Welcome Back

September 1, 2005 | CUNY Matters Columns

I am delighted to welcome back CUNY faculty, staff, and students to their campuses for the 2005-06 academic year.

Our city is filled with back-to-school indicators: neighborhoods no longer emptying on the weekends, subways and buses again filled with students, and museums and historical sites shepherding large groups of young visitors through their spaces.

Still, I know that a welcome back in the fall implies a leave during the summer-and that for many in our University community, summer is yet another busy season of work.

This summer, CUNY students took classes and completed internships, and public school students attended CUNY summer immersion programs. Faculty traveled abroad and across our nation to do research, and staff members planned for programs and events in the fall.

Throughout the University, the summer was an active time:

  • In June, William P. Kelly was named president of The Graduate School and University Center. Dr. Kelly, an American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, had been serving as provost and senior vice president of The Graduate Center since 1998 and has been an educator at CUNY for almost 30 years. I am pleased to welcome him to his new post. A search is now under way for a new dean of the CUNY School of Law.
  • Dean Stephen Shepard of CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism has been working throughout the summer to build the school from the ground up, developing his ideas for the curriculum-from basic tracks to individual courses-the faculty, and student programs, including internships and a student-run wire service. The school is scheduled to welcome its first class in the fall of 2006.
  • The City of New York City adopted its 2005-06 budget over the summer, and there was much good news for CUNY, including unprecedented capital allocations that, combined with state allocations, represent the largest level of funded commitments in the University’s history. The budget also offered an increase in funding for the Peter F. Vallone Academic Scholarship Program and new funding for the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High School-or CUNY Prep-and other programs and initiatives. We are grateful to all our elected officials for their recognition of our students’ needs and the dedicated efforts of our faculty and staff to meet those needs.
  • During the summer months, one of the programs in our Master Plan, the Initiative on the Black Male in Education, was given particular attention. A task force has been working diligently on a report that will recommend projects to improve the University’s recruitment and retention of black men. The University will begin acting on those recommendations this academic year. This is a subject of critical importance at CUNY and throughout the nation, and the University must aggressively address a complex set of challenges in order to enact real change.

The period ahead will surely be a pivotal one for New York State, with mayoral and gubernatorial races as well as statewide offices and state legislative seats to be decided. These elections, regardless of their outcomes, will affect the University, and it is an important time for aspiring leaders to understand CUNY’s unique mission within the city and the state. Over the next few months, I will be unfolding a new approach to securing funding for the University, and I will be communicating with you as it takes shape.

Any consideration of the University’s future must account for the great strides our students have made over the last several years. We now have data that tracks student progress over the last six years, and the results show demonstrable improvements. From 1998 to 2004, graduation rates improved, average SAT scores rose, more students from the city’s top public high schools were enrolled at CUNY, and the number of minority students increased.

It is largely because of your efforts and your commitment that we are seeing such improvements and that so many CUNY students, particularly over the last year, have been recognized for their academic achievements. I am deeply grateful to the entire CUNY community for your dedication to our students’ success. We are continuing to work to obtain a new contract to help move our great University forward.

No matter how you spent your summer, I hope it was a time of renewal and recommitment to the valuable work you do. I look forward to working with all of you on a productive 2005-06 academic year. Thank you again, and welcome back.