February 8, 2016

THE WEEKLY BLAB

Volume 10, Issue 16–February 8, 2016

 

 

Rain, Rain Go Away

While I’m loving that we only have a tiny amount of snow (total thus far is maybe 4”) at this point up here in the North Country, the amount of rain has been another matter.  It rains a lot, and in fact, is raining right now.  Colder temperatures in some places means that there was an icy mix, and several school districts have delayed their opening.  Two local ones have closed entirely, giving some parents who work at the college no choice but to stay home themselves.  The main roads are all fine—well plowed and treated—but some of the back roads can be bad.  It’s supposed to actually go into the 50’s later today, so the little remaining snow and all the ice should be gone by the time you read this.  Supposedly it will be dry until next Wednesday, when we’re due some snow, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

 

NYPA Report is Out—1,900 Jobs and $190M in Economic Activity

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Nearly a year ago, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) hired McKinsey & Co. to develop an economic plan for St. Lawrence County to help turn around the economic and population decline that has affected the area over the past several years.  McKinsey & Co. consulted with more than 130 political officials, college presidents, economic development experts, and business leaders (including me and several other folks at SUNY Canton) and established an Advisory Board (which I am a member of) that helped create this plan.  We met and debated various strategies over the past year, and completed the final report (ironically) just before Alcoa announced it would close most of its operations in Massena last November.  While an $80M agreement ultimately was reached with Alcoa with support from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer that preserved 600 jobs for 3.5 years, this only further illustrated the need for economic diversification in our region.

The final report was officially released yesterday by NYPA’s President Gil C. Quiniones.  It provides a blueprint for creating nearly 1,900 new jobs and $190 million in new economic activity by 2020 in St. Lawrence County. The four main strategies are:

  • Small Business Expansion: Establishing an Entrepreneurship Accelerator, to provide training, coaching, mentoring and other support services to high-potential entrepreneurs. As many of you know, SUNY Canton is seeking funding from several sources to establish such an accelerator on our campus.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Business: Expanding agriculture to a year-round operation through the use of greenhouses powered by clean energy. Also, improving efficiency of dairy operations and a larger focus on niche crops.
  • Advanced Materials Manufacturing: Starting an aggressive marketing campaign to leverage the region’s existing manufacturing base in processing advanced materials to attract new companies. This effort will coordinate with Clarkson’s Center for Advanced Materials Processing.
  • Community Revitalization and Tourism: Funding would be sought to establish a $10 million St. Lawrence County Revitalization Fund, which would provide grants and loans to the county’s villages to improve downtown areas and business. The study also calls for an increase in tourism, especially outdoor activities like fishing, boating and camping.

The full press release about the study, which includes a quote from me, can be found here. A summary pdf of the study can be found here.

 

 

How Else is SUNY Canton Helping Improve the Economy?

On February 2, a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new satellite office of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Ogdensburg took place at the Sherman Inn on 615 Franklin Street.  The SBDC’s main offices are located in Wicks Hall on the SUNY Canton campus.  It is one of 1,000 SBDC’s around the country that provides no-cost business consulting and training to more than a million existing and startup small businesses each year, creating and retaining 156,000 jobs.

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L-R: Sarah Purdy, City Manager; Michael Brashaw, Chamber Past President; Jen Stevenson, City Councilmember; Wayne Izzo, Chamber Board Member; Michael Thayer, Chamber Board Member; Dale Rice, Director of the SUNY Canton SBDC and Certified Business Advisor; Lenore VanderZee, Executive Director of University Relations at SUNY Canton; Melissa Lalonde, Chamber Board Member; John Wade, Owner of Sherman Inn and Chamber Board Member; Timothy Davis, City Councilmember; Laura Pearson, Executive Director of the Ogdensburg Chamber and James Reagen, Public Affairs Director for Senator Ritchie’s office.

At the SBDC, professional advisors offer free direct counseling and a wide range of management and technical assistance services.  They can help you develop a business plan and to start your small business, including dealing with such issues as benefits for establishing women and veteran-owned businesses, marketing, organizational structure, accounting/recordkeeping, financial planning, exports, cost analysis, financial strategies, training programs, and business expansion.  The SUNY Canton office is open from 8:30-4:30, M-F, and the Ogdensburg satellite office is open Tuesdays from 9:00-4:00.  To schedule an appointment, please call Dale Rice at (315) 386-7312 or email sbdc@canton.edu.

 

 

Our Library is $aving Students Money—You Can Help Too

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If you haven’t had to buy a semester’s worth of textbooks lately, going to the college bookstore can be an eye-opening experience.  Back in the day when I went to college, the typical text in chemistry or chemical engineering cost about $17.  The most expensive book I ever had to buy was Perry’s Handbook of Chemical Engineering, which was $35—I couldn’t believe a textbook could cost that much!  A few years ago, I went to the bookstore at SPSU to see what they were charging for the freshman chemistry book that I was using in my class, and was stunned to see that it cost $230 new all by itself—more than a full year’s worth of textbooks cost when I was buying them.  I’ve asked a few students at SUNY Canton what a typical semester costs for books, and most respond that it’s over $1,000.

As a result of these high prices, the Southworth Library and our librarians have spent a lot of time over the last few years trying to make textbooks as accessible and affordable to our students as possible.  A large part of the library budget is dedicated to getting textbooks for our reserve collection each year.  Priority is given to buying the highest-priced textbooks and targeting courses with the highest enrollments, to serve the largest number of students while alleviating the most significant financial burdens.  Students rely heavily on this service, and it is not unusual to learn that a student has made the choice whether or not to remain enrolled in a particular course, and sometimes whether or not to remain enrolled in college, based entirely on the cost of the textbooks.  The library also encourages faculty to adopt open textbooks and other open educational resources.

This year something new has been added.  Normally, electronic textbooks aren’t bought for circulation purposes by libraries, because the rules from the publishers as to who can use them are very restrictive.  Cori Wilhelm, the Access Services Librarian, searched to find e-textbooks that could be used more broadly.  After searching every ISBN number on the Spring 2016 textbook list, Cori found 30 course texts that could be bought as e-texts and made available 24/7 online.  This number will grow as they investigate this further as an acquisitions priority in future semesters.  In some cases, the e-text publisher allows unlimited simultaneous users.  In other cases, use is limited to three users at a time, or only one at a time.

A full list of textbooks (including e-texts) that are available at the library can be found here.  Clicking the link in the “Textbooks on Reserve” box will give you a list (in course number order) of the books required for all courses at SUNY Canton.  The first column tells you if we have the book (“Yes”), have an older edition (“OE”), have it as an e-text (“Ebook”), or don’t have it (“No”).  If we have it as an e-text, the title of the book will be hot-linked to the book.

During the first week of the semester, we were happy to learn that providing access to a single e-text cut one student’s $1,000 semester textbook costs by one-third!

Our librarians will continue to encourage faculty to work with them to explore opportunities for using open content or to consider library e-book acquisition in developing new courses or updating existing courses. Faculty can help our librarians and students in this effort.  Here’s how:

Good:  Review the list of books that you require for your courses.  Do you really use all of them?  Weed out the ones that aren’t needed—nothing annoys a student more than having to shell out $50 or $100 for a book, and then hardly using it.  Could any of the books be used in more than one course?  Is there a cheaper alternative version of the book?

Better:  Work with our librarians to see if there is an e-book version of your course text.  If there is, great!  If there isn’t, is there a different textbook that is available as an e-book that would also fit your course’s needs?  Why not switch to that?

           Best:  Before you choose your course textbooks, check out some online sites that offer free digital textbooks.  An article about some of these sites appeared in Campus Technology, and can be found here.  I looked for chemistry e-texts on several of them, and found several that could easily be used as a course textbook or as a supplement, in General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and non-major’s Chemistry.  If you find one that fits your needs, adopt it.

You can help our students save money and make college more affordable by helping our librarians in this effort.

 

 

Never Forget

On Tuesday (February 2), our Student Government Association unveiled a new monument by the campus’ Peace Garden near French Hall. The Memorial Rock is intended as a place of reflection, remembrance, and as a celebration of life. The plaque on the rock reads: “Forever Remembered, Forever Missed.”

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Student Government Association Executive Officers (L-R) Devine Pearson, Khaina A. Solomon, Rachel “Nikki” Zeitzmann, Fatizjah Burnett and Lorraine Honeyghan

SGA President Khaina A. Solomon explained the origins of the memorial, saying: “Student Elliot Mullings passed away days after the spring 2014 semester was over, so we began a new academic year with the loss still heavily lingering in everyone’s mind. We felt we needed to a place to grieve or celebrate the lives of those who have passed.” Elliot was a junior in the Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement Leadership program, and was very active and well known on campus. He passed away in May 2014.  “We wanted to give something back to the campus,” Solomon added. “The association has been working on the memorial project for about two years, and with the help of many campus staff members and Northeastern Sign Corporation in Colton, it has come to life.”

The unveiling ceremony included a poem from Mariama Cisse (a junior majoring in Applied Psychology); a song by Rebecca Jean-Baptiste (a junior majoring in Liberal Arts); and short speeches by me and by SGA executive officers Fatizjah Burnett and Nikki Zeitzmann.

 

One Hop Shop Saves Students Time

At a lot of colleges, in order to pay bills, get financial aid, and take care of the various requirements in order to register for classes, you have to visit lots of different offices which may be located in several different buildings.  Not at SUNY Canton—all of this can be taken care of in a single location—the One Hop Shop.

 one-hop1

You may think that since everything is located in one place together, the lines there will be very long.  We just did a study on this at SUNY Canton, and here are the results.  We measured how long it took for students taking a ticket to be served on January 19, 2015, the Monday of the week that classes began—the day the most students came by for the semester.  This was the first year that the One Hop Shop was in full operation.  There were 626 tickets pulled, of which 538 people were served (85.9%).  What happened to the other 88 tickets?  Some students took two by accident (and thus didn’t need the second one) or decided not to wait.  The average length of time that it took students to be served was 17:31 minutes.  That’s not too bad, compared to how long it would take to go to multiple offices, but not good enough.  The longest waits were for talking to someone in financial aid or student accounts, which took 39:48 minutes on average—a long time.  On the day before (Sunday, January 18, 2015), the loads were much lighter.  121 tickets were pulled, with an average wait time of 9:24 minutes.

Now that the One Hop Shop has been operating for more than a year and the various areas have worked on optimizing how to function together more efficiently, we did another study on January 18, 2016, again the Monday of the week that classes began.  There were 668 tickets pulled, of which 614 people were served (91.9%).  This is a higher percentage than last year, indicating that fewer people walked away.  The average time it took students to be served was 7:38 minutes, less than half the time the previous year.  The time it took for students needing to talk to someone in financial aid or student accounts fell to 12:40 minutes, less than one third the time the previous year.  On the day before (Sunday, January 17, 2016), 121 tickets were pulled, with an average wait time of 1:02 minutes.

How good is this?  Compared with other campuses I’ve seen, it’s terrific! Congratulations to our One Hop Shop staff, for working diligently to help students as quickly as possible, to solve whatever issue they have.  You’re doing a great job.

 

 

 

Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s challenge dealt songs with words starting with the letter “w”. The fastest winner was Christopher Sweeney, and our other winners were Terri Clemmo and Nancy Rowledge.  Your prizes can be picked up from my office.

Here are the correct answers:

  1. Most of your body is made up of this, but you can still drown in it.  Water.
  2. Studio that produced all the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons.  Warner Brothers.
  3. All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased this.  The Weasel.
  4. Napoleon was defeated there, but Abba made it into a hit song.  Waterloo.
  5. Commonly misattributed to Mark Twain, everybody complains about this, but nobody does anything about it.  The Weather.

 

 

This Week’s Trivia Challenge

This week’s challenge is about capitols–I name the capitol, you name the country.  The first five winners win a CD, DVD, or whatever else I come up with from the vast Szafran repository of duplicates or good stuff I want to get rid of.  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. Ottawa.
  2. Stockholm.
  3. New Delhi.
  4. Cairo.
  5. Canberra.
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