State of the College 2009

Professional Development Day 2009
Remarks by President Ray Di Pasquale
April 3, 2009

Good morning and welcome to CCRI’s 7th annual Professional Development Day!

This is a wonderful day to celebrate the CCRI experience! As you may know, this is the theme of this year’s All College Week and it truly was an experience to see the breadth of talent shown by our students, faculty and staff over the past week.

From the professional performances at the Salute to the Arts to the painters and rakers and cleaners who volunteered their time on Community Service Day. Or the wonderful individual and team spirit shown by participants at Game Day to the reflections of our diverse paths at Cultural Awareness Day.

How about the enthusiastic response of nearly 150 high school students who participated in the Technology Open House and left with dreams of becoming the scientist who uncovers a cure for cancer. Congratulations also to Dr. Stanley Aronson, dean of medicine emeritus at Brown University, who presented at the Honors Colloquium on Monday.

Indeed, we have achieved much together and our successes and ambitious goals are dependent upon one key factor – a group of faculty and staff who are dedicated and energized and who truly love this institution and what it means to so many Rhode Islanders.

So, once again, I celebrate you.


One year ago, I stood before you and suggested that we faced a difficult road ahead. In fact, the title of my presentation then was “weathering the storm.”

As you can see, the images show a small boat in trouble in 40 foot seas, and I promised a year ago to be steady at the helm and to assist wherever I could to help the crew and boat survive without too much damage. Little did I know that we were about to embark on the worst economic downturn since the great depression.

Nationally, higher education has not been spared and these tough economic times have resulted in hiring freezes, the postponement of construction projects and a thorough examination of all economic assumptions.

Well run and renowned colleges and universities like Arizona State, Boston University, Cornell, Brown, Tufts and the University of Florida have been greatly impacted by this economic tsunami and headlines on a daily basis reflect the retrenchment that is taking place in academic institutions across the country.


It has only been through a systematic and conservative fiscal approach to spending, that to date, we have been spared those cuts that are now impacting other colleges and universities throughout the country.

In fact, we have been able to undertake several significant activities including the filling of 25 critically-needed faculty positions.

How have we been able to achieve this? Believe me, it hasn’t been easy and it is only though the hard work of everyone in this audience that we exceeded enrollment targets for both the fall and spring semesters. As you have heard me say before, maintaining our current enrollment is a strategic imperative for us at CCRI. Without tuition and fee revenue, which accounts for more than 50 percent of our budget, we cannot continue to deliver the quality education that Rhode Islanders expect from their community college.

As a result of our conservative fiscal approach, not one individual at CCRI has lost their job. Of course, everyone is working harder than ever to cover the work of dozens of positions that have not been filled, but the bottom line is this…everyone is working. Not filling those positions saved us over $2 million. Others throughout the college have been asked to take on additional duties for several senior positions for lengthy periods of time and this has also allowed us to keep a lid on personnel costs.

In addition, positive revenue results have allowed us the opportunity to distribute resources throughout the college that had been held back. They include:

IMAGINE: The Campaign for Endless Possibilities

I am proud to report that CCRI’s capital campaign, “Imagine: The Campaign for Endless Possibilities” is moving forward with tremendous progress and changes are already underway. With recent significant gifts from the Champlin Foundations and the Alumni Association, the college has raised a total of more than $3 million, bringing us closer to achieving our $5.5 million goal and allowing us to start refurbishing the Knight Campus library this summer.

During these challenging economic times, this campaign will provide us with the resources we need to keep moving forward. In addition to improvements in our Allied Health labs, this summer the college will also begin construction on updating our dental labs at the Lincoln campus.

But our plans don’t end there. Our goal is to renovate the space where you are sitting into a new state-of-the-art theater to replace where we are sitting, establish more scholarships and enhance our athletic programs. I encourage you to visit the campaign’s new website for more information about our goals. The site includes information about each of the campaign priorities and stories about the generous donors who are helping to move the college forward.


I am also pleased to report the receipt of a $276,000 van Beuren grant for the purchase of new computer equipment in Newport will have a trickle down impact of supplying technology equipment to other campuses.


The 2010 proposed budget will be the subject of upcoming hearings in the legislature so it will be several more weeks before we know what’s ahead for the next fiscal year. Given the state’s overall fiscal condition, CCRI may be considered fortunate in that the Governor’s recommended state appropriation for 2010 was only $878,000 less than the amount that we submitted in our current service level request. However, given that this is $1.1 million less than originally legislated for the current fiscal year, it emphasizes the importance of managing our revenues from enrollment and tuitions.


I also have news to report in several other areas as well. The preparation of the college’s first strategic planning document began in December 2007 and was formulated on gaining consensus on four strategic outcomes:

A small task force is now at work refining the document and creating a well-conceived set of strategic directions, indicators and responsibilities. Our strategic planning document is scheduled to be presented to the RI Board of Governors for Higher Education at its meeting on May 11.


For the first time in our history, the college has been invited to participate in the very prestigious Wabash Study that will examine the impact of a liberal arts education on 476 students at CCRI.

The initial assessment of student interests and aspirations was undertaken in the fall of 2008 with a follow-up assessment to take place in April.

We are very pleased to have with us today Dr. Charles Blaich, director of inquiries at the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College, as well as associate director Kathleen Wise. Joining them is Dr. Jeff Galle who currently serves as director of the Center for Academic Excellence at Oxford College of Emory University.

Our three guests will conduct a workshop on the Wabash Study immediately following this opening presentation.


I am very pleased to announce that our Fifth Year Interim Report to NEASC has been accepted and the commission commended the college for its steady progress in addressing issues of special emphasis.

The report noted that we have made great progress in defining "the educated person," aligning learning outcomes and the general education curriculum and academic governance.

The college will once again undergo a comprehensive evaluation in spring 2014.


Imagine Preschool has become a thriving addition to our community at the Knight Campus! Fourteen children ages three to five now occupy Room 1154 each day and they are guided by Director Kristen Greene and a team of teachers that include four CCRI students: two are part-time employees, one is an intern and one is a volunteer.

I want to share the following comments from a parent of a child enrolled at Imagine because I think it accurately conveys the positive impact their presence has had on our community:

“Our son absolutely loves Imagine! Everyday as we drive in on Route 295 and he sees CCRI, he lets out an enthusiastic ‘COLLEGE!’ Imagine Preschool is not only preparing our son academically for school, but socially as well. The entire staff at Imagine Preschool are wonderful! They provide an upbeat, positive, and nurturing environment for our child.”


I also want to mention the formation of an ADA Awareness Committee recommended by Tracy Karasinski. As you know, disability/accessibility issues are becoming increasingly complex and this broad-based institutional committee will identify problems, propose short- and long-term solutions, recommend policy when needed and provide a vehicle for future planning.


As I look back over this past year, I am filled with pride about how your community college has responded to the local economic crisis and how it is making a difference. More than 1,200 of our students are making plans for graduation and will move on to transfer to other colleges and universities, or use their newly acquired skills to seek a new job or to advance within their own workplace.

Numerous studies and popular books, including those written by Thomas Friedman, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the United States Government Accountability Office conclude that the education provided by community colleges is key to building a globally completive workforce. A common conclusion is that community colleges provide knowledge, hard and soft kills and most importantly preparation for lifelong learning.

How about this statistic: as of January 2008, the nation’s public two-year institutions enrolled 6.5 million or 46% of all U.S. undergraduates. It is with good reason that community college leaders proclaim that their institutions are always on the front line of the economy, during good times and bad.

At CCRI we have a good record of responding to the state’s changing workforce needs and to technology changes in general.

Presently we have dozens of students from some of Rhode Island’s key companies and organizations working on getting their degrees. Those organizations include Electric Boat, IBEW and Verizon.

Nearly a thousand other students are engaged in credit programs in business, science and technology. We have future scientists engaged in Biotechnology training; men and women who will serve as police officers and homeland security specialists; students training as nurses and technicians that will be there to serve us in a time of need; and others trained in special education and social work.

At the Center for Workforce and Community Education, we are training more than 36,000 people a year. Someone said to me recently that many of these people are being trained to drive a car. My response was that yes, you are correct, and they are using that skill to drive to work and to school. Hundreds of others are involved in Adult Skills learning programs, Office Skills Training and CNA training. Everyday our staff is working at dozens of job sites that range from Lifespan to the Trudeau Center. The underemployed are being offered a chance of a lifetime through the On-Ramp Training Program in Newport.

I also want to briefly mention that CCRI and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation are partnering on the CCRI 21st Century Workforce Commission. Armeather Gibbs '88, chief operating officer of United Way of Rhode Island, is chairing the commission. The commission is charged with recommending specific actions to strengthen CCRI's position as a key institution in Rhode Island's effort to create a 21st century workforce prepared for the high-wage jobs of today's knowledge-based economy.

The move is an important step toward aligning Rhode Island's workforce development programs with the state's strategy for growing jobs in high wage industries.

Throughout the state, people are paying attention to the Community College of Rhode Island. They now understand that we are part of the solution to ending this recession. At a time when our communities need us the most, each of you has stepped up to the plate in helping maximize our student’s opportunities for rewarding and challenging employment.


The patron saint of American philanthropy, Andrew Carnegie, believed that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” He disposed of 90% of his vast fortune by the end of his life. Carnegie and John Rockefeller were the giants of what now seems a golden age of philanthropy, as the 19th century gave way to the 20th.

I grew up in an environment that valued social responsibility and I am proud to say that it has been an integral part of the history and culture of our college. In its simplest terms, it means that we are active partners in contributing to the improvement and enrichment of the communities we serve. “Doing well by doing good” is a commitment we take very seriously, and I want to share with you some examples that will make you proud of why you work here.

Many food drives and volunteer efforts are underway to help those in need; the French and German clubs have collected more than 4,220 pounds of food for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank this year. Their goal is to collect 5,000 pounds by May 1 and today many of you helped by bringing in nonperishable food items.

The French and German clubs are also collecting donations for Heifer International, a nonprofit that is known for ending hunger and poverty in a sustainable way by giving impoverished families and villages animals like cows and sheep that will provide food, drink, clothing and income. The clubs presented at Cultural Awareness Day yesterday and have raised $400 of their $1,500 goal for the organization.

Other students and groups are active, too. In Lincoln, the Dental Assisting Club has organized a food drive to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and a candy sale with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Autism Project of Rhode Island.

Student Amanda Rapose is leading the effort to raise funding for Race for Grace, an organization that benefits research into Rett Syndrome, a devastating neurological disorder seen almost exclusively in females. In a short time, she has collected $306.

In November, Knight Campus Student Government and student clubs collected hundreds of items like hats, scarves and hygiene products for the American Red Cross Rhode Island Chapter. The items will be distributed to families who have been affected by a disaster.

Students have come together to support Project Have Hope, which helps Ugandan women improve their lives through the sale of paper bead jewelry. Our students have sold $1,400 worth of jewelry to support these women and their families.

The Strategic Knights, Role Players' Guild and the Anime Club are sponsoring a food drive to benefit five families during the holidays of Easter and Passover.

I also want to recognize those students who have taken on leadership positions within Student Government as well as those students who are engaged in publishing the student newspaper, "The Unfiltered Lens."

And finally, Tuesday’s Community Service Day effort that involved more than 150 students, faculty and staff who worked side-by-side to try and improve the lives of so many who are impacted by this economy. They sorted foodstuffs, painted and scrubbed, and left seven community organizations in much better shape than the way they found them.

In closing, I want to once again thank you for your service to the college. I know that these are difficult times and many of you have family and friends who have been greatly impacted by this economy. I hope that the worst is behind us and that tomorrow the light will burn brighter for everyone.

Thank you.

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