2019 Opening Breakfast Remarks

Presented Aug. 30, 2019 to faculty and staff

Welcome! It is so nice to see such a full room this morning, there is nothing like the smell of maple syrup and bacon to lure people in!

I am excited for a new year to start and am glad for the quiet days of summer to come to an end. Well it may have been quiet for some but certainly not for our folks in MOC. I want to thank Lachlan and his team for working so hard over the summer on so many projects. It is quite amazing all that was accomplished in a just a few months. Please join me in thanking members of the MOC for making our campus look so beautiful!

I had a great first year meeting faculty, staff, and students. Like this morning’s breakfast, many of my most memorable events involved food like pizza with the president, cooking in my kitchen, hosting numerous receptions on campus and at the president’s residence, and our cookie bakeoff in December. I enjoyed listening to concerns and reflections on what gets you excited to come to work each day. By far, interaction with our students and commitment to their success is what motivates us most.

I was extremely proud of our collective accomplishment and the re-write of our mission statement. Hundreds participated in the Hack-a-thons. A mission statement reflects what we do and our impact. What arose out of this collective approach is a mission statement that expresses what is distinctive about SUNY Oneonta.

I would like to spend a few minutes diagraming how I have seen our mission in action. It’s 13 words to remember, with the first embodying our core. It all starts with: “we.”

We are a team, a family. We are dedicated. We are more effective and stronger together than apart. We is an important first word. Because we are family, I would like to acknowledge those in the room who are new here. If you have recently been employed here at SUNY Oneonta, please stand so we may welcome you.

I would also like to recognize those who have been promoted, granted permanency or continuing appointment. Would you please rise?

Thank you.

Our second word is: “nurture.”

“Nurture” does not mean we cajole. Rather, it stems from a deep commitment to education that has spanned 130 years. Yes — we are celebrating our 130th birthday this year.

What is remarkable about our history is our enduring values of inclusivity, service and sustainability — not just environmental stewardship, but what I like to call sustainability of the soul. These values are indicative of the strong ethic of care that I believe is a unique attribute of SUNY Oneonta. There are so many examples of this care across campus. For example, this week hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered to pay tribute to one of our own. The generosity of our donors has enabled us to have the largest endowment of any SUNY comprehensive college. OAS is piloting a program called “Fuel Your Dragons” to assist students with food insecurities and inability to purchase books.

Did you know that faculty and staff hold an all-nighter before finals, serving food to our students? Rain or shine, we were all in on move-in day as we welcomed one of our largest incoming classes. Another example of care is the recently signed MOU between UUP and the administration regarding our adjuncts. All of these examples reflect our deep ethic of care and how we nurture.

We nurture a community. This is the foundation of who we are. To build a community means that we all have a shared responsibility. We have a responsibility to live our values, to be inclusive, to serve, and to sustain. We look out for each other. We welcome a diversity of ideas, but we do not tolerate hate or bias in our community.

Because we build community, this allows for us to do what we are intended to do: educate.

We nurture a community where students grow intellectually. Students can come to SUNY Oneonta with open minds, a willingness to be challenged, a safe space to reflect, debate, to be empowered. I applaud our faculty and staff for your commitment and dedication to our students. I have heard from countless current students and alumni about how the mentorship both in and outside of the classroom has transformed their lives.

Our world is connected in ways that none of us could have imagined a generation ago. Our students need to be able to navigate it and to be at ease with others, not just here in Oneonta or back at their home, but across the country and perhaps even on the opposite side of the globe. Thriving socially means practicing empathy and possessing cultural awareness. It means using social media as a tool for inclusion. It means serving the greater good.

Our mission finishes with a wish for all of us. Everything we do, when you add it up — the nurturing, the community, intellectual growth, thriving socially — the aim of all of it is this: to live purposefully.

We want our students to feel their aspirations deep in their hearts and then be able to go out into the world and realize them, whatever they might be.

Each student is on a unique path, a personal journey. Each student has entrusted us to see them through. That is the spirit of our mission.

We nurture a community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully.

This mission takes all of us. We can’t do it without your hard work and support.

I think that’s exciting, and I hope you do too. Thank you for coming this morning, and good luck as we begin a new year.

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