President Di Pasquale

Opening Day Address

See also, Introduction of President Di Pasquale
by Professor Kate Dunnigan, Chair of Social Sciences

September 4, 2007

Community College of Rhode Island
State of the College Report
September 4, 2007
Ray Di Pasquale, President

It's only fitting that today is bright and clear, and it truly reflects the future of our college. My sincerest welcome to you as we begin our 43rd academic year of the Community College of Rhode Island. As I've shared with you before, Opening Day is my favorite time of the year as it is filled with promise and anticipation, and a little bit of anxiety as we embark on a new school year.

Opening Day is one of the few times during the year when we have the opportunity to spend a few short hours together as we embark on our mission of "Changing Minds and Changing Lives." It's a day to catch up on the latest personal and professional news, and to share stories and the latest photos of family and friends, as well as to remember colleagues who are no longer with us.

Many of you have had a busy summer and I will spend a few moments talking about some of your activities in just a few minutes.

I have tremendous optimism about the upcoming year as a result of all that we accomplished last year, my first full year as your president. As you recall, one year ago, we were facing a deficit of more than $3 million, and our enrollment numbers were suffering badly. However, we persevered together with the following results: Faculty excelled in their work and in their service to the college. Our staff was exceptional in its performance, often in very trying circumstances. And an overwhelming number of our students saw their dreams come true at CCRI.

Incidentally, I hope you have had the opportunity to see our new marketing campaign focused on "Change Your Mind / Change Your Life." The campaign is being run in most of the newspapers in the state as well as in regional editions of national magazines such as Time and Newsweek, US News and World Report and Sports Illustrated. The message is that CCRI is changing lives, in the classroom, in the community and in the workplace.

If you haven't seen the ad campaign, posters of the new ads are located along the ramp outside the theatre.

While I have great optimism about out future, I also know that we have many challenges ahead and I will touch on those in a few minutes. We have a very tight schedule and I want to be sure that everyone leaves here today with a full appreciation for all that we have accomplished, and also that we allow time to review some of the areas that we will be working on together in the months ahead.

We are announcing today a number of new hires, and 33 of them are faculty. In fact, it's probably the largest number of full-time faculty appointments we've made in recent memory. We were able to do this because of our success in working through a difficult budget year. We also were successful in implementing a process to convert a number of part-time faculty positions into full-time positions.

Incidentally, how about a show of support to HR director Sheri Norton and her entire team for their outstanding work in accelerating the process to hire all of our new colleagues.

I want to welcome all of our new faculty and staff, and I ask everyone to join with me in extending our very best wishes for a long and distinguished career at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Also as a reminder, for a more in-depth look at our new colleagues, refer to the publication distributed on your way into the theatre this morning.

I also want to commend and recognize our esteemed retirees who have provided such valuable service to the college. These valuable colleagues have devoted a substantial portion of their lives in service to the Community College of Rhode Island. In fact, this group has provided more than 700 years of service to the community college!

About two weeks ago, I asked the college community to share with me the highlights of how you spent your summer vacation. As always, I am overwhelmed by your initiative in search of information to share with your students and your colleagues. You have been to Cambodia, France and Portugal. You have traveled throughout the country to Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. You've studied stem cells and you've even produced documentary films. Let me share some of these wonderful stories with you:

Congratulations to everyone for your outstanding work.


I now want to turn attention to our institutional achievements. One year ago, we were preparing for our site visit from NEASC to review our progress in several critical areas. As I reported earlier this summer, we passed our review with flying colors and have been directed to move forward with the submission of the fifth-year interim report in the spring of 2009 and a confirmation of the comprehensive ten-year evaluation in the spring of 2014.

This is wonderful news and is a reflection of the strong foundation we are building for the future. The NEASC response is an extraordinary compliment to the dozens of faculty and staff who have committed many hours of hard work in several critical areas. Let's review some of the key accomplishments:


More than a year ago, I charged the Governance Committee at the college with creating a plan to ensure that the college's institutional structure, decision-making processes and policies were clear and consistent with the college mission, while ensuring and supporting institutional effectiveness. For many months, the committee met numerous times to exchange ideas and to review literature on college governance and to research and study the governance practices at more than 30 community colleges, colleges and universities.

Now, for the first time in the 43-year history of the Community College of Rhode Island, a draft governance plan is being presented for review by the entire college community. It is divided into four distinct sections:

Over the next several weeks the college community will review the draft plan, forums will be held at our various campuses, and a final plan is expected to be implemented in November.

I want to take a moment to publicly thank members of the committee who have worked so hard to create this draft plan. They include: Kate Dunnigan, Dusty Haller, Denise Yordy and Barbara Legg.


The General Education Committee, chaired by Ray Kilduff and Jack Owens,

has made significant progress over the past several months. On June 25, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved CCRI's new "Definition of an Educated Person" statement and its corresponding "General Education Core Requirements."

The Board also reviewed CCRI's proposed program changes designed to be in line with our new core. As a whole, the Board was very impressed with the college's ability to bring all our programs in compliance with NEASC's new standards. Two significant tasks are planned for the fall 2007 semester. First, programs that made changes to comply with the new "General Education Core" will be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee. Second, departments offering general education courses will review their courses numbered 1000 and above to determine if any should be removed from the general education course list.

The new "General Education Core" and corresponding program changes are expected to take effect beginning in the fall 2008 semester.


The Faculty Evaluation Committee, chaired by Peter Woodberry, was very active during the past year. In the fall 2006 semester, departments agreed to participate in a pilot program to review the proposed Student/Course evaluation.

Hoping to make the evaluation a meaningful professional development tool, the committee surveyed students and faculty alike about the Student/Course evaluation process. Participation was high, with 174 full-time and adjunct faculty members and 400 students completing the survey.

Using this feedback, the committee reduced the number of questions on the evaluation form and intends to have this new evaluation process ready for broad use this fall.


The Outcomes & Assessment Committee reports that they are progressing steadily toward reaching the goal of developing student learning outcomes and assessment plans for all programs in the College. Several programs will present their outcomes and assessments to the ASAC committee of the Board of Governors in September. Jeanne Mullaney is chairing this committee.


Over the last year, the Learning Evidence Team began to define and strategize the best ways to assess the General Education Core, including finding ways to assess communication, critical thinking, cultural awareness, and the ability to work in teams.

Our first project in this area was to hold a highly successful Critical Thinking Conference, conceived of and run by Dan Donovan, which was attended by around 80 CCRI faculty, all of our academic deans, and the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education. More than three dozen CCRI faculty returned for a second day of the conference and volunteered to take part in a pilot program that will run this fall and next spring in their classrooms.

Our second initiative in the area of assessing the General Education Core was a pilot questionnaire of CCRI graduates. The first part of the survey asked students about their goals upon entering CCRI and whether they would recommend our institution to their friends and families. The second part of the survey asked students to rate the degree to which their experience at CCRI helped them to develop competencies and skills in the areas of analysis, written and oral communication, using information technology, working as part of a team, demonstrating knowledge of mathematic and scientific principles, understanding global, cultural, and historical perspectives and applying the scientific method to problem solving.

The results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive and will be used in conjunction with other measures to provide evidence of the effectiveness of CCRI's curriculum in the area of general education.


On July 18, more than fifty department chairs and key academic and administrative officers participated in the second annual President's Retreat on the Warwick campus. The energy, exchange of ideas, conversation, camaraderie, professionalism, and vision for the future was truly rewarding. The focus of the session was on strategic planning and groups are now at work formulating strategies to answer these key questions:

The final two critical areas are directly related and our success in these areas will have a significant impact on our ability to hire more faculty and staff, purchase new resources for the library, acquire much-needed equipment, and continue our efforts to upgrade our facilities.


Balancing the diverse needs of CCRI students with our fiscal resources will be a challenge as long as the state of Rhode Island has its own fiscal challenges.

In July 2007, the legislature allocated CCRI a state appropriation for this fiscal year that is 3.1% or $1.5 million greater than July of the previous year. CCRI faired better with state support than did our sister state institutions, URI & RIC, thanks in large part to the efforts of many to bring the message of CCRI's mission and important role in the RI educational process to our legislators.

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 largely not be distributed until we know our final fall enrollment and the state's budget picture.

The Budget Resource Committee, under the direction of Jack Renza, was very active this fiscal year and its composition represented the community at large. The final report of this committee is being submitted for administrative consideration. This committee will also serve as an important element in this fall's strategic planning process and will be co-chaired by Jack and our new VP for Business Affairs, Bob Shea.


A year ago, we announced that enrollment targets were met and exceeded. This came about only through a coordinated effort by everyone in the college. I cannot overemphasize that enrollment is JOB ONE. It is key to everything we do at the college.

Preliminary reports indicate that we will exceed our target of 16,400 students, but a final report won't be ready for a few more days. I will share the final numbers with you immediately upon receipt.


I also want to mention briefly some wonderful facility transformations that have occurred over the past several months. In addition to the outstanding attention to landscaping, major facility improvements that have been undertaken include:

Warwick Campus

Lincoln Campus

By the way, I want to publicly commend the legislature for allocating $3.4 million over two years to upgrade the heating and air conditioning system as well as fire code modifications at the Lincoln campus. This very important money had been omitted from the budget, so we are very grateful for this financial support

Dean of Administration Steve Marginson and his capable staff deserve our highest appreciation for ensuring that all of these projects moved forward in a timely manner. Congratulations to the entire facilities team.

While on the subject of facilities, let me be the first to tell you that the 2009-2013 Capital Improvement Plan for the public higher education system includes some significant projects for the community college, including:

With the support of the Office of Higher Ed, and the Board of Governors, we look forward to having some of these projects go before the voters in the 2008 general election.

Capital Campaign

I also want to mention another exciting new initiative that will benefit the college for many years to come. Led by Julie White, executive director of the CCRI Foundation, we are embarking on a capital campaign to raise $5 million for a number of much needed facility upgrades and scholarships.

The initial phase of the campaign has a goal of $1.5 million for improvements to the Allied Health education labs at the Warwick and Lincoln campuses. The remaining $3.5 million will be used for information technology, scholarships, and improvements to this theatre and athletic facilities.

A steering committee is now being formed that includes members of the CCRI Foundation, several faculty and staff, as well as a number of representatives from some of Rhode Island's most distinguished heath care institutions including Rhode Island Hospital, Kent Hospital, Miriam Hospital and Roger Williams Hospital.

We are in the quiet phase of the campaign now with the expectation of meeting the first goal for Allied Health in September 2008.


I have discussed a number of subjects this morning including the need to resolve long-term budget issues, meeting enrollment projections, completing our NEASC requirements, and continuing to improve our facilities in order to create a more favorable environment for our students.

To help position us for the future, we have teams of faculty and staff addressing the critical questions posed by the strategic planning process. The 2007/2008 academic year will be devoted to planning where our vision for the future will be crystallized. The 2008/2009 academic year will be the year of implementation and we can begin moving forward with resolve.

The year ahead will surely be as challenging as those that preceded it but I'm confident that significant successes will be realized. While we will continue to confront serious issues, we will be creating new opportunities as well. I have no doubts about the outcome, as the Community College of Rhode Island is vital to this state. I find it important now and then to remind everyone about the end result of our work.

As we have seen in the success stories so nicely depicted in our ad campaign, the one thing that constantly needs to be top of mind is the positive impact we make on people's lives. Ask former students Cristian Potter, Jackie Foshey, Nathan Tamba or Kimiyo Garcia what CCRI faculty and staff did to help them achieve success. You'd be walking on air if you heard what they had to say about you!

As we end the first part of our Opening Day Convocation, I would like to thank you for your cooperation and leadership and my best wishes for a successful and rewarding year!

Thank you.

Ray M. Di Pasquale
Community College of Rhode Island

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