My Dear Colleagues and Students,
How meaningful it is to come together as an engaged community of purpose to reflect on the end of another academic semester and to celebrate our achievements and our resilience and generosity of spirit. I thank you all for your continued engagement and hard work, evident in the success of our students. We celebrate today the fact that access and excellence guides all of our work. Another year comes to a close, and the budget continues to challenge us. Provost Troup has been working with Cabinet members and they in turn are consulting their respective areas about the formulation of a college response to the latest challenges. The Provost has also held fourteen informational meetings with students, faculty and staff to request recommendations and ideas about potential savings. We will be sharing information in the Weekly Bulletin on this and other matters in the coming weeks.
Regarding the search for a new academic dean, I have determined that the search process has not identified a sufficiently broad pool of well-qualified and acceptable candidates, and therefore, have decided that an offer will be not be extended at this time. The search will be extended, advertising will occur, and the committee will continue the process beginning in the spring semester. I appreciate the leadership of Professor Joseph Faryniarz and Provost James Troup and the support of the members of the search advisory committee in engaging in a meaningful and professional process.
In the meantime, I am happy to say that Estela Lopez, who has done such a marvelous job as academic dean since June, will continue in that role in the spring semester as we complete the search for a permanent appointment. We are truly blessed to have someone with Estela’s experience, professionalism and caliber to help us through this transition period.
As we come to the close of the semester, I hope that you’ve had an opportunity to review the industry sectors map and the two-page summary of the working draft of Dr. Gray’s Excel CT, a program document which will be more fully developed in early 2014 and that is intended to be used to make a case for the work we do, the value of our contribution and the need to support us financially. I hope you’ve had a chance to review it, and even though I asked for feedback on the ideas proposed by December 2nd, I will extend the opportunity to comment to the end of this week. So if there are any comments you’d like to share with me, please do so this week.
As we consider moving forward with our completion agenda, the difficult news on the budget does not for me, and it should not for you, cloud the bright sun shining on our accomplishments this year. Here are just a few items. Although these are certainly not all that should be noted, they are offered here in addition to the items included in the one-pager distributed this afternoon, some of those are worth repeating, however:
- Splendid reviews and ten-year re-accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges;
- Evening bus service ridership in the City of Waterbury grew by over 200,000 at the two-year mark in October. So many of our students and our citizens are the beneficiaries of this powerful act of advocacy by students, faculty, staff and administration at the College supported by our community and legislative partners;
- The College became the first community college in Connecticut to award more than a thousand associate degrees and certificates, two years in a row, more than doubling the number of awards in four years;
- Our allied health programs continue to excel as per results in our students’ licensure exams. Based on our students’ pass rates, our nursing program has been identified as number 1 in Connecticut, and in the top 5% in the nation;
- We celebrate the presence among us and in our classrooms of our second Fulbright-Scholar-in-Residence, Oonya Kempadoo, a powerful novelist, a beautiful human being, and generous colleague;
- We celebrated the success of our first strategic plan and the start of the promising new 2013-2016 strategic plan, both of which will bring us closer to becoming a “Splendid College”;
- Community engagement brought the NVCC Family (students, faculty, staff, community leaders, businesses and legislative delegation) together in focus groups and community meetings to lend their voices to our strategic goals and to receive in a “truly splendid fashion” the visit of the newly appointed President of the Board of Regents, Dr. Gregory W. Gray;
- Significant progress has been made in the search to obtain more space for our Danbury Center (20-25,000 square feet or about 4 times the space we presently occupy), with proposals received on November 29, 2013, to be reviewed in the coming months;
- Shift to course block scheduling at the Danbury Center to support student schedules resulted in increased enrollment;
- Expanded graduation clinics at the main campus and in the Danbury Center resulted in an increase in graduation applications filed this year in comparison to last year;
- Continuation of a responsibly managed budget, with the UNA (Unrestricted Net Assets) actually growing for fiscal 13;
- In the first two months of the semester, over 5,500 textbooks were used by our students through the library’s loan program;
- Over the summer and fall semester, our IT department has replaced over 370 computers and resolved over 1,500 requests for services;
- The ACE has partnered with Arts and Humanities to develop instructional videos accessible online to help our students succeed and increase their academic capital;
- Dr. Vincent Tinto’s visit in September has produced a number of significant follow-up activities, designed to enhance the teaching and learning experience on campus;
- Our first Winter Session of credit classes has yielded thus far an enrollment of close to 300 students;
- Human Resources coordinated successfully the HR aspect of the Civil Rights Law Compliance Review that took place in March, and per the State’s paperless initiative, informed and trained numerous employees on how to access their pay advices with the new Core CT ePay function. HR is going green!
- The Bridge to College Office reports that with full support from the academic divisions, our AmeriCorps reached 100% recruitment for the first time in its three-year grant period. The GEAR UP program successfully incorporated Waterbury’s K-8 students into our cohort of 2,400 seventh and eighth graders.
The rest of this afternoon will focus on celebrating community, our talents and our contributions. I am looking forward to applauding our colleagues’ artistic sensibilities, recognizing outstanding and meritorious service and celebrating milestones of commitment to State service.
I conclude my brief remarks by quoting my beloved Pablo Neruda in the by now familiar words from his Nobel laureate speech:
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.
Mil gracias y bendiciones. Happy Holidays, everyone.