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Presidential Speeches

Fall 2005 All College Meeting: "Dare to be GREAT"

by Dr. Andrew J. Matonak, President
Hudson Valley Community College
2 p.m., Monday, September 12, 2005

Good afternoon, and welcome to our Fall Semester 2005 All College Meeting.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to say a few things about the tragedy on the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina will impact all of us in one way or another, just look at our gas prices. But our inconvenience is nothing compared to the devastation that the people in Louisiana and Mississippi are enduring. The college will do everything we can to assist individuals impacted by this tragedy. I know that many of you have already donated to the relief effort. However, if you haven't, please consider making a donation to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, or any other organization that is assisting in this effort.

As you all know, Hudson Valley Community College is very strong institution due to the efforts of all of you. I consider it a privilege to be working with all of you to make Hudson Valley an even greater institution in serving the Capital Region. My challenge to all of us is to "Dare to be GREAT!"

We can make this institution an even greater resource for Tech Valley. I am certain that, together, we can take Hudson Valley to the next level.

After remarks from Faculty Association President Terri Pennisi and Academic Senate President Joan Shack, President Matonak continues:

Thank you, Joan. I am looking forward to working in partnership with you and the Academic Senate to address the many issues that we will be facing as an institution during this academic year. I invite all of you to attend the "Breakfasts and Teas" to discuss issues that are important to all of us. The dates and times are listed in the handout that you received this afternoon.

After introductions of faculty and staff, President Matonak continues:

Congratulations to all of you and thank you all for deciding to join our college family. Good luck and remember that you have tremendous support among your Hudson Valley colleagues.

I would also like to congratulate some respected colleagues who have left Hudson Valley to take advantage of other career opportunities. They are: Anne Marie Murray, Drew Marrochello and Ken Manning. Not only are they outstanding professionals, they are wonderful people and we wish them all well in their new positions.

All College Remarks:

I, first of all, want to tell you all how proud I am to be your president. I want you to know that I believe that all of you are the college's most important resource. I consider my job to be your chief cheerleader, to support the work that you do every day, and to encourage innovation, creativity and risk-taking to better serve our students and our communities.

I have been told that my first all college meeting will be my "one best" opportunity for me to set my vision for the college. Well, if you are looking for me to present a bold new direction for the college, you will be disappointed. I believe that we are on the right track, so I am not going to derail it. Also, I believe that it is not my vision that is important, it is our collective vision. However, I will share my thoughts regarding the potential of this college.

This afternoon, rather than recite a bunch of statistics, talk about many of our programs or initiatives, or recount a laundry list of your accomplishments this past year, I am going take advantage of this time to share with you some of my impressions over the past five months. I am also going to discuss some of the challenges that we all face.

As you know, I took my "secret shopper" trip a year and a half ago. It was clear to me that this is an exceptional institution. After listening to students, faculty, staff, and community leaders, I have learned that Hudson Valley has numerous strengths:

  • I discovered that the major strength of this institution is all of you.

  • You have built a tradition for academic excellence that is well known in the state.

  • I was very impressed by the quality and diversity of academic programs.

  • It was clear that faculty and staff take extreme pride in our work and there was a profound student-centeredness.

  • And, I heard that this institution was very responsive to community needs.

I also learned that Hudson Valley is a powerful engine for the economy of Rensselaer County and the entire Capital Region. According to the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, Hudson Valley Community College has a $342 million economic impact in Rensselaer County alone. When I presented the budget to the Rensselaer County Legislature this summer, I emphasized to our legislators that the county's operating investment of $3.1 million in the college results in a $342 million economic impact.

We are not your ordinary college. Your hard work, commitment, and dedication allow Hudson Valley to be one of the best colleges in the SUNY system. Through the student opinion questionnaire, students have told us that our teaching, learning and service environments are outstanding. In fact, our students highly rate the college in almost every area they are asked to rank.

The Middle States evaluation team commended us for "the excellence of our academic programs, our commitment to student success, our well-qualified faculty, and our sense of pride in this institution." They were right on target.

During the spring semester, I spent considerable time meeting with and listening to faculty, staff and students. During the summer, I have met with politicians, business and community leaders in the Capital Region, as well as other college presidents and SUNY staff. I have also been to many functions this summer in order to meet community leaders throughout the region.

This fall semester, I have been all over campus and I am so impressed with a very smooth fall startup. I applaud all of you.

I have seen first hand that this staff is very student centered. Throughout the summer, I have seen our staff do "Whatever it takes" to serve students. Let me share a few examples:

  • I have spoken with students and observed all of the staff assisting students in the enrollment process. Outstanding job to each of you.

  • I watched the Physical Plant crew prepare the campus for fall semester. This campus looks very good at the start of the semester. Thank you!

  • In addition to preparing all of the buildings for the semester, the custodians did "Whatever it takes" to get the second floor of the Campus Center open for the first day.

  • Then there was the Campus Center staff - displaced during the construction - who continued to do great work.

Yes - we are a very good institution. But we can do better!

I agree with Jim Collins in the book "Good to Great" when he states: "Good is the enemy of great." In other words, those organizations who believe that they are GREAT tend to be not as innovative, not as hungry, and less aggressive.

This leads right to my vision for Hudson Valley.

I have had a number of people ask me what my vision is for Hudson Valley. Like I said earlier, it is not my vision that is important� it is our vision. However, when pressed I respond by saying:

I believe that our collective goal should be to make Hudson Valley Community College the most dynamic, comprehensive, innovative and effective community college in all of post-secondary education.

We take much pride in creating an academic environment that is intellectually challenging, as well as caring and supportive. This is what makes Hudson Valley special and we can build upon this strength to take the college to the next level.

We must be committed to the highest standards of excellence in everything we do.

  • We must continue to provide a dynamic, student-centered environment.

  • Finally, we need to strive to be the first choice for students seeking a quality education for the entire Capital Region.

I would hope that this is something that we all aspire to.

So� how do we get there?

What is the college's motto? "To improve the world we must improve ourselves."

  • We can teach better.

  • We can help students learn better.

  • We can serve students better.

  • We can maintain this campus better.

  • We can lead this institution better.

  • And, we can work together better to help this institution reach its potential.

Our challenge is that we must continue improve individually and collectively to become a more effective institution. We need to identify the challenges that we face and work together to overcome them.

Now let me discuss a few of our challenges.

1. The first challenge is Communication and Collegiality.

Improved communication was a common theme in my discussions with many of you. We need to do a better job of communicating with each other, not just communicating to each other. We need to continue to build an environment of collegiality, mutual respect and common purpose.

Whose responsibility is it to improve communication?

  • The president, senior staff, supervisors, staff, faculty.

  • It's everyone's responsibility

The Internal Communications Committee made some recommendations to the administration that have been implemented, such as the Hudson Valley Campus Chronicle, and I am asking them to continue to work with me in improving our communication.

2. The second challenge is Financial and Enrollment Stability.

We must maintain our enrollment stability. I have heard from many of you that the college needs to do a better job of managing our enrollment.

To maintain this stability and excellence we need to continue maximizing our enrollment during the day, evening, weekends, summers, via distance learning and off-campus programs, and in credit, as well as workforce development and non-credit programs. It is critically important for us to maximize the retention of our students.

To that end, we have changed the job description and re-titled the position of Vice President for Student Service. This fall, we will advertise to fill the position of Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Development. This person will be the chief enrollment management officer, as well as the chief student affairs officer, and will collaborate with all areas that affect enrollment to develop a coordinated and comprehensive enrollment management plan.

There are a number of threats to our fiscal stability:

  • Enrollment stagnation and decline. Our enrollment over the last several years has increased dramatically and it is unrealistic to expect that this trend will continue. As many of you know, the college did not reach its enrollment projections last spring semester. This fall semester, we are projected to be 3 percent below our fall enrollment last year. This is 5 percent below the enrollment numbers that this year's budget is built upon. This will translate into starting the academic year with a budget deficit of about $600.

  • State and local funding. As you well know, our local funding has been stagnant and our state funding is essentially where it was in 2002.

  • Fund balance: It is common practice for an institution to have at least two months of the operating budget in reserve; that is around 16 percent. Our current fund balance is about 8 percent. I know that the colleges on the Gulf Coast recognize the necessity of an appropriate fund balance.

  • Utilities costs. The good news is that the co-gen plant is operating more reliably. I know that the co-gen plant has taken somewhat of a rocky road. Thanks to the efforts of Steve Cowan, Jim LaGatta, and Joel Fatato, I think that we now have a good handle on it. We are still not burning methane, but we are very close. The bad news is that due to a significant increase in natural gas, we are projecting our utility costs for this upcoming fiscal year to be $1.3 million above the dollars budgeted. The senior staff will be meeting over the next month to identify cost savings to cover the deficits.

3. The third challenge is in the area of Institutional Advancement.

The economic uncertainty and increased demands on tax dollars have diminished support for community colleges across the country. Hudson Valley is no exception. When the state's community colleges were first established, the model for funding them was one-third from the state, one-third from local sponsors and one-third from students.

Well, you all know what is happening with our fiscal picture� static local support, and inconsistent and inadequate state support. As a result, we must aggressively pursue private philanthropy to ensure that up-to-date facilities and state-of-the-art equipment are available to both complement and enhance the teaching and learning environment.

Therefore, one of my objectives for this year is to further enhance our institutional advancement efforts.

We have had some success already. We have gone from 10 leadership gifts ($1,000 annually) to about 75 this past year. We are poised to do great things, but the Foundation staff can't do it alone. The leadership must come from me, but it will take all of us in smaller ways to accomplish our goals.

All of us need to be thinking about the individuals and corporations who are impacted by this college and we need to talk with them about the college's aspirations. We need to talk to them about our needs and tell them about how Hudson Valley Community College transform lives, strengthens the community, and contributes to economic development.

I encourage each of you to lend your support by contributing personally (even if it is only a couple bucks); working with the Foundation to cultivate prospective donors; and to identify others who may have the desire, and ability, to give.

It would make me very proud and would significantly help our efforts if I can say to a potential donor that 90 percent to 100 percent of our employees contribute to the Foundation. Remember, every penny of the employee campaign will be spent on campus initiatives.

There is no question that we can offer a very solid return on anyone's investment.

4. The fourth challenge is Integration of Planning and Assessment.

My thanks to those who participated in the Mission Review II process. For those of you who are new, the State University's Mission Review II process is designed to assist colleges with benchmarking our efforts and setting our direction for the next five years. We met with the SUNY staff this summer and will finalize the Memorandum of Understanding this fall.

In April 2006, we must submit a report to Middle States to demonstrate how we have integrated our planning, assessment, and budgeting processes, as well as allow for greater involvement in the planning process.

The college has already begun to integrate our planning and assessment processes and will continue to improve our planning to be more inclusive.

5. The fifth challenge is dealing with Capacity Issues.

In many ways we are victims of our own success. We have grown enrollment, expanded programs and services, and have become an attractive higher education option for many in the Capital Region. As a result, we have experienced tremendous stresses on our faculty and staff and our facilities.

We need to creatively address these needs, as well as look to renovate and expand our facilities. We are making progress on our facilities:

  • The Siek Campus Center is undergoing a major renovation that will provide our students a welcoming, comfortable environment. The second floor looks great and we are now serving food! We will break ground on the construction of a new campus administrative/classroom facility this fall. We also plan to move the physical plant building and add 300 additional parking spaces to campus.

  • Looking toward our future and considering the college's growth, the college has been trying to purchase additional land adjacent to the campus. We have negotiated with landowners of adjacent properties; however, have not yet been successful in getting a reasonable price. We will continue to explore ways to expand our facility.

6. The sixth challenge is Workforce Development.

This is an area that offers tremendous opportunity for the college to work with business and industry to provide contracted training and courses for credit and non-credit. While the college has made strides with the Price Chopper and CVS efforts, we haven't scratched the surface with regard to potential contract training opportunities.

  • The seventh challenge is Safety Concerns.

We need to work together to create an environment that is respectful of everyone's rights, yet will ensure that we learn and work in a safe institution. We have made some progress by providing workshops on civility, adopting a Zero Tolerance policy, and posting the code of conduct throughout campus. But we need to continue to do more. Each of us has a responsibility to report inappropriate behavior and conditions on campus that are not safe. Working together, we can create an environment where faculty, staff and students feel safe on campus.

A couple years ago, the college suspended the study abroad program for safety reasons. While I am very concerned about the safety of our students and we need to do everything in our power to ensure that they are studying in a safe environment, we do live in a global world and our students should have the opportunity to experience the world beyond Hudson Valley. Therefore, this spring semester we will be reinstating the study abroad program.

Finally, I'd like to issue a challenge to each and every one of you:

Many of you have told me that we have silos at Hudson Valley. Many of you have said that "we used to know each other better and interact more informally." I know that times have changed and we have more demands than ever before, but we need to make getting reacquainted a priority.

During the academic year, I will commit one or two hours a week to spending time in departments across the college - and being put to work while I'm there - so I can learn first hand what you all do to serve students. I believe it is important for me to understand your areas so that I can do a better job of serving you. Sande will be contacting the departments in the coming weeks to schedule these visits.

I challenge each of you to do the same � in your own way. Identify a person or a department that you don't know and learn who they are and what they do. If there is an individual or department that you seem to be at odds with, invite them to lunch or a meeting so that you can better understand their perspective.

A quick story and this is a true story� At a former job, I had numerous run-ins with the business manager. One night after work, Karen and I went out to a karaoke bar with some friends and saw him and his wife there. I invited him to join us and got to know him a little better. Well, after a few drinks and singing "Play that funky music" together, it was amazing how well we got along. My point is simple: find a way to overcome your differences.

We take great pride in being part of the Hudson Valley "family." We are bigger and we can be even better as an institution.

These are exciting times. We have accomplished much and our current momentum, along with our collective vision of making this college one that is truly great, will propel Hudson Valley to even greater heights of excellence and prominence.

I am proud to work with you and for you to make Hudson Valley Community College the most dynamic, comprehensive, innovative and effective community college.

We have a lot of talented and committed people in this room. Working together we can and will achieve Hudson Valley Community College's future promise.

I would like to invite all of you to stick around after the All College Meeting and take the time to enjoy the company of your colleagues - and celebrate the beginning of what I know will be another successful and productive semester.

Thank you!