September 24, 2007 | CUNY Matters Columns
On the first page of this and every issue of CUNY Matters is a quote from Townsend Harris, the founder of the University, reminding us of CUNY’s mission to “open the doors to all,” with “no distinction save that of industry, good conduct, and intellect.” As we start a new academic year 160 years after the founding of the Free Academy, those words are still very much alive at the University, guiding new programs and plans for the future of CUNY. Our work over the coming year will further position the University as a center of educational opportunity for students, faculty, and the entire community.
The University is currently developing its 2008-2012 Master Plan, our blueprint for academic initiatives and priorities. Guided by input from all the CUNY campuses, the comprehensive plan will be ready for implementation in Fall 2008.
Simultaneously, we are finalizing our next five-year capital request, which covers the years 2008-09 through 2012-13 and details the University’s future facilities needs. The main emphases of this five-year plan are providing sustainable facilities in support of CUNY’s Decade of Science (2005-15), addressing space shortages at several campuses, and improving the infrastructure of our campuses. As our academic and capital plans come into focus, funding becomes a priority, so we have made an early start on next year’s budget, which will outline to the state and city our vision for enhancing the services the University offers and our request for strong investment in public higher education.
Several new, University-wide programs are already under way. As part of our goal to increase participation and proficiency in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)—fields in which the shortage of teachers is a growing national crisis—The Teacher Academy was established in 2006. Now on nine CUNY campuses, the academy is preparing students to teach math and science in high-need middle and high schools in New York City, emphasizing focused study in a math or science discipline and early, sustained experience in public school classrooms. More than 100 academically talented students have completed their first year in the academy. In addition, an Americorps grant for CUNY, which provides tuition vouchers for all New York City teaching fellows and for the CUNY Teaching Opportunity Program, was recently renewed, with a total value of more than $40 million over three years. Our Decade of Science work continues in other areas, as well, including ongoing cluster hiring of talented faculty in fields such as photonics, engineering, and the biosciences.
Last year the University launched its first-ever online degree, the CUNY Online Baccalaureate, offering those who wish to complete their degrees the ability to earn a B.A. in communication and culture fully online. The Online Baccalaureate enrolled more than 400 students over the past fall and spring semesters, and the program’s first graduate just received his diploma this month. A second online degree, a baccalaureate in business, was recently approved by the New York State Education Department, and classes will begin in January. Both degrees are welcome options for many students who have made substantial progress toward a degree but find that work and family responsibilities or personal circumstances have made continued on-campus participation difficult.
This fall marks the launch of ASAP, CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs. With the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and in collaboration with New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, ASAP offers free tuition, small classes, convenient block schedules, and work experience to enable highly motivated community college students to complete their associate degrees in less than three years. In this inaugural semester, we expect 1,000 students to participate in the program at our six community colleges. In preparation, the colleges have hired faculty, staff, advisors, and job recruiters and offered intensive summer workshops for eligible or admitted students.
The upcoming year promises to be one of change and great opportunity at the University—and in our state and nation, as well, with presidential primaries and all state Senate and Assembly seats up for election. CUNY has begun a new voter registration drive through the CUNY Votes project to increase voter participation in the critical elections ahead. I encourage the entire CUNY community to take advantage of this important civic privilege.
Thank you for the invaluable work you do for the University, and best wishes for a successful academic year.