President Horvath kicks off semester with address to campus
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
General Campus Meeting, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
Remarks by President Virginia S. Horvath
Welcome, faculty and staff, as we begin the Spring 2013 semester! After last winter, I for one am glad to see some snow, hear that crunch under my feet when walking across campus, and feel the mix of exhilaration and terror when pulling into traffic and hoping to find traction before oncoming traffic arrives. It also gives us chance, every time we come into a building, to join that communal, foot-stomping dance that we all learn. We’re Western New Yorkers; it’s what we do.
I also welcome two student leaders who are here this morning: Erin Dorozynski and Cassidy Benson. Student Association President Erin Dorozynski is from Pine Plains, N.Y. A Business Administration—Management and Economics double major with a Leadership Studies minor, Erin previously served as Student Association Vice President. She is also the Vice President of the FSA Board of Directors and President of Women’s Club Volleyball. Student Association Vice President Cassidy Benson, a Chemistry major from Mayville, N.Y., serves as Secretary of the Political Science Association. She is also a student member on the Distinguished Professorship Review Committee, Vice President of the Chemistry Club, and a new member of the FSA Board of Directors. Thank you, Erin and Cassidy, for your service, and good luck this semester as you begin your leadership of the Student Association.
In a few moments, you’ll hear from each of the Vice Presidents about accomplishments and plans in their divisions, and University Senate Vice Chair Bruce Simon will offer an overview of Senate initiatives this year. But first I’d like to talk briefly about campus-wide issues.
Since the last general campus meeting in August, through the hard work of many people across campus, we accomplished a lot together and had a good start on several major initiatives. We welcomed a new class of first-year and transfer students, celebrated local foods and watched the kids bounce at the all-campus picnic, inaugurated a new president (thank you!), completed two vice presidential searches, progressed on accreditation, managed a complex budget, began convening the Campus Initiatives Roundtable, started implementing the Power of Fredonia strategic plan, and outlined ways to achieve the baccalaureate goals and to revise general education. We opened buildings that had been closed for renovations, watched the science center take shape, celebrated old traditions and started some new ones, tried new foods in the dining halls, worked on grant proposals and projects, heard Christo and Jean Kilbourne, met with donors and built endowments, saw an incubator client move down the street in Dunkirk with a new business and new jobs for the community, introduced a new handbook for personnel reviews, conducted searches for faculty and staff positions across campus, updated computer labs and library databases, shared the stories from Fredonia students learning in Belize, Ecuador, Ghana, Great Britain, India, and Puerto Rico and student teaching in Australia. This is a short list, and I’m sure the Vice Presidents will provide more detail from their divisions. But what amazes me is that despite the challenges of short staffing that most areas across campus continue to face, such exciting new work was done even as so much “routine,” important efforts continued in their usual cycles.
These are a few examples of what occurs here every day:
- challenging students in the classroom, studio, residence hall, and laboratory and supporting their attempts to learn and mature;
- maintaining and improving facilities and grounds—raking the leaves, emptying the trash, clearing the sidewalks, setting up the events;
- working with students in co-curricular activities, advising, leadership, athletics, volunteer service, internships, student teaching, peer tutoring and mentoring;
- engaging in scholarly and creative activity on campus and in publications, performances, and presentations that make the intellectual work here public;
- answering the phones, filing, creating and processing forms, balancing accounts, updating webpages, purchasing supplies;
- responding to emergencies and safety issues;
- hosting prospective students and families, packaging and repackaging financial aid ;
- working to promote a collegial and stimulating workplace;
- welcoming guests and talking issues through, again and again.
Across divisions, you’ve given a lot and shown your pride in your own work and what we do together. As I thought about what I’d most like to say to you, my colleagues, at the start of this semester, what emerged was a poem, which I’d like to share:
I See You
I see you, Fredonia,
with your lights on at all hours because you were needed
or you wanted to finish something right or clear your desk.
I see you in your offices, your studios and labs,
meeting with students and rehearsing once more
as the grading and reports and personal projects pile up.
Fredonia, I see you wiring and cleaning,
restitching the costumes, adjusting the heat,
bringing out the next tray of food.
I see you debating each other, picking up litter,
walking under the honey locusts
with your coffee and colleagues.
You may think you’re in the shadows, but I hear you
wrestling with new ideas, whistling when you think you’re alone,
slipping in some kindness between the jokes at lunch.
I see you in meetings, on the phone,
unloading vehicles, hauling books and tools and
iPads and doughnuts and props and instruments.
I hear your shovels scraping on the walk,
your passionate voices in the classrooms,
your music sneaking into the quad.
I hear you talk about students, talk with students,
laugh with students, collaborate with students,
applaud them, coach them, correct them, advocate for them.
We all sometimes scurry to our own dens,
hunkering down in the email and work orders and menus.
But whenever I look up, I see you, Fredonia.
I know this poem makes me sound like a stalker! But almost every day, I do find myself amazed and inspired by what you all bring to our shared work. It’s sometimes exhausting, and I know that tempers can occasionally be short and frustrations long-standing. I know that as individuals and as an organization, we don’t always get things right—or even agree on what’s right. But despite the criticism of higher education we hear now and the real challenges of funding that we face in the state and nation, I know this is a good place, with so much to assist students in preparing for their careers and lives.
It’s hard, however, to share this conviction with prospective students, who are surely bombarded by brochures and marketing strategies from hundreds of universities. In addressing the challenge of recruiting strong students from an increasingly smaller pool of high school graduates in Western New York, I and others have been trying to convey, in new ways, what is distinct about Fredonia.
At open houses this year, I’ve used the dramatic full screen in King Concert Hall to show images of Fredonia students, faculty, staff, and alumni as I focus on three simple questions: Why go to college? Why choose a residential college? Why Fredonia?
I begin with data about the value of college, showing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data about the correlation of higher degree attainment with higher average salary and lower unemployment. But I emphasize the ways college degrees in liberal arts and sciences and in broad-based professional programs can develop capacities for many kinds of work and changes of career. I highlight our baccalaureate goals and the importance of the co-curriculum at a residential college in achieving those goals. There are slides featuring famous Fredonia alums and recent alums who are already succeeding in graduate study and work.
The presentation builds to a series of questions inviting prospective students to reflect on their own qualities and to see themselves as Fredonians. I am grateful to Distinguished Professor of Music Jim Piorkowski for enthusiastically sharing with me this summer his concept of successful students here and his ideas for reaching out to recruit talented students. He brought in lists of the qualities that are prized and fostered here, excited about having us ask potential students, “Are you Fredonia?” Inspired by this idea, I have been using that approach as part of this first conversation with students and their families, and you now see a similar approach on the Fredonia website. My goal is to have academically strong students see that this is a public liberal arts college with rigorous academics in a supportive community. I’m also grateful to the Senate Planning and Budget Committee for meeting with me over the break and talking about our visions for the university. A term that arose from that meeting was that Fredonia can represent the best of a liberating education. The terms liberal arts and liberal education may conjure in some minds a political orientation or a social agenda, but our use of liberating education echoes the classical sense of the word: the kind of learning that frees people to bring knowledge and skills to a variety of jobs and life situations, instead of the narrow training that prepares students for a single career path.
Our conversation built on groundwork across campus last semester about why we are here. In the fall, a team ably led by Mike Barone engaged faculty, staff, and students in revising our mission statement. Instead of the 415-word description of what we do, the proposed statement summarizes in 31 words our purpose and central role: “SUNY Fredonia educates, challenges, and inspires students to become skilled, connected, creative, and responsible global citizens and professionals. The university enriches the world through scholarship, artistic expression, community engagement, and entrepreneurship.”
Once the Senate concludes its discussion and votes on the mission statement, we will move to the next steps: determining what we would like to call ourselves and revising our logos and visual identity. I hope we’ll be well into these processes later this semester, and I’ll look forward to your ideas and responses.
As I conclude, I’d like to ask you to join me in recognizing those who have been going above and beyond in their efforts for the university, their colleagues, and students. As I name different groups and projects, please stand if you’ve been part of these efforts and remain standing:
- Those who are involved in planning and construction of the science center, the planning for the Rockefeller Arts Center addition, the renovation and relocation in the Williams Center, the renovation of the Fitness Center, renovation and relocation in Maytum Hall;
- Those who are leading and serving on Power of Fredonia strategic planning implementation teams;
- Those who served on the vice presidential search committees;
- Those who served or are serving on other search committees;
- Those who are serving on the general education revision committee;
- Those who are working to recruit new first-year and transfer students (Admissions, Financial Aid, Recruitment and Enrollment teams, publications, open houses, faculty, FSA);
- Those who are involved in developing new courses and curricula, as well as the University Catalog;
- Those who lead and support efforts in promoting diversity and sustainability;
- Those who are involved in leadership of governance units and unions;
- Those who served on the presidential inauguration committee and subcommittees or had responsibilities in Inauguration Week events;
- Those who have contributed time, talent, and service to the Incubator and community engagement activities.
As you can see, the progress we have made and the work we are now doing isn’t the effort of just the faculty, or the staff, or the administration. It’s all of us. I see you, Fredonia. Thank you for everything you do.
As you have heard, there is much to be proud of, even if we still have considerable work ahead. We’re going to need coffee! And in a few moments, we’ll have some—along with cakes. When you go down the hall to the Maytum Rehearsal Room (1040 Mason), you’ll find two cakes at the reception: one that welcomes Steve Schillo and one that thanks Karen Porpiglia. Would you both return to the stage for a moment?
Steve, I am glad to welcome you here to lead the division of Finance and Administration. You bring a range of experience to your position, and your new colleagues were impressed with your perspectives and humor in your interviews and first days here. As you celebrate the end of Week One, I’m glad to give you this Fredonia cap along with my best wishes for a long and successful career here. I look forward to working with you. Welcome!
Karen, today I would like to start a new tradition by recognizing you with the first Heart of Fredonia Award. Since November 2010, Karen has served as the Interim Vice President for Administration, still continuing many of her former financial management responsibilities as she added to her portfolio the oversight of facilities, human resources, FSA, and other areas. It was a difficult time for our campus, as we faced the impact of several rounds of budget cuts, the elimination of 41 positions across campus, waves of uncertain policies and impacts at the state level, a presidential transition, and the complex processes of several major construction and renovation processes at once. Karen has played a crucial role in keeping us financially sound and moving us forward on so many initiatives. Her wisdom, insights, patience, hard work, humor, institutional memory, and energy have made a tremendous difference to the university.
Karen, in your generosity of spirit, commitment to integrity, and respect for others, you have represented the heart of Fredonia, and I’m glad to present you with this certificate and this Fredonia-blue heart paperweight, designed by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. I hope that whenever you see these, you will be reminded of the esteem your colleagues and I have for your good heart and good work in these 26 months. Thank you.
And now, seriously, let’s get to those cakes!
Share on Facebook