March 13, 2013 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
“This has been a great year for us, our best year ever,” BMCC President Antonio Pérez told BMCC students, staff and faculty filling the tiered seats in Theatre II, as he opened his annual State of the College Address.
“Fifty years ago, when BMCC began as a small business college on two floors of a midtown office building, it would have been hard to imagine our future. Now we are the largest undergraduate college in all five boroughs,” the President said.
He shared some encouraging statistics based on data collected by Community College Week, including this one: BMCC is ranked as Number 2 among the nation’s two-year colleges for awarding degrees to underrepresented students.
With successes, though, come challenges, he said, including Hurricane Sandy, and noted that despite heavy damages, BMCC opened its doors to faculty, staff and students just three days after the storm.
Excellence in teaching, research and learning
Acknowledging the importance of BMCC’s student-to-faculty ratio, President Pérez reported that “since last spring, we have added 54 full-time faculty. We now have almost 500 full-time faculty members teaching at BMCC. We also depend upon a large and qualified pool of adjunct faculty.”
In addition, he said, the college has doubled the size of its advisement staff, and added administrative staff for special programs.
One of these, the Presidential Scholars Program, is first of its kind among community colleges and has paired up nine junior faculty—Professors Susie Boydston White, Alex Gosslau, Rachel Torres, Yolanda Martinez, Frank Crocco, Kathleen Offenholley, Adolfina Koroch, Shengkun Zheng and Lin Rice—with prominent researchers throughout CUNY.
Together, they will develop grant proposals aimed at creating a community of scholars on the BMCC campus.
BMCC students continue to earn regional and national recognition, said President Pérez.
Nearly 200 students over the past two decades have participated in the Vassar Exploring Transfer Program, and in both 2011 and 2012, seven of the 32 students accepted nationwide into the program were from BMCC.
On completing the program, those BMCC students transferred to Vassar, Amherst, Smith, Stanford, Mt. Holyoke, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lawrence, and other four-year colleges.
President Pérez also spoke about the BMCC Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, which hosted the 2012 New York Region Leadership Annual Conference.
He congratulated BMCC’s Phi Theta Kappans, who won the most awards of any New York Chapter at this year’s Spring Regional meeting, and gave a shout-out to the BMCC women’s basketball team and men’s soccer team—both of which won CUNY championships this past year.
Start here, excel here
BMCC, said President Pérez, is recognized both within CUNY and nationally for “our strategic approach to innovation in academics and basic skills proficiency.”
To support students who struggle academically, several cutting-edge programs have been piloted at BMCC, he said, adding that “we are now scaling up aggressively in order to make these programs available to more students as quickly as possible.”
Those programs include the New Mathways initiative, or Quantway Network, led by the BMCC Office of Academic Affairs, Department of Mathematics, and Office of Institutional Research.
Another opportunity for BMCC students is located at The New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences, where students engage in clinical interactions with two types of “simulated” patients – either high-tech mannequins, or actors trained to emulate symptoms of various illnesses.
President Pérez also spoke about the new BMCC Freshman Learning Academies (FLA), funded by the New York Community Trust and a joint effort of BMCC’s Academic Affairs and Student Affairs departments.
FLA provides both academic and social support for students acclimating to college, he said, and the average pass rate for the current 276 FLA participants is close to 100%—a 30% increase over BMCC’s usual fall-to-spring retention rate for new students.
On a related note, President Pérez noted that BMCC is a leader among CUNY campuses in developing exemplary Enrollment Strategies to ensure students’ ability to stay in school.
Through the leadership of BMCC’s new First-Year Coordinator, he said, the college stayed in touch with new students through social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
The college also created a new orientation program, Getting Prepared to Start (GPS), which provides advisement, financial aid and registration guidance.
In June 2013, said President Pérez, the college will submit a Periodic Review Report (PRR), marking the midway point in BMCC’s 10-year accreditation cycle.
A Periodic Review Team, led by Professors Gay Brookes and Kay Conway “are doing a superb job as co-chairs of this process,” he said, and recognized in the audience, faculty and staff who serve on the PRR committees.
The BMCC Strategic Steering Committees and Work Teams, said the President, “have begun to work on the excellent, actionable, program and initiative ideas they presented to the BMCC Collaborative Improvement Council last summer.”
One of these, he said, the Steering Committee on Supporting Global Studies, “has recommended the creation of an Introductory Globalization course,” which will serve as a model for other new Global Studies courses.
Ultimately, he said, “such curricular changes will equip, energize, and empower our students to assert themselves as global citizens.”
Fiterman Hall and enhancing campus physical space
“Let’s congratulate ourselves for having the most beautiful new building in CUNY: Fiterman Hall,” said President Pérez, and reminded the audience that improvements to the BMCC main campus building at 199 Chambers are underway, as well.
The opening of Fiterman Hall, he said, entailed many new hires for the college, including 33 custodial workers, 19 skilled tradespeople, six IT support assistants, and approximately 24 campus security employees.
“Also, as we address the issues of the physical space, it’s important to note that BMCC is fully committed to the goals of a sustainable future,” he added, describing BMCC’s 10-year sustainability plan, which includes energy conservation, curriculum and education, procurement, waste management and recycling.
He also invited students, staff and faculty to attend BMCC’s Second Annual BMCC Sustainability Fair, on Earth Day, April 22, in the Richard Harris Terrace.
CUNYfirst is here at last
President Pérez announced the arrival at BMCC of CUNYfirst, “a new technology that will streamline the way our students register, our professors communicate, and all BMCC staff maintains their personal information.”
This new University-wide system, he said, will go live at BMCC in April 2013.
At that time, “our current Panther and CUNYVM systems will expire, and CUNYfirst will take its place as our student information system,” said President Pérez, and explained that students will register, pay their tuition and view their transcript online through CUNYfirst, while professors will use it to view their rosters and submit grades.
CUNYfirst will also provide a new form of student academic advisement.
“DegreeWorks will be used in place of our advisement data sheets,” he told the audience. “Through DegreeWorks, advisors can plan out their students’ courses and leave notes for advisement in an environment that students can access and refer back to anytime online.”
He acknowledged the hard work of BMCC’s CUNYfirst team, which has focused for years on smoothly transferring the college’s data to this new system.
“There might be some growing pains in the beginning,” said President Pérez, “but I assure you, in the long run, CUNYfirst will make working and learning at BMCC more efficient and easier than ever.”
A brighter economic future
The final Strategy Priority President Pérez talked about was Global Engagement and Economic Development.
“Since BMCC began, we have been clear that our mission was to serve the residents of New York City,” he said. “We are also aware that many of our neighbors are still searching for that job that guarantees a secure foothold in our economic future.”
He acknowledged the role of BMCC’s Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development in improving economic opportunity for New Yorkers, and described the BMCC-administered Manhattan Economic Opportunity Center, or MEOC, which “engages low-income New Yorkers by offering them academic and vocational courses like ESL, PC Repair, GED and college prep.”
In October of 2012, he announced, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded BMCC and MEOC $3 million dollars to deliver healthcare training to unemployed and dislocated workers.
This award will create at BMCC the only Health Informatics Specialist Certificate program in the City of New York.
It will also result in training for 450 individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by the current recession, and will be administered by Sunil Gupta, Dean of Continuing Education; Dr. John Graham, Executive Director of MEOC; Professor Linda Carlson, Chair of BMCC’s Allied Health department, and Computer Information Systems professor Mete Kok.
Pathways and BMCC’s changing demographics
Sharing some personal perspectives, President Pérez expressed his support for the CUNY-wide Pathways initiative.
“It has been contentious at times,” he said, “but it’s a part of who we are. For too many years, I’ve seen students have difficulty transferring to other colleges, and the Pathways initiative provides for that transition.”
He also talked about the changing demographic composition of BMCC. “I believe in our faculty and I feel our faculty and staff serve our students well,” he said. “I find our students might also be changing.”
Most of BMCC’s students hail from Brooklyn, he said, with the Bronx coming in second, then Queens and Manhattan. He also noted, “41% of our students are now Hispanic, and 32% are Black. We also have more Asian and White students coming through our doors.”
One commonality among the diverse student population at BMCC, he said, is that “they see the world in a different way than their professors might,” referring to the technologies that are part of students’ lives and adding that, “we as educators have to be aware that they learn differently than we did.”
Q & A
Following tradition, President Pérez closed his State of the College address by opening the floor to the audience, with a Q&A session.
Of those who spoke, Professor James Blake commented on the connection between graduation rates and students’ difficulty adjusting from a “high school mentality” to one that helps them succeed in college; he stressed the critical need for more programs to support that transition.
Also taking the microphone was a student who expressed frustration at his grade in an English class, and another who shared, “I’m a little technology challenged,” and stated concerns about BMCC’s switch to CUNYfirst. President Pérez directed Dean Erwin Wong, and CUNYfirst administrator Christina Lev, respectively, to follow up with them.
Next, Professor Shirley Zaragoza spoke, sharing that her business students, who are focusing on “evidence-based management,” created a survey in which students evaluate their professors. This survey, she said, was based on student-created criteria. She urged the college to include that criteria in hiring new faculty, and President Pérez referred Professor Zaragoza to Dean Jane Delgado, for further discussion.
Last of all, Eric Glaudé, veterans’ counselor in the BMCC Office of Advisement and Counseling, shared “some good news,” he said, reporting that while there were 157 veterans on campus when he came onboard at BMCC in 2009, about 400 veterans are expected to be attending BMCC in Fall 2013.