Good morning and welcome to Naugatuck Valley Community College, our home and yours. I am grateful the mild dry weather has made your journey easier this morning, as we consider the record-setting winter temperatures we have endured thus far. You brought the sun and this beautiful day!
That’s why it’s always good to have family around, and we are family. The family has gathered again to highlight our progress since last year and to suggest ways to address our mutual commitments for the future. Our State legislative delegation will lead the way during the upcoming session of the General Assembly and our municipal leaders will carry the word about our commitment and enrich our work by suggesting initiatives to address our common interests. Their work on behalf of Naugatuck Valley Community College will be supported by information from students, faculty and staff, with valued advocacy from community leaders from the NVCC Foundation, Regional Advisory Council, and our partners in the public school districts, municipalities, and business community.
As I told our faculty and staff at the end of the fall semester, they have worked with resilience and generosity of spirit to keep our promises for access and excellence. Our enrollment growth of the past few years continues to sustain us at an average rate of over 7,000 credit students. Our degree and certificate completion rates have more than doubled in the past five years: From 561 awards in 2008 to 1231 awards in May of 2013. Applications for graduation are currently up from the numbers last year so we do anticipate another record-breaking number this coming May 29th, making it the largest graduating class, for the fifth consecutive year. We’ve encouraged students to register earlier…we’ve adjusted our course offerings and schedules …we’ve advised them more effectively…and we are anticipating a record number of students will cross the stage at graduation in May.
There are wonderful and very affirming outcomes to report about our flagship workforce programs: Pass rates on certification exams for Allied Health continue to be stellar. This year we celebrate in particular the results of our Nursing students whose passing rate of 97% made it the number one program in Connecticut and placed us in the top 5% nationwide. Our Advanced Manufacturing Technology program is contributing to the renaissance of manufacturing in CT. Our inaugural year 2012-2013 saw the awarding of 109 certificates, with 40 students receiving Level II certificates. The evening cohort has exceeded its projected enrollment of 25 for Spring 2014 semester; it has now 30 registered students, and there is also a growing waiting list. For the second year in a row, the College is hosting a Fulbright-Scholar-in-Residence. This year we are honored to have in our classrooms and participating in cultural activities the novelist Oonya Kempadoo, whose third novel was number six this past summer on Oprah’s reading list. Our Early Childhood Education program has now achieved national accreditation, supported by a thriving and beautiful Child Development Center. Our community engagement in the St. Vincent de Paul’s Soup Kitchen on Sundays (beginning in Fall 2008) earned us the Father Cascia Community Service Award in 2013. We are in our second year of the $11.3-million grant for GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) with the City of Waterbury which supports about 2,200 middle school students during and after school for mentoring, improved study skills and social development that will advance their completion of high school and college. Enrollment at our Danbury Center grew to 1,067 this past fall and is expected to increase further in response to planned expansion of classes and services in downtown Danbury. I could go on. As the NEASC accreditation report pointed out that NVCC is operating in a deliberative and strategic manner with a high degree of self-discipline and self-understanding, and that the institution’s mission and vision together provide the focus for its ‘Toward a Splendid College’ strategic plan.
We’re still celebrating the state’s establishment of evening bus service to the campus and the City of Waterbury. This is access at its best. During the fall semester 901 students were given UPasses, for over 16,000 UPass- evening rides in 2013. If we review evening bus service usage by the City of Waterbury at large in the past two years, we note over 300,000 rides!. That’s community action. Bus service has made a difference to our students and to our community. It’s been transformative. We’re proud to have been a part of that successful effort. We offer our thanks to the caring students who voted to pay and continue to pay a fee to support the service. Our legislative and community leaders used their advocacy to help make it happen. That’s why you’re all so important to us as we move forward together to transform lives and entire communities.
These and many other efforts are reflected in the commitments contained in our 2013-2016 Strategic Plan. It’s truly dynamic and continues the work undertaken in our 2010-2013 plan which guided us for the past three years and kept us focused on achieving so many of our objectives…objectives that continue to deserve our collective attention and support, even in these challenging budgetary times. Our strategic objectives are perfectly aligned with the strategic goals for the system adopted by the Board of Regents. These goals guide and support Excel CT, the plan being drafted as we speak to build a world-class system of higher education in Connecticut. Created through input from students, faculty, staff, business and community leaders, the State Department of Labor (DOL), Economic and Community Development (SDE) and other stakeholders, Excel CT is a blueprint for moving our four state universities, twelve community colleges, and Charter Oak State College forward. Dr. Gregory W. Gray the President of the Board is leading the planning, which will support our missions of access, excellence and affordability.
Highlights of the plan include:
- the establishment of centers of excellence that align directly with workforce needs;
- the development of a long-term tuition model to ensure affordability and allow students and parents to better plan for college;
- the expansion of the reach of education through online coursework at Charter Oak State College;
- the creation of new early college initiatives to better prepare high school students for the rigors of higher education and provide opportunities to acquire college credit while still in high school;
- the engagement in system building. New approaches will help us improve the student experience and allow us to streamline our operations. By instituting a common academic calendar, common registration, and improved use of technology in enrollment and degree planning, we make the system more accessible and easier to navigate.
We ask that as discussions get underway that you feel free to call me to ask any questions you might have and that you engage in advocacy for the work we do, so vital to the health of our communities, Connecticut and the nation. It is time to re-dress the funding inequities and support our students, the future workforce of our beautiful state. It is good to know that our State and Municipal leaders strongly support our efforts. We’re confident we’ve made the case for NVCC’s impact on the lives of our students and of our entire 22-town service region, all of whom are beneficiaries of the outcomes produced by our academic and workforce development programs. Our partnership and your continued support for our students make educational and economic sense for the health and growth of our State.
With your help, we will serve our respective constituencies. That’s why we’re here. I’m glad to work with you throughout the year to achieve our mutual goals. Together we will make a difference. I’d like to close by reading a brief excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Laureate Speech, words many of you have heard me speak many times before:
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.
And so, with your help and with the support of so many who are part of this community of kindred spirits, believers in the potential of the human race, who share the conviction that our students, our sacred trust, when given that opportunity, will learn and thrive and succeed, we will continue to strive together to provide that opportunity and never to yield in the face of adversity. The journey Toward a Splendid College continues. Thank you. Mil gracias y bendiciones.