August 25, 2014

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 9, Issue 8 – August 25, 2014

 

The Year Begins!

The academic year began last week at SUNY Canton and we are off to a great start. Monday started with an orientation session, this time for non-traditional students. It was held in the Kingston Theater and there were about 100 students present. The Theater is a very nice facility capable of seating some 220 people, with a nice stage in the front, a sound mixing platform area on stage left, and a very good lighting system. It was great seeing so many non-traditional students—they are a very important part of our campus community and our overall enrollment.

Later on Monday, I gave a welcome to the students in the Education Opportunity Program, which is a one-week summer bridge program with over 100 students in it. Many of the students are the first in their families to go to college and many come from less affluent families. It is quite successful—students participating in it having significantly higher retention rates and earning higher GPA’s—so it literally has the power to change students’ futures.

Tuesday was taken up by Deans Council and Executive Cabinet meetings. The Executive Cabinet has been focusing on reviewing the Facilities Master Plan so that strategic decisions can be made on issues to address first. At the meeting, we decided to divide the campus into three categories: academic space, student support space, and infrastructure. We had a discussion on what the top priority was for each of the areas. As a first step for the academic space, the deans and the provost will work with the faculty to identify what needs to move on campus in order to create “departmental homes” for each of our academic programs that will allow (to the extent possible) their faculty offices, labs, and classrooms to be together. We’ll also be identifying academic spaces that are in need of an upgrade, as well as facilities that need to be added. In the student support area, the top priority was upgrading Chaney Dining Hall. The first phase of this upgrade is taking place now. Input will be gathered as to other improvements needed for Chaney, and a phased plan for accomplishing these improvements will be created. We’ll also be identifying other support areas that are in need of future improvements. In the infrastructure area, a list of “must do” improvements will be generated. All of these will be brought to an EC meeting in a few weeks for review and prioritization. The final plan will be shared with the campus community, and we will be posting updates on our progress on a periodic basis. As most people are aware, funding for improvement of facilities comes from multiple sources—annual state appropriations, extra funding from the legislature, campus year-end funds (unspent money in the budget swept up at the end of the year), and funds raised through grants and donations. Funds from some of these sources are earmarked for specific projects, so depending on in what pot money becomes available, projects may “jump the line”.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I attended my first men’s soccer match at Canton, a scrimmage against Jefferson Community College. While both teams played well, the ‘Roos had a solid defense and our offense dominated throughout most of the game. We won the game 1-0. I had the pleasure of meeting the players and the coaches after the game—they’re a great bunch, hailing from across New York, Canada, Puerto Rico, and West Africa. We should have a great year.

Wednesday began with a coffee and Danish reception sponsored by UUP, followed by the annual State of the Campus Address. The address was given in the Kingston Theater and there was quite a turnout—it was standing room only in what I am told was the biggest such turnout of all time. Liz Erickson, (moderator of the faculty) introduced me and I spoke for about 25 minutes, starting with a brief recap of my background and an introduction of my family. I then laid out a general plan for the college’s future, focused on growth, expansion of our academic programs, and enhancing resources.

Lenore VanderZee (Executive Director for University Relations), Karen Spellacy (Provost, Academic Affairs), Molly Mott (Dean of Academic Support Services and Instructional Technologies), J.D. Long (Dean of the School of Business & Liberal Arts), Ken Erickson (Interim Dean of the School of Science, Health & Criminal Justice), Michael Newtown (Interim Dean of the Canino School of Engineering Technology), Shawn Miller (Acting VP for Administration & Chief Financial Officer), Kyle Brown (Asst. VP for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer), David Gerlach (VP for Advancement and Executive Director of the Foundation), and Courtney Bish (Dean of Students and Chief Student Affairs Officer) all identified highlights from the previous year and introduced the new hires in their areas as well those who had been promoted or who had earned continuing appointments (tenure).

Some of the year’s highlights included:

  • Earning accreditation from ABET for our 4-year programs in Civil & Environmental Engineering Technology, Electrical Engineering Technology, and Mechanical Engineering Technology; from ACEN for our 4-year program in Nursing; and from CAPTE for our Physical Therapy Assistant program.
  • Receiving Chancellor’s Awards for Faculty: Dr. Maureen Maiocco (Excellence in Teaching) and Dr. Lawretta Ononye (Excellence in Scholarship & Creative Activities).
  • Receiving Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence for Students: Lydia Dale (Graphic and Multimedia Design); Meghan Gibson (Sports Management); and Tiffany Moore (Veterinary Science Technology).
  • Several SUNY Canton programs were provisionally accepted for Open SUNY.
  • Our summer enrollment was an all-time high.
  • We are implementing our First Year Experience program.
  • We are establishing the China Path Pro Partnership.

We’ll be posting the Address on the website in its entirety in the near future.

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with Dean Michael Newtown and the faculty in the Canino School of Engineering Technology. We had a spirited discussion about how to grow enrollments in the school, how to market the school’s programs more widely, and how to improve retention and graduation rates. Dean Newtown led the discussion, based in part on ideas in the book “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt, one of the classics in the field of industrial engineering/business analysis that focuses on the economic theory of constraints (bottlenecks). It’s a book well worth reading. I like it so much, I bought copies for every department chair and dean at my previous college, and have bought copies for everyone on the executive cabinet at Canton. I’m looking forward to seeing the School implement the many excellent ideas that came up in the discussion.

Thursday was mostly taken up by meetings, though it did include a conference call with the other presidents in the Colleges of Technology sector with folks from SUNY Central, mainly discussing a new plan to regularize the appropriation fee process. From 11:30 to 1:00, we had a lunch to welcome the new faculty and staff to Canton.

On Friday, the day began with our final Fall Orientation Session, for late registrants. There were about 250 students there, and one of the funnier moments came when (as I always do at orientation) I gave out my cell phone number to students to call if they’ve tried everything else but still can’t get their problem solved. One second later, my phone rang. I thought it was a weird coincidence, but it turned out that one of the students at orientation decided to test it out. I felt the buzz in my shirt pocket, reached in and got the phone, and said: “You see—it really does get me.”   One of the young ladies waved her arms, laughing, and said “That was me!”

Saturday, my folks and I went to see the women’s soccer team take on North Country Community College in a scrimmage. The weather looked like it was going to pour at any minute, with a big black cloud overhead, but it held off throughout the match. Both sides played well, though the crossbar wasn’t kind to Canton, blocking good strikes on two different occasions. The outcome was a 1-1 tie. As soon as we got back to the car, it began to rain.

photo

Sunday was another beautiful day and another soccer match—the men’s team in a scrimmage vs. North Country Community College. The teams played three 30 minute halves, and Canton won the first 3-0, with the second being a 0-0 tie and the third won by NCCC 1-0. Thus, overall, it was a 3-1 Canton win.

1024px-Chelsea_FC.svg

As you may have gathered, I love soccer and I’m going to go to as many games as possible. I watched every game in the world cup, though the team I was rooting for, Ivory Coast, was eliminated in the first round. I’m a devoted follower of the English Premiere League, whose season just began again a week ago, with Chelsea being my favorite team (Go Blues!). They’re off to a good start this year, having won their first two games, admittedly against weak opponents. Manchester City, last year’s league champion, is the team to beat and they won their first game as well, with their second game on Monday. Manchester United is off to another bad start, having lost one game and drawn the second to weak teams.

Later on Sunday, we went to the Kingston Theater to see the first movie of the season—Captain America: Winter Soldier. As many of you are aware, I am a comic book collector from way back so I love movies (at least the good ones) based on comics. Even though the movie was quite predictable (I’ve read the comics it was based on, and they were pretty faithful to them), it was an enjoyable ride with lots of action. One not so great thing about Kingston Theater—the sound system is only just acceptable, so we’ll have to do something about that! Funny thing—the sound system at SPSU’s student center theatre used to be pretty lousy as well, though they did upgrade it a few years ago.

 

Meeting My Fellow President

Last Friday (August 15), I had lunch with SUNY Potsdam’s President Kristin Esterberg. We met in my conference room, with the meal, catered by our College food service, being excellent as always. President Esterberg and I had first met back in the spring at a SUNY Board of Trustees meeting. Given the prior defunct plan to merge the two presidencies, the folks at SUNY Central wanted to announce both presidencies at the same time, so as not to cause concern that the plan had somehow come back to life. Mine was announced and voted on first and when President Esterberg was confirmed, I got up to shake her hand and that became a photo-op we wound up repeating for the photographers.

We had a very pleasant conversation about various ways the two colleges might work together in the future, and committed to having our academic leadership meet to explore some possibilities. We also talked about some ways we might be able to help students attend events on all four North Country campuses (Canton, Clarkson, Potsdam, and St. Lawrence). SUNY Potsdam has many excellent academic programs, perhaps the best known of which is their Crane School of Music. I’m looking forward to seeing some concerts there. Hearing that I was a big music fan, President Esterberg was kind enough to invite me as her guest to their Community Performance series, which will feature several of my favorites, including Chick Corea (jazz) and the Anonymous 4 (medieval polyphony).

 

CD and Movie Reviews

Vladimir HorowitzEver since I was a little boy, I’ve always loved getting good things in the mail. I had ordered a box set of the complete Carnegie Hall concert recordings of Vladimir Horowitz (41 CDs and 1 DVD!) from a vender in England at an unbelievably low price and much to my pleasure, it showed up much more quickly than Amazon predicted it would. It’s a beautiful set, nicely boxed with each concert in its own individual digipack, and a hard-cover book giving a history and discography of the set. I don’t have my full sound system assembled at this point (it’ll have to wait until I move into the new house), but I do have my trusty Sony 3D Blu-ray and SACD player as well as a Philips Streamium hooked up to my Onkyo receiver and front Cambridge Soundworks speakers and subwoofer, which provide sound that’s quite good. My mother and I have enjoyed two of the concerts to this point, both of which were quite good with excellent sound remastering. My mother is the other person in my family who shares my love for classical music and opera, though my wife Jill has begun to enjoy them as well.

 

marty-posterSaturday evening, I noticed that the movie Marty was showing on Turner Movie Classics on cable, so I had to watch it. Marty is my second favorite movie of all time, only beaten by North by Northwest. If you’ve never seen them, don’t waste any more time—rent a copy, sit back, and enjoy.

Marty (played by Ernest Borgnine of McHale’s Navy fame) is the story of a mid-30 year old butcher, who still lives with his mother and hangs out with his old neighborhood friends. He’s a nice guy, but extremely self-conscious about his not-so-good looks and his lower class profession, and has never had much in the way of luck in having a relationship. People keep asking him why he hasn’t gotten married yet. The movie covers two days in his life. One Saturday night, his mother pushes him into going to the Starlight Ballroom, where he runs into a guy who wants him to take his blind date off his hands so he can go home with someone else. The girl being ditched is named Clara (played by Betsy Blair), a plain-looking mid-30’s schoolteacher who teaches chemistry (!), who is equally shy and similarly unsuccessful in having a relationship. The audience can easily see that Marty and Clara are perfect for each other, but their potential relationship threatens everyone else’s status quo, and Marty’s friends and mother both push him to break it off.

The movie is unusual in many ways. First, it is a romance told from the man’s perspective. Second, at a time when Hollywood movies were all about big screen extravaganzas and Technicolor, Marty is a small movie shot on location in the Bronx in black and white. Third, unlike almost any other movie, Marty and Clara are just plain people with plain lives—they’re not revealed as being beautiful and not knowing it or anything like that. Finally, the movie takes its time and shows you the fits and starts of Marty and Clara’s budding relationship, as well as the reactions of everyone around them. When Marty’s moment of decision comes in the movie, you’ll be on the edge of your seat willing him to do the right thing.

Against all the odds, this small movie became a box-office smash, and won Oscars for best movie, best actor, best director, and best screenplay. The only travesty was that Betsy Blair didn’t win the Oscar for best supporting actress—her performance in the movie was brilliant, perfectly managing to show Clara’s complex mix of emotions. I’ve seen the movie many times, and never tire of it.

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest had questions all had to do with corn. Our winner was Jamie Garrett (Administrative Assistant to the President at SPSU). Others with all five correct included Julie Parkman, Deborah Molnar, Alan Gabrielli, Anna Sorensen, Rhonda Rodriguez, Ron Woods, Rosemary Phillips, Renee Campbell, Carmela Young, Christine Becker, Chelsea Chase, Jennifer McDonald, William Fassinger, Rajiv Narula, Kelly Carter, and Ronald O’Neill. Here are the correct answers:

  1. A stale joke is said to be this.  Corny.
  2. Nebraska.  The cornhusker state.
  3. General MacArthur used one to smoke. A corncob pipe.
  4. Short story by Stephen King, it became a pretty so-so movie in 1984 and an even lousier one in 2009. Children of the Corn.
  5. Horn of plenty.  Cornucopia.

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

The weather in Canton has been beautiful and sunny, so every answer has to do with the word “sun”. As usual, the first with the most takes the prize.  No looking up the answers now!  SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO president@canton.edu since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!

  1. You get this if you stay out on the beach too long.
  2. Major purveyor of orange soda.
  3. Florida’s nickname.
  4. A little further north, it’s known as Petro-Canada.
  5. Great Bill Withers song about an absent love, from 1971—It hit #3 on the US singles charts. His biggest hit was “Lean on Me”.
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