Fall 2013

October 24, 2013 

Stated Meeting of the Faculty Address by President Karen L. Gould


Good afternoon. I'm pleased to join you today with a fall update on the state of the college, which includes updates on enrollment trends, important academic initiatives, faculty accomplishments, philanthropy for our students, and remarks from Senior Vice President Giovannelli on the budget, facilities, and campus technology planning.

Enrollment Snapshot

With respect to fall enrollment, I am happy to report that overall undergraduate enrollment is very robust, with one of the largest undergraduate classes in the past 20 years. There are now more than 13,600 undergraduates, up more than 3 percent over last year. And the number of first-time, full-time freshmen is very strong. Our total fall enrollment is over 16,700.

While our graduate enrollment this fall has seen a 7 percent decline in overall student head count, we have successfully met the conservative targets we set and have exceeded our enrollment projections for new freshmen, new graduate students, and continuing undergraduates. The college also has an impressive fall transfer enrollment of over 1,900 students.

Looking at college enrollment for fall over the past three decades, it is worth noting that since 1980, enrollment at Brooklyn College has remained relatively stable. In addition, as you see in this second slide, new transfers have accounted for a significant and rising portion of our fall enrollment in the past decade, with a sizeable spring transfer class each year as well.

The progress we have made in the area of undergraduate retention is particularly encouraging for student success. Undergraduate first-year retention rates have climbed nearly 10 percent since 2007, which is the steepest positive rise in first-year retention persistence of any senior college in CUNY over this time period. Our sophomore retention rates have improved as well, but there is still room for further improvement, which is why the provost’s office is placing added emphasis this year on sophomore advising. Brooklyn College now exceeds national averages for freshmen persistence rates across the U.S.

We have work to do, however, in terms of boosting enrollment in our summer programs and graduate degree programs; Joe will have more to say about this in his remarks. For summer 2014, we have developed a focused enrollment plan that includes marketing outreach for undergraduates, graduates, and international students. Additional courses planned for 25 Broadway will also strengthen our efforts to spur increased summer enrollment, which can benefit our students and our annual fiscal outlook. In addition to overall enrollment data, this final slide demonstrates the spread of declared majors, both undergraduate and graduate, across the five schools and helps underscore where the instructional pressures fall most heavily at baccalaureate and graduate levels.

The Graduate Center for Worker Education

Because of the recent attention this topic has received, I would like to provide a brief update on the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education, located in lower Manhattan on the seventh floor of the 25 Broadway building — a floor we share with City College's Center for Worker Education. 

As I announced at Faculty Council in September, the Graduate Center for Worker Education is not closing — contrary to some misinformed bloggers. In fact, the usage of this space is being re-envisioned and revitalized.

With the appointment of an assistant dean to oversee the center in the near future, and the engagement of a faculty fellow each semester, the site will support an expanded range of high-quality academic programs, primarily at the graduate level, as well as educational events and workshops for working adults and those who may be in career transition.

Planning for the GCWE is ongoing, and I am pleased to report that for the coming spring semester, 15 graduate courses across four schools will be offered at 25 Broadway. At the same time, a provost's advisory committee, with a faculty representative from each of the five schools, will be working with Associate Provost Cheng to revise the center's mission and vision statements to meet current and future needs of working adults in lower Manhattan and to align as well with the college's strategic plan, college and CUNY bylaws, and the quality expectations of Middle States accreditation. Updates on the GCWE will be posted on the center's home page on the college website.

Graduate Program Reviews and Middle States

Last year, individual faculty members, chairs, and deans were involved in an extensive review of our graduate programs in preparation for the upcoming Middles States PPR review.

In the report and related materials being prepared for Middle States, we are expected to assess graduate admission standards, accreditation procedures, marketing and recruitment, the breadth and depth of our graduate curricular offerings, faculty expertise, and how we are preparing our students for their current and future professional endeavors. This critical examination of our graduate program strengths and weaknesses will help us identify areas in need of improvement as well as areas of strength and student demand that merit further investment and possible expansion.

CUNY Doctoral Education Task Force

On the topic of doctoral education, CUNY Acting Chancellor William Kelly has recently created a doctoral education task force that will consider the potential transfer of some of the university's strongest doctoral programs in the laboratory sciences to individual senior colleges or to consortial senior college oversight. This is a welcome effort to begin serious discussion with a number of senior colleges, including Brooklyn College, about the transfer of doctoral degree responsibility in the laboratory sciences to those colleges that have the requisite research faculty, strong program focus, and well-supported research facilities to pursue doctoral education. The complex conversations about to ensue will constitute a notable next step in examining ways to heighten support and visibility for doctoral education in the laboratory sciences on our campus and at other senior colleges. I am pleased to see that three of our faculty members and Dean Psarris have been asked to serve on this important task force.

On another related front, CUNY has announced that the office of Academic Affairs is streamlining its own academic review process for the approval of new degree programs at all levels, and especially for the creation of new master’s programs and certificates. This is a welcome step for faculty members, departments, and interdisciplinary areas that may wish to develop new graduate or undergraduate degree programs and certificates.

Jamaica Bay: Science and Resilience Institute

In 2004, the college's Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center received the Coastal America Partnership Award for its role in developing a plan to halt the deterioration of marshlands in Jamaica Bay.

Today, "post-Sandy," Brooklyn College faculty members are continuing and expanding this crucial work by helping to shepherd the new CUNY-led Science and Resilience Institute that will be located at Jamaica Bay. Environmentally speaking, the 18,000-acre bay is vital because of its diverse ecosystems. The bay also serves as a critical barrier against wind and tide — including the hazardous winds and tide wrought by hurricanes — by helping to minimize flooding and filter out pollutants.

Harnessing the expertise of our own science and social science faculty along with other faculty from CUNY, and in collaboration with research faculty from Stony Brook, Columbia, Rutgers, and other institutions, the new Science and Resilience Institute will focus its efforts on the restoration of Jamaica Bay with the ultimate goal of expanding outward to other regions within and beyond the city.  The creation of this ambitious consortial institute coincides with the city’s efforts to bolster disaster preparedness, which Mayor Bloomberg outlined last summer in his plan for "A Stronger, More Resilient New York."

I want to commend, in particular, Vice Chancellor Gillian Small, our provost, and a number of key faculty in the biological and environmental sciences, including John Marra and Brett Branco, for fostering excitement and generating support from Mayor Bloomberg, the National Parks system, private foundations, and CUNY for this bold and challenging multidisciplinary endeavor to create applied research opportunities for the long-range benefit of our region and our communities. Brooklyn College will be playing a lead role in the development of this institute, and we will be hiring its director this year to join our faculty and lead the project.

CUNY 20/20

Linked to the planning needed for the Jamaica Bay Science and Resilience Institute, Brooklyn College is partnering with Kingsborough Community College on a multimillion-dollar request to CUNY and to the governor's office for research support connected with Jamaica Bay research through the CUNY 20/20 competitive funding program. If successful, our CUNY 20/20 proposal will help fuel a number of current and future research projects in the sciences and social sciences and provide significant infrastructure funds for research laboratory expansion in Ingersoll, aligned with the overarching goals of the Science and Resilience Institute. The outcome of the CUNY 20/20 RFP process will be announced in spring 2014.

Philanthropy That Supports Our Students

With respect to fundraising, at the close of the July 2012 to June 2013 budget cycle, we had raised over $13.6 million from alumni, foundations, corporations, and other organizations to support our students, faculty, facilities, and our academic programs. Of special note, in addition to the federal and state tuition support that a majority of our students received last year, the funds we have raised from a range of sources, over the years and more recently, enabled us to provide over 1,400 students with $1.9 million in scholarship funds, fellowships, paid internships, travel support, and emergency grants.  Continuing our efforts to secure increased support for our students through philanthropy, I am pleased to announce that this past summer Mrs. Doris Ohlsen, Class of 1951, made a planned $1 million bequest gift to the Brooklyn College Foundation to be used for student scholarships. We are deeply appreciative of Mrs. Ohlsen's generosity to Brooklyn College and to our future students.

Major Faculty Grants and Awards

Since the spring State of the College address, our faculty have continued to receive prestigious grants and awards in support of their scholarly projects and research endeavors. I want to take a few minutes now to mention some of these praiseworthy external funding successes of our faculty.

Elizabeth Chua in Psychology has received nearly half a million dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health to further her research on the cognitive and neural bases of memory confidence and accuracy.

Building on her research of gold compounds to combat cancer, María Contel in Chemistry has been awarded a new, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health for $1.4 million. The grant will be used to study gold-titanium complexes that may help in the effort to fight renal and prostate cancer.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Ted Muth in Biology over $600,000 up to the year 2017 for research on Urban Microbial Community Dynamics.

And the most recent winners of the CUNY Collaborative Research Awards are: Kai Shum in Physics; Jean Grassman in Health and Nutrition Sciences; Rohit Parikh in Computer and Information Sciences; David Forbes in School Psychology, Counseling and Leadership; Amy Hughes in Theater; and Cheryl Carmichael in Psychology.

Congratulations to each of you for the recognition of your research excellence. In the spring, we will be recognizing our faculty authors as well as additional grant awardees.

Before I invite Senior Vice President Joe Giovannelli up to the stage to speak, I’d like to thank him for chairing the ad hoc Task Force on College Technology last year. Joe…

Joe Giovannelli, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration

Thank you, President Gould.

Brooklyn College's financial health is stable and solid. Thanks to strong enrollment, ongoing government support, and successful philanthropy, both Brooklyn College and CUNY have been able to not only avoid most of the significant retrenchments seen in many other public colleges and universities across the country, but to grow and thrive.

That is not to say that the future will not bring risks. Some important financial trends emerged for the college last year (the 2012–13 academic year). Those trends helped to shape our thinking about the current year's budget and our longer-term financial planning. I'd like to speak briefly about both last year's results and this year's budget.

Any discussion of our budget has to include mention of the CUNY Compact, a set of rules that dedicated new tuition revenue, increased philanthropy, and operating efficiency to explicit, targeted investments in high-priority areas such as faculty lines and student support. Because a portion of the Compact is tied to tuition and enrollment, it has become more important than ever to maintain a stable enrollment base, since a portion of our budget now relies directly on it.

For the first several years of the Compact, Brooklyn's total enrollment (that is, the total of graduate and undergraduate credits taken, including summer), experienced a period of growth and stability. However, last year (2012–13) we noticed some changes. Total enrollment as measured by registered credits declined for the first time since the start of Compact.

Last year's enrollment decline was not across-the-board. While undergraduate enrollment (especially transfers) increased, that gain was not sufficient to offset drops in summer and graduate enrollments. In dollars, the net of these ups and downs was a shortfall from our revenue target of about $2.4 million. While real, this amount should be placed in context. Our total revenue target was about $92 million, so this shortfall represents only about 2.5 percent of all our revenue.

Revenue is, of course, only half of any budget story. We were able to cover almost this entire revenue shortfall last year through expense savings, including over $1 million in energy savings from conservation, low electric rates, and a mild winter. These and other savings reduced our final deficit to only around $100,000, which we were able to cover from reserves.

Last year's financial news can be seen as a shot across the bow, with several lessons for future planning. Brooklyn College was not unique in some of the enrollment trends we experienced. Most CUNY schools saw a drop in summer enrollment, and both CUNY and universities across the nation are grappling with flat or declining graduate populations, especially in the program areas that Brooklyn has traditionally focused on, such as graduate Education programs.

Given demographics and the national economy, without intervention, we think that many of last year's enrollment trends may recur. Had it not been for our expense saving last year, we could have seen a significant deficit. Unfortunately, many of the savings we used to cover our shortfall were one-shots or savings that cannot be relied upon; we can’t count on a mild winter every year.

Which brings us to the current (2013–14) budget plan. While the New York State Legislature did not cut CUNY's budget, they did not increase it either, so our base tax-levy budget is mostly flat. On the capital side, no new appropriations were made. So, once again, any budget growth we plan for this year is funded mainly by the Compact.

Our Compact Plan expenditures this year will add a net of about seven new, full-time faculty positions (gross new faculty hiring was about 34). As a result, we are back to a count of about 525 full-time teaching faculty this fall, about the same level we were at in 2010, before the Early Retirement Initiative. We are also using COMPACT to create several new adviser positions, along with other academic support positions, mostly with the goal of further improving student retention and time-to-degree, especially for students past the freshman year.

As President Gould mentioned, fall 2013 undergraduate enrollment (especially transfers) remains strong. However, we are concerned that last year’s areas of enrolment weakness again remain problematic. We saw another weak summer in 2013; the total two-year summer decline is about 20 percent. Similarly, graduate enrollment remains significantly below the levels of just a few years ago.

It is too early to estimate the size of any problem for this year, but our enrollment news could potentially lead to a deficit for 2013–14. For this year, we still have our reserves, which can help us bridge any possible short-term gap, but we need a plan for stability for the years after 2013–14.

Our most important budget goal is clear. A multifaceted approach is called for that strengthens enrollment and retention, re-energize summer, and supports new graduate initiatives. Such a plan will play a critical role in stabilizing and strengthening Brooklyn's financial resources into the future.

As I mentioned earlier, although the legislature did not approve any new capital monies for CUNY, our previously approved construction and renovation projects continue. Ongoing work includes the Tow Center for the Performing Arts, where construction continues for its opening during the 2014–15 academic year. Planning is complete for the new Roosevelt science building, which is shovel-ready, and awaits state funding. We are also in the active planning stage for several approved projects that will move ahead next year. These include additional Ingersoll Hall lab and infrastructure renovations, renovations to the Whitman Theater basement level, and renovation and rehabilitation of our six largest lecture halls in Whitehead, Ingersoll, and Boylan halls. The Meat Barn property on Nostrand Avenue has been transferred to the college, and necessary zoning changes for future development have been approved for a possible new home for our Business School and a student residence. We are especially excited by the ongoing planning for the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Finally, I would like to give a brief update on the Campus Technology Task Force. The group, which included faculty, students, and staff, met throughout last year and coordinated its work with an outside consultant. The task force carried out surveys, focus groups, and meetings with all members of the campus community, assessing all the ways that technology is utilized now at the college and planned for the future. The final report from the consultant has been shared with the task force members and the president, all of whom have offered additional helpful comments. We are preparing the final summary of the findings and specific recommended priorities for submission to President Gould. The recommendations will help to establish budget and planning priorities for all aspects of information technology on campus going forward, including infrastructure support for wireless, for more robust Internet media capacity, for further development of smart classrooms, and for improvements in customer support. We plan to complete the process shortly.

Thank you for your continuing support; please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions or comments.

President Gould

New Faculty and Staff

Thank you, Joe. Now, I would like to welcome this semester's newest cohort of 34 faculty members, representing a broad range of research interests and disciplines. And if you take a moment to visit the News and Media page on the college website, you'll see a weekly news series highlighting each new faculty member.

And now, so that we may recognize you, please rise briefly when I call your name.

In the School of Business:

  • Hao-Hsuan (Holly) Chiu, Assistant Professor of Finance and Business Management
  • Dov Fischer, Assistant Professor of Accounting
  • Michael Grayson, Professor and Chair of Accounting
  • Satina Williams, Assistant Professor of Accounting

In the School of Education:

  • Jill Jeffrey, Assistant Professor of Secondary Education
  • Michael Hannon, Assistant Professor of School Psychology, Counseling and Leadership
  • Ginny Dembek, Assistant Professor of Childhood, Bilingual and Special Education

In the School of Humanities and Social Sciences:

  • David Brodsky, Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies
  • Liza Featherstone, Belle Zeller Visiting Professor of Political Science
  • Minnie Go, Assistant Professor of Political Science
  • Matthew Harrick, Assistant Professor, Library
  • Katherine Lu Hsu, Assistant Professor of Classics
  • Lauren Mancia, Assistant Professor of History
  • Jonathan Nissenbaum, Assistant Professor of English
  • Kosal Path, Assistant Professor of Political Science
  • Jennifer Sass-Brown, Lecturer of Speech Communication Arts and Science

In the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences:

  • Nicolas Biais, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Laura Blitzer, Associate Professor of Kinesiology
  • Hanah Chapman, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Stephen Chester, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology
  • Zhenyu Cui, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  • Aneta Czajkowska, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Jennifer Drake, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Emilio Gallicchio, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Brian Geraghty, Lecturer of Kinesiology
  • Guillermo Gerona-Navarro, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Xinyin Jiang, Assistant Professor of Health and Nutrition Sciences
  • Joann Mathias, Lecturer of Chemistry
  • Carol Mushett Johnson, Distinguished Lecturer of Kinesiology
  • Diogo Pinheiro, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
  • Anthony Wilson, Associate Professor of Biology

In the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts:

  • Marianne Gythfeldt, Assistant Professor of the Conservatory of Music
  • Justin Townsend, Assistant Professor of Theater
  • Jonathan Wacks, Professor of Film and Founding Director of the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema

Several new administrators have also joined the college:

  • Terrence Cheng, our new associate provost for academic affairs, comes to us from Lehman College, where he served as chair of the English department and as associate dean.
  • Suzanne Scott joins the School of Business as the new associate dean. She will be leading assessment efforts and working closely with the dean and department chairs. She comes to use from UMASS Dartmouth, where she was the associate dean of the Charlton College of Business.
  • Matthew Moore, who has taken the reigns as acting dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, is a professor of philosophy. Matthew joined the faculty in 2003.
  • Renita W. Simmons is the new director of Human Resources. She comes to us from Health and Hospitals Corporation, where she served as the senior associate director of human resources.
  • And Jon Yanofsky has joined us to lead the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. Jon brings a wealth of experience in the performing arts and nonprofit sectors.

Finally, I would like to note the new chairs of the Brooklyn College Foundation and the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.

  • The new Brooklyn College Foundation Chair is Edwin Cohen, Class of 1962. Ed is the principal of Prism Capital Partners, LLC, a prominent real estate development and investment firm specializing in real estate investments in the tri-state region.
  • And Jeffrey Sigler, Class of 1992, is the new chair of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association. A Brooklyn native, Jeffrey is the director of the Freshman Year Program at Medgar Evers College, where he has worked for 19 years.

Let's give all of our new hires and chair appointees a final round of applause.

This concludes our State of the College meeting. I hope the rest of your semester is rewarding, and I thank you all for coming.