Community College of Rhode Island

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President delivers state of the college report

April 15, 2011

CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale shakes hands with Gov. Lincoln Chafee during the opening session of Professional Development Day. Good morning, and welcome to CCRI’s 9th annual Professional Development Day.

It’s great to see all of the familiar faces together again on a very special day. This is a day that we’ve set aside for YOU and your professional and personal growth. It’s also a day for reflection, both on what we’ve all accomplished over the past year and the work still to be done.

Last, it’s a day of recognition. We gather to celebrate our students, faculty and staff, many of whom have accomplished much in the past year. In a few minutes, I’ll touch on some of the positives that have taken place here at the college.

CCRI – A caring community

I like to think of this college as a caring community … a supportive network where we come together for the greater good of those we serve – our students – and buoy one another as we work toward our shared goal.

Earlier this year, after a gunman opened fire at a “Congress on Your Corner” event with Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords outside a supermarket in Tucson, I was moved when President Obama urged Americans to choose compassion over conflict. He said that only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the nation’s challenges in a way that would honor those who lost their lives or were injured in this senseless tragedy.

This leads me to think about the importance of civility in our professional and personal lives. It’s easy to lament the loss of civility in our society. We see it every day: Disturbing news reports about bullying that, left unchecked, leads to violence or suicide. Road rage that turns into violence in a matter of minutes. We rush along in our lives, exasperated at people who slow us down.

What seems to be missing so often in our society is civility, the common courtesy we extend to others. Unfortunately, I’m sure some of you have experienced incivility in your classrooms and elsewhere as well.

Dr. P.M. Forni is a professor of romance languages and literature who has adopted the study of civility as a second emphasis of his career. The co-founder and director of The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Forni says that civility, good manners and politeness need to be a part of our cognitive and emotional toolkits for many reasons, and to those who might think, “What’s the big deal? What difference does it make?” he says: Civility is not trivial, because it does the everyday work of goodness.

I hope we can all work together to create a culture of respect and civility here on campus and one that extends beyond these walls. Civility can be as simple as showing respect for others; smiling and saying hello to students in the hallway; giving credit where it’s due; holding the door for the person behind you; or saying please and thank you to those who help with a project or sell you a cup of coffee.

State of the college presentation

I’d like to give you a picture of the state of the college. Enrollment this spring was 16,673 and our FTE enrollment was 10,038 – the second highest spring FTE in the college’s history.

Registration got under way last week for summer and fall semesters, and so far, summer enrollment is up more than 34 percent over what it was at this time last year and fall enrollment is up more than 15 percent over this time last year.

There would be no tuition increase next year and the governor’s proposed $10 million increase in the higher education budget would mean $4.5 million would come to CCRI. This is fantastic news, but this allocation still would leave us with a $3 million budget deficit, which we can manage through smart budgeting and in watching our spending.

Despite cutbacks in money and in FTEs, we have avoided layoffs. In fact, the governor responded to our proposal to restore the 65 FTEs that had been taken away – thus restoring our existing number of positions. Previously, we were left 7 FTEs short. This is very positive news because, while it doesn’t mean we are going to be fully staffed, we also are not going to diminish our numbers.

Our Business Affairs staff, led by Vice President Bob Shea, is continuing its work in budgeting and reporting transparency. This area is also working to save the college money, and one of those ways is an Energy Efficiency Program with vendor AMERESCO that will begin this summer.

After three years of planning by Director of Administration Bill Ferland as well as Ken McCabe, David Snow and the Physical Plant staff, some $19 million in energy conservation measures have been identified that will produce more than $1.3 million in energy savings annually. AMERESCO guarantees that cash inflows from the project will exceed the cost of the project, so the energy savings we realized from the changes will fund the project over time.

Academic Affairs is preparing for our NEASC comprehensive self-study, which is due in November 2013 in preparation for a site visit in spring 2014. This process is critical to CCRI’s future; besides giving us an opportunity to shine and receive external recognition for our efforts, ongoing accreditation is a requirement for federal funds, including financial aid for our students.

Receiving a positive review from an external agency such as NEASC has a positive impact on our public image and reputation, which also can help us in our funding efforts. In the world we’re in, with increasing competition for scarce resources, external endorsements really do matter.

Academic Affairs is also making progress in implementing the college’s Strategic Plan. They have identified the anticipated occupational and soft skills outcomes identified as essential for competing in a global economy and reviewed how our peers integrate measures of responsive programming and currency into their assessment processes.

The result is a decision to integrate our assessment of student learning outcomes as well as our assessment of measures of currency and responsiveness to the needs of a 21st century work force into the Academic Program Review process.  Denise Yordy has drafted a revised Academic Program Review process that is now ready to be reviewed by a larger audience.

New initiatives

Implementing the Strategic Plan includes efforts to create specified tracks within General Studies, including a newly designed Honors Program. Our overall goal is to better serve students who enter CCRI without a clear understanding of possible pathways.

As I announced last year, the college has funded the creation of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning – CITLA – a faculty-led initiative that has already launched a variety of professional development opportunities for our faculty.

Assessment of student learning outcomes are now the major anchor of any NEASC reaccreditation process – it’s not enough to talk about what we’re going to do in this area anymore; NEASC now expects us to have implemented ways to measure learning outcomes and to be using the results to improve instruction.

We still have work to do in this area; Academic Affairs has identified which programs are well along in the process and which have more to do. CITLA has been a valuable resource in this area, too, running workshops to assist faculty in this important work.

Another part of our Strategic Plan was to expand the use of technology to support learning, including distance learning, provide degree options online and deliver online support services.

I’m happy to report that CCRI has received blanket approval from NEASC to offer degree and certificate programs online – one of the fastest-growing options in higher education.

As we add more flexibility to the ways in which our students can learn, we also increase our enrollment, which is a key strategy for helping us through these lean economic times.

One last thing I’d like to mention: As you all know, last year the college participated in an institution-wide self-evaluation process to examine the many ways in which we interact with students in their first two semesters here at CCRI – from enrollment through their classroom experience – to see what we were doing well and also to find ways in which we could improve.

The premise of the Foundations of Excellence initiative is simple: The way in which students first experience college sets the tone—or foundation – for their entire college career.

We have established an Implementation Group that is working on disseminating those recommendations and to create a First-Year Experience philosophy for the institution to help guide us. You’ll hear more about the philosophy statement and the other recommendations in the months ahead. Thank you to everyone who participated in the study process and to those who are working to create a better experience for our first-year students.

Employee recognition

I’d like to take a moment to recognize a number of faculty and staff from throughout the college who have dedicated themselves over a long period of time to the mission of CCRI. These employees will be honored at an event on May 4. We thank you for helping thousands of students, for sharing the joy of learning, for your dedication to getting the job done, for caring about your fellow employee and for your commitment to CCRI.

Honorees include:

Edward Madonna – 45 years

Rosemary Prisco – 45 years

 Pranab Banerjee – 40 years

Lorraine Symonds – 40 years

Thomas Keefe – 35 years

William Pacitti – 35 years

John Renza Jr. – 35 years

Alfred St. Jean – 35 years

Emanuel Terezakis – 35 years

George Williams – 35 years

Robert Albano – 30 years

Kathleen Beauchene – 30 years

Gary Bower – 30 years

Alberta DelPrete – 30 years

Carol Ferrer – 30 years

Diane Holmes-Miller – 30 years

Maureen Kelman – 30 years

Alicia Lyon – 30 years

Linda Manish – 30 years

Here is an amazing number. These 80 employees have given 1,610 years of service to CCRI.  How about a nice round of applause for them.

Other recognitions

There are three other brief recognitions I’d like to make. The first is Vice President Lela Morgan. Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission recognized Lela for her hard work in making education accessible to all and her deep commitment to many community organizations. She was one of two recipients of the 2011 “Living the Dream” award, sharing the honor with Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Keith Stokes. Congratulations, Lela. Your hard work makes us proud.

The second is Cecilia Dursi, who is the college’s human resources coordinator. Vice President for Business Affairs Bob Shea nominated Cecilia for the Providence Business News 2011 “Women to Watch” Award, calling her, “a woman of integrity” and “a role model for all employees at CCRI to emulate.” Vice President Shea said her unbiased nature and ability to understand and respect differing viewpoints make her a superb fit for the field of human resources and labor relations. Congratulations on the nomination!

Last, I’d like to recognize our baseball coach, Ken Hopkins, who became the winningest coach in Community College of Rhode Island baseball history. Since he became coach in 2001, his teams have won 261 games!  Ken, who played both for CCRI and RIC, surpasses his former coach Harold “Whitey” Fell for this distinction.  He has accrued a long list of accolades, including three NJCAA New England Division II championships and two Coach of the Year awards in 2001 and 2002. Please join me in congratulating Ken on his latest achievement!

Closing remarks

In closing, I would like to thank everyone in attendance for all of your hard work this academic year. It seems hard to believe that, in a little more than a month, I’ll see many of you again over in the field house for our 46th commencement ceremonies. We’ll have several inspiring stories of student success to share with you as we celebrate the achievements of our impressive student body.

I’d like to leave you today with a quote that ties to what I was speaking about earlier – something you can carry with you as we finish out the semester. It’s from an American poet, Maya Angelou, who said, quote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Thank you.

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Last Updated: 3/24/14