Opening Day Address

August 31, 2006

I offer a warm welcome to everyone for coming out this morning to share our excitement about the start of our 42nd academic year at the Community College of Rhode Island. Like so many of you, I wonder what became of the summer, the end so aptly described by William Shakespeare who wrote, “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

For many of you, the summer was not a time to rest, but to accomplish and experience something new and exciting. I will share some of these exciting stories in just a few minutes. For me, the opening of the college is one of the best days of the year. Soon, our campuses will be filled with returning students, full of enthusiasm and promise as they strive to achieve their educational goals, and to begin changing their lives at CCRI. That is why we do what we do.

Incidentally, I hope you have had the opportunity to see our new advertising campaign focused on the “Changing Lives” theme. It is a theme that emerged from the college community as they responded to the President’s Survey I conducted earlier this year. The “Changing Lives” theme is one that can be told through the eyes of students, faculty and alumni and captures the important work that you do here.

I also want to draw your attention to the new and improved college catalog, and to thank the department chairs, curriculum committee, and dozens of others involved in what was a complete transformation of the catalog. The feedback from students has been excellent.

Our purpose today has four objectives: To welcome and meet new members of the CCRI community; to reconnect with colleagues who work and learn together every day; to share with you the many accomplishments of faculty, staff and students, as well as our institutional accomplishments; and finally, to pause and reflect on the challenges ahead.

But before we begin, we have some very special guests with us who would like to extend their greetings to you this morning.

Thank you. And now I would like to call on the following individuals to officially welcome and introduce our newest college associates: (Presentations by Dean Schertz, Interim Vice President Morgan and President Di Pasquale).


Thank you and my sincere best wishes to our new associates for a long and beneficial career at CCRI. I would like to spend a few minutes now recognizing the many scholarly, professional development and teaching activities of faculty and staff that have occurred over the past several months.

Three members of our college family have been recognized by the National Institute for Organizational Development (NISOD) with the prestigious Excellence Award at their annual meeting in Austin, Texas. They are: Interim Vice President Lela Morgan; Kay Johnson from Computer Studies; and Lillian Patterson from Human Services. The awards were established to support individual colleges recognizing and celebrating their finest instructors!

Townsend Press Textbook Company, whose books we use for some of our Developmental Reading Students, recently announced a national "Writing Contest for College Developmental Reading and Writing Teachers." Barbara Reall, a faculty member in the English Department, wrote and submitted an essay in which she shared her ideas on making a difference in the lives of students. Not surprisingly, Barbara was named one of the national winners.

Dr. Terry Squizzero, chair of Administrative Office Technology, was recognized by the Rhode Island Business Educators Association as Business Educator of the Year.

Dr. Denise Yordy was recognized by the National Science Foundation for her contribution as a panel participant who reviewed proposals that were submitted to the National STEM Education Digital Library.

Elizabeth Morais, assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, brought her teaching to life with a summer visit to the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Accompanied by her daughter, the two spent their visit studying Spanish at a language school, and exploring the country.

Bruce Barrett from Information Technology co-chaired the ACUTA Networking and Telecommunications conference held in Providence. More than 300 attendees from over 100 institutions of higher education attended the conference, the first ever held in Rhode Island. Bruce also chaired the Voice over IP curriculum for the annual ACUTA Conference held in San Diego over the summer.

Barbara Bradley, part of the nursing faculty team at the Newport County campus, biked 116 miles to raise $2,500 dollars for the fight against cancer in the Pan-Mass challenge, held over the summer. Barbara also taught an eight-week program for new graduate nurses at Westerly Hospital in which she helped new graduate nurses learn how to care for a full patient load. Incidentally, several of the new nurses were graduates of CCRI.

Susie Swenson, chair of the Music Department, was elected president of the RI Music Teachers Association, an organization for private studio music teachers. Later this month, Susie will represent her organization at the National Summit of Music Teachers National Association in Cincinnati, OH.

Pam Wood, a faculty member in the Dental Health Department, spent ten days in Ecuador on a Medical/Dental mission with the Medical Missions for Children Foundation. Pam’s team treated over 100 children and performed 90 surgeries.

This summer, the CCRI Athletics Department received national recognition at two major athletic conventions. Former athletic director Vin Cullen was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors Hall of Fame, and was also awarded the Integrity, Sportsmanship and Service Award by the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Also in the Athletic Department, Athletic Director Lou Pullano has been selected to serve a four-year term on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

Roberta Humble, faculty member in English, started her sabbatical over the summer, and is writing a book about Rhode Island, describing the best about the state, its firsts, and its unique qualities.

Holly Susi, English Department faculty member, began training this summer as a peer counselor for the RI Critical Incident Stress Management Team. The team is dedicated to prevention and mitigation of disabling stress through education, training, and support services.

Maria Mansella, professor of Foreign Language and Cultures, accompanied 17 students to Orvieto, Italy this summer as part of CCRI’s 2006 Summer Travel Study Program. In addition to programs in language, art, history and cuisine, the students witnessed two world-recognized events, the Palio of Siene, a celebration that goes back to medieval time, and the World Soccer Championships. Among the participants were Professors William and Teresa Squizzero.

Dr. Al Craig, faculty member in the Biology Department, has had a plentiful summer. He co-authored an article with Dr. Cynthia Ward (formerly of CCRI and the R. I. Board of Higher Education) which was completed earlier in the summer. It has since been accepted for publication by The Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice. Al also had the opportunity to teach at an English camp for elementary-aged children in Nanjing, China. As of this moment, Al is on a plane heading back to CCRI and his work with students.

This summer, Josephine Pino, Biology faculty member, Dana Hopkins, Biology adjunct faculty, Dick Cardin, faculty member, Engineering and Technology and Wayne Suits, Chemistry faculty member, attended the BIOMAN 2006 conference. The conference provided an opportunity for biomanufacturing educators from high schools, and two-and four-year colleges and universities to exchange best practices and ideas to enhance biomanufacturing education for the 21st century.

Linda Beith, manager of instructional support in Information Technology, received her doctorate degree this summer from Capella University. Dr. Beith was also a featured presenter at the 23rd Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning on the subject of Hybrid Faculty Learning Communities.

Luis Malaret, faculty member in Biology, emails us from Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico, where he is spending his sabbatical. He has been working in a field school with Clark University students, and is meeting with local farmers to discuss landscape change.

Jackie Bankole, ACCESS Coordinator/Counselor at the Warwick campus, completed the requirements for her master's degree in College Student Personnel from URI this summer.

Tracy Karasinski, director of ACCESS, was elected President-Elect of the New England Educational Opportunity Association.

Bel Kambach, Assistant Professor, Foreign Languages and Cultures,signed her first book contract to complete The GREEN GUIDE to Scandinavia and Finland, published by Michelin Travel Publications in Paris. Bel was selected to write the book because she has spent most of her adult life in Helsinki, Finland. Congratulations Bel!

I also want to thank the members of the Pandemic Flu Committee, led by Vin Balasco of Student Affairs, who have been meeting over the summer to develop a preparation and response plan for CCRI. This is part of a large state-wide effort involving all institutions of higher education. The goal of the CCRI plan will be to ensure, to the extent possible, continuity of teaching and critical administrative functions, with the health and safety of students, faculty and staff at the forefront.

And finally, I want to officially congratulate Joseph N. Allen, faculty member in the Mathematics Department and Luis Malaret, faculty member in Biology, who were awarded tenure effective July 1, 2006. Congratulations to both of you!

What we have heard over the last few minutes are just a few of the many incredible experiences of our faculty and staff over the summer, and I ask everyone to join me in saluting their work.


Let’s turn our attention now to our institutional accomplishments, many of which were the focus of our NEASC re-accreditation. As you know, NEASC is planning a site visit to the college on September 24 – 26 and our progress in several areas was the focus of a progress report that we recently submitted. As stated in the report, “This site visit comes at a key time in the college’s history as it moves forward under new leadership to address policy challenges and to take advantage of exciting opportunities in the school’s continued pursuit of educational excellence.” I want to take the opportunity to express my thanks to Jim Glickman, English faculty member, for his help in preparing the NEASC progress report. Now, let’s review our progress in several key areas.


After more than 25 years, the Community College of Rhode Island has a new mission statement which you received this morning. This is an outstanding accomplishment and I want all of us to express our thanks to Jo Ann Warren and Dennis Moore, Mission Initiative Committee co-chairs, as well as to all members of the committee.

This 17-member committee met twenty-one times over the last 2 years. The committee elicited feedback from the college community through surveys and public forums, and was assisted by Commissioner Warner, and Associate Commissioner Nancy Carriuolo in the final weeks.

The mission statement is an important document and one that will help us focus on the tasks and activities that are most important to us, allowing us to conduct operations smoothly and effectively.

The mission statement will assist us in:

The bottom line is that it will help us become more successful!


We have made tremendous progress thanks to the efforts of the Governance Committee chaired by Kate Dunnigan, chair of the Social Sciences Department, Chris Jenkins of Admissions and Records, and Lou Rainone of Receiving. The committee was formed in 2005, and, since June 2006, has been revisiting the task of creating a viable governance model for the college community.

It has gone about its mission to develop concepts of governance appropriate to CCRI's unique character by examining existing committees at the college, conducting outreach togain an understanding ofour interests and needs that would be best served by a governance system, and of producing a report describing the organization, function, and basic operational procedures of a governance systemwhich meets our mutual objectives. I expect that a draft of the model will be presented to me shortly and will receive intense college-wide review.


One of my primary objectives is to continue a strategic planning process that systematically ensures that college priorities are pursued. We ensure this through action steps, designated responsibilities, and links with the institution’s budgeting system.

In addition, the planning process needs to be systematic, broad-based and interrelated. It must include a mechanism of regular self-evaluation in order to determine the effectiveness of planning and evaluation activities in an ongoing way. The bedrock of this planning involves the collection and use of data to inform decision-making, evaluate institutional effectiveness, and improve student success.

To help us accomplish that objective, I have established a Budget and Resource Committee chaired by Business faculty member Jack Renza that is charged with reviewing all aspects of the college budget.

In July, I hosted a retreat for department chairs, academic deans and members of my administrative team to begin the strategic planning process that will set the stage for implementing the revised mission statement and establishing institutional priorities.

A focused strategic planning process will begin next month that will integrate the college’s history, mission, goals and objectives, as well as community needs. At the heart of strategic planning will be demonstrable student learning and measurable student success. I have identified four core questions that strategic planning must address.

All of you will be involved in answering these important questions that will establish our footprint for the future.


In its letter of October 2004, the NEASC Commission on Institutions of Higher Education requested a progress report on 1) a recruitment and hiring process that will improve faculty diversity, and 2) an update on ensuring that the evaluation process for both full-time and part-time faculty is equitable, broad-based, consistent, and focuses on assessing teaching effectiveness.

What have we done? First, to enhance recruitment, the college broadened the applicant pool by advertising in local and regional historically minority newspapers; it reviewed the Affirmative Action policy with each search committee; it sent out special inquiries on employment to local and regional minority organizations to encourage individuals in the organizations to apply for positions at CCRI.

As a result of these efforts, there has been an increased number of qualified minority applicants as well as an increased number of hires which reflect that diversity. For example, of 75 positions filled over the last year, 13 were filled by minority candidates and 53 were filled by women.

In addition, the contractually mandated Faculty Evaluation Review Committee and its two subcommittees on Peer Evaluation and Course Evaluation met bi-monthly since their founding in 2004. They examined best practices at peer institutions and reviewed common instruments for student and peer evaluation to meet NEASC standards and to support discipline-specific needs.

In the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006, the committee began piloting the use of these college-wide Course Evaluation instruments through four departments: allied health, biology, human services, and psychology. Working closely with a CCRI faculty member who is a tests-and-measurements expert, the Evaluation Review Committee is currently analyzing the results of the pilot sample, conducted over the last academic year.

There are plans to pilot and examine a Peer Evaluation instrument this fall and expand its data collection in the spring of 2007. The aim is to develop and implement a common set of procedures and instruments for peer and course evaluations for all faculty.


The General Education Committee, chaired by Ray Kilduff and Jack Owens, met four times over the summer and has made considerable progress. A draft report has been written that identifies all programs that do not meet the new NEASC standards. Meetings are now being scheduled with department chairs.

As you know, six critical abilities have been identified that define the learning outcomes of a CCRI graduate. They are:

The committee surveyed faculty and staff in June and comments were incorporated into the definitions. Prior to the NEASC visit on September 24, the committee will meet to prepare their progress report.


Our number one challenge going forward is to balance the needs of the students against our fiscal resources. In July, the Legislature allocated CCRI a state appropriation for the 06/07 fiscal year that was $838,056 less than requested. Due to a serious budget deficit at the state level, our appropriation declined an additional $1,794,383 for a total decrease of $2,632,439. This reduction of $1.7 million also carried with it a decrease of 15.7 FTE positions from the college’s table of organization.

As many of you are also aware, enrollment targets were NOT met last academic year which meant that the 06/07 request was prepared with overly optimistic tuition and fee revenues. In June, the Board of Governors approved a tuition and fee rate increase in the amount of 9% which helped to offset some of the enrollment loss by $1,623,240. This income is based on a fall enrollment target of 16,246 headcount students.

The bottom line is that we have been struggling to narrow a budgetary shortfall that was as high as $5 million at one point. While the Governor and Legislature were supportive of an additional 17 faculty slots that we requested to alleviate faculty vacancies, in essence we lost these new positions with the decline of the 15.7 positions I mentioned earlier.

By reducing the budget by those related dollars, freezing several administrative vacancies long term, cutting out Banner backfill positions and reducing overtime, we narrowed the shortfall to approximately $3 million.

While departmental operating budgets will not be frozen this fiscal year, discretionary budgets such as administrative out-of-state travel, academic and technology capital and lab fee budgets will not be considered for funding until we know our final enrollment. The careful review of all vacant positions on biweekly and lecturer’s payrolls will continue for the foreseeable future. As I have stated repeatedly, the attainment of fall enrollment revenue projections is key to our fiscal success.


As we end our Opening Day Convocation, and as many of you go off to renew your professional acquaintances, I would like everyone to pause for just a moment and to reflect on the reasons why we work at the Community College of Rhode Island.

It’s important that we take the time to think about what we do and our dedication to student success and how we are changing the lives of students every day. In fact, for just a few moments, I’d like everyone to close their eyes, pause and reflect on the year ahead.

I hope that as we begin the 2006 – 2007 academic year, we are guided by a sense of pride about the important work we do, that we share optimism about where we are going, and we have a shared commitment to each other, our students and our college. Thank you, and have a great year!

Ray M. Di Pasquale
Community College of Rhode Island

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