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Community College of Rhode Island

President delivers State of the College report

Opening Day, Sept. 2, 2010

CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale delivers the State of the College report.

I’d like to offer a very warm welcome to each of you as we begin our 46th academic year at the Community College of Rhode Island.

This Opening Day convocation is a tradition that brings us together to launch the academic year, and I hope that you were able to reconnect with colleagues over a cup of coffee during the last hour to share stories of how you spent your summer and other exciting things that have happened since we were together at commencement. In just a few minutes, I will share with you a few brief stories of how some of your co-workers spent their summer.

But first, as I look around this theater today, I must mention that it was the fitting site this summer of a celebration of the life of our beloved retired professor, Charles Sullivan. The night of music and poetry on July 12 was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man. The outpouring of stories and memories – many from people in this room today – was truly impressive. He touched so many lives here. He’s in my thoughts today, and I’m sure he is in many of yours as well.

And here we are at Opening Day – a day of anticipation as we get ready to welcome thousands of students to our campuses. It is also a time for us to celebrate the commitment of the CCRI faculty and staff who continue to do fantastic work and provide great service to our students.

Speaking of our students, today I’d like to focus the conversation on them. Everything we do here is centered on students; this means that our students and their needs should be the driving force behind our actions and decisions.

Each student is valuable and important, and each may have come to CCRI for a different purpose or motivation. While they are here with us, we are their advocates, facilitators and allies – their partners in creating a new life for themselves and their families. We offer them opportunities to learn and develop as individuals and leaders – not just their physical skill sets, but also those interpersonal or “soft” skills that employers are seeking now more than ever before.

We have many things to consider when making decisions large and small here at the college. In July, I shared this four-question decision-making framework at our annual executive retreat with members of President’s council, department chairs and administrators.

  • Is it the right decision for our students?
  • Is it the right decision for CCRI?
  • Is it the right decision for Rhode Island and its taxpayers?
  • Is the decision ethical, moral and legal?

Notice Question 1: “Is it the right decision for our students?” Our goal is to meet all of the needs of students, which sometimes becomes difficult with staff shortages in these times of budgetary challenges. But it is important that, every day, we consider how what we do affects our students and our institution. I hope that the decisions we make – individually and as an institution – always consider what will best meet students’ needs and support their continual success here at CCRI.

In nearly every article I read or in nearly every story that is told to me about overcoming obstacles, “attitude” is always pointed to as being of immense help in removing these obstacles. It is clear that a “can do” attitude often helps overcome these barriers.

I have seen great examples of the way that we serve our students. In the last few weeks alone, our Enrollment Services and Advising and Counseling staff members have been busy assisting thousands of students enrolling during the late registration period. During the first days of class next week, I will see many of you voluntarily staffing information tables at our campuses’ entrances to help students find their way. Throughout this academic year, I will continue to hear stories from students about the difference you made in their lives. I know that you will make me and the institution proud in your service to our students. Thank you for all of your fantastic work.

We have gained several new members of “Team CCRI” since we gathered here last Opening Day. I now want to draw your attention to the screen where we have listed their names. Welcome to all of you, and I extend my very best wishes for a long and distinguished career at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Once again, please see the screen, where we have listed the names of employees who have retired since Opening Day one year ago. I want to take this opportunity to commend and recognize our esteemed retirees who have provided such valuable service to the Community College of Rhode Island.

How about this statistic: This group of retirees has provided 360 years of service to the community college!

Another busy summer has come to a close and we are ready to take on the challenges of the new academic year. I hope you all had a productive but also a restful summer and were able to take advantage of all our state offers as it truly shines in the summer months. I have heard that some of you did some interesting things this summer; we’re about to hear some of them now.

Assistant Professor Susan Miller in Library and English professor Althea Allard have discovered a mutual interest this summer. Two days a week, they bring Bach to life in the music room at the Flanagan Campus, with Susan on flute and Althea at the piano. They find that a musical break is a wonderful re-energizer for all things academic and hope to continue their collaboration throughout the academic year. We encourage you to continue!

The Grande family, Gene, senior information technician in the IT department; Debra, assistant professor in Computer Studies; and their daughter, Mary, joined Professor Maria Mansella for the 2010 Summer Program in Italy. By visiting smaller towns, using public transportation and speaking to locals, they were truly immersed in the culture and experienced the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Italy. What a fantastic family trip!

Jude Tomasino, senior admissions officer for transfer, was guest choreographer, competition adjudicator and emcee for the United States Tournament of Dance National Performing Arts Championship held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He also received his second master’s degree – in education – from Cambridge College, represented CCRI at the first-ever Destination Maryland Transfer Event and was elected to the Governing Board for the New England Transfer Association, where he will serve as chair for professional development. Thank you for all you do for us, Jude.

Karen Kortz, associate professor in the Physics Department, traveled to Hawaii for a workshop bringing together volcanologists and geoscience educators to create activities that use data collected from monitoring the active volcano. The activities they created are published on a Web site and will be disseminated at national meetings and conferences. Participants hiked to the active lava flows, as you can see in this picture. About her experience, she wrote: “It's amazing to watch rock form before your eyes – and hot, too!” She also attended a workshop in Washington, D.C., to discuss the role of two-year colleges in teaching geology. Thank you for always representing us well, Karen.

In addition to working at CCRI and URI this summer, Professor William Johnson of Biology raced his 1987 Porsche 924S at Watkins Glen International Race Track in Watkins Glen, New York, and also at Mosport Race Track in Canada. I asked him this morning if he won and he said, “Six times!” He writes that all of the summer work was worth it, as it made it possible for him to race at those two famous former Formula 1 tracks, both of which he said are long and extremely demanding to race on. What a fantastic experience.

Langdon D. Clough, a longtime instructor of geography and sociology, spent the summer teaching social sciences in a district that gained national attention last year. Langdon taught in the COOL SUMMER Program at the Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls. Teachers broke new ground using responsive classroom techniques with students entering the seventh and eighth grades, launching a transformation of the entire school. Langdon writes, “As some of these pupils will be the CCRI students of tomorrow, seeing firsthand and being able to help shape their thought processes will translate into better pedagogy in our corner of education.” Good work, Langdon.

Art Department Chair Natalie Coletta did the “grand tour” of Europe this summer with family as part vacation and part enrichment. She photographed and filmed extensively for use in teaching art history and making art. She called it a “deeply inspiring” trip. Here she is in the Vatican apartments teaching her daughter about Raphael’s “School of Athens” with the detail of Michelangelo between them. Sounds like an educational journey, Natalie.

Gina Santoro, assistant professor in the English Department, continued work on a project she started in her spring composition classes to create coloring books and informational brochures about breast cancer to be distributed through the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation. Three student coloring books, along with three brochures, have been named as finalists. She has been involved with the Foundation for more three years, and her writing and organizational efforts have helped raise approximately $40,000 in that time. Congratulations to Gina and her students!

Thank you to all who submitted your stories. These and the rest are in your program and will be available on the Office of the President’s website.

The legislature’s enacted state appropriation for fiscal year 2011 reflects essentially level funding, with an increase of only $165,000 over last year. However, the State Budget Office has already notified state agencies to anticipate a 1.33 percent rescission in state funding. For CCRI this would be approximately $600,000.

Helping to manage our budget, faculty and nonclassified staff salaries have been frozen at the fiscal year 2010 level. And, while our classified staff members will realize a slight increase effective the first of January, they also are contributing eight salary reduction days this year.

As we are all very aware, the number of vacant positions at the college is a major factor in addressing state appropriation shortfalls. Vacancies this year are further complicated by yet another reduction in the college’s legislated FTE cap – we lost an additional nine FTE in fiscal year 2011, bringing the total cut to 46.1 positions over the last four years. This afternoon I will be appealing to the governor for restoration of these positions, but in the interim we will prioritize which positions can be filled – a difficult job when all the priorities are so very high.

Students will be experiencing a 9 percent tuition increase this fall, reflecting CCRI’s continued dependence on enrollment and tuition and fees. These and other institutional revenues such as from our Center for Workforce and Community Education and indirect revenues from grants, now compose nearly 55 percent of the unrestricted budget.

There is no doubt that this will continue to be a challenging year for us, but I have a few pieces of good news to share. In spite of the recent flood in the Flanagan Campus library, the roofing and HVAC replacement projects at Lincoln are moving forward and the funding for these activities has remained unaltered. The renovation plan for this theater we’re in today is progressing well, with an architect selection by state purchasing expected any day. As I mentioned this spring, the Imagine campaign has surpassed the $4 million mark! Our continued efforts to raise money from private sources will allow us to continue to move forward with capital initiatives here at CCRI.


First, fall enrollment is not final, but our headcount after last night’s drop for nonpayment of 920 students is 16,143, so we expect to be about even with our enrollment of 17,760 this year.

Once again this fall, our enrollment in distance learning courses is up – this year more than 21 percent over last year – and there has been a 72.6 percent increase in distance learning enrollments since Fall 2008. These numbers reflect an increasing trend toward students learning when it is convenient for them, whether that is before or after work, once the children are asleep, or on weekends.

Enrollment also is up at our Downcity and our Westerly satellites as those continue to grow in popularity.

Thank you once again to our Advising and Counseling staff for registering all of these students.


I have some new initiatives to share with you this morning. When you came in the building this morning, you might have noticed a new addition to our second floor lobby. This kiosk houses the plaques of our 38 Hall of Fame members. It also features a new screen where we can display news and information, list meeting rooms for outside groups renting space within the college, display photos and much more. In the future, this technology will be employed at all campuses. The Department of Marketing and Communications will operate this screen and it will be one additional way we can communicate with our students and employees.

Another upgrade to communications has come for students – this time to their e-mail system. CCRI has moved all student e-mail to Microsoft Outlook Live@edu, which offers many more options for our students, including calendars, file storage, address books, document sharing, blogging capabilities, shared workspaces, mobile e-mail, instant messaging and more. We chose Live@edu after widespread evaluations and research because it integrates seamlessly with other systems we have in place and because of the tools it offers our students.

Also, as you were coming up the ramp to the theater this morning, you might have noticed enlargements of ads from the college’s newest advertising campaign, which began in July. The theme is “Careers begin at CCRI: Discover Yours,” which reflects the charge recently bestowed upon the college by the 21st Century Commission Report to prepare Rhode Islanders for the work force.

With this year’s ad series, the college has varied from the approach it has taken in past years highlighting successful students and the professionals who hire them. Instead, these ads focus on examples of CCRI programs that make our students successful and can lead to jobs in sectors that have been identified as fast-growing. The programs highlighted are Biotechnology, Business, General Studies (Transfer), Health Sciences, Networking Technology and Nursing – but the message about the quality of the programs and faculty as well as the convenience and value of CCRI is consistent across all of the ads.

Starting in October, you also will see these ads running in color in some of your favorite magazines, such as “Time,” “Newsweek,” “Sports Illustrated,” “U.S. News and World Report” and “The Week.”

I am pleased to report that the print ad campaign just won a Medallion Award from NCMPR, an association for two-year colleges’ marketing and public relations professionals. The college will receive the award next month at the annual district conference, which is in Providence this year.

There is one more initiative I’d like to share with you today. As you know we live in a high-tech, visual world, and video as a form of mainstream communication has become prevalent in our society. People can watch them anywhere – on televisions, computers and even cell phones. We wanted to create a college image and recruitment video that would represent CCRI well in high schools, on the Internet and at major public events.

So, today you are attending the premiere of CCRI’s first image video! What you will be seeing is a nearly completed piece. Some refinements still will be made after this screening but, soon, you will be able to find it on our website. Our hosts in the video are Craig Alix, who graduated this spring and is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Liberty University Online; Zahra Malko, who recently transferred to Mount Ida College to study marketing; and Alex Montty, a computer studies major and president of the New Media Group. Zahra is in class this morning, but Craig and Alex have joined us here today to see the result of their work for the first time. Enjoy the video!

(Video plays)

I want to thank those responsible for working on this video. Ellen Schulte in the Department of Marketing and Communications and Norm Grant in IT did the lion’s share of the work with help from Gene Grande in IT. Please stand.

Also, thank you again to Craig, Zahra and Alex for participating in this project. Your work will help youths make an informed choice to change their lives and achieve their dreams here at CCRI. You should be proud of your work!

I’d also like to thank the IT Department as well as the faculty and staff who rearranged their schedules to accommodate filming of some scenes, such as those featuring nursing, dental and occupational therapy assistant students. This is a perfect example of how our faculty and staff work together as a team when it counts. And I look around this theater today and see a great team – Team CCRI – and I know that we can face anything that comes our way together. I look forward to another successful academic year with you.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I hope you have many moments that take your breath away this academic year. Thank you, and have a great semester.

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Last Updated: 8/30/16