President’s Report April/May 2021
Dear Campus Community,
April brought us showers and May brought us flowers of appreciation and acknowledgement for over 150 employees who celebrated 15 through 50 years of service at KCC. Our virtual celebration took us down memory lane, while congratulatory messages in the chat and applause for our honorees lifted our collective spirits. Special thank you to the Employee Recognition Committee for a wonderful event. Congratulations are also in order for Prof. Red Washburn forbeing on of 12 faculty awarded the 2021 Mellon/ACLS Community College FacultyFellowship. We look forward to their project: Nonbin@ry: Tr@ns-Forming Genderand Genre in Nonbin@ry Literature, Performance, and Visual Art. Congratulationsto Prof. Shawna Brandle our newest Fulbright U.S. Scholar. Dr. Brandle will be teaching political science classes at Doshisha University in Japan this fall using Open Educational Resources. This past month we were also excited to celebrate Pauline Cassino as the Employee of the Month and read features about our ownlike Prof. Jacqueline Scerbinski (featured on CNN Newswire), alumna Nancy LeeSanchez (Forbes), and Tiffany Bogle, CUNYAC Scholar of the Year. Special thank you to Access-Ability Services for highlighting our students who live on the spectrum during Autism Awareness Month. We hope that next year we will be able to once again congregate, celebrate milestones, and congratulate our colleagues in person.
The KCC Forward Committee is actively working on developing a plan that will ensure our safe return to campus in the fall. A lot has happened in a year and even more so over the past few weeks and things are changing every day. We are constantly reminded to be nimble, flexible and proactive in our planning.
Potential on-campus testing, coupled with the current decrease COVID positivity rates and the increase of vaccination rates will allow for our classrooms andfacilities to be occupied at higher levels. We have already planned for 6ft social distancing and are currently developing a plan for 3 ft. social distancing inclassrooms.
As testing eligibility has expanded across the state, the University is also exploring options for on-campus testing which I am sure will be in consultation with the union. If testing is made available for our campus community (faculty, staff andstudents) it will enhance our ability to increase our campus presence safely. This would mean that we need to be prepared to convert totally online classes to fully in-person or hybrid sections.
For the past year, our students have had a range of experiences with distance learning. Many have living situations that made distance learning difficult, while for others, distance learning and the ability to be at home has made their family/job responsibilities more manageable. For many others though, their learning styles are in direct opposition to distance learning and as a result they areat risk for failure and attrition. If we do not provide enough opportunities through increased in-person and hybrid courses for students to be successful, students will go elsewhere—and by elsewhere I mean to institutions that offer more in-person opportunities for them to be successful and earn their degrees.
While the ability to fulfill our institutional mission is at stake, the enrollment of new students and retention of continuing students is also critical to the fiscal health of the college. This year we are facing potential reductions in community college funding. As you know, enrollment has been on a steady decline for the past 7 years. To make matters worse, the events of the past year have taken a toll on enrollment at community colleges around the country and closer to home (at CUNY). The Division of Enrollment Management working in concert with Communications and Marketing and Academic Affairs has implemented a number of new initiatives to increase enrollment of new and the retention of continuing students. This past year, I started writing weekly motivational/informational emails to students to help to encourage them to stay on track and to establish an open line of communication by which they can let me know what challenges they are experiencing. It goes without saying that retention is everyone’s responsibility. From the quality of the customer service that is provided students when they call an office, to the Division of Institutional Advancement cultivating donors so they can provide scholarships for our students, to an email that goes unanswered or a call that is not returned, to the cleanliness of a classroom, now more than ever we all have a part to play.
I am grateful to the Business Operations and Standards Taskforce for taking a closer look at business practices across the college as a first step in identifying areas in need of improvement. I am also asking each of you to think about strategies that we can implement to improve student retention. A follow up email will be sent with next steps.
Commencement season is fast approaching. We await approval from the central office for our proposed on-campus activities (nursing pin pick up; opportunities for students to come to campus to take pictures with their family; and live streaming of selected commencement day speakers). We are also kicking off a new initiative (Commencement Caravan) where a cohort of faculty and staff volunteers will make the rounds to students’ homes on commencement day to congratulate them inperson.
I look forward to seeing you all in person one day as well. Until then I know we will
continue to do the work that helps us to fulfill our mission and help students fulfill
their dreams. If ever there was doubt about the special role we play in the lives
of our students, these two recent pieces in the Washington Post serve as vivid reminders.
NB: As fate would have it I was in the midst of writing this report when I received a news alert about vaccinations now being required for SUNY and CUNY students. Since sending a brief note to the campus community, I received a few emails from students expressing concerns about what this would mean for students who choose not to be vaccinated. I acknowledge their concerns and emphasizedthat the health and safety of the campus community is our priority and shared that the vaccine along with continued safety protocols reduces the risk for all of us. We await additional information from the Central Office.