As we wind down the semester, I want to once again thank you for your commitment to our students and the College during this difficult academic year. I am grateful that many of you took the time on the past two Saturdays to help with the “Last Look Brockport” events for prospective students. Your partnership with Undergraduate Admissions on our active recruiting of students means a lot. Of the 140 students who attended, 93% have deposited: this is an amazing statistic, and one worth celebrating. It is clear from this example that we are stronger together. I am so appreciative of everyone’s hard work.
Over the last year, with so much of our work being done virtually, it has become ever more important that we establish and maintain connections. We also need to be more overtly transparent in our decision making. With that in mind, I wanted to expand on my decision to seek an external interim provost and to update you regarding my conversation with our deans about this. First, we agreed that our campus deserves stability. If a dean is elevated to the interim provost position, we would need to appoint an interim dean, and then we have at least two—and possibly more—people who are new to their roles at the same time. That’s not fair on the interim provost, or indeed on the schools. Second, we are coming up to Middle States accreditation, and we are also continuing some very hard work on our budget. We need to maintain strong leadership in our schools, and our deans are committed to leading their areas with impact and with compassion. They are also committed to working in partnership with me and with the interim provost to lead with empathy and dedication in relation to the four goals of our strategic plan. I will be working closely with the deans over the summer and the next academic year. I hope that we’ll have an interim provost in place in June; interviews will start as early as next week, and will include the deans, Cabinet, and Senate leadership. Provost Heyning will be working through June 30, and we hope to have a period of overlap so that our interim provost can get up to speed while having Provost Heyning by their side.
I can assure you that the important processes and initiatives that Provost Heyning has put in place will continue. This means the work that individuals, departments and committees have put into Academic Master Planning will bear fruit over the next year and beyond, and that Provost Heyning’s dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion will continue unabated, with the PRODiG project continuing to be supported and expanded, and work being done to counter potential bias in the APT process. These and other projects will be on-going in 2021-22.
Over the summer, Cabinet will continue to work with Senate leadership, our Bringing Brockport Back committees, and others to ensure that we are moving in the right direction, working toward sustainability, and offering the best plan for a healthy return to campus density. You may have seen the Governor’s notice regarding requiring students to be vaccinated this fall. Chancellor Malatras issued this statement:
“Since day one of this pandemic, our students, faculty, and staffs’ health and wellbeing have always been top priority. We have taken extraordinary steps to keep our communities safe—from 100 percent weekly mandated testing; to enhanced health and safety protocols; to opening our campuses to serve as vaccination sites for SUNY and the broader community; to advocating for expanded vaccine eligibility for the entire SUNY community; and to a comprehensive public service campaign to get our SUNY community vaccinated. And all of these efforts have paid enormous dividends. SUNY’s 14-day positivity rate is 0.14 percent and our system—the largest comprehensive system in the nation—has done an extraordinary job keeping our campuses running under trying circumstances. Over the past several weeks we have been working with our SUNY community to develop the best plan to make sure we can return to full reopening in the fall and turn the page on COVID. We thank the Governor for providing resources to our many campuses offering vaccines to SUNY and the broader community. The State’s new vaccination requirement—contingent on full FDA approval—will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall.”
Looking to the Summer
When I think about who we are as a campus, I am reminded that as an academic community, we are curious, which helps us ask questions that lead us to understand each other better and ensure better overall engagement across differences. In order to do this important work, we need to provide more feedback, using true candor, since offering good feedback means having courage combined with empathy. If you are a faculty member, you know this through the work you do with students in the classroom and beyond. If you work in other student-facing roles, you know this through your support of our students’ whole selves. And if you work in a supervisor’s role, you know this through your interactions with employees. Whatever you do on campus, please know that your work is appreciated and valued. We might not remember to say so every day, but I hope you’ll take a moment to thank someone who works with you—through the Bravo Nominations or just individually. I know from my own experience how much it means to hear a kind word from others, and we have the opportunity to offer that gift every day.
This leads me on to some good news to share. I am pleased to announce this year’s Presidential Teaching Excellence Award winners:
- Dr. Mustafa Canbolat (Department of Business Administration)
- Dr. Joe Chesebro (Department of Communication)
- Dr. Melissa DiMarco (Department of Mathematics)
- Dr. Michel Pelletier (Department of Biology)
- Dr. Kevin Tate (Department of Counselor Education)
You’ll hear more about their impact on their students this fall, at convocation, but for now, please congratulate them for helping to make Brockport a Great Place to Learn. One of the recipients wrote: “Teaching means the world to me, so thank you for making my day and please know that I deeply appreciate this recognition,” while another said he felt honored to be recognized by “the students I work for.” I love that idea: that our role is to work for our students, to help them succeed, and to celebrate their accomplishments along the way.
And there are many such accomplishments to celebrate, like the fact that the Tax Practicum class partnered with VITA and Rochester CASH to help the local community receive $136,000 in federal and state tax refunds this year. Or that students from Global Environmental Issues picked up shore-side litter at Hamlin Beach State Park this month. Or even that students in the Herpetology (ENV 440) class visited Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to check the salamanders and found a red-backed salamander that Dr. Christopher Norment had marked in 2014. I’m also thrilled to note that Meghan Bates, an undergraduate Exercise Science major, won the National American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar Award! Every single Brockport student teacher and field experience candidate in EHD had regular, face-to-face or hybrid placements in local schools this spring; this has not been the case for most education students this year across the state, many of whom only worked remotely. Our candidates are getting good preparation even with the pandemic. The work that our faculty do to support student learning goes well beyond the classroom, and I am grateful to each and every one of you for your dedication to our students’ learning.
You have worked so hard over the last year—in difficult circumstances. I am grateful to you, and glad to be part of our academic community. For many of you, the end of May will signal the end of your obligation period, and I wish you rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation: time with friends and family, and the opportunity to pursue your interests unencumbered by the daily requirements of work. For others of you, summer marks a new phase of planning: preparing for orientation, registration, and the new academic year. For our twelve-month employees, I’m sure you are looking forward to the opportunity to take that much-needed vacation, or even stay-cation.
The campus will be transformed during the summer months, with construction projects and planning and with the projected end of the telecommuting program meaning that our campus will once again become a vibrant place with many people returning to their offices and re-establishing our sense of community starting in July. And I look forward to welcoming everyone back in August.
Thank you for all that you do to Build a Better Brockport, and have a wonderful summer.