. 28, 2019
The 2018-2019 academic year was my first at SUNY Oneonta. As a “freshman,” I spent a significant portion of the year learning.
To better understand the college, and the city and township of Oneonta that surround it, I launched a listening tour in July 2018, days after my appointment began. Meeting with over 60 constituent and stakeholder groups through the fall and into the spring semester, I became familiar with the institution’s strengths and the collective drive to be an exemplary residential campus. Each step of the way, I heard and saw great enthusiasm for SUNY Oneonta.
It was a great gift to spend time with hundreds of members of the campus, alumni and greater Oneonta communities. Listening to their ideas, suggestions and opinions, both positive and negative, about the college was invaluable in informing how to approach the development of SUNY Oneonta’s next strategic plan. Work under the previous plan had come to a close just prior to my arrival last summer.
Through my tour, it became clear that at SUNY Oneonta’s core was what I call a strong ethic of care. Three points, which I heard in conversation after conversation, expressed its essence.
First, our college is especially welcoming and ever-mindful of increasing inclusivity. Second, faculty, staff and students, alike, are proud to serve others and deeply invested in the well-being of their communities. And third, there is a conspicuous institutional commitment to sustainability, not only environmental and financial, but a kind of spiritual sustainability, too—helping students find their unique, individual “true north,” that thing, whatever it happens to be, that feeds their soul.
The emergence of these three values — inclusion, service and sustainability — that seem woven into the fabric of SUNY Oneonta, led me to circle back to the college’s mission and question whether it truly reflects what we do. At a gathering of administrative and professional staff in December, I asked if we ought to consider changing the mission. The answer from attendees was a resounding “Yes!”
I was sensitive to the fact that the college had thoughtfully developed its mission in 2010 and completed two strategic plans under it. However, I also discovered that the college’s 2010 mission wasn’t its first. A mission statement dated 1998 was a revised version of an earlier one adopted in 1990.
The evolution of the college’s mission seemed to have a natural cadence, changing every decade or so. Given that the 2015 strategic plan had concluded, the moment seemed right to consider SUNY Oneonta’s course once again. In January, I announced that my listening tour would take a turn as we transitioned to planning, beginning with conversations about our mission.
I borrowed the Silicon Valley framework of “hackathons” to reimagine our mission, hosting 11 hackathons at which groups generated ideas that guided us toward articulating who we are as a college and how we do what we do. My Cabinet and President’s Executive Council (a broader group of campus leaders) reviewed potential mission statements produced from hackathon material, whittling down to three, which I presented to College Senate. Finally, in April our campus adopted SUNY Oneonta’s new mission by a vote of students, employees and other stakeholders:
We nurture a community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully.
With this proclamation, our campus was ready to start building its next strategic plan. Our work toward this began over the summer with Cabinet members identifying possible goals. At present, we are refining these and also taking a step back to develop some baseline data that will provide the basis for measurement once a plan is in place. The deadline I have set for that is Jan. 1, 2020. The year ahead will be one of organization and action.
With the resignation of Provost James Mackin, effective Dec. 31, 2018, the Division of Academic Affairs began a period of transition that undoubtedly will continue through the coming academic year. SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute fellow Dr. André Melendez, who served as interim provost from January through early July, continued many of the initiatives begun under Dr. Mackin.
Program Advancement and Expansion
The New York State Department of Education (SED) approved the college’s plan to offer two new bachelor’s degree programs. The college will launch both a BFA in Art and Design and BS in Women’s Studies this fall.
The SED re-registered several bachelor’s degree programs:
- Criminal Justice;
- Human Development and Family Studies;
- Fashion and Textiles;
- Communication Studies;
- Computer Science;
- Mathematics; and
The college completed reviews of these programs:
- International Development Studies; and
- Climatology (a proposed program).
The review of Climatology addressed lingering concerns about enrollment. The State Climatologists of New Hampshire and New York strongly endorsed the major, which could be open to students as early as fall 2020.
SUNY Oneonta entered into an affiliation agreement with the College of Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute to initiate a 3/2 Engineering program and updated its articulation agreement between the Department of Psychology and Schenectady County Community College Psychology Program.
The college also signed an agreement between its Pre-Health Program and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) in Erie, Pennsylvania. This will establish an affiliation between the two institutions, paving the way for SUNY Oneonta students to become eligible for early acceptance into LECOM’s College of Medicine, leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree.
A new collaboration with Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing will allow SUNY Oneonta to deliver Online General Education courses to nursing students who have not earned 45 credits of General Education upon acceptance into Nursing at BU. SUNY Oneonta’s schools of Liberal Arts and Sciences will deliver the credits online over one academic year. An initial cohort of 50-100 students is expected in spring 2020. Future cohorts could be as large as 300 students.
Closer to campus, Oneonta’s A.O. Fox Hospital, a member of the Bassett Healthcare Network, partnered with the college to develop and implement a Medical Scribe Program, placing eight students in fall 2018 and eight in spring 2019.
At the course level, winter session, which Academic Affairs had piloted in previous years, experienced significant growth in 2018-2019. The college offered a combined 20 undergraduate and graduate courses, tripling the offering of 2017’s winter session.
Policy and Technology Improvements
Attention given to policy and technology led to greater workflow efficiency and transparency. Of particular significance, the framework around faculty renewal, promotion and tenure, which had been under development for eight years, was completed, approved by College Senate and implemented.
Another new measure makes courses that are rarely offered inactive. The Course Inactivation Policy reinforces the college’s commitment to ensuring the accuracy of the college catalog. The new policy led to the inactivation of 169 courses in the School of Social Sciences alone.
Academic policy and curriculum development moved online to Digarc’s Curriculog platform, where campus community members may see proposals as they progress through various stages of review. Similarly, the college’s “Student Perceptions of Instruction” — the course evaluation mechanism — has also transitioned to a web-based system.
Likewise, in a collaboration with Academic Affairs and the Registrar, Advisement staff completed a project to create four-year curriculum “maps” for each of the college’s undergraduate programs. The maps have been published in the 2019-20 college catalog and will serve as a valuable tool for student advisement and success.
The college’s graduate school appeals process was streamlined. Applicants now need to complete and submit only one form.
Implementation of a new software platform (Via-TRM) will make processing easier for education abroad and international exchange. Another new process streamlined how the college invites scholars to campus on J-1 visas.
The college initiated a process to renumber all courses. This is also an opportunity to create a logical schema, which is to say that the first digit should identify the level of course — 1000-level courses being freshman-level, 4000 being senior-level, 5000 being lower-level graduate courses, and 6000 upper-level graduate courses. Second, third and fourth digits could identify courses and sequencing.
Pursuing Scholarship and Applied Learning
Faculty members completed 31 grant applications in 2018-2019. These resulted in 12 awards.
The college approved the Program for Local Area Community and Environmental Sciences (PLACES) Institute Center for Excellence proposal. PLACES will be a joint cross-disciplinary institute that fosters linkages with researchers from across the natural and social sciences to investigate the relationship between human communities and the natural and built environment. Its purpose is to engage in innovative new research projects. To accomplish this, the Institute will coordinate efforts to conduct research on interactions between community and environment. Once established, the Institute will provide a mechanism for affiliated researchers to network with other research centers throughout the region on an equal and collaborative basis, including Bassett Research Institute, the New York State Historical Association, Masonic Medical Research Lab and Zogby International, among other potential partners. The regional scholarly collaborations will provide research opportunities for students.
Academic Affairs implemented international internship programs in 11 locations that the Career Development Center previously managed.
Use of our Faculty Center, which provides support for faculty to develop as professionals on campus through effective and inclusive practices, increased by 22 percent this past year. In 2018-2019, there were 579 program participants, compared with 476 in 2017-2018.
In partnership with the college’s Teaching, Learning and Technology Center, the Faculty Center initiated the Professional Recognition of Excellence (PROE) program and developed the digital tracking of faculty participation for the three levels of recognition. Several faculty members have already completed the first level in the pilot program. The Faculty Center was invited to deliver a presentation about PROE at the SUNY Conference on Instruction and Technology.
Identifying and Meeting Individual Students’ Needs
The Student Learning Center (SLC) devised several interventions to improve students’ access to and ability to benefit from academic skill-building services. The Center collaborated with the Math department and Academic Advisement Office to create two new accelerated learning pathways for developmental math students, eliminating sequencing obstacles while streamlining developmental support so that students enter college on the quickest path toward graduation.
A similar partnership with the English department resulted in co-requisite developmental support courses for Composition classes. Remedial coursework was paired with credit-bearing coursework to accelerate the learning process and build writing, reading, and student skills, with a special focus on non-cognitive student support needs.
To ensure that students received the highest quality tutoring possible, 100 percent of the college’s professional tutors earned certification as academic coaches through the National Tutoring Association (NTA). Likewise, all the college’s peer tutors (75 student employees) earned certification as NTA tutors. The college anticipates that this will prepare the SLC for the shift in demand from writing tutoring to study skills tutoring in the coming semesters.
SUNY Oneonta focuses on the development of the whole student. The college is committed to engaging students in exceptional co-curricular, social and academic experiences from orientation through graduation.
Social and Co-Curricular Experiences
From weekly movies in the Red Dragon Theater to whitewater rafting trips with the Outdoor Adventure Club, there was plenty of events programming for students in 2018-2019. More than 3,300 events were posted to the college’s events app, Corq, over the course of the year, a 4 percent increase over 2017-2018.
Many of these events were part of the college’s growing LEAD@Oneonta leadership development program. In 2018-2019, 665 programs offered students LEAD credit, an increase of 32 percent over 2017-2018. The number of students achieving the highest LEAD level (platinum) increased from 8 to 34, and 15.5 percent of graduating seniors had earned at least one LEAD certificate.
Residential Community Life provided 278 educational programs and more than 1,200 social programs for students living in the college’s 15 residence halls. Two new Living Learning Communities (LLCs) — Community Psychology and Music for Life — were added in 2018-2019, bringing the total number of LLCs to six. The addition of LLCs to the freshman experience has been a success. Enrollment in LLCs more than quadrupled from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019, and students who chose to live in an LLC had a higher freshman-to-sophomore retention rate (91.3 percent) than the overall freshman retention rate (88 percent).
Student clubs and organizations continued to enrich the social experience. The college’s two Club Expo events attracted more than 3,000 new students to engage with representatives of the college’s 100+ student organizations. Many of these connections were lasting; 85 percent of the students joined at least one new club; and 44 percent pursued a leadership position.
Participation in Greek Life continued to increase. As of spring 2019, 913 students (1 in 6) were involved in one of the college’s 20 recognized fraternities and sororities, compared to 1 in 20 students involved in Greek life 10 years ago. Two additional Greek organizations began the process of earning recognition by the college.
The Athletics Department provided support and programming to 492 student athletes on 21 varsity teams. Student athletes had a higher freshman-to-sophomore retention rate (96 percent) than that of students who did not participate in athletics.
Applied Learning Opportunities
Students continued to apply their classroom learning and engage with faculty one-on-one through research and study abroad opportunities. In fall 2018, 31 students participated in the annual Life of the Mind faculty research showcase. In spring 2019, the annual Student Research and Creative Activities event featured 102 student projects representing the work of 152 students and 73 faculty sponsors. Participation in short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs increased by 27 percent, from 78 students in 2017-2018 to 99 in 2018-2019.
Service learning is a growing part of the academic experience at SUNY Oneonta. In 2018-2019, a total of 71 designated service-learning courses across 10 different departments were offered, and 1,314 students enrolled in a course with a service-learning component.
Students continued to make meaningful connections with one another and with community organizations through volunteer work. Volunteer hours logged through the college’s Center for Social Responsibility and Community increased by 12 percent over the previous year, with 1,211 students performing service activities.
The School of Economics and Business established two new partnerships to facilitate applied-learning experiences in 2018-2019. The School offered an Investment Management class providing an applied learning experience where students competed in teams to invest $15,000 within the framework of the College Foundation’s investment policy. Coursework culminated in presentations of investment proposals to the Foundation’s Investment subcommittee. A $15,000 donation targeted for this class was invested based on the winning proposal. Economics and Business also earned designation as a Bloomberg Experiential Learning Partner and 188 students earned BMC certifications, placing SUNY Oneonta at No. 92 of 950 Bloomberg educational clients worldwide.
Career Networking Opportunities
Students engaged with alumni more than ever in 2018-2019. The annual Backpacks to Briefcases networking event, organized by the School of Economics and Business and the Office of Alumni Engagement, had record-breaking participation, with 23 alumni, 95 students and 6 faculty members. The event brings students and faculty to New York City for site visits with alumni at businesses and other organizations.
Building on the success of this long-running event for business students, similar events aimed at students in other disciplines have been launched over the last few years, and participation grew in 2018-2019. A total of 23 theatre students and alumni participated in the Goodrich to Broadway networking event, and 19 music industry students and alumni participated in the Mixing Board to Management event. Both were held in New York City. The Campus to Capitol networking event in Washington, D.C., for political science students, was expanded in 2018-2019, and 39 alumni and 31 students participated.
In addition to these off-site events, many alumni returned to campus to meet with students in 2018-2019.
- 12 alumni participated in a networking session focused on leadership.
- 23 alumni participated in an EOP alumni-student networking event held in conjunction with the program’s 50th anniversary.
- nine alumni participated in a networking event for fashion and textiles students.
- 25 alumni spoke to student groups through the Distinguished Alumni Series (a 31 percent increase over 2017-2018) and an additional five alumni spoke at campus events such as Student Research and Creative Activity Day.
- Participation in the Recent Alumni Dialogue Series increased 300 percent, with 27 recent graduates returning to campus to engage with students.
The college continued to support student access through substantial commitments to institutional scholarships and aid.
Staff from the divisions of Enrollment Management and Finance and Administration worked together to develop an improved, more inclusive scholarship model to begin in fall 2020. A multi-year investment of $1 million will support a program where students applying through Jan. 15 (95 percent of admits) will be eligible for the awarding process. Awarding will include stacked awards with both a socioeconomic and first-generation focus.
The College Foundation continued its work to support student access and engagement through scholarships and awards. A total of 5,450 individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses made charitable gifts and grants totaling $3,561,335 to the Foundation in 2018-2019. This is a 2 percent increase over the five-year average, and the second highest total of the past five years. The endowment and net assets of the College Foundation increased to $65 million from $62 million a year ago. This is a net increase, after allocations of just over $3 million for scholarships and campus programs from endowment income and expendable gifts. The Foundation established 19 new endowed and expendable funds in 2018-2019, bringing the total number of funds to 527.
The college continued to offer financial support to students facing unforeseen financial hardships that might otherwise force them to leave school. Supported by a grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children and the Gerstner Family Foundation, the college’s Student Emergency Fund awarded more than $52,000 to 58 students in 2018-2019
Financial support for applied learning experiences increased, thanks, in part, to a $175,000 gift from James and Mary Susan Ajello to support internship participation. In 2018-2019, students pursuing internships were awarded a total of $45,475 through the Ajello, Casper and Dewar fellowships. The college also awarded $33,000 in D’Antonio Fund grants to support 154 students attending conferences and workshops throughout the United States and in five other countries.
The Student Grant Program for Research and Creative Activity offered $63,450 in student research funding, and this was supplemented in 2018-2019 by the second of a three-year $75,000 Strategic Allocation of Resources (StAR) award aimed at engaging students early in their college careers and exposing an increased number of students to research and creative processes.
A multi-year, award-winning renovation of the James M. Milne Library was completed in September 2018, four months ahead of schedule. The $8 million project enhanced study and research areas in both number and quality. Bright, open spaces, modern seating and light fixtures, and pops of teal and yellow have made the library a space in which students want to spend time. Nearly every seat and desk area now has direct access to an electrical outlet so students can easily plug in their phones and laptops. Expanded Wi-Fi access coverage reaches deep into the building. More modern collaborative space has been added, including group study rooms and study booths. As part of the project, a revamped Student Learning Center and the Accessibility Resources office are now conveniently located within the library.
Also in 2018-2019, work to renovate the Hunt Union interior to provide space for the Applied Learning Network began, and the college completed the design phase and started construction on a major renovation of Huntington Hall, adding bed capacity to sustain future enrollment growth.
An audit by the Office of the Comptroller, Divisions of State Government Accountability, covering the period of January 1, 2015, through May 4, 2018, was conducted to determine if SUNY institutions have developed adequate controls to effectively safeguard communities against hazardous material and waste. The results indicated that more control of access to chemical storage areas and greater oversight of hazardous materials inventories needed to be implemented at SUNY Oneonta.
The report noted that not all labs maintain hazardous materials inventories, as required, and that departments were only able to account for 72 percent of hazardous materials. To address this, the college’s Office of Facilities, Safety and Physical Plant funded card-access upgrades in all hazardous materials areas, and the School of Sciences created and filled an industry-certified chemical inventory coordinator position.
Oneonta Auxiliary Services (OAS) maintains the lowest unlimited dining plan rate in SUNY, which supports affordability and provides food security for resident students at SUNY Oneonta. In 2018-2019, OAS and Student Accounts collaborated to ensure that students could access their dining plans at the start of the semester, even if their bill had not yet been cleared. About 11 percent of resident students accessed dining plans despite an unpaid bill at the start of the spring 2019 semester.
To meet student demand for better Wi-Fi access, Information Technology Services upgraded over 220 wireless access points, expanded outdoor Wi-Fi to 12 new locations, and improved services at the Cooperstown campus, Thayer farm and in three residence halls.
The Career Development Center offered 857 one-on-one student appointments in addition to 86 presentations for small and large groups. Staff members critiqued 804 resumes, 90 cover letters and 48 personal statements. Representatives from 47 area businesses and organizations participated in the CDC’s annual Job and Internship Fair on campus, and 256 students attended.
The college’s Health and Wellness Center provided services to students 6,361 times in 2018-2019. There was a 4 percent increase in students seeking counseling services. Due to long wait times and an increase in requests for crisis appointments, the Counseling Center began offering walk-in counseling in fall 2019, and this service was well received by students. A SUNY grant to pilot tele-psychiatry and counseling was renewed, and 34 students received services. The Health Education Office provided internships for 21 students in 2018-2019, with focuses on nutrition, sexual/relationship violence and bystander education, and alcohol/other drug use and mental health.
The Office of Academic Advisement made strides in its ongoing efforts to help students complete their degrees as efficiently as possible. The addition of three new professional staff in December 2018 to enhance and widen the scope of professional advising resulted in an increase in student contacts of at least 40 percent during the second half of the spring term. Advisement staff planned and implemented 21 training workshops (many in cooperation with the Faculty Center) to increase faculty/staff competence and comfort with advising.
The Office of New Student Services (NSS) expanded its work to support new student engagement and success in 2018-2019. Through the addition of the Coordinator of Freshman Programs position (SUNY PIF-funded), NSS expanded its programming to 34 specific programs for new students, increased attendance at New Student Success Series programs, and launched several new initiatives aimed at transfer students.
For example, NSS expanded the New Student Mentors (NSM) program. Mentors planned and implemented events and activities in the First Year Experience and Transfer Living Community residence halls and created bi-weekly emails to establish a sense of connection and provide key information to new students. NSS also created the Transfer Lounge, a dedicated space for new transfer students to connect with student mentors and college staff.
Tau Sigma, the honor society for transfer students, established a chapter on campus. It inducted more than 60 students in spring 2019.
The office of Access and Opportunity Programs also expanded its support services in 2018-2019. The percentage of Educational Opportunity Program students with grade-point averages of 2.5 or greater at the end of their first academic year increased in 2018-2019. New initiatives included:
- a peer-mentoring program to address academic, social and personal well-being;
- funding support for EOP/ACE students who need psychological testing for learning differences but do not have the means to pay for this service;
- re-establishment of EOP/ACE student registration during Summer Academy, in collaboration with Academic Advisement; and
- creation of a new Transfer Academic Coaching Program.
The revamp and relocation of the Student Learning Center and Accessibility Resources to the library resulted in increased academic support for students. The Student Learning Center provided scheduled professional academic coaching appointments to 198 students, held 365 professional writing consults and provided a total of 4,719 scheduled or drop-in peer tutoring sessions.
As part of one new initiative, workshops assisted students before midterms and finals. A total of 76 students attended workshops by professional tutors on time management, timed essay exam prep, test-taking anxiety, and memorization and study methods.
The college also created a new position, assistive technology specialist, responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring SUNY Oneonta’s assistive technology services to support students registered with Accessibility Resources.
Support for students in the college’s growing pre-health professions advisement program improved with the addition of a dedicated Pre-Health Professions Coordinator position in fall 2018. In the last five years, the number of students enrolling in pre-health concentrations has increased from under 300 to over 500 students. The new coordinator provides advising and support services to students interested in pursuing admission to health professions graduate programs.
The college made small strides in its efforts to diversify the student body and faculty. Nonresident and international enrollment increased by five students. The percentage of incoming freshmen identifying as underrepresented minorities increased slightly, from 26.66 percent in fall 2018 to 27.21 percent in fall 2019. The percentage of freshmen of color was virtually even, at 29.54 percent in 2019 compared with 29.24 percent in 2018. There was a 5 percent increase in enrollment by first-generation students, who now make up 39 percent of the freshman class.
After careful review of all applicants, an adjunct in the Department of Sociology was converted to a Historically Underrepresented Post-Doctoral Fellow line. The Fellow has a two-year contract that will begin in fall 2019.
In 2018-2019, the Affirmative Action Office investigated 60 student Title IX cases and six employee discrimination reports. The AAO coordinated 26 mandatory diversity sessions during new student orientation and presented to 600 students in additional sessions throughout the year, focusing on civil rights, law and policy, resources, discrimination and harassment.
The college offered a variety of diversity-related programming in 2018-2019, including more than 11 events during Latinx Heritage Month and a Student Diversity Leadership Conference with 268 participants. A new initiative for 2018-2019 was the Common Ground Fall/Spring Interactive Dialogue Series, with nine sessions led by student dialogue facilitators.
The annual Common Read initiative continued, with a campus visit and lecture by lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson, author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.” Since 2013, the Common Read has advanced diversity by encouraging students to examine and better understand topics such as equity, inclusion and personal history through many lenses. Combined with the endowed Mills Lectureship, it aims to further infuse cultural literacy into the academic program by asking all incoming freshmen to read a diversity-related book, which then is discussed in fall courses across several disciplines.
The Gender and Sexuality Resource Center provided 68 programs and 16 classroom presentations throughout the year. This year’s SUNY Pride Conference was very successful, drawing 210 students, faculty and staff from 24 different SUNY Institutions for a day of programming and social networking. Participants surveyed reported a 95 percent satisfaction rating.
Even Dining Services had a focus on diversity, offering international menus prepared by Sodexo’s global chef Maria McNeela and sponsoring three student internships at Sodexo’s corporate offices in Bangkok, Thailand.
Sustainability is a core value at SUNY Oneonta. The campus community has a shared commitment to sustainability, from saving energy and reducing food waste, to coursework preparing students to help solve the world’s complex environmental challenges.
In 2018, the college received external recognition from two organizations for its commitment to sustainability:
- The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) awarded SUNY Oneonta an Excellence and Innovation Award for the college’s commitment to and success in integrating sustainability across the curriculum. The awards program, now in its fifth year, honors AASCU member institutions for excellence and innovation in several areas, including sustainability and sustainable development.
- For the second time, SUNY Oneonta earned recognition as a Tree Campus USA. Tree Campus USA is an Arbor Day Foundation program that honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. To obtain this distinction, SUNY Oneonta met the five core standards for sustainable campus forestry required by Tree Campus USA — the establishment of a tree advisory committee, evidence of a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.
Information-gathering is underway for participation in SUNY’s Large-scale Renewable Energy Consortium. The consortium approach for purchasing renewable energy will advance SUNY’s sustainability goals and provide a cost-effective way to move toward carbon neutrality.
In 2018-2019, nine faculty members participated in the Sustainable Susquehanna Faculty Development workshop focused on the integration of sustainability in the curriculum through course revision or new course development. In total, 50 faculty in 22 departments have been trained through this program in the last five years. In 2018-2019, 15 sustainability courses achieved the sustainability designation, bringing the total to 64 courses across the college’s four schools.
The college encourages faculty and student participation in sustainability research through the annual Life of the Mind and Student Research & Creative Activity Day. In 2019, 42 percent of the projects presented at Student Research and Creative Activity event were sustainability-related.
SUNY Oneonta partnered with SUNY Polytechnic Institute and SUNY ESF to offer new applied-learning opportunities for students in LEED certification and to develop in-house capacity of LEED Associated Professionals. Five Oneonta faculty and staff have received LEED AP credentials.
In 2018-2019, the college installed solar/PV and wind-generation demonstration technology in the Physical Science building. This provides workforce development opportunities for Maintenance Operations Center staff, as well as offering applied-learning benefits to students.
Through the May 2019 Move-Out Donation and Reuse Program, the college collected 5.5 tons of unwanted furniture, electronics and other items from students as they prepared to move out of their residence halls. The goods were donated to local nonprofit groups and community members.
Sustainability of resources and operations is a core value for Oneonta Auxiliary Services and included the following initiatives and events in 2018-2019:
- Weigh the Waste event in the dining halls to bring awareness to post-consumer food waste;
- Farm-to-Table dinners featuring local meats and produce; and
- a collaboration with Academic Affairs that encouraged and expedited textbook adoptions through the campus’s bookstore partner, Damascene Book Cellar.
The college’s annual Green Dragon Week, which includes Arbor Day, is a longstanding event that focuses on sustainability. Oneonta students were actively involved in obtaining the Tree Campus USA certification. Last spring, two students worked to update the campus GIS map which, once finalized, will allow the campus community to identify trees throughout campus. This map will also help serve as a planning tool for future plantings. Students also hosted Arbor Day campus tree tours and quizzes during Green Dragon Week — an annual event organized by the Office of Sustainability that features films, lectures, demonstrations and other activities planned by the college’s sustainability-focused student clubs.
The college’s environmental science clubs annually participate in tree-planting service-learning projects with local nonprofit organizations in Otsego and Delaware counties. In the past two years, SUNY Oneonta students have helped plant more than 700 trees and shrubs in the local community.
In spring 2019, Economic and Business students completed more than 196 tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax assistance to qualifying households in the greater Oneonta area.
Since 1994, SUNY Oneonta students have contributed over 1.1 million hours of service to the local community through the Center for Social Responsibility and Community (CSRC). In 2018-2019, 21 percent of the student body volunteered through the CSRC, working in 78 different nonprofit organizations and collectively devoting 58,425 hours to service activities.
In addition, scholar-athletes completed 47 different community service projects averaging 17 hours each, up from 14 hours each in 2017-2018.
The Health Education Office sponsored the SUNY’s Got Your Back campaign on campus, leading over 250 volunteers in packing more than 2,000 bags with personal hygiene items for local domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
Work Force Education
The SUNY Apprenticeship program partnered with the college to offer apprenticeships through local agencies. Students gained experience in direct support of individuals who are receiving care from or are members of communities at Springbrook, ARC Otsego and Pathfinder Village.
The Springbrook SUNY Core program ended in December 2018. Eight students completed the 15-credit program, bringing in an additional $14,357 of gross revenue this year for a total of $36,117. Springbrook plans to partner with SUNY Oneonta again, starting in January 2020.
In 2018-2019, SUNY Oneonta’s A.J. Read Science Discovery Center (SDC) welcomed over 6,200 visitors, hosted 75 visiting groups and sponsored 24 special events. The SDC is a free, hands-on museum for people of all ages and abilities. The center held 25 Science Saturdays and 20 hands-on workshops, many designed and facilitated by student curatorial interns. Multiple new exhibits, including a plasma ball and tube and a gravity well, were added. Significant strides toward financial sustainability were also made, supplemented by another donation from the Corning Incorporated Foundation (renewed for 2019-20).
In addition, more than 4,000 community visitors attended approximately 225 shows and viewings in the college’s digital planetarium and College Camp observatory.
The College at Oneonta Foundation’s investments outperformed the composite index for the year ending June 30, 2018, as well as for 3-, 5- and 10-year return measures.
Oneonta Auxiliary Services returned over $2.1 million in financial support to the campus and College Foundation, including $550,000 in scholarship support.
The Office of Communication and Marketing eliminated redundancy in urgent messaging software by migrating to NY-Alert from Rave, saving $8,800/year, and saved the Division of Student Development $30,000 by publishing a mobile-friendly website to present emergency response information online as an alternative to purchasing an app for the same purpose.
The Registrar’s Office generated over $12,000 in new revenue by contracting with the National Student Clearinghouse to conduct all degree verifications on the college’s behalf. This service allows the college to charge a fee for degree verifications and removes the work from the Registrar’s Office. The fee is charged directly to the business that is conducting the verification. There is no charge to the student, and no expense to the institution.
SUNY Oneonta continues its commitment to recruiting and enrolling a well-qualified incoming class using a selective admissions process. Despite challenges — including staffing stability, increased competition and declining numbers of high school graduates in SUNY Oneonta’s primary markets — the college exceeded its freshman enrollment target and successfully met its transfer target. Freshman yield improved by approximately 1.5 percent, and there was continued growth in transfer students participating in the college’s “guarantee” programs.
The college continued to implement and refine technological tools that provide for efficiencies and more robust operations in many areas.
- Information Technology Services transitioned the campus from Banner 8 to Banner 9 and supported the integration of new and improved technology applications in many areas, including Phase 1 in the SUNY migration process from the Aleph to the Alma library services platform and support for the Qualtrics survey tool.
- The Teaching Learning and Technology Center has progressed work on SUNY’s and the campus’s Open Educational Resources (OER) project. To date, there have been 51 course sections converted to OER, with another 42 launching in fall 2019, making SUNY Oneonta a leader among SUNY. Additionally, work has been done with the college’s deans to identify courses to convert to OER to achieve the vision of an OER general education program. This work leverages technology to support college affordability and student retention and success.
- The SICAS Center worked on several initiatives that have impact across SUNY, including a major upgrade to the Banner 9 environment, development of a shared SICAS/ITEC service portal, making Excelsior Program changes, updating the 1098T, and working with SUNY on the development and roll out of SUNY Online.
Operations and Processes
The divisions of Finance and Enrollment Management collaborated to develop a projection model that connects enrollment with residence hall occupancy and capacity. The tool allowed the college to develop a multi-year enrollment scenario that would help the campus meet revenue needs while ensuring that the enrollment plan was realistic in terms of the college’s capacity to house students. This is particularly critical over a period when the college is undergoing major residence hall renovations.
The Office of Communication and Marketing supported the Office of Admissions to ensure that recruitment-related emails will display optimally on all devices by creating responsive email templates for Enrollment Management’s new customer relationship management platform.
The college improved student services by implementing dashboards in the Student Accounts call queue, using Admissions’ customer relationship management tool to enable the Call Center to answer admissions-related questions, and adding temporary staff in the Call Center to improve the ability to respond to questions during the peak summer call period.
The Finance and Administration division updated various policies, procedures and online resources, including the Meals and Refreshments Policy, Facilities Use Policy, online procurement manuals and accounting procedures. These efforts improve the availability of up-to-date policy and procedure information for the campus community as well as improve efficiencies and relevancy of office operations, often resulting in time savings.
The University Police Department implemented two new procedures: the Investigations of Misconduct and Citizen Complaints Policy, which has simplified the complaint/concern process, making it easier for community members to file a formal complaint, notify staff of a concern or to offer a compliment; and an Early Warning System, which identifies, intervenes and remediates potentially problematic behavior of department members and allows for timely intervention.
Enrollment Management Implemented ELM Student Marketplace to allow students an easy and transparent way to search and apply for private loan options.
The Registrar’s Office performed a cost analysis regarding the production of transcripts in house versus outsourcing. Students are now able to track transcripts, and they are produced seven days a week for distribution. The service fee to student is nominal and the college continues to print free transcripts for students on the first and third Mondays of each month. Outsourcing the entire production has freed up support staff from stuffing envelopes and verifying addresses to tackle larger projects and redistribute work. Students have praised the service.
The Office of Communication and Marketing expanded Print Shop services by allowing employees to purchase printing from the Print Shop using Dragon Dollars, and by creating the framework to sell printing and print-related services to Hartwick College via a memorandum of understanding with that institution.
The Fund for Oneonta saw a 22 percent increase in direct mail revenue, and direct mail accounted for 26 percent of overall FFO revenue, with increases resulting from improvements to our publications, mailings and emails displaying impact of gifts to the Fund. Alumni mailings were sent out quarterly, including special segmentation for 1889 Society donors and recent alumni, plus two parent mailings well as Day of Giving communications.
The Office of Alumni Engagement introduced the Alumni Engagement Score as a tool to measure alumni behaviors and better understand how alumni engage with the college. After assigning a score to 67,359 constituent records (undergraduate alumni, graduate alumni and alumni non-degree) using data available as of September 2018, the office developed an action plan aimed at increasing the percentages of highly engaged and engaged alumni and decreasing the percentage of alumni who scored below average, low engagement, or no engagement.
The Office of Communication and Marketing reduced by 10 percent the administrative burden of maintaining the college’s website by reorganizing unit-level microsites into logical hierarchies, removing redundant content and eliminating 300 webpages. The unit also diminished the college’s exposure to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act by identifying a vendor to remediate complex online PDF forms that did not meet federal accessibility standards, and reducing the number of PDFs on the college website.
The Office of Communication and Marketing (OCM) continued a campaign, introduced in 2017-2018, to solicit Student Emergency Fund (SEF) applications. SEF provided a $75,000 grant to the college to be used to assist students experiencing hardships that might cause them to drop out. OCM generated awareness of SEF by driving traffic to the SEF website.
Tactics included producing interior ads for the Oneonta Public Transit buses with routes to and from campus and a nearby student apartment complex, and post cards that were distributed through several high-traffic areas during the fall 2018 semester:
- Office of Student Accounts;
- Financial Aid Office,
- Registrar’s Office;
- Academic Advisement Office;
- Counseling, Health and Wellness Center;
- Opportunity Program Office; and
- Residential and Community Life.
Communication and Marketing also provided cards to residence hall directors for direct promotion among students living on campus, and to the college’s Call Center, better preparing staff there to triage inbound calls from students or students’ parents seeking emergency help with unforeseen expenses.
The campaign used electronic channels to promote SEF, featuring it in the weekly e-newsletter to employees and an e-newsletter from the Office of New Student Services to parents of SUNY Oneonta students, and including an update about it in the October edition of Notes from Netzer, a presidential newsletter emailed monthly to employees. Social media content across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat targeted the classes of 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, students’ parents, and the general student population.
A poll conducted through the student portal demonstrated that awareness about SEF had increased from 50 percent to 59 percent between April and October 2018. As of mid-October, the college had received 70 applications and awarded over $17,000 to students facing challenges with medical bills, short-term food and rent costs, car repairs and broken laptops.
Summer session was another focus for digital marketing. The goal of a campaign in this area was to increase visiting undergraduate enrollment by 10 percent. As of early June, the total number of visiting students enrolled in summer class was 82, compared to 41 in 2018. Of these, 36 were enrolled in undergraduate courses – the primary focus of marketing efforts – compared to 15 in 2018. Tactics aimed at visiting students included:
- A series of three Facebook and Instagram ads marketing our sport management courses to students from 19 public and private schools (identified by the summer session director) in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont with sport management programs. These ads generated 34 views of the summer session landing page for $185.46; however, this tactic does not appear to have been effective because no visiting students enrolled in sport management courses.
- A series of two Facebook and Instagram ads marketing our geography courses to University at Buffalo students, who in the past have not had summer geography classes at their school and have taken them at SUNY Oneonta.
- A Facebook and Instagram retargeting ad served to people who had visited our summer session web pages.
- Two Google Paid Search campaigns – three ads targeted toward people searching for general terms such as “online summer classes” and three ads targeted toward people searching for online summer psychology classes, in particular.
- An email sent through Emma, an email marketing platform, to a list (provided by the summer session director) of 28 BOCES certification officers throughout New York state.
In comparison to 2018, this year the college spent less money to promote summer session yet generated better results.
OCM expanded efforts to promote students’ accomplishments through Merit, a tool that serves content to several constituencies, some of which are otherwise difficult to reach:
- students’ parents;
- administrators of secondary schools that students attended;
- elected state officials representing students’ legislative districts; and
- media outlets that cover students’ hometowns.
In 2018-2019, Communication and Marketing distributed news about 55 percent more students than in 2017-2018. This generated a 330 percent increase in social media impressions, 358 percent increase in social engagement, 131 percent increase in page views and a 28 percent increase in email open rate.
To improve distribution of news that was more institutional in nature, OCM procured media database software in December that allowed staff to identify journalists who cover beats that align with college content. Database users created segmented media lists to link with journalists and their beats — arts, fashion, gender studies, Latinx, local media, music, and political science — and then generated and pursued 29 story ideas. The college earned eight placements in national outlets and nine in regional outlets.
To better serve local outlets, OCM developed a weekly news brief. Shared every Monday with newspapers and radio stations that cover Otsego County, the brief is a collection of potential news story ideas based on campus activities and developments that the OCM stands ready to help reporters pursue.
The offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Graduate Admissions began implementation of a new customer relationship management platform, Slate. Staff configured Slate for freshmen, transfer, international, graduate program and special population applications, and migrated existing communication plans, including associated workflows, into the new platform.
Undergraduate Admissions created campaigns for prospective students, admitted students and accepted students who had deposited. Staff used Slate to compose roughly 150 distinct email messages and to deliver over 94,400 messages.
Both admissions offices also began updating primary and secondary recruitment-related web landing and content pages, and refreshed print collateral used for enrollment marketing.
In-person events proved successful. A redesign of the “Experience Oneonta” event led to a substantial increase in participation. This past year, the college hosted 222 Experience Oneonta class visits. In 2018 the total was 98 students. The campus also welcomed more than 100 school counselors to an Op Inform in October 2018.
Special Interventions for Newcomers
The Office of New Student Services (NSS) communicated regularly with students’ parents, sending a monthly newsletter to them through a Facebook group for parents. Interestingly, parents’ use of the newsletter decreased (as measured by views) as their knowledge about the institution grew via the FB group and students’ comfort level at the institution increased.
NSS collaborated with the Office of Academic Advisement to implement Dragon Guides, a program that paired new transfer students with faculty and staff members, called “Dragon Guides,” who volunteered to help the students navigate campus. Over half of the Dragon Guides who responded to a survey met with their student(s) at least twice during this semester.
The SUNY PIF-funded Transfer Success Initiative has established connections between the students involved with their peers and with the assistant director of NSS. A key aspect of the initiative was the “Success at SUNY Oneonta” course, designed to guide STEM Transfer students in maximizing their academic experience at SUNY Oneonta by offering practical advice, directed support, and academic strategies that provide students a distinct advantage for their success and satisfaction. In a survey of the fall 2019 cohort, over 90 percent indicated that the INTD 134 course was useful and that it provided needed connections. Based on the experiences of the students in the fall and spring cohorts, the INTD 134 course is being reconfigured to a half-semester course that meets twice a week.
Alumni Outreach and Engagement
Alumni career programs offered opportunities to strengthen the bonds between former and current students through the college. Over 150 alumni participated in networking gatherings, lectures and co-curricular events.
This fiscal year, 1,360,097 electronic communications were sent to all alumni and friends with valid email addresses. This represents an increase of 162,631 over last year. The average open rate of 20 percent for our emails to all alumni is higher than the national average and held steady for the third consecutive year.
However, there was an increase in the open rate for emails:
- regarding athletics (38 percent);
- from academic departments (42 percent);
- to affinity groups (50 percent); and
- from reunion class chairs (40 percent).
OCM’s partnership with the City of Oneonta to promote Nixle, the City’s urgent alert platform, continued to members of the campus community. According to data shared by the City, there were 1,871 Nixle subscribers registered to receive text alerts in late December 2018. Following a campus-wide campaign this past spring, the number climbed 8 percent to 2,017 by early June 2019.
OCM, the University Police Department (UPD) and Information Technology Services (ITS) explored and ultimately decided to adopt NY-Alert as the campus’ tool for urgent communication. NY-Alert will succeed Rave, a platform the college had adopted in 2017. Initial testing of and training for the new platform has been favorable. The transition to NY-Alert will continue into the fall.
The college continued to study key constituents’ perceptions of SUNY Oneonta. In the spring, OCM purchased research from a firm specializing in college benchmarking. It compared potential college students’ perceptions of SUNY Oneonta in comparison with several other New York state colleges.
- The study reached conclusions that align with previous findings from the Eduventures project that SUNY commissioned in 2017, the last three iterations of the National Study of Student Engagement and SUNY’s 2018 and 2015 Student Opinion Survey. It also echoed the result of the college’s mission re-imagination: that SUNY Oneonta is distinct and desirable because it is an uncommonly friendly, welcoming community where students enjoy and learn from the pursuit of their interests