President’s Report February 2021
Dear College Community,
Thank you to the Black History Month Committee and to all those who planned and participated in our robust calendar of events. I especially enjoyed the 28 Greats: KAM Celebrates African-American Art and Artists.
Despite being the shortest month of the year, February at KCC was not short on our active engagement in the life of the college. There was no shortage of efforts to support student success, no curtailment of business continuity, and no pause in the planning for the impending semester and coming academic year.
This past month, the Forward Committee continued its work of planning for the Fall 2021 semester. This effort continues to take significant collaboration among all areas of the college as we seek to increase on campus course offerings and maintain the health and safety of all members of our college community. In addition to increased outreach across the college, the following staff were added to the Forward Committee: Karolina Bizik (Workforce and Continuing Education), Maria Patestas (Student Life), Tyrone Ross (Information Technology), Shavone Sease (Academic Scheduling), and JoAnne Meyers (Communications and Marketing). The Committee also launched its first of what will be regular updates to the campus. Also, in addition to regular communications, the committee also plans to host forums to both share information and address questions from the college community which will further inform our planning efforts.
As you know, the COVID Response Team sends out an email to faculty, staff and students if there is someone who reports a positive test and who has been to campus within 14 days of reporting. Despite these criteria, we continue to collect information on any member of our community who tests positive (regardless if they came to campus within 14 days or not). This month, two staff members reported positive tests. Please join me in keeping them in your hearts and thoughts as we pray for their recovery. I trust that you continue to practice social distancing, are wearing a mask or two when in public spaces, and if eligible and interested making your appointment to be vaccinated.
On February 17, members of the college community also participated in a Strategic Plan Retreat lead by Vice President Richard Fox and facilitated by members of the Strategic Planning Committee. The retreat also included the senior staff and additional members of the college community. The goal of the retreat was to identify priority goals and action plans. Prior to its finalization, a draft of the Strategic Plan will be shared with the college community and a forum will be offered to provide the community with an opportunity to provide additional feedback. Thank you to the Strategic Plan Committee for your work over the past year on this critical aspect of institutional effectiveness.
As part of KCTL’s Winter Workshop, which centered on the theme of equity, we were fortunate to welcome Dr. Frank Harris III, Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) at San Diego State University. Dr. Harris facilitated two workshops. The first focused on culturally affirming and equity-minded teaching and learning practices, and the second, which I had the opportunity to attend, on advancing racial equity on campus. Dr. Harris provided a cogent deconstruction of barriers to equity and presented strategies to move toward equity. One important strategy that is already underway at KCC is creating spaces for the brave and bold conversations that need to occur about race and its disparate impact on our students’ educational outcomes. Many thanks to the Historically Underrepresented Faculty and Staff Resource Center (HURFS-RC) for launching the Equitea Reading Series. The third and final part of the series was held this month. Profs. Carlos de Cuba, Carlene Barnaby and Charles Swift along with Interim Assistant Dean Stephanie Akunvabey moderated a critical discussion of White Fragility by Robin Diangelo and How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi.
The college’s commitment to ensuring equity was further evidenced by our selection early this month as one of only 10 colleges to participate in the Achieving the Dream (ATD) and University of Southern California’s (USC) Racial Equity Center’s Racial Equity Leadership Academy (RELA). The KCC team (Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joanne Russell, Interim Assistant Dean Stephanie Akunvabey, Prof. Jason Legget, Vice President Richard Fox and I) will participate in the year-long program. The program is slated to begin this summer and we will be working with ATD/RELA Coaches to develop a strategic racial equity plan which will include actionable solutions at KCC. This past month we were excited to join the ATD, USC REC leadership team and the other nine member colleges of the inaugural RELA class to kick of this work.
Hats off to the Divisions of Marketing and Communications and Academic Affairs for the launch of the KCC Experts Database (KED) which will help promote the exemplary work, achievements and endeavors of our faculty and staff. KED will be made available to the KCC community and external audiences looking for subject matter experts. The database can be used to connect faculty with similar research interests, thereby creating new opportunities for work across disciplinary boundaries. Since its launch, I have seen the many emails about the kinks in the system. I take this as a great sign that information is being entered into KED. Know that our incredible IT staff, who actually developed the system from the ground up, is working to address these issues so it can so it can be used to its fullest potential.
The development of the KED occurred on the heels of the roll out of Ovations website, our community-facing site for faculty and staff to share their achievements with the division of Marketing and Communication which will in turn, share with the college community, and promote on social media and with news outlets. In February, ovations were well deserved for Prof. Keisha Thomas who was honored by Caribbean Life News as a recipient of the 2021 Caribbean Impact Award and Prof. Maureen Fadem whose book was profiled on progressive.com and in Ms. Magazine. We received information on two more outstanding achievements by our faculty and that information will be forthcoming as well. I encourage all faculty and staff to visit the Ovations website and to share your accomplishments. https://www.kbcc.cuny.edu/ovations/index.html
Earlier in February, we held our first Student Town Hall for the semester and were joined by Denise Maybank, the new Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at CUNY. As you know since last March, we created this forum to provide students with an opportunity to share concerns. All members of the senior staff in addition to other student support staff attend the staff meeting to provide answers and pertinent information to students in need. As you can imagine, in this most recent Town Hall, the return to campus was first and foremost on their minds, as was paying for college, and program/major specific questions. We will continue to hold monthly Student Town Halls for the rest of the semester as well continue with the Community Chats for faculty and staff that we started last semester.
In anticipation of the start of classes around the corner, this past February, I hit the road with the KCC Welcome Wagon with visits to freshmen, transfer students and even an international student who lives in Bogotá, Colombia (via Zoom). On my visit to transfer students, I was accompanied by Ms. Juvanie Piquant, USS Chair, CUNY Student Trustee and NYC Tech Law and Paralegal Studies major. She had a wonderful rapport with students and they with her.
As you know, last semester we initiated monthly reports from each of the Vice Presidents. I encourage to review the reports as they come in. We welcome your questions. Our goal is to ensure that you are aware of what is happening in each area of the college. Based on the weekly Enrollment Management Reports issued by Vice President Rivera, we seem to be on the way to meeting our reduced enrollment targets. Nevertheless, enrollment and its deleterious effect on the budget continues not just for us, but for many colleges in CUNY and community colleges in particular.
In a few days, we will come together for our annual Spring Convocation. Vice President Rios will provide a brief budget update. In the spirit of assessment, Convocation will focus on reviewing data and feedback from the Faculty and Staff Satisfaction survey as well as the recommendations from the COACHE Committees and our proposed action plans. We will also have an opportunity to hear update from the Forward Committee.
March marks the dark anniversary of this pandemic. I can’t help but to think of all the losses we have all suffered. But we, during this time, gained a strength that we never knew that we had. Let us continue to use our collective strength to hold each other up, fulfill the mission of our college and deliver on our promise of a quality education for our students.
In closing, as we look toward a month of celebration and reflecting women on of impact and influence, I leave you with the words of Bella Abzug, activist, crusader, leader of the Women’s Rights Movement, and U.S. Representative, who came to KCC in March 1985 to speak as part of the Women History Month program.
“Women will change the nature of power rather power changing the nature of women”.
Happy Women’s History Month! I look forward to our celebrations!