If you’re on campus the week before classes begin, look around.
At this very moment, truckloads of furniture are being carted into the new Paul & Mary Calice and Mildred Barton Advanced Manufacturing Center. The fencing is down around the Quad, but it’s still an expanse of mud following the installation of a new geothermal system and this summer’s rains, which have delayed the planting of grass. In downtown Binghamton, the interior of the former Carnegie Library is being gutted to make way for the future SUNY Broome Culinary Arts Center.
And then there are the factors you don’t see, at least not on a stroll across campus. Behind the scenes, the de-registration of students for non-payment happened earlier this year, allowing them to address the issue during College Readiness Week – even if it means they need to re-invent their schedules. While the shift makes sense, it also makes it tough for administrators to track enrollment trends in real time, since one year’s numbers are compared to those from the previous year on the same date.
All things considered, it’s probably self-explanatory why the Fall 2018 Faculty Staff Assembly theme is “Embracing Chaos.”
But just because something looks chaotic doesn’t mean that it’s random or out of control. Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Francis Battisti evoked the concept of chaos theory, which is a part of mathematics.
“The whole idea is that everything looks kind of crazy but, if you step back, it’s like the weather; you can see the patterns,” he explained.
Watch:SUNY Broome Faculty Staff Assembly EVENT | Fall 20182017-2018 Year in ReviewTeachers Who Care
Battling the headwinds
While the enrollment situation remains fluid, it’s likely that the college will see a slight enrollment decline, which is neither severe nor unexpected.
“Many of our sister institutions are in dire condition these days because of their enrollment situation and we are not,” President Kevin E. Drumm said in his address to faculty and staff.
Still, this is no time to be complacent. Student retention numbers need improvement, and efforts are being spearheaded by the college’s Achieving Success team. The college is also battling some real headwinds, some national and some regional in scope, Dr. Drumm said.
A strong economy may draw more people into the workforce than their local community college – not a negative factor, surely, but one that needs to be taken into account. But while the Southern Tier economy is doing better, it’s not exploding in the same way as other parts of the country, he noted.
The Excelsior Scholarship – or “free tuition,” as many know it – does tend to favor the state-operated four-year colleges and universities by its design.
One of the most significant factors is the declining population in the Southern Tier, particularly in the high school-aged population. It’s a trend shared by the Northeast in general, although the Southern Tier is shrinking faster than any other region in New York, Dr. Drumm said. How much? A potential 25 percent of the core market – students just out of high school – by 2024, a prospect that the college needs to consider when planning for the future.
“The size of your community college is likely a reflection of the size of your community,” President Drumm said. “We either have to look elsewhere for our student population or do business quite differently and be prepared to contract.”
Currently, 60 percent of SUNY Broome’s students are traditional, meaning that they attend class just after completing high school, while 40 percent are adult learners. That’s the inverse of colleges across the nation, where adult learners hold sway. This can present SUNY Broome with an opportunity, but it will likely involve adding night and weekend classes, among other changes, to accommodate the busy schedules of adult learners.
SUNY Broome also needs to continue planning for the careers of the future by making classrooms more technology-oriented. Today’s students – the traditional ones, at any rate – grew up among smartphones and now smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo. The world they will live and work in for the rest of their lives will see an increasing amount of such technology.
New technology may seem disruptive initially, as is the case with social media. That was also true for another technology, centuries ago: the printing press and the book.
“It took 300 to 400 years for the textbook to make it into the university classroom,” Dr. Drumm said.
Before the advent of the printing press, those who could read – mostly clergy and aristocrats – were the ones who held power. And yes, in the early days, the book “led to all matters of nefarious behavior, just as social media has,” Dr. Drumm reflected. Society adapted and eventually flourished.
We can’t be afraid of using new technologies in the classroom; indeed, our future depends on it, considering the changing nature of work and the society it supports. Likewise, the question isn’t whether students are ready for college, but whether the college is ready for its students.
“We are the community’s college, period,” Dr. Drumm said. “Do we follow the community, or do we lead it to a bigger, stronger future?”
Ensuring academic integrity
Looking ahead, the college is preparing to do its self-study and other work needed to prepare for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education site visit in 2020. Academic Affairs also outlined its goals for the upcoming year:
- To continue supporting a sustainable and high-quality academic culture
- To incorporate a diverse range of faculty and staff members in the assessment process and increase the use of technology to enhance this process
- To implement student retention efforts through developing a published workflow for student services; improving new and existing systems for student support, such as CRM, Banner and DegreeWorks; using Starfish across campus; and integrating career and transfer messages
- To increase the focus on campus diversity
- To invest in professional development for faculty and staff
The college also adopted the use of an online proctoring service, Examity, to ensure the academic integrity of its online courses. Professor Jennifer Musa took part in the pilot program with her online anatomy and physiology course, a requirement for many Health Sciences majors. Students need to pay a small fee to have the exam proctored online, and the service confirms the students’ identity, makes sure their workspace is compliant (with no notes or other materials) and records them taking the test to make sure no cheating occurred. The service then reviews the video and flags any suspicion of cheating for the professor using the service.
The results were shocking. The same students who passed exams that Dr. Musa proctored herself ended up with low scores on the Examity-proctored exams. At the end of the class, anonymous reviewers were scathing, accusing Dr. Musa of not trusting students.
“It’s a good thing I have tenure,” she quipped. But despite the hard feelings, use of the proctoring service may help ensure the academic integrity of the exams, she noted, and the college has an agreement with Examity.
Now let’s turn to student development. In her year on the job, Vice President for Student Development and Chief Diversity Officer Carol Ross talked to many students about their concerns and experiences.
“They’re afraid they’re going to fail. They just want to come and fit in, and they want time to adjust,” she reflected.
To aid students, the college needs to help them “change the narrative.” A vibrant campus life via extra- and co-curricular activities is a must, and a multicultural resource center will go a long way to help everyone feel welcome. The college also needs to make sure students understand the whole financial aid picture to ensure that they don’t fall into debt.
Enhancing the diversity of the college’s job applicant pool is also crucial. Students have told Dr. Ross that she was the only college employee they met who looked like them, she recounted. Other goals include sprucing up the campus childcare center and making sure residents of the Student Village have a 100 percent retention and success rate.
Campus is flowering
On the facilities side, the Calice Center received its certificate of occupancy on Aug. 21 and faculty and staff are moving in, according to Interim Director of Facilities Dave Ligeikis. A grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 16. The Quad will be graded and hydro-seeded by Aug. 27.
He invited the campus community to tour the building. The terrazzo floor in the connector area, inlaid with the SUNY Broome seal, is one area of note. “That’s going to be, in my mind, a great gathering space or focal point for the college,” said Ligeikis.
Work began on the Culinary Arts Center in the historic Carnegie Library this June, with a target completion date of September 2019. A wide variety of work also continues to spruce up campus, with items of note including moving the photo lab from the bottom of Old Science to Calice, developing a music rehearsal room in Campus Services, constructing a pedestrian bridge on the hiking trail and replacing the Digital Lounge with a new multicultural center in Old Science.
Taking the long-term view, the master plan includes such items as connecting Old Science and Student Services into a one-stop enrollment center; connecting that one-stop center to the Business Building; and rehabilitating the Library into a campus centerpiece.
And in the short term, there are the Black-Eyed Susans that seem to be popping up everywhere on campus. That’s deliberate, since they are the school colors of black and gold, Ligeikis said.
One frequent partner in campus initiatives, including renovations such as the Calice Center, is the Broome Community College Foundation, also the major funder for student scholarships as well as professional development grants. In the last fiscal year, the Foundation drew revenue of $5.1 million, relying a great deal on its investments, and awarded $3.2 million.
In fact, the BCC Foundation gives more money to students than foundations at larger community colleges, Executive Director Cathy Williams noted.
The Foundation recently received a $1.5 million estate gift from a late alumnus, who graduated in 1964 with a degree in physical engineering. Its first installment of $900,000 will be used to support the Frederick Emerson Jr. Innovation Fund; more news will be forthcoming in the future on this fund and what it will support.
Showcasing student talent
As is tradition, the Faculty Staff Assembly also showcased student arts. In the Student Center, the work of Professor Patricia Evans’ first-year drawing students was on display. “Faces of the Underground Railroad” profiled former slaves and conductors of the famous path to freedom, and is currently on display in the Library.
Music student Marisa Kreidler sang a lovely rendition of “Fly, Fly Away” from Catch Me If You Can. Last semester, she competed against college juniors and seniors in the Eastern Division Conference and Auditions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and made it to the semi-finals.