As we hit the halfway mark for September, I wanted to take the opportunity to welcome you back officially to campus. This summer, many more of us were working remotely than ever before, and a number of us continue to do so, either fully or partially. Like many areas, the Cabinet is currently working in rotation on and off campus on a schedule that changes weekly. We will continue to do so through October 2, and possibly beyond, depending on the SUNY telecommuting policy.
I also wanted you to know that we already looking at the Spring Semester calendar, and in conjunction with the members of the Emergency Operations Center, we have made a decision to cancel Spring Break. This is in line with a lot of other campuses’ plans. I recognize that Spring Break is often a time of rejuvenation and renewal, and I am sorry that we can’t have that this year. But it doesn’t make sense to have students leave campus for a whole week, travel, and potentially come back from areas of much higher COVID-19 outbreaks than we have here in Monroe County. At present, we are intending to start the spring semester as per our planned calendar on Thursday, January 21, 2021. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and our plans must remain flexible in case the situation deteriorates in our county or across the state. We may need to make further adjustments to the calendar throughout the year, and if we do, we will communicate them out fully. At present, then, instruction will go through Spring Break, and we will finish the semester one week early as a result. Final plans around commencement will need to wait until we know more about whether large gatherings will be permitted. We are also currently working on a plan for a virtual commencement ceremony for later this fall for our Spring, Summer, and December 2020 graduates. Originally, our students, when surveyed, wanted to wait for a face-to-face ceremony. But because that is not likely, this virtual option has gained momentum. We are working with a recent alumni focus group to finalize this likely fall ceremony right now.
In budget news, although we are still operating under state-directed budget restrictions, we have received approval for $5M of spending on health and safety and energy-saving building projects from the State University Construction Fund, for which we are grateful. Joint Planning and Budget Committee continues to work tirelessly to assist the college with our budget reduction plans.
An area that I typically highlight during my faculty/staff convocation speech relates to the grants and awards that our faculty and staff pursue and receive. As Research Foundation Contract & Grant Administrator Laura Merkel emphasized to me when she collated our most recent figures, our campus community has done such an outstanding job despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with grant capture of $5.2 million, on par with previous years. This is an incredible accomplishment.
I’m also happy to report that our early career faculty have been particularly active, and have been pursuing grants from new funding sources. Here I’d like to recognize Dr. Cody Miller from the Department of Education and Human Development, who received a grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center to create and lead a week-long professional development workshop on using literature to teach social justice for teachers and teacher candidates from the surrounding area, including urban, suburban and rural schools. At its core, the professional development aims to support teachers in creating equitable, inclusive, and just classrooms within their schools. In addition, Dr. Cameron Harwick in the Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance received a grant from the Institute for Humane Studies to establish a reading group in economics to identify motivated students and engage them outside the classroom in active global economy discussions.
We also had some significant grants awarded over the past year. A few new grants of note include the following:
- Dr. Marcie Desrochers, Psychology, was awarded $720,000 over five years by NY State Education Department to evaluate the federal Project AWARE grant that focuses on the Buffalo City School District, New York City Department of Education, and Rensselaer City School District.
- Dr. Mathew Altenritter, Environmental Science and Ecology, was awarded $114,565 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for Lake Sturgeon Monitoring and Analysis
- Dr. Kathryn Amatangelo, Environmental Science and Ecology, was awarded over $85,000 from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to study Mile-a-Minute infestations
- Dr. Markus Hoffman, Chemistry and Biochemistry, was awarded an NSF grant of over $100,000 for research on polyethylene glycol
I also wanted to mention that many of our faculty have found creative ways to continue their important research, student engagement and community outreach activities during the pandemic and in a virtual environment. For example, Distinguished Service Professor Lauren Lieberman created a Virtual Camp Abilities this past summer, and our vital TRIO Programs (Educational Talent Search, McNair, and Upward Bound) worked tirelessly to ensure that students had the support and materials needed to be successful in the new virtual education world. In addition, Amy Shema led our SummerLEAP program in partnering with other LEAP programs on the Summer Learning Collaborative. That meant that SummerLEAP at SUNY Brockport provided innovative, high-quality summer learning opportunities for over 600 students in the greater Rochester area. Students received weekly deliveries of project-based learning materials and supplies along with healthy meals for the six weeks of the program. They met on-line with certified teachers for daily lessons and enrichment activities such as art, health and wellness, and music, as well as support for socio-emotional development. We strive to recruit Brockport alumni and current Education and Human Development Graduate students to assist with the program. This summer we were lucky to have five Brockport graduates and two current graduate students instructing our K-8th grade students. SummerLEAP is an excellent example of SUNY Brockport’s engagement with our local community as we strive to ensure equitable educational opportunities for all students in the greater Rochester area.
Lastly, Dr. Rebecca Smith, Chair of Mathematics, along with co-principal investigators Dr. Ruhan Zhao, Dr. Eric Monier, Dr. Carole Wade and Dr. Mehruz Kamal, were recently awarded $1 million from the National Science Foundation for S-STEM. The grant, Community Building in Support of Undergraduate and Graduate Scholars in Mathematics, Computing Sciences, and Physics, provides scholarship funds for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields. This is amongst the first grand capture for the 2020-21 academic year!
ACADEMIC MASTER PLANNING
During 2020-21 SUNY Brockport will undertake an Academic Master Planning process. This will include the work of two interrelated committees; the Program Review Task Force and the Academic Innovation Task Force. We are looking for 6-8 faculty or staff to serve on each task force.
The Program Review Task Force (PRTF) will be chaired by Dr. Jeff Lashbrook and Dr. Cathy Houston-Wilson and its charge is to review all undergraduate and graduate programs on campus against a series of metrics regarding internal and external demand and other measures. The Academic Innovation Task Force (AITF) will be chaired by Dr. Kathy Peterson and Dr. Darson Rhodes, and will seek to identify areas where SUNY Brockport could create new or expand existing programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level with an emphasis on high-impact enrollment and revenue generation.
If you are interested in volunteering to serve on either committee, please fill out the short self-nomination form: Academic Master Planning Process - Self Nomination Form.
EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Thank you to almost 40 individuals who nominated themselves or others to sit on the CDO search committee. The committee selection is now complete, with the exception of an undergraduate representative which is still being finalized. The committee will begin meeting shortly, undertaking training and working with the search firm. If you put your name forward but weren’t selected, I am grateful for your interest in supporting this important search. I hope you’ll be actively involved in the open forums for the finalists, when they take place virtually later this semester.
In relation to the EDI Strategic Planning Committee and the Presidential Campus Climate Committee, we again had record numbers of volunteers. We are currently finalizing membership and individuals will hear soon.
EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
While we have all been busy focusing on welcoming back our students, we recognize that employees have also been impacted by COVID-19 over the past six months. These are difficult times, and it’s natural to feel anxious about what the immediate future may hold, particularly as you juggle multiple roles at home. There are free, confidential resources available to assist employees and their families as they deal with the emotional toll COVID-19 and other stressful events happening in our community and the world around us.
Brockport’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Coordinators Gary Metz and Patti Follansbee can assist, and make referrals to appropriate community-based resources. Their contact details are below:
Mr. Gary Metz
Dr. Patti Follansbee
In addition, NYS EAP has a 24-hour helpline you can call for help with serious problems. It’s confidential, voluntary, and free of charge. Call 1-800-822-0244 or visit https://goer.ny.gov/employee-assistance-program.
Thank you for all that you do to help to Build a Better Brockport. I appreciate your commitment to the college, to our students, and to each other.