State of the College Address - January 2016

Good morning! Welcome to the first state of the college address of our bicentennial year. As we enter into our 200th year, I pledge to work a mention of our bicentennial into just about every public address I give. This, and the fact that we are, still, number one in the SUNY system for food service.

Kidding aside, we have much to be proud of as we enter into our bicentennial year. Most thrilling, we have just passed the $32 million mark in our Take the Lead Campaign. I am so proud to announce that as of today, we have raised in excess of $32.6 million, with 6 months left to go in our campaign.

I am so grateful to all of you who have given.You have been a huge part of this success. Today, 321 members of our faculty and staff are donors. Your gifts are being used to fund the important priorities of scholarships, transformational student experiences, academic excellence, and the annual fund for Potsdam—which supports our greatest needs.

Now there still is time to be a part of this success! If you would like to support a program or activity, you still can make your mark in this campaign.

There is much to celebrate, as we consider our 200 year history.But even as we celebrate our successes, it's also important to reflect on our challenges. We are coming off one of the most challenging semesters in recent history. Just about every part of our campus experienced the stress. It was difficult to learn that the warmth of our Potsdam family was not felt by all. And that some members of our community, some of our students, do not feel included and valued in the ways that we want them to be. That was a disappointment, even as it is an invitation to do better.

But I want us to remember that what we are experiencing here in Potsdam is part of a larger social trend. We may be isolated up here in the North Country, but we are by no means an island. The kinds of protests that we experienced on our campus are happening all across the country. And so as we work towards becoming a more inclusive campus, as we work toward putting our long-held values into practice, know that we can also be a leader in inclusion and diversity.

We have already begun the hard work, building on our long tradition of community and caring, of helping our campus become the inclusive community we want it to be. Early in January, we hosted a professional development workshop for some of our most critical front line staff. I am thankful to CSEA president Lynn Durant for her role in this, along with Mary Dolan, Associate Vice President of Human Resources. We will work to provide more of these opportunities, so that everyone on campus ultimately will have the opportunity to participate in meaningful professional development related to diversity and inclusion.

Many have worked hard over the break on these efforts, including members of the Diversity in Action Coalition, the search committee for the Chief Diversity Officer, and many, many others. As a number of us considered responses to the campus forum at the end of last semester, it was clear that many on campus are looking for opportunities to talk with each other, to hear and be heard, to reflect. I ask you to please check your email regularly for opportunities to come together, to learn with and from each other. I also ask you to watch for campus updates on security and the ongoing investigation from Interim University Police Chief Tim Ashley. Please know: when there is any news to share, we will share it with you.

In other fronts, we are continuing to work on our five-year plan toward financial health, and we are looking very carefully at spring and fall enrollments. I am grateful to everyone who worked hard over the break to follow up with unregistered students, and to all those who are working diligently to bring in our fall class. Strong enrollment—and making sure that every student who enrolls at Potsdam succeeds here—continue to be key to our financial success.

As we look to the semester ahead of us, there is much to look forward to.Some of you may be wondering, if it's our bicentennial, when is our birthday party? Charter Day—March 25—marks the signing of the St. Lawrence Academy charter in 1816. So please, watch for information regarding our grand Charter Day Birthday Party. You can find a full calendar of events on the College bicentennial web page.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to highlight our Second Annual Idea Competition, the goal of which is to promote an entrepreneurial spirit on campus. Submissions are due at the end of February, so please check the website for more information. Last year's event was an extraordinary success, and we hope to keep the momentum going.

The world has changed dramatically since our founding as St. Lawrence Academy in 1816. The fact that we have grown and evolved and thrived over our 200 years gives me great comfort that we will continue to meet the challenges ahead of us.

So, where are we going in our third century of teaching and learning? What will be our next great step forward? What will we look like in the future? The Faculty Senate Goals & Planning Committee asked the entire campus community last semester to "look to the future," and to provide input into just that question. I have just received their report, and we will use that report as the basis for a strategic planning process beginning this spring. Please stay tuned for more information on how you can get involved with that effort.

As we look to our future, let me reiterate how proud I am of our campus community. Like all families, we have our challenges and struggles, but we are also resilient. I am optimistic that we will continue to thrive well into the next 100 years.

Before I close, it has been a campus tradition to welcome the newest members of our campus community as part of our state of the college address. So in keeping with that tradition, I would like to welcome the newest members of our community.