Community College of Rhode Island

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Opening Day Convocation kicks off new year

Aug. 31, 2012

WELCOME

CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale Good morning! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to each of you as we begin our 48th academic year at the Community College of Rhode Island. In just two short years, we’ll be celebrating our 50th anniversary and we’ll begin planning for that this fall. We have some thoughts about how we’re going to celebrate the college’s 50th year that I think will be really special.

I’m sure that you’ve all noticed that we’re here in the field house this year, instead of our usual place in the Bobby Hackett Theater. The theater is undergoing much-needed, major renovations and is on schedule to reopen in January.

When it does, you will see a state-of-the-art theater that will rival any theater on any campus in Rhode Island. I can safely say that, as I’ve seen all of the theaters across the state.

Opening Day Convocation has long been a tradition here at CCRI that allows me the opportunity to speak to you about where we’ve been, where we are and where we’d like to go over the next few months.

I hope you’ve all had a nice summer and have come back recharged and ready to face the challenges that each new academic year brings.

Last spring at Professional Development Day we talked about changes.

I’m convinced that we have entered a new period where change has become the new norm. Change surrounds us, both internally and externally.

As I’ve said before, the key to challenges and to change is how well you manage and adapt. The last five years have brought a never-ending series of challenges and changes to our state and our college and, in particular, this past year has brought changes that will change the very way we do business.

Shortly, I’ll report on some of the changes that we’ve seen over the past year and how we intend to confront and deal with those challenges.

Some of our changes internally include new personnel and we were busy filling critical positions this summer.

Dr. Lois Wims is our new Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Lois comes to us from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and has worked in higher education for more than 27 years. She has been a tenured faculty member, senate president, department chair and an American Council on Education Fellow in higher education administration while with Salve Regina University in Newport.  She also previously served as associate dean of arts and sciences at the University of South Alabama. She’s a native Rhode Islander and is returning home and I believe she is a great fit for CCRI. Please join me in welcoming her.

Also joining us is Joe April. After four years and several searches, I believe that we have found the perfect candidate to lead our Office of Institutional Advancement. Joe comes to us from Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and has worked in development for more than 17 years. He has been part of a number of extremely successful capital campaigns and will help to shape our approach to fundraising in the coming years. This is an extremely important aspect to our ability to get things done here at CCRI, given the unpredictable support that we’ve seen, dollar-wise, from the state. Please welcome Joe.

As with our other positions, we had a number of excellent candidates for Director of Safety and Security, but we were fortunate to find that we already had our perfect candidate here at CCRI in Dale Wetherell. An employee of the college’s security staff for seven years, Dale spent 30 years as a member of the Rehoboth, Massachusetts police force. Dale has already begun to restructure our campus police and I think you’ll see a friendlier, more visible presence on our campuses this fall. Please welcome Dale in his new role.

And thank you to each of the search committees who worked hard to identify and forward these three outstanding individuals.

Each year, the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development – better known as NISOD - bestows its Excellence Awards to deserving recipients. The Excellence Awards recognize the importance of outstanding teaching and leadership in institutions of higher education. The NISOD winners from 2011 and 2012 are:

  • Dr. Hilary Jansson, Associate Professor of Nursing
  • Dr. Raymond Kilduff, Professor of Psychology
  • Dr. Richard Pendola, Professor of Biology
  • Dr. Prenab Banerjee, Professor of Physics
  • Pamela Wood, Dental Assistant program faculty
  • Jennifer Hurrell, Assistant professor and clinical coordinator in Rehabilitative Health
  • Maureen Abbate, Professor of English

We have several members of CCRI’s Student Government here that I’d like to recognize. With us today, we have:

  • From Liston, President Elizabeth McQuellan
  • Executive Vice President Albe Folcorelli
  • And Vice President of Activities Ryan Mundy
  • From Warwick, President James Gracik
  • And Vice President of Administration Antonio Lombardi
  • From Lincoln, President Cody Fine
  • Executive Vice President Reginald Joseph
  • Vice President of Academics Jimmy Phann
  • Vice President of Activities Jummy Olagundoye
  • And Secretary Rebecca Cruz

I’d also like to introduce our Student Ambassadors . They do a great job for the college all year long. They attend most of our events, offer help as needed and represent the college incredibly well.

  • We have Alejandro Hinton from Warwick
  • Jennifer Bates from Warwick
  • Sabrina Robbins from Providence
  • And Santiago Giron from Lincoln

The following are new employees who have joined the college since last Opening Day.

Staff

  • Freda A.  Adubofour, academic adviser in CWCE in Warwick
  • Lori-Ann Annunziata, technical staff assistant in Biology in Warwick
  • Jonathan A.  Araujo, paraprofessional in Information Technology in Warwick
  • Timothy J. Barone, laborer in the Physical Plant in Warwick
  • Bradford E. Boudreau, senior information tech in Information Technology in Warwick
  • Melissa Braun, assistant registrar in Enrollment Services in Lincoln
  • Maxwell P. Caputi, laborer in the Physical Plant in Lincoln
  • Jennifer L. Carreiro, curriculum coordinator – health care industries in CWCE in Warwick
  • Stacy V. Clemons, administrative assistant to the program director in CWCE in Warwick
  • Judith S. Cohen, senior database support tech in Information Technology in Warwick
  • Kimberly A. Colomey, academic adviser for CWCE in Warwick
  • Cap H. Frank, program director – TAACCCT grant in CWCE in Warwick
  • Poe R. George, senior maintenance tech in the Physical Plant in Newport
  • Daphne Gilles, coordinator for Disability Services in Lincoln
  • Eric J. Gojcz, lead programmer/analyst in Information Technology in Warwick
  • Michael E. Gough, senior maintenance tech in the Physical Plant in Lincoln
  • Harrison M. Grigsby, coordinator/counselor in EOC in Providence
  • Helen M. Kotch, housekeeper in the Physical Plant in Newport
  • Angela C. Martelli, college police officer in the Security Office in Lincoln
  • Connie L. McGreavy, director – grant-funded academic energy programs in Engineering and Technology in Warwick
  • Pamela Miller, Enrollment Services representative in Warwick
  • Kathi A. Moore, technical staff assistant in Advising and
    Counseling in Providence
  • Adam P. Moreau, admissions officer in Enrollment Services in Lincoln
  • Tracy A. Morkunas, chief accountant in the Controller’s Office in Warwick
  • William J. Orellana, college police officer in the Security Office in Warwick
  • Anthony F. Ricci, coordinator – Motorcycle Safety program in CWCE in Warwick
  • John S. Robertson, senior maintenance technician in the Physical Plant in Warwick
  • James T. Russo, senior teller in the Bursar’s Office in Lincoln
  • Karen Souza, information services tech I in Dental Health/Hygiene in Lincoln
  • Russell L. Swift, theatre technical director in Performing Arts in Warwick
  • Rosemarie Tavares Proulx, visiting lecturer in Allied Health/Histology in Providence
  • Colleen D.  Turcotte, chief accountant in the Bookstore in Warwick
  • Lois A. Wims, dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in Academic Affairs in Warwick

Faculty

  • Robert C. Angell, assistant professor in English in Lincoln
  • Joseph R. Arsenault, assistant professor in the Dean of  Health & Rehabilitative Science’s Office in Lincoln
  • Melissa K. Boyajian, assistant professor in Physics in Warwick
  • Yoon J. Chung, assistant professor in Mathematics in Warwick
  • Robert Howe, assistant professor in Nursing-LPN/Fire Science in Lincoln
  • Patricia A. Kelling, assistant professor in Nursing in Newport
  • Shannon Korzeniowski, assistant professor in Nursing
    in Newport
  • Barbara A. Leasher, assistant professor in Mathematics
    in Warwick
  • Maryhelen D. MacInnes, assistant professor in Social Sciences in Warwick
  • Shawn G. Parker, assistant professor in Art in Lincoln
  • Ricardo Rivera, assistant professor in Art in Providence

I extend my very best wishes for a long and distinguished career at the Community College of Rhode Island. 
The following are employees who have retired since Opening Day one year ago.  

  • Janice Bonin, coordinator – billing and collections in the Bursar’s Office in Warwick, 13 years of service
  • Richard Cardin, professor in Engineering and Technology in Warwick, 43 years of service
  • Anthony DiRuzzo, professor in Foreign Languages in Lincoln, 47 years of service
  • Joseph Garvey, professor in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies in Lincoln, 38 years of service
  • Ray Harris, professor in Social Sciences in Warwick, 39 years of service
  • Sandra Johnson, professor in Administrative Office Technology in Warwick, 43 years of service
  • Thomas Keefe, professor in Physics in Warwick, 35 years of service
  • Michael Latina, professor in Mathematics in Warwick, 41 years of service
  • Thomas Sepe, professor in Psychology in Providence, 12 years of service
  • Teresa Squizzero, professor in Administrative Office Technology in Warwick, 28 years of service
  • Alfred St. Jean, electrician in the Physical Plant in Lincoln, 35 years of service
  • George Williams, professor in Biology in Lincoln, 36 years of service

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. 

And how about this statistic … this group of retirees has provided 410 years of service to the community college!

In your programs, you’ll see a number of highlights and accomplishments by our faculty and staff over the summer. I’d like to highlight a couple now.

Gina Santoro, assistant professor in English, and Allison N. Petro, associate professor in English, have been named two of 10 Rhode Island Campus Compact Presidential Faculty Fellows for 2012-13. The Rhode Island Campus Compact is dedicated to promoting community service, civic engagement, service-learning and community-campus partnerships in higher education.

Also this summer, Gina taught children at the Glocester Manton Library how to write spooky stories as part of the summer reading program and also led a workshop about writing strategies for parent educators of homeschooled children at the Cumberland Public Library.

Allison spent eight weeks with her husband in Odessa, Ukraine, on the Black Sea, which she said is an interesting and lively city with a multicultural tradition. They lived in an apartment downtown, so they experienced the city like locals, and hope to return.

Congratulations to both of you!

Knight Campus Art Gallery Director Viera Levitt is showing “Beauty in the Beast: Photography of Brutalist Architecture” through September 1 at the Hera Gallery in Wakefield.

Viera produced the 2011 New England Art award-winning group show and forum on the history of Brutalism, “We Talk About Architecture, Architecture Talks Back,” here at CCRI.

In her current show, Viera uses photographs of CCRI’s Knight Campus, UMass Dartmouth, Brown’s Science Library, Boston City Hall and buildings in her native Slovakia.

The Knight Campus is a perfect example of the Brutalist style in architecture and attention on the Knight Campus ties in nicely with the fact that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of this building. Congratulations, Viera.

NEASC

Before I go any further, I want to mention our NEASC self-study process. Progress continued over the summer and we are well under way in advance of our next 10-year accreditation visit in March 2014.

Since last September, the NEASC Executive Team completed a preliminary description and appraisal of how CCRI meets the expectations outlined in each of the 11 standards and identified three to four priority areas in each that must be addressed to position CCRI in a more positive light.

Co-chairs of all 11 standards were asked to submit project management plans for addressing these priority areas over the next three semesters.

The NEASC executive team meets on a regular basis to monitor the implementation of the Project Management Plans with the goal of addressing most of the issues in each priority area by next September.

All of this information is available for your review online at www.ccri.edu/neasc.

I would like to thank the more than 75 CCRI faculty and staff who are contributing to this important self-study. I would also ask that anyone interested in joining this effort contact Lela Morgan’s office as soon as possible. There is no better way to help our students: Without NEASC accreditation, CCRI would be unable to award critically needed financial aid, among other things.

State of the college

Earlier, I mentioned the many internal and external changes that have occurred and are occurring even as we speak. Let me fill you in first on some of the internal initiatives.

I’ve already spoken about the theater renovation and, here in Warwick, workers are putting a new roof on the main building. Every effort was made to complete the project before Opening Day, but it looks as though work will continue into the first part of the fall semester, so you can expect some noise. Should this become too disruptive, we will work with you in any way possible, but this was a much-needed and long overdue project.

The HVAC upgrade and roof replacement in Lincoln is coming to a close, at long last. Those of you in Flanagan will finally have air conditioning that works!

The parking lot at Liston should be completed soon after the start of classes, which will relieve some of the congestion pressures at our Providence campus. One of the very first directives that I gave when I became president six years ago was to get the parking lot at Liston done. Through no fault of CCRI’s, it’s taken this long to get something that simple accomplished, but that’s how the state works.

Also, new sprinklers and alarm systems are being installed in Warwick, Lincoln and Providence, our three oldest campuses.

In addition, work is either under way or in the planning stages to update our physics and CLT labs in Lincoln; replace the leaking dome in the atrium in Providence; renovate the libraries in Lincoln and Providence and the art studio in Warwick; and improve the baseball field in Warwick; along with a host of other behind-the-scenes infrastructure improvements on all campuses.

As you can see, we’ve been busy. And these improvements are all carefully budgeted for, and all are vitally needed. The Warwick campus is 40 years old and has been badly neglected for many years, making it necessary to do work now that should have been done all along.

We also have continued in our efforts to raise money from private sources to aid our capital initiatives. To that end, I’d like to mention two upcoming events this fall that will help raise money to help our students continue their efforts to change their lives and achieve their dreams.

The first is the 18th annual Fall Classic on Monday, Sept. 17, at the Alpine Country Club in Cranston. There are still a few playing spots left, and also opportunities for sponsorship. The day promises good food, camaraderie, awards and prizes as well as a spectacular playing course.

Last year’s event raised more than $36,000 to help defray the expenses of college for students who continue to be challenged by the difficult economy. Since the tournament began through the efforts of Joe DiMaria and Ray Ferland, more than $350,000 has been raised to help students with scholarship assistance, book purchases and a variety of other forms of financial assistance.

Visit www.ccri.edu/president to register.

Also, I invite you to spend “An evening of enthusiasm and enchantment” at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston for the CCRI Foundation’s Changing Lives celebration on Nov. 29.

This event honors three local champions while raising money to support student success.

Externally, the changes that we have experienced over the past few months represent the most drastic changes to this state’s higher education system in the past 30 years and I think it’s important that I share the details with you.

I’m sure that everyone here is aware of the 11th-hour legislation that does away with the Board of Governors for higher education. The current board will go away as of Dec. 31.

What will emerge will be an 11-person board that will combine the higher education board with the board that oversees K through 12. One board will now oversee kindergarten through post-graduate education in Rhode Island.

Right now, the Board of Governors manages all three institutes of higher education in Rhode Island and more than 50 percent of all state-owned property. The BOG is responsible for negotiating contracts. Who will do that? Remember, the K-12 board doesn’t negotiate contracts. The individual municipalities do that.

In addition, the Office for Higher Education will be going away as of June 2014, and it could be even sooner than that, depending on what the legislature decides to do. Without OHE, who will do the actual work for the new board?

We had this one-board system up until 1982 and Rhode Island went to two boards because the one board model didn’t work. Higher ed was consistently shortchanged, as most of the time was spent addressing the many problems of K-12.

The good news is that during the transition period and after, as president of CCRI, I’ll still have a voice in whatever happens, but it won’t be as it was before. As to the contract situation, I’m sure you’ve heard by now that union leadership has agreed to all of the CCRI contracts, the BOG has approved all of them and they will now go to membership for final approval. The two year contracts call for a three percent pay increase, no health cost increase and are retroactive to July 2011.

Budget update and fall enrollment

As you might recall, Governor Chafee recommended that CCRI receive an increase in state appropriation of $4.5 million to compensate for no increase in tuition in 2011. So, while the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College sought approval from the Board of Governors for tuition increases for the fall 2011 semester, CCRI did not.

What actually happened was that CCRI received an increase of only $1.7 million. State funding now represents only 45 percent of our unrestricted budget. And we had no tuition increase last year to offset the difference.

Careful budgeting and cost saving measures helped avert a crisis, but this fall our students will see an eight percent tuition increase, which will amount to $268 more per full- time Rhode Island student while the cost to a part-timer increases by $12 per credit hour. If projected enrollment were consistent with last year, these increases would generate nearly $5 million, 25 percent of which would be new dollars reliant on the strength of enrollment.

Worth noting is that I have proposed no further tuition increases, barring unforeseen circumstances, through 2015.

The good news is that the General Assembly did not cut state funding to higher ed. The bad news is that we remain at a historically low level. Increasing tuition is always a painful last resort, but with state appropriations remaining level, we were faced with challenging new expenses that had to be addressed.

Collective bargaining is also a major economic issue for CCRI and the higher ed system. For CCRI, meeting enrollment projections is absolutely vital.

Enrollment this fall is 16,767 as of this morning, slightly ahead of the 16,100 we saw on this date one year ago. We don’t expect to hit last year’s number of 17,893, but we should be over 17,000 which will enable us to meet our goals.

We also have seen increases in distance learning enrollment as well as enrollment at our Westerly satellite.

And last May, we graduated 1,725 students – our highest total ever!

I’d like to give a special thanks to Enrollment Services, Advising and Counseling and all of Student Services for their efforts during this enrollment period.

CLOSING

With all of the changes that are taking place, the obvious questions are: What does it mean for CCRI and what does it mean for each of you?

Right now, there are more questions than answers, and I wish I had the answers for you. Unfortunately, we’re in a wait-and-see pattern. We just don’t know what the ramifications will be. So, in situations like this, what do we do?

We move forward. We forge ahead with our work. We give our best effort and we show the legislature and everyone else in the state that the Community College of Rhode Island is working and is making a difference.

We should consider ourselves blessed to be where we are and to be doing what we do. Every day we have the chance to make a difference. Every day we touch the lives of our students, whether in advising and counseling; in classrooms; in providing a clean and safe environment in which they can learn.

We touch their lives in a multitude of ways and our duty to them is of paramount importance. It is not our role to tell our students how to think; it is our role to teach them how to think, and to send them on their way better prepared to face life’s many challenges and a difficult job market.

We all have off days and our students have off days. But the sum total of our efforts and their experiences here at CCRI contribute to a life-changing experience. While we sometimes hear the complaints of a vocal few – and we take those complaints very seriously – the vast majority of our students are very happy with their time here. In fact, when asked to rate the quality of their CCRI education, more than 95 percent of our graduates annually rate it as good, very good or excellent.

That’s a tribute to the good work that you all do and how you have all meaningfully affected the lives of our students on a daily basis. Continue to move forward and do that good work.

I’d like to leave you with this quote from John F. Kennedy: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Thank you, and have a great semester.  

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Last Updated: 4/7/14