Welcome to the fall 2012 academic semester. What a beautiful time of the year to begin anew our dream-building, our goal-achieving, our quarter-backing for our students’ success. I love the resurgence of color and sound on our campus and our beautiful grounds. The promise of a harvest soon to be ours nourishes the soul.
As I walk the campus, I rejoice in the promise and the dream. Our hallways are once again populated by students, enjoying the learning commons - gently and sometimes not so gently affirming how central student success is to our campus. The Academic Center for Excellence, the Library, our Job Placement Center and our open computer labs and busy classrooms underscore our promise that all who enter here will be supported, encouraged and guided. Our gardens and our Earth-Kind Rose project invite us to create moments of reflection in community with our colleagues and our students. How gentle and generous life is when we allow love and the beauty that surrounds us to enter our hearts and guide our minds.
Enrollment figures, as of last evening, indicate that we are continuing to honor our commitment to mission. We show continued modest growth in our FTE of 4,439 and headcount of 7,363, as compared to fall 2011 numbers at freeze time of 4,429 FTE and 7,361 headcount. Much of the growth is to be attributed to the fine efforts and results at our Danbury Center. Numbers at this time indicate that the Danbury headcount has grown from 800 in fall 2011 to over 900 this fall. Joan Arbusto will be sharing with the campus community our final numbers in a couple of weeks.
Everyone - it takes a college, after all - needs to take credit for the part they’ve played. Each and every one of you knows, as I do, what has been the extent of your contribution. If until now you have been reluctant to become more engaged, the door is open, and the challenge is there for you to join your coworkers in the student-support activity that has meaning to you. Nothing, however, replaces the generous smile and the helpful assistance provided during the application, registration and orientation process. Moreover, how each and every one of you greets our students, beginning with the first day of class, is of a paramount importance.
We continue to support our students in significant ways, as reflected in the outstanding results evidenced at commencement this year: 1,020 total awards This means that we are the first Connecticut community college to grant more than 1,000 awards (associate degrees and certificates). Our good work has produced substantive and meaningful outcomes - outcomes that are even more meaningful because they have a lasting impact on the lives of many.
On the registration table, we have copies of our Midpoint Report on our strategic plan. If you pick up a hard copy (it is also available on the web), treasure it! The Report speaks of what are already very encouraging outcomes, and we should take time to celebrate them. Perhaps our greatest accomplishment to date, however, is what stands behind our progress report on outcomes. By focusing NVCC on a common agenda, the strategic plan has helped us rethink the ways we organize, undertake, record and analyze our work. While change takes time to set in, and processes need to be and will be enhanced, the sea-change in culture that brought about and supported the work of our strategic plan has had a significantly beneficial impact on our sense of relevance and accomplishments, and most significantly, on our students, their work at the College and their lives.
The College continues to open its doors to welcome new programs in support of workforce development. As you know, we were selected as one of three Connecticut community colleges to receive bonding dollars for a state-of-the-art manufacturing technology center. Skeptics said it could not be done, but thanks to the hard work of so many, this project, guided by Provost Troup is up and running and engaging over 50 very eager and optimistic students. Provost Troup will be telling you more about this later on in this program. Additionally, a new group of students enrolled through the College Connections program for students in high school will also be here to study manufacturing.
- NVCC and Waterbury public schools received $11.2 million in GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) funds from the State of Connecticut to engage children in three Waterbury middle schools in college-readiness preparation. The program is modeled after our very successful NVCC Connecticut Collegiate Awareness and Preparation (ConnCap) program. It is housed in the Bridge to College Department, directed by our very able and generous Janis Petrillo and her wonderful staff.
- NVCC applied for and received funding for a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence to enhance international culture on campus in 2012-2013. NVCC is the first Connecticut community college to serve as a Fulbright host institution. With the addition of the scholar, Pascal Meccariello, to be introduced later on in this program by Dean Palmer, the College will begin planning for an International Center for the Arts (ICA) that would engage students in on-campus activities and community events that celebrate and further raise awareness of international culture. Dean Kostrzewa is leading this effort and was responsible in engaging Academic Affairs, the Humanities Division and multiple external constituencies. At present, Dean Kostrzewa is working on a joint application with Capital Community College to bring next year’s literary Fulbright scholar to Connecticut.
Let me not continue this morning without saying thank you, gracias, grazie, merci beaucoup to colleagues:
- NEASC work on our self-study is in its final stages, under the generous and able guidance of Dean Palmer and Professor O’Donnell and many dedicated colleagues who contributed to the membership and leadership of committees. We have scheduled an afternoon high tea event for late September, invitations are being sent out next week, to recognize the generous contributions of colleagues.
- Other accomplishments to be noted, certainly not all, by Academic Affairs include the completion and beginning of implementation of the Academic Master Plan and the full implementation of nine learning communities this fall.
- In Student Services, the Center for Academic Planning and Student Success (CAPSS) has matched 100% of students with advisors and launched targeted advising interventions, such as graduation clinics for students with more than 45 credits. Orientation this fall saw the participation of over 600 students as many areas of the college collaborated harmoniously and in a joyous manner to make this a very important event. SGA leadership was engaged and played an important role in this event.
- The Office of the Provost and Senior Dean fof Administration led efforts in the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, on schedule and under budget. Other important contributions, certainly not all, include the Public Safety Department’s proposal, approval and commencement of ticket issuance for smoking violations in prohibited areas. This policy should cut down on the nuisance smoke and butts around campus. More recently, a proposal for $800,000 for the Plaza/Ekstrom concrete repair project was approved by the State Bond Commission with work to commence this fall.
- The Marketing Department was merged into the Office of Community Engagement and has moved aggressively to create a number of significant documents to include but not limited to: developing collateral materials to support the new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, produce the first cable TV ad for NVCC, producd a series of NVCC documents to include master plans for Academic Affairs, IT and Institutional Effectiveness and worked with the Deans of Student Affairs and Community Engagement to find and organize lodging for our first ever Fulbright Scholar.
- The Office of Community Engagement continues to host annual legislative breakfast and community events, developing a cadre of very significant supporters for the College
- The Office of Human Resources administered searches for in excess of 33 positions and, to date, hired and processed new employees in 31 positions, with more to come. Additionally, during this period leadership worked diligently with the College staff to successfully address - yes it needs to be said - performance issues, conduct issues, FMLA requests, discrimination complaints, FOIA requests, etc. There is much harmony on campus but in some areas greater efforts need to be put in place to create more respectful and collegial work environments and classrooms.
As I contemplate the work we have undertaken and will continue to undertake with a hopeful heart and generous intelligence, I thank the members of my Management Team whose leadership is to be respected on any college campus: Jim Troup, Sandra Palmer, Lillian Ortiz, A.J. DuBois, Wally Kostrzewa, Estela Lopez, Conal Larkin, Sydney Voghel-Ochs and Jacquie Swanson. The beauty of this morning and that of so many other occasions would not be possible without the caring and professional leadership of Roseann Tunila and Ann De Vito. I am very fortunate to have such a kind and professional staff. Thank you Richard Gard and colleagues for the musical interlude; Horticulture colleagues and the Agro-Biology Club for the loan of the flowers; our maintenance staff for always caring.
As you have heard me say before, there is hard but richly rewarding work ahead of us. Let us embrace it together now. Let each and every one of us continue the journey to make this the most splendid college on the face of the earth. As I close my remarks, I’d like to recall Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Laureate address, “Toward a Splendid City”, as I have done in the past:
“All paths lead to the same goal; to convey to others what we are… but in this dance or in this song, there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.”
I wish you a semester filled with the rewards of the spirit and the intellect. Mil gracias y bendiciones.
Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D.