Enyedi Welcomes, Recognizes Faculty, Staff at Annual Fall Semester Event
SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi welcomed faculty and staff back to campus Friday, a celebration event that wrapped together highlights of the past, a focus on the future and a range of special award presentations.
"Since 1889, we have grown and succeeded through the generations, today with more than 72,000 alumni," Enyedi said. "We, like those on this campus before us, have both a joy and a tremendous responsibility in what we do. It is indispensable work that takes immense effort.
"But the rewards are incredibly life-changing for the students we serve. Indeed, our task today, in fall 2023, is not just to continue this important work but to ‘future proof’ this university and our mission, to ensure it not only continues but grows in its impact. That is what we can do. That is what we will do together."
Opportunity to Reflect, Celebrate
The morning event, held in the Warren Ballrooms in the Angell College Center on campus, featured several special recognitions, including six recipients of the 2023 Chancellor's Award for Excellence.
The traditional fall welcome at SUNY Plattsburgh has been an opportunity to reflect, to celebrate, and to look forward. In his remarks, the president focused on three elements the campus possesses that will drive it forward this year and in the future: Commitment, capacity, and care.
"This is what sets us apart from others and sets us up for success," he said. "We are committed to making a difference and changing lives. We have the capacity to deliver this – now and in the future – through our resources, our collective management and decision making, and being clear about our priorities. And, above all, we care deeply about what we do. We care about our students and must continue to evolve how and where we deliver that guidance and service. And we care about each other and serving in community. Each of these components are in place. Each gives us confidence ahead, not only for this coming semester but beyond."
Within each division stands testimonies to dedication, focus, and drive to achieve on behalf of our students and our community. Numbers from the past year include:
- Accessibility Resources Office served more than 1,000 students, with assistance ranging from housing accommodations and peer mentoring to note taking and testing assistance
- Admissions processed more than 10,500 undergraduate applications and made more than 91,000 outreach contacts to prospective students via telephone, text, and email
- The campus hosted more than 12,000 prospective students and family members at open houses and other events
- The Career Development Center managed nearly 9,000 employer job postings of more than 43,000 positions, with more than 3,400 students using the system
- $1.7 million in Plattsburgh College Foundation funded scholarships awarded in 2022-2023, and another $1.2 million was given to support academic, student life and other projects across the university
- The Alumni in the Classroom program connected 37 alumni with more than 2,500 students in classes across the three schools
- The Equity Advocate Program continues to advance and grow. This past year alone saw 75 new advocates trained, with the next sessions in October. Equity Advocates serve as consultants, resources, and advisors as full search committee members to ensure equal access and opportunities for candidates from marginalized identities. The DEI division has a new bold goal to have everyone on campus trained as Equity Advocates by fall 2026.
Enyedi added the summer Supreme Court decision on admissions would not alter the university’s commitment to serving all students.
“The case was not all of what the headlines said, and it will not alter how we operate and value our efforts at serving diverse populations. We will continue to embrace appropriate considerations of how race and other factors may have affected applicants and use a holistic application review process. We will also continue to serve and advance goals tied to our diverse student body and principles of equity and inclusion. In short, we are not going to change our approach and our focus. We serve all students.”
Enyedi said the capacity to serve starts with the university's financial strength, which was honed through the pandemic with reduced spending and forges ahead today with increased investment by SUNY and the state of New York. The university's operating reserve balance, the dollars considered ‘state side surplus,’ are $14 million entering this year, about the same as a year ago.
"This is a solid financial foundation from which to go forward," he said. "Coupled with the increased state allocation, we are positioned well for the years ahead, with the focus next on meeting our enrollment target of 4,800 students. This target is achievable because it is reasonable and recognizes the challenges we face with demographics and out-migration in New York state."
Entering the fall, the university is on pace to exceed its new student enrollment targets, he said. Specifically, deposits as of one week before the start of classes were 1,761, or 61 over goal. Graduate admissions is exceeding their goal by 23 percent and the undergraduate goal was just eight students below.
Enrollment is more than new students, it is also retention, Enyedi said. And it is here where the collective work must be re-doubled.
"We currently project the fall class at about 4,400 students," he said. "This would represent a decline of about 2 percent over a year earlier. The good news embedded in that number is it begins to flatten the decline we have seen in the past several years, which were steeper and more dramatic. It also gives us a foundation on which to build."
Commitment and our capacity, however, must be tethered to the final “C:” Care, Enyedi said.
"We have long been known as a campus that cares for students," he said. "It is among our distinctives. However, exactly what care entails is rapidly evolving as our students change."
Enyedi drew off a recent report from the Education Advisory Board that explored the needs and challenges of Generation P, the cohort of students whose lives and college-going behaviors have been influenced by the pandemic. Key points included:
- Mental health concerns shape their college search, which occurs later than ever
- They are more academically unprepared than their predecessors, affected by learning loss and nervousness about success
- They are eager for in-person events and experiences yet have higher standards for digital experiences
- They question the overall value of a college education, as do their parents, with a clear focus on potential career outcomes
"We know much of this intuitively, by our experiences in the classroom, in the ACC and in conversations," he said. “Anxiety, depression, and fear are part of the culture. To meet this, we must first be aware and open to better understanding. We must also collectively look for ways to solidify student success and the wrap-around services this will require."
Enyedi noted the university will meet this, in part, by targeted new, ongoing funding provided by SUNY. These dollars will be directed to several areas, including food insecurity, mental health support, accessibility resources, and internships. Specifically, more and wider products will be made available in the Cardinal Cupboard, expanded in-person and online mental health counseling options will be added, and more people and resources will expand accessibility services, sensory spaces, and campus programming.
Special attention was focused on several faculty and staff, including those who completed the spring 2023 Center for Teaching Excellence delegate program. The program gives participants a strong grounding in selected teaching best practices. After completing the program, delegates share the most important discipline-specific applications with their department colleagues. Engaging with this program is an important contribution to campus and departmental service, and toward advancing on the Plattsburgh Next goals and action steps. These included:
- Amy Ryan, biology
- Megan Valentine, biology
- Nancy Price, Center for Earth and Environmental Science
- Bridget Haina, communications
- Kameliia Petrova, economics and finance
- Kathryn Alton Education, undergraduate teacher education
- Connie Oxford, gender and women’s studies
- Karen Becker, music
- Ken Podolak, physics
- Jen Bremser, psychology, Branch Campus
- Inma Ibanez-Casas, psychology
- Elizabeth Onasch, sociology
Two awards were presented on behalf of the Plattsburgh Alumni Association. The Faculty and Staff Impact Awards annually recognize faculty and staff, current or retired, who have a major and lasting positive impact on the life of alumni.
The Staff Impact Award was given to Cori Jackson, who last served as interim vice president for enrollment and student success before her retirement this month. Over 31 years, Jackson held key and successively responsible roles here. These include associate vice president, director of Center for Student Involvement, director of the Center for Service Learning and Volunteerism, director of the Wellness Center and more.
The faculty Impact Award was presented to Gordon Muir, who has served as associate librarian at SUNY Plattsburgh for 41 years. In addition to Gordon’s professional obligations, he has served the university and our students in various volunteer roles. He’s served on the College Auxiliary Services and Plattsburgh College Foundation boards, worked with the Student Association, Alpha Sigma Phi, the Student Conduct Board, and many other enterprises associated with campus.
Six people were honored for receiving the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence, who were also congratulated by members of the University Council. These include:
- Laura Cronk, the university’s extended time testing coordinator in the Accessibility Resources Office, is the recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Service. She joined our campus in 2015 as an instructional support assistant. Her office works with all students on campus who identify as having an accessibility need, providing equal access for students to have equitable opportunities during their time at college.
- Mustafa Demir, assistant professor of Criminal Justice, is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities. He joined the faculty as an assistant professor of criminal justice in 2016 and was promoted to associate professor in 2021. Along with prior teaching experience at Rutgers University, he brought about 20 years of policing experience as an administrator and with international organizations, including the United Nations.
- Alyssa Gleichsner, assistant professor of Biological Sciences, is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She joined the campus in 2017. Her teaching evaluations from students have indicated one measure of her success in advancing critical thinking learning activities, engaging lectures, and authentic experiential learning activities.
- Shannon Nephew, who serves in science programs and facilities support and as the university's chemical hygiene officer, is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service. A part of the campus community since 2002, she has demonstrated initiative and creativity, developing online training and chemical inventory systems. She engages with students to strengthen knowledge of chemical hygiene training through “monthly safety challenges.
- Kenneth Podolak, associate professor of Physics, is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service. He joined the campus in 2008, providing deep experience to the physics department, the School of Arts and Sciences and the university itself. His efforts in the classroom are significant and distinguished.
- Nithya Shankar, assistant professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, is the recipient of Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She joined the faculty in 2016. With nine courses in the past six years, Shankar demonstrates a breadth of teaching, including developing a new cutting-edge course — marketing analytics.
The final recognition of the morning was the Dr. Michele Carpentier Award, which annually honors an employee whose investment in the lives of students, over a period of many years, demonstrates an exemplary level of care, compassion, and selflessness. Recipients model the truest spirit of what we aspire to as members of the Cardinal family and reflect our commitment to student success.
The 2023 recipient was Dr. Katherine Dunham, former associate professor, and chair of psychology. Katy began her service with SUNY Plattsburgh in 1998, with an investment in students, their success and their growth always at the forefront.
"Upon leaving the classroom this year, her department presented her with a plaque," Enyedi said. "It reads, in part, 'to Katy, an enthusiastic and devoted faculty member for 25 years. She advanced the undergraduate field placement program to provide diverse applied experiences for students. In her role as a leader and colleague, she mentored numerous junior faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, encouraging and championing them to success.'"
Beginning Sept. 1, Dunham will be a staff assistant in the Registrar’s Office, continuing to give and serve students. Laci Charette, associate professor of Psychology; director, School Psychology Graduate Program; and project co-director, Autism Intervention Program, gave a testimonial on Dunham at the morning event.
Fall semester classes begin at SUNY Plattsburgh on Monday, Aug. 28.